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Friday, August 22, 2014

L.A. Considers Cash Prizes To Combat Dismal Voter Turnout

Citizens vote on Election Day at Fire Station #71 in Alhambra, Los Angeles County, on November 6, 2012 in California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Citizens vote on Election Day at Fire Station #71 in Alhambra, Los Angeles County, on November 6, 2012 in California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

About 20 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles turn out to vote in local elections. City officials call the lack of civic engagement a “crisis,” and they’ve come up with a way to fix the problem — cash prizes.

The city’s ethics commission has supported a plan to use a random drawing to reward people who come to the ballot box. Critics say the process will debase the election process by attracting people who aren’t knowledgeable about the issues.

The president of the city’s ethics commission discusses the plan with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti.


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  • george

    Incentivizing elections. there’s nothing wrong with it, in fact as a regular voter for the last 60 years, I’d be delighted to win a cash prize even for voting. The problem isn’t likely to be changed much by creating a lottery for voters. Take as example, the August primary election held here in Michigan. Most of the candidates from both parties were running unopposed for federal, state positions and local positions. Then there are the elections for Circuit Court Judges. The only time to read anything about the candidiates is the Sunday before the election.

  • mike

    I vote in every election. But I only vote on the major races because I have no valid information on any of the minor races, candidates, measures. All campaign advertisements are I suspect of being lies (some are obvious lies, but that’s another Here & Now episode).

    In Oregon, we have the “Voter’s Pamphlet”, published by the Secretary of State and mailed to every registered voter. EVERY candidate can post 1/2 page of “information”. I can read it and decide for myself if it makes sense or is filled with logical errors/lies. The pamphlet is a level playing field. That’s what I use to decide on who/what to vote for (or against).

    So, maybe if everyone had some source of simple, reliable information, they’d vote?

  • embo66

    Australia has had mandatory voting for 90 years — with no-shows being charged a very modest fine. The results? Voter turnout is typically above 90%, often above 95%. That said, I doubt it would fly here in the U.S.

    But voting in the U.S. is an unusually difficult process. We are about the only nation in the world that doesn’t offer more than a single day to physically cast a ballot. Why is that? We are also among the few that do not include days that are typically not part of the traditional work week in the voting period.

    Surely we can do better by making it easier for people to vote?! For instance, one reason poorer folks don’t vote is that it’s too difficult to get the time / time off when you work 2 jobs, etc.

    I would like to see us establish a national minimum standard for every national-level election (every 2 years) that every state would be obliged to adhere to:

    – At least 4 days to vote including a FULL weekend;
    – Daily polls open for a minimum of 16 hours starting at 5 am.
    – Early voting available for 1 month prior to Election Day;
    – Voting machines and facilities mandatorily calculated by a generous per capita formula;
    – Mandatory voting machine inspections 3 and 1 months, and again 1 week, prior to election period;
    – Mandatory print “receipts” of every citizen’s vote (w/ 2 copies, one for precinct, one for citizen);

    – NO shifting of polling places within a 3-month period before an election.

    • Cacimo

      What is truly unique about voting in the US is we are one of the only countries in the world that does not require ID to vote.

      • embo66

        Update your facts. A whopping 34 states have passed voter ID requirements, although 3 had requirements which have been deemed unconstitutional (at this point).

        According to a Harvard Law & Policy Review study, plenty of democracies do require voters to show identification, but most are NOT photo-based and most make allowances for folks who don’t have official government IDs. Voters in Europe, India, etc. usually have a very wide range of alternate documents they can furnish. Some Euro countries require no ID at all. At the same time, “it’s often much easier to obtain identification than it is in the United States because ID cards are issued to all citizens automatically.”

        Finally, recent studies have shown that there have been all of 31 substantiated cases of “voter fraud” out of nearly 1 billion votes in the U.S since 2000.

        Which pretty much makes requiring photo IDs a solution in search of a problem.

  • Rick

    Sounds like a waste of money and a way to get uninformed people to vote for Democrats.

    • mike

      Are you suggesting that more people voting would benefit the Democratic partly?

      • Rick

        More UNINFORMED people, yes.

        • mike

          Should stupid people even be allowed to vote?

  • Cacimo

    I find it sad how many people fail/refuse to vote. Of course with over 12 million illegal immigrants there are millions that should NOT be voting. The most common reason given for not voting is – it does not matter. Non voters feel their vote will not make a difference. Many areas of the country are so solidly one party, that they are correct. When it comes to elections for President and Governor both parties usually run to the center. The result is those not following politics closely are left with the impression it does not matter who gets elected. It is usually only when a law like Obamacare or gun restrictions pass – things that directly effect peoples everyday lives, that the public wakes up.

    Bribing people to come to the polls is one of the worst ideas I have heard. Public education is failing the country when it is unable to instill enough civic pride in students that they vote as adults.

    • mike

      I wonder if people feel that their vote doesn’t matter because, these days, candidates don’t talk about themselves, but rather about how their opponent is so bad. It seems like you can vote for a bad guy or a worse guy. Either way, we can’t elect a good leader.

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