Stanislaus County voters were an endangered species Tuesday, as the city council, school board and irrigation district races failed to spark much interest.
Precinct poll workers read books, worked crossword puzzles, and in one precinct even watched a DVD movie as they waited for voters to show up.
A precinct at Mancini Hall in Modesto had 29 votes cast by 7:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the polls closed. Fifteen absentee ballots had been collected in a precinct with about 1,200 eligible voters.
"Hopefully enough voted absentee to make a statement," said poll worker Marie Bairey.
The polling place at Central Baptist Church in Modesto had 17 votes tallied by late afternoon.
"When people are dying to give us freedom and people don't get out to vote, it's sad," said poll worker Marsha Morris.
The Lakewood School precinct had 137 votes cast by about 5 p.m. "It's been pretty good," said poll inspector Juanda Thomas. "We will hit 150. That's pretty darn good."
The Burbank Paradise Club House precinct had 52 voters by late afternoon. "It's been a very slow, slow day," said poll worker Charlotte Burtis. No voters showed up for the first two hours the polls were open, she said.
"It's a shame people don't care enough," Burtis said.
If the voter total doesn't top 20 percent, it could be a record low for the county, said County Clerk Lee Lundrigan. "I don't know if it's ever gone below 20 percent," she said. She called Tuesday's turnout "grim."
With about 90 percent of the vote counted Tuesday, the turnout stood at 15.77 percent, but thousands of absentee ballots received too late to count Tuesday are not included in that number. "There's no way of knowing the absentee count tonight," Lundrigan said.
The registered voters who did turn out were the hard core voters who make it to every election.
Jackie Wetzler of Modesto said the school board election drew her interest, but added, "I always vote."
Diane Rodrigues of Modesto also said she was a consistent voter, although she added that she had to do some last minute research this time.
"I wasn't up on some of the candidates. ... A lot of people in the City Council races I didn't know as much about," she said.
Several voters questioned Tuesday just said voting was a civic duty that they enjoyed.
"I just like to vote all the time. It's a good thing," said Robert Pacheco of Modesto. As for the people who don't vote, "They can't complain if they don't show up," he said.
Final election results won't be available until Lundrigan's office counts about 6,000 mailed-in ballots that arrived too late to count Tuesday, and many more handed in at precincts on Tuesday.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.