A democracy lacking significant participation from its voters is not a system representing the will of the majority but the will of a minority who came out to vote that day or cast their ballot by mail.
This is an accurate description of what happened in the 2013 municipal election in Los Angeles, in which just 21% of the population selected a mayor and three members of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD.) In reality, the number of voters who chose the winners is even smaller when you consider the percentage obtained by the losers.
This is an unacceptable situation that must be changed. Charter Amendments 1 and 2 on the Los Angeles March 3 primary election ballots, does precisely that.
Charter Amendment 1 basically changes the dates of city council elections, the June primary and the November general election on even years to make them coincide with state and presidential elections.
Charter Amendment 2 does the same with the LAUSD board election.
Critics say that these measures will lessen the importance of local elections by including them in a busy ballot. This may seem that way from the candidates’ perspective, as they will have to fight harder to get the attention of the voter and, consequently, raise more funds for their campaigns. As for voters, it is hard to imagine how much more apathetic they could become about choosing their city officials. The opposite effect is more likely, as voter participation is typically much higher for general and state elections.
It is true that changing election dates will mean extending to 18 months the current active periods of some elected officials. Still, this is a small price to pay in exchange for higher voter turnout.
There are many ways to stimulate voters to cast their ballot. Unfortunately, results so far have not met the expectations in local elections.
The proposed Charter Amendments 1 and 2 will be more successful than previous efforts in increasing participation in our democracy