Our Election Mission Statement: What You Can Expect From Our Coverage
Our newsroom believes fundamentally that democracy and civic engagement are good things. That’s why we’ve committed to focusing on civics and democracy and moving away from coverage that focuses on political parties, infighting, and polls. American democracy is at its greatest risk of failure since the Civil War. Misinformation is rampant, political opponents are treating one another as mortal enemies, and many voters are disengaged or enraged.
Our goal is to reenergize demoralized readers and listeners who’ve given up on civic involvement.
People need reliable information on the state of our democracy and how they can help keep our political system from collapsing — and why that matters. We already see signs of that collapse, from the suppression of the count in the 2020 census — which establishes political power — to people running to oversee election systems who promote the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was invalid. We will not amplify overheated rhetoric, false equivalencies and what-about-isms, but we will examine how those factors further erode democracy.
Our goal is to reenergize demoralized readers and listeners who’ve given up on civic involvement and provide the tools they need to participate in elections and cast the vote they want to make.
What’s At Stake
On the surface, California may seem like a place where democracy is thriving. The state has made great strides to make voting accessible, with every registered voter being mailed a mail-in ballot automatically every election. But it’s not that straightforward.
- The LA County Sheriff, an elected official who runs the largest jail system in the country, has resisted oversight and bullied reporters and just this week his department searched the homes of people charged with oversight of his office.
- A Los Angeles City Councilman stepped down after his 2020 arrest by the FBI on racketeering and corruption charges.
- In neighboring San Bernardino County, the Sheriff was once a member of the Oath Keepers and insists they are not a threat to democracy, even after several of its leaders were charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
- To the south, in Orange County, a judge has ruled that three members of the Mission Viejo City Council illegally stayed in office after their terms had expired.
These are among the headline-grabbing, clear and present threats to democracy.
Disenfranchisement And Underrepresentation
Perhaps more threatening, however, is the slow burn of disenfranchisement and underrepresentation. We know that the 2020 Census undercounted Black, Brown and Indigineous people — which means L.A. specifically, and California on the whole, were undercounted.
If L.A. County was a state, it would be the 11th most populous in the nation, even with flaws in the 2020 census. Five people — the County Board of Supervisors — control a $38.5 billion budget that directly affects our day-to-day lives. Add to that the local officials in the county’s 88 cities, the boards of 79 school districts and 13 community college districts, and the myriad agencies and utility districts, and it’s no wonder that what we collectively call “the government” is so confusing that it’s easier to disengage from the democratic process.
Participatory democracy can’t work if much of the populace is too discouraged to participate in it. It leaves the door open to people who would take advantage of that discouragement to grab power and influence. We hope to empower voters by providing clear, direct explanations of how our system works, who runs it, and how they can access it.
Much of political reporting is focused on the horse races at the top of the ballot — basically who is ahead in polling and fundraising. That approach fails to center the concerns of the people or explore lesser-known positions that still yield great influence over everyday life (judges, water boards, school boards, and so on).
This is not how we think about it — at all. Instead, we center voter needs by:
- Listening closely to community members’ questions and concerns and basing what we cover, in part, on what we hear
- Covering as many races on the ballot as we possibly can — not just the high-profile mayoral and sheriff’s races, but also lesser-known seats like city controller, Superior Court judges, and county assessor, which are harder for voters and residents to find information about
- Focusing heavily on helping voters make their choices, instead of just providing a bird’s-eye-view analysis of the dynamics of the election
- Explaining not just who the candidates are, but also what that office does and what to consider when making a decision
- Exploring the origins of the proposition and recall processes and explaining who’s behind them and why
For more details, read this description of our primary coverage.
Voter Game Plan is our one-stop shop to equip L.A. County voters. The upcoming updates for the Nov. 8 general election include:
- A voter guide that goes all the way down the L.A. County ballot, including accessible breakdowns of the seven statewide ballot measures this election cycle
- About those propositions: we also explain why we have them at all and how they get on the ballot
- Meet Your Mayor, a political matchmaking quiz that helps voters identify which mayoral candidate most aligns with their views (an updated edition of the June quiz)
- Explanations of how to vote in person, by mail, and when you’re unhoused
- Side-by-side comparisons of answers we got from the candidates vying to be the next L.A. County sheriff: incumbent Alex Villanueva and challenger (and former Long Beach Police chief) Robert Luna
- A deep dive podcast from Frank Stoltze, our civics and democracy correspondent, into Villanueva’s tumultuous tenure as sheriff, plus key takeaways on each episode. Debuts Oct. 5.
- Back-to-back debates with the L.A. mayoral candidates, Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, and Los Angeles County Sheriff candidates Luna and Villanueva on Sept. 21 at the Skirball Center (co-hosted with Fox News, L.A. Times, Univision, and Loyola Marymount University).
- Roundtable discussions with L.A. Unified School District's Board of Education District 2 and District 6 candidates on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12
- A ballot cram session on the props with our newsroom’s public affairs show AirTalk on Nov. 1.