For a few brief hours this afternoon the City of Riverside was the center of the national political universe, with both Democratic presidential contenders holding separate rallies shaking hands…kissing babies…and posing for smiling selfies in hopes of gaining our vote on Election Day.
Supporters were enthusiastic, lining up for hours prior to the scheduled events in hopes of being among the highly charged crowds inside the auditoriums…Unfortunately, it is a level of excitement often reserved for presidential election campaigns, not something we see each and every time there is an election. According to Fair Vote, a non-partisan organization that seeks to make democracy more representative, roughly 20 percent more of the eligible voting population votes during presidential elections than during the midterms. We fail to understand that many more of the decisions that affect us daily are made in city hall council chambers and on local elected boards, resulting in so few of us even bothering to cast a ballot.
And if we learned nothing from the recent arrests of former City of Beaumont officials charged with 94 felonies in alleged activities that span two decades and include the embezzlement and misappropriation of $43 million in public funds, we learned that we should be engaged at all levels of government, and not just the contest for the country's highest office.
At a recent private event in Riverside, Secretary of State Alex Padilla proudly announced that we have one million new voters in California, but there are seven million eligible voters in the state who are not registered. The majority of those are in Central and Southern California, with half of those in and around Los Angeles and the other half split between the Central Valley and right here in the Inland Empire.
A good friend, who happens to be a Republican, is actually pretty unsatisfied with the top of the ticket options. He is, instead focusing on all the down ticket contests. And there is much at stake there. We will be selecting a new U.S. Senator, the first in California since 1992. We have congressional, judicial, state senate and assembly seats. Locally, there are several mayoral seats in cities like Riverside, Rialto and Perris. There are water board positions, school board races, and measures on the ballot that can change the way our cities operate.
The presidential election "got them in," Secretary of State Padilla said with the hope that they "stay engaged at all levels of government." Let's hope it serves as more of a "gateway drug" for the democratic process, that will get them hooked and hopefully addicted to voting each and every time.