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Examining San Diego’s Low-Profile Political Races

Poll worker Melanie Withey attaches "I voted" stickers to a box at a polling station on election day in San Diego, June 8, 2010.
Associated Press
Poll worker Melanie Withey attaches "I voted" stickers to a box at a polling station on election day in San Diego, June 8, 2010.

Examining San Diego’s Low Profile Political Races
GUEST: Brian Adams, political science professor, San Diego State University

It's often difficult to decide how to vote on the issues of the candidates even after weeks of being informed and being influenced by ads and news reports. What do you do when you have heard nothing and know nothing about a particular race, for instance judges or a community college district. Do you vote for the name you like best or choose the incumbent? We will talk about the low profile races on the ballot. Joining me is Brian Adams a professor at San Diego state University. Welcome to the program. ________________________________________ Good to be here. ________________________________________ Even well-informed people are often stumped by these low profile races and we face the same dilemma election after election. Why aren't these races generating more interest? ________________________________________ Voters have learned the time in which to pay attention to politics and when to pay attentions to the races in the media that are covered by Mayor -- various news outlets or where the candidates are spending a lot of money to communicate with voters. ________________________________________ KPBS has a voter guide with information, but it is not generally covered by the media that it is not an oversight by the media. ________________________________________ The media has very little incentive to cover these local races, because most of their listeners or their viewers can't actually vote in those races anyway. If you take a Council race in a small city like Carlsbad, most of those listeners are not to live in Carlsbad. The media has a very difficult situation because even if they wanted to cover these races, they know that many other viewers in races are not going to be interested. ________________________________________ Are we seeing voter ignorance one of the results of the demise of local and neighborhood newspapers? ________________________________________ I think that is the case. The only outlets that have an incentive to cover those local races with a community paper. Fewer and fewer people are getting their news from such outlets. ________________________________________ The election of a judge to become an issue a few years ago. They were between two men that had funny names. Many people were surprised to learn that he doubted President Obama was born in the US. Two people running for a judge ship be required to disclose more about the political views? ________________________________________ You can't require candidates to disclose things. Many states simply do gubernatorial appointments. And times there aren't a competitive election. ________________________________________ Why do we vote for judges? ________________________________________ It was started in the 1800s to try to make judges more professional and given how corrupt legislators were at the time that you would get less corrupt judges if people actually elect them. A lot of that is just a legacy from hundreds of years ago, where electing judges was seen as a way to reduce corruption. ________________________________________ Is a rainy research to see if voting for judges actually gets better results? ________________________________________ It is hard to determine whether you get better people. There has been research that campaign contributions to judges influence their decisions. There is also indication when you appoint judges, there could also be some negative influences there as well. It is hard to determine what you get better justice for elections or appointment. ________________________________________ Voters not understanding what some of these low profile races are about. Do most people know what a community college board member does? ________________________________________ Many people don't. For many people they have a very little knowledge of the structure of local government. That's understandable it is very complicated. Given the limited time that they put into learning about politics, they tend to focus on federal politics primarily. ________________________________________ What do we know about what voters due to decide what to do to vote when they don't know a lot about the candidates? ________________________________________ Name recognition. They simply know the name of the candidate or note endorsements or party affiliations. Many of these low profile races, voters don't even have that information. They can skip the race and not vote on it. They can gas and randomly fill in a bubble, or they can use the information they have on the ballot. They can gas at the ethnicity based on the name of the candidate. They can guess the gender of the cot candidate based on their name and vote on that. Or they can gas than occupation of the candidate on the ballot. ________________________________________ Most of that doesn't sound very good. ________________________________________ Know they don't. Some people argue that we should have local partisan elections. Voters can at least vote based on that. Voters may know nothing about the candidates, they may not know anything about what the office does, but at least they know that the candidate is a Republican or a Democrat and can make some sort of judgment based on that. It is an ideal Copyeditor would be better based on the name of the candidate or their occupation. ________________________________________ You can skip those races in your ballot would still be counted. A lot of people are not completely aware of that. You can not fill in those bubbles and the rest of the bubbles you fill in will be counted. ________________________________________ Absolutely. You do not have to vote any race and your ballot will however counts for the races you did vote for. ________________________________________ Are there any other ideas about reforming elections? Any other ideas about making this process easier for voters? ________________________________________ The one that people propose most is to simply have a shorter ballot. Elect fewer people to get rid of some the elective offices that we have so that voters have fewer decisions to make. Voters simply don't support Ivan though they want to be involved, the ballots are overwhelming. Many voters say no when you say that you want them to be plaintive better than elective. People want lower coined -- court judges to be appointed by the governor. Others want amendments to the state constitution. That would have to be voted on by the Republic. ________________________________________ I have been speaking with Brian Anderson's -- Adams, political science professor at San Diego University. You can find the voter ________________________________________

Besides the race for mayor and the hotly contested city attorney race, San Diego voters will also get to decide on less talked about contests in the June 7 California primary.

There are candidates for Superior Court judgeships, the county Board of Education and community college districts on the ballot. But why are these races sometimes overlooked?


Brian Adams, a political science professor at San Diego State University, told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday that the media has little incentive to cover local races.

"If you take a city council race in a smaller city, say Carlsbad, the vast majority of viewers or listeners of a media outlet aren't going to live in Carlsbad, aren't going to be able to vote in that race," Adams said. "So the media is in a very difficult situation, because even if they wanted to cover these races, they know that many of their viewers and listeners just aren't going to be interested in them."

Adams said some people end up voting based on a candidate’s occupation, which is on the ballot, or name, which may imply gender or ethnicity. Others randomly fill in or skip races they’re not familiar with.

He said one possible solution is to have people vote for a political party in low-profile races.

“It isn't ideal, but much better than voting based on the name of a candidate or on their occupation,” Adams said.


Another option: get rid of some elected offices and appoint them instead.

“The irony is that voters simply don't support such reforms,” Adams said.