Over one million registered voters in San Diego County can be expected not to vote in the upcoming election. To be precise, the number–if turnout is similar to 2014–will be 1,240,981.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, voter turnout in the June 2014 primary was a mere 25% of those who registered. This number is even lower than the national average, which was only 36% of eligible voters actually voting.
Looking at the expected number of voters for San Diego compared to those are eligible to vote is even more depressing: 1,800,933 people will not cast a ballot.
The future of much of the criminal justice system in San Diego; the willingness of local government to provide services to people who have already been taxed for them; the ability to plan for a less carbon-based future will be determined by a mere 413,660 people.
So the question for those of us who do happen to care is: “how can we motivate people to vote?” By the way, it doesn’t really matter who or what people vote for, it’s the act of casting a ballot itself that sends the message.
This doesn’t mean those of us who consider ourselves progressives shouldn’t campaign for the candidates and issues important to us. It means we need to understand what it takes to get people to just cast a ballot and incorporate this knowledge into our efforts.
Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom may have nice hair. Delaine Eastin or John Chaing may have better ideas. But local elections count for more.
With over 519,000 elected offices in the United States, the best bang for your voting buck is where you live. The Gavin Newsoms and Travis Allens of the world often get their start in local races.
In California, we are blessed in the sense of having state officials who actively worked to make the process of registration easier to navigate.
Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher and Kevin McCarty have shepherded legislation (AB 1407) updating the 2015 New Motor Program to include automatic young voter pre-registration. It’s estimated approximately 200,000 sixteen and seventeen-year-olds annually will be added to the voter rolls. This constitutes the largest expansion of youth voter access in American history.
The law allowing voluntary pre-registration has already led to an additional 100,000 young people to sign up. According to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, this total jumped up by 10,000 since the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
(And, no it does not allow non-citizens to register. I have to say this because some a-hole will write in complaining about this non-fact.)
Allow me to do a little myth-busting about getting people to exercise their right to vote.
First of all, shaming does NOT work. According to research by Alan Gerber and Todd Rogers, this method of motivation works for prosocial activities, like recycling.
From the Politics Means Politics blog, published by New Founders:
But when it comes to voting, people will be more likely to vote when they think a lot of other people are voting — we can think of this as groupthink. Their experiments suggested that, contrary to many experts’ inclinations implicating the opposite, “a citizen’s intention to vote in a given election is directly affected by her perception of whether others are going to vote in the election.” Importantly, however, this only applies to unpredictable voters. Frequent voters do not alter in their intention to vote based on expected turnout.
Secondly, as much as progressives rightfully loathe the man and his policies, waving “Donald Trump” in voters faces isn’t likely to encourage them to vote.
From an article published recently at USA Today about expected voter turnout in 2018:
In a nationwide survey of 800 infrequent or unregistered voters, 56% of poll respondents said they felt the country was on the wrong track and nearly 55% rated Trump unfavorably. Yet 83% of those polled said they are “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to vote in 2018. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.47 percent…
…”Even if there is a surge in turnout, a majority of America will not vote in November,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “It’s a chilling story to tell. These people don’t vote. They could hate Trump, but they could still not vote because they hate political parties, they hate Democrats, they hate the bureaucracy, they hate the infighting, the negativity, all of that.”
So what does work? Get ready to be shocked–People are more likely to vote if you ask them to vote.
One such study, Lisa Bedolla and Michelle Michelson analyze 268 Get Out The Vote (GOTV) experiments between 2006 and 2008. They found that even citizens who have not really voted in the past can be motivated to with well-executed GOTV plans, especially plans that heavily utilize door-to-door methods and live phone calls.
Fascinatingly, Michelson writes, “Personal contacting works to persuade people to vote regularly even though the interactions do not increase voters’ resources and have little or no impact on their underlying attitudes about public issues. It is the social interaction itself that seems to matter.” Only 24% of nonvoters, as opposed to 51% of voters, were personally contacted by a candidate or someone on their campaign in the 2012 presidential elections. Personal contact with the voters, especially when implemented by the candidate themselves as much as possible, really seems to encourage people — even persistent nonvoters — to get to the polls.
So if you are already involved or interested in politics, the single most important thing you can do is to canvass voters. Nearly every political campaign needs people to help. You can text, you can send postcards, you can phonebank, and you can knock on doors.
The Weekly Progressive Activist Calendar here at San Diego Free Press lists canvassing opportunities by progressive-leaning campaigns. One example of collaborative effort is the Get Out the Vote San Diego group, which is raising awareness to generate turn-out for the June 5th election around the issues and candidates working for progressive candidates in county elections. (And by all means, if you are working with a GOTV effort, feel free to leave information on how people can sign up in the comments section.)
Ballots for the June 2018 primary election will be mailed to voters in less than two weeks. In the last off-year primary election in California, 69.4% of the votes were cast by mail; this time out that number is expected to reach 75%.
In California, voter registration ends with applications postmarked by midnight (or filed online) on May 21, 2018. Requests for mail-in ballots can be made through May 29.
In-Person Voting at the County Registrar’s office (and other locations TBA) will be available starting May 10, 2018, from 8am to 5pm Monday thru Friday. And ballots will be counted if they are cast or postmarked by midnight on June 5.
And don’t forget the March to Vote – San Diego – May 19
Don’t know who to vote for? Check out the SDFP Progressive Voter Guide, due out May 1.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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