ELECTION ANALYSIS - It’s Election Day three hours before the polls close and 17,475 voters out of 133,978 have cast their ballots in Council District 15, that’s barely over 13% who have voted.
There’s still time for people to vote on their way home. And yet in elections gone by that number of voters has actually been the total number. This means that a city council candidate can and often has been elected with just 10,000 or 11,000 votes, not even 10% of the electorate. It’s kind of depressing when I come to think about it in those terms. And it’s probably not much different in most of the rest of Los Angeles City.
This is kind of curious, as this is the second election during the pandemic in which every registered voter got a ballot mailed to them. And on top of that there has been a veritable fortune spent in this election cycle on direct mail campaigns. I have a pile of it sitting on my desk – a testament to political consultants believing that this and bombarding you with annoying TV and social media ads actually works. However, if no more than a tenth of the electorate actually votes I would say there’s something missing in the equation.
It would seem that the fate of our civic republic is increasingly determined by a minority of voters and doesn’t represent the will of the people. And yet people still complain about city hall not representing them. I asked my postal clerk if she had mailed in her ballot and she answered that she doesn’t trust mail-in ballots. I had a phone call early this morning from a fifth generation Latino man who had just opened his ballot and said, “Who are these people? I’ve never heard of any of them.”
I wonder if he’s actually been receiving his mail?
I mean it couldn’t be much easier to vote with early voting, mail-in ballots and drop boxes plus the traditional polling locations. Does any of this really matter or have too many people swallowed the “Big Lie” Kool aid being distributed by Don the Con? Or does apathy reign and distraction conquer?
The political psychology of the city is just a bit too much to fathom at times. Tens of thousands will show up to demonstrate; the city can explode with riots with thousands dissatisfied and yet getting a majority of people to go to the polls seems to be insurmountable.
A candidate could probably get elected in some areas if he could just get the homeless to vote, but where would they mail the ballots?
And then there’s the guy at the coffee shop who told me, “I don’t vote out of religious reasons.” What religion has prohibitions about voting? All I can say is that everybody has excuses except for those who don’t. What’s yours?
Clearly there’s a disconnect. A month after Councilman Joe (Buckets) Buscaino expanded his “no camping” territories to include the block that my office is on and after he chased out the last of the homeless from Gulch Road four blocks away I discovered that some of these folks had taken up digs in the vacant buildings across the street. See, we’re not camping on the sidewalks anymore.
Now of course the developers for these three-quarters of a city block who have gotten approval for a three-story development with fewer than 10% low income units, aren’t local and don’t seem to care. In fact I’ve heard they’re trying to flip the project before it gets built. And the homeless non-campers have piled up their extras on the sidewalk where the city won’t notice to pick it up for weeks. I don’t even feel angry about it, as this is just the kind of unintended consequence of a bad policy and the indifference of the city bureaucracy that has brought this to a crisis point.
I walk down to corner and notice the “no camping” ordinance signs attached to the street lamps and I wonder, ‘is this just too stupid?’ What we need are No Buscaino signs!
The Day After
The morning after an election always feels like a hangover to me. All of the built up anxiety, posturing and posing culminates in the campaign headquarters when the polls close and the candidates and supporters gather in expectation as if it were a wedding or a wake. And then you wake up to the results — bring me some coffee.
Still it appears that the minority has spoken – about 15%. The billionaire Rick Caruso is going into the runoff with Rep. Karen Bass, the LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva couldn’t muster a majority, Gov. Gavin Newsom wins again with nearly 60% majority and the CD15 is heading for a surprising runoff.
The contest in the 15th district couldn’t be more curious as the establishment candidate Tim McOsker, who had a million dollar war chest and the longest list of endorsements failed to capture more than 39%. His insurgent opponent Danielle Sandoval running on a shoe string and a fist full of endorsement: ours and the Los Angeles Times included, has 29.7%. Businessman Anthony Santich didn’t break through with only 19.11% but the surprise is that the Sunrise Movement candidate Bryant Odega did better than we projected with 12.79%. He’s someone to watch.
All of this is only to explain that McOsker and Sandoval will be in the November runoff and that this was accomplished with just 10.65% of the eligible voters casting a vote. All of this is to simply explain that only 14,269 voters out of 133,978 have decided who might be the next council rep for CD15. These are not the final certified numbers and there may be mail-in ballots to count but it is with all precincts reported.
Sadly, that so few are engaged enough to actually cast a ballot is a reflection of the state of our civic democracy. Conversely, it also shows what a small group of engaged citizens can do if they have something to fight for.
(James Preston Allen, founding publisher of the Los Angeles Harbor Areas Leading Independent Newspaper 1979- to present, is a journalist, visionary, artist and activist. Over the years Allen has championed many causes through his newspaper using his wit, common sense writing and community organizing to challenge some of the most entrenched political adversaries, powerful government agencies and corporations.)