Just less than 80 percent of registered San Mateo County voters turned out for the recent presidential election, marking participation not seen in two decades which local elections officials attribute to the national prediction that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were in a virtual tie days before Nov. 6.
The projection prompted more voters to participate which was a major factor in the high turnout, said Mark Church, chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder.
As the county finished its final tally of the ballots, Church said San Mateo County was on track to fall just short of the 1992 total when 81.05 percent of registered voters participated.
"We are pleased that so many people participated in this important election,” Church said.
Of the total, 32.98 percent of the ballots were cast at precincts, .97 percent were in early voting and 45.88 percent were absentee.
The county initially predicted a final turnout of 73 percent to 76 percent and everything the week prior to Election Day supported the notion — voter registration was less than in 2008 and mail ballots returned by Nov. 5 were considered low at 55 percent of those sent out.
But in the final days before Nov. 6, the media began saying Obama and Romney were neck and neck which drew more voters to cast ballots, Church said.
In comparison, the June primary had 36.5 percent turnout. For presidential elections, the turnout in 2000 was 77 percent; 2004 had 79 percent and 2008 had 79 percent.
After election night ended with 56.5 percent of the county’s 361,486 registered voters having done so and 73,966 ballots left to count, Church’s office still thought the total would still be less than the historical average. Instead, it shot up.
The Elections Office now moves to its mandatory 1 percent tally of the votes. The process begins 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26 and lasts about four days to confirm the election was proper and the results correct.
"It is one of the final steps in the accountability of an election,” Church said. "It’s the part of the election that gives election officials, citizens and interested parties full confidence in the final results.”
Once the check is finished, Church can certify the results by Dec. 4.
The final figures may have bolstered county voter turnout but did not change the outcomes of its campaigns and races.
Individuals wishing to observe the 1 percent tally should call the Elections Office at 312-5222. The count will happen at the Elections Division, 40 Tower Road, San Mateo.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.