Hold the Champagne on Voter Turnout Figures

The news release from the California Secretary of State touts "the highest turnout for a gubernatorial election since 1994," of more than 59 percent of registered voters

But before you break out the champagne to toast California's new civic-mindedness, you might consider a couple of facts.

First, the Secretary of State's claim omits a higher turnout during the October 2003 special election, when we recalled one governor and elected another.

Second, turnout figures among registered voters are not nearly as important as turnout figures based on people who are eligible to vote. In this area, California looks terrible. Even at a time of profound crisis, just 43.7 percent of Californians eligible to vote in the election turned up to cast a ballot.

The number of people who didn't bother to vote -- some 13 million -- is more than twice the number of people who voted for the most successful statewide candidates and initiatives. The winner in this November's elections: those who have given up on voting as a way to change California.

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