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California Counts: What It Takes To Bring People To The Polls

From left: Larry Mantle, Scott Shafer, Mark DiCamillo, Mindy Romero, Lisa García Bedolla, Sean T. Walsh, Harmeet Dhillon and Fiona Ma at the California Counts town hall in San Francisco, May 17, 2016.
From left: Larry Mantle, Scott Shafer, Mark DiCamillo, Mindy Romero, Lisa García Bedolla, Sean T. Walsh, Harmeet Dhillon and Fiona Ma at the California Counts town hall in San Francisco, May 17, 2016.

It's no secret that California has low voter turnout. What will it take to bring people to the polls? We traveled to San Francisco Tuesday night to chat with community members and political analysts about what's holding Californians back in weeks leading up to the state primary June 7. 

The town hall was moderated by Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s AirTalk, and Scott Shafer, senior editor of KQED’s California Politics and Government Desk. It was hosted by California Counts, a collaboration with KPCC in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and KPBS in San Diego.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

We were joined by a panel of five guests from across the political spectrum. They fielded questions from the audience on topics that ranged from why voters are undecided in California's Senate race to the future of the Republican party. Here's a recap. Click on the audio to hear more. 

On California's U.S. Senate race

In a Field Poll last month, 48 percent of likely voters in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer were undecided on how they'd vote. The poll showed the top candidates include California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats. 

But many voters still don't know who the candidates really are, said ​Mark DiCamillo, senior vice president of Field Research Corporation and director of the Field Poll.

(Here's a list of the 34 candidates you'll see on the ballot.

“I think this race is still wide open," he said. 

California Counts: What It Takes To Bring People To The Polls
California Counts: What It Takes To Bring People To The Polls GUESTS:Mark DiCamillo, senior vice president, Field Research Corporation; director, Field Poll Lisa García Bedolla, chancellor's professor of education and political science, UC Berkeley Harmeet Dhillon, vice chair, California Republican Party; 2016 RNC National Committeewoman-elect Mindy Romero, founding director, California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis Fiona Ma, chairwoman, California State Board of Equalization Sean T. Walsh, media and political strategist and member, State Wide Leadership Council for the Public Policy Institute of California; former adviser, California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson

