Angelenos: United in Voter Apathy?

Mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are now in the final stretch of their campaign to become the next mayor of Los Angeles. Following the March 5 election, both candidates will seek to motivate voters to go to the polls. But what voters? According to preliminary numbers, only 16 percent, yes that's right, only one out of six voters went to the polls or mailed in ballots. In a city divided over so many issues, it seems elections have managed to unite 84 percent of eligible Angelenos in laziness, boredom, apathy, or all of the above.

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In Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the nation, there are approximately 1.8 million eligible voters and 3.8 million residents. This means approximately 290,000 voters weighed in on decisions that will affect nearly four million people. Another way of thinking of this is that each voter voted for the interests of 12 people living in Los Angeles.

I cannot claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of the reasons behind this significantly depressed turnout, therefore I cannot seek to propose solutions to this problem. But I do know that by sitting out elections we are giving a few of our fellow Angelenos, those who cast ballots, a great deal of power over the face of our city government. In essence what we have is a city of residential representatives who chose our political representatives. But, of course, no one appointed or elected this first group -- they merely decided to take part in our democracy.

The name of the game for the May 21 election will be motivating voters to cast ballots. The candidate who can get more people to the polls (or to their mailboxes) will win. It sounds startlingly obvious, but in a city in which five out of six of us sat out the last election, it's a point worth making.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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