Friday, July 18, 2014

Recall results depend on voter turnout

Yorba Linda's voters have elected 32 disparate individuals to City Council positions in 25 elections the past 47 years, so it's not surprising that often-times political and sometimes personal grudges have developed among council members and their loyal support groups.

What is surprising is that voters will cast ballots in a recall election for the first time, considering all of the contentious issues that have surfaced in the years since residents chose to incorporate a small, seven-square-mile community as a city in 1967.

Beginning with the city's second election in 1970, a prevailing issue has been maintaining a low-density identity, although a “slow-growth” corollary advocated by many early council members was largely discarded during a Redevelopment Agency era initiated in 1983 to boost future tax revenues.

A failed auto mall, myriad Old Town redevelopment plans, Imperial Highway improvements, eminent domain, council ethics, secretive bonuses, closed-door meetings, developer and union campaign contributions – these and other conflicts were all fodder for recall threats.

Most past recall efforts didn't get much past the talking stage, and the drive targeting four council members in the early 2000s sputtered when organizers began circulating petitions. The 2012 effort against John Anderson collected 7,856 names, short of the required 8,668.

But this year, promoters gathered enough signatures, with some help from paid petitioners, to qualify a recall of two council members, Tom Lindsey and Craig Young, for an Oct. 7 ballot, even though Lindsey is up for re-election Nov. 4.

The outcome of the separate Lindsey and Young recalls and the election for two council positions now held by first-termer Lindsey and second-termer John Anderson on ballots a month apart will be influenced by voter turnout.

Based on this city's past experience with special elections, turnout for the Oct. 7 recall contest could be light, although proximity to the Nov. 4 general election might boost the number of voters, since mailers, ads and computer-generated phone calls for the two elections will overlap.

The most recent council special election drew just 20 percent of registered voters in June 2007 when Hank Wedaa beat two opponents with 3,749 votes out of 8,309 cast.

The only other special council election occurred in March 2000 when Ken Ryan beat six other contenders, but the turnout reached 62 percent because the ballot was combined with a regularly scheduled primary election.

Even then, 1,712 of the primary's 20,432 Yorba Linda voters didn't mark a choice in the council contest. This city's turnout in the non-presidential 2010 November election was 28,522 voters or 65.3 percent and in the 2012 presidential year 35,164 voters or 77.3 percent.

Some academic research suggests that particularly nasty electoral contests bring out the hard-core, committed voters on each side, but that other potential voters are turned off by the negative charges and counter-charges and don't visit the polls or even mail in a ballot.