In California midterm election's tight races, voter turnout is key
Voter turnout will be especially important for Democrats in the midterm elections. The higher the overall turnout, the more likely Democrats will benefit. Both parties are appealing energetically to independents and the undecided.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Sitting down to chicken tacos, rice, and a three-candidate congressional debate in the high school cafeteria, 60-something Don Potter says his votes are decided and that most seniors are also locked in because they are scared.Skip to next paragraph
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“Seniors are energized for this election,” says Mr. Potter, a registered Republican and founder/editor of NewSeniors.com, a website written by and for those just turning 65. “We want to know what’s going to happen with health care, taxes going up, the freeze on social security for the second year in a row … what world we’ll give to our grandchildren.… We’re very concerned.”
But Potter says Democratic campaign workers are not coming after him because “they are focusing their energy on independents right now.”
Two tables away sat proof of that observation in the person of 50-something day trader Peter Vukovich, a registered independent who says he won’t make up his mind until two days before the election.
“Democrats and Republicans both are after my vote,” Mr. Vukovich says. “The tea partyers want my vote, too, as a protest vote.”
With polls showing California leaning narrowly Democratic in the two highest profile races, for governor and US Senate, the cliché that the election result “will depend on turnout” is even more poignant in California for this midterm election, analysts say. The testimonies offered by Potter and Vukovich are an indicator of how parties’ get-out-the-vote programs are expending their resources, bypassing efforts to move some voters from entrenched positions while appealing energetically to the undecided.
Turnout key for Democrats
In general, higher turnouts favor Democrats, who have a built-in advantage with 44.5 percent of registered California voters (compared with 30.8 percent who are registered Republicans and 20.2 percent who “decline to state”), but if their base doesn’t show on Election Day, that advantage is out the window.
Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies, says Democrats would be pleased if 60 percent of their base, and 55 percent of the electorate, turned out on Election Day, but her best estimate right now is for only a 41 percent overall turnout, well below the 59.2 percent that voted in 2008, a presidential election year.
“Both Republicans and Democrats are spending lots of money to get out the vote,” says Hal Dash, CEO of Cerrell & Associates, a Democratic strategy consulting firm. “Democratic constituencies usually are harder to motivate in non-presidential years,” he says.