It was yet another local election with a dismal voter turnout--less than 18% of those eligible citywide bothered to vote. Yet ironically, it was an election that also demonstrated in dramatic terms how very much every single vote counts.
Four races have been particularly close--so close that a few votes here and there might have created different winners. It remains to be seen if about 12,000 yet-to-be-counted absentee ballots citywide will make a decisive difference. But as of now, here are a few figures to consider the next time someone says his or her vote really doesn't matter:
In the L.A. City Council race for the 9th District in South-Central Los Angeles to replace the late Gilbert Lindsay, the semiofficial results placed Rita Walters, who appears to be the winner, and Bob Gay only 208 votes apart. In the neighboring 8th District, the gap between Mark Ridley-Thomas, who seems to be the victor, and Rod Wright was 380 votes.
In the Board of Education race, Barbara Boudreaux's margin of victory over Sterling Delone was put at 422. In the San Fernando Valley's 12th District, where there was a higher turnout, only 746 out of more than 32,000 votes cast separated Councilman Hal Bernson and challenger Julie Korenstein. And in the Democratic primary to replace former Assemblyman Mike Roos in the mid-Wilshire 46th Assembly District, the margin between the top two candidates, Barbara Friedman, who appears to have won, and John Emerson, was a slim 114.
And so, once again it's the little things that make the difference. Ask Mayor Tom Bradley. He slipped up by accidentally approving for ballot consideration a measure that he had not intended to sign; now he--and unfortunately, future mayors--are stuck with Proposition 5, which increases the power of the City Council to second-guess city commissions. (These commissions were created under the City Charter to limit the influence of politicians!)
The brightest spot of news in the whole election is that the City Council will have two new members, Ridley-Thomas and Walters, who once competed for Walters' school board seat. We hope each will bring fresh ideas, effective approaches and a good measure of common sense to a council body that now, for better or for worse, has even more power over the quality of life for the people of Los Angeles.