A controversial proposal to offer cash prizes to Los Angeles voters is dead — at least for next year’s city elections. Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said this week that he wanted more time to consider the idea of using money or other gifts to lure voters to the polls. For now, he is looking to persuade voters on March 3 to move city elections from odd- to even-numbered years — when state and federal contests are held — beginning in 2020. “I don’t want to overload the public,” Wesson said. “So I think we’re just going to focus on” the change in election dates. Wesson and his colleagues have spent much of this year looking at different proposals for improving L.A.’s dismal voter turnout, which fell to 23% in last year’s mayoral runoff election. Three months ago, the Ethics Commission caused a small uproar by recommending that Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee look at a lottery — one with prizes of $25,000 or $50,000 — as a tool for enticing Angelenos to cast ballots.
At the time, Wesson said he was intrigued by the idea. His colleagues were less enthusiastic. When a package of proposals for improving turnout came up for debate last month, Councilwoman Nury Martinez asked for the lottery idea to be removed and sent back to Wesson’s committee.
On Wednesday, Martinez said a lottery would have made “a mockery” of the city’s election system, doing little to ensure voters inform themselves on the candidates and ballot measures.