More than 9 million voters took part in the Feb. 5 presidential primary in California, setting a record for participants and marking the highest turnout rate in a primary since the 1980 election.
According to a report by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, 55.7% of registered voters either cast ballots by mail or at precincts around the state. The 1980 turnout was 63.3%.
Though the turnout percentage was not a record, the number of participants was. The largest number of voters in a previous primary was 7.9 million, in March 2000.
Before the election, many analysts predicted that about half of Californians would vote by mail.
But the secretary of state's office said a slightly lower percentage, almost 42%, cast mail-in ballots. The percentage may have been diminished by the flood of voters who showed up at precincts, forming long lines and, in some areas, forcing elections officials to scramble for extra ballots.
Elections officials in California's counties have spent the weeks since the Feb. 5 contest tallying damaged and provisional ballots, including tens of thousands cast in Los Angeles County, where a confusing ballot design contributed to difficulties counting the vote.
Stephen Weir, the Contra Costa County clerk-recorder who heads the statewide association of elections officials, said voting was high across the state.
"This was a strong turnout," he said.
The final returns released by Bowen narrowed the gap between Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, who waged a fierce battle for California. Clinton won 51.5% and Obama 43.2%. Preliminary returns had given Clinton about a 10-point lead.
Republican John McCain, the Arizona senator, won the GOP contest with 42.3%, to 34.6% for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 11.7% for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
McCain has since clinched the nomination.