Welcome to our CA Counts Town Hall from the tennis theater in San Francisco. It is great to be with you as part of our series of programs bringing together Californians up and down the Golden State to talk about important election related issues. We're going to be hearing from the voters in our audience. First we are joined by a panel of guests. We will be talking about California in the upcoming June primary. We begin with Mark DiCamillo and director of the field. Scott Shafer is going to start with a question. Mark, you've been pulling for decades. How would you describe the mood of voters in California in the poll you have done recently? I think they are anxious. They have been watching the national election from afar. They want to be represented. The Republicans are a little disappointed that the outcome is already known before they get a chance to vote, but the Democratic side is still a contest. There is going to be a lot of attention on that side. We hear a lot about anger. Are people angry? I think people are angry. No matter who comes out of the side. The director the California civic engagement project at UC Davis. Welcome. California used to have a large turnout in our elections and a lot of electoral you engagement. We have seen a decline in turnout even in large elections. What has changed in California that has driven it? Have Republicans decided that turnout is going to be down from what it was in June? Both are great questions. California did have higher rates in turnout than the national average. There have been several factors. As California has changed from a red, to a purple [NULL] to a blue state, the perception is , not a player in the general election will -- cycle we don't get as much of the attention, the mining, the media coverage. That can affect turnout certainly. There are also demographic issues in California as our population has grown and changed. We have a larger proportion of the population that comes from group that are historically underrepresented. What does that mean underrepresented? That means they have disparities in turnout because of race, age, status, ethnicity. I am specifically thinking about race and ethnicity right now. Those groups are under represented numerically at the ballot box. They have grown as a proportion of the overall population, they have lowered turnout rates, because we are not supporting those groups in getting the turnout more. I want to introduce another gas that is with us. She is a Chancellor a professor at UC Berkeley. Good to have you in with us as well. Let me ask you, we have seen in the last few months Bernie Sanders really pick up steam in the polls. I think of the last field poll he was only down about 7 points. What has changed from eight years ago? We know that Hillary Clinton beat President. Obama . What you think is a difference? The differences now, he is the inserting candidate. It is a different world than it was in 2008. We have had a great recession. There is a lot of if not anger, at least discomfort. People feel insecure, particularly warehousing or jobs haven't taken off or come back the way they should have. There is a lot of inside the -- anxiety. When you are in that place, looking at someone who is been in office, may not seem as exciting as it may have been. A little Clinton fatigue may be? Perhaps. The status quo doesn't seem to be serving them well. The excitement was going to be about her over Bernie Sanders with her being the first woman president. And then Sanders with the economic message that is so connected. It is interesting to be said about the gender dynamics in this race and how they are being played out, combined with her status of long-term resident of Washington. Steve Walsh is with us, he is him member and former adviser to Governor. Schwarzenegger and Wilson. Sean, this isn't the only important election we have in California. We have to the open Senate seat. The Republicans who are running are very -- having a very hard time gaining traction. In this race, do you think you're going to get to Democrats their? It is entirely likely. There are number of factors working against Republicans. Number one, it is a closed primary costs only Republicans can vote in this primary. Unless you have changed your affiliation, you cannot vote this time out if you are not a Republican. If your vote numbers are small you may have more Democrats who are energized this time out. That portends very poorly for Republicans. Number two, Republicans really don't have any money, so they will have a limited ability to get any messaging out. That hurts them as well. The 2016 national committeewoman elect, just following up on what Sean was saying, there were some voter registration in California, 27.5% of voters say that they are Republican, 43% say they are Democrat. Is having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket going to help or hurt the GOP in its appeal? In California, because the other candidates dropped out, that is not going to have the expected turnout -- impact on turnout we hope for. It remains to be seen with the affect is going to be in November. I would not have predicted his popularity at the beginning of the season, but he has managed to a blubbery -- a blubbery other accomplished candidates. As Sean mentioned, the general election is open to everybody. I saw the past couple of days with the general election matchup which aren't worth so much early on, but it showed Trump polling well. Do you think that those people potentially are going to come to the Republican Party, stay there, or are these people who are really Trump supporters only, and not people who are going to add to Republican enthusiasm? It remains to be seen. Trump is slowly rolling out what his agenda is. That is going to impact the extent to which people are converted in the long-term. One of the things he is putting forth as part of his platform are not traditional to the GOP. It is inconsistent with the Republican traditional platform. Fiona, Bernie Sanders has been a hit with young voters, really across the country. What is it about the Sanders message to you think has led to such high enthusiasm among the younger voters? If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, and she tapped into that? I think Bernie Sanders has a populist message. He does talk to young people about education and the high cost of student loans, things that I think young people really are facing today and take that very seriously. I think that as we move to the general election, I hope that we can all come together as one party and talk about all of the issues that Democrats care about, that are important to young people, as well as everybody else up the chain. She is it a bit of a difficult spot, though, because she has attacked that toward the middle against Donald Trump. Is it going to be hard for her when the Sanders supporters really want more her to move far more to the left? I think is Democrats, we have certain values and