Would a $25,000 prize for voting increase turnout in LA?

According to the LA Times, the non-profit voting group Southwest Voter Registration Education Project is planning to award one lucky voter who casts their ballot in the Los Angeles Unified School District 5 election with a $25,000 prize.

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project was established to empower Latinos and other minorities to participate in the democratic process. They are especially interested in this election in the 5th district, as 57% of registered voters there are Latino. Antonio Gonzalez, president of the organization, calls the idea “voteria”, a play on the Spanish word “lotería”, meaning lottery. Though the SVREP has never given out money before, they have tried similar strategies—in 2004 they held drawings to give away a new car. The catch? A voter had to recruit four of their friends to vote as well.

The upcoming election on May 19 is between white incumbent Bennett Kayser and Latino challenger Ref Rodriguez. Despite the LAUSD school system being over 70% Latino, the 5th district seat has been represented by a white board member for 16 of the last 20 years.

Many wonder if this out-of-the-box incentive will actually increase Los Angeles’ dismal voter turnout numbers, and if voter turnout among Latinos will increase, which is the goal of the SVREP. Though the organization does not make endorsements, conventional wisdom does dictate that Latino voters are more likely to vote for a candidate with a Latino surname.

If you live in the 5th district—we suggest you make time to vote. Not only because it’s your civic duty, but also because, with such low turnout rates in these types of elections (just under 12%), your odds of winning are probably a lot higher than you think.