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Many Unhappy Returns: Topanga Election Results
November 18, 2004 - By Dan Mazur
Topanga Canyon voters overwhelmingly chose John Kerry over George W. Bush in this months election, confounding pundits who saw the Canyon as a dependable conservative bastion, and leading to insinuations of voter fraud...
Well, actually, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Topanga preferred Kerry to Bush by a margin of 2,005 to 484, or 79 to 18 percent, and that other Democratic candidates fared equally well in the Canyon. Here is a rundown of how Topangans chose to exercise their democratic rights (or lefts).
WHAT IS THE TOPANGA VOTE?
Since the Topanga communitys geographical borders are a bit subjective, defining the Topanga vote is to some extent a judgment call. The Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder includes six precincts in the Topanga community. Among these is a precinct consisting mainly of the Sunset Mesa area on Pacific Coast Highway, not generally considered part of the Topanga community. Not represented in the Countys Topanga totals, on the other hand, is the precinct which begins at the upper end of Fernwoodincluding Croydon and Medley Lanesand continues up Tuna and Saddlepeak. This precinct is apparently counted as Malibu (its in the Malibu school district also), but many of these residents would call themselves Topangans.
The Messengers tally of the Topanga vote excludes the Sunset Mesa precinct, but unfortunately it wasnt possible to accurately isolate the Medley Lane/Croydon/Tuna voters from the Malibu totals, so they also are not included in the following figures.
PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER
Volunteer Julie Levine checks the rolls as Topangans wait their turn at the RCD polling place.
As mentioned above, Kerry carried the Canyon with a whopping 78.8 percent to Bushs 18.1, provingif it needed proofthat Topanga votes to the left not only of the nation, but of the State of Californiawhich went for Kerry over Bush by 54.3 to 44.6 percentand of Los Angeles County, which Kerry won with 62.8 to 32.6 percent for Bush. Topanga favored Kerry by a far higher percentage than any state in the Union. We cant match the District of Columbia, though, which gave Kerry 90 percent of its votes!
None of the third party candidates for president made much of a showing in these parts. Interestingly, there were more Topangans voting Libertarian than Green in the Presidential race29 votes for Michael Badnarik to David Cobbs 19.
In the U.S. Senate race, Barbara Boxer came away with 1,933 votes in Topanga, 78.1 percent vs. Bill Jones 441, or 16.6 percent. On a statewide level, Boxer beat Jones by 57.7 to 38 percent, and in L.A. County, Boxer won by 66.5 to 28.9 percent.
Congressman Henry Waxman was approved for re-election by Topangans over his Republican rival Victor Elizalde, by 1,956 votes to 45281.2 percent to 18.8 percent.
For State Senate, Sheila Kuehl triumphed to the tune of 1,874 votes, or 77.9 percent over Republican Leonard Lanzi with 417 (17.3 percent), and Libertarian Colin Goldman, with 115 votes, or 4.8 percent.
Fran Pavley got 1,765 Topanga votes, 73.4 percent, while her Republican opponent, Heather Peters, was chosen by 508 Canyon-dwellers21.9 percent, and the Libertarian in the race, Richard Koffler, was inked in by 130, or 7.4 percent.
Despite all the events of the last four years, and for all the talk of a changing Canyon, Topangans political preferences havent changed at all since 2000, taking into account the absence of Ralph Nader from this years ballots. In that election, George W. Bush received 482 votes in the Canyon, compared with 484 this year. The combined Gore-Nader vote in 00 was 2,021, only a few votes more than Kerrys 2,005 total this time around.
Here is how Topanga voted on a few of the propositions on the ballot:
We agreed with the rest of the State in turning down the idea of open primaries, as Proposition 62 would have done, by a count of 1,353 to 982 (57.9 to 43.1 percent).
Canyon voters liked the idea of letting convicts go free more than Californians on the whole did. On Proposition 66, the changes to the three-strikes law, Topangans said yes 1,493 times to only 969 nos. This 60.64 to 39.36 percent outcome contrasted with the States 53.4 to 46.6 percent rejection of the measure.
We were in tune with the rest of California though, in trouncing both of the gambling-related measures68 and 70by large margins.
Topangans were all for state-bond-funded Stem Cell Research. Proposition 71 passed easily here, approved by 75.95 percent of Canyon voters, an even greater margin than the 59.1 percent of Californians who passed the measure.
And if it was up to Topanga, businesses would be required to provide healthcare for employees, as Measure 72 was favored by 59.8 percent of Canyon voters. All in vainthe proposal was nixed by a slim 50.9 to 49.1 percent gap statewide.
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE OF TOPANGA
Perusing the returns for Topangas five individual precincts, one finds a high level of consistency in terms of the percentages favoring Kerry over Bush, with one exception: the precinct that encompasses Top O Topanga and Viewridge clearly contains a higher concentration of our Republican-minded brethren. In that precinct, Kerrys winning margin was a mere 58.06 percent over Bushs 40.8much closer to Californias total results, though still more liberal-leaning than the U.S. as a whole.
They are more law-and-order- minded up toward the Valley as well, by 62.4 to 37.6 percentage points. That precinct rejected Prop. 66s tampering with the three strikes law. Staunch capitalists that they are, they also joined with the rest of the state in poo-pooing the health insurance requirements on businesses, downing Prop. 72 by 59.6 to 40.4 percent, significantly higher than its statewide defeat.
But before anyone starts shouting fascists! out the window on their way to the Westfield Mall, let it be noted that the Top O Topanga/Viewridge folks are compassionate conservatives: the Stem Cell Research measure went over there by a solid 63.4 to 36.6 percent.
According to precinct returns, there are 3,887 registered voters in Topanga (again, the Messengers definition of Topanga, not the Countys), of whom 2,562 cast ballots, for a turnout of 65.9 percent.
Nationwide, according to most estimates, the percentage of eligible voters who participated in the election was 59.6 percent. This represents a nearly 10 percent increase in turnout over 2000, with the greatest gains in turnout coming in battleground states.
Since we dont reside in a battleground state, it would appear that Topangans are above average in doing their civic duty. Topangas turnout would seem to compare favorably with Californias statewide turnout of 61.24 percent.
The problem is that we are comparing apples with oranges in this category: eligible voters are not the same as registered voters. Official turnout numbers use eligible as opposed to registered voters because it gives a clearer idea of public participation, but also because voter registry roles are likely to be less accurate than census numbers for eligible citizens. Different jurisdictions have different policies for cleaning up the registration roles. Voters who have moved away or died may still be counted, or, as Florida showed us in 2000, eligible voters can be wrongly excluded.
While one might assume that the number of registered voters would be less than the number of eligible voters, this is not always the case, for the reasons stated above. According to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, a non-partisan Washington D.C.-based group, several states, such as Alaska, Maine and Mississippi have registration rolls that exceed 100 percent of the voting age population.
Which still leaves us the problem of comparing Topangas turnout with nationwide statistics. The state of the Topanga registration rolls are unknown to this writer, nor do the County Registrar/Recorders election statistics supply the number of eligible vot