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Ceres voter turnout dismal
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Absentee balloting was the preferred method to vote in the Nov. 5 Ceres City Council election but far too few even bothered to vote. That was the summation of the election by Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan before the Board of Supervisors last week.

In locations where elections took place throughout the county, voter turnout was an overall paltry 23 percent.

It was worse in Ceres where only 16.55 percent of eligible voters cast votes in the Ceres City Council election. The report revealed that while Ceres has 16,915 registered voters among its 25 precincts only 2,799 voted.

By contrast, the tiny city of Waterford in eastern Stanislaus County saw a voter turn-out of 30.58 percent for its council race.

Of those who voted in the county, 83 percent preferred to use the mail balloting system rather than physically walk into the polling precinct.

Turnout is traditionally low in odd-year elections because there are never elections for governor or president. Moving the Ceres election to an even-numbered year may bring out greater voter participation but would crowd the ballot and overwhelm some voters.

Lundrigan's report prompted Vito Chiesa, chairman of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, and Supervisor Terry Withrow to suggest that the county should explore all-mail balloting for city and school district elections for odd-year elections. However, she said that state legislation would need to be passed to grant counties that authority.

The popularity of mail ballots as the preferred way to vote over in-person precinct ballot marking continues to rise. Many voters like the convenience. Yolo County secured state legislation in 2011 to study all-mail balloting for a six-year period. Gov. Jerry Brown liked the concept, which had originally been rejected by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The city of Modesto is one of four cities that conduct all-mail elections for council races.