On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times bemoaned the low turnout in Tuesday’s election, but noted that despite the paucity of voters, voters approved L.A. charter amendments that intend to align future municipal campaigns with state and federal elections.
The Washington Post reported that only about nine percent of registered voters voted, the lowest turnout since 2003.
Dan Schnur, co-chair of the committee that pushed for the amendments, told the Times, “This was the important first step to take. But it’s only a first step. Ultimately it’s not just about convenience. It’s about motivation.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “It’s a bad thing when we have voter turnout that low. Hopefully the change will give us some higher turnout,” according to the Daily News.
Los Angeles has seen a plunge in voting of over 50% in the last forty years. The Times quoted a member of the election reform nonprofit FairVote complaining that a small electorate, often older and whiter, votes and decides for the general electorate.
L.A. leaders, unsatisfied with the current turnout, have alternate plans, including street banners announcing Election Day, leaving voter registration forms on public counters, and instituting registration drives where voters have been absent from voting. They point to a higher turnout rate in cities that have their elections coincide with state and national races.
Yet some leftist critics of the amendments fear that local issues will be lost among the larger issues that interest voters. Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats, told the Times that local candidates will have to spend more to have their message heard, adding, “It’s a costlier environment in which candidates will need to get a message out.”
Michael P. McDonald, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Times, “Mail balloting seems to be one solution. The other is just holding an interesting election, but we really can’t dictate holding an interesting election.”