Palmdale's historic turnout and new CA legislation could lead to a new election date in the near future.

Just for clarity:

Traditionally, Lancaster’s General Municipal Election has been held in April on the even year.

Until 2016, Palmdale’s General Municipal Election had been held in November on the odd year.

There was a misnomer floating around, that if Lancaster moved their municipal election to the same day as Palmdale, voter turnout would increase. The numbers actually showed different; Lancaster has always had a better voting turnout than Palmdale since 2007.

 

Lancaster    2006        2008        2010        2012        2014

April              16.95%      20.5%       21.2%        14.5%      11.9%

 

Palmdale    2007        2009        2011        2013        2015

November      16.02%      15.11%       13.71%     14.32%    No election held

 

Taking an unbiased review of the numbers, it was evident that moving Lancaster’s municipal election to November on the odd year would not increase turnout and might actually have the reverse effect.

In 2013, the City of Palmdale reached an agreement in the CVRA [California Voting Rights Act] case which, among other things, moved their election to November on the even year. For this article, however, moving from the odd year to the even year is the most important change to be noted. Now the question is: Did moving to the even year affect voter turnout?

 

Lancaster     2016

April               11.2%

Palmdale     2016

November        66.85%

 

Changing the election in Palmdale from the odd year to the even year increased turnout from 14.32% to 66.85%; a 55% increase. Lancaster’s election; staying in the same month of April, saw a turnout decrease of .7%.

 

This leads us to the question that the Mayor and City council members will have to answer.

 

Should the City of Lancaster move its election from April in the even year to November in the even year?

 

Here is a little history about the debate of whether Lancaster’s election should be moved to increase turnout.  Most inquiries were for it to be moved to November on the odd numbered years. There is a staff report dated April 24, 2007 that does an investigation on benefits, concerns and costs. There was also an advisory vote on April 8th 2008 where the city’s constituents voted yes to move it to November 2009; and yes to move it to November 2011. The vote with the greatest number of yeses prevailed at 6173 for 2009, while 2011 garnered 2867 votes; with each respective measure beating out the no votes. After both the staff report and advisory measure A and B, Lancaster did not move the election and, until now, the decision was seemingly the right one when the evidence showed moving the election to the odd numbered year in November would have not affected turnout at all.

 

But, now that there is proof that moving the election to November in the even year will increase turnout immensely; will Lancaster change as well, or will they wait to be sued under the new state voting law that passed in September?

 

Governor Brown approved Senate Bill No. 415. This bill, “authorizes a voter who resides in a political subdivision where a violation is alleged, to file an action in superior court to enforce holding an election on a statewide election date if holding an election on a non-concurrent date has previously resulted in voter turnout being 25% less than the average voter turnout for the previous 4 statewide general elections.”

 

California              2010        2012        2014        2016

November                 55.59%    72.36%    42.20%    75.27%

 

Lancaster            2010        2012         2014        2016

April                      21.2%        14.5%        11.9%      11.2%

 

Difference         -38.39%    -57.86%    -30.3%    -64.07%

 

As you see, there has not been a year in recent history where Lancaster did not perform at least within 25% of the State general election average. That means on January 1, 2018, when the new law goes into effect; Lancaster could be sued by a voter, who resides in the city, to move the elections to November of the even numbered year.

 

So, the questions are:

In light of the new information on how to increase turnout, will Lancaster change the municipal election date on its own?

-Or-

Will Lancaster wait until someone sues them in 2018 when the new law goes into effect?

 

Sources:

Resolution No. 16-15 Lancaster Municipal Election April 12, 2016

Resolution No. 14-13 Lancaster Municipal Election April 8, 2014

Resolution No. 12-17 Lancaster Municipal Election April 10, 2012

Resolution No. 10-16 Lancaster Municipal Election April 13, 2010

Resolution No. 08-33 Lancaster Municipal Election April 8, 2008

Resolution No. 08-34 Lancaster Municipal Election April 8, 2008

Resolution No. 06-81 Lancaster Municipal Election April 11, 2006

Resolution No. CC 2016-095 Palmdale Municipal Election November 8, 2016

Exhibit A Palmdale Municipal Election November 5, 2013

Resolution No. CC 2011-106 Palmdale Municipal Election November 8, 2011

Resolution No. CC 2009-145 Palmdale Municipal Election November 8, 2009

Resolution No. CC 2007-289 Palmdale Municipal Election November 8, 2007

Senate Bill No. 415

Historical Voter Registration and Participation in statewide general elections 1910-2016

Staff Report April 24, 2007 Consideration of options regarding the Lancaster General Municipal elections



 

Poll voting dropped by 58% in Lancaster CA local election in 2012

Imagine going to sleep one night and waking up the next morning and 58% of your community vanished. You walk outside as you do every morning and there’s half the traffic, half the kids at the bus stops, etc. If this happened to any community there would be headlines for months trying to figure out where the people went.

This is exactly what happened to the voting community of Lancaster. In 2010, there were 6,152 people who went to the polls. Then in 2012 only 2,554 people returned. That is a 58% decrease in turnout. The first thing I thought when I discovered this anomaly was maybe everyone got savvy and started to mail in their absentee ballots, but that wasn’t the case either. In 2010, there were 7,035 absentee ballots and in 2012 there were 6,550, so there was a decrease as well. So the question remains, why did 58% of the community stop voting altogether?

The nation’s voter turnout between 2006 and 2012 during midterms only fluctuates by an average of +/- 3 percent and about +/-5% during Presidential years.[1] So the decrease cannot be attributed to just an overall decrease of the nation’s voter turnout. The state’s voter turnout has declined steadily but in no year took a hit as big as Lancaster. The state primary turnout was 33.3% in 2010 and 33.1% in 2012.[2]

Many things can contribute to low voter turnout. One example would be the off-cycle election. “By scheduling local elections to occur on the dates of statewide general or primary elections (so-called concurrent or on-cycle elections), localities make it easier for voters participating in the statewide election to vote in local contests as well. In short, participation in local elections depends critically on the timing of those elections.”[3] If you can think of any other reasons that would cause a decrease in voter turnout and that are unique to Lancaster, CA, please feel free to leave a comment about it below.


 

Sources:

[1]http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/voter-turnout/

[2]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-richie/low-and-unrepresentative_b_5592196.html

[3]http://pages.ucsd.edu/~zhajnal/page1/page2/files/page2_3.pdf

Resolution No. 14-13

Resolution No. 12-17

Resolution No. 10-16

Resolution No. 08-33

Resolution No. 06-81