A special election takes place Tuesday for the 3rd District Supervisor vacancy on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Six Republicans and one Democrat are running for the seat to represent Orange, Tustin, Villa Park, Yorba Linda, and portions of Anaheim and Irvine.
But will young people – who helped to turn historically red seats blue in the recent midterms – show up for this little known local race?
Young people will be unlikely to vote in this election because it has received little news coverage and has not appeared on their social media feeds, predicted sophomore graphic design major, Eva Huzella. And if there are hurdles they may be even more unlikely to show up at the polls or mail in a ballot.
“I definitely had to put work in to get the ballot sent to me, go to the voting stations, and do the research. I think that’s one of the reasons why people don’t vote,” said Huzella. “I was very alone in the process because none of my friends were voting, I had no one to guide or help me.”
While the candidates are all running as non-partisan, there are six Republicans–Kim-Thy Hoang Bayliss, Larry Bales, Kristine Murray, Katherine Daigle, Deborah Pauly, and Donald Wagner–and one Democrat, Loretta Sanchez, – the former congresswoman who lost a senate race to Kamala Harris – vying for office. Among these candidates, former congresswoman Sanchez and Irvine mayor Wagner have the most name recognition.
Republicans have a voter registration advantage in Orange County based on information from Election Data Central, a voter registration tracker for the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
“Typically, this is a more compacted, election cycle. Special elections typically lean Republican, which will make it harder to cycle out young voters,” said Norberto Santana, a reporter for the Voice of OC and Chapman journalism professor.
People between the ages of 18 and 29 are more inclined to vote at presidential elections rather than midterms, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
It is estimated that about 31 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 voted in 2018, CIRCLE reports. CIRCLE states that this is up about 10 percent from 2014 numbers, and that, “This is by far the highest level of participation among youth in the past quarter century.”
John Giammona, Lead Civic Engagement Assistant, said there is a presumption that fewer voters will participate in the OC Supervisor Election because it’s local.
“There are a lot of students who do not vote in the city of Orange, but vote in their home state or their home town and that will limit their participation.” Giammona said.
The Board–a legislative and executive governing body–“oversees the management of the County government and its many special districts,” states the Orange County Government website.
Members serve four-year terms, limited to two terms. The five-member board “adopts ordinances, resolutions and minute orders within the limits prescribed by State law,”, and among its executive powers, “establishes policy, approves the annual budget, appoints a County Executive Officer, County Counsel, Clerk of the Board, Internal Auditor, Public Defender and Public Guardian, approves contracts for projects and services, conducts public hearings on land-use and other matters, and makes appointments to boards, committees and commissions,” the website states.
About 236,000 ballots have been issued for this election, and about 37,000 have been returned as of March 7 according to Election Data Central.
“Vote-by-mail voting has far exceeded polling place voting in Orange County in special elections since 2005. This phenomenon is likely due less to the popularity of voting-by-mail and is potentially due to voter fatigue,” states the Orange County Registrar of Voters. “Turnout in Orange County special elections ranges from approximately 10 percent to 20 percent while we see 50 percent to 75 percent turnout in primary and general elections.”
As a strategy for people to get to the polls, candidates send mailers to voters in the district, as there is less media coverage than normal election cycles. Being their primary method of getting people out to vote, “the person who has the most money will generate the most hit mail,” said Santana.
Wagner leads fundraising with just over $300,000 in contributions followed by Sanchez with $183,165 according to the FEC filings with the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
The candidates are following voting patterns and previous turnout to build on their campaign strategies.
“For many in the party, November of 2018 was their first electoral victory ever, and we would like to keep the momentum strong,” said Sanchez, who is hopeful about a continuation of the “Blue Wave”. She wants to reach out to the communities that voted Democratic in the midterms and to newly registered voters.
Pauly is focusing on being active in the community and broadening her reach to appeal to voters. Murray started her get-out-to-vote efforts as early as January.
“Voter turnout can definitely be difficult during a special election. But I believe by having a comprehensive campaign on the issues that matter most to voters will ultimately be the key to success in this election,” said Murray over email.
Wagner’s campaign did not reply to a request for comment.
Austin Ning, a sophomore business major, said he doesn’t plan on voting because he doesn’t know enough about the candidates and their issues.
“I don’t want to be a misinformed voter,” said Ning.
There are some students who won’t be voting for the same reasons, or because they believe their vote doesn’t matter.
“I don’t know if I’ll be voting yet because I don’t know too much about the candidates,” said freshman english major Kristina Nguyen. “I think that it can be hard to motivate young people to vote if some people believe that they don’t know enough about the voting system or if they don’t think their vote would make an impact.”
For those registered in Orange County who want to verify their voter registration status and find their polling place, visit the Orange County Registrar of Voters website.