To the editor: Americans believe their government to be a beacon of light. Our republican form of government, with democratic institutions and free elections, cannot tell us how to vote or tightly limit who can vote. ("Panel wants L.A. to look at using prizes to boost voter turnout," Aug. 14)
Yet America has a woefully low voter turnout rate compared to other democracies. In the last two presidential elections, turnout didn't get above 62%. The rate is far lower in local elections; for L.A.'s mayoral race in 2013, turnout was 23%.
Now the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has suggested the idea of paying people to vote in city elections. Is this what our democracy has come to? Think of how many voters would cast ballots without any knowledge of the candidates or issues, doing so only in the hope of winning money.
The best solution would be to have city elections coincide with other elections in even-numbered years. This would boost voter awareness and involvement in these city offices and save Los Angeles millions of dollars, which is greatly needed in this cash-strapped city.
Jerrold F. Gable, Reseda
To the editor: The writer is a professor of political science at Pierce College in Los Angeles.
It's a sad day when citizens have to be bribed to participate in democracy. I sincerely hope that most people actually think about why they are choosing to vote for a candidate or issue, and I fear that the prospects of winning cash will send people to the polls who have not done their homework and will fill in their ballots like a multiple-guess test.
I don't understand how the Ethics Commission could consider such an unethical posture. Why would you want to encourage people to vote when they obviously have no interest in researching the facts and forming educated opinions on how to run our government? On the other hand, if they aren't voting because they don't think the people running are worthy of their vote, then politicians need to take note.
Either way, the commission is proposing a preposterous solution to a problem that is ill-defined.
Jan MacMichael, South Pasadena
To the editor: Instead of selecting a few winners, why not give a prize to every voter? If you vote in a primary, you can deduct $250 from your income tax. Show up in November for the general election, and you get a $500 deduction. And that's off your state and federal tax returns.
Everybody wins — except, of course, the election losers.