Los Angeles elected a new mayor on Tuesday — Eric Garcetti, by a 54-46 margin over Wendy Greuel. But if the appallingly low voter turnout numbers are any indication, odds are you couldn’t care less.
Around 19% of the city’s 1.8 million registered voters made their way to the voting booth for the runoff. That is shockingly low. Well, perhaps not shocking at all; just 20% turned out for the primary in March and an all-time low of 17% came out to reelect Mayor Villaraigosa in 2009.
Angelenos are not completely apathetic about voting — 80% of registered voters helped elect President Obama (or tried to stop his election) in 2008, and 50% turned out last year.
There could be several factors at play here. One is the perception that the Mayor of Los Angeles is just a figurehead, that the real power sits with the City Council and lobbying interests. So why bother voting?
Another reason could be that there are no real differences between Garcetti and Greuel. Both are Democrats, both pretty much believe in the same things. So who cares who wins?
I think the main factor is the timing of the election. We have been programmed to expect Election Day to be the first Tuesday in November, not some random days in March and May. Perhaps if the primary were held in May, June or even September and the runoff in November, more people would turn out.
Also, the mayor’s race here closely follows the presidential race. We just went through two grueling years of that; do we really want to get involved with another election? There’s not much that can be done about that, but having the runoff a full year after the presidential election instead of six months could help.
Or maybe Angelenos just don’t care. I really hope that is not the case.