According to the Washington Post, just over 6.9 million people in California cast a vote for the state’s June 2018 Primaries–the largest recorded in the state’s history for a primary election–out of a total of over 19 million registered voters, to make for a 36% ‘return’ rate.
However, when considering the total number of all potential voters in the State’s Registrar, listed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s records as being at 25 million eligible voters, the turnout rate becomes 27%, or just over a fourth of the possible turnout.
To make things more interesting, when considering the total population of California, the most recent census records show that the Golden State is comprised of over 39.5 million people. To be sure, the census also counts people who are imprisoned, undocumented immigrants, and other non-voting citizens such as youth under eighteen years old. Nevertheless, if the total population is considered, it makes the Primary’s ‘turnout’ rate even smaller, at 17% of all the citizenry in the state, or less than a fifth of the ‘democratic’ or participating possibilities.
In contest for June 2018’s primary elections was the state’s Governorship, a seat for one U.S. Senator’s position, various seats for the U.S. House of Representatives, local courtroom positions, measures or ordinances varying from county to county, and more, like the recall of Judge Aaron Persky in Santa Clara County, for one.
Now, a quick glance at which groups comprise the California population:
From the U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘Quick Facts’ online:
At 15.4 million, Latinos account for 39% of California’s population.
At 14.6 million, Whites hold 38.8% of California’s population.
At 5.9 million, Asian-Americans maintain 15% of California’s population.
And at 2.5 million, African-Americans constitute 6.5% of California’s population.
At 633,000, Native Americans compose 1.6% of California’s population. And at 198,000, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders form 0.5% of California’s population.
My favorite data for this election, however, is Political Data, Inc’s Absentee Vote Tracker (AVT), which tracked the early return of ballots on both the day before the Primary election as well as the day of, tracking up to 2.8 million returns of the 6.9 returns overall.
We’ll take a look at some of the numbers, particularly the following about which groups were mailed a ballot for the primaries, and which groups actually submitted those ballots.
According to the AVT, the day before and the day of the election, the percentage of ballots held by the states voter’s along ethnic lines were:
What the numbers suggest is reason for pause: similarly to L.A. County’s Special and Municipal Elections, voting at the State level is still a matter of disparity between the White and Non-White populations who make up California.
Remember our Census data: at 15.4 million of the overall population in California, Latinos outnumber Whites, even if by only less than a percentage point. When it comes to ballots held between Latinos and Whites before election day, however, there are more than two White voters for every Latino voter, and nearly five times as many White voters for every Asian-American voter.
On the day of the Primary election, the numbers are more startling.
Latino returns: 367,000 (13% of the total)
Asia-American returns: 295,000 (11% of the total)
African-American returns: 75,000 (3% of the total)
White returns: 2.04 million (76% of the total)
Of course, one should also note that these numbers are from just the day before as well as the day of the vote, which makes them slightly incomplete for ballots that take a few more days to get in. But in midterm elections like these, which are usually less popular and thus more predictable, early returns are indicators of a normal distribution more often than not. In other words, after counting the total overall, the 76% rate of Whites who voted in this last election is probably off by only a few percentage points in one direction or the other.
The implications are that the current disparities throughout California between white voter rates and those of people of color when considering the larger voter eligibility pool of the latter is not just unfortunate, but something of a public safety concern. If recent trends in U.S. politics show us anything, it’s that very few groups feel adequately represented by the country’s current institutional makeup. Just as relevant: although many California officials certainly like to claim they welcome immigration and the diversity of the land, when it comes to the distribution of power between its various groups, California’s white population is as much in control of the state as whites are in places like Tennessee or Arkansas, where residents voted overwhelmingly for the current administration.
It was in 2014 that the PEW Research center identified Latinos as the largest ethnic group in California, which is considered a preview for the overall direction of the U.S.’s ‘majority-minority‘ poised to arrive in the next twenty-five years or so. But if the current trends in California’s voting disparity between whites and non-whites here continues, one can only reasonably calculate for an even more radical disparity at the national level in terms of power and policy between the groups than what we’re seeing today.