Los Angeles residents headed to the polls Tuesday for the municipal elections, but voter turnout was low in precincts across the city.
USC and most of its students lie within the 8th District, one of the most hotly contested seats in this year’s elections. As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Councilman Bernard Parks had received 54.16 percent of the vote with two out of 95 precincts reporting. Forescee Hogan-Rowles, who received a large amount of support from local unions, had received 41.29 percent of the vote and Jabari Jumaane, a Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter and USC alum, had 4.56 percent.
The ballot measures in this year’s elections generally focused on fixing the city’s finances and included a proposition to curtail pension benefits for future hires in the fire and police departments, a proposition to prevent raids on the city’s reserve fund and a proposition to set aside more money for libraries hit hard by budget cuts.
As of 11:30 p.m., the early returns shows that 63.38 percent of voters favored the Public Library Funding and 72.74 percent of voters favored the Fire and Police Pension Plan.
“The big issue in any election, particularly with City Hall, is the budget deficit and the impact it will have on city services like fire services, libraries and city safety,” said David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations for USC. “Another huge issue in the 8th District is economic development.”
Galaviz added the university plays a major role in assisting the rest of the 8th District in dealing with these issues.
“USC has a history of being a strong civic leader with local government, including partnerships with community members for improving safety and hiring locally,” he said. “We have to continue being a stable job provider and economic development engine.”
Despite the issues facing the 8th District on this year’s ballot, several polling places around USC reported low voter turnout.
At 4:30 p.m., volunteers at the polling place at USC Hillel on Hoover Street reported having just 15 voters since polls opened at 7 a.m. The fire station on Jefferson Avenue reported 20 voters, and the polling station at Marks Tower on campus reported only two voters.
“I don’t think the ballot measures are something that the students are interested in, because it’s not a high-profile type of election,” said Veronica Cavanaugh, a volunteer working at Marks Tower. “I truly believe if it was like a presidential election they would all be here.”
Cavanaugh also said the polling place had many more students registered to vote in the precinct, and they are hoping more students would submit ballots through the mail.
Many students agreed the local elections simply weren’t enough to capture their attention.
Lu Li, a first-year graduate student studying social work, was not aware of the elections until he walked into the lobby of Marks Tower to play billiards.
“I saw everything set up and some people coming in, but I didn’t know what they were voting for,” Li said.
Low numbers of students turned out to the polls to vote, but the overall importance of political engagement was not lost on many students.
“I didn’t vote because I am an international student, but I still think it is important for students to participate in local elections, especially for U.S. citizens,” said Shuo Wang, a first-year graduate student studying computer science.
Galaviz said that despite low voter turnout for a city election, USC students generally know what is happening in their community and remain relatively engaged.
“They have a good amount of knowledge and a strong track record of being civically engaged,” Galaviz said. “They see the impact of the city budget situation on their everyday lives. The university does not exist in a vacuum; students are directly impacted by local policy in terms of economic development, parks, libraries and other local services.”