certain priorities that we have traditionally fought for. Hillary Clinton has been a leader on many of those fronts. It will not be a stretch to remind the voters are sure these new voters, all of the barriers that she has broken in the past, and hopefully bring us all back together. As you do your polling, Mark, what is on voters minds? What are the most worry about? Crime and education used to be at the top, maybe that is still the case. What you finding? There are concession -- consensus issues across the lines. Healthcare is also an issue, although voters are on different sides of the camp. If you look at Democrats, the issues that rise to the top in the cycle are climate change, income equality -- inequality, the affordability of college, equality of women, it is a very different spectrum. Use reducing the deficit in the size of the government. Reducing the terrorist threat. And immigration, it depends on who you are talking to. You can cut the data many different ways but there are some consensus issue. If you have something to say, let me know and I will call on you on Larry will. There has been a big anti-Trump movement in the country. What happens to all that energy? I was at the Republican convention a few weeks ago. There was all this energy. Suddenly all of the air whenever the balloon when Trump one in Indiana. What happens to all that energy that was rallying him -- to stop him. There is a very significant fear. In any primary election, the most activist voters in the most determined people get out. That's why they tend to be driven to the right and the left and then gravitate toward the center. Bernie Sanders is going all the way to the end. Donald Trump being in the race, there are a lot of Republicans out there that say they are not in a vote for the guy. Not only will they not vote for him, because they don't see them as a Republican, he gave a lot of money to Democrats, you hope they show up in the other ballots. If they don't show up and vote, Jim she has done a great job, he is a party chair, there are assembly races that really matter. The business side that they are playing, they are giving to the conservative Democrats because they are concerned about the cycling California. I can see them saying, hoping he is right. [ Laughter ] There are community problems as well. You of can already see some of the fishers developing. How are they going to bring them together? People are energized like we saw in 2008 with young voters. We have big initiatives on the November 2008 ballot that did bring the young people, I think they will come out and vote. We have cannabis, for example, on the ballot. As Democrats, we tend to fight, but we are like a family and we tend to come together in the end. There are not these long divisions and heat battles. Even though we fight hard in each election, we do tend to come together. I think it'll be easier to come back to the family on the Democratic side. We have to pick this up in a moment because we have to take a break. We have a lot wait -- more to talk about as we come to you from the Broadway theater in San Francisco. We are back with audience questions after this. From the store Broadway theater in San Francisco. I am from KPCC in Los Angeles, joined by Scott Shafer. We continue with our panel a little bit later in this portion of the program, we will hear from our live audience members. We spent the first part of the show talking about the presidential race. There is also the seat that Barbara boxer is vacating. It is really been below the radar. Almost half of the voters were undivided -- undecided. They don't know who the candidates are. Most voters are not paying attention, particularly on the Republican side. 50% Republicans were undecided because they didn't know any candidates running. On the Dick Craddick side, they are little better known. I think this race is still wide open, because once the Republicans decide, they are going are likely vote for a Republican. Will they coalesce between one or two other candidates to come in second place? Why do you think, other than the presidential campaign overshadowing everything, is it a question of money and resources? The candidates not getting free media? We had 34 candidates for Senate. California has done some pretty significant reforms. It is the first time your going to have to strong Democratic candidates. We don't know how it is going to play out. It is an example of having unintended, sequences in terms of making it difficult for people to use the usual cues that they use in terms of what they are going to vote. They are trying to create more exciting general elections, because in California, the Democratic party has an advantage. Is it more exciting with two Democratic -- Democrats? People but it would mean you had more ideologically number people winning. Studies at Berkeley show that is not the case. People vote for candidates further away from the ideology. Most voters don't pay attention. They are low information voters they make decisions that don't make a lot of sense. I was going to make the points in anticipating what is going to happen in the primary, if we're going to have a good turnout on the Democratic side because of the competition and Republican turnout is lower than we anticipated, then that should benefit those top two candidates potentially being both Democrats. When you look at the three leading Republicans. Tooma formal party chairs. Prop 228 which enabled bilingual education, which you should -- what should you do, there is no Kevin McCarthy running, what does it mean that the top-tier Republican, such that it is in California, were passed on in this race. As you mentioned, those Republicans like their jobs. In terms of powerful people who might run but haven't run, but who might have the resources, the numerical resource is one, the huge financial Kamala Harris is another. Those are challenges and then prop 14, which I was not a supporter of allow the top two primaries I use the term gadfly all kinds of freaks and weirdos in addition to that. It is California. Remember the movie the right stuff? No box. Republicans don't have the money. They decided to put their money with moderate Democrats. A measure rich, you can't run. Sacramento is a pretty Democratic friendly place. Democrats wield a lot of power. Every statewide office is held by a Democrat. Except for the to see on equalization. Correct. Is there a downside to having one party having so much control in the state? Whether it is a Democratic or Republican party? [ Applause ] It is not a party, I wouldn't say, like in San Francisco, we are all shades of the same color blue. We don't focus on the party necessarily, but we focus on issues. A gets very polarized on very issues. People take different stances. I don't know what do you are talking about a party that people in general. Ideology will vary across the spectrum. What is interesting when you look at the polls, Californians actually start to think that the