Turnout appears small as L.A. votes for new mayor

Melissa Morales votes at the Tenrikyo Mission in Boyle Heights on Tuesday. By 10:15 a.m., only 31 people had voted in a precinct where there were approximately 1,200 registered voters.
Melissa Morales votes at the Tenrikyo Mission in Boyle Heights on Tuesday. By 10:15 a.m., only 31 people had voted in a precinct where there were approximately 1,200 registered voters.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Though turnout numbers were not yet available from election officials Tuesday afternoon, voters were few and far between at many polling places across the city.

Tuesday’s contest -- where L.A. will determine its next mayor, city controller and city attorney; seats on the City Council and L.A. Unified and L.A. Community College district boards; and a handful of ballot measures -- wasn’t expected to draw many voters.

Only 21% of voters showed up to the polls for the March primary, and experts told The Times that number wasn’t expected to rise much Tuesday.

PHOTOS: L.A. voters head to the polls


That forecast appeared accurate.

There were more parents than voters trickling into South L.A.'s 107th Street Elementary School, where two precincts were located. Even the flow of airplanes flying into Los Angeles International Airport were more consistent than the voters.

Poll workers said they hadn’t noticed a change in voter turnout from the last primary. One of the precincts reported 49 ballots cast by 1 p.m.; the other had 26.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Less than a mile south, Darrell Bullock was one of two voters who had arrived at True Everfaithful Missionary Baptist Church to vote Tuesday morning. The 53-year-old sat outside on his bicycle, a cigarette in his mouth.

“We need someone who can look out for the community,” he said, adding that he had voted for Wendy Greuel.

Poll watchers at the church said that about 30 voters had arrived by noon. Turnout was much lower during the primary, they said.

They also expected more voters to arrive at the end of the day, after people get off of work.

Jacob Wexler, chief of the city clerk’s election division, said the first turnout numbers would be available later Tuesday. He encouraged residents who hadn’t yet voted to head to their polling places.

“I just hope that people head out and participate in this historic election,” he said. “We’ve done everything we can to make the process accessible, and we hope that everybody participates.”

Wexler said there were no notable problems at polling places -- “just a normal array of problems that always happen,” such as poll workers not showing up. Officials have been able to address those issues, he added.

The two-year mayoral race -- which ended as a face-off between Greuel and Eric Garcetti -- broke spending records, with expenditures topping $33 million. The Times also reported that spending exceeded $60 million for all city races, including contests for city attorney, city controller and City Council.

Some voters said the campaign was too much.

“This business of getting hit by these candidates 50, 60, 70 times during the campaign -- it’s just total overkill,” said Bill Knight, 81, of Encino. “You don’t have a chance to think.”

In Mt. Washington -- home to one of the most active precincts in Los Angeles -- voters cited a variety of reasons for casting their ballots. The precinct at Carlin G. Smith Recreation Center had one of the highest turnouts in the March primary, where about one in four registered voters cast ballots.

Technical writer Steve Zirl, 55, said he voted because the next mayor has a lot to do.

“We’ve had a pretty lackluster mayor the past few years, who is more interested in his own PR than in getting things done,” Zirl said. “I voted for [Eric] Garcetti, although I think both candidates would make wonderful mayors.”

Freyja Bardell, 39, said she came out to vote to make her voice heard.

“I believe that voting makes a difference for all the things that upset me about things that happen in my community and my neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a way that I can have a voice.”

In Mid-Wilshire, voters at the Park La Brea housing complex arrived in a slow, steady trickle Tuesday morning to cast ballots at one of three precincts. Some residents said that even though they were running late for work, it was important to exercise their rights to vote. One man quickly stopped while on his way to meet his pregnant wife -- she was at the hospital, in labor.
Katrina Delcampo, 29, echoed many of her neighbors when she said voting for L.A.'s mayor was even more important than voting for president. Los Angeles is one of the largest cities in the nation, she noted.

“How can people not be more excited about choosing their mayor?” she said.


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