Voter turnout in California has been declining—it reached record lows last year, raising concerns about the state’s democratic process. PPIC research fellow Eric McGhee told a Sacramento audience last week that turnout in California has not only dropped in absolute terms but has fallen behind that of other states. While participation in fall presidential elections has been holding steady, turnout is on the decline in midterm elections—when the state elects a governor and other statewide officials—and, to some extent, in presidential primaries.
A big part of the problem is California’s voter registration rate, said McGhee, who coauthored the new report Putting California’s Voter Turnout in Context. It has not changed significantly, though it should have been climbing, as it has in other states.
California has been working hard to make the voting and registration processes as easy as possible, and other policy changes are under discussion. Will they result in higher turnout? They may help, but they aren’t panaceas, McGhee said. Ongoing mobilization efforts will be needed to motivate more people to cast a ballot.