An “Electoral Observation” by Occasional Contributor T.E. Barkas
The Lancaster election is a month away, and election politics are heating up again locally. What’s that you say? You don’t really care all that much about local politics!? If so, this column is for you, and that rapping sound you hear is opportunity knocking.
Imagine an election where you – just YOU, cherished reader – are the only person participating. Your vote – your single, solitary ballot – is the only one that counts. By casting it, you decide the outcome of the election, resolve all issues and determine the future path of your community.
We ask you to imagine this to illustrate the power individual voters have when only a very few people cast votes. And while the “one vote” scenario described above is clearly an exaggeration, it’s not as much of a stretch as it might seem.
Wanna know a secret that the local powers-that-be don’t want you to know? Eligible voters in Lancaster have far more power than they realize. In fact, any small, well-organized group of citizens could easily win the two council seats available in Lancaster next month.
So how small a group is “relatively small?” That’s a very good question!
The numbers are revealing, and intriguing. Lancaster will select two city council members from a field of nine in the General Municipal Election on Tuesday, April 8.
A single vote won’t determine the winners, but if voter turnout is similar to what we saw in 2010, it’ll be closer to that single vote than you might think.
Of Lancaster’s 157,000 residents, roughly 60,000 are registered voters. That’s a lot of potential voters, sure, but they don’t actually vote.
In 2010, just 13,187 people voted – a 21.2% turnout – just one out of five! There were five candidates vying for the mayor’s job that year. Split 13,000 votes five ways and suddenly we’ve reduced the equation down to the place where “opportunity” lives.
Of course, we know that R. Rex Parris won that 2010 campaign. But he did it with just 7,458 votes, and his margin of victory over the next highest vote-getter (Arnie Rodio) was a slim 2,639 votes. The other candidates split the remaining vote three ways. If Parris’ opposition had voted as a block, his winning margin would have slipped to about 1,900 votes!
Think about that for a moment. Would you like to be mayor of the largest city in the high desert? 2,000 votes’ll do it! Muster 3% support out of a pool of 60,000 eligible voters and it’s yours for the taking! Three percent! Who says individual votes don’t count?
In 2010, six city council candidates split the vote for two available seats. It broke down like this: Ron Smith and Marvin E. Crist won election, with 6,348 and 5,946 votes, respectively. Johnathon Ervin came in a close third with 4,045.
Again, just 1,900 votes determined the winner. And here’s a remarkable thing. The three other candidates in that race, Victoria Zavala, Michael Rives and David Abber drew 6,342 votes collectively. If any of those three had dropped out and thrown their support to Ervin, we would have a very different council today.
There are nine candidates running this time around. The margins will be even smaller, which will make it easier for the incumbents to retain their seats yet again…unless someone wakes up the sleeping giant we call “voters.”
You’re either a participant or a spectator. And if you choose to remain on the sidelines, you surrender your right to complain about what comes next.
Get involved… Vote!
The last day to register to vote in the Lancaster election is March 24.
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