City Council President Herb Wesson. Photo by John Schreiber.
City Council President Herb Wesson proposed forming the elections reform commission. Photo by John Schreiber.

Holding Los Angeles’ mayoral elections at the same time as presidential elections was one of a series of suggestions offered Wednesday by city administrators as a way to increase voter turnout.

Instead of holding elections in March and May in odd-numbered years — such as the upcoming 2015 City Council races — the city should consider holding June and November elections that coincide with state and presidential races held in even-numbered years, according to a report prepared by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso.

The report contains more than 30 recommendations that originated with the city’s Municipal Elections Reform Commission, which was created by the council last year in response to low turnout in the latest mayoral elections.

Turnout was 20.8 percent for the March 2013 primary election and 23.3 percent for the general election in May 2013.

The presidential election in November 2012 drew 69.2 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County, while the gubernatorial race in November 2010 saw a turnout of 52.5 percent countywide.

Primary elections for those contests, however, were nearly as low as the city’s latest turnout figures, with 25.7 percent of county voters casting ballots in the June 2010 gubernatorial primary and 21.8 percent of county voters participating in the 2012 presidential primary.

City elections are held for the mayor, City Council, city attorney and controller. Elections for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and Los Angeles Community College District board seats are also managed by the city and would also be affected by the proposed changes.

According to the report, the shift to even-year June and November elections would result in a 1 1/2-year gap from the old election cycle to the new one. To bridge the gap, voters may be asked in 2017 to change the city charter to allow a one-time extension of the mayor’s, city attorney’s controller, City Council, school district board terms from fours years to five and a half years.

A cost for the change was not included in the report.

City Council President Herb Wesson, who proposed forming the elections reform commission, said “the proposals discussed in the reports have received a great deal of thought and deliberation.”

Wesson said the report will be heard in committee Friday, but no action will be taken. Public hearings on the recommendations will be announced soon, he said.

City News Service

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