Voters apathetic in Tahoe |

Voters apathetic in Tahoe

The final day to register for the California primary election is Feb. 7. Voter participation in the city of South Lake Tahoe is among the lowest in El Dorado County, said Joe Pepi, who registers voters at the Lake Tahoe Community College for the Democratic Club.

“It only takes five minutes to register,” Pepi said. “If I get 20 people registered a day it’s a good number.”

Out of 22,000 residents, only 8,500 are registered voters. In the 1998 election, less than half of those registered bothered to fill out a ballot.

Democratic voters make up 41 percent of the city total and Republican voters account for 32 percent, 18 percent consider themselves non-partisan, 9 percent belong to smaller parties, and 2 percent are permanent absentee voters.

Pat Frega from the Democratic Central Committee, said South Shore is a predominantly working-class community and has more citizens voting for Democratic candidates than the rest of the Tahoe Basin.

Percentage-wise, CSLT party membership is the same as last year, Frega said. The big problem facing South Shore is the transient population.

“When we register voters, a lot of newcomers will register and three years later they are gone,” Frega said.

Dave Titus, the chairman for the Republican Central Committee, said voter participation at South Shore is less because of the seasonal and transient population. He thinks there are more Democrats in the region because residents want to maintain government accountability.

Whatever reasons explain the low voter turnout in South Lake Tahoe, Titus said everybody has a stake in election outcomes.

“There are billions of dollars either headed, or not headed to the Lake Tahoe region,” Titus said. “Whether you are pro-growth or anti-growth, you have absolute reason to be involved.”

Students at the Lake Tahoe Community College are able to register in the commons area, but do they bother?

LTCC students Shayne Warnick, 19, and Gillian Burdge, 19, aren’t planning on it.

“I just think if I know I’m not going to vote it’s just a waste of time to register,” Warnick said. He said his friends are registered, but don’t vote.

“I don’t think it is that important to people around here,” Burdge said.

Both students think that they will vote when they get older, when there are issues they will care about.

“Maybe in four years,” Warnick said.

For now, “everybody would rather snowboard,” he added.

Warnick’s feelings on voting are not unique to this area, said Titus.

“Recreational communities basically have so many other things to do besides vote,” he said.

There are those who do vote, however.

Jennifer Clinch, 28, registered to vote Wednesday at LTCC. Clinch thinks voting is important, “because now I have kids,” she said. She has three children, ages 11, 5, and 1.

Frega said the future of South Shore’s voter profile depends on how the community continues to grow. If affordable housing is not addressed for the area, Frega thinks working-class people could be priced out of the housing market which would alter party affiliations.

If you want to register, but are unable to during the day, you’re in luck. South Lake Tahoe Safeway grocers have partnered with California Secretary of State Bill Jones and the California Grocers Association to participate in Voter Registration Week.

Stores will have registration materials available at customer service counters to make the process convenient for people who are unable to register during business hours.

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