state is moving in the right direction in a very broad direction, -- way, but it is really at record lows with the landscape. With California and the Democratic party, they appear to be getting things done, doing the people's business. There you have the two-party system. You have to look at the single party situation we have in California a little bit in that light. How much of that is Jerry Brown as a Democrat putting the brakes on the legislature from time to time? And how much of it is allowing the budget to pass without a two thirds vote? That has helped. The other thing is, there is significant ideology diversity. You have moderate Democrats that have different policy positions them progressive Democrats. It makes it more confusing to voters. They have to look for other signpost to decide who people are. It used to be a party moniker, now it has to be more meaningful. You need to know more about policy than most voters actually are willing to invest in terms of their time to learn about. That's the one risk. Democrats in California are pretty content. What about Republicans? Certainly we hear often from Republicans that feeling they don't have as much of a voice. They don't feel like they have as much representation, although there are areas of the state that are very right and you have a lot of representation in terms of candidate. By and large there's a lot of frustration on the Republican side. When he comes to the legislature. The area where Republicans can express any strength is on the tax increase front. The two thirds requirement is largely where we see the fight in the legislature. There are some seeds now that could split from Republican to Democrat in legislature and give a Democrat back the two thirds vote that they had. Is that where money and campaign ever to go now? In this election cycle you have a couple of forces that are at play. One is a group of moderate Democrats in summer pop wood can setback education reform against California teachers Association. You also have jobs PAC which is the chamber With businesses. They are 90% oil. Then there is election cycle with term limits we have a big turnover. The people coming into the legislature should be there for three cycles. We have a number of audience members patiently waiting to estimate questions of the panel. Please introduce yourself, use a microphone. Let the panel know your question, maybe tell us where you're from. Richard Winger, San Francisco. Given the limited number of choices on the ballot for Congress and state office, only to by law, would you favor bringing back Ryan space. Washington state, the other two, That. Eight times someone's been elected to, gross -- Congress, most recently in 2010. Both parties did not like the top two primaries. How do you feel about it now? Do you like it even less even the you could have two Democrats in the runoff? That it's been a tough issue. In many races we do have to Democrats running against each other. Nancy Pelosi calls it the jungle primary. In terms of the right in candidate, we go through a process, you jump to the hurdles in the hoops and you finally get to the endpoint, then someone can come in and be the right in candidate and not have to go to the same requirements, raise the money, and the endorsements. That's why we don't like them as a party. Minor parties have really been erased from the November ballot right? Yes. We are mature Terry and political science -- system. I have nothing but respect for American voters, by, anything that makes the process anymore complicated, what we ask of people every election, is because it is so difficult to get high quality information about those races. Down ballot drop-off, people vote on the ticket and then rolloff. We have to make things clearer and simpler and stop complicating the process. It makes people feel -- it people care about voting and making a mistake. People don't want to vote because they are afraid or going to do it wrong. Making it easier for them voice to be heard with the great. I want to go back to what used to be, I guess it is still the third rail of California politics prop 13. Schools are underfunded, infrastructure, bridges, high-speed rail, will there ever be a time that we can actually kill proposition 13? That was a 1978 ballot measure that was overwhelmingly passed. It also cover commercial property which they say was an unintended consequence. I heard him polls that prop 13 is more popular today than when it past. Is it accurate? It's not old not less popular. Let's put it that way. Since prop 13 was passed, I thought at the time we would just wait 10 or 15 years, there would be such a disparity pay between property taxes that people would get upset about it. In polling, we try to tease out when people bought their home, it seems like they bought into the system of taxation. They know what their property taxes, they know it can go up much further than that, and they seem to be accepting. That surprised me. There are two parts of prop 13. There's a really strong push by the California teachers Association to do something called a split role. I think that is a real threat. You put on the $15 our minimum wage, what do you like it or not, there's always one party that is more dominant that pushes for more taxes. The business community is very concerned. Is there a trade-off that businesses would it except for exchange of higher property taxes? Some business people would probably string me up in the alley back here. I think they would settle for the prop 30, which was Governor. Brown's package . That is about to expire. They were hold their nose and go along with that, but a split role is really where attack. Would you think about prop 13? What are the things I talk about is the initiative process. California loves are additional -- initiative process. You have to be careful what is written. Once the voters passed an initiative, it supersedes with the legislature did. We talk about prop 13 having residential and commercial in their. It was not an accident. I am glad we have formed part of the initiative process and we been able to tweak it before it goes on the ballot. Let us go back to our audience. Tell us your name what you are from and what your question is. My name is*child. I am from San Francisco. Ideology diversity was mentioned. There is a paradigm shift happening. It's not the left and the right anymore, are you for more control or more people empowerment? I am really disappointed that these public radio station sponsoring this, but you have nobody from alternative parties, a Libertarian party, nobody from the Green party. Are you, as individuals, do you have ideology called diversity in your organizations? Are you covering the convention in Orlando Florida in a couple of days? Or a you just reinforcing the left right status quo? I know you don't cover, because that's a journalist question. Maybe I was dodging. That was a short straw. One could argue that we have given all too much attention