Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
September 27, 2015

  • Voter turnout hit record low last year
  • It eroded Democrats’ voter registration edge
  • Politicians seek ways to boost turnout

California’s Democratic politicians were jolted when voters – especially their voters – largely ignored last year’s elections.

Just 25 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots in the June primary and just 42.2 percent voted in November, by far the lowest percentages ever recorded.

The turnout was particularly low in heavily Latino, heavily Democratic Los Angeles County, mirroring what has been happening in local elections. In this year’s Los Angeles city elections, just 8.6 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Last year’s ultra-low turnouts eroded Democrats’ commanding lead in voter registration and helped Republicans gain in some key legislative contests.

Not surprisingly, therefore, Democratic politicians want to do something about it. They say they want to improve small-d democracy, but there is little doubt they also want to enhance big-D Democratic dominance.

Those few Los Angeles voters last spring approved two ballot measures that would shift future city and school board elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, coinciding with statewide elections.

That probably will boost turnout in the city a bit, but it’s scarcely a cure-all, given very low participation in statewide elections.

For that, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature have another remedy, or so they hope. A bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature would make voter registration of citizens over the age of 18 automatic when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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