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  • 8

    Casting A Vote For Chaos
    Immigration; Posted on: 2010-10-18 16:24:10 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    "Third world people, third world nation, third world elections." -Ed.

    An analysis of voting in Bell and neighboring cities in southeast L.A. County with a largely Latino population reveals a pattern of turbulent elections, low voter turnout and charges of corruption.

    Earlier this year, angry trash haulers helped mount a recall of two City Council members in Montebello who had voted to award an exclusive waste-hauling contract to a rival company.

    Tens of thousands of dollars were spent. Dozens of complaints alleging harassment were filed with police during the campaign. But for all the furor, fewer than 10% of the city's voting-age population showed up to cast ballots.

    The pattern is a familiar one in the small, scandal-plagued cities of southeast Los Angeles County. Whether in Montebello, Bell, Lynwood or almost any of their heavily immigrant, mostly Latino neighboring cities, elections are frequent, intensely fought and decided by tiny fractions of the population. The combination, experts say, contributes to chronic political unrest and opens the way to repeated incidents of corruption.

    A Times analysis of voting records found that elections in these cities were more likely to have extremely low turnout than those elsewhere in Los Angeles County.

    At the same time, these communities are hotbeds for politicking and electioneering. Even as the vast majority sits on the sidelines, a few political players engage in a frenzy of electoral activities, a merry-go-round of special elections and recalls that sweep many of the same faces or members of the same families in and out of office.

    These elections are often swiftly followed by allegations of voting fraud, which are investigated by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Of the roughly 160 complaints clearly identified as involving elections in Los Angeles County's 88 cities in the last decade, roughly one-third involved a dozen southeast cities.

    "The danger here is that you have a small group running everything for their own benefit, rather than for the public good," said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. "The democracy isn't very healthy.... Low turnout is an invitation to misconduct."

    News Source: latimes.com


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