Political pundits, editorial writers, think tank spokesmen, pollsters and other critics regularly lament the distinct propensity for low voter turnouts during off-year elections.

And certainly few would deny that San Mateo County’s 28% participation rate in last week’s primary election was a less-than-ringing endorsement for the wonders of the cherished democratic process, though, some votes remain to be tabulated.

Still, for some of us who did bother to cast our ballots as loyal citizens of these splendid environs, there is an ironic benefit to a dismal voter turnout.

Our votes wound up having an outsized impact on the election. In other words, those who cared and bothered to vote saw their ballots carry magnified weight in a variety of races and on a number of issues.

The Millbrae Elementary School District’s Measure E, a construction bond proposal, that required a yes vote of 55% of the electorate, is an example.

According to the most recent data provided by the county’s Elections Office Monday, 3,508 people voted in that election. At a mandated 55% approval rate, 1,929 votes were needed for passage of Measure E. It received 1,823. In other words, it is losing by 106 votes.

Every vote was extremely important in Millbrae (which has 15,232 registered voters) due to so few eligible folks (24.5%) casting ballots. It may be counter-intuitive but, in some cases, less can be more.

ONE-ROOM SCHOOL SUCCESS: When Serra High School, last week, announced the biggest single donation ($7.5 million) in its history dating back to its founding in the 1940s, by one of its generous alums, Kenneth Stinson and his wife, Ann, his backstory wasn’t mentioned. Perhaps it should have been.

Stinson, who made his professional mark by rising to the top executive ranks of Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., a major U.S. engineering/construction firm with worldwide credentials, received a significant portion of his childhood education in a basic one-room schoolhouse in rural Siskiyou County before his family moved to Millbrae in the 1950s.

As he put it, during a luncheon after the groundbreaking ceremony for a new learning facility named for him on Serra’s San Mateo campus, “Our teacher tried as best she could but it was tough.”

Apparently, she imparted a strong enough formative academic foundation for at least one of her young students in spite of the obvious challenges.

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND? MAYBE NOT: In retrospect, perhaps the denizens of pastoral Woodside should be grateful that one of its erstwhile residents, billionaire Larry Ellison, didn’t try to purchase their entire village years ago.

After all, Ellison, founder of Redwood Shores’ Oracle Corp., bought 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai a decade ago. That would be very nearly the entire island.

Since then, he has spent countless millions upgrading the island’s infrastructure and amenities with the aim of serving an affluent and elite clientele.

One result has been a reported systematic thinning of the population that rents dwellings there. They are being priced out. It has been said that “No man is an island.” Maybe so. But Ellison seems to be giving it his best shot in paradise.

CAPACITY GATHERING IS EXPECTED: Next week’s Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony is sold out, according to the San Mateo County Historical Association’s website.

Set for the evening of June 23 at the county’s History Museum in Redwood City, the event will include the induction of six individuals: Donovan Blythe, Liz Bruno, Ron DiMaggio, Chris Dorst, Scott Feldman and Helen Lengfeld.

Begun in 1989, the Hall of Fame embraces more than 300 athletes, coaches, administrators and others who have had a significant impact on the local sporting scene.

All proceeds generated by next week’s affair will benefit the work of the association.

COMMUNITY CENTER MAKES DEBUT: Burlingame’s new community center makes its debut today. The $52 million project in the town’s Washington Park will be open to the general public for the first time at 3:30 p.m.

The center has been funded by voter-approved bonds, reserve dollars and other revenue sources.

Millbrae opened its new recreation center (a fire destroyed the previous version) this past weekend as well.

Email John Horgan at johnhorganmedia@gmail.com.

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(1) comment


This election shows gimmicks like motor voter, sending vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters, dead or alive, residing at the address on the voter file or not, do not work well. San Mateo County turnout according to Political Data Inc (PDI) is; DEMs - 36%, REPs - 36%, NPP/Other -24%. NPPs and other minor parties participated 12% lower than the two major parties. Gubernatorial primaries historically have a lower turnout. In this election, most voters could only recognized one candidate, Gavin Newsom. With 42,000 votes yet to count, under votes for Governor is 2.83%. Other statewide partisan contests varies from 4.13% to 7.28%. Board of Equalization is 9.59%. Nonpartisan statewide Superintendent of Public Instruction is 12.49%. Of the eight county wide elections, six only had one candidate on the ballot and under votes varies from 23.86% to 26.87%. Under votes for the two contested elections varies from 11.69% to 13.91%. Voters did not show up because they were unfamiliar with the statewide candidates and six of the eight county wide seats were uncontested. The Office of Sheriff had the most voter interest as it appears challenger Christina Corpus will defeat incumbent Carlos Bolanos. Grass roots efforts made a difference in this contest. BTW – are you wondering why there are still 42,000 ballots to be counted? Vote by mail ballots take time to process. Signatures must be verified and ballots rejected by the tabulator must go to adjudication to be replicated. Rejected ballots includes not only damaged ballots but ballots with over votes and under votes. If one votes on the machine at a vote center – there vote is counted on election day. The signature is verified at the vote center. The voting machine will not allow over votes and the ballot will not be adjudicated because of an under vote. Only about 4% of San Mateo County votes voted on a machine at the vote centers.

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