Orange County voters turned out in moderate numbers this morning, attracted by a variety of ballot measures including a proposed countywide sales tax increase for transportation and a controversial initiative that would limit gay rights in Irvine.
A sampling of precincts showed a 6% voter turnout throughout the county as of 11 a.m., one of the highest in a nonpresidential election, said Registrar of Voters Donald F. Tanney. The heaviest rush of voting is expected from 5 to 8 p.m., he said.
Turnout was heaviest in Irvine and Laguna Niguel, where voters are deciding whether to incorporate as a city.
Some Irvine precincts reported the heaviest turnout ever in the past four years, including last year's presidential election. Voters "were waiting for us at 7," said Helga Coover, a precinct worker at Lakeside Middle School in the Woodbridge area of Irvine.
"It's busier this morning than in any of the major elections," said Henry Myers, a four-year veteran of precinct work at the Irvine Boys and Girls Club. "We had a fair number of apartment people who usually don't vote. A couple of times we had all six booths filled, even the handicapped booth."
Many voters said they had come to support Measure N, which would remove the protection for gays contained in the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.
Voting appeared divided in Laguna Niguel, said Debi Larsen, a cityhood supporter. "I think it's going both ways. It's not a landslide here, anyway," she said.
Supporters of Measure M, a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects, said a heavy turnout would help their cause.