Fresno County signed up voters until midnight

The Fresno BeeOctober 21, 2012 

The Fresno County Elections Office had a solution for people who hadn't yet signed up to vote: a registration drive that lasted Monday until midnight.

"You don't even have to get out of your car," County Clerk Brandi Orth said.

Monday officially was the last day to register to vote.

Tulare County planned to keep its election office open until midnight, too, and Madera County kept its doors open an hour later than usual, until 6 p.m.

Fresno County planned to register people to vote during normal business hours from 8:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Then, until midnight, elections officials and volunteers held a registration drive with curbside service outside the downtown Fresno elections office.

The final push comes as the Secretary of State's Office said that 17,259,680 Californians were registered to vote as of Sept. 7, the most recent report. That represents 72.6% of residents eligible to vote.

California set a record with 17,334,275 registered voters in the November 2008 election, said Shannon Velayas, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

It's unclear whether California will set a new record for this presidential election. Final statistics won't be available until Nov. 2.

But Orth said voter registration was up in Fresno County with 392,103 as of Sept. 7, compared to 382,827 registered voters during the November 2008 presidential election.

Madera and Kings counties, however, saw a dip in their numbers. In Madera, there were 52,909 registered voters as of Friday, compared to 54,003 before the November 2008 election, County Clerk Rebecca Martinez said.

Kings reported 47,544 voters as of Thursday, compared to 49,670 four years ago.

Thomas Holyoke, political science professor at Fresno State, said stable voter registration numbers can be summed up in three words: "Lack of enthusiasm."

Four years ago, voter registration took off because Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama "was an exciting candidate," Holyoke said. But President Obama isn't creating quite the stir this election year, and people don't appear excited about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Holyoke said.

And although there are several key statewide ballot measures -- from tax initiatives to abolishing the death penalty -- "most people don't get excited about them," he said.

It's not known what the state's voter base looks like -- Velayas said the Secretary of State's Office has not yet compiled a demographic breakdown of registered voters for the November election.

But local advocate Brandon Sisk said students at Fresno State and Fresno City College have been holding nonpartisan voter registration drives. "There's a lot of important issues facing students," said Sisk, who assisted in the drives. "We want to make sure everyone has a voice."

This year, the state made registering to vote easier with a new online system. More than 544,000 people have submitted voter registration applications online, Velayas said. People can register online until midnight today.

Orth plans a show tonight outside the Fresno County Elections Office, including McGruff, the crime-fighting dog, to entertain kids.

"We would be on roller blades if we could," she said. "This is an important election year and our office wants to encourage as much participation as possible."

And, for real latecomers, Orth said: "Bunny slippers are optional."


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com, or @beecourts on Twitter.

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