Of the 294,054 registered voters able to participate in last week’s special election for Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ Assembly seat representing the 54th district, only 24,800 (8.43%) turned out to vote. By those numbers, a candidate only needed to receive 4.22% of the votes cast—50% plus one (12,401 votes)–to win outright.
Sydney Kamlager won the seat by receiving a very impressive 68.9% (17,094) of the votes cast. But, she only got 5.81% of the total registered voters in the district. So, she actually only got about 1.7% more than what a candidate actually needed to be elected, without having to go through a run-off election.
This is a prime example of how our politics have changed over the past 20 or 30 years. So it shouldn’t be a wonder why we have seen our local politics become so partisan. When less than 8.43% turnout for an election, it means a candidate can receive less than 5% of the total registered voters and still be elected.
So, instead of running more expensive campaigns to garner the vote from an apathetic, general public—of which, 80% to 90% probably wouldn’t be showing up at the polls—the campaign is only pin-pointed to win those voters who will most likely turnout to vote for them.
Our latest council election is another example. Even though the election analysis shows that 22.5% of the electorate participated, it only took 8.45% of the voters in the combined precincts of 1A (East CC – Arts District), 4A (Downtown CC), 7A (Carlson Park) and 11A (Vets’ Park /Studio Estates) to give Daniel Lee and Alex Fisch 75% of their winning margin over the Chamber-endorsed team of Marcus Tiggs and Albert Vera.
Now that the Meghanites have proven that they understand how to manipulate local voting strategy to get their own preferred candidates elected. let’s see if the partisan supporters will let their two newly-elected council members represent “all the citizens of Culver City” or just the partisan agenda of those who got them elected.
BEING UGLY LONG ENOUGH WINS
The vitriolic ramblings on Facebook of a few bitter partisans had their desired effect on certain local candidates. They continued to spew their ugliness on the internet, taking a lesson from the Russian trolling during the last presidential election. They have proven, once again, that being ugly long enough on social media, is now part of an effective campaign strategy.
Campaign consultants know which voters come out on a regular basis because they have access to the county voter rolls. So they run their campaigns to garner the most votes from these voters who actually come out. They don’t waste campaign funds to try and win the general public vote, knowing full-well that most of the general public are not going to participate. Their aim is only to win by concentrating on those who will come out and vote: the more passionate, partisan voter.
With low voter turnout, now seemingly the norm, I think it would be best to keep our local elections as they are now. But, there could be a state election law that stipulates that elections would be validated only if a majority of the registered voters came out and participated in the election. This should make voters want to turnout in significantly higher numbers or face having to pay for another election. Having more participants, candidates would have to broaden their appeal to court more of the general public’s views. It would also make candidates reach out to the general public more, to get out the vote or continue to have to keep running for another election.