Voter turnout at the Santa Barbara County election polls Tuesday was the largest it has been in 12 years, exceeding the office of the county clerk’s expectations of a 75 percent voter turnout.

Joe Holland, the Santa Barbara County clerk-recorder-assessor, said this year’s turnout could set a new record for Santa Barbara County. Previously, the record for highest voter turnout in the county had been set in the 1992 election, where 78 percent of registered voters cast their ballots on election day. Holland said early estimates show that this year’s turnout could be even larger.

“We may potentially set a record when everything’s said and done,” Holland said. “All the numbers indicate a turnout of 77 percent or more. We won’t know the exact turnout for probably another week or two.”

Holland said the voter turnout on Tuesday was larger than the 75 percent voter turnout the county had hoped to attain. In the 2000 election, Holland said, there was a 70 percent turnout, which was up from the 1996 presidential election, when only 65 percent of those registered in the county voted.

The number of registered voters in the precincts comprising UCSB and I.V. has increased by more than 4,000 people since last year, to a total of 15,974 registered voters. However, both the number of people registered and the number that voted are lower than they were in the 1996 election, when there were 20,108 registered voters and about 770 more votes than this year.

Holland said that, despite the larger-than-expected voter turnout, election day ran smoothly at the polls. He said there were no major problems processing ballots, and he said poll volunteers worked diligently to move students through the process quickly. During peak voting periods, including the final hours before the polls closed, Holland said, lines in I.V. were long but not unruly.

“Everyone was really positive and patient,” Holland said.

At polling places where the lines were too long, workers split the registration books in order to expedite the voting process. There were plenty of ballots on hand, Holland said, but polls did start running out of the “I Voted” stickers.

Holland also said there were not enough voting booths at each site, but that students were cooperative and flexible.

“The students were so great,” Holland said. “They would just sit on the couch and vote.”