Growing up, I could not wait to accompany my parents to the voting polls every chance I got. I was, therefore, dismayed to learn how few people vote in local elections. Impressively, in our home city of La Cañada, virtually 100% of the eligible population is registered to vote. Of those registered, however, approximately 74% voted in the Nov. 8, 2016, General Election, compared to only 19.4% who voted in the March 7, 2017, Municipal Election.
Despite the dismal numbers, La Cañada actually exceeds the numbers for the entirety of Los Angeles County, where out of a total number of registrations of 5,254,698, approximately only 17% of those registered voted in the recent local elections, which includes the Vote by Mail precincts!
The local election voting results in La Cañada and all of the cities in Los Angeles County are emblematic of low voter turnouts for local elections across the country.
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Some attribute the numbers to a lack of interest or a lack of available information about the issues or the candidates. Others conclude that there is a negativity surrounding government, in general. Yet other factors include a lack of partisan competition so that, while candidates may hold different views, when they are of similar political leanings, their differences appear less stark to voters.
Low voter turnouts are problematic because those who do vote may not be representative of the electorate as a whole, which could lead to uneven prioritization of public spending and other significant problems for community residents. The city of Los Angeles even created the Municipal Elections Reform Commission to deal with the problem when approximately 11.1% of the total population of that entire city decided the city's elected leadership in the 2013 mayoral election.
There are a number of proposed solutions to the problem. Topping the list seems to be a proposal to move municipal elections from odd years (as we hold here in La Cañada) to even-year elections. Other suggestions include creating a network of early voting locations, promoting voting by mail and using nontraditional locations like shopping centers as polling places. In today's day and age, social media also plays a hand, and sources like Votershare, a Facebook application, appear to help increase the flow of information and bolster voters' enthusiasm.
Ultimately, we must all remember that voting is a privilege that, as Americans, we should all treasure. It represents the democratic values of our great country and it is up to each and every eligible citizen to care, become informed and get out and vote!
GABRIEL DRILL is a sophomore at La Cañada High School.
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