Too cheap to vote

For years, despite the convenience of a vote-by-mail elections system, voter participation in Burbank has languished below 20%.

There could be a lot of factors for voter apathy, but in some cities with similar systems, it appears a major reason is a simple one: People are cheap. That is, voters can’t be bothered to put a return stamp on their ballots and mail them back to City Hall.

With that in mind, the City Council this week directed officials to review options for paying for that return postage — removing at least one excuse for not participating in local elections.

The potential cost — based on similar findings in Santa Barbara, when that city covers the complete cost of mail-in ballots — could be roughly $10,500, assuming 40% voter participation.

It’s a sad state of civic engagement when the one thing standing between the decision to vote or ignore the election is the cost of a postage stamp, but if spending few thousand more dollars on the process means a participation rate of closer to 50%, that’s a small price to pay.

Think of the possible outcome: thousands more residents engaged in the political process, having a stake in the outcome, and lending more political weight to candidates who win office — and the platforms on which they run.

Indeed, this small change could be a political game-changer in local politics.

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