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Tim Myers: Does election date change help incumbents?

Posted: March 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

 

Pretty much every rational person agrees about how the Republicans lost the presidency of the United States and could not take the Senate in 2012.

 

President Barack Obama captured virtually all the votes cast by African-Americans, over 70 percent of the votes cast by Latinos, and two-thirds of the votes cast by Asian-Americans, the three largest minority groups in the United States.

 

Add to that a strong majority of younger voters and the president’s re-election actually stood fairly certain.

 

With respect to the Senate, slim fringes of Republican primary voters selected candidates, particularly in the eminently winnable races in Missouri and Indiana, who uttered insane comments that turned away moderate voters not wishing association with such silliness.

 

Now, some disagree concerning the "why" in the instance of the presidential election, but that would also seem fairly obvious to the rational.

 

The right wing of the Republican Party seems to proudly wear its nativist, anti-immigrant badge, and while they might protest that they only seek to deport and exile the "illegals," they found it impossible to divide a community.

 

In the case of Asian-American voters, while no hard polling data exists, analysts much smarter than I theorize that this culture, that particularly values education and the organs of government that provide it, find themselves terrified by the anti-science and anti-government wing of the Republican Party.

 

And the prospects for Republicans don’t get better when measured against relentless demographics. Those three minority groups mentioned above grow by 2 percent a year, while the older white voters on which the Republicans rely are disappearing with the turn of the calendar, replaced by more left-leaning younger voters.

 

Now how does this connect to recent events in Santa Clarita where EVERY public educational entity voted to move their elections to even-numbered years as opposed to odd-numbered years for the purpose of increasing voter turnout and saving a little bit of cost?

 

It seems strange and counter-intuitive in this primarily Republican burg that elected officials would vote to increase turnout, because the whole Republican strategy in 2012 revolved around hoped-for or active suppression of certain segments of the voting public.

 

And yet, every board with a super-majority of registered Republicans voted to change the dates of elections to increase turnout, and they can even point to numbers that will demonstrate that turnout will significantly increase by moving the elections to years when national and statewide elections also appear on the ballot, to wit, the Castaic school board’s finding that voters in the Castaic area cast twice as many ballots in the recent school bond election, which occurred in an even-numbered year, when compared to the last odd-numbered school board election.

 

But what impact can this change truly bring? In the (nearly) 17 years of our residence in the SCV, two things stand clear. Local elections bring out ridiculously low amounts of voters, where one in five or six registered residents really control the destiny of the city and the various school boards and other elected bodies.

 

The second? Everyone assumes, particularly if they or a particular candidate they liked lost in the last election, that an increased turnout will benefit their chances of winning.

 

Now myself possessing a great interest in local politics, I can only speculate on the lack of participation. It probably relates mostly to the fact that the SCV really only exists on the weekends, since most residents must endure long commutes to effect their ordinary workdays in demanding jobs, leaving little time left over to nurture a civic interest.

 

But on the second issue, I know the answer and the hopeful candidates and their partisans could not find themselves more wrong.

 

While one can definitely denigrate the low participation in local elections, one could also state with a high level of confidence that these few voters casting ballots do seek to educate themselves with some depth on local issues, and therefore cast well-informed votes.

 

So how, then, could a higher turnout effect these elections? From my study of the city of Camarillo, which holds its City Council elections in even-numbered years, the drawing in of large amounts of somewhat less knowledgeable voters seems to even further strengthen the hands of incumbents, since their name recognition and ballot designation might carry the day.

 

And with the recent shocking historical incidents of incumbents actually removed from office locally, could this strengthening of incumbency in the form of higher turnouts truly be the aim of these elected, and therefore, incumbent, officials?

 

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" runs Saturdays in The Signal.

 

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