Nearly Half of Votes Cast By Mail, Yet Turnout Still Low

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, City News Service

Nearly half of the Angelenos who voted in last month’s mayoral election – in which the turnout level was an historic low of 23.3 percent – submitted their ballots by mail, according to certified election results released Monday by the city clerk’s office.

The number of voters mailing in absentee ballots grew to 212,202 in the May 21 election, of which 207,078 were properly submitted, making up about 45 percent of all ballots cast.

In the mayoral runoff elections in 2005 and 2001, the vote-by-mail balloting totaled 139,295 or 27.93 percent and 120,645 or 19.08 percent, respectively.

The number of vote-by-mail ballots for the May 21 election was also up from the March 5 primary, when 185,300 absentee ballots were submitted.

The majority of voters in the May 21 election turned in their vote-by-mail ballots early, with just 27,989 people actually going to a polling place on election day to drop off a filled-in vote-by-mail ballot.

Even though convenience is becoming an ever-more important factor in convincing people to take part in an election, the increased vote-by-mail numbers in Los Angeles have not meant more voter engagement, said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

In Oregon, where all elections are done through the mail, the “turnout went up considerably for quite awhile,” he said. But in Los Angeles, the rise in vote-by-mail ballots has instead coincided with a steady drop in turnout, Sonenshein said.

“A lot of people are falling out of the local political system completely and can’t be reached so far by vote-by-mail,” he said.

Eric Garcetti was elected mayor on May 21 with 222,300 votes, which, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, is less than any other non-incumbent mayor elected since the 1930s. The 23.3 percent turnout is also the lowest for runoff mayoral races of the last 100 years.

Meanwhile, the rising number of people voting by mail is part of a statewide trend, according to Sonensheim, partly because “campaigns have become more skilled at making it easy for people to vote by mail.”

The more people who send in their ballots early, the less campaigns have to do on election day to turn out voters, he said.

“It’s a big part of the strategy now,” Sonenshein said.

The mail-in ballot strategy has also been used by some campaigns to get out the vote when things are looking good for them in the polls, with Wendy Greuel’s campaign working to “get the vote out when they reached their best point, a couple of weeks out before the election,” he said.

In the city clerk’s certified results, which could go to the Los Angeles City Council later this week for approval, Garcetti secured 54.23 percent of the vote to Greuel’s 45.76 percent to win the mayor’s race.

Carmen Trutanich, the incumbent city attorney, drew 37.72 percent, losing his seat to Mike Feuer, who took in 62.27 percent.

Ron Galperin led Dennis Zine with 56.6 percent to come out ahead in the runoff for the controller’s seat.

In the 1st District, Gilbert Cedillo edged out Jose Gardea with 51.95 percent of the vote. Curren Price Jr. won the 9th District council seat with 52.39 percent of the vote to Ana Cubas’ 47.6 percent, while Mitch O’Farrell beat out John Choi in the 13th District with 52.75 percent of the vote.

Proposition C, which calls for a constitutional amendment to limit corporate or interest group spending on political campaigns, passed with an overwhelming 76.65 percent of the vote. Proposition D, a measure regulating medical marijuana and limiting the number of pot shops to 135, was approved by a 62.43 percent margin, besting two competing marijuana measures.

In a special election, Nury Martinez, with 24.29 percent of the votes, and Cindy Montanez, with 43.23 percent, advance to a July 23 runoff election for the 6th District council seat.

The Los Angeles City Clerk handled two races outside of the city of Los Angeles, each with a little less than 6 percent of registered voters turning out.

In the race for the District 6 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, fifth-grade teacher Monica Ratliff, with 51.76 percent of the votes, defeated Antonio Sanchez.

Incumbent Nancy Pearlman defeated challenger David Vela by a 56.73 percent margin to retain the District 6 seat on the Los Angeles Community Collect District board.

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June 13, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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