Final vote total in Orange County shows turnout up in primary

Felix Martinez of El Sereno votes at a polling place inside Barrio Action Youth & Family Center on Tuesday afternoon, June 7, 2016 during the California primary election.
Felix Martinez of El Sereno votes at a polling place inside Barrio Action Youth & Family Center on Tuesday afternoon, June 7, 2016 during the California primary election.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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After nearly three weeks, Orange County registrar Neal Kelley says his office has wrapped up counting votes from the 2016 primary.

Nearly half of Orange County voters cast a ballot in the election. The official turnout was 49.6 percent of registered voters. That blew away turnout in the previous presidential primary, which came in at 26.5 percent in 2012.

That figure also put the county ahead of current totals in other areas of Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Turnout in Los Angeles County is currently at 40.7 percent.

Orange County tallied 691,802 votes. Nearly 60 percent of those were vote-by-mail ballots.

Final results showed Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee, edging out Bernie Sanders among OC voters, 51.9 percent to 47.3 percent.

GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump collected more than 200,000 votes, garnering 76.1 percent of Republican votes. In Orange County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 90,000, turnout was far higher on the Democratic side, with more voters casting ballots for Democratic than Republican presidential candidates.

In the California Senate race, voters favored U.S. representative and OC resident Loretta Sanchez over state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Both will advance to the November general election.

The results also ended the suspense in a close race for the second spot in the 68th Assembly District. Steven S. Choi beat fellow Republican Harry Sidhu by just 154 votes  out of nearly 100,000 cast.

Choi will advance to face Democrat Sean Jay Panahi in November.

Final count leads to surprise victory

The final vote tally in Orange County led to the defeat of incumbent Robert Hammond by challenger Rebecca Gomez for a seat on the Orange County Department of Education Board of Trustees.

“It’s a pretty big shift,” says Marc Ecker, Cal State Fullerton professor of education. Her election, “now puts the majority back into what I refer to as the ‘traditional hands.’”

Hammond was a swing vote that pushed the board towards a conservative agenda. The board opposed Common Core education changes, approved charters rejected by school districts, and opposed transgender student rights.

The power of incumbency is very strong on election day and that leads many office holders to re-election victories.

Gomez said she didn’t know whether voters felt that Hammond was too conservative.

“I didn’t vote for him. I voted for me. The voters saw something in me that would better serve the community than, perhaps, what he was doing and standing for,” she said.

The Orange County Board of Education doesn’t educate a lot of kids. It runs schools for incarcerated youth and provides resources to school districts but can approve charters schools, which is the only way it could affect many people.

Gomez won with the support of teachers and labor union members.

This story has been updated.