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Residents bored by election

By Kurtis Alexander Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday November 12, 2002

Berkeley voters last Tuesday were in keeping with the statewide trend of avoiding election polls in record numbers. 

Citywide turnout on Election Day was 54.7 percent, down from the 75.6 percent of registered voters participating in the 2000 election and more than five points down from attendance in the last two non-presidential elections. City Clerk Sherry Kelly said citywide voting totals would likely rise as remaining absentee ballots trickle in, but not significantly. 

Despite a lower draw, Berkeley still outpaced the statewide average of 44.8 percent turnout, which the Secretary of State’s Office called the lowest in Election Day history. Alameda County turnout, as a whole, was 47.6 percent. 

Berkeley officials, in spite of a high-profile mayoral race and at least two landmark ballot initiatives, said they were not surprised with the low number of voters. 

“The top of the ticket just wasn’t that exiting,” said Mayor-elect Tom Bates, who defeated incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean by a 14 percent margin. 

City Clerk Kelly agreed. 

“We had the core group of voters who are concerned with local issues, but not a lot of draw for state races,” she said. 

The mayor’s race was the biggest draw of Berkeley’s local issues, with 33,825 of the city’s 64,838 registered voters weighing in. 

Measure O, which forced coffee retailers to sell only organic, shade-grown or "Fair Trade" cups of coffee, was the second most-popular issue, garnering 31,916 yes and no votes. Measure P, which set strict height limits on new buildings, collected a total of 31,205 votes. Neither measure passed. 

UC Berkeley’s student government estimated that about 45 percent of the students voted this year – either in their hometown or in Berkeley’s election. 

“The student population really influenced the District 7 and 8 [City Council] races,” said Jimmy Bryant, vice-president of external affairs of the Associated Students of the University of California. 

UC students were candidates in the two districts that share a northern border with the campus. In the 7th District, sophomore Micki Weinberg was defeated by incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington, though he won an admirable 39 percent of the vote, noted Bryant. 

In the 8th District, student Andy Katz won 36 percent of the vote, enough to force a runoff election with candidate Gordon Wozniak. 

“The students also contributed to Bates’ big win,” Bryant added.