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Politics

Mid-City Group Urges City Heights Voters To Bridge Turnout Gap In District 9

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Voter registration in San Diego County has reached a record-breaking high of more than 1,652,000 constituents. The question is: will that translate into record-breaking turnout?

Whether registered voters actually cast a ballot is a big concern in San Diego City Council District 9, which is home to one of the highest turnout precincts in the city but also one of the lowest. This Election Day, at least one community group is working to shrink the divide.

District 9 includes Kensington-Talmadge, College Area, City Heights and part of Southeastern San Diego and the turnout gap means residents in a high turnout, affluent neighborhood in Kenginston have a greater say at the polls than those living in a low turnout, low-income community in City Heights.

According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voter's Office, at least 52 percent of the district's eligible population is registered to vote as of Nov. 1. But during the June primary, ballots cast for the district 9 council race show less than half of those who registered actually voted.

Sean Elo of the nonprofit Mid-City Community Advocacy Network said this is one of the biggest challenges the organization is working to tackle, especially in City Heights.

“Most campaigns, especially the candidate campaigns, are going to write off a lot of the voters here in City Heights, because they’re not likely to vote," said Elo, the group's director of campaigns and policy. "We don’t do that. Those (residents) are specifically the focus of our attention.”

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Elo said Mid City CAN's staff and volunteers helped City Heights residents register to vote and has stayed in contact with them through texting, phone calls and in-person visits.

"If they’ve promised us to vote, we’re going to keep reminding them that we’re following it and if they haven’t voted yet, they need to go out and do it," he said.

During the primary, Elo said the Mid-City CAN focused on a core group of just more than 300 voters. He said 61 percent of those contacted by Mid-City CAN cast a ballot compared to 45 percent of district 9 voters not connected to the group.

Elo added the margin was wider among young voters. Those that Mid-City CAN connected with voted at a rate of 61 percent, while younger residents the group didn't contact turned out to vote at a rate of 32 percent, he said.

For the general election, Elo said the organization is focusing on a core group of 750 residents but has reached out to more than 1,500 people.

Corrected:
The Cal Endowment supports the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network and also funds Speak City Heights.