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Six days before the June 7th Primary in L.A. County, 9 out of 10 voters remain missing

As of May 31st in L.A. County, less than 500,000 ballots were returned to the registrar, while more than 5.1 million remained in voters’ hands (8%); the single-digit rate was not far removed from California’s as a whole on the final day of May 2022. Statewide, about 2 million ballots were returned for the June 7th primary, while about 20 million remained in voters’ hands (10%). For voters in central L.A. like yours truly, there were at least 32 different contests to consider, from state senator, to governor, to county judges, local city council-members, and more.

Less than 500,000 ballots of 5.6 million for the June 7th primary were returned in L.A. County by May 31st; Political Data, Inc.

Today, our voting systems technically provide equal access to voters across categories of ethnicity, gender and age, but there’s much to be said about their providing equitable access to voters within these same categories. Consider that of the 5.1 million ballots across L.A. County still in voters’ hands, as recently as 2020, about 13% of people in the county, or 1.3 million people, were officially living in poverty. For California as a whole, as recently as 2019, at least 6.3 million people were living in poverty.

Our voting system, greatly influenced by those of the ancient Greeks and Roman empire from over two millenniums ago, continues to emulate some of their shortcomings as well; both Greek and Roman voting events barred women, enslaved people, and foreign-born citizens from participating. Today, L.A. County bars potentially 1 million undocumented folks in its boundaries from voting, while also failing to provide special privileges for voters from its most under-served communities, including women of color, single mothers, formerly incarcerated people, immigrants, and more.

It’s also evident that in the elections of the Roman empire, those whose votes counted most were the propertied class, something the Greek philosopher Aristotle identified in his Politics (350 B.C.E.) as “timocracy.” In the Roman philosopher Cicero’s Republic (from 129 B.C.), his description of the the 6th Roman King’s classification of society illuminates their ancient system further:

“[A]fter choosing a large number of knights out of the whole people, Servius divided the rest of the citizens into five classes, and separated the older from the younger. He made this division in such a way that the greatest number of votes belonged, not to the common people, but to the rich, and put into effect the principle which ought always to be adhered to in the commonwealth, that the greatest number should not have the greatest power.”

Cicero, On the Republic – Book 2 (129 B.C.). Translated by C.W. Keyes (1928)

But not every facet of these older systems was so restrictive or exclusionary. For example, did you know that the Greeks actually compensated people who traveled from other towns to Athens’ center to participate in their Assemblies, or what today we would consider conferences or conventions?

With this in mind, consider that if we borrowed just 1% of Cali’s unprecedented $98 billion surplus from 2021, we’d have at least $975 million on hand, or about $154 to compensate each of approximately 6.3 million of California’s poorest voters to participate in the state’s elections. And if we took 2%, we’d have nearly 2 billion, or $309 for each of them.

From some experience, yours truly can tell you that there are far more single mothers across L.A. County and the Golden State interested in $300 than in deciding on Sacramento’s next Insurance Commissioner. But if we were to include both items in a single package, where participating in the former leads directly to the latter, the results could be game-changing for this “most democratic” state of the United States.


close up shot of scrabble tiles on a white surface

Eight Days Out, L.A.’s Missing Voters in the Millions for the 2022 Primary

With just eight days left before the June 7th primary, as of Friday, May 27th, less than 139,000 ballots of 2.1 million mailed out to voters in the city of Los Angeles have been returned to the Registrar’s office, making for a gap of 2,010,187 ballots to find quickly over the next week. 66% of these returned ballots have come from voters aged 50 and upwards. Since these groups hold only 44% of all ballots, their early returns mark an increase of 22% over their registration rate. Voters aged 18 – 49 currently hold 55% of L.A. city’s ballots, but can only claim credit for 36% of ballots returned to the Registrar so far, marking a 19% gap with respect to their registration rate.

Additionally, white voters have returned 59% of L.A. City’s 2.1 million ballots so far, or approximately 82,000 ballots, a 10 point increase from their share of ballots overall (49%). Latinx voters have accounted for only 20% of returns so far, or roughly 28,000 ballots, despite their hold on 33% of ballots overall, making for a 13 point decrease or gap with respect to their registration. Ballots returned from Asian-American voters currently make for 12%, or 17,000 ballots, a 3 point increase from their hold on ballots overall. And ballots from African-American voters returned so far make for 9% of all returns, or about 12,500 ballots, consistent with their hold on ballots overall (9%).

It’s accurate to say, then, that the 13 point gap for ballots returned from younger, Latinx voters in particular relative to their hold on all ballots have so far opened a path for more returns from white and Asian-American voters, particularly those over the age of 50.

The trajectory so far is reminiscent of L.A.’s last major primary in 2017, when Eric Garcetti and Mitch O’Farrell were re-elected to their offices by only 17% of L.A.’s voters; ballots from white voters also surged then as those from Latinxs fell by nearly half. The 2017 primary also saw saw an uptick in ballots returned from Asian-Americans compared to their registration rates, while ballots from African-American decreased, albeit slightly, compared to their registration rates.

