LA
03/05/2013 02:17 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2013

Jim Rainey: Los Angeles Voters Don't Know About Local Elections, Don't Care (VIDEO)

Los Angeles Times political writer Jim Rainey didn't mince words when describing the typical Los Angeles voter. In a discussion on HuffPost Live Monday, Rainey claimed that Angelenos suffered "no social stigma" if they didn't know a single thing about local politics.

"If you don't even have an opinion or don't even know who the mayor is, you can go out and there's no social stigma attached to knowing nothing," said Rainey. "It's part of the local culture."

Unfortunately, voter turnout rates for LA's most recent mayoral races seem to validate Rainey's observation. When Antonio Villaraigosa first won his mayoral seat in 2005, only 28 percent of registered voters took to the polls, notes LA Daily News.

Twenty-eight percent seems low, especially when compared to LA's 51.6 percent voter turnout for the 2012 general election. However, Villaraigosa's first mayoral campaign was an historic one, and the turnout ended up dwarfing figures for his 2009 re-election: 17 percent.

Voter turnout for Tuesday's municipal elections is also expected to be very low.

So what gives? Pollster Dan Schnur of USC thinks that LA's 2013 mayoral race suffers from a lack of outsized personalities.

"You have to feel bad for them. They have debated 40 times," said Schnur to The Daily Beast. "It is like watching a very long and detailed spelling bee."

But could there be another way to encourage voter participation, besides praying for more inspirational (or kooky) candidates?

Yes, according to former LA City Controller Laura Chick. In a February op-ed for the LA Times, she noted that moving municipal elections to coincide with state or national elections would save the city money and encourage more people to vote for local issues that have a direct impact on their everyday lives.

Rainey pointed out that some critics claim local issues could get buried if municipal elections are moved to "on-years," but added, "I do think that with these paltry turnouts it would be good to do something to try and get more people to pay attention."

USC/LA Times' latest polls, released Sunday, show that Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are statistically tied for first place (27 percent and 25 percent, respectively), while radio host Kevin James and Councilwoman Jan Perry are tied at 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Tech executive Emanuel Pleitez racked up just 5 percent.

In order to win the primary election, one person has to gain more than 50 percent of the vote. Given the most recent polls, it seems all but inevitable that the mayoral race will end in a runoff election, scheduled for May.

If you're voting in the primaries Tuesday, check out our cheatsheet and click through the slideshow below for information on all five candidates:

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LA Mayorial Candidates 2013

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