Ballots trickle in ahead of Election Day. How does Fresno County’s voter turnout look?

About 64,000 vote-by-mail ballots sent out to registered voters in Fresno County have been received so far by county elections officials ahead of Election Day on March 5.

But that figure — reflecting ballots that have been returned by mail or through secure drop-off boxes throughout the county as of March 1 — represents only a small percentage of the more than 507,000 ballots that went out to voters in early February.

“Turnout has been slow so far,” James Kus, the county’s clerk and registrar of voters, told The Fresno Bee on Friday. “Classically, at least over the last 20 or so years, turnout for presidential primaries averages around 40% in Fresno County – sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower.”

“Right now, if you look at what we’ve gotten back so far, we’re at around 13-ish percent,” he added. “That’s pretty far from 40%.”

By Friday, almost 48,000 ballots had been received from voters via the U.S. Postal Service, while another 16,000 were delivered to and picked up from dozens of drop-off boxes scattered across Fresno County.

Some vote-by-mail ballots have also been dropped off at 11 in-person voting centers that have been open since Feb. 24 in Fresno and other parts of the county. Another 41 vote centers were set to open Saturday and be open through Election Day on March 5, including 28 in the city of Fresno.

Kus said the elections office is prepared for the unlikely prospect of 100% turnout, adding that he avoids making predictions because he doesn’t want a low forecast to dissuade voters from casting their ballots. But based on prior presidential primary elections, the office is planning for about 40%.

Complicating any such forecast is the unknown number of ballots in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service that have not yet made their way back to the elections office. Ballots that are postmarked by Election Day need to be received by March 15 in order to be processed and counted.

Voter turnout in presidential election years is typically greater than it is for off-year elections.

On Election Night, the first preliminary results will be released shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m. and reflect any ballots received by mail or from drop-off boxes through Monday, Kus said.

Subsequent Election Night results will include tabulations of results from vote centers. Periodic updates will follow in the days following the election as late mail-in ballots and provisional ballots are received, processed and counted.