Less than 18% of registered voters in L.A. County cast ballots for the Municipal and Special Elections of Tuesday, March 07, 2017. But in the election postmortem, when L.A. County’s Voting Registrar and KPCC discuss the paltry turnout of voting in The City, the key point is how they talk about it: they neglect to mention the demographics of Los Angeles. Yet the turnout or lack thereof for voting has much to do with ‘identity politics.’
If we’re going to talk seriously about the turnout, that is, to make an impact on it going forward, discussing “the voters” in purely abstract terms is not helpful. We have information at our fingertips, and it’s meant to be used; below, for example, is a telling info-graphic on voters identified before the election on March 7th, 2017, either by registration or vote by mail submissions.
As a note, these graphs are incomplete. They do not account for people who identify as mixed, Native American, or Pacific Islander as the 2013 Census does. However, the graphics nonetheless offer valuable assessments for a comprehensive look at the patterns we’re dealing with when it comes to voting in Los Angeles.
Based on the data, we can see that elections start early through the registration of voters. In terms of eligible voters, whites outnumber their non-white counterparts by considerable margins at 47%, or nearly half of all registrations. However, the combined population of non-white registered voters is slightly larger at 52%.
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.
When it comes to ballots returned from those registered voters, the number of returned ballots from 18 – 24 year olds is exceptionally low at 3.4%, while the number of returned ballots from 25 – 34, 35 – 44, and 45 – 54 year olds is spread more or less similarly across the board at 10%, 10.4%, and 12.9%, respectively.
The highest number of returned ballots from registered voters, however, comes from 55 – 64 year olds and those 65 years and over, who make for 19.3% and 44% of returned ballots, respectively.
When it comes to the racial makeup of ballots returned after election day, according to the data, white voters make up for more than half of all returned ballots at 64.7%; the non-white population on the other hand, makes up for 35.7% of returns.
There is a considerable dropoff, then. Although non-white registered voters make for a combined total of 52% of votes eligible to be cast, post-election day only 37% of these groups actually submit 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. This data more or less corroborates the aforementioned, but also tells us about voters’ living situations.
From here, since we already know that Senior white voters make up for more than half of all returned ballots of the share, we can also see from this second graphic that these folks are overwhelmingly a group of homeowners, outnumbering apartment renters by essentially 58%.
Finally, we can also see that a sizable portion of vote-by-mailers registered or re-registered for November’s general election, and that hardly any new voters entered the game in 2017.
Based on the information presented by these graphics, then, what’s clear about politics in Los Angeles is that while most of its constituents, or the 52% of eligible voters are stuck in traffic somewhere, a swath of mostly Senior white homeowners are electing the city’s officials and policy-making decisions.
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 white identity politics.
Isn’t that something?! But of course there’s more the story; again soon.
For POC Today,