Lisa Brenner (image); Chris Keller (data)
L.A. voter turnout for primary elections with mayoral candidates on the ballot
Only 16 percent of Los Angeles's registered voters pulled the curtain on their local voting booth.
Voter turnout for local elections has never been high. At its peak, about 34 percent of Angelenos sported “I Voted” stickers. Now it’s half that.
The city of L.A. lived out one of my worst nightmares. It planned a party and almost no one showed up.
All right, a primary election is not exactly a party, but still — it was a total dud and no one seemed to care.
Kelly Richards was climbing out of her silver BMW SUV, in front of Guisado’s taco shop in East L.A., and said she didn't intend to vote. Neither she nor her friends had any clue there was an election going on, and none felt any remorse about not voting.
"I trust the public," Richards said, laughing. She said she understood that she's a member of the public, too.
"Some people have argued that voters are just tired of politics right now," said Franklin Gilliam, political science professor at UCLA. He analyzes voter behavior. Gilliam said the hotly contested presidential election last fall left people fatigued.
So, Gilliam has two suggestions for boosting turnout: first, tie local elections to state and national elections, especially when it comes to the mayoral race. Second, elect the top vote-getter, dumping the requirement that someone get a majority of the vote.
"Theoretically, it would give people a lot more incentive and make them more invested in their candidates," Gilliam said.
That might go a long way in the school board races. In the contest for District 6 where four newcomers vied for the empty seat, only 12 percent of the area’s 253, 000 registered voters actually cast a ballot.
That’s a worse turnout than what happened in District 2 back in 1997. That’s when Victoria Castro ran unopposed, but still had 19 percent of voters show up to vote for her.
Back in front of Guisado’s taco shop, Gladis Duque pulls her salt-and-pepper hair back to reveal an “I Voted” sticker. She said she wishes it was in Spanish.
In El Salvador, she said, election day is a party day.