Editorial, Stories

YES on San Diego’s Proposition K: Too Many Latinos Left Out Now

September 9, 2016

San Diego’s power elite are fighting to keep San Diego’s elections open to outright winners in the primary elections when many Latinos and other minorities do not vote.

Proposition K on the November ballot would help our community gain greater influence in local elections.

Prop K would force a runoff election in November for the offices of Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney. Under the current election system, if any candidate for those offices receives more than 50% of the vote, they automatically win in the primary election without a need to run in November.

Although that may seem like a more efficient way to decide an election, it leaves many voters out of the election process, including a disproportionate number of Latinos, African-Americans, and lower income voters.

Historically, election turn out for primary elections is much lower than the turnout in November, across most socio-economic groups except higher income Republicans. For example, in San Diego’s 2012 election for Mayor, the turnout in the June primary was 241,404 voters; in the November runoff that year, the turnout was 469,932. That’s a 94% increase between the two elections just five months apart.

And of those that skip the June election, a disproportionate number are either registered as Democrats or non-partisan, now the most popular preference when new voters register.

As we have seen in recent elections, Latinos and other minority voters vote largely for Democratic candidates. In 2008, for example, Barack Obama received the support of 75 % of the Latino vote, 73% of the Asian vote, and over 93% of the African-American vote.

A report in 2014 by the Public Policy Institute of California studied voter turnout in primary elections in California. The study found that the electorate in primaries included fewer young voters, Latinos, and Asians. Even under the state’s new open primary system, voter turnout in June has continued to shrink compared to general elections.

But why the large difference in voter turnout?

Some think it’s a gap in party philosophies where Democrats tend to skip contested primaries between two or more Democrats and wait for a more choice between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans, on the other hand, vote more for a candidate they support in hopes of helping to choose their party’s candidate in the general election.

Others argue working-class voters and minority voters (often very much the same group) tend to have less time to focus on primaries compared with older and more affluent voters.

But no matter the reason, it is proven that fewer voters, and especially underrepresented communities, participate in primary elections.

If that is the case, then allowing our Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney to be elected by only half of the voters isn’t democratic at all.

San Diego’s voters have become younger, with more people of color registered to vote than at any time in our past. In recent elections, more woman, LGBT candidates, and Latinos have won campaigns for public office than ever before. And that trend should continue to produce a more diverse pool of elected officials that better represent our community.

Let’s not stifle that progress by short-circuiting our local election process. Let’s encourage more participation, not less. Let’s make sure all our votes count.

Join us in supporting San Diego’s Proposition K to ensure our voices are reflected in local elections.

YES ON PROPOSITION K.

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