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Valley races fill today's ballots

VISALIA -- With no state or federal offices up for grabs, today's off-year election becomes strictly a local affair for voters in Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties.

Many Valley voters have only one or two races or issues to decide -- a sharp departure from crowded ballots in even-year primary and general elections, and one that may portend low turnout by the time polls close tonight.

In Tulare County, races for seats on the Visalia City Council and Visalia Unified School District board are the key attention-getters among a slew of boards overseeing cemetery, irrigation, community service and memorial districts.

Seven candidates are running for two seats on the Visalia City Council, while five people are competing for three Visalia Unified board seats.

Such contested elections are more the exception than the rule this year. More than 150 seats were up on various boards, commissions and councils throughout Tulare County, but most didn't attract enough candidates to require an election. Only 32 of 155 posts actually appear on ballots today, with 65 candidates vying for votes.

Hiley Wallis, Tulare County's chief deputy treasurer/tax collector, who is supervising this election, said more than 80,000 registered voters are eligible to vote today, from the 50,840 people registered within Visalia Unified School District to 32 registered voters in the Ponderosa Community Services District.

Depending on what other races or issues are sharing the ballot, off-year elections such as this typically generate about a 30% voter turnout in the city of Visalia and Visalia Unified, Wallis said; turnout in less populous districts varies from year to year.

Countywide, Tulare County sent out 29,000 absentee ballots for this election; by Monday, election officials had received about 11,000.

Voters in a handful of Fresno County communities will cast their ballots today.

Selma residents will decide whether they want to raise the city's sales tax by a half-cent to bolster police and fire protection. The measure requires two-thirds voter approval.

Board seats also are up for election in four community service and water districts. The districts are Caruthers Community Services District, the Lanare Community Service District, the Malaga County Water District and the Pinedale County Water District.

In Madera County, the only contests are for the Division 2, 4 and 5 seats on the Madera Irrigation District board.