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Record low turnout a possibility as voters go to polls in low-drama California election

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LOS ANGELES — Californians are going to the polls to pick a governor and members of Congress in an election with so little drama that some analysts were predicting near record-low turnout.

A handful of controversial local issues could push turnout in some counties and cities, but the statewide races failed to generate much buzz.

A Field Poll report predicted a 46.1 percent turnout, meaning only 8.2 million of the state's 17.8 million registered voters will cast ballots. That means just one out of every three eligible adults will vote.

Outside of a brick church in San Diego, William Mannix, an executive chef, said he didn't know what the results of this midterms would be, but he votes religiously.

"A lot of people believe voting won't make a difference, but people are dying in other countries to do what we do. You gotta vote," he said.

Statewide voters will decide if doctors should be required to take mandatory drug and alcohol tests. And there have been spirited regional campaigns involving local ballot questions on fracking and taxes on sugary drinks, and for congressional seats in the Central Valley, San Diego and Sacramento suburbs. But it appears those races have done little to drive up broader interest.

Aimee Alden stopped into her polling place in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco with her young sons shortly before 9 a.m.

Alden said the most important race for her was the contest for the district's open Assembly seat between David Chiu and David Campos, both of whom are Democrats serving on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. She voted for Chiu.

Alden said none of the statewide races or federal contests excited her. Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the minority house leader, represents the district and is running unopposed. She said she turned out to vote for a city measure to renew $135 million in funding to city schools. She took a photograph of her two children standing next to a polling station sign at Joe DiMaggio Park.

"I also voted today to set a good example for my kids," she said.

Five blocks away, Amy Zhong was voting at the Italian American Athletic Club. Zhong became a naturalized a U.S. citizen in July and this is the first election she has voted in.

"It was pretty exciting," Zhong said. "It's a powerful right."

PHOTO: Republican congressional candidate in the 52nd district, Carl DeMaio, talks about the his campaign supporters while addressing the media with his final thoughts on election eve Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Republican congressional candidate in the 52nd district, Carl DeMaio, talks about the his campaign supporters while addressing the media with his final thoughts on election eve Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Zhong said the only race that really caught her attention was the city measure to impose a tax on sugary drinks. She voted no.

"It's up to you to control your own diet," she said.

Contests for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer appear headed for inevitable outcomes, with Democrats leading in polls in every case. Gov. Jerry Brown barely campaigned in the conventional sense against little-known former banker Neel Kashkari as Brown seeks a record fourth term.

Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney was unable to recall a race for governor that was more devoid of drama.

"I've talked to people who literally didn't know there was an election going on," he said.

Voting in downtown Fresno, Urbano Ozuna, 77, said he wanted to make sure Brown returned to office. The retired truck driver said the governor looks out for Latinos like himself and has worked to provide Central Valley farmers with water.

"Jerry Brown does a lot of good things for a lot of people," Ozuna said.

Lindsay Hughes, 61, said it didn't seem likely that she could help defeat Brown, as she would like, but she hoped to send as many Republican representatives as possible to Sacramento. A community service officer with the Fresno Police Department, Hernandez said she supported a local tax to fund the city zoo and the state water bond, despite some misgivings.

Rosa Olivo, an apartment manager who has lived in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles for 18 years, said the neighborhood's working class residents find it hard to fit voting into their schedules.

"Sometimes they don't have the time. They go early to work. They don't have time because of the commute and they come back late," she said.

Tuesday's vote follows a June election that marked an all-time low for voter participation for a primary, with only about one in four voters bothering to cast ballots.

California's lowest general-election turnout in the past century was in 2002, when just over half of registered voters cast ballots.


Associated Press Political Writer Michael R. Blood and Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles, Julie Watson in San Diego, Paul Elias in San Francisco, and Scott Smith in Fresno contributed to this report.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Sam, the dog of Sandy Greenfield, left, wears an "I voted" sticker after Greenfield cast her ballot during elections Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in San Diego. Those turning out to vote on Tuesday aren't the only ones having their say this election. More than 18.6 million Americans in 32 states voted early — either by mail or at early polling places. And millions more may have their say in another way — by sitting this election out. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
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