Los Angeles’ budget for 2014-15 tops $8.1 billion, which is bigger than the budgets of about a dozen states. In the coming months, the city must grapple with some serious questions, many related to how to spend that money, such as the funding of pensions; hiring and retention of police officers, firefighters, city attorneys and other city employees; building and maintaining our city’s infrastructure; and alleviating traffic. Dismal voter turnout numbers create a system in which we have a ‘voting class’ that makes the decisions for the rest of the city’s constituents. So it is more than a little distressing that so few bother to take part in our government by voting. Less than one quarter of registered voters showed up in the May 2013 municipal election. That was an election with a competitive race for mayor. Even fewer showed up — 17.9% — in the 2009 mayoral election when incumbent Antonio Villaraigosa ran against largely unknown challengers. The city has about 1.8 million registered voters, 47% of the city’s residents. It is worth noting that these voters are not reflective of the makeup of the city. Registered voters are older, whiter, better educated and typically wealthier. Unregistered residents fall into two categories: those who cannot vote (because they are underage, not citizens or felons) and those who do not want to.
What happens when only about 23% of those registered show up to the polls, as happened in the 2013 mayoral election? Eric Garcetti won with about 222,300 votes, or only 12% of registered voters. That means fewer than 5.7% of the people in Los Angeles cast a ballot for the person who leads the city. This says nothing about whether Garcetti was a good candidate; it does demonstrate that very few people affected by his decisions showed up to vote. Such dismal voter turnout numbers create a system in which we have a “voting class” that makes the decisions for the rest of the city’s constituents. Those who chose not to vote are ceding an enormous amount of power to those who do.
What can we do about this? There is one suggestion to increase voter turnout that will be put to a vote because it changes the City Charter. Oh, the irony. That proposal would consolidate city elections with state and federal elections. The change would take effect in 2020 and 2022. The terms of sitting representatives would be extended to allow local, state and federal elections to align on the same date. Currently, city elections are held in March and May of odd-numbered years and are not tied to state and federal elections.
Full Article: How to get more Angelenos to the ballot box – LA Times.