Boardman: Why you may not like the election results, and other voting tidbits |

Boardman: Why you may not like the election results, and other voting tidbits

George Boardman
John Hart/ | The Union

Observations from the center stripe: Pick a number edition

PEOPLE KEEP saying the Amgen Tour of California bike race will provide an economic boost to Nevada City, but nobody can quantify it, and nobody seems to care enough to figure it out … BED FELLOWS? Among the campaign signs outside the entrance to Lake of the Pines is one promoting an Auburn car salesman … THE SACRAMENTO Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle have remade their home pages again. You’ll like them if you enjoy endless scrolling … I DON’T know what’s worse about the Ebola scare: The “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” spinmeisters in the Obama Administration, or the grandstanding by members of Congress … COLLEGE TOWNS are well know for their hypersensitivity to political correctness, so it should not have surprised the operators of the Illegal Pete’s burrito chain that they would catch flak when they opened a store in Fort Collins, Colo. Apparently there’s a campaign to ban the “I-word” from discussions of immigration policy … THERE WAS a time when newspaper endorsements counted for a lot in elections. Now, they’re like a kiss from your sister: Nice to have, but something you can live without …

Many people will be unhappy regardless of who emerges victorious in the Nov. 4 general election.

They’ll be grousing at work the next day, writing letters to the editor bemoaning the stupidity of their fellow Californians, and buying bumper stickers that say, “Don’t blame me, I voted for (fill in the blank).”

Chances are good that the people who complain the loudest won’t vote election day, guaranteeing the outcome won’t reflect a representative sampling of the state’s population.

California has more than 24 million residents who are eligible to vote, but just 18 million of them are registered, and less than half of those are expected to vote next week.

Those who do vote won’t be representative of the population at large. Particularly in a non-presidential election, California voters tend to be whiter, older, better educated and more affluent than the state’s population as a whole.

This is particularly evident in the age of voters. About 31 percent of California’s adult population is 55 or older, and 45 percent of them are likely to vote. The state’s 18 to 32 year olds make up 32 percent of the population, but only 18 percent of them are likely to vote.

If you compare the racial make-up of California residents with the racial make-up of those most likely to vote, you would think I’m describing two different states:

Whites make up 39 percent of the population, but 62 percent of the voters; Latinos: 38.4 percent/17 percent; Asians: 13.9 percent/ 11 percent; Blacks: 6 percent/ 6 percent. (The remainder identify with other racial groups.)

So if you don’t like the outcome of the election next week, you may find the reason for your unhappiness in the mirror.

— — —

At first glance, the opportunity to choose between two Democrats to be the next state superintendent of public instruction doesn’t appear to be much of a choice. In fact, this race will send a message about how Californians view the state’s education establishment.

The race pits incumbent Tom Torlakson against charter school advocate Marshall Tuck, who is making his campaign a referendum on the failing status quo. There’s plenty of evidence on his side.

California’s education establishment has been long on excuses and short on results in recent years. Take last year’s National Assessment of Education Progress for example. California fourth graders scored 47th in reading and 46th in math nationwide; just 27 percent are proficient in reading.

These numbers can’t be explained away by the state’s large population of minority students who aren’t proficient in English when they start school. Half as many Hispanic fourth graders in California are proficient in reading as in Florida, which spends less per pupil than we do.

The situation isn’t much in those parts of the state with few minorities, like Nevada County. We learned in September that students in the Nevada Joint Union High School District failed to meet state standards on high school exit exams for the third year in a row. If you adjust for race, Nevada County schools are average white schools by California standards, hardly a ringing endorsement.

You would think somebody would be held accountable for this sorry performance, but that’s not the case thanks to California’s rigid teacher tenure laws. Over the last decade, only 19 teachers have been fired for sub par performance.

Tuck wants to change those laws while Torlakson, with the backing of the state’s teachers unions, likes the tenure laws we have. Tuck won’t be able to magically transform the state’s schools if he gets elected, but he can start pushing for the reforms that are needed to make them better.

— — —

Republicans should be careful what they wish for, especially if their dreams come true and they gain control of the U.S. Senate next week. Then they will actually have to start governing.

First, they won’t exactly have a mandate for change. The GOP has articulated no plan other than its opposition to anything associated with Barack Obama, and the Republicans are held in as low esteem by the public as any Democrat you can mention.

“What I’m hearing from my pollster friends is that people don’t like Republicans and they don’t like Obama,” Senator John McCain said last week. “I’m afraid we’re going to see a very low turnout this election, and that’s not healthy for … any of us.”

Republicans will have to work with the president if they want to pass legislation because they won’t have enough votes in the Senate to override a veto. A recent NBC News/WSJ poll suggests voters want cooperation: 50 percent said they want consensus-seekers, up from 34 percent four years ago.

The GOP managed to find common ground when Bill Clinton was president, and maybe they can do it again. Granted, it won’t be easy if Obama continues to automatically oppose everything proposed by Republicans. But if they are content to engage in retribution and score settling, the GOP will just set the stage for the election of Clinton’s wife in 2016.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays in The Union.

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