Low Voter Turnout in District 10 Election Raises Concerns for Black Council Hopefuls

Elgin Nelson

      With California’s primary election only a few days away, turnout in the L.A. City Council District 10 race is at historic lows with just 34% of ballots or 2,832 votes having been returned by African Americans as of midnight, February 28.

      Asians are returning ballots at 24% or 2,017 votes and Whites are returning ballots at 24% or 2,012 votes.  The votes returned by Asian and White voters combine for 48% of ballots returned and exceed African American returned votes by 14% or 1,197.

      In a heated city council race, this could spell trouble for Black candidates vying for the coveted seat. 

      “What it suggests is that Grace Yoo—who forced Ridley-Thomas into a run-off election in 2020 thanks to her strong showing in the Asian community—could easily be in the top two,” said one election observer. “The Black vote would then be split three ways, making it unclear which of the three African American candidates (incumbent Heather Hutt, Reggie Jones-Sawyer or Eddie Anderson) would have to face Yoo in November.  

      “The African American vote needs to dramatically increase between now and Tuesday night to ensure one of the African American candidates gets into that runoff.”

      Xavier Thompson, senior pastor of Southern Missionary Baptist Church, located in District 10, is disappointed with the low turnout and urges anyone who can vote to make it their business to do so.

      “I have not been able to put my finger on why turnout is so low given the political climate we live in,” Thompson said. It is very discouraging. We must teach in black communities that voting is not just a right that our ancestors have died for, but it is also a powerful weapon in the hands of the citizens. The low voter turnout is something that we must work tirelessly to get a handle on because in November, it will be critical.”

      Similarly, Pastor Eddie Anderson, a candidate for CD10 who won the endorsement of the LA Times, urged, “Vote! You have the God-given right to use your voice in democracy and to not vote is to relegate our communities to the shadows. Over 130k of us in CD10 have not used that right and in a low turnout, your voice matters even more.

      “Hope,” he continued, “is a waking dream but if you don’t vote— it can quickly turn into a nightmare. Your vote is one of the best tools you have to make an equitable society.

      Incumbent CD10 Councilwoman Heather Hutt believes that the reason for a historic low turnout is the lack of education behind the power of early voting.

      “Early voting may have worked when we were on lockdown. But now, I believe people still want to go to voting polls. And I’m reaching out to folks every day because they still have their ballots in hand. So, educating people, letting them know that the ballot they have needs to be turned in. I’ve had success, but it is really an adjustment.”

      Hutt remains optimistic about her chances to pull off a victory and is meeting with CD10 residents daily.

      The trend of low voter engagement isn’t confined to District 10 but is also evident in other specific districts like Los Angeles District 4 and City Council District 12. In Council District 4, out of 243,348 voters, only 9,547 ballots have been submitted. Democrats constitute 65.7%, and Republicans make up 16.6% of the votes. In City Council District 12, with 171,170 registered voters, 8,221 have voted.

      These figures resonate with the broader calls from California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D., emphasizing the importance of understanding and exercising voter rights.

      “In today’s political environment, it’s important to affirm that you have rights as a voter in California, and the Attorney General and I are committed to protecting those rights,” said Weber.

      “Low voter turnout is a threat to democracy. Voting is fundamental to political empowerment and self-determination. If you don’t vote on Tuesday, don’t you dare complain on Wednesday,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas.

      The 2024 California primary election is set for March 5th, 2024. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on March 5 to be counted. For questions about voting, visit:

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