Inglewood residents fear an onslaught of special elections

Over the next eight months, Inglewood voters may find themselves casting ballots in local elections not once, not twice, but as many as five times.

The voting begins with a special election on June 8 to fill the post vacated by Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, who abruptly resigned in January after pleading guilty to a charge of public corruption.

If one candidate does not receive the majority of the votes, a runoff election will be scheduled no more than 70 days later, meaning some time in August, according to the city charter.

Close contests that result in runoffs are not uncommon in Inglewood. The city’s last mayoral election – in 2006 – went to a runoff, as did the election that year for the District 1 council seat.

“When you have a fresh election with new people, yes, [a runoff] is very common,” said Yvonne Horton, city clerk for Inglewood.

If one of the three council members who are vying for the mayoral spot wins, another election may be required to fill their vacated post.

And that’s not it.

Inglewood’s “worst-case scenario” could include an onslaught of special elections, said Elliott Petty, of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and the Coalition for a Better Inglewood.

“I very easily see four to five elections in the next eight months, a low turnout, and a lot of money for the city,” Petty said.

Kareem Crayton, an expert on election law and politics at the University of Southern California, called it the “domino effect of election vacancies.” While he said special elections are not uncommon, “the people who design these election rules do not really consider the costs associated with the ‘worst case scenario.’”

The June election alone will divert more than $100,000 from Inglewood’s general fund, Horton said. By consolidating the local election with a statewide race, the city will not have to hire its own poll workers.

But, according to Horton, that doesn’t mean the election is free. “[The state] will give us a quote, and we have to pay them,” she said.

The price tag for each subsequent runoff election would be the same, with the cost shouldered entirely by the city.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the nominating period for the November’s regular mayoral election runs from July 12 to August 6.

“Special elections happen all the time for any unfortunate reason,” said Sherry Mosley, an expert on governmental affairs at the University of Southern California. “But if that ran into a November election, then why are they having a November election?”

Council members are considering consolidating a potential runoff with the November election, said Edward Maddox, the Inglewood public information officer.

“They would need to petition to put something on the ballot that would change the rules,” Maddox said. “There is talk about that but council hasn’t taken any action.”

Residents are worried about what this potential election overload could do to voter turnout.

“I tend to believe after so many elections people get tired and dismayed,” Petty said. “You hear a lot of promises, and you get tired of the promises.”

Recent political events in Inglewood, however, have sparked an increased interest at city council meetings. The first council meeting after Dorn’s resignation drew a standing-room-only crowd.

“I hope these citizens see there’s a change happening,” Raynald Davis, an Inglewood resident, observed at the time. “And we need to take a stand as a city.”