Data from Tableu Public by paulmitche11, 2017

Let’s now take a look at the numbers more locally. In Council District 13 (CD-13), at least 11,000 of approximately 148,000 ballots have been returned so far. 57% of these ballots are from voters aged 50 and upwards, compared to their share of 48% of the electorate in the district overall, an increase of 9 points. 43% of returned ballots in CD-13 so far hail from voters aged 18 – 49, compared to their share of 51% of the electorate overall, a decrease of 8 points compared to their registration. In terms of ethnic categories, white voters have accounted for 59% of these same returns so far, or 4 points up from their overall share (55%). Latinx voters, who account for 30% of the ballots in CD-13, have accounted for 22% of returned ballots so far, or a decrease of 8 points compared to their registration.

Asian-American voters, the third largest bloc in CD-13, have accounted for 17% of ballots returned in the area so far, an increase of 4 percentage points, while African-American voters, the fourth largest bloc in the area, have accounted for 2% of returns, consistent with their share of ballots in CD-13 overall.

In Council District 1, at least 7,300 of roughly 106,500 ballots have been returned so far. 62% of these ballots are from voters over the age of 50, compared to their 47% share of the electorate in the area overall, an increase of 15 points. Along ethnic categories, ballots returned from Latinx voters have made for 36% of returns so far, making for a gap of 12% with respect to their share of the electorate in CD-1 overall (48%), which is also the largest voting bloc in the area. White voters, who make up for the second largest voting bloc in the area (34%), have returned 35% of CD-1’s ballots, an increase of 1 point with respect to their share of the area’s eligible voters. Asian-American voters, who represent the third largest bloc of voters in CD-1, have returned 27% of the area’s ballots, an increase of 11 points from their registration rates in CD-1 (16%). African-American voters, the fourth largest bloc in the area (3%), have returned about 2% of ballots there, a slight decrease of 1% with respect to their registration in CD-1.

While so far L.A. City’s numbers aren’t exactly reassuring, they’re also not far removed from trends for the Golden State as a whole at the moment. Consider that across California, there are roughly more than 22 million voters on the rolls; of this number, those over the age of 50 represent up to 10.8 million voters (slightly more than the size of all of L.A. County before 2020, or 49%). However, as of May 27th, these voters accounted for more than 75% of ballots returned so far, an increase of 26 points with respect to their overall share. Inversely, voters aged 18 – 49 represent 51% of California’s electorate, but only made for 25% of votes back to the state registrar as of May 27th.

Ballots returned by Age and Ethnicity in California overall as of May 27th, 2022; Political Data, Inc.

Additionally, white voters maintain the largest bloc in California, representing 57% of the electorate, but have returned at least 69% of the state’s ballots so far, or an increase of 8 points. Latinx voters, who make for the second largest bloc at 27%, have returned 15% of the state’s ballots, or a decrease of 12 points with respect to their rate of registration. Asian-American voters, who are the third largest group of voters at 12% of the state’s electorate, have returned 12% of ballots, consistent with their registration rate; and African-American voters, the fourth largest voting bloc at 4%, have returned 3% of the state’s ballots, a slight decrease of one point compared to their registration rates.

The numbers are obviously poised to change over the next week, but it’s clear that it will take more from the state and voting proponents across our cities to dislodge the historic trends. As the California Public Policy Institute noted as early as 2000: “At present, California’s electorate does not accurately reflect the state’s diversity. Despite being only about half of the state’s population, whites make up 68 percent of the voters. Latinos are well behind with only 19 percent of the electorate, and blacks and Asian Americans follow with 6 and 7 percent, respectively.”

According to the U.S. Census in 2000, Latinxs made for 32% of the state’s population then, while Asian-Americans accounted for 11% and 7%, respectively. As recently as 2020, white residents made for roughly 41% of the state’s population, while Latinxs, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans accounted for about 39%, 15%, and 6%, respectively.

Statistics cited for the June 2022 primary are from Political Data, Inc.’s Tracker, a well-crafted data engine. Keep up with more updates over the next week via this page and wherever else you follow JIMBO TIMES. And if you’re still doing research for your ballot, the L.A. Times can lead you to a useful guide HERE.



For our 97th episode, Gustavo Arellano (@GustavoArellano), author of the “¡Ask a Mexican!” column from The OC Weekly from 2004 – 2017, and now a columnist for the L.A. Times, as well as host of The Times: Daily News from the L.A. Times podcast, joins us for a dynamic conversation on the state of the world, particularly for Latinx communities in the U.S. Among other things, Arellano chats with us about “rancho libertarianism,” or what for a growing bloc of Latinx voters is belief in “rugged individualism, distrust of government and elites, conservative moral beliefs, a love of community and a hatred of political correctness — that are like catnip for Republicans,” in his words. We analyze just how such a political philosophy may play out in local elections and across the nation, especially given recent history in Orange County, and more; a can’t-miss convo on the culture at this time, for sure!