Early help for L.A.’s early voters

Three of the measures on the May 21 ballot deal with medical marijuana dispensaries.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Official sample ballots for Los Angeles’ May 21 election will be available April 22, a little less than two weeks from now. Voters who just want to get the whole thing over with — and let’s be frank, don’t we all? — can actually vote by mail that very same day by getting their super-early ballot directly from the city clerk.

And that’s fine for voters who are ready to roll on their runoff choices for mayor, city attorney, controller, Community College Board and (depending on their districts) City Council and school board. They may miss out on the pleasures of hearing even more debates and poring over glossy campaign mailers, but that’s the way it goes.

But what about the ballot measures? There are four of them, and most voters will have their first opportunity to read the measures when they get their sample ballots. That’s too late in the process for people who want to do their election homework and still vote early.


ENDORSEMENTS: Los Angeles City Elections 2013

Three of the measures deal with medical marijuana dispensaries. To know what they would do and how they differ, it’s important to be able to read the (admittedly lengthy) wording of the ordinances they would put into effect. For those who don’t want to read the entire texts, there are also impartial summaries from the chief legislative analyst about the effect of each measure and from the city administrative officer about the financial impacts. There are the arguments for and against the measures, and the rebuttals to those arguments. There is a fourth measure, presenting an advisory question on campaign finance reform that urges a constitutional amendment intended to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission.

City law lays down strict deadlines for all this information to be filed with the city clerk’s office, which has now had it for several weeks. That’s great — but the rest of us should have it too, right now, without waiting for the official sample ballots to be mailed out. In state elections, analogous information is available online on the secretary of state’s and attorney general’s websites well before sample ballots are mailed, so voters can do their research and make their decisions at the earliest possible date.

The city is not required to post the crucial documents online before early voting starts, and it usually doesn’t. So kudos to the clerk’s office, which did it on Monday anyway. Voters can link to it from the online version of this editorial — and begin studying.