According to this recent report by David Zahniser of the L.A. Times, only 23% percent of registered voters ended up casting ballots in last year’s mayoral election. To remedy this raging epidemic of voter apathy, the Los Angeles County Ethics Commission (!) has authorized L.A.’s city council to conduct a pilot program that would pay people to vote in local elections:
On a 3-0 vote, the [Ethics Commission] said it wanted City Council President Herb Wesson … to seriously consider the use of financial incentives and a random drawing during its elections, possibly as soon as next year … “Maybe it’s $25,000 maybe it’s $50,000,” said Commission President Nathan Hochman. “That’s where the pilot program comes in — to figure out what … number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box.”
As we understand it, the proposed system would work like an election-day lottery. Instead of paying every voter some nominal sum for voting (like one dollar or 50 cents), every voter would instead have some positive probability of winning a large cash prize. We like this idea in principle, but did the members of the L.A. Ethics Commission consider the most obvious reason for the low turnout in last year’s mayoral election? Maybe the candidates were just lame. In that case, low voter turnout would be a rational response.