By Lisa Aliferis, Jon Brooks and Tyche Hendricks
With the 2012 election mostly put to bed, this blog is retiring — temporarily. This post features thoughts on elections in general from KQED Election Editor Tyche Hendricks, Election Blog editor Jon Brooks and contributor Lisa Aliferis.
Tyche Hendricks, KQED Election Editor
As the dust settles on this election — with its nail-biter races that ranged from the presidential contest to board of supervisors races and local parcel taxes — it’s a good time to note that our individual votes really can make a decisive difference. It’s true, given our electoral college system, that nobody campaigns too hard for California’s votes in the presidential race. But we did have some state and local races that were decided by razor thin margins.
In two California congressional races, long-time incumbents lost their seats by just a few thousand votes out of more than a quarter of a million votes cast. San Diego Rep. Brian Bilbray and Sacramento area Rep. Dan Lungren both lost by exceedingly narrow margins. And in Alameda County, a sales tax hike for transportation projects fell just about 700 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. With more than half a million votes cast, that was a defeat by a margin of .14 percent.
So you can see that if a few hundred or a few thousand people had stayed home, or a few hundred or a few thousand more had turned out to vote, the outcome of those contests could have flipped.
That’s not to say that this political system of ours is perfect. KQED’s reporting examined the profusion of outside money that is playing an increasingly influential role in state races. We also took note of the millions of Californians who could vote but don’t, and explored some of the reasons people feel they don’t have a place in the political process.
Most Californians did turn out. By my preliminary assessment, it looks like 13.4 million people cast votes in this election. That’s roughly 73 percent of the 18.2 million registered voters in the state (and about 56 percent of the 23.8 million Californians eligible to vote). If those numbers are accurate, our turnout rate this year is down a bit from 2008 and 2004, but higher than in 2000 or 1996. Meanwhile the state’s electorate is beginning to better reflect the state’s tremendous ethnic and racial diversity, with Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans together making up about 40 percent of voters in this election.
Through this election year we’ve been out across the state talking to voters young and old, and listening to Californians from the Inland Empire to Siskiyou County. We wanted to understand what makes a Republican become a Democrat or vice versa. And more than anything, we wanted to tap into the conversation that’s been taking place across the state and the country about what folks really want – and don’t want — from those we elect to govern us.
That dialogue will continue. And we’ll keep tracking it through our ongoing governance and politics coverage. We hope you’ll remain a part of the conversation.
Lisa Aliferis, Election Blog Contributor
Normally, I blog about health, not politics, but when there’s an election — especially a presidential election — it’s an “all hands on deck” time in a newsroom. Frankly, I was happy to get paid to learn about all those 11 propositions on the state ballot, such as this one, this one, oh and this very, very complicated one.
But then something happened. I discovered my inner political geek. I watched a one hour press conference, streamed live, between Gov. Brown and the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury News — and was riveted. I learned more than I ever wanted to about the history of the death penalty in California. And then, after the election, I became obsessed with the accuracy of the exit poll.
So thanks for reading. I’m shifting back to my health blog now and, among other things, following a major health story which is also a big political story: the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.
Jon Brooks, Election Blog Editor
The people have spoken.
For now, at least.
The judgment of the body politic has tended to be maddeningly temporary over the last decade. In 2004, Democrats were shocked that the nation would return George W. Bush, perhaps the greatest liberal bête noire since Richard Nixon, to the presidency. Then in 2006, the Democrats swept back to power in the House and Senate. That was followed by the Obama landslide in 2008, resulting in one-party rule in the executive and legislative branches.
But in 2010, the electorate pulled the plug on that arrangement. The dissatisfaction was widespread, with GOP victories as far as the eye could see, from Congress to governorships and state houses around the country. The stage seemed set for the completion of a Republican revival in 2012…
Nope. The reasons for that failure are now being parsed, floated, squealed, critiqued, debunked, shouted, whispered, and trumpeted, as Democratic voters are besotted with schadenfreude, and Republican fans are moving to Canada. For real, this time!
In California, now long past its canary-in-the-coalmine status for the GOP, the estrangement from the Republican party was completed when voters granted Democrats not only a two-thirds, Proposition 13-proof supermajority in the Legislature, but also decided to actually increase taxes on themselves.
So…are we in the early days of a Democratic Wonderland, one ruled by a new and more progressive mindset? Or have the American people yet again only granted a short-term loan of the reins of power to one of the two major political blocs?
We’ll let you know in 2014.
As far as our coverage goes, I can only tell you what our stats indicate: many, many people had a genuine desire to go as deep as they could in understanding the candidates and issues they were being asked to vote on. This was especially true concerning California’s initiatives. Our proposition guide got “slammed,” to use online parlance, meaning more people accessed it than I, for one, honestly thought cared. Especially surprising was how many people found their way to this post on the highly complex governance initiative, Proposition 31, proving that many segments of the California electorate could not be dissuaded from meeting their direct-democracy responsibilities, even when it comes to decoding the most daunting of proffers.
And that was heartening.
We’ll keep on keeping on in covering all the local and regional political goings-on at our News Fix blog… see ya there.