We had a wonderful 2014 Elections journey, and we’ve seen countless examples of Neighborhood Councils going the extra mile along the way. The EmpowerLA Elections Team is thankful for such great partners–from Boardmembers, to new candidates, to volunteers and staff members–who made it happen. We think the numbers speak for themselves.
This election season brought historic voter turnouts, intense candidate campaigns, unprecedented community engagement, and innovative voter outreach strategies. It was not without its challenges, as candidates vied for hotly contested seats and communities debated important issues.
Stay tuned for our Elections Report, where we’ll recap the 2014 Elections process and its many highlights in greater detail. For now, here are some of the impressive statistics about the recent election:
The Elections, at a glance:
There were 81 elections, 8 selections, and 5 affirmations with only 1 loss of quorum
Citywide voter turnout increased by 29% from 2012 – that’s 25,529 voters!
10 of 12 regions saw an increase in voter turnout over 2012
2,169 candidates filed for 1,268 seats, a 24.9% increase over 2012
Voters per Open Seat was up 32.1%
659 Volunteers ensured there was a warm welcome at the polls for each voter
20 Neighborhood Councils had historic high voter turnout!
45 Neighborhood Councils had increases in voters greater than 15%
We are happy to see Neighborhood Council elections growing, communities becoming more and more engaged with their neighborhood representatives, and people taking action on the issues that matter to them. The outreach strategies that the NCs employed clearly had an impact on the communities’ participation, and we hope to see these numbers continue to grow with each election season. Not only is it important not only for people to get out and vote for their new boardmembers, but it’s equally important that new community members with fresh voices engage as candidates and contribute to the discussions about how to improve their neighborhoods, increase the diversity of their neighborhood’s representatives, and contribute new viewpoints to the debates engaging our city’s leadership.
Election Venues, Food, and Entertainment
The choice of election venue can be a powerful draw or obstacle to getting people to vote. This year, many NCs chose creative public venues that placed the election right in the middle of an already busy area, such as a farmers’ market or a grocery store parking lot on a busy thoroughfare. Some also drew voters to them by creating a festive atmosphere around the election, with free food from local restaurants or food trucks, entertainment such as DJs and bands, moon bounces for children, and more. They kept their voters well-fed and happy with a variety of delicious local fare. From pastries and coffee to tacos, hot dogs, and barbecue, councils across the city provided free refreshments and snacks to voters who came out to their elections.
By hosting a community event, not just an election, neighborhood councils can simultaneously gain new voters, get the word out about their council, and encourage their community to participate in future meetings and events. It is also an opportunity to activate unused community spaces and shake up the usual routine in parks and other areas that may be lacking in activity, as well as engage stakeholders who are already participating in some community activity (for example, people playing sports or spending time with their families in a local park).
Outreach and NC Presence at Community Events
Neighborhood Councils got creative with their outreach efforts, blending old and new technologies in an attempt to reach a diverse cross-section of voters from across all ages and social groups. In addition to the usual mailers and phone calls, NCs also used email, text messaging, and social media platforms to broaden their reach, remind voters and candidates about upcoming elections and deadlines, and provide information about their candidates and the election process. They used their websites and Facebook pages to post candidate info and voter registration forms, which voters could fill out ahead of time and reduce the amount of time they had to spend at the polls. They also increased their audience by posting yard signs, bus bench ads, newspaper ads, and street banners, some in languages other than English, and making their presence known to the most casual passersby. Some councils even went to local radio stations to talk about the importance of voting and the role of neighborhood councils on their programs.
Neighborhood Councils also used larger community and city-wide events as opportunities to reach out to their constituencies, promote their NC’s work, and engage with community members. At this year’s CicLAvia events, neighborhood councils were out in full force with booths along the bike ride routes, providing an opportunity for weary riders to rest, learn about their neighborhood council, grab some free swag like water bottles and t-shirts, and participate in events such as guided art walks. Some councils set up tables at their local farmers’ markets for several weeks or months before the election to get the word out about their NC and encourage community members to get involved.
Not every outreach event has to be put on by your NC alone–taking part in larger events like CicLAvia and farmers’ markets can harness the collaborative power of multiple city agencies and organizations, as well as interest groups such as the cyclist community, and provide exposure to a wide-ranging group of constituents and supporters that you may not otherwise be able to reach. These events are a wonderful chance to engage those who may not even know that neighborhood councils exist and let them know about your council’s goals and activities.
We love seeing these creative outreach strategies, and we will continue to work with the NCs to engage their communities and use both new and time-tested methods for increasing participation and voter turnout. Read our article on Outreach Superstars to learn more about specific councils who went above and beyond the norm to engage their stakeholders!
This election season did not come without its challenges and difficulties, which were handled gracefully by board members, volunteers, and staff as they arose. EmpowerLA and the neighborhood council boards must continue to work together to clarify and enforce election rules, including when and where candidates are allowed to campaign and what seats stakeholders can run for or vote for, as well as to closely monitor the election process to prevent any allegations of fraud or vote tampering. The process ran, for the most part, smoothly, with only a few manageable bumps along the way. Many community members expressed a desire for more widespread outreach prior to election day, and requested that more information about the candidates be available at the polling locations. Some neighborhood councils chose to post their candidates’ statements at the election venue, which allowed voters to read up on the candidates before voting, even if they did not have previous knowledge of some of them. Others sent out mailers to their constituents before election day, detailing the candidates’ positions as well as the dates, times, and locations for voting. Providing candidate information at the polls (without electioneering) can be a powerful tool for encouraging new and knowledgeable voters and increasing your neighborhood’s participation.