Palo Alto residents head to polls in California primary

Voter turnout decreases from historic 2016 presidential election

A stack of "I voted" stickers wait for people who complete their primary election ballot at Crossroads Community Church in Palo Alto on June 5, 2018. Photo by Adam Pardee.

In what one precinct inspector called a "quiet election," Palo Alto voters cast their ballots Tuesday morning in the California primary in predictably smaller numbers than in the 2016 presidential election.

Some polling stations, like Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, were relatively idle, with a couple of residents coming in every half-hour to vote at the polls or drop off their mail-in ballots and pick up their "I voted" stickers.

Lisa Inouye, a precinct inspector at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, said it's been hard to recruit volunteers. She expected to see more volunteers and voters after the last historic presidential election.

"What I tell people is that this a practice for November, and I think they're saying it back to me, too," Inouye said. "This is training, and a small turnout doesn't daunt me. What I want to see is more volunteers and more people to register to vote, even if they come and vote for one thing and leave the rest of the ballot blank."

By 11 a.m., Inouye said, about 30 voters had come in to cast their ballots. Poll workers expect a steady flow of voters throughout the day, especially after 5 p.m., and a potential final count of about 60 voters.

Inouye, who studied political science in college, is no stranger to the election process through her 18 years of experience working for several campaigns. She said, however, that prior to the last presidential election she had fallen away from political activism. Seeing women in Palo Alto come out in droves to cast their ballots in November 2016 reminded her of the importance of voting, especially in smaller elections.

"The greatest thing of working that 14-hour day in November was seeing every woman that heard the call to vote and went out and dragged their senior mother," she said. "I realized that being politically active was really a civic duty."

Randy Cook, a voter at the Friends Nursery School polling place, echoed a similar sentiment about the responsibility of voting.

"The direction of our country is an important thing," Cook said. "The things that we choose as a group, as a country, as a state, as a county reflect our values. If you don't vote, you don't really get to choose your future, and that's important to me."

By 11 a.m., 22 people had come into the Friends Nursery School site to vote. Precinct inspector Dan Mahoney anticipates a higher turnout at lunch and after 5 p.m., with a steady trickle in between.

Nestled between residences, the Friends Nursery School site welcomed a diverse group of voters, ranging from older locals to first-time voters. For Mahoney, the process is worthwhile partly because of the connections he can make with his neighbors.

"You not only get to interact with people in your neighborhood, but you're providing a valuable service to be able to help people do their constitutional duty," Mahoney said. "It's very rewarding."

Read more news from the June 5 primary election:

Voters recall Judge Aaron Persky

Smith and Hirokawa to face-off in sheriff's race in November

Bridge-toll hike poised to pass


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

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Like this comment
Posted by absentee ballot
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Where can I drop off my absentee ballot? Is City Hall on Hamilton the only spot?

2 people like this
Posted by HM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2018 at 1:29 pm

@absentee ballot. I believe you can drop it off at any polling location. Go to to look up the nearest one to you.

5 people like this
Posted by always votes absentee
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2018 at 1:36 pm

You can return your vote-by-mail ballot at any polling place in the county, or at a multitude of mail dropoff sites including (in Palo Alto) city hall, Riconda library, or the Mitchell Park library. See Web Link for more information, and Web Link to search for polling places.

5 people like this
Posted by absentee ballot
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 5, 2018 at 7:33 pm

Thanks, HM and AVA. Just dropped off my ballot. Fingers crossed.

7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2018 at 8:54 pm

I and all my friends vote by mail. I expect fewer people voting in person (compared to 4 years ago) is mostly because of the increased popularity of voting by mail.

13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2018 at 10:47 pm

Why is it at noon PAO is reporting less than average turnout?

Do they know what the turnout is in the vote by mail ballots?

Why not just remain silent until they actually have something to
say with significance on the election?

2 people like this
Posted by TheVoteCouldBePowerful
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm

"If you don't vote, you don't really get to choose your future"

And if you vote, you don't really get to choose your future.

Turnout is pathetic because of what's on the ballot. And who chooses what's on the ballot, who's on the ballot? The vote isn't inherently democratic when you're given bad, worse, the worst to choose from.

Not voting can be a protest; a refusal to legitimize an undemocratic system masquerading as democracy. Perhaps this is why there are those who want to make voting mandatory. If the numbers get low enough legitimacy comes more and more into question.

The vote could be powerful, but not in its current state.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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