to one or two candidates in this race. There has been some disproportionate in media in this race. This is the political science cover now to me, you need 50.1%, it makes it very difficult to small parties to have traction. There is the chicken and egg difficulty. [ Indiscernible - multiple speakers ] What is the threshold? What are the standards? It may be useful to consider in what proportion do you mean? We have 34 candidates for U.S. Senate. We know they're not all credit -- credible. We don't need to give equal time to all of them. What*child said about the Libertarian party. It is a love Jim and question -- legitimate question. Is it possible, because of all the discontent with Trump, that he could siphon off at a significant number of a public can votes in the General I know several of my friends who were Republican libertarians are considering voting for Kerry Johnson. That will deftly have an impact. Two of the leading candidates in our presidential, in the two parties, Bernie Sanders is not your traditional candidate, and Donald Trump is not your traditional candidate. The branding of those parties is eroding as we're seeing some dissatisfaction by the electorate especially with the Republican traditional party process. I was just going to a great. The crease -- increase has happened because they want choices, they want options, they don't want to vote strictly partyline. They don't necessarily agree with the party on every issue. That is what you are seeing. I don't disagree with*child that other parties might not get the same amount of attention, but I think the electorate realizes they want more choices. Third parties really matter, not so much in California, but in the national. If you did not have Ralph Nader running for president, you would've had outdoor. If you do not have Ross Perot running for president, I am convinced you would have a reelection of George HW Bush. How can they brought in their appeal up enough in the day-to-day elections in states? In addition to our studio audience, we also put out on social media the request to solicit questions and comments. Should California consider moving its primary election date up to have more of a role in the elections? Yes, please. We were so close this year. California is actually outside the box of our RNC rules. We got a waiver to have our delegates count. We are irrelevant on the national scale. That's true on the Democratic side as well. That was a money-saving measure that Governor. Brown said in the middle of March. Besides the order, as each state decide? You have the southern primaries that all seem to be on one day. That's why we had the waiver at the RNC. If you worry Republican and a Democrat controlled state, they gave you a waiver from the rolls, but they assume that if you are Republican party in a Republican-controlled state you are expected to get with the program. Been there done that and it didn't really matter. We moved our primary up several years up and it didn't matter. I don't think it really makes it much of a difference. Where going to have more discussions with our guests and hear from our audience. You're listening to the CA Counts Town Hall . We are coming your way for the Broadway theater in the Mission District of San Francisco. CA Counts is a collaborative of radio stations up and down California. What is your name please? I am Anthony. I am from San Francisco. My question is from Mark. Can you talk some more about what voters are saying about public education in California, pros and cons perhaps? I have been through public education in California, and I've had really pleasant experiences with it. In a presidential election, education is a big issue, but it does not get the scrutiny and attention will we get to the governor's race. In my polling this year, I can't say we have been clicking all that much on education, because it does not rise to the top. It is a statewide issue, obviously, but as we turn our attention to 2018, we will do more on it. Have is a breakdown in terms of the different demographics -- demographics and gender and other things. If you look at the emerging population, the demographic change that is taking place in California, you really need to listen to the ethnic communities in terms of what they need and want in terms of education and healthcare. That's the growing parts that are being affected. If you look at the public school system, the white non-Hispanics are a higher proportion of this students. The emerging generation is the most important generation that you have to discuss the issues with. List take another question from the audience. I had a question for Fiona. How can you be sure that the Democrats will come together as a family in light of the amount of anger that is festering? At the status quo? I have been doing this for 20 years. Each election, we have big battles. In the end, allies change. I always say that San Francisco is like the game show survivor. Everybody is trying to throw each other off the island for $1 million. While you're in the race, you're trying to get the $1 million, but your allies change all the time. I see that on the Board of Supervisors. That's my experience. I know there is divisions and factions amongst Democrats, but when it comes to the big picture, we put it aside and we work for the party, for the good, and for the things we care about. You are talking about pros in the party. The question you are asking is about all these young people who are fire for Bernie Sanders. They are not coming from the professional Democratic Party you are talking about. What happens to those people? I hope they stay engaged, or they can look at the options if they don't like what is out there. Full disclosure, I am for Hillary, I was for her in 2008. I will sing her praises and talk about her good qualities, and not about what divides us. That's how, as a Democrat, for Hillary, I am going to be continuing. As Bernie Sanders has a help to I would think. The party is going to unify for the most part. Bernie Sanders is running the most genteel campaign you of ever seen against another candidate. He is been a gentleman when it comes to Hillary Clinton. I laugh every time I hear some Clinton person saying he's running a dirty campaign. He's not. He will push the more left agenda on her, but he will back her and support her all the way to the process. Do you think that the enthusiastic support that his supporters will think that his heart is in that? All it has to be his heartfelt. The people who aren't to mobilize are not to come out. We are not going to have and animal food fight at the White House. People will come and get along. Hillary has been severely damaged by Bernie Sanders his campaign. Her numbers have been going down for the last 15 months. It is amazing to me because you would not have expected it. When people started looking at Sanders is a candidate, they thought he was a fringe candidate, and they thought it was good for Hillary to have some