Election Day 2014

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Gayle Anderson was live in Norwalk for ELECTION DAY 2014!

Today is ELECTION DAY, a day in which citizens across this nation go to the polls to vote as part of the American democratic process. As a midterm general election, there are statewide measures, local offices, and voter-nominated offices that need to be voted on.

This ELECTION DAY, there are several politicians seeking office across the nation, who are carrying on the family business. These include George P. Bush, who is running for Texas land commissioner. George P. Bush is the son of Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and George W.’s nephew. He is poised to become the 4th generation of Bushes to hold office. Jason Carter, grandson of former president Jimmy Carter, is running for governor in Georgia. Ted Kennedy Jr., son of Senator Ted Kennedy and JFK’s nephew, is seeking election to the state Senate in Connecticut.

Why is ELECTION DAY held on a Tuesday? According to History.com, weekday voting became customary in 1845, when Congress passed a federal law that designated the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November as Election Day. Congress created the current Election Day in the hope of streamlining the voting process. Since America in the 19th century was largely agrarian, most eligible voters were farmers who often lived far away from their polling place. Tuesday was considered the most convenient day of the week to hold elections, since Sunday was spent in church and Wednesday was market day for farmers. Additionally, November falls right after the  harvest was complete, but before the harsh winter weather.

While voting is a civic duty in the United States, it is not compulsory. There are more than 30 countries in the world in which voting is compulsory. Not voting is illegal and subject to penalties. For example, in Australia, failing to show up at the polls to vote results in a fine of about $19 U.S. dollars, which can increase if it is not paid. However, while a voter must show up to vote, they do not actually have to cast a ballot once they have ticked off their name. In addition, most Latin American countries have compulsory voting. Non-voters in Brazil and Peru are banned from carrying out various administrative transactions and face small fines.

Because voting is not compulsory in the United States, elections suffer as a result of low voter turnout. A survey of 144 cities found the average participation rate in mayoral and elections was 26%, compared to a 55% voter turnout in presidential elections among registered voters and 37% in midterm elections over the last two decades. Courtesy Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles County has a total population of 10,025,579. Within the population, there are 6,048,583 eligible voters, of which 4,880,868 are registered to vote. However, last year’s mayoral election had a record low turnout with fewer than 1 in 4 registered Los Angeles voters participating to elect a new mayor. Information courtesy Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Office and Los Angeles Times.

To remedy this, city officials set up the Municipal Elections Reform Commission, which studied the decline in voter participation in the county and submitted a proposal in June 2014 with 30 recommendations to make voting more convenient and improve outreach and civic engagement through voting. Recommendations include a desire to change municipal election dates to coincide with state and general elections and move the dates to weekends rather than during the week, the use of social media for outreach and the reestablishing of high school civics to help foster a culture of voting. In addition, the commission has also proposed a lottery program that would give prizes to people who vote. Courtesy Report of the City of Los Angeles Municipal Elections Reform Commission, June 2014 and Los Angeles Times.

The all-time record turnout for a Los Angeles mayoral election occurred in 1969, when 76% of registered voters elected Sam Yorty over Tom Bradley. Tom Bradley was running as the first African-American candidate for mayor, which in the wake of civil unrest in the 1960s, made the election a priority for Los Angeles voters. Courtesy Report of the City of Los Angeles Municipal Elections Reform Commission, June 2014.

While today’s election may not be on the top of your to do list, keep in mind that voting is a right that has not always been extended to every American.

A Brief History of Voting Rights in the U.S.

In 1776, white males at least 21 years old could vote, although most states included property or even religious requirements. In New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, free black men can also vote. In 1870, the 15th Amendment extends the right to vote to all races in theory. However, poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses eventually prevent most black males from voting. Women are granted voting rights in 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment. In 1924, Congress passes legislation extending citizenship, and therefore voting rights, to Native Americans, although many states continue to deny these voting rights. In 1943, Congress ensures Chinese-Americans have the right to vote by repealing the Chinese Exclusion Acts. In 1964, the 24th Amendment prohibits the use of poll taxes for federal elections, ending a practice that still existed in five states when the amendment was passed. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, which allowed barriers to political participation by racial and ethnic minorities such as literacy tests and discriminatory districting and registration practices. In 1975 and 1982, the Voting Rights Act was amended to provide language assistance to minority voters and assistance for blind, disabled or illiterate voters. In 2006, it was renewed for twenty-five additional years by Congress. Information courtesy of Fair Vote.

For more information on today’s general election or to find your local polling place, click HERE.

Today, November 4, 2014
Polling places across Los Angeles County

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/ County Clerk Main Office
12400 Imperial Highway
Norwalk, CA 90650
1(800) 815-2666

If you have questions, please feel free to call Gayle Anderson at 323-460-5732 or e-mail Gayle at Gayle.Anderson@KTLA.com

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