The box of mail-in ballots at the Christian Reformed Church in Palo Alto filled to the brim early Tuesday afternoon, prompting poll workers at the precinct to place all new ballots into a canvas bag.
The turnout at the church, which houses two precincts, was higher than it was in June's primary election, said Alice Smith, the precinct inspector at the south Palo Alto polling place. About 80 voters came in by 4:30 p.m. to fill out their ballots the old-fashioned way, in the privacy of a voting booth.
In June, the precinct saw only about 50 voters all day.
Despite the light increase, the atmosphere at Palo Alto polling stations was subdued throughout Election Day. With no Tea Party rallies, no City Council seats in dispute and no presidential candidates on the ballot, the buzz at local polling stations rarely elevated beyond a hum.
As in the previous two local elections, more than twice as many voters were expected to mail in their ballots in advance. Carol E. Phillips, the election officer at University Lutheran Church on Stanford Avenue, said the county expects 72 percent of the people who vote to do so through a mail-in ballot.
The church had more traditional voters than most other local precincts, with about 200 voters filling out their ballots before 5 p.m. Worker Joanne Zschokke said Tuesday's voter turnout was decent compared to the primary election.
"Everyone was waiting for this election and for 2012," Zschokke said, referring to the next presidential election.
The turnout at other polling places was considerably lighter, with most stations reporting fewer than 100 voters (not counting the large boxes of mail-in ballots). Many precincts were nearly empty by late afternoon, with one or two voters trickling in and out every few minutes. Precinct inspector Aron Murai said the turnout at his polling station in south Palo Alto was considerably larger in November 2008, when Barack Obama scored his historic victory over John McCain in the presidential race.
When it comes to drama, Tuesday's election paled by comparison. Despite several high-profile contests -- including the gubernatorial race between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman and the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina -- and a few controversial ballot measures (notably Proposition 19 and Proposition 23), Tuesday's election was a low-key affair in Palo Alto. Not a single City Council or Board of Education seat was up for grabs and only two local measures were on the ballot.
James T. Holmes, an election officer at the Fire Station #5 polling station on Arastradero Road, said the turnout slowed down throughout the afternoon after a busy morning. As of 4 p.m., about 115 voters filled out their ballots, which was mostly empty other than the poll workers.
"This looks about the same as the June election," Holmes said.