It's probably not a shock that more than 99% of Fresno County ballots were marked for president in the November election, but it might come as a surprise that fewer than 86% of voters bothered to weigh in on a Fresno city ballot measure.
The question is: Why?
It may never definitively be answered, but experts think it could be a combination of forces including something more commonly associated with real estate: Location, location, location.
The presidential race was at the top of the November ballot, and Fresno's Measure F pulled up the rear. Many voters faced 19 other choices before reaching Measure F.
"Where something is on a ballot for sure" affects the number of votes cast on it, said David Schecter, a Fresno State political science professor. "The bottom ones are always problematic."
It is why, he said, Gov. Jerry Brown fought so hard to make sure Proposition 30 -- his tax increase proposal -- was the first initiative on the ballot.
But Fresno city's Measure F and another government-related local measure, Fresno County's Measure O, suffered more ills than just ballot location, Schecter said.
They lacked the hot-button appeal of an initiative such as repealing the death penalty -- which also was on the ballot; the local measures were complicated; and they had very little push by either supporters or opponents to publicize them.
Measure F will amend Fresno's city charter by, among other things, requiring specific budget reserves. With almost 70% of voters saying "yes" to the proposal, passage is certain. It probably didn't matter that 16,167 voters (as of the most recent vote count, announced Friday) left the question blank.
But Measure O -- which would expedite government privatization -- is behind and looks to be on its way to a narrow loss. Almost 10% of voters skipped that question.
For local measures
Fresno City Council Member Lee Brand said local measures such as F and O have a much greater effect on people's lives. For that reason, he said, they should not only not be skipped, they should be among the most important votes a person casts.
"Does a cop get out to your house when you have a burglary, or do they do it by phone?" he asked. "Are your street lights on or off? The quality of life for all is affected by these fiscal policies."
If Measure F's provisions had been in place in 1999, Brand said, Fresno would have $61 million more in its coffers and most likely wouldn't be struggling financially, even with the recession.
By comparison, 94.6% of voters weighed in on Measure B. That rate still falls short of the presidential vote, but is much higher than measures F or O.
Measure B had a poor location near the other local measures at the ballot's bottom, but it also had advantages: the hot-button appeal of extending the one-eighth-cent library tax another 16 years, and more of a campaign for passage.
Headed into the November general election, there was concern among supporters of some local initiatives that their location at the bottom of the ballot might hurt chances of passage because voters might quit before reaching them.
Measure B supporters in particular tailored some of their campaign to encourage voters not to quit voting before they get to the question. Besides pushing the "B" in Measure B as "book," Fresno County Librarian Laurel Prysiazny said, there also was a push to remember it for "bottom" because of its location on the ballot.
Not the first time
Historically, some of Fresno County's most highly publicized local measures have had similar numbers of people leave these key questions blank.
Arts to Zoo, the 2000 ballot measure that promised an annual $18 million boost to Fresno County culture, failed at the polls -- and had about 8% of voters leave the question blank.
A few years later, when the arts part was stripped out and "Nosey the elephant" became the ubiquitous mascot for the Measure Z zoo tax, it passed with 73.4% of the vote -- but still, 6.8% of voters didn't weigh in on the question.
Measure C, Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales tax, failed on its first attempt to be extended in 2002. In that election, more than 11% of voters didn't mark the question.
When a revamped Measure C successfully passed in 2006, the rate of non-voting on the question was even higher -- 12.9%. At the time, it was also at the end of a very long ballot.
Still, Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson, who knows a thing or two about running elections as a former county clerk, said this year's local ballot support was fine.
"I thought it would be lower," she said.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, firstname.lastname@example.org or @johnellis24 on Twitter.