April 25, 2018

Many Unhappy Returns: Topanga Election Results


Topanga Canyon voters overwhelmingly chose John Kerry over George W. Bush in this month’s 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).


Since the Topanga community’s 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 County’s “Topanga” totals, on the other hand, is the precinct which begins at the upper end of Fernwood—including Croydon and Medley Lanes—and continues up Tuna and Saddlepeak. This precinct is apparently counted as Malibu (it’s in the Malibu school district also), but many of these residents would call themselves Topangans.

The Messenger’s tally of the Topanga vote excludes the Sunset Mesa precinct, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible to accurately isolate the Medley Lane/Croydon/Tuna voters from the Malibu totals, so they also are not included in the following figures.


Many Unhappy Returns: Topanga Election Results

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 Bush’s 18.1, proving—if it needed proof—that Topanga votes to the left not only of the nation, but of the State of California—which went for Kerry over Bush by 54.3 to 44.6 percent—and 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 can’t 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 race—29 votes for Michael Badnarik to David Cobb’s 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 452—81.2 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-dwellers—21.9 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 haven’t changed at all since 2000, taking into account the absence of Ralph Nader from this year’s 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 Kerry’s 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 “no’s.” This 60.64 to 39.36 percent outcome contrasted with the State’s 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 measures—68 and 70—by 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 vain—the proposal was nixed by a slim 50.9 to 49.1 percent gap statewide.


Perusing the returns for Topanga’s 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, Kerry’s winning margin was a mere 58.06 percent over Bush’s 40.8—much closer to California’s 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. 66’s tampering with the “three strikes” law. Staunch capitalists that they are, they also joined with the rest of the state in poo-poo’ing 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 Messenger’s definition of Topanga, not the County’s), 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 don’t reside in a battleground state, it would appear that Topangans are above average in doing their civic duty. Topanga’s turnout would seem to compare favorably with California’s 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 Topanga’s turnout with nationwide statistics. The state of the Topanga registration rolls are unknown to this writer, nor do the County Registrar/Recorder’s election statistics supply the number of eligible vot