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Santa Monica Set for Election; Higher Turnout Could Be Factor

By Cindy Frazier
Senior Writer

November 2 -- While voters in other areas are bracing for long lines and possible ballot snafus, Santa Monica voters can expect smooth sailing for the presidential election Tuesday, according to City Clerk Maria Stewart.

Stewart says Santa Monica can handle a high voter turnout because that’s the norm in the city.

“Santa Monica usually has a high voter turnout during presidential elections, but it might be even higher because of the unusually high interest in this election,” Stewart said.

In the 2000 presidential election, 72 percent of eligible voters in Santa Monica cast votes. That number dipped to 54 percent in 2002, which was not a presidential election year.

In 1992 -- when the first George Bush was running for reelection -- city voters turned out at a record rate of 80.3 percent, the highest in recent memory.

Adding to the possibility of a record voter turnout is the unusually keen competition for four open seats on the City Council, in which candidates have spent money at record levels. Local voters also will be choosing among candidates to fill three School Board, three College Board and two Rent Control Board seats.

Also up for grabs are two local initiatives -- a $135 million School Bond and a measure to increase the city’s hotel bed tax --, federal and state legislative seats and a slew of state measures on a variety of issues, from amending the three-strikes law to Indian gaming rights and stem cell research.

The City Clerk said that her office is not taking any special measures to ensure a smooth-running election. “It will be standard procedure,” Stewart said of the election operation.

Polling places will use the “Inka Vote” system, which replaces the outdated punch-card voting system that was blamed for creating havoc during the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

The Inka Vote system -- in which voters dot their ballots with marking pens -- was used in 2002 with apparent success.

The office of the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is in charge of the balloting, but Stewart says her office will be standing by to assist with any problems.

“We will be monitoring polling sites and helping voters if necessary,” Stewart said. “Voters can call us if the lights aren’t on in their polling place or if their polling place doesn’t open up.”

In the last election, Stewart said her office was called upon to put a stop to the last-minute posting of election signs on trees and power poles, which is against the law, and to halt electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place.

Stewart is reminding voters that polling place locations are printed on the back of the sample ballot mailed to each voter.

The city clerk’s office will be open during polling hours -- 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., at (310) 458-8211. Voter information is also available on the Internet at www.lavote.net

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