Between 1997 and 2013, voter turnout in Los Angeles citywide general elections decreased by more than 14 percent. A mere 23 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls for the 2013 mayoral election. Unfortunately, turnout in many cities in the region is on a similar downward trajectory.
To tackle the problem of low voter turnout, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson created a commission to explore ways to make it easier for people to make their voices heard. Our Executive Director, Kathay Feng, was appointed to the City of Los Angeles Municipal Elections Reform Commission. On June 5, the Commission adopted a final report outlining recommendations for increasing turnout and participation in municipal elections.
The commission made the important recommendation to move elections from spring in odd-numbered years to align with state and federal elections in June and November of even-numbered years. The Council ultimately approved that proposal and two measures (Charter Amendments 1 and 2) to consolidate Los Angeles' elections will appear on the March 3, 2015 ballot. Read more about the amendments here and visit the measures' website here.
A proposal to consolidate local elections to run on the same cycle as the state primary and general election, with the primary in June and the general election in November of even-numbered years, will substantially increase voter turnout. Research indicates that California cities that align their elections with the state schedule typically have a voter turnout that is 36% higher in presidential elections, and 21-26% higher in gubernatorial elections and presidential primaries. In fact, it's the only election reform that is proven to increase turnout by the double digits. Consolidating elections not only increases voter turnout, but also decreases voter confusion and fatigue and results in a more diverse electorate.
Cities across Southern California, from Malibu to Long Beach, are also considering proposals to advance reforms to synchronize off-cycle elections.