Election Recap: Absentee Ballots Key in Malibu City Council Race

Patterson, Peak, Lyon

As the dust settles in the aftermath of Malibu’s local election season, final results from last Tuesday’s city council election revealed that absentee voters carried this year’s winners—incumbents Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal—across the finish line . 

Official results released by City Clerk Lisa Pope last week show slate candidates Andy Lyon and Hamish Patterson won 4 of 7 precincts based on walk-in votes the day of the election, but they were nonetheless trumped by incumbents Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal’s powerful absentee ballot showing. 

Absentee votes outnumbered day-of and provisional ballot votes by nearly 400, as 1,730 absentee ballots were mailed in, 1,223 ballots were cast at the polls and 144 provisional ballots were filed at the polls the day of the election. 

Michael Shires, a Pepperdine professor and expert on local government, said voter tendencies are changing, and the latest election reflected that. 

“Elections now start about a month before voting day,” Shires said. “More experienced campaigners tend to start on that part of the vote, because you don’t have to worry about [the variability of Election Day].” Campaigns driven by strong sentiment on particular issues may see large turnout at polls in comparison to absentee ballots, Shires said. “Typically when you have a very populist campaign, and are riding emotion and momentum, those tend to be more targeted on election day polls, because then you can knock on your neighbor’s door and say let’s go vote. You can ride intensity,” Shires said. 

When asked about his campaign efforts, Lyon said the clock ran out on he and Patterson, and many absentee voters pledged their allegiance early on to La Monte and Rosenthal. 

“We ran out of time … the other side had that absentee bloc pretty locked in for a long time,” said Lyon, who spent most of Election Day holding up campaign signs with Patterson along Pacific Coast Highway in the Civic Center. 

“[La Monte and Rosenthal] got that serious block of people that have voted the same way the last three or four elections, we sort of jumped in there and got in on it,” Lyon said. 

Lyon and Patterson had their strongest showings in western Malibu, where the majority of ballots cast on April 8 at the Malibu West Swim Club, Malibu High and Malibu United Methodist Church were in their favor. (To view a full precinct breakdown, visit malibutimes.com.) 

For La Monte, the last minute voter push at the polls elicited little shock. He said the Lyon/ Patterson campaign employed some late tactics, including the release of a campaign newspaper called The Malibu Tribune blasting the current city council, which likely helped get some last-minute walk-up votes. 

“I wasn’t surprised, and toward the end [of the campaign] they poured in an awful lot of money,” said La Monte. “The newspaper—the Malibu Tribune —the robo calls…there was a lot of money behind the campaign. So I wasn’t surprised at what they accomplished.” 

Final financial statements have yet to be filed, but Lyon on Tuesday estimated that he and Patterson had raised the least amount of funds. The first candidate statements—filed in early March—showed the slate team had raised a combined $5,390, while Louks, La Monte and Rosenthal had well over $10,000 each in their coffers. 

Approximately 33.7 percent of eligible voters participated in the election, a heated race in which three challengers—Lyon, Patterson and June Louks—took on incumbents and eventual winners, La Monte and Rosenthal. The 2014 turnout marked a three percent increase from 2012 when 30.9 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. 

“[This year] was still a fairly low turnout, but what you saw this time as compared to last time was the intensity because it was contested,” Shires said. “And the candidates worked hard to turn out voters. You usually don’t see that with incumbents. People worked hard to build a grassroots organization.”