In her eight years of working the polls at Drake Park in Central Long Beach, Sharon Ratleft has seen a some years with good voter turnout. 

But nothing like this.

“This is the first time it’s been nonstop all day,” said Ratleft. “People are getting the message that if you don’t vote you can’t complain.”

It was long lines for voters at some polling places across Los Angeles County today as residents flocked to the ballot box to cast their votes in a high-interest midterm election that could sway the balance of power in Washington.

In Long Beach, where a handful of local charter amendments have also sparked debate, volunteers at   locations across the city said they were seeing larger-than-normal crowds.

“It’s crazy today. I’ve done this for 11 years and I’ve never seen it like this,” said Margarita Canett, who was working the election at All Saints Anglican Cathedral, which was teeming with voters.

One polling place at Shoreline Yacht Club had already seen 300 voters by 3 p.m. when the usual for a midterm is about 100, workers said.

“I just haven’t seen this kind of turnout,” said Matthew Bowers, who’s volunteered at the polls for 10 years. “I don’t want to get into politics, but I think it’s going to be a lot of blue.”

As of 6 p.m., voter turnout at the polls was unofficially estimated at 21.3 percent, based on a small sampling of activity at some precincts, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/CountyClerk’s Office.

Mike Sanchez of the recorder/clerk’s office said around midday that the pace of voting at polling places was roughly on par with the November 2014 mid-term election.

But voting has been brisk for weeks leading up to Election Day. Sanchez said 15,810 people voted during two weekends of early voting at registrar’s offices across the county. The office has also already received about 763,000 vote-by-mail ballots, and mail ballots will continue to be accepted through Friday, as long as they are postmarked by Tuesday.

By comparison, 665,075 voters cast mail ballots during the Juneprimary election. Overall turnout in June was 29 percent in Los Angeles County.

In Long Beach, poll workers said in-person voting has also been notably strong in the city.

The turnout in some of the inner-city neighborhoods has been especially high, workers said.

By around 6 p.m., the Washington neighborhood in Central Long Beach had seen 250 voters – a record number, said Nasseif Garras, who has worked the polls here for 12 years.

Garras said it’s big for a neighborhood that has historically low voter turnout. Many were first-time voters like resident Jimmy Ramos, 19, who left on his break from Walmart to vote on rent control.

“It feels like our rent has been going up every month,” he said. “Our family is struggling.”

At Caesar Chavez Elementary in Central Long Beach, more than 40 voters were waiting in line around 7 p.m.

“I worked in June and it wasn’t nearly this insane,” said one poll worker.

Students at Cal State Long Beach turned out in large numbers. An art student at CSULB even created buttons to energize the youth vote.

Cecilia Khan, who’s volunteered for three years, recalled the 2014 midterms when only 73 people showed up at Franklin Middle School to vote. Another worker, Steve Giedzinski, added that they’ve had “way more” people vote using provisional ballots than in the last five years, either because they lost their vote-by-mail ballot or because they wanted to specifically go to the polls today.

“People seem to be actively going out of their way to do this,” Bowers said.

A woman does her part as she votes while her polling place in Long Beach November 6, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

A woman votes at her polling place in Long Beach November 6, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

 

County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said during a televised interview Sunday that while he is hesitant to predict turnout, he wouldn’t be surprised to see overall turnout reach as high as 60 percent in Tuesday’s election—a number that would rival but fall short of the November 2016 presidential election, when 69 percent of Los Angeles County voters cast ballots.

Overall voter turnout in the November 2014 midterm election was 33 percent in the county.

 City News Service contributed to this report

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