The Trustee Area 3 special election on Nov. 5 appears a fitting end to a truly disconcerting year for Dublin Unified School District elections.
Not in terms of the end results -- in this case, Trustee-Elect Catherine Kuo was the better candidate. The business analyst, school volunteer and mother of two ran an impressive campaign focused on fiscal sustainability, school safety, transparency in decision-making and prioritizing the second comprehensive high school.
No, the problem was voter participation. Dublin residents fell embarrassingly short of fulfilling their duty this year.
Three special elections in 2019, and each one with a turnout below 24% -- including likely two with percentages in the teens.
Of course, off-schedule elections often see low turnouts. Chalk it up to lack of voter awareness or worse, lack of voter interest. But DUSD voters' record was especially bad.
Last week's special election turnout stands at 15.29%. Though there could be a few final ballots left to process this week, it's unlikely that participation count will climb above 20%.
In raw numbers, Kuo's dominating performance with 76.35% of the vote (compared to 23.65% for opponent Malcolm Norrington) translates to 536 votes to 166, as of the latest totals.
Including write-ins, that means only 711 out of the 4,650 registered voters who live in Trustee Area 3 cast ballots to determine who represents them on the school board. For comparison, Piedmont Unified in Alameda County also held an election on Nov. 5, with two ballot measures, and recorded 51.35% turnout.
The theme carried out for DUSD special elections all year.
In the June 4 ballot for Trustee Area 4, now-Trustee Gabrielle Blackman was a clear winner with 70% of the vote. Final turnout: 845 voters (15.74%).
One month earlier, the mail-only special election saw the Measure E parcel tax renewal pass easily, with 74.53% of the ballots cast district-wide in favor. Voter participation: 23.3% of the 29,273 registered voters.
Each of the three special elections saw clear, decisive victories. But the turnout figures beg the question: Just how representative are those results, truly?
2020 will be a critical year for local elections throughout the Tri-Valley, and voters need to exercise their right.
Turnout should be considerably higher because it's a presidential election year, but in addition to the regular candidate positions in the March primary and November general, there will be some vital off-schedule issues on local ballots.
Pleasanton seems poised for a $323 million school facilities bond measure on March 3. Also on that ballot, Livermore has a referendum measure scheduled on the city's downtown hotel development agreement and Danville has a referendum on the Magee Preserve residential project. Livermore will also have a downtown initiative measure on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot.
Those one-off ballot issues will be in addition to regular local candidate positions like county supervisor, Zone 7 water board, city council, school board and mayor.
Hopefully the Tri-Valley communities will build off decent turnouts from the last regular election.
According to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office, voter participation totals for the November 2018 general election included 72.01% for the city of Pleasanton, 69.79% for city of Livermore, 67.38% for city of Dublin, 69.73% for Livermore school district, 69.60% for DUSD Area 2 and 65.63% for DUSD Area 5. (There was no Pleasanton school district election, with incumbents unopposed.)
We want to see participation totals meet, or exceed, those levels in all elections in the Tri-Valley in 2020.
We also hope to see the Registrar of Voters' Office, along with government agencies, candidates and campaigns, work to make sure voters are aware of each local election.
Public elections demand voter participation. Every vote matters is only relevant if every voter thinks every election matters. It's time for all of the Tri-Valley to always put their ballot where their mouth is.