New measure hopes to increase Merced voter turnout

MERCED, Calif.

The polling place at the Merced County administration building had more workers than voters throughout most of Tuesday. Hal Hambley was one of just dozens who cast their ballots by Tuesday afternoon.

"I think its part of our duty as a citizen of Merced," Hambley said.

Officials say the county's turnout for last year's presidential election was 64 percent, but it's always much lower when only local issues are on the ballot.

"Last election of this type our turnout was just 12 percent which is one of the biggest reasons Merced City has the measure on their ballot this year to change their election cycle one to share costs, but also to try and get that voter turnout up," Barbara Levey with the Merced County Registrar of Voters said.

Measure J would consolidate Merced's mayor and city council elections with county and statewide votes in even numbered years. Merced residents are also being asked to pick a mayor and three councilmembers. Current Mayor Stan Thurston is running against Mayor Pro Tem, Noah Lor. And eight candidates with a wide variety of backgrounds are on the ballot for those council spots.

"I had a hard time trying to decide which city council people to elect, but I think I came up with the right choices," Hambley said.

Los Banos residents are also casting ballots today. They're voting on whether part of a half-cent sales tax should continue going toward the salaries of eight first responders. Election workers have already started counting about 1,200 ballots returned since Friday afternoon. They are hoping to post the first results as soon as the polls close.

"Polls close at 8, we will have 8 o'clock results, as long as all servers hold up we will have 8 p.m. results for sure," Levey said.

Officials are planning to post updates online throughout the night. The registrar of voters expects to have the official results by the end of next week.

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