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A political scramble shapes up in California

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On Tuesday, June 8, the Los Angeles Lakers hit 54 percent of their shots while defeating the Philadephia 76ers for the National Basketball Association Championship.

That same day, 52 percent of eligible Californians voted in the state's primary election - well below the 61 percent vote forecast by Secretary of State March Fong Eu.

What's the connection? Just this, points out Mervin Field, director of the California Poll: The game was televised between 6 and 8 p.m., when many workers finally get a chance to go to the polls. Mr. Field says there is no doubt a lot of people, especially in southern California, rushed home to watch the game on TV rather than taking time to vote.

Just over half the electorate decided such important matters as whether to build the peripheral canal (it lost) or to put into effect a group of tough anti-crime measures (they were approved).

More Republicans than Democrats turned out: 56.8 percent were involved in making San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson and state Attorney General George Deukmejian the GOP candidates for, respectively, US senator and governor. Only 46.8 percent of Democrats participated in nominating Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley as their candidates for those two top offices.

It was the third-lowest primary vote on record; in 1942 just 47.2 percent of eligible voters turned out, and in 1974 the figure was 53.9 percent. When the now-famous Proposition 13 tax-cut measure was passed in 1978, 68.9 percent voted.

Some observers thought the canal issue would bring out a similar number this time. But Field notes that it had become clear a week or more before the June 8 primary that the canal proposal was going to be defeated. That, together with the lack of real Democratic contests for the senatorial and gubernatorial nominations, affected the turnout.


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