Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California election turnout: In search of a million missing voters

Polling Election Day 2012

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Voters cast their ballots in the McDonald's Playroom in Hollywood on November 6th, 2012.

Among all the numbers emerging from Election Day, here's a significant one: About one-million fewer Californians appear to have turned out to vote this year than in 2008, according to exit polls and the California Secretary of State.

Turnout in the state is expected to be close to 70 percent, according to a Field Poll estimate. However the actual number won't be known until counties finish processing mail-in and provisional ballots – expected no later than mid-December. Turnout in the 2008 election was 77.5 percent.

While all voting groups turned out in lower absolute numbers, the percentage of different groups' participation as voters reflects the growing diversity of California's population and the increasing willingness of some traditionally low-turnout groups to cast ballots.

Black voters were not a disproportionate part of that missing million. The rate of participation among African American voters remained constant in the state – about eight percent of the electorate.

Voting is especially strong among black voters ages 18 to 29, said Peter Levine, who studies the youth vote as director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

"African-American youth have very high turnout, often the highest turnout of any young group, so they are more than pulling their weight among young voters," he said. "And their desire to vote is not just a product of enthusiasm for Barack Obama because it goes back to a big jump that first occurred in 2004."

Some pollsters said young voters weren't as engaged this year. But, at least in California, young voters of all races and ethnicities turned out in strong numbers on Tuesday – making up 28 percent of the electorate – that is eight points higher than in 2008.

"It looks like fewer people voted in California in 2012 than in 2008, but a higher proportion of people who voted were young," Levine said.

That's partly because the millennial generation is more engaged in everything – politics, news, social media. But the political parties also reached out to young voters. Prop 30 supporters mobilized to get college-age and other young voters to support that tax measure's promises to forestall budget cuts and tuition increases.

What about Latino voters? Were they a big part of the missing million?

University of California, Irvine political scientist Louis DiSipio said exit polls indicate Latinos increased their share of ballots cast in the presidential election to 22 percent of the electorate, up four points from the last one.
"The electorate in California in 2012 got closer to the diversity of the population as a whole," DiSipio said.

The participation of Asian-American voters was up to 11 percent, two points more than in 2008, according to exit polls. In California, voters can get language assistance at polling places in a half-dozen Asian languages.

University of California, Riverside political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan said Asian-American voters were particularly motivated by the education-centric campaign for Prop 30, and a desire to support Asian candidates.

Which brings us to the white vote.

Non-Hispanic whites remain the biggest portion of the electorate, but their voting numbers are swiftly declining. They represented only about 55 percent of the turnout in California–down eight points from 2008.


Jan Perry seeks to play fiscal conservative in LA Mayors race

Jan Perry

Courtesy of Perry campaign

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry is running for mayor in next Spring's election.

In what was billed as a major policy speech on pension reform Thursday, Los Angeles City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jan Perry said city workers must pay more into their pension and healthcare plans.

“This has to begin with an honest conversation with our city employees about our finances and the hard choices that we have to make to solve our budget crisis,” Perry said to supporters and journalists at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown L.A.

Los Angeles faces an estimated $1 billion dollar deficit over the next five years, she said. Employee wages and benefits comprise the biggest portion of the city budget.

Perry said city analysts project a $73 million increase in revenue next year.  But employee costs will jump $208 million – mostly because of the rising costs of healthcare and pensions.


How election 2012, redistricting changed California's congressional map (graphic)

U.S. Capitol

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Tuesday's election — coming on the heels of a tumultuous redistricting process — transformed the map of California's congressional representation, if not the actual balance between Republicans and Democrats in the state's official delegation.

Check out the geographical differences in the interactive map below. (You can toggle between the map as it appeared in 2010 and the new map as it appears now.)

New concentrations of congressional power for Democrats, incumbent losses and new faces — as well as the appearance of "No Party Preference" candidates in the general elections — were among the political changes that came out of Tuesday's election.

The redistricting process delivered congressional districts to Democrats around Sacramento and in the 31st and 56th in the southern part of the state for a net gain of one seat from the GOP.


Los Angeles City Council approves ID & debit cards for undocumented immigrants

LA City LIbrary Card

Jose Luis Jiménez

A current City of Los Angeles library card.

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan to create a library card that also acts as an identification and a pre-paid debit card designed to help undocumented immigrants.

The ID card would include a resident’s photograph, full name, address, date of birth and details on height, weight, and hair and eye color. The card would not be a driver’s license and could not be used as an ID to board a plane. It will also be a pre-paid debit card that allows residents to build credit. 

Whether law enforcement agencies will accept the ID remains unknown. Distribution is expected to begin early next year.

The council voted 12 to 1 on Wednesday to select a vendor to develop and administer the identity card program.

The new ID is intended to help about 200,000 Los Angeles households that do not have access to banking services. Those families are vulnerable to theft and financial emergencies, according to the Mayor’s Office. A financial institution will back the proposed ID card, and the funds will be FDIC insured.


Democrats may have super majority in Sacramento

Mercer 15687

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If Democrats secure a super majority in the state legislature, Speaker of the Assembly John Perez, left, and Governor Jerry Brown say they'll have to control the party's urge to spend.

California Democrats appear to have clinched a super majority in the state legislature — control of two-thirds of the seats in both the Senate and Assembly. Such numbers would empower Democrats to raise taxes and expedite fiscal changes though urgency legislation without Republican votes.

Millions of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots are still being counted, and some races are too close to call, but Democratic leaders are confident the numbers will work out for them. Those leaders have claimed they could balance the state budget and solve long-term fiscal problems if they didn’t need Republican cooperation.

That theory could be put to a test in the next legislative session. Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, says a super majority gives Democrats more flexibility — but it also puts the onus on them: "Now, Democrats have to come through and show that they’re a responsible party, as opposed to making excuses."