L.A. Ethics Panel Wants to Use Cash Prizes to Boost Voter Turnout

L.A. Ethics Panel Wants to Use Cash Prizes to Boost Voter Turnout

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has a wonderful, tax-friendly idea to draw more voters to the polls: pay them.

Voting on Thursday to send the idea to City Council President Herb Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, the plan calls for financial incentives and a random drawing. If the money required is too exorbitant, the city would need a ballot measure to raise the funds.

Commission president Nathan Hochman said, “Maybe its $25,000, maybe its $50,000. 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.” He suggested that surplus matching funds allotted to people running for office who consent to certain requirements could be used to fund the vote program.

In the 2013 mayoral election, only 23% of eligible voters cast their votes. On Tuesday, a special school board election only drew 10% of voters.

The idea surfaced on Thursday when Wesson met with the committee. Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti had discussed the idea of moving the city’s elections to even-numbered years two months ago.

Although federal law does not allow voters receiving payment for voting, Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, who wants to use a lottery to pay for the voters, contends that because the voters would not be casting their votes for federal positions, the use of funds to stimulate voters is permissible, the Times reports. Another advocate argued that the lottery would only lure people to the voting booth, not ask them to vote a particular way.