“Exercise your right to vote,” implored the disc jockey on The Sound, 100.3-FM. This DJ combined two of my favorite things – voting and rock music. So I went ahead and voted for “Another One Bites the Dust,” the third “candidate” in a musical bloc by Queen.
The same day, the newspaper headlines spoke of Fox’s “American Idol” charting at No. 1. The lure of picking the next rock star continues to attract millions of online and phone-line voters.
The act of voting has mass appeal. It’s the starting point for my little survey of voting rates in local city elections. Ah, I just lost about half of you, correct? If it ain’t about Charlie Sheen, Amy Winehouse or “American Idol,” few people care.
Many cities have elections on March 8. If you don’t know, call your city clerk and ask. If the answer is “yes,” ask them where your polling place is. Then walk, drive or bicycle to the site – which will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. – and vote. (For cities that hold elections on April 12 – Monrovia, Arcadia school board – or on Nov. 8, consider this a primer.) It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s your duty. (If you want suggestions on who to vote for, go to our website and click on the American Flag/Results and Complete Coverage and see Elections – Our View.) But each year, that message registers with fewer than 20 percent of the voting population.
The percentage of people who voted in these cities tell the sad story:
San Dimas: March 2009: 13.6 percent; March 2007: 18.5 percent.
Temple City: March 2009: 21 percent; March 2007: 20 percent. About 1 in 5 of those registered to vote voted for City Council in a city in which one member has gone to jail and another now ex-member faces jail time for conduct while on the council.
La Verne and Covina canceled their elections this year for lack of candidates. What does this say? Should we as Americans, as residents of Los Angeles County, be happy with only 1 in 5 adults determining the makeup of our local government?
“It is a privilege to be able to vote,” began Sue Rush, the very capable assistant city clerk in West Covina. “We all have our opinions. Why not make them count by voting?”
I could not have said it any better myself, Sue.
Just flip on the news and you’ll see people in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya literally dying for freedom, which includes the right to vote for their own leaders. Presidential elections here in the U.S. have picked up on this freedom thing. In the 2008 election, voter turnout was 61.7 percent of those eligible, 131 million ballots cast, the largest turnout since 1968. Still, I am ashamed to report that 60 percent number when people are dying on the streets of Tripoli.
Some cities, in an effort to capitalize on federal and state election interest, consolidated their City Council and school board elections and hold them on the same Tuesday in November. But their numbers are not any better than those that hold elections in March or April:
West Covina: November 2009: 20 percent; November 2007: 18.4 percent
Pico Rivera: November 2009: 15.6 percent voted on a utility users tax measure. Statewide that year, voters went to the polls to decide 114 local measures and of those, 57 were relating to taxes, fees, school bonds, etc. In other words, one out of five adults are determining what we pay in local taxes. That’s a warped version of democracy.
I’ll borrow the tagline from that radio station and throw it at all of you walking, breathing citizens who don’t usually vote: “You vote, we rock.”
Or, like Bell or Vernon, without voter involvement above a paltry 15 percent, “Another One Bites The Dust.”