June 13, 2006 > Who cares?
by Steve Warga
That's the question begging an answer in California after the lowest voter turnout in 60 years on June 6. Only about 28 percent of eligible voters bothered to exercise the form of government our founding father's described as "of the people, by the people and for the people."
Alameda county voters generally followed the state trend of poor turnout. The Registrar's office had not finished counting absentee ballots as of press time, however, TCV estimates, conservatively, that somewhat less than 35 percent of county voters filed ballots last Tuesday.
Pundits, prognosticators and other political junkies will find a rich source of material for months of comment attempting to answer the "whys" of this voter apathy. Was it because of negative campaign tactics? Was it because of uninspiring candidates? Was it because of plain laziness? Who knows? One answer is no more informed than another. The simple fact remains that less than one-third of statewide registered voters completed any portion of a mid-term election ballot. Historically, low turnouts usually make victories easy for incumbents and this election was no different in that regard.
Our District 10 State Senator won't be decided until November, but the Democratic nomination drew three viable candidates and some charges of smear tactics among candidates Ellen Corbett, Johan Klehs and John Dutra. Corbett took the win, enjoying a comfortable margin over Klehs, with Dutra a close third.
In the two state propositions, Alameda voters went against the grain, approving Proposition 81, the reading/library bond and Proposition 82, the free preschool tax. Statewide, both propositions fell to defeat with Proposition 82 attracting an unusually large percent of "No" votes.
Moving to the county level, the District 2 supervisor's race was the only close contest. At press time, incumbent Gail Steele held a slim lead of about two percentage points. Tri-Cities resident Richard Valle couldn't quite pull off the upset.
Also at the county level, Superintendent of Schools, Sheila Jordan cruised to an easy victory over Newark Unified Superintendent John Bernard.
In neighboring Santa Clara County, the Measure A general sales tax increase failed to win much favor from voters, losing by a wide margin.
Despite choices for two seats on the city council and for mayor, Hayward residents stayed away from the polls in droves. A mere 12,106 out of 48,342 registered voters determined the mayor's race, giving a big nod of approval to former mayor, Mike Sweeney, over challenger and local businessman, Brian Schott.
In the city council race, incumbents Kevin Dowling and Matt Jimenez easily secured four more years. The three other candidates, Robert Lopez, Hank Quintel and Gary Steinberger failed to mount much of a challenge. Hayward's course is unlikely to change.
Winners and losers alike expressed disappointment in the low interest displayed by so many registered voters. Only time will tell if this sort of election-by-default is in the best interests of the citizenry. Then the question may finally be resolved. Who cares?