The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has asked the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC), to award a Professional Services Contract to Everyone Counts, Inc., for the Online Voting System and Candidate/Voter Registration for the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council System.

The BONC approved contract is for a period of three (3) years commencing upon the date of City Clerk attestation and has been sent to the Mayor’s Office for review and approval.

I’m here to tell you that I‘m in favor, and I fully support this request.

I find it interesting that full citizenry participation within the Council System has taken so long to develop. This reminds me to the fact that in many parts of Latin America and in particular Mexico, democracy took time to take hold.

In the late 1990’s, Los Angeles was facing a crisis as discontented neighborhoods across the city expressed their displeasure at being under-represented by city government. The Neighborhood Councils were created to bring more Angelinos together, all of them residents, homeowners, renters, students, undocumented, rich, poor, homeless, etc., but sometimes it seems as if the opposite is happening.

The website of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment tells us that the City of Los Angeles neighborhood council system was formed over ten years ago to strengthen the relationship between citizens and city government with the goal of improving city services. They were created as an experiment in citizen-engaged democracy, this is always an inspiring undertaking not without its frustrations for the councils and those associated with them.  Online Voting is an example of what the NC’s were created for.

We must do a better job of engaging residents, and we can start with Online Voting. I’m aware and understand that there are concerns about its safety, but I think these concerns are overblown, people are just afraid of change and wider participation.  Everyone Counts has nearly two decades of experience in successfully deploying secure, reliable, and transparent elections all over the world, delivering ballots to millions of voters in over 165 countries.

How can we truly represent a community when on election day we only get ten, eight and sometimes even one vote? How can Neighborhood Councils be truly representative and effective at lobbying City Hall with such a dismal civic engagement? NC’s can’t function this way; we have to do something about this. I think Online Voting is one way to increase involvement, and start a process of wider participation and better representation.

When I first ran for my local NC seat in 2010 I won by one vote. The City Clerk certified the election, but still my Neighborhood Council removed me from the board, claiming that the City Clerk didn’t write down what kind of ID stakeholders brought to identify themselves. Really?  This will not happen with Online Voting.

Online Voting would be part of that experiment, that’s the whole point of the NC’s. This is an opportunity to innovate, to become a better city, a 21st century city, and to set an example of what we can achieve together. If we want to truly become a representative body of the residents of Los Angeles we should go ahead with this experiment, done right I believe it can work.

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Originally posted at City Watch LA.

Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village.  He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: