LA City Counting on Ethnic, Minority Votes For 2013 Election

LA City is already raring to get its own election season on the road.

Maria De La Luz Garcia, Manager, Voter Outreach Section

Maria De La Luz Garcia, Manager, Voter Outreach Section

Even as the dust settles on the 2012 campaign, LA City is raring to get its own election season on the road.

At a press conference held on city hall’s South Lawn, City Clerk June Lagmay was joined by representatives of several voting advocacy groups as her office launched “LA City Votes,” an ambitious Get Out The Vote campaign.

City Clerk June Lagmay at 'LA Votes' press conference

City Clerk June Lagmay at 'LA Votes' press conference

LA City’s primary balloting for the 2013 campaign is slated March 26 with the runoffs set for May 21. A total of 92 candidates are in the fray for the city’s top positions as well as several council seats.

With the November elections pointing to the massive clout of ethnic and minority voters, outreach to minority and ethnic communities features prominently in the city’s push to increase voter participation.

Voter guides will be offered in two new federally-mandated languages, Hindi and Thai, bringing to ten the number of non-English languages in which polling material will be offered. Additionally the department is planning an outreach blitz with multilingual print ads, PSAs, bus shelter posters, and bi-lingual pollworkers.

At the same time, Lagmay is seeking the support of community organizations and non-English media outlets to energize their respective voter bases.

“We don't want anybody to feel ‘they don't care about us,’ but we need the people that serve those communities to partner with us so that they can get our message out,” she told this writer, mentioning the LA-based South Asian Network as one of the organizations the department is counting upon for that purpose. Other organizations partnering in the effort include the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), several Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese community groups, the NAACP, Common Cause and Rock the Vote. (Full list below).

Lagmay is also committed to sending department staff directly to get-out-the-vote events to help explain election procedures and ballot measures: “You [community organizations]are the satellites, we will come to you, “ she promised.

The election chief is unfazed by LA County’s poor voter turnout at the Presidential, when just 57.5% of the 4.6 million registered to vote cast ballots, and trusts the long list of vacant city council seats up for grabs will have Angelenos flocking to the ballot box in greater numbers.

LA City Counting on Ethnic, Minority Votes For 2013 Election

“Because of the sheer number of seats open and the nature of the fact that they are the important citywide seats of mayor, city controller, and city attorney, and because the issues of the city are more immediate than the remote issues of state and federal government there will be people saying ‘I didn’t vote at the state election, but I will vote at my city election.’”

Maria De La Luz Garcia who manages the Voter Outreach Section sees an opportunity to break the traditional voter apathy witnessed at local elections. Garcia points out the difference this time around is that the city has taken a major step forward partnering with 20 community organizations, in addition to a massive outreach effort which includes public service announcements and get-out-the-vote posters in nine different languages.

“Parks, neighborhoods, garbage collection, police and fire are tangible issues that people are affected by and even though there’s been low voter turnout at past elections, with the help of these partners, we want to turn that around. We need to make sure that people see the importance of these local elections,” she said.

Past elections have drawn less than 10% of the city’s registered voters to the polls.

In addition to the mayor, city attorney, and controller races, the March primaries will see balloting for city council districts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15, LAUSD Board of Education districts 2, 4, and 6, and LA Community College District (LACCD)Board of Trustees seats 2,4,and 6.

The tab for the outreach program, including staffing, is an estimated $500,000.

As of October, LA City had a tally of 1,700,349 registered voters and LACCD 2,353,863.

How many will turn out to vote? "We'll wait and see, but I'm hopeful," said Lagmay.

List of Community Partners

Hassina Leelarathna is Editor of CivicLA.

Photos from CivicLA.

This article originally appeared in CivicLA.

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