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Proposals Aim To Reverse Low Voter Turnout In LA

LOS ANGELES ( — Voter turnout for local elections in L.A. has gotten so bad that officials are proposing having city and school board elections on the same day as presidential and statewide elections.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, a member of the L.A. Ethics Commission, says the turnout problem has reached crisis dimensions. She hasn't taken a position on the charter amendments.

"L.A. County voter turnout is the worst in the state. People think, number one, 'My vote doesn't matter,'" Levinson said.

In an effort to get more Angelenos engaged in voting, some civic leaders are urging the passage of Charter Amendments 1 and 2.

They would change the City of LA's municipal primary and general election dates to June and November of even-numbered years begining in 2020. City elections would be held on the same dates as federal and state elections.

And in 2015 and 2017 only, candidates who win office would be elected to 5-and-a-half-year terms instead of four years, to transition to the new election dates. The same changes would be made for the LAUSD Board of Education elections.

"If we can simply make voters aware and make our local elections part of a broader conversation that encompasses state and national campaigns as well. That's what's going to increase voter turnout in Los Angeles, more than just about anything," according to Dan Schnur, the executive Director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

City Councilman Bernard Parks opposes the charter amendments, which he says address only the symptoms of the voting problem, not the root cause.

"What's wrong with trying to get more people to vote," CBS2/KCAL9 political reporter Dave Bryan said.

"Nothing's wrong with it, if it were really an honest effort to make it happen. I think it's a fraudulent attempt to mislead people," Parks said.

Political consultant Dermot Givens, who is not representing either side in this campaign, says extending the terms of five city councilmembers to five and a half years could be a problem for supporters of the charter amendments as well.

Some opponents are taking issue with the fact that the proposals would have those who are elected to the City Council and LAUSD Board this year and in 2017 serving five and a half years in office, instead of four years, to bring the terms in line with the new even-year election schedule.

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