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New voters, some hiccups as Californians head to the polls

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Jeff Young votes at the Neptune Society Columbarium, one of the last remaining cemeteries in San Francisco on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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SACRAMENTO — California election workers embraced an expanded electorate totaling nearly 18 million registered voters with a few hiccups reported late Tuesday.

A surge of 650,000 new voters less than two months ahead of the primary set up a potentially big turnaround from the historically low turnout of 2014.

Presidential elections draw more people to the polls, and county clerks expected turnout to reflect the drawn-out contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Elections officials in San Diego and Santa Clara counties expected at least 55 percent of registered voters to cast ballots. Contra Costa planned to accommodate 60 percent of registrants, and Alameda hoped to hit 70 percent.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Hillary Clinton secured the number of Democratic delegates needed to become the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The announcement angered Bernie Sanders supporters, but it also concerned nonpartisan organizations focused on increasing voter participation.

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said she was disappointed the AP released its count hours before the California primary — one of the nation’s last — because it has the potential to suck the air out of the election. But she said a steady flow of voters at the polls seemed to indicate the call had little, if any, effect on the race by midday.

“There are a lot of people trying to participate in this election despite The Associated Press prediction that this election is over, so we’re happy to see that,” Alexander said.

A nonpartisan voter protection coalition reported late Tuesday that it was receiving calls about issues particularly in Los Angeles County.

The nationwide Election Protection voter hotline said complaints included polling locations opening after the required 7 a.m. start time in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. Some Los Angeles County voters said they didn’t get their requested mail-in ballots. And parking was scarce near some Los Angeles County polling places.

Troubleshooters with the Los Angeles County Registrar-County Clerk address any issues, “so we don’t have any wide-ranging, overwhelming issues,” spokeswoman Cecilia Reyes said.

The coalition also reported scattered statewide problems with broken polling machines and ballot scanners.

Siskiyou County Clerk-Registrar Colleen Setzer said about 20 new vote-counting machines experienced sporadic failures, but did not interfere with voting in the Northern California region.

In one quickly resolved incident, Contra Costa County Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek said volunteers in the heavily Democratic East Bay county thought they lost what few Republican ballots they needed for the cities of Pittsburg and Bay Point.

“They just got lost in the shuffle. But when we went through it all, there they were,” Konopasek said.

Across the state, some voters who registered with the Republican and Green parties were frustrated to learn they could not participate in the Democratic primary. Whether poll workers actively asked unaffiliated voters if they wanted to take part in the Democratic primary or relied on the voter asking for a crossover ballot varied by county and polling station.

More than 3.1 million Californians had cast ballots before the polls opened Tuesday, more than two-thirds of all voters in the 2014 primary. Just 25.2 percent of registered voters participated in the 2014 primary and 42.2 percent in the general election.

The Field Poll predicts two-thirds of voters will cast ballots by mail.

About 4.1 million California voters this year are Latino, 1.6 million are Asian, and 800,000 are black.

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