A Los Angeles citizen commission launched a three-month effort Thursday to find ways of improving voter turnout in the city, where fewer than 1 out of 4 voters has been casting ballots in recent municipal elections.
The nine-member Municipal Elections Reform Commission has been asked to come up with a series of recommendations by mid-May, a schedule that is designed to give the City Council enough time to put proposals on the November election ballot.
Turnout in last May's election -- which included contests for mayor, city attorney, city controller and a handful of City Council and school board seats -- was 23.3%. By comparison, the 2012 presidential election had a turnout in Los Angeles County of 51.6%, according to data compiled by the city clerk.
The issues facing the commission are “fundamental to participatory democracy,” said Fernando Guerra, director of Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles, who will serve as the panel’s chairman. “The more people that participate, are paying attention and hold our elected officials accountable … the better quality of government we get,” he said.
The citizens commission will examine an array of ideas, including more robust outreach to voters, more accessible polling places and alternative voting methods, such as special elections that are entirely vote by mail. Also being considered is whether to shift city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered ones.
All of the panel's members were selected by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Herb Wesson.