If you don’t vote, you’re the problem

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

Last March, only 377,881 people bothered to cast a ballot in the Los Angeles primary election. That’s less than the 400,000 people LADOT estimated in the new bike plan rides a bike every month.

Think about that.

Only 21% of eligible voters actually voted last time around. Just 25% are expected to vote in today’s election.

If every eligible bike rider were to get up and vote today — and vote their self-interests as cyclists — they would be the single most dominant and powerful voice in L.A. politics.

More than the unions, more than any political party or interest group.

A force strong enough to ensure the election of a bike friendly candidate in every race, from mayor through city council, city attorney and controller.

And that’s just bicyclists.

Add to that a few hundred thousand daily transit users. As well as pedestrians — which includes all of us at one time or another.

Suddenly, you’ve got enough strength to wrest political power from other interests groups, and ensure the governmental support we need to fix the sidewalks and potholes, build out a better, faster bike plan and a world-class transit system.

It’s not going to happen, though.

Because too many Angelenos are going to convince themselves that their votes don’t matter, or that there’s no difference between the candidates.

Or after an excruciatingly long campaign season that started with the presidential primaries over a year ago, they’re just sick of the whole thing.

Which is a tragedy. Because that indifference is what ensures we will continue to have a government that doesn’t reflect our interests, and doesn’t take the steps that will transform L.A. transportation for the better.

It’s up to you.

If you vote, you’re part of the solution. And a vital stakeholder in demanding better, more responsive government.

If you don’t, you — yes, you — are the problem.

Not the politicians others will select to represent you.

If you’re one of the few who actually cares enough about L.A. transportation issues to cast a ballot, Damien Newton offered a good look at the L.A. mayoral race yesterday, while The Source explains why it matters. You can view videos of candidates for L.A. city council, city attorney and city controller from the L.A. Candidate Forum on the Environment, Transportation and the Economy.  And the LACBC provides the information you need to Bike the Vote.

  • Anonymous

    Hear hear!

  • Anonymous

    But if you vote without informing yourself of the choices, you are a worse problem than the person who doesn’t vote.

    And if you are unaware of Duverger’s Law, which explains why we have so few choices, you are a part of the reason why we have so few choices.

    Vote responsibly, or don’t vote at all!

  • Nate

    I know this post comes from a passionate and genuine place, but it won’t work in getting people to the polls.

    From a Stanford study in 2012 (link below):

    “A common tactic used by press, politicians, and pundits to get people to vote has simply been to lament low voter turnout. But, (Harvard professor Todd) Rogers has conducted research showing that such messages actually demotivate voting. “This is because people are fundamentally social beings, and so the behavior of others influences their behavior,” he explained.”

    If we want to be a part of the solution, we should look into what actually works in getting walkers, cyclists and transit folks to the polls. Again from the article:

    “Studies presented at Stanford on March 30 showed that more voters are motivated to go to the booths when they are told turnout will be high and when they are provoked to discuss plans for getting there.

    …Typical voter campaign telephone scripts just encouraging people to vote, Rogers said, end up being a total waste of time and have no impact on voting behavior. What works in such calls, instead, is getting people to form a voting plan.”

    Maybe next election Streetsblog could come up with a printable voting plan for bicyclists that people could photocopy and handout to friends and family. It could link voting booths to cyclist-friendly streets or have some other clever tie-in. At the very minimum, Streetsblog should convey a message of “Everyone who bikes is coming to the polls- come join us!” instead of being negative. (I’m not sure you can get more downbeat than that line at the end: “If you’re one of the few who actually cares enough about L.A. transportation issues to cast a ballot…”)


  • Urban Reason

    “Maybe next election Streetsblog could come up with a printable voting plan for bicyclists that people could photocopy and handout to friends and family.”

    Thank you! THIS is the kind of thing that will get people to the polls, not insulting the readers. And whoa, talk about a guilt trip.

    As much as I love streetsblog, this entry is a little embarrassing. For all the great stuff you report on, it’s been a real shame that streetsblog hasn’t made a stronger effort to put together a simple, comprehensive voting guide that is available more than 24 hours before the polls open to enable busy pro-bike/pro-transit urbanist readers to know what their most trusted (and informed) reporters/organization are voting for. I realize there may be certain issues with their status as an organization that prevent them from making outright endorsements of candidates – but certainly Ted, or Damien, or whoever could put together their own voting guide(s) and link to it from streetsblog.

    My schedule only allows for a certain level of political engagement, which is some years more or less than others, and I’m going to guess a lot of people are in the same boat. My guess is that if you’re a reader of this blog, which I think already gears itself toward the ultra-engaged, your own guilt about the years when you are less informed is enough. We don’t need streetsblog to pile it on.


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