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Local Elections Turnout Bill Ekes Through Assembly

Eric Risberg / AP

Barbara Lane votes at a polling place on election day in the garage of the Munoz family residence Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Novato, Calif. Alice Munoz has had a polling place in her garage for the past 40 years.

Eric Risberg / AP

The California Assembly has approved a bill that would require local elections with low voter turnout to be consolidated with statewide elections.

The measure would apply to local governments, such as cities, school boards and community college districts. It would kick in whenever turnout falls 25 percent below the jurisdiction’s average in statewide elections.

Democratic Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas argued that the bill would help areas in his Los Angeles County district with historically low turnout.

“We know that consolidation is a means to voter empowerment, inclusion, civic IQ and civic participation,” says Ridley-Thomas. 

But Republican Assemblyman Matthew Harper said the issue isn’t the dates of local elections – it’s the quality of the candidates.

Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo says the bill would increase voter turnout.

“It’s shameful to hear some arguments that it’s about campaigns or campaigning," says Alejo.This is about your voters in your district who should have a voice in electing their representatives.” 

Republican Assemblyman David Hadley said he agrees lawmakers should do everything they can to get more people to vote.

“But forcing our local campaigns to compete with a state and federal races for money, for volunteers, for voter attention, I think is the wrong way to do that.”

A bare majority of the Assembly approved the bill. It now returns to the Senate for a final vote.


Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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