ust over a fifth of registered voters cast their ballots in the Los Angeles primary and runoff elections that ushered in Mayor Eric Garcetti last year. The elections continued a persistent downward trend in voter participation that’s not limited to Los Angeles. In New York, Bill de Blasio won a landslide election that similarly saw the lowest voter turnout since at least the 1950s. More recently, just over a quarter of voters showed up for the District of Columbia’s hotly-contested mayoral primary – the lowest turnout in more than 30 years. Voter turnout for local elections, typically held in off-cycle years, has historically lagged behind state and federal races set to take place in November, but recent results suggest it’s slowly becoming even worse. University of Wisconsin researchers provided Governing with elections data covering 144 larger U.S. cities, depicting a decline in voter turnout in odd-numbered years over the previous decade. In 2001, an average of 26.6 percent of cities’ voting-age population cast ballots, while less than 21 percent did so in 2011. Turnout for primary and general local elections fluctuate from year to year, but long-term trends in many larger cities suggest voter interest has waned.
Aaron Weinschenk, who studies the issue at the University of Wisconsin, said it’s possible that turnout in municipal elections could still drop lower. “I wonder if the negativity surrounding government in general is seeping into local government,” he said, “and polluting politics at all levels.”
If local turnout doesn’t improve, the implications could extend much further than the ballot box. Low-turnout elections typically aren’t representative of the electorate as a whole, dominated by whiter, more-affluent and older voters. Recent research published by a UC San Diego professor found such elections contribute to poorer outcomes for minorities, including uneven prioritization of public spending.
Full Article: Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections.