Low voter turnout isn't a Latino problem, it's a Philadelphia problem
I expected better from Tom Ferrick.
In a Feb. 17 Philly.com/The Next Mayor column, Ferrick asserts that mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz’s “Latino base” will not give Diaz a victory because Latinos experience low voter turnout rates. He makes an implicit (but erroneous) assumption that Diaz’s campaign strategy is limited to a Latino base in order to win the Democratic primary. He then goes on to minimize and tear up Hispanic voter turnout patterns to justify his conclusion: that Diaz will need a majority of non-Latinos in order to realize a victory.
Wow, what a revelation….
After all, isn’t that true for all the mayoral candidates? Can Lynne Abraham rely solely on her own so-called “White Base”or can Anthony Williams win the keys of the city by garnering votes exclusively from African American voters? I admit it’s a dumb question, so why does Tom Ferrick ask it of the only Latino candidate running for the highest office in this city? Every candidate who runs for office starts with a voter or community base which serves as an important campaign springboard. So what’s the point of Ferrick’s column?
Ferrick goes on to inexplicably isolate Diaz’s Latino base, pointing to lower voter participation rates as if this is a problem unique to the Hispanic community. He disregards the broader context. The fact is the city we love and call the “cradle of our democracy” unfortunately experiences some of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation. The recent history of mayoral elections describes a narrative no Philadelphian should be proud of. This history demonstrates that sadly, most people in our city don't vote — and most of these no-shows are non-Latinos.
In the 2007 open primary there were 750,254 registered democratic voters in the city. Seven (7) candidates ran (five, with 20,000 or more votes) and collectively brought out 291,492 voters to the polls. That’s a turnout rate of 38.8 percent. Put another way, 61 percent of democrats chose not to vote. And it got worse in 2011. In that democratic primary barely 19 percent of Philadelphia registered Democrats voted in the primary and 81 percent of Democrats stayed home. Thus, voter engagement (or a lack thereof) is obviously a serious challenge to be resolved by all of us collectively, as Philadelphians.
It is fair to ask a candidate how they plan to win and where they plan to get their votes. But I find it naive to minimize the importance of a Latino base, and to somehow infer a candidate like Diaz (the only Latino in the race) is incapable of galvanizing a culturally/racially diverse mobilization of voters. For such an accomplished award-winning journalist, I expected a lot better from Tom Ferrick.