A Tale of Two Cities

The voting precinct map (below) illustrates why there is a gap between the political power of north and south Fresno. Voters north of Shaw Avenue are more conservative and have a much higher voter turnout than voters in the southern half of the city. Look at the numbers from the November 2010 election. Precinct 315, for example, is in northwest Fresno and had a voter turnout of 74 percent. They voted for Meg Whitman over Jerry Brown by a 72 percent to 26 percent margin.

Precinct 9, in the heart of southwest Fresno, had a 29 percent voter turnout. They voted for Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman by a margin of 88 percent to 6 percent. Progressive political analysts believe that voter suppression plays a role in why the conservatives in north Fresno politically dominate the city.

Sabina Gonzalez, campaign director for Communities for a New California, recently said that the Registrar of Voters’ consolidation of voting precincts just before the November election, had a disproportionate impact on the voters of southwest and southeast Fresno. Some voters had to walk 2 miles (one way) to get to their polling place.

The lack of polling locations is in addition to the many other hardships already faced by the less affluent residents in the southern part of the city. Other stumbling blocks include getting time off from work, transportation problems and being turned away at the polls. If you move, you must register at your new address and because people in poorer areas of town tend to move more, they are often not on the registration rolls when they go to vote. They are supposed to be given a provisional ballot, but that does not always happen. With the huge increase in the number of people being sent to prison, which affects the less affluent parts of town more, most of those people are also unable, ineligible, or confused about their voting rights. In short, the election game is stacked against the poor and disadvantaged and in favor of the rich and powerful.

If there was a level playing field, both in respect to voting rights and if public financing of elections was implemented, it might be possible for democracy to be restored. What we are left with, until that happens, is a Tale of Two Cities, as illustrated in this precinct map.

  • Mike Rhodes is a writer for the Community Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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