Though a light turnout is expected at the polls today, Orange County Registrar of Voters Don Tanney said that recent school district controversies may bring out more voters than usual in an off-year election.
Countywide, 13 school board elections and one community college district race will be decided, with the polls opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.
In addition, residents of several areas will be voting on ballot measures, while Garden Grove elects a mayor and Buena Park chooses two City Council members.
Tanney has predicted a 14% turnout overall but said intensified voter concern about schools could increase that figure somewhat. The main two controversies:
- In June, an Orange County Grand Jury accused four incumbent Orange Unified School District board members of "willful misconduct" in allegations of bid-rigging against a district employee.
- In September, voters in Laguna Beach Unified recalled three board members. That recall revolved around the board members' reinstatement of Cedrick Hardman, who was arrested last year on charges of cocaine possession, as football coach.
Concern With Education
"I think there's concern with education in general, and certainly there's been a lot in the news about two school boards this year," Tanney said. "I would hope that there's a higher turnout."
In today's election in the Orange Unified district, two incumbents, William Steiner and Russell Barrios, are seeking reelection. Both were cleared by the county district attorney's office of involvement in an alleged bid-rigging scandal that took place in the early 1980s, before Steiner and Barrios joined the board.
Nonetheless, both have said they are worried that voters might be confused about the overall investigation. "I'm hoping people have read past the headlines," Barrios said.
In Laguna Beach Unified, former school board member Charlene Ragatz, who was ousted in the Sept. 22 recall election and replaced by UC Irvine Assistant Vice Chancellor Kathleen Jones, is on the ballot. Ragatz is erroneously listed as an incumbent because that was her status when she filed for reelection in August.
Because Jones, who is also on today's ballot, was elected to a seat that expires this month, she is now running for a full four-year term.
While Ragatz has said she has not actively campaigned, she also has said she would serve if elected.
Another school board election generating political interest is in Santa Ana Unified School District, the county's largest, with more than 38,000 students.
10 Vying for 3 Seats
Ten candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for three seats. The teachers' union in the district is seeking to oust the two incumbents.
In Mission Viejo, Tanney said, a larger turnout than in some other areas is expected, as voters decide whether their community should become an incorporated city.
In Irvine, the election will determine whether there will be direct election of a mayor for that city.