L.A. mayoral runoff another low mark in voter turnout: 23.3%


Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles’ incoming mayor, won the office with fewer votes than any newly elected mayor since the 1930s, when the city population was less than half its current size, according to a Times analysis of final results.

Garcetti’s complete tally was 222,300, just 12.4% of the city’s registered voters. That was well ahead of his opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel, but a smaller vote total than any incoming mayor since Frank Shaw in 1933.

The complete count from the May 21 election, released late Friday, represents another low mark in decades of declining voter turnout. The city clerk’s final tally found that only 419,592 or 23.3% of the city’s 1.8 million registered voters cast a ballot. That’s the lowest in any two-candidate runoff in 100 years.


Waning participation in city elections has prompted officials to consider switching municipal voting to the same day as state or federal elections, which draw more attention and voters.

Interactive map of election results

Turnout for L.A. mayoral elections peaked at 76% in 1969, when a racially charged contest pitted white incumbent Sam Yorty against African American City Councilman Tom Bradley. That year, 856,174 voters cast ballots — more than double last month’s total. Bradley lost but ousted Yorty in a 1973 rematch, becoming the city’s first black mayor.

The final figures released Friday confirmed the preliminary outcomes in contests for mayor, several City Council seats, other offices and a handful of ballot measures.

The new tally, including many provisional ballots and absentee ballots dropped off at polling places on election day, added 74,385 votes to the initial election-night count in the mayor’s race.

Garcetti, a councilman representing Silver Lake, finished with 54.2% of the vote, compared with 45.8% for Greuel.


The extra votes helped Greuel nose ahead of Garcetti in her home precinct in Studio City by a three-vote margin. That result reflected a larger trend across the San Fernando Valley, where Garcetti made strong inroads and fought Greuel to a virtual 50-50 tie, according to a Times data analysis.

While denying his rival a stronghold there, Garcetti won by running up large margins across vast stretches of the central city, from the Eastside to Pacific Palisades. Because of the low turnout, his final total fell 11,000 votes short of Fletcher Bowron’s victory in 1938 and was nearly 70,000 votes behind the total that brought Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to office in 2005.

Still, this year’s turnout did surpass the 17.9% of registered voters who cast ballots in 2009, when Villaraigosa faced no well-known challengers and coasted to reelection in the March primary.

A small midcity neighborhood of Mid-Wilshire also continued its run as an election bellwether. It went for Garcetti, extending its unmatched streak of siding with the winning mayoral candidate to seven straight city elections.

And the vote split closely mirrored the city’s as a whole: 55.3% for Garcetti and 44.7% for Greuel.