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Campaign for voter interest

October 21, 2005|By By Alicia Robinson

Political scientist predicts 40% turnout in Nov. 8 election that lacks flock-to-the-polls appeal.If you don't belong to a union, you're not a teacher and you haven't been watching TV, Nov. 8 may have slipped under your radar. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and various special interest groups are trying to get people to care about voting on eight statewide initiatives next month.

Special elections tend to be targeted at subsets of the electorate, and this one is no exception, UC Irvine political scientist Louis DeSipio said.

Locally, Newport-Mesa teachers like Joel Flores have been out campaigning against several of the propositions. Flores, a reading teacher at Estancia High School in Costa Mesa, is most concerned about Proposition 76 because it destroys the formula that guarantees a certain minimum in education funding, he said.

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"What we've encouraged is that every teacher vote no on [propositions] 75 and 76, and if they get two others to vote no that are not involved in education, then we can defeat it," he said.

But with three weeks to go, getting people to pay attention to the election could be a tough battle.

"There's a higher interest among teachers, but when I talk to neighbors and people in the general public, they don't even know anything about it," Flores said.

Jackie Statts, a Corona del Mar resident who held a political rally at her home Tuesday, agreed that people aren't very aware of what's on the ballot. She hopes to defeat Proposition 73, which would require parents to be notified before a minor could have an abortion, because she sees it as part of a larger effort to erode women's abortion rights.

It's been hard to raise interest in the election because "we're not corporations or anything that can spend a lot of money," Statts said.

But the money that is being spent -- mainly on the ubiquitous TV ads for or against the propositions -- may be spent in vain because some voters are just tuning the ads out, DeSipio said.

He predicts about 40% voter turnout because there's no galvanizing issue on the ballot.

"Nobody can get really all that motivated about turning over redistricting to a retired panel of judges," DeSipio said. "It's not a race that's going to appeal to people that are marginally engaged in politics."

The habitually engaged, however, have been marshaling their forces.

Jeff Corless, president of the Orange County Young Republicans, said he's found that some voters may not know much about the election, but they want to get informed.

"We're going after those Republicans that vote every time because we know we can count on them," he said.

He thinks the GOP may be counting on a lower turnout so the party faithful can put the governor's initiatives over the top.

Local voters may be drawn by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District's bond issue, and government employees are likely watching Proposition 75, which would make unions get consent of members before spending their dues for political purposes.

Regardless of voters' interest in one or another of the ballot issues, one of the biggest obstacles may be that there are so many things on the ballot. DeSipio said that can lead to "ballot drop-off," when people vote on the issues at the top of the list but become confused or are less informed about the ones lower down and so don't cast votes.

Mark Petracca, another political scientist at UC Irvine, said when voters don't know what to do, it can work against ballot issues.

"When in doubt, you vote no," he said.

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