District 4 Special Election Wastes Time, Money

San Jose’s City Council decided that District 4 residents will have a special election to fill the seat of Kansen Chu, who is moving on to the State Assembly. They could have simply appointed someone—a far better and less expensive option.

Recent voter turnout shows that people are not interested in voting. As a group, they sent a loud message to the body politic: “Don’t bother us.” The paltry turnout in the midterm elections was a statement of indifference that should have resonated with local leaders.

The handwringing for democracy and insistence on elected representation is coming from the minority. Special interests are the ones who vote. The people who need representation most—the poor, young, ethnic minorities and women—simply don’t vote. Let’s stop fighting that fact and accept it.

Reasons for voter apathy are well chronicled. Ballots are too long, campaigns too uncivil, messages too trite—and most importantly: studying up takes time and energy. With everything going on in people’s lives, the public refuses to have its entertainment interrupted for issues of consequence. It really is too much to ask. It hurts their collective brains.

It’s fashionable in our system of government to blame elected officials, the system, the corrosive effect of money in politics, the ugly campaigning, the length of the ballot and the overwhelming sense that nothing changes. Rarely does anybody blame the real problem—the public. Such an analysis is impolitic; nobody ever wants to offend, at least not out loud.

But election results are significant and have significant consequences. We live in an entitled era, when most people can still give you the names of three deceased stooges but not a single Supreme Court justice. Most people today are ignorant of their history, their laws and their governance. It is tragic that the last, best hope of mankind is left in the hands of the willfully ignorant masses who make up a majority of our citizenry.

As Winston Churchill said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

The District 4 race will be full of sound and fury. But voter turnout will be less than 25 percent of the registered voters and less than 13 percent of the eligible electorate. The ultimate winner may or may not be competent to hold public office. But the majority of the public simply doesn’t care.

Of course, a political race is good for business. Thousands of dollars will be spent convincing the 20 percent of people who happen to remember the date of the election, whether informed or not, that all but one of the candidates is evil. And the winner will get to run again in less than two years for re-election. Of course, this assumes the antiquated and incompetent Registrar of Voters office will have the votes counted before the next election cycle.

The cost of having an election is a waste of public funds. We should heed the voters silence as a call to simply leave them alone. If and when they get worked up enough to participate, only then should the body politic consider having an election. As it stands now, the entire exercise is a farce.

We no longer live in a democracy, and we have abandoned the thought of a republic. What we have is a small oligarchy that controls the government through money and the limited participation of those who have resources. The irony is that, if the masses chose to do something, they could change that dynamic simply by educating themselves and participating.

But their collective silence is deafening. They do not want to be bothered with such decisions. Let’s respect their will—most won’t even realize what happened.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Rich…you fail to mention that by appointment it allows the city council to “stack” votes a certain way. Right now the new city council is pretty much evenly divided amongst measure b or if you will sam liccardo supporters and those that wish a negotiated settlement. As such, an appointment could easily swing power one way or the other. The only way to be fair to the residents and ultimately the tax payers is to let those that are going to be paying the bill decide the outcome.

  2. [Translation]
    Some of my candidates didn’t win. Instead of taking accountability for some of the wrongs my party has been doing (defending Campos) I’m going to blame anyone but ourselves, I’m going to blame the voters.

    Rich this is the biggest threat to the party. This is what voters are sick of. I’ve been asked so many times, “Rob, why did your cousin endorse Campos?”

    (full disclosure, I don’t know, and had I been in his shoes I wouldn’t have)

    As far as voter turnout, sure, San Jose has a million people, but our voter registration lists are dated. During my door knocks I’ve encountered so many houses of “Oh, we just rent from so and so” We have a huge population of H1B and EB5. Folks that couldn’t vote if they wanted to (but nothing to keep them from donating or campaigning)

    This is about the most disingenuous thing I’ve ever seen you write. Good job on topping yourself buddy!

    • Something else to throw out here, because even IF a smidgen of what I say gets through that thick skull of yours.

      Dave would have won had he not been forced to endorse Campos. It still would have been a close race, but at least people wouldn’t have held that against him.

