Long Beach has increased voter turnout to local elections when voting dates align with the state, so Long Beach City Council is looking to consolidate the elections.
“When you look at [Asian American Pacific Islander] voters, Black voters, Latino voters, voters that typically have had lower turnouts, the numbers all dramatically increased when we went to the consolidated elections,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.
In 2016, Long Beach had a 13.5% voter turnout to the local primary election. In 2020, the local primary election occurred on the same day as the state election. Turnout shot up to 40.1%.
The trend holds true in general elections as well. During the 2016 general election, Long Beach had a voter turnout of 40.12%. In 2020, that turnout jumped to nearly 75%.
During the 2018 election, which occurred during a non-presidential election cycle, the primary had a 15.8% turnout and the general election had a 28.73% turnout.
Given the staggering increase in turnout, the Long Beach City Council moved forward on a motion that, in coming months, may define new dates for the 2022 general election. City staff will also prepare a ballot measure to permanently align state and local elections.
“Most cities are a bit ahead of us in that they’ve already addressed the issue with their charter,” City Clerk Monique De La Garza said. “We are one of the few charter cities that did not do a charter amendment. We did an ordinance.”
Los Angeles County elections already align with state elections.
“There are turnout makers and turnout takers. Unfortunately, city council races are not turnout makers and school board races are not real turnout makers,” Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said. “The turnout makers are citywide elections or gubernatorial elections, your presidential elections. And so aligning the state does have benefits.”
Some council members addressed the fact that, because council elections are staggered, elections for certain council districts won’t receive the turnout benefits that come with presidential election years.
There are benefits to falling on dates for more popular elections, such as those for the mayor, city prosecutor, city attorney or city auditor.
Councilmember Stacy Mungo suggested moving two of the bigger local elections to help benefit councilmembers whose elections fall on years with low voter turnout, though no decisions were made during the meeting.
The City intends to have a June 2022 primary election, though this may not be possible if there are further delays in census data distribution.
Members of the redistricting committee continue to work on defining district lines, though census data will be essential to completing the process. If they don’t complete the process in time, the election will be pushed back.
Because the city’s election dates are defined in the city charter, the proposed change via ballot measure will have to go to the Charter Amendment Committee before heading to the ballot.
The next Long Beach City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, May 4 via teleconference.