The City of Los Angeles voted for a new Mayor yesterday, May 21, 2013. Well, that isn’t quite accurate. Merely 19% of registered voters actually voted. In other words, 4 of 5 registered voters chose not to vote for Mayor. How dreadful.
I imagine some might argue that the low turnout reflected the so-called tweedledee and tweedledum nature of American politics, even more the case in this contest. The argument is that the differences between candidates is so minimal that many voters don’t particularly care who wins and therefore do not vote. In this case, Garcetti and Greuel are both liberal Democrats whose policy differences are not all that profound, although there are differences between them. But it is highly questionable that voter apathy is attributable to the tweedledee/tweedledum theory of voting.
An alternative theory with a related theme is that voters don’t vote because they don’t believe their vote, and the election’s outcome, will make any difference in their lives, even where the candidates espouse quite different perspectives on governing. This is obviously a far more cynical view than the tweedledee/tweedledum perspective. This view reflects a feeling of impotence among voters. They feel that they are unable to affect governmental and political activities let alone to effect change and they tend to view politicians as corrupt and focused on their own self-aggrandizement rather than on the public good.
While many Americans seem to believe that local and State governments are closer to them than the federal government, voter turnout tends to decline as one moves from federal to State and local elections. It isn’t clear that Americans follow the actions of their local and State representatives to any meaningful degree, which may translate into low turnouts at local and State elections.
Whatever the causes, low voter turnout tends to mean diminished accountability by political leaders to the electorate. This is not a good thing for American democracy.☐