Friday, September 24, 2010

Election Reform: Los Angeles Voters’ Bill of Rights

Reform Proposals For Charter Amendment

1. Voters should have the right to elect a government of, by, and for the people, not special interests, by moving to Voter-Owned Elections.

As long as City candidates have to raise money from private interests to run for office, they will always have a tension (whether real or perceived) between being fully responsive to constituents and the pull of various special interests. It’s time to open the door to Voter-Owned Elections. Without taking one extra dime from the General Fund (beyond those already dedicated), we call on LA City to remove the cap and grow the Trust Fund to allow the City to adopt a more robust campaign finance system in the near future.

- Target date: 2011-12.

- Lead agency: City Ethics Commission.

2. Voters should have the right to convenient voting through their choice of either Neighborhood Vote Centers or ballots mailed directly to their residence.

Voter participation in Los Angeles city elections is appallingly low. It’s time to remove the barriers to convenient voting by giving people access to the ballot. Starting with special elections, we call on LA City to set up Neighborhood Vote Centers AND automatically mail ballots to voters, giving us a choice of when and how we cast our ballot. This added convenience will also save tax dollars spent on administering elections.

- Target date: 2012 for special elections as a pilot, 2015 for citywide elections (or whenever the City Clerk deems it feasible and has an implementation plan prepared and adequate staffing).

- Lead agency: City Clerk Election Division.

3. Voters should have the right to a quick and efficient election through Ranked Choice Voting.

Voters are tired and confused by the number of elections the City and other levels of government hold. To save the City money and save voters time, voters should have only one regular city election per year.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) creates a plurality polling winner without requiring the two separate City elections we often have now -- a primary and a general race. Voters will have their voices heard and Los Angeles should see greater voter participation. Any savings from reduced matching funds can be put toward improving the City’s campaign finance system (initial savings will go toward voter education).

- Target date: 2015 or whenever the County can provide the new voting system and the City Clerk and City Ethics Commission have an implementation plan.

- Lead agency: City Clerk Election Division and County Registrar-Recorder

4. Voters should have the right to register and vote on Election Day and have their votes counted.

If a citizen is eligible to vote, and this can be securely verified, he/she should be able to register and cast a ballot on Election Day at a pre-designated Vote Center. Other states that have implemented Election Day Registration have seen an average increase of 6%+ in voter turnout. This added convenience will save tax dollars spent on manually processing hundreds of provisional ballots after the election.

Target date: 2012 or whenever the State passes implementing legislation and the Secretary of State implements a statewide voter registration database, or 2014 if County Charter is amended to allow for locally.

- Lead agency: County of Los Angeles or State of California