Study: ‘California’s Missing Voters – Who is not voting and why’

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — One of the founding principles that made America an exceptional nation was the right to vote. It allows citizens to have a voice in the politics of the country.

When voters speak, politicians listen, but in California, fewer voters have been speaking, according to a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California. 

The reports is called, "California’s Missing Voters: Who is not voting and why," authored by Eric McGhee.

He said California has a voter registration problem and a voter turnout problem, especially in mid-term elections.

There are the two elements to voting.

First, registration.

This graph illustrates California’s declining registration rate, which has been flat over the last several years as two of the state’s minority populations have grown.

"The registration rate is lagging in large part because the state is diversifying. The Latino and Asian American population is growing, and Latinos and Asian Americans do not register to vote at the same rate as non-Hispanic whites and African Americans," McGhee said.

The voter turnout problem is a little more complex, but the report shows lower turnout is primarily because the young are failing to show up in mid-term elections, but they do show up in presidential years.

"Turnout in mid-terms by contract is really not about the changing the composition of the electorate at all. It’s that young people are changing their behavior. Their not voting in mid-terms at the same rate that they used too," McGhee said.

The state’s most recent elections had some of the lowest turnouts in history, including record lows in the 2014 primary and general elections.

The report didn’t get into why the young are not showing up, but they are responsible to a large extent for the low turnout in the mid-terms.

"They are clearly still being engaged at the same rate as they used too by presidential elections, they’re just not showing for mid-terms," McGhee said.

If  new potential voters fail to get engaged in the process, this registration problem is likely to transition into a larger turnout problem.

So how is this trend reversed?

California has been aggressive about reforms, an automated voter registration system and vote by mail registration to name a few. 

"People who vote by mail appear to be more consistent voters then people would go to precincts, and so I suggest maybe voting by mail. If we could expand that it could make it so that young people in particular would be more likely to consistency show up," McGhee said.

The report suggests these efforts need to be coupled with aggressive mobilization, targeting groups that need special attention, especially first generation immigrants and their children.

Categories: Local San Diego News