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Losing at the Polls: How L.A.'s Low Voter Turnout Compares Across the Country

“Dismal voter turnout.” -the Los Angeles Times
“Another embarrassing low for L.A.” -Huffington Post
“Angelenos are OK with being ignorant.” -Huggington Post

There’s been a lot said about low turnout in this week’s mayoral election (only 19 percent of registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday). But just how bad is the situation in Los Angeles, and is the problem larger than our city limits? We pulled the numbers for the latest elections in the country’s five most populous cities to get perspective on the alarming voter apathy epidemic. Here’s what we found out:

Los Angeles, May 2013

Registered voters: 1,797,318
Total votes cast: 345,207
Votes for winner (Eric Garcetti): 181,995
Percentage of registered voters electing the mayor: 19.2%

New York City general election, November 2009

Registered voters: 4,462,657
Total votes cast: 1,154,802
Votes for winner (Michael Bloomberg): 585,466
Percentage of registered voters electing the mayor: 25.9%

Chicago municipal election, February 2011

Registered voters: 1,406,037
Total votes cast: 590,357
Votes for winner (Rahm Emanuel): 323,546
Percentage of registered voters electing the mayor: 42.0%

Houston municipal election, December 2009

Registered voters: 953,213
Total votes cast: 160,046
Votes for winner (Annise Parker): 82,175
Percentage of registered voters electing the mayor: 16.8%

Philadelphia municipal election, November 2011

Registered voters: 1,000,000
Total votes cast: 183,026
Votes for winner (Michael A. Nutter): 136,532
Percentage of registered voters electing the mayor: 18.3% 

L.A.'s disappointing turnout numbers put it in the middle of the pack. Put another way, our willingness (or unwillingness) to weigh in on the leadership of our city is perfectly average. But we can do better than that, can't we?

 

With reporting by Jo Al-Rasheed

Los Angeles numbers are unofficial. Philadelphia numbers are approximate.