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