Democracy Inaction

Yesterday was election day across California – not that many noticed. Only 22.2% of eligible voters statewide went to the polls, and in Los Angeles County the numbers were even lower: less than 17% cast a ballot. [stats via LAist]

Will Campbell at LA Metblogs* postulated:

I have pretty much one broad-stroke rule I observe when it comes to voting: don’t support anything that takes power out of the hands of the many and puts it in those of the few. This is somewhat ironic given the fact that elections increasingly do just that: letting the few of us who get out and vote ultimately dictate what will happen to the vast majority of those who don’t.

Probably the biggest reason for yesterday’s low turnout: the lack of big names, big contests, or big measures up for vote.

The LA County Supervisor positions, three of which were being voted on, are arguably some of the most important seats IN THE NATION, considering the influence the positions have over this key county, but few are aware of this. Voting numbers in LA County floated around 16%, on par with the state.

Confusion may have contributed to low turnout as well. I heard first hand a few friends confused when they heard about another “primary election” – they believed they’d already voted in November’s Presidential primary.

And then there’s voter burnout. The United States as a whole has poor voter participation, so asking California voters to head to the polls three times in one year may be asking too much, at least practically speaking.

I don’t think anyone would bet against the predicted record high turnout for November’s historic Presidential election, especially in California. Besides the choice between Obama and McCain, an amendment to change the definition of marriage in the state constitution will be up for vote.

Regardless, efforts need to be made, by both private and public groups, to increase voter awareness and participation on these “off” elections. My suggestion would be to mandate there are never more than two in a year with rare exceptions (run off or recall elections, for example). Any other ideas?

*I also stole the title of this entry from Will’s post, and full disclosure: I manage the LA Metblog.

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One response to “Democracy Inaction

  1. Will Campbell

    Hey David, thanks for the link.

    It’s funny, the reasons you sight for the low turnout yesterday all have validity, but because I’m one of those increasingly rare and perhaps endangered individuals who cherishes the privilege of voting, be it three times a year or 30 burnout is never an issue for me — confusion either. And I don’t need some marquee name or issue to get me off my butt to do my duty.

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