It’s one of the worst ideas we’ve heard in a long time: Last week, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission floated a plan to offer cash prizes as an incentive to get Angelenos to vote in local elections. Sheer desperation, as far as we can tell, led the commission to propose an election day lottery, with a jackpot of $1,000 or more that might persuade more registered voters to go to the polls. Would it work? Probably. But it’s still a bad idea. The folks pushing the lottery concept are well-intentioned and obviously disheartened by Los Angeles’ record of terrible voter turnout. Just 23% of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot in last year’s mayoral election. Last week, turnout was an abysmal 9.5% for a Los Angeles Unified School Board special election. But dangling a cash prize over the polls is a cynical and superficial pseudo-solution that fails to address the deeper reasons why people don’t vote. If the Ethics Commission and the City Council want to increase engagement and participation on election day — and they should — they would do better to focus on specific changes that make it easier to cast a ballot, while also getting to work on larger, longer-term reforms that could help counter the pervasive civic malaise that prevents so many Angelenos from feeling engaged in the democratic process.
There are plenty of proposals out there to boost turnout. One is to change L.A.’s election dates. Voters currently cast ballots for city offices in March primaries and May general elections in odd-numbered years. The Municipal Elections Reform Commission, appointed after the embarassingly low-turnout 2013 election, recommended moving local elections to June and November of even-numbered years, to coincide with gubernatorial and presidential elections that draw far greater participation. Of course, there are potential drawbacks to synchronizing local elections with state and federal ones — including cluttered ballots and increased campaign “noise” — but the advantages might make it worthwhile. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council should not rule it out.
Another proposal is to let people cast their ballots wherever they want. Eliminate the precinct voting model and put voting centers in highly visible, well-traveled locations, such as malls or schools. This would make voting more convenient.
Here’s another: Hold fewer special elections. They can cost $1 million each or more, yet they draw few participants and contribute to voter fatigue — the feeling of a never-ending election cycle. Instead, appoint people to fill vacancies until the next regularly scheduled election.
Full Article: The voter turnout conundrum in L.A. – LA Times.