LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Nearly half of the Los Angeles residents who voted in last month's mayoral runoff election submitted their ballots by mail, according to certified election results that the city clerk's office released Monday.
The number of mailed-in absentee ballots increased to 212,202, of which 207,078 were submitted properly, making up about 45 percent of the 459,412 votes, which represents a historic low of 23.3 percent of residents.
The number of vote-by-mail ballots for the May 21 election was also up from the March 5 primary, in which 185,300 absentee ballots were submitted.
As convenience becomes an ever-more important factor in convincing people to take part in an election, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles Raphael J. Sonenshein suggests that the increased vote-by-mail numbers in Los Angeles have not necessarily meant more voter engagement.
In Oregon, where all elections are done through the mail, the "turnout went up considerably for quite a while," Sonenshein said.
In Los Angeles, however, the increase in vote-by-mail has coincided with a decrease in turnout.
"A lot of people are falling out of the local political system completely and can't be reached so far by vote-by-mail," Sonenshein suggested.
Eric Garcetti, with 222,300 votes, was elected mayor on May 21, which, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, is less than any other non-incumbent mayoral election since the 1930s.
The 23.3 percent total turnout also marks the lowest for runoff mayoral races over the last 100 years.
"Clearly turnout must be higher," Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb suggested.
Robb also added that Garcetti will hold office hours, use social media and internet town halls, and walk door-to-door to bring constituents, not just "those who have power," into the governing process.
"We think that more people will participate when they realize they're being heard," Robb said.
The rise in people voting by mail instead of going to the polls has become a trend statewide, and Sonenshein suggests it may be because "campaigns have become more skilled at making it easy for people to vote by mail."
The mail-in-ballot strategy, which results in campaigns having to do less on election day to turn out voters, has also been used by some campaigns to get out the vote when things are looking good for them in the polls, with Wendy Greuel's campaign working to "get the vote out when they reached their best point, a couple of weeks out before the election," Sonenshein said.
Garcetti secured the mayoral race with 54.23 percent of the vote to Greuel's 45.76 percent, according to the city clerk's certified results, which could go to the Los Angeles City Council for approval later in the week.
Incumbent City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich, drew 37.72 percent, losing his seat to Mike Feuer, who brought in 62.27 percent.
Ron Galperin led Dennis Zine with 56.6 percent to win the runoff for the controller's seat.
In the First District, Jose Gardea was edged out by Gilbert Cedillo with 51.95 percent of the vote. Curren Price Jr. took the ninth District council seat with 52.3 percent, while Mitch O'Farrell beat out John Choi in the 13th District with 52.75 percent of the vote.
Proposition C, which calls for a constitutional amendment to limit corporate or interest group spending on political campaigns, passed easily with a powerful 76.65 percent.
Proposition D, which aims to regulate medical marijuana and limit the number of pot shops to 135, also passed, with 62.43 percent.
Nury Martinez and Cindy Montanez will advance to a runoff election on July 23 for the sixth District council seat.
Incumbent Nancy Pearlman defeated David Vela to retain the District Six seat on the Los Angeles Community College District board by a 56.73 percent margin.
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