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California Assembly OKs measure to boost voter turnout in city elections

California Assembly OKs measure to boost voter turnout in city elections
A single voter casts a shadow on the wall of her polling place in San Pedro in December.

California cities with low voter turnouts would be required to consolidate their elections with the state elections, under legislation approved Thursday by the state Assembly.

Alarmed by turnouts in the single-digits in some city elections, Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights) introduced the bill requiring consolidation, starting Jan. 1, 2018, in cities where the turnout has been at least 25% below the average turnout in that city during the last four statewide general elections.

"This is about voters, your constituents, coming out and participating by a greater percentage," said Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) during the Assembly debate. "At the same time, consolidating will provide significant saving to taxpayers who are currently paying millions of dollars for low-turnout races."

The measure was approved on a 41-28 vote, with many Republicans, including Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach), in opposition.

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Hadley said consolidating city and state elections would mean fewer volunteers and higher costs for the municipal candidates. "This bill would transform the election process and governance of a number of these cities," he said. "In many of our cities, it is relatively inexpensive to run for office."

Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) defended the bill, noting only 8% of voters participated in the 2012 La Puente city election. In its March election, Los Angeles saw a turnout of about 10%.

Alejo said it was "shameful" that some lawmakers were opposing an effort to increase voter turnout.

"What are you afraid of?" Alejo asked the opponents. SB 415 now goes back to the Senate for a vote on minor amendments.

The Assembly also approved a bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) that would allow children to attend school where their live-in working parents reside.

Lara said the bill would help families headed by live-in workers, including nannies, caregivers, maids and gardeners, whose children live at their place of employment, are able to attend school in the district in which they work if they reside there for at least three days of the week.

"It is disgraceful that any child be subject to ridicule and discrimination because of how they look or where their parents work," Lara said after the vote to approve SB 200.

The Senate voted Thursday to approve a bill requiring bicyclists on two-lane highways to pull over and let vehicles pass if five or more vehicles are backed up behind them. Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals) introduced AB 208.

Twitter: @mcgreevy99

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