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Los Angeles Considers An Unusual Plan To Get Us To Vote: A $50,000 Jackpot

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This could be yours, voters (Photo by Nick Ares via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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The Los Angeles City Council has come up with an interesting idea to get people to come out to the polls: entering voters in a jackpot where they could win up to $50,000. Who needs Hidden Cash, anyway?

Just about everyone agrees that the numbers are bad, and something needs to be done about it. Only 23 percent of registered voters showed up to vote in the election that determined Eric Garcetti would be mayor. (It's important to remember, too, that not all the voters who are eligible to vote are even registered.)

There's a long list of reasons offered for why Angelenos don't vote. One that comes up often is that city elections are always held at the time when we're least focused on voting: odd-numbered years in springtime when we're not paying attention to the presidential elections or even the mid-term Congressional elections.

But the fact that we don't show up to the polls to vote for our mayor and Congressional representative at the same could actually be a boon for Los Angeles voters. It's illegal for anyone to accept payment in exchange for voting during federal elections, according to KPCC. But local elections? Those are fair game.

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The Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to look into the idea, possibly as soon as next year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Maybe it's $25,000 maybe it's $50,000," said Commission President Nathan Hochman. "That's where the pilot program comes in—to figure out what...number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box."

Depending on where the money comes from, there might have to be a ballot measure to vote on a lottery (and what active voter would say no?). One possible source could be using leftover matching funds, which is the money offered to candidates who agree to spending restrictions.

That's not the only option Los Angeles is considering to improve turnout. Two months ago another commission formed by Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti recommended moving elections to even years, but that could be trickier. The city would have to wait on the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/clerk to adopt a new voting system.

But waiting several years is too long, says Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, who is an attorney and professor at Loyola Law School. She told the Los Angeles Times, "We have turnout in citywide elections in the high teens and low 20s and I think that's pretty dismal."