The larger point when the registrar and commentators are discussing the paltry turnout of voting in Los Angeles is how they talk about it; up to this point, they neglect to mention the demographics of The City. Yet the turnout or lack thereof has much to do with identity politics. If we’re going to talk seriously about impacting turnout, then discussing “the voters” in purely abstract terms is not helpful. We have information now, not to mention yours truly; below, for example, is a telling info-graphic on voters identified before the election on March 7th either by registration or vote by mail submissions. As a note, these graphs are undoubtedly incomplete, as they don’t account for people who identify as mixed, or Native American or Pacific Islander as the census from 2013 showed. Still, they tell a story worth considering.
Based on the data, we can see that the race starts early, with registration; in terms of who’s eligible to vote, white voters outnumber their non-white counterparts by considerable margins; then, in terms of age range, the number of eligible voters is spread more or less evenly across the board with the exception of people aged 18-24.
Assuming that each of these voters hold a place on the vote-by-mail list, as is standard procedure, the potential for at least a reasonable turnout of the vote either by mail or on election day is there. However, when it comes to actually returning the ballot before election day, white Senior citizens make up for more than half of all returned ballots at 64.7%. So to be sure, it’s white senior citizens that all those leaflets in the mail and lawn signs and television attack ads are for? There’s more.
It’s when we consider this information alongside our census that we really have a story. In essence, while the “minority majority” is a favorite talking point in liberal circles that like to speculate about the future makeup of the country, if we look at our census from 2013 we’ll find that in Los Angeles the combined population of nonwhite citizens is already here, towering at 74.8% of the city’s composition plus or minus a few percentage points, and not accounting for the undocumented communities whom pay local and state taxes, among other things. Minority much, then? I don’t think so. Not in L.A. at least.
But what’s also clear from our infographic is that the non-white population lags far behind in submitting their vote-by mail ballots, making up for just 35.7% of returned ballots.
Is there a way to be more specific, however, or to see more about L.A. voters besides their age and racial category? Sure. The three categories for the large numbers below as set up by the samplers are ‘registered’, ‘has ballot’, and ‘returned’, respectively.
From this, since we already know that Senior white or Anglo Seniors rock the vote-by-mail in a league of their own, we can gather from this second graphic that these folks are overwhelmingly a group of homeowners, outnumbering apartment renters by essentially 58%. Just as a note then, we can also gather that a sizable portion of these vote-by-mailers registered or re-registered for November’s general election, and that hardly any new voters entered the game in 2017.
In essence, then, based on the information available to us all, what’s clear about politics in Los Angeles is that while most of its constituents or the “minority majority” is stuck in traffic somewhere, a network of mostly Senior white homeowners is largely responsible for electing the city’s officials and policy-making.
What a fascinating dynamic. At a time when the 2011 Texas legislative session has just been indicted for drawing district lines discriminating against black and Latino voters in favor of Republican Anglos, we might say that L.A. is a 2011 Texan Republican’s perfect empty vessel, a dreamland of political opportunity for ‘the [white] man’.
Isn’t that something?! But of course, there’s more; again soon.
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