Alarmed that fewer than one-fourth of voters are showing up for municipal elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to recommend that the City Council look at using cash prizes to lure a greater number of people to the polls. On a 3-0 vote, the panel said it wanted City Council President Herb Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to seriously consider the use of financial incentives and a random drawing during its elections, possibly as soon as next year. Depending on the source of city funds, the idea could require a ballot measure. Commissioners said they were unsure how big the prizes should be or how many should be offered, saying a pilot program should first be used to test the concept. “Maybe it’s $25,000 maybe it’s $50,000,” said Commission President Nathan Hochman. “That’s where the pilot program comes in — to figure out what … number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box.”
Only 23% percent of registered voters cast ballots in last year’s mayoral election, prompting suggested solutions from an array of civic leaders. On Tuesday, turnout in a special school board election fell below 10%, according to preliminary numbers.
The idea of an election day lottery came up Thursday during an appearance by Wesson before the commission. During that discussion, Hochman suggested that surplus matching funds — money provided to candidates who agree to certain spending restrictions — could cover the cost of election day prizes.