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L.A. council orders up ballot measure to shift election dates

City Councilman Gil Cedillo, right, backed a ballot measure asking voters to change the city's election date.
City Councilman Gil Cedillo, right, backed a ballot measure asking voters to change the city’s election date.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council members moved Wednesday to prepare a ballot measure asking voters to change the city’s election date, saying it will boost lagging turnout.

On a 12 to 1 vote, the council instructed City Atty. Mike Feuer to prepare a measure for the March 3 ballot that would shift city elections from odd-numbered to even-numbered years starting in 2020.

The change, which would align city campaigns with higher participation presidential or gubernatorial elections, was first proposed after turnout in the May 2013 mayoral runoff election fell to 23%.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who backed the measure, said it will address a lack of participation by African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans.

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“The status quo is simply untenable. It is not democratic,” said Cedillo, who represents a district stretching from Westlake to Highland Park.

“There’s no democracy for all the people who are not participating,” he said.

The council is scheduled decide Oct. 31 whether to put the measure on the spring ballot. If approved, the measure would give L.A. elected officials who begin new terms after July 2015 an extra 18 months in office. For example, Wesson and Councilman Jose Huizar, who would have had to leave office under term limits in June 2019, would be allowed to stay in office until December 2020.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks cast the only opposing vote, saying he has strong doubts about one effect of the measure: turning the administration of city elections over to Los Angeles County. The city currently has no way of knowing how much the costs will be when the county runs elections, he said.

“We’re talking about what I think is prematurely scrapping our system well before we’re sure that their system will absorb it,” he said.

Fernando Guerra, who headed a citizens commission that recommended the election date change, said he is confident that the county will have a new election system up and running in 2018. Guerra told the council he can’t imagine the county would charge more than the current election costs.

“Your confidence in the county,” Parks responded, “is far greater than I’ve ever had.”

Follow @DavidZahniser for what’s happening at Los Angeles City Hall.

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