SLO County breaks voter turnout record for Nov. 3 election


San Luis Obispo County certified its Nov. 3 election on Nov. 25, announcing a record-high voter turnout and putting several close races to bed.

More than 88 percent of SLO County’s 184,050 registered voters cast ballots this year—both set local records. Nearly 95 percent of voters voted by mail amid the pandemic, which is also a record.
CERTIFIED A record 88 percent of registered voters turned out for the Nov. 3 election in San Luis Obispo County. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • CERTIFIED A record 88 percent of registered voters turned out for the Nov. 3 election in San Luis Obispo County.

Turnout shattered SLO County’s prior record, set in 2008, by five percentage points.

SLO County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong declared the election “one for the ages” in a Nov. 25 statement.

“With unprecedented circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, all voters in California were sent vote-by-mail ballots and fundamental changes were made to precinct operations to maintain a safe voting environment across the state,” Gong said. “With much political unrest throughout the nation, this election was among the most divisive and the most closely watched in the modern election era. Yet counties, large and small, performed admirably.”

Several local races and measures went down to wire, staying too close to call for weeks.

In those close races, the final results show that long-time Pismo Beach City Councilmember Erik Howell lost his seat by 0.46 of a percentage point, while incumbent Marcia Guthrie kept hers. In Morro Bay, incumbent Mayor John Headding bested challenger John Weiss by 114 votes. Grover Beach City Council candidate Robert Robert prevailed by 53 votes in a tight race against David Duringer and Fred Buenrostro Jr.

Two local school district bond measures also came down to the last counts. In San Miguel, residents approved a San Miguel Joint Union School District bond by 0.18 percent. Conversely, in the Atascadero Unified School District, voters rejected a bond measure by 0.6 percent. Both needed 55 percent support to pass.

In the final tally for the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden beat incumbent President Donald Trump in SLO County, 55.3 percent to 42.2 percent.

Both Biden and Trump earned bigger shares of the local vote than candidates Hillary Clinton and Trump did in 2016. In that election, Clinton won 48.9 percent to 40.94 percent, with roughly 10 percent going to third-party or write-in candidates. In 2020, that 10 percent shrunk to less than 3 percent. ∆

—Peter Johnson

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