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Vote for Meh: San Franciscans Don't Give a Good Goddamn About Municipal Elections 

Wednesday, Oct 16 2013

You may or may not know there's a municipal election coming up next month. Regardless, odds are you're not voting in it. This is both a historical fact and a bitter electoral irony. San Franciscans crash the polls to cast ballots for presidents and senators. But in off-year local contests, in which a few votes really can impact thousands of lives and billions of dollars, we give participatory democracy a pass.

The last such election, in November 2011, was fortified with municipal goodness: It featured contested races for mayor, district attorney, and sheriff; contentious dueling pension measures; and some $750 million in bonds. Only 42 percent of registered voters participated.

But that was progress: In November 2009, only 23 percent voted in the municipal election; in November 2007 the turnout was 36 percent.

A recent study by The Greenling Institute contrasted San Francisco's off-cycle, stand-alone 2011 municipal election with San Jose's consolidated 2010 state and local election. While the cities boast a similar number of registered voters, San Francisco's turnout was 21 percent lower — and our city spent five times as much per vote.

Last year, San Francisco voters approved a measure to begin electing all citywide offices simultaneously — starting in 2015. Further rejiggering elections to pair local contests with the state and national elections voters seem to actually care about would, naturally, require more voting.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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