LA County registrar talks turnout, post-election fallout

File: Election workers sort through unprocessed vote-by-mail ballots at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office on Monday.
File: Election workers sort through unprocessed vote-by-mail ballots at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office on Monday.
Ben Adler/Capital Public Radio

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Back in January, roughly 750,000 people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles for the Women's March. 

Many of the women and men who showed up said they did so because they care about politics and the future of this nation.

So where were all those people this week when L.A. held an election? Voter turnout was low – really low.

KPCC's Alex Cohen spoke to Dean Logan, L.A. County's Clerk and Registrar-Recorder, to ask why so few showed up and what can be done to turn that around in future elections. Logan, who runs elections for the county, says plans are in the works to overhaul local elections.

Update: Late Friday, Logan’s office released updated details on the ballot count. Officials reported an additional 67,954 ballots have been processed since election night. They estimate that more than 230,000 votes remain to be counted. 

The newly counted votes so far haven’t shifted any of the major results. The county sales tax measure, for example, is still leading by a narrow margin. The next update will come on Tuesday. 

Here are some of the interview highlights:

On why so few people showed up at the polls:

I think we all sit here and scratch our heads about that. I think it's a complex question. I don't think this was an issue of people not being aware of the election. That would be an easier thing to solve. I think there was an awareness and people made their choices about whether to participate in the election. That's a more complex question – one that we need to grapple with: What is it that's triggering this civic engagement – this involvement in politics and having your voice out there – that's not translating into the impact of actually casting a ballot.

On what gets people to vote, and how his role fits into that:

I think the primary job is to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate in the election. I do think incumbent in that responsibility is getting people to vote. If we're going to spend the resources we do on public elections -- if we're not getting people to participate, then there is something broken in the system. 

I think history has shown us that what motivates people to vote is something beyond the mechanics of that voting experience. I do think we have to make the voting process more adaptive and responsive to the way people live their lives day to day. Our current model of voting is -- arguably -- outdated. 

Ultimately, I don't think that's what's going to motivate people to show up and vote. I think that has to do with what's on the ballot and how they connect that vote to an impact they see after the election.

Click on the play button above to hear the whole interview.