practice with some competition. This is damaged her credibility and it carries over to the general election. It makes the Republican Party increase the odds, her image is getting down into the negative figures that are starting to a roach Trump's in the national polls. Unless Bernie Sanders wants to elect Donald Trump, he has to throw his support at the convention behind Hillary Clinton. A divided Democratic Party coming out, it increases the chances of Trump. Sanders points to the polls. A lot of them showed he does better against cruise and Trump than Hillary does. He has gotten a bit of a free ride in that Clinton has been afraid to attack him, because she needs his voters and doesn't want away alleviate them. Republicans would love to see Sanders is the nominee. They aren't an attack him. He has gotten a bit of a free ride. I think is gotten a bit of a free ride, but I think he has been a gentleman to Hillary. My husband and I came in a car with a driver who was a burning guy -- Bernie Sanders guy. He would never vote for Hillary. But he would consider Trump. I think the media is very invested in making this look more of a horse race than it is. Looking at the delegate count, when you have proportional distribution of delegates is very misleading. If you look at the number of those she has it is a much closer race than what has been presented. I think that is true. I have to admit, those of us who work in this business, we like the more the merrier. We like action. That is a bias, I think that's true. I forgot what I was going to say. I was going to do a follow-up. Another question? My name is Chris, I am from Hayward California right across the bay. It seems with all of the gridlock we've faced in recent times, one of the few things that people across the spectrum is that we need pro-justice reform. This country has 5% of the world's population but 25% of the incarcerated population. California is no exception. The state has taken steps to make the three straight law not so harsh, but state-by-state, it makes it, one of the things is that they can make it very easy or very difficult to regain your voting rights if you are a felon. When the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the voting rights act, I recently returned from work in Alabama and Mississippi, it is pretty transparent what they are designed to do. If you can register to vote with a gun license but not with the college ID. [ Indiscernible - multiple speakers ], would that affect the election at the state or national level? California is among the better of the states. If you look at the research, many people believe if they had any reaction with the criminal justice system, that has lost them their voting rights. There is a lot of misinformation. Thanks for the question. Does it seem like that bipartisan moment has passed where justice reform is really going to have been? I don't think so. Rand Paul is one the part -- candidates in our party who talked about the disenfranchised African-Americans. You could see a Donald Trump as he becomes our president, who thinks across the aisle with these issues being open to some of the criminal justice issues. There was a big story out of Sacramento about a guy who stole a trellis for his wedding. It was a $6000 trellis he stole for his nieces wedding and he got sentenced to a year in prison. You wonder if that's going to be the best use of tax resources, incarcerated in that homeless guy for a year at $40,000 plus as instead of some form of diversion. Criminal justice reform, the plate -- pendulum has swung to the left. If someone is been involved in one strike, to strike, a lot of issues, there is nothing more that will motivate crime, that is where they see a direct link between their government and themselves. With the realignment that is going on now and not charging certain people with certain time -- crimes, I think your use a backlash in a few years. That's only if crime goes up right? It's already gone up dramatically. Look at San Francisco. Car break-ins and other sorts of crime. Are Democrats worried about that at all? I want to talk about again, the initiative process. How come we are spending more on prisons then schools? I asked them if they voted for three strikes, Kelly's law, Chelsea's law, the human trafficking law? Every time we vote for those on the ballot we want our government to spend more on the jails in the criminal justice system. We finally got to the point where we are forced to do something about it due to overcrowding and all the medical conditions that were in their. Due to money, the governor decided that we are going to, we allocate -- we allocate resources back to the local levels and let them deal with the crime. I don't think people like it. It has caused a whole another set of problems at the local level. The jails? Yes the jails. Certainly a lot of changes happening at one time. You can't not mention the racial component of racial -- racial reform. White communities you now have addiction, and many of the other social issues that used to be seen as solely a black problem or Latino problem. As long as you have those problems, there is not to be the same backlash. It isn't going to be crime dependent though. If you see crime increase, you're not to see more stringent laws? If you see the criminals as human. To use them were the is -- of redemption. The idea prison is that you remove people from the community because they are not fixable. It is different when the criminal is a white person than an African-American. Just because you're connecting it with actual crime rate, it really doesn't matter when it comes to the connection of crime and voting. It is about perception and how certain campaigns or candidates frame the issue and use it as a way to scare people. Actual crime rates don't actually matter at all. We've been measuring attitudes, like the death penalty for probably 70 years. The big support for that came in 1980s. Over 80% of California said that they were in support of it in the 1980s. It is getting close to where the lines are crossing. I don't really see the possibility that this is suddenly going to swing back the other way with these criminal reform laws. I think general streams of public opinion had been turning away from the rhetoric that was there in the 1980s. I want to thank you all so much. We appreciate you being out in joining us. That doesn't for our CA Counts Town Hall here in San Francisco's Mission District. CA Counts is a collaboration of radio stations up and down the coast. We provide comprehensive coverage of the 2016 election. We have more events coming your way throughout the year. Thanks to our engineer, our producer, special thanks to JoAnn Martinez and the other teams as well. You been listening to the CA Counts Town Hall . Thanks for listening to our special broadcast of CA Counts Town Hall on KPBS. I am Maureen Cavanaugh . Joined me for Mid Day Edition tomorrow, from noon to 1:00 p.m. right here on KPBS FM

