'Dismal' Doesn't Even Begin To Describe LA's Voter Turnout

People voting in polling place
People voting in polling place

With fewer than one out of 10 eligible voters casting ballots at Los Angeles polls Tuesday, America's second-largest city continued a pattern of shockingly low election engagement.

As of Wednesday afternoon, voter turnout in the city's municipal election was just 8.6 percent, the city clerk's office reported. It's the lowest voter turnout in a Los Angeles municipal election since 2003, The Washington Post found. Not all absentee and provisional ballots have been counted, so the turnout may rise slightly.

The low turnout can be partly blamed on a lack of hot-button issues, according to the Los Angeles Times. Voters were casting ballots for city council members, the Board of Education, the community college Board of Trustees and, as it so happened, two charter amendments aimed at increasing voter turnout, which both passed.

“People may think about legalizing marijuana or other kinds of social issues on a regular basis, but whether or not we should link up city and state elections is something very few voters devote brain space to,” Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson told the Times.

The two charter amendments will change Los Angeles's municipal primary and general election dates to June and November of even-numbered years from 2020 onward, making them on the same dates as federal and state elections. Supporters said they hope the change draws more voters to the polls.

Low voter participation has been an issue in Los Angeles for several election cycles. The city's last mayoral election in 2013 drew only 18 percent of eligible voters, up just 1 percentage point from the city's voter participation in 2009.

It's a problem that pervades the whole region, the San Francisco Chronicle noted. In the 2014 November election and June primary, Los Angeles County had the lowest voter participation of any county in the state.



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