With 18 days to go before the Nov. 3 general election, 18% of West Hollywood registered voters already have cast their ballots.
That information, which comes from a Friday report by Political Data Inc., a firm that tracks voting patterns, shows the city is likely to have a substantially larger voter turnout in this general election than it has had ever before in its municipal elections. For example, by the end of the March 5, 2019, municipal election day, only 21.8% of West Hollywood’s registered voters had cast ballots.
The city moved its municipal election date to the date set for national, state, and countywide elections to comply with California Senate Bill 415, which took effect in January 2018. That law required cities with a voter turnout that was 25% less than the average turnout in the four previous statewide elections to move their municipal election to a general election date.
Cities were allowed to hold an upcoming municipal election on its previously scheduled date so long as they planned to consolidate a future election with a statewide election not later than the Nov. 8, 2022, statewide general election. That explains why West Hollywood was able to hold its last election on March 5, 2019.
The percentage of registered voters who participate in the Nov. 3 election is predicted to be high across the country. That is because of the controversy over President Donald Trump. And in California, voting is easier in the upcoming election because the state has mailed ballots to all registered voters.
West Hollywood has historically had a low voter turnout in City Council elections. The largest in the past 20 years was the 27% turnout in the 2017 City Council election. In 2015 only 20% of registered voters cast ballots. The percentage was 20.5% in 2013 and 25% in 2011.
Council members John Duran expressed his opposition to the requirement to move the city election date to the general election date. At an August 2016 City Council meeting he argued that candidates for the WeHo City Council would be lost on a ballot that includes state offices and various ballot initiatives. Indeed, some political observers believe that moving the municipal election date to the general election will put incumbents seeking re-election, such as Duran and Heilman, at risk. However, a study by Zoltan Hajnal, Paul Lewis, and Hugh Louch of the California Public Policy Institute, published in 2002, casts some doubt on that.
” … Critics have argued that some voters in concurrent elections are unaware of and inattentive to local issues and candidates because the focus of media coverage and popular attention is on the higher-profile state or national races,” says their report on the study. “If true, concurrent elections could provide increased protection for incumbent candidates, who have greater name recognition on average than their challengers. An analysis of the re-election success of incumbent city officeholders provides some mild support for this notion—although the vast majority of incumbents win regardless of election timing ….
“Nonconcurrent city elections tend to place incumbents in a more vulnerable position, perhaps because voters who come to the polls for stand-alone elections are more motivated or aroused by the issues facing the community.”
The Political Data report shows that 22% of West Hollywood voters registered as Democrats have cast ballots, compared to 9% of those registered as Republicans, and 12% of those with other party affiliations. The majority of West Hollywood voters — 63% — are Democrats.