Los Angeles Considers Giving Citizens Lottery Tickets if they Vote

Monday, August 18, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

A sticker isn’t enough to draw people to the polls, a city of Los Angeles advisory board has concluded. Instead, the panel wants the city to look into holding an election-day lottery. The cost of a ticket: pulling the curtain back on a voting booth.


With as few as 8% of registered voters showing up to vote in some recent elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has urged the City Council to consider improving turnout with a lottery pilot program. No actual vote would be required, but those participating would have to show up at the polls to participate. There was no decision on what the grand prize for participating in the democratic process. “Maybe it’s $25,000, maybe it’s $50,000,” Ethics Commission President Nathan Hochman told The Los Angeles Times. “That’s where the pilot program comes in—to figure out what...number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box.”


It would seem that almost any prize would draw more voters than are currently participating in municipal elections. Only 23% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2013 mayoral election, according to the Times.


An election lottery has been suggested before. Arizona put the idea before voters in 2006, but it was defeated by a two-to-one margin. Detractors of that initiative, and the Los Angeles proposal, say it would bring people to the polls who were interested only in the prize, not in the issues.


“That might produce better results,” Fernando Guerra, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, told Southern California Public Radio. “There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters.”


Los Angeles is also considering a more mundane solution to the problem of voter turnout. It’s looking at moving its municipal elections to even-numbered years to coincide with state and federal elections.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Panel Wants L.A. To Look At Using Prizes To Boost Voter Turnout (by David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times)

Vote! You Just Might Win $50,000 (Time)

The Mega Millions Solution (by Norman Ornstein, New York Times)


RandyKC 10 years ago
I usually consider the act of voting itself to be playing the lottery. Scratchers tickets are when you vote in the primaries and both candidates leave you scratching you head.

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