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Turnout Could Reach 30 Percent, Says Consultant

Samantha Oltman | December 21, 2012

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Conventional wisdom is that voter turnout is always relatively low for local elections—especially so for school board races. And this is often true.  In off-year election cycles, when the only offices up for vote are City Council or Board seats, turnout can be as low as 11 percent.  Relatively small numbers of voters can sway an election one way or the other.

But the upcoming March 2013 race—when Los Angeles voters will elect a new Mayor, City Council majority, and three Board of Education members—is poised to be more like 2005, when Antonio Villaraigosa faced 11 challengers and total turnout for the city was 29 percent, according to numbers from the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office.

Mike Trujillo, a political consultant who’s worked on campaigns for Board Members Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic and who is in talks to consult for Board candidates this year, says that if you consider a number of factors, including the other offices up for vote, official endorsements, and changing city demographics, there is a “27 to 30 percent voter turnout prediction [for the upcoming elections]. It’s what most of the consultants will base their models on.”

In 2005, all three LAUSD board candidates for Districts 2, 4, and 6 were unopposed, but they still drew an average of 19 percent voter turnout in their districts, according to the Clerk’s office. That’s 8 points higher than in 2007, when only city council and education board seats were contested, and the average school board turnout was 11 percent.  This election, turnout may be even higher than 2005 because there are competitive races in all three districts.

So how could this affect the 2013 Board races?

A 30 percent voter turnout is not necessarily a big number, but it is significant when compared to an 11 percent turnout. With higher turnout, candidates will have to campaign to a broader group of voters, which likely means more political spending—and possibly more mudslinging. Trujillo isn’t sure if the higher turnout will necessarily change campaign messaging, “but it could very well change the price tag.”

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