08/15/2014 by Alexandra Bjerg

Reader Poll: Would turning elections into a lottery boost voter turnout?


(photo: Robert S. Johnson/Flickr)

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 259 million, yet I still bought a ticket this morning. Hoping that the prospects of winning a cash prize may entice more voters to the polls; Los Angeles city officials are considering turning ballots into lottery tickets. 

To be perfectly honest, the odds are far better: last year’s odds would have been 1 in only 419,000 (votes cast). Even if all 1.8 million registered voters in Los Angeles cast a ballot, you’d still have a far better shot at winning.

In Los Angeles, and cities across California, voter participation is declining. The city’s mayoral runoff last year had the lowest turnout in 100 years. Despite record-breaking campaign spending in the hotly-contested race, a paltry 23 percent of Angelenos bothered to cast a ballot. 

Alarmed by the record low turnout, the City of Los Angeles created a citizen’s panel to tackle voter apathy. The commission identified several ways to boost voter participation, but none can be adopted before the end of the decade, at the earliest. Aiming to see results sooner, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission voted on Thursday to recommend the City Council explore the possibility of offering cash prizes to lure voters to the ballot box. 

Intrigued by the idea, City Council President Herb Wesson says offering financial incentives to participate won’t necessarily generate a surge of uninformed voters. Even if people are initially drawn out by the money, the act of continually casting a ballot creates a pattern, said Wesson, before the commission, noting the potential long-term benefits. 

What do you think?

To view results from previous polls, click here.

Categories: Democracy, Elections, Reader Poll

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