Races come down to the wire

CITY HALL — Thousands of Glendale residents are expected to hit the polls Tuesday to decide three races and a $270 million school bond measure.

After months of campaigning and facing off at more than a dozen candidate forums, incumbent City Councilmen Dave Weaver and John Drayman will compete against challengers Rafi Manoukian, Chahe Keuroghelian, Mike Mohill and Garen Mailyan for two spots on the Glendale City Council.

Registered voters can cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday at one of the city’s 56 polling places. Residents looking to find their polling place can visit the City Clerk’s website at http://www.glendalevotes.org/.

Voters will also have a chance to select candidates in the races for Glendale Unified Board of Education and the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees, as well as to weigh in on Measure S, a proposed $270-million school bond.

Incumbents Nayiri Nahabedian and Mary Boger are running against Ingrid Gunnell, Jennifer Freemon, Vahik Satoorian, Ami Fox, Daniel Cabrera and Todd Hunt for two spots on the Glendale Unified school board. In the GCC race, incumbents Tony Tartaglia and Vahe Peroomian will face challenger Vartan Gharpetian.

Budget constraints were a major issue addressed in all three races as the city and school district continue to face financial uncertainty amid the protracted recession.

Some at City Hall have expressed concern that voter fatigue and a slower election season could temper voter turnout, especially as stricter campaign finance regulations have kept fundraising levels far below previous election cycles.

As of the latest campaign filings, Manoukian, who previously served eight years on the City Council, had raised $32,156 to amass the largest campaign chest in the City Council race. That’s nearly 75% less than the roughly $121,000 he raised for the same period in his 2007 campaign.

The lower fundraising levels have meant fewer signs, advertisements and mailings that traditionally remind voters to hit the polls.

But on Monday, Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian said he is hopeful that many residents will still choose to vote.

“I’m hopeful that our residents, who are involved and informed, do go to the polls,” Kassakhian said. “Ideally, a city clerk’s dream is to see 100% voter participation, but we will be happy with just people voting.”

There are roughly 100,000 “active” registered voters in Glendale, but typically between 23,000 and 25,000 cast ballots, with about half cast by mail, Kassakhian said.

More than 10,000 vote-by-mail ballots have already been sent into City Hall for the 2011 election, Kassakhian said, which will be counted along with ballots cast today.

New this year, a joint project between the Glendale City Clerk’s Office and the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College will allow voters to track ballots as they make their way from precincts across the city to the city’s election headquarters to be counted.

The Glendale Votes website will have a link to the project’s interactive map, which Kassakhian said is meant to help demystify the elections process.

“We want people to know the results of the elections, but also to be able to track the votes as to where they are coming from and how long it may take to tally them,” he said. “Providing the public with this information is an attempt to pull back the curtain behind which elections processes have been conducted throughout communities.”

Doug Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute and a Glendale resident, said the joint project partially grew out of his frustration with attempting to track the vote results during previous elections.

“One of the things that was always frustrating was when the city election results rolled out during the night, we never knew which precincts they were coming from,” he said.

Now residents will be able to view ballot counting and election results by precinct updated throughout the night on the color-coded interactive map, Johnson said.

“This is all information that has always been in the clerk’s office, but they never had the time or the resources to do anything with it,” he said. “At the institute we have the web savvy and the resources to actually get the information from the many different places where it’s recorded onto one website for people to see.”

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