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Election 2015: Early count shows dismal voter turnout


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Yesterday, the nation's second largest city held an election. But not many people noticed. According to preliminary numbers from the City Clerk's office, less than 9 percent of registered L.A. voters went to the polls.

It's a dramatic representation of a nationwide trend.  Not even a quarter of eligible voters showed up for New York City's mayoral election in 2013. A University of Wisconsin study that looked at 144 larger U.S. cities found an average voter turnout of just over 20 percent.

The disinterest in local government can have profound effects. Those who vote are much more likely to be white and affluent. Research from UC San Diego says low voter participation can lead to decisions about public spending that penalize minorities.

What might change this, and get more people to the polls?

Dean Logan, the Registrar-Recorder for Los Angeles County, says it's a difficult question. 

"There's the election administration side," Logan says, "to ensure that when people are engaged and decide to vote, that we have the infrastructure in place to make that a positive, meaningful experience."

But, he adds, "At the end of the day, that part only matters if people feel like their vote is going to make a difference."

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla agrees that making it as easy as possible for people to vote is part of the solution, but "the tougher nut to crack is getting people to care."

While people tend to get more motivated for a presidential election, Padilla says, voting on a School Board member or a City Council member, "many times has a bigger impact on a local person's quality of life than maybe a presidential election."

Increasing voter turnout, Padilla says, will take civic education to help people realize that local elections do have an impact on their lives.