Prosecutor Jackie Lacey was leading in early returns in her race to become the first African-American and female District Attorney in Los Angeles, with 55 percent of votes counted as of 1 a.m. against 45 percent for opponent Alan Jackson.
In other measures, Californians seemed disinclined to repeal the death penalty, but were voting nearly two-to-one to reform the state's harsh "Three Strikes and You're Out" law.
In Los Angeles County, Measure B, which would require condoms to be used on movie sets where sex acts are being filmed, was leading, with 59 percent by 12:20 a.m. Wednesday and nearly half of the precincts reporting. Opponents garnered about 41 percent.
Early returns also showed a comfortable lead for Rep. Brad Sherman over longtime Congressman Howard Berman.
The two men, both Democrats, were locked in a contentious race after the two were thrown into the same district by California’s redistricting.
Campaign volunteers and supporters arrived at a party hosted by Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) with smiles on their faces and confidence that their candidate would win.
At Berman's headquarters, the mood was a bit more anxious as staff and invited guests began to gather. Berman fought hard in the race, which got dirty and expensive very quickly, but the bulk of the district was more familiar with Sherman, and that may have given Sherman an edge.
At the state level, Prop 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to raise taxes on people earning more than $250,000 per year, was edging ahead with 53 percent of the votes counted at 1:05 a.m.
A rival measure, Prop. 38, supported by billioniaire reformer Molly Munger, appeared headed for defeat.
Prop. 32, which would have banned labor unions from using payroll deductions to fund political campaigns, was trailing narrowly. With about 72 percent of precincts reporting, the measure garnered about 45 percent of the votes counted at 1:05 a.m. Some 55.1 percent opposed the proposition.
As of 1 a.m., Prop. 33, which would have required auto insurance prices be based on drivers' coverage history, appeared headed for defeat, with 55 percent of the votes against it and 45 percent in favor.
Prop. 35 appeared headed for an overwhelming victory as of 1 a.m., when some 81 percent of voters were counted in favor of the proposition which would increase criminal penalties for human trafficking and require human-trafficking training for police officers. Opponents of the proposition garnered about 18 percent of the vote with 72 percent of precincts reporting.
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Throughout the state, Democrats and Republicans gathered at parties and election night events, shouting as results were announced in favor of one candidate or another.
With a record number of registered voters in Los Angeles County, election officials expected significant turnout as voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in a hotly contested presidential race and myriad statewide and local contests.
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Polls opened across the state at 7 a.m. and will remain open till 8 p.m. (Use the links at the bottom of this article to find your polling place). Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan tweeted as polls closed on the East Coast: "Don't let east coast results & predictions keep you from voting in L.A. -- every vote counts. Polls open until 8 PM."
At 4 p.m., voter turnout was at 46 percent in LA County.
Results in close contests could be delayed because of a high number of mail-in ballots that remain to be counted, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk officials cautioned.
Voters can cast ballots or submit a mail-in ballot at their polling place. More than 9 million mail-in ballots were issued in California.
About 26,000 polling place volunteers were preparing for voters early Tuesday at the Cypress Park Recreation Center and more than 4,600 other locations in LA County.
LA county has 4.7 million registered voters -- a 10 percent increase since 2008 -- and a record high. The county accounts for nearly a quarter of California's 18.2 million registered voters.
About 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots were issued in LA County, and Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said some of those forms won't be ready to be counted till Friday.
"If we have close contests or measures hanging in the balance tonight, it could be days and even weeks before we see the vote totals on that," Logan said.
Voter registration has been "phenomenal" with the introduction of online registration in September, Logan said. Many of the online registrants were between ages 18 and 29, Logan said.
Whether that will translate to a high turnout will be determined Tuesday night.
"Voter registration is certainly that intent to participate," Logan said. "But on Election Day, we see the culmination in all that intent and the energy of people doing the physical act of marking their ballot."
Early morning and late afternoon are traditionally the busiest times at the polls, Logan said. He suggested voting at mid-day, if possible.
For last-minute voters, Logan said anyone in line at the time polls close will be allowed to cast a ballot.
All ballots will be transported to the county registrar's office in Norwalk in an LA County Sheriff's patrol vehicle. The final returns are likely to come from Santa Catalina Island, Logan said.