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L.A. leaders call for panel to find ways to boost voter turnout

October 16, 2013|By David Zahniser
  • Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson.
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson called Wednesday for the creation of a citizen panel to look for ways of boosting the city's anemic voter turnout, months after fewer than one-fourth of the electorate took part in the mayoral election.

The proposed Municipal Elections Reform Commission would explore such ideas as changing the date of city elections, offering same-day voter registration, making absentee ballots more readily accessible and conducting special elections that are vote by mail only.

The proposal comes a week after the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based nonprofit group, issued a report saying elections in odd-numbered years inhibit voter turnout and skew the makeup of the electorate. Los Angeles' elections are held in odd years, while state and federal elections occur on even-numbered ones.

“It’s important that we explore ways to make it easier for people to make their voices heard," Wesson said in a statement.

In L.A.'s March primary election -- which had contests for mayor, city attorney, city controller and city council -- turnout was 20.8%. Turnout in the runoff two months later reached 23.3%.

Participation in the city's mayoral contests peaked at 76% in 1969, when then-City Councilman Tom Bradley challenged incumbent Mayor Sam Yorty. That year, 856,174 voters cast ballots -- more than double the total in the May runoff election.

Under the Garcetti-Wesson proposal, the new commission would submit its recommendations to Garcetti and the council by May 14, 2014. It would have four members chosen by Garcetti, four selected by Wesson and a ninth jointly named by the mayor and the council president.

Garcetti said he looks forward to the panel's recommendations. "City Hall works better when we the people's voice is strong," he said.


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