A LACK OF trust in the political system and time to research candidates kept some Santa Clara County residents from voting in this month’s midterm election, saying daily responsibilities put this year’s contests on the back burner. 

Some residents said selecting San Jose’s next mayor, Santa Clara County’s new sheriff or supervisor weren’t important enough to compete with post-pandemic life. While San Jose college students expressed concern about local issues like crime and homelessness, schoolwork competed for their attention and kept them from voting.

At the voting center at Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose, the turnout on election day was a shadow of what it had been for the presidential election in 2020, when people waited in long lines to vote. Overall voter turnout is projected to be 55 percent to 65 percent. With 67 percent of ballots counted Saturday, turnout is currently at 39.9 percent according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Cristina Oviedo, 23 of East San Jose, planned to vote, but was too busy. She would like to be able to vote online, and wants to see ballot measures that address homelessness and drug addiction.

“I personally have a loved one who has addiction issues and is homeless,” she said. “She’s really young. If only there was more help for her, she would be in a better place right now.”

Kryis Lindseth-Reed, 50, a San Jose art teacher, didn’t vote because she’s cynical of both the language of propositions and the candidates themselves.

Kryis Lindseth-Reed is cynical about politics. (Photo by Lorraine Gabbert/San Jose Spotlight)

“I’m a little wary to think anyone is free of underhanded dealings in political machinations,” she said, adding this is especially true at higher levels of office. “There are consequences behind things that happen behind closed doors. You may think the politician you’re voting for is great, but you don’t realize what their personal history is, and it doesn’t come out until after they’ve been elected. It’s hard for me not to be jaded.”

Lauren Kheylik, a 20-year-old junior at San Jose State University studying business, said she didn’t have time to vote because of work and school. Kheylik said she’d be more inclined to vote if there was more honesty and transparency in politics.

Lauren Kheylik didn’t vote because she didn’t have enough time between classes and work. (Photo by Lorraine Gabbert/San Jose Spotlight)

“I feel like a lot of people are shy to share their opinions due to if people disagree, (there’s) backlash,” she told San José Spotlight.

She isn’t the only young Silicon Valley voter who skipped the election because of other commitments or a lack of engagement.

Tyreque Elleston, an 18-year-old freshman at SJSU studying kinesiology, said he didn’t vote because he wasn’t interested.

SJSU students Christopher Castro and Tyreque Elleston. Elleston didn’t vote because he was too busy with schoolwork. (Photo by Lorraine Gabbert/San Jose Spotlight)

“I just focus on papers and getting my assignments done,” he said, noting crime and homelessness should be addressed.

Voter apathy and low turnout in Tuesday’s midterm election has perhaps the biggest impact on San Jose’s razor close mayoral race. Despite San Jose being home to more than 524,000 registered voters, only 186,895 ballots were cast in the highly-competitive mayors race as of Saturday. The two candidates vying for the city’s top political job, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilmember Matt Mahan, are separated by just 3,991 votes with Mahan leading.

East San Jose once again had the lowest voter participation with districts in the heart of the city’s east side hovering around 25 percent turnout, which often impacts more diverse and progressive candidates like Chavez.

Khristiana Escalante, a 28-year-old San Jose resident who works as a micro kitchen attendant at Google, said she didn’t vote because she isn’t into politics. She wants more details about candidates instead of advertising mailers with limited information.

Khristiana Escalante didn’t vote because she’s not into politics and didn’t research the candidates and issues. (Photo by Lorraine Gabbert/San Jose Spotlight)

“I don’t want to vote on something I haven’t read or done research on,” she said.

She cares about schools and child safety, citing the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas earlier this year, and she is concerned about the lack of security guards on elementary school campuses.

 “You don’t want some random people coming in,” she said.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at lorrainegabbertsjspotlight@gmail.com.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.