      • FORCED to endorse Campos? Who held the gun to his head, Cousin Cortese? All his endorsement shows is that he is just another whore for the Chavez/SBLC folks. SBLC top dog is Ben Field, suspended from law practice by the State Bar for repeated unethical conduct.

        • FORCED to endorse Campos? Who held the gun to his head, Cousin Cortese?

          JMO if only you’ve seen and heard half the things I have… Maybe not forced, but heavily cohered? When I helped Herrera on her reelection campaign, I was followed by the same scumbags that had an altercation with her husband. That’s just the things I have personal experience with.

          The rumors are pretty spectacular if some of them are true. I won’t go down the list of ones I heard. I should name names and do some shames, but I won’t right now.

          Having been around the dems as much as I have, I can tell you without a flickering of doubt though that those high level told everyone to defend Shirakawa/Campos. I can tell you I watched Magdelena Carrasco get less then a welcoming when she introduced herself to the club after her election.

          This last election, the nastyness wasn’t nearly as bad as it was a few years ago. The consultants have gotten sloppy, having slipped one too many times it’s becoming apparent to voters who’s pulling the strings.

          Still though, they want to preserve that power. Just gonna stop here because this is getting rantish.

          • I agree with you that Dave’s endorsement of Campos and a few of his associates cost him the election.

            Picturing Dave on the 18th floor lining up with hat in hand to return favors was too much for me…the labor unions who endorsed these same corrupt politicians thought they were helping out, but ended up being his biggest liability.

            If Dave had cast himself as the outsider out to defeat the city council that could have arguably been blamed for causing SJs current state rather than being labors candidate he wouldve won – and possibly by a touchdown.

  3. At first I thought this was a joke. Regardless of the turnout, voting is part of the fabric of this country. I’d trust even a low voter turnout over a small group of Rich Robinsons making decisions for everyone. You blame low turnout on the public and yes, the public should shoulder a good portion of the blame, but there’s also plenty of blame for the game of politics as well, as practiced by people like yourself. Voters have been turned off by a lack of honesty and integrity, of managed sound bites and candidates unwilling to say what they really believe. Take a close look at your chosen profession, Robinson.

  4. Why not do away with elections. Just let the outgoing body appoint the new body. That would save a bunch of money wouldn’t it? People don’t vote anyway, why not just eliminate elections entirely?

  5. Thats just sheer stupidity , Yeah , lets allow Liccardo to stack the Council in his favor . A special election is the only way to go , really don’t care what it cost. This City has and will continue to waste millions upon millions on stupid lawsuits ( most of which they will lose)

  6. “We live in an entitled era, when most people can still give you the names of three deceased stooges but not a single Supreme Court justice. Most people today are ignorant of their history, their laws and their governance. It is tragic that the last, best hope of mankind is left in the hands of the willfully ignorant masses who make up a majority of our citizenry.”

    Thank you Rich for pointing out what a generation of liberal education policies have achieved. The dumbing down of America.

    • I forgot to point out that all of the people you helped put into office – and gave lauded on this and other websites – actually created these failed policies.

      I’m not sure if we can undo what you have helped do to save this once great state.

  7. Peter Pan:

    Speak for yourself big guy, most of the voters I know are intelligent, up to date on their politics, know ALL of the supreme court justices, and are liberal. I’m sure they had your ilk in mind when they voted in opposite of your ballot.

  8. Women don’t vote, Rich? Electioneering is your profession, dude, get it together! Women have higher turnout rates than men, that’s a clear-cut fact.

    There’s too much absurdity in this article for me to even attempt addressing the rest. I’ll just say that the arguments you use to gripe against this special election 1) frequently contradict each other and 2) broadly apply to all of American democracy, begging the question of whether or not you think we should have any elections.

  9. If an incumbent is appointed, then he will have a HUGE advantage when the next regular election rolls around. That is hyper undemocratic. I also find the argument that elections are too expensive, to be quite asinine. I assume any person making that argument is either being disingenuous due to their political biases, or is frankly an imbecile.

  10. When The Warren Court declared that action was speech, it started this country down the slippery slope to Citizens United. Now we’re fuc*#d.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *