Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Voter Turnout Hits Record Low|
By Daniel Larios
Political experts interviewd by the Lookout blame the low turnout – reflected across the County, State and nation -- on non-competitive races and a dearth of life-changing issues on the ballot. Locally, some blame a disinterested electorate put off by negative campaigns.
“I think there are a few reasons,” said Sharon Gilpin, who ran successful campaigns for an anti-airport measure and for Council member Kevin McKeown. “First, there are more than a few new citizens of the City that probably registered but probably are not tuned in to local issues.
“So taking the time to find their polling place, wait in line and then vote on candidates and issues isn't worth their time,” Gilpin said. “Many of those new folks are 'young' and the youth just aren't voting.
Their issues are not on the ballot.”
Gilpin also blames local campaigns that frustrated voters with a weath of mailers that were negative, and in some cases confusing.
Turnout in LA County was equally low. Political observers noted that most of the candidates running for State and County seats belonged to the same party and generally agreed on the issues.
There was “little partisan competition,” said Dr. Fernando Guerra, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. “Without competition, people don't feel that it's worth coming out.
“Part of that is also a lack of ideological competition,” Guerra said “There's great consensus in California. California is a very Democratic state and a lot of the values that the Democratic Party espouses are actually the majority's."
Gilpin agrees. “There was absolutely no diversity of ideas in the contests.....all Democrats all the time,” she said. “Splitting issue hairs is fodder for political junkies, but most of the public is bored by that exercise. An exciting contest pits philosophy versus philosophy.”
“It’s pretty astonishing,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA. “I think a lot of it was that there were races on issues that no one knew about or cared about.”
Sonenshein believes the lack of a competitive race for governor, in which Jerry Brown easily won a historic fourth term, contributed to the low turnout.
“Without a compelling race at the top of the ticket, a lot of people didn’t feel a need to vote,” Sonenshein said.
The low-turnout in the County reflected a nationwide trend. In the state of New York, 32.5 percent of its 10.9 million voters went to the polls on November 4. In Detroit, turnout was 31 percent of the city’s 509,000 voters.
“Unfortunately, most got to hear only what the candidates were against, not what they were for,” said Feinstein, who finished in eighth place. “That means the election process mostly failed us, because we didn't debate where we wanted to go as a community, only where we didn't.”
In the 2006, voter turnout was 59.94 percent (34,440 ballots out of 57,455 registered voters). In 2002, 54.6 percent of registered voters cast ballots (30,853 ballots out of 56,501 registered voters).
Presidential elections typically boost voter turnout, because they generate excitement and voters from both major parties feel there is more at stake.
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