DiCamillo noted that voters are more familiar with Democratic candidates than others in this race. So panelists were asked: Why aren't top-tier Republicans running in California's Senate race?

It's pretty simple, said said Harmeet Dhillon, vice chair of the California Republican Party. Because they like their current jobs. 

On making a mistake at the polls

Mindy Romero, founding director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis, said Californians care about local issues, but they just aren't drawn into those races. 

The panel agreed that it's the media's responsibility to pull the public out of the presidential horse race and to drum up buzz around local candidates instead. 

Plus, there's a downside to Democrats having more control in California, according to Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Chancellor's Professor of education and political science at University of California. She made the argument that because Democrats have a hold in California, it makes it even more confusing for voters. Why? Because it forces them to learn about policy. 

"People care about voting and care about making a mistake," she said, adding that voters need better access to information to drive them to the polls. 

A Democratic hold also allows extra room for tension, said Fiona Ma, chairwoman of the California State Board of Equalization.

"For the most part, we don’t focus on the party, we focus on the issue — so it gets really polarized," she said.  

On appealing to Latinos

Of the estimated 6.7 million eligible but unregistered voters in California, the majority are Latino and Asian-American. 

Romero said rhetoric has to change if the GOP wants to attract more Latinos. She said Latinos voted Democrat in 1994 when Proposition 187 was approved. And they never looked back.  (The controversial ballot measure denied public services — such as public education and healthcare — to those living in the country illegally.) “That has stayed and stuck,” she said.

Sean T. Walsh, former adviser to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, agreed that the Republican Party needs to rework its message. 

"We're selling a message in California that is too much akin to the Midwest or South," he said.  

This is a special KPBS Midday Edition broadcast.