The June 3, 2014 California top-two primary appears likely to have had the lowest turnout in state history. California has had primaries starting in 1910, and the previous worst primary turnout was the June 2008 primary, which had no statewide offices (the presidential primary had been in March 2008) and which had a turnout of 28.22%.
The number of votes reported for Governor by 3:30 a.m. early on the morning of June 4 was 3,153,000. No further updates have been issued. Assuming there are 1,000,000 uncounted provisional and absentee ballots that had not yet been counted, that would still yield a total of 4,153,000 voters. California’s last Report of Registration showed 17,722,006 registered voters, so that would mean a turnout of 23.4%. UPDATE: the total reported at 5:30 p.m. on June 4 is 3,173,148; on June 5, 3,296,369.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian criticized the top-two system in this editorial, written before any election returns were known. The editorial is flawed because it predicted that Tim Donnelly would place second for Governor, instead of Neel Kashkari. The editorial is also flawed because it refers to Prop. 14 as an “open primary”.
Tim Donnelly outpolled Neel Kashkari in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, the two most Democratic counties in the state. This strongly suggests that some Democrats were engaging in strategic voting, something that would not have been possible in a closed or semi-closed primary.