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California midterm voter turnout tops 64 percent

December 8, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s voter turnout in the November election topped 64 percent, the highest midterm turnout in several decades, according to county vote totals collected by the Secretary of State.

Friday was the deadline for counties to finish counting ballots, but the secretary of state has until Dec. 14 to certify the results. The state Legislature has already sworn in new members.

Here’s a look at some of the details:

U.S. HOUSE

The final totals confirmed Democrat TJ Cox’s upset victory for U.S. House against Republican incumbent David Valadao in the Central Valley’s 21st Congressional District. Cox declared victory last week, but Valadao didn’t concede until Thursday. 

That makes Cox the seventh Democrat to flip a seat long held by Republicans. The Democrats picked up two Central Valley seats, four seats that spanned all or parts of Orange County and one seat in Los Angeles County. Republicans now hold just seven of California’s 53 U.S. House seats.

Democrats targeted seven seats that Hillary Clinton won in the presidential race but Republicans held onto in 2016.

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THE NUMBERS

Nearly 12.7 Californians, out of nearly 19.7 registered voters, cast ballots.

Many Californians cast ballots by mail, and the state gives counties 30 days after the election to count them.

This year’s turnout was the state’s highest in a midterm year since 1982, when turnout topped 69 percent. But the 2018 turnout still fell below presidential years, when more than 70 percent of registered Californians typically vote.

Turnout was 70 percent in Orange County, the central battleground. Los Angeles County, meanwhile, had one of the lowest turnouts at 57 percent.

Data expert Paul Mitchell said he doesn’t consider the 64 percent turnout significantly higher than most midterm elections. The last midterm election, in 2014, was a record bad year with turnout less than 50 percent.

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WHAT’S STILL UNKNOWN

The vote totals submitted to the secretary of state don’t include a demographic breakdown or other information about which particular voters cast ballots. It doesn’t show, for example, what percentage of Republicans and Democrats turned out in each county, or how many Latinos or young voters did so.

That information will be critical to further analyzing the results, said Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., a California data firm that works with candidates in both parties.

Mitchell said its notable Democrats were more successful in U.S. House races than in the 2016 election, when voter turnout was higher.

“That means we’re potentially not at high tide yet,” he said, referring to Democrats’ potential success in future elections.

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