Editorial: Higher turnout at the polls

Editorial: Higher turnout at the polls
Elecciones en Van Nuys.
Foto: Ciro Cesar / La Opinión

SPANISH VERSION

Voter turnout in the recent Los Angeles municipal election was disastrous. It is estimated that fewer than one in 10 Angelinos got out to vote for city council members, school officials and measures that specifically changed the dates of this type of election to reduce absenteeism. We hope this change, promoted by Amendments 1 and 2 and approved by the vast majority of the 8.6% of voters who took part, increases turnout at the polls.

One explanation for the low voter turnout is the lack of knowledge and indifference among voters given the absence of a hot-button issue on the ballot.

Voter absenteeism seems to be a chronic problem for our city. Los Angeles County had the lowest voter turnout in the entire state in the June and November 2014 elections. In 2013, only 18% of eligible voters cast ballots in the mayoral election.

High voter absenteeism is a serious problem for our democracy. Apathy among the majority is the worst enemy of a representative political system, because those who elect the authorities are those who vote; they exercise a disproportionate influence due to the void created by those who do not vote.

This concern has led to a series of measures being presented in Sacramento to increase voter turnout.

Senator Robert Hertzberg, for example, has measure SB163, which would include a mail-in ballot when voter information is sent, rather than having to specifically request one, as is currently the case.

Other proposals range from allowing Californians to register and vote two weeks before the election at satellite centers located at schools, libraries, shopping centers and public buildings, to authorizing 17-year-olds to vote, as occurs in the primaries in states including Oregon, Hawaii and Indiana.

Taking action to motivate and engage voters in the electoral process is an urgent matter. Candidates are responsible for explaining why they should be elected; the system must facilitate access by voters to information on the candidates and provide them with multiple facilities for expressing their political preference.