Early indications on Election Day are showing that turnouts at polling places throughout the Bay Area are significantly less than the 2008 election.
In Alameda County, voting opened last weekend, but the turnout wasn't great, Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald said.
"We opened voting on Saturday. The most I saw in line was 20 people," Macdonald said. "In 2008 ... a line of people wrapped around the building. There were maybe a thousand people."
Macdonald said that, for this election, there just doesn't seem to be the same enthusiasm.
In San Mateo County, Registrar of Voters Mark Church is seeing the same thing.
Lines are a lot shorter than they were in 2008, Church said.
"We're off to a slow start," he said.
Church said this year there are a lot fewer registered voters in the county than there were in 2008, which may be why there are shorter lines.
"We're electing the leader of the free world for the next four years," Church said. "Everyone is encouraged to come and cast their ballot."
Both Macdonald and Church are speculating that voter turnout in their respective counties will spike at least 5 percent.
In 2008, Macdonald said 78 percent of voters in Alameda County cast their ballots. This year, he speculates about 70 percent of residents will vote.
Church said 79 percent of San Mateo County voters cast their ballots. This year, he expects 73 percent will vote.
Macdonald said he believes the drop-off will be statewide.
"There are a lot of very important things on the ballot," he said. "For whatever reason, the voters aren't coming to vote."
After the voting stops for tonight's national election, the return parties get started in the Bay Area, with revelers taking to bars, restaurants, campaign offices, even Franklin D. Roosevelt's yacht for a bay cruise hosted by an FDR impersonator.
Tired volunteers, expectant candidates and fervent backers of state and local ballot measures will leave the phone banks for banks of TVs to see how their efforts play out, and if the nation re-elects President Obama or instead chooses Mitt Romney.
About 100 people from all walks of political life are expected to view the balloting results from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on large flat screen TVs aboard the USS Potomac, President Roosevelt's 155-foot private boat, in a cruise from Oakland to San Francisco and back meant to raise money for the
Partiers will be paying about $85 to $200 a ticket to experience campaign tallies with a man impersonating President Roosevelt, and life-sized
wax figures of Obama and George H.W. Bush there for photos ops, said organizer David Perry, who ran the boat's last election night cruise in 2008.
The private, big-ticket event for San Francisco Democrats takes off at 8 p.m. at the Fairmont, featuring California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is running for re-election, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and former Mayor Willie Brown.
An Italian eatery in Walnut Creek, Massimo Ristorante, will host the main event in Northern California for the California Republican Party at
7 p.m., said Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the state Republicans, based in Sacramento, who will be there.
"It's a viewing party and victory party for local and assembly candidates, and there will be a media center," Del Beccaro said. "It's the largest Republican event in Northern California."
One of the most-watched statewide ballot measures, Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified foods, starts its results fete at 8 p.m. at Cellspace, 2050 Bryant St., in San Francisco.
Supporters of Proposition 34, an effort to abolish the death penalty in California, will watch to find out how voters react at 8 p.m. at Jullian's at 175 Fourth St., also in San Francisco.
As the returns pour in, San Francisco's 1300 on Fillmore cocktail lounge, at 1300 Fillmore St., a pro-Obama establishment, plans to serve patrons blue-colored "Barackatini" and red-colored "Romnesia" drinks starting at 7 p.m., and give 15 percent discounts for those wearing an Obama T-shirt.
In the South Bay, the parties include one hosted at 7 p.m. by the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley at the French Quarter Cabaret, in Sunnyvale.