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Century-low turnout predicted for election

Despite having one of the nation's most hotly contested congressional races — as well as a San Diego City Council race that could tip the balance of power, a fractious zoning battle over an Escondido golf course and several tightly fought mayoral races — voter turnout for Tuesday's elections seems likely to hover near historic lows throughout San Diego County.

Statewide, turnout is projected to be the lowest percentage for any general election involving a gubernatorial race in at least a century.

And based on trends in local mail-in voting, that seems to be the case in San Diego County as well, said Vince Vasquez, political analyst with the National University System's Institute for Policy Research.

By the end of last week, roughly 281,000 voters had cast mail-in ballots, representing 21 percent of all eligible voters.

Judging from recent elections, those figures suggest that only slightly more than a third of local voters will cast mail-in or in-person ballots, ranging somewhere between 34 and 38 percent.

Just a month ago, Vasquez had been much more optimistic, predicting a turnout of 42 to 46 percent. He said that an infusion of younger voters would turn the "red" Republican-dominated elections in June into a more "purplish" mixed bag in November.

But those predictions have been scrapped, partly because young Democratic-leaning voters -- who often skip primary elections in June but vote in the general elections in November -- seem to be staying on the sidelines this time.

The latest data from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters shows that in one of the hottest races -- the 52nd Congressional race pitting Republican challenger Carl DeMaio against Democratic incumbent Scott Peters -- only about 7 percent of voters younger than 34 had turned in their mail-in ballots by Friday afternoon, compared to 46 percent of voters above the age of 65.

Similarly, 27 percent of Republican voters have already cast ballots versus 22 percent of Democrats.

If that trend continues at the ballot box Tuesday, it could give DeMaio's campaign the edge it needs, although it's not clear how recent scandals — including a second accusation of sexual harassment — might affect the vote.

On the other hand, there's much less disparity in absentee voting in San Diego's District 6 City Council race, where Republican Chris Cate is running neck-and-neck against Democrat Carol Kim.

If Cate wins, the number of Democrats on the council would drop from six to five, costing a previously unstoppable majority that had been strong enough to overturn vetoes from Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

"With no strong partisan leanings in the early absentee ballot count, District 6 candidates Carol Kim and Chris Cate are expected to battle over undecided voters until the final hours of Election Day," Vasquez said.

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