Voting, Transparency, Democracy Go Hand-in-Hand

GUEST WORDS--Super Tuesday is just a few days away and I’ve been thinking a lot about the turnout for this election.

In 2016, only 41.3% of Los Angeles County registered voters turned in their primary ballot and just 67.5% voted in the General Election. 

  • Are voters inspired to go to one of the new voting centers or are more people voting from home and mailing (for free) their ballots?
  • What can we expect for the turnout for this year – and will the new Vote Centers and 11 days of voting make a difference? 

As any new system rolls out there will be kinks, and I was not expecting perfection from the LA County Vote Centers. However, the number of issues showing up during the first five days is troubling. We have already heard that some of the Vote Centers did not open on time. We heard that LA County mailed absentee ballots with incorrect district information and missing races. There has been confusion on which Vote Centers will be open 11 days and which ones will only open for 4 days and reports that some voters went to three Vote Center locations this past Saturday before they were able to vote. 

  • The big question I have is why wasn’t the equipment, materials and staff in place the day before voting was to start?
  • Will personal stories about the difficulties with voting contribute to an even lower turnout this primary season? 

When you hear “voter suppression” it’s not just voter ID laws, Russian interference or even “fake news”. Voter suppression can be unintentional by simply not investing in the proper training of support staff. When a voter receives an incorrect ballot or wrong information about when and where to vote – this is also voter suppression. Our elected leaders must ensure that government staff has the training, resources and knowledge to do their jobs. We need to protect our Democracy and we do that by protecting our right to vote and protecting our election process.   

LA residents need to have faith in our local government. They need their elected leaders to care about policy, details and make sure they are serving out needs. The City of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power (DWP) are under investigation for corruption. Corruption investigations have become so rampant that people do not seem surprised when the FBI conducts a raid on city property. These accusations have eroded the trust people have in their elected leaders to make the best decisions on their behalf. We must remember that corruption in government impacts everyone. Investigations take time and resources away from providing good city services. 

We need to implement policies in City Hall that promote transparency, accountability, and fairness to reform our City’s politics. We can open up the books and have the Controller’s checkbook actually show each check issued. When the Controller’s office first opened up the checkbook, it was possible to see each check by searching the name it was issued to. However, that process has changed and it has become much more difficult to find this information. We need to return to a transparent process that allows the constituents and citizens of the City to see where their hard-earned tax dollars go. 

When people don’t think their voice matters to their elected leadership, when they can’t see how their taxes are spent, when they see lobbyists and political insiders constantly contributing to reelection campaigns – is this more apt to make a voter just stay home?  I truly believe the percentage of registered voters who actually vote would go up if they felt that their vote mattered, that they were listened to, and that they felt confident with how their taxes were spent. 

Our government leaders can do better and must do better and then more people will engage and vote.


(Grace Yoo is a community leader and attorney who is currently running for Los Angeles City Council’s District 10.)-cw