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Low Voter Turnout Costs LA and California Latinos

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LATINO POLITICS-Latinos in California are reeling from the likelihood that the notoriously low turnout among Hispanic voters in off-year elections may have cost former Assembly Speaker John Perez the state controller’s election. 

Perez, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s cousin, appears to have finished behind fellow Democrat Betty Yee by 481 votes as final ballots in the state’s primary have finally been counted. 

That would leave the once politically powerful Perez, who had been a favorite to win the office, with only the thin chance of a partial recount changing the outcome. 

Otherwise it will be Yee facing Republican nominee Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, in the general election — and the election having been an expensive lesson for Latinos and Democrats in a historically blue state. 

Perez this week called for a recount in the razor-close primary election for state controller, in what could become an expensive and long effort to salvage his campaign and save face for Latinos who turned out in record low numbers.   

Under California law, the person requesting the recount has to foot the bill. 

So Perez is first asking for a recount in 15 counties, including Los Angeles. The cost is expected to exceed $1 million for Los Angeles County alone. 

And it is a long shot for Perez. Although there have been recounts on ballot measures, there’s no record of one in a statewide candidates’ race, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.

Meanwhile, Perez’s apparent defeat has stunned the California Latino establishment, which had hoped he would become one of the new statewide Hispanic political figures, especially in the wake of Villaraigosa having left his mayoral office a year ago.  

Perez, who represents Los Angeles in the state Assembly, is termed out of office at the end of the year. 

Perez’s apparent demise also has re-opened the rift between Latinos and Asians in California in everything from political power to placements in the state’s university system in which Asians now represent a higher percentage of students than Latinos. 

Latinos make up more than one of every five registered voters — 22.7 percent — in California. But they have historically been low turnout voters, especially in mid-term elections. 

The June 3 primary proved to be no exception. Exit polls showed that Latinos in last month’s primary voted at a rate of just 6 percent, while Asians – who comprise 15 percent of the state — turned out at a rate of about 23 percent. 


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“The reality is that Latino voters didn’t vote – again – and the results were devastating,” says Art Pedroza, a professor at Cerritos College in California. 

Perez, however, is holding on to the last bit of hope. 

“After nearly a month of counting votes and a vote margin of just 1/100th of 1 percent out of more than 4 million votes cast, nobody would like to see this process completed more than we would,” Perez said in a statement. 

“Since this is one of closest statewide elections in the history of California, we have an obligation to review and ensure that every vote cast is accurately counted.”

 

(Tony Castro is the author of the newly-released "The Prince of South Waco: American Dreams and Great Expectations," as well as of the critically-acclaimed “Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America” and the best-selling “Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son." Castro writes for voxxi.com  where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

 

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 56

Pub: Jul 11, 2014

 

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