Polls show candidates Andrew Janz and Jerry Dyer are neck and neck. And that race, along with other local races, could be decided next Tuesday. If one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, there’s no runoff in November. But do people know that?
We spoke with several Valley residents at a local Fresno farmers market - and many were unaware of Tuesday’s primary and its significance. However, one Clovis man who is not eligible to vote said he finds the whole system baffling.
“Where I come from, everything is on the same day all the time, so I'm getting all thrown off by all these elections spread out,” explained Swedish Mats Hellgren. “It's a system made for people not to vote. If America was serious about having a lot of people voting, they should have everything on the same day.”
If primary election turnout is low, as it historically has been, voters really do miss out on a chance to participate in the most local races.
Ivy Cargile, a political science professor at CSU Bakersfield, said in Kern County, it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of available information about the races and candidates.
“I know I talk about local politics in my classes and some of my students actually on Wednesday were saying, ‘Hey, I got my ballot, it says this. Who are these people?’”
Her students were asking about the Kern County Supervisor races: three seats will be decided on Tuesday. Cargile thought, if her students are confused, then what about people who don’t have a political science professor to answer basic questions?
“I know that for the average person who has children they have to help with homework, who has two jobs to help put food on the table, I know it becomes more difficult,” Cargile said about voting. “Generally speaking, the area doesn't do a sufficient job in making sure that voters know that these elections are happening.”
Cargile thinks the primary is being trumped, so to speak, by the presidential election.
“I think that because it is a presidential primary, voters might be fooled into thinking those other races are also primaries.”
Those supervisorial races are not. According to State Law, if a candidate for a nonpartisan race gets the majority of the vote, meaning over 50 percent on Tuesday, they take the seat.
If there are several candidates, and no one gets over half, the race could go to a runoff in November, which would be a squaring-off between the top two.
The primary is why so many local politicians have been out canvassing for months. Take Nathan Alonzo and Tyler Maxwell, the only two candidates running for the City of Fresno’s District 4.
They both say they’ve knocked on or rung the doorbells of well over 20,000 doors throughout the campaign because Tuesday is the only day that matters.
Maxwell says even though he’s canvassing several hours a day, not everyone opens their door.
“You know, the kind of the rule of thumb is you're lucky if you can get about one in three people to open their door, that's a pretty good day,” Maxwell said.
But an energetic race like this one also wears some voters down, said Alonzo.
“At this point we're less than a week out and the thing that I'm getting at the door is, ‘Oh my God we've seen you, oh my God we know who you are, or oh my God we've gotten a billion mail pieces in the mail, we gotten your phone bankers, we’ve gotten the people that have sent texts’” Alonzo said, laughing. “At some point, in the political world you hit what’s called saturation.”
Alonzo hopes walking the district pays off, but he admits there are some downsides.
“I've got both ankle and knee braces, because I’ve actually rolled both ankles throughout this campaign,” said Alonzo.
Maxwell agrees, all of the walking takes a toll.
“When you're out there walking for yourself, several hours every single day, you get really tired and you get really sore,” Maxwell said. “I've had a couple close calls, almost getting bit by some dogs out there, but no serious injuries as of yet, knock on wood.”
Ivy Cargile, the political scientist from CSU Bakersfield, says this strategy of face-to-face outreach and lots of contact is what can make the difference in an election.
“We have to acknowledge the reality that the communities that are starting to get politically engaged have traditionally been underrepresented, have been taken for granted or have just been outright ignored,” said Cargile. “In order to make sure people come out and support you, you’ve to be able to talk to them and remind them you're not gonna ignore them, that they are the ‘average voter.’”
Whether you have been inundated with door knockers, phone calls, or mailers, here’s yet another reminder that the election is on Tuesday. If you like your elected official or don’t, now would be a good time to speak up with your vote.