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Die-hard L.A. voters head to polls despite sleepy races [UPDATED]

March 3, 2009 |  2:46 pm

Barbara Scharf of Encino votes at the Petco Store on Ventura Blvd in Encino Tuesday morning during a light voter turnout.

With scant turnout across the city, today's election drew a number of die-hard voters who said they were intent on doing their civic duty no matter how sleepy the races in their districts have been.

Eleanor Burian-Mohr, 57, a screenwriter who was one of just a handful of voters at the Elysian Heights Elementary school polling place around lunch time, said it was “possibly one of the dullest elections” she could recall. David Wittow, a 37-year-old flight attendant who voted at Saint Teresa School in Silver Lake, said the election had been “very boring,” but residents were taking their democracy for granted.

“It’s really interesting how people complain about the things that are happening, yet they don’t vote,” he said.

Wittow said he had read up on the solar initiative known as Measure B, which he supported even though he said he wished private companies could get more involved with generating solar power for L.A. The proposed Department of Water and Power program would produce at least 400 megawatts of solar power by 2014. A spokesperson for Measure B noted that the DWP would purchase solar panels from private companies and may contract out the work of installing the solar panels initially as needed.

John McNally, a 31-year-old editor from Silver Lake who also came out in part to support Measure B, said he was disappointed by the turnout. He had sent a mass e-mail to friends, encouraging them to go to the polls. A number told him they didn’t know they were supposed to vote today.

“Many people felt like they shouldn’t vote because they weren’t up on the issues,” McNally said.

One race that captured some interest from voters trickling into the polls was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s bid for a second term. The mayor is facing nine challengers, most of whom had scant resources to match his war chest.

In Larchmont Village, art dealer Alex Roux said she voted for David “Zuma Dogg” Saltsburg, a regular public participant at City Hall meetings. She said the mayor was “one of the worst mayors we’ve ever had” and that he’d been negligent in his oversight of downtown development. She also questioned his use of city revenue from parking meters, which she referred to as “payola.” She decided to support Saltsburg, who rarely speaks to council members without his sunglasses on, after hearing him on National Public Radio.

“He doesn’t care about being a celeb as much as Villaraigosa,” Roux said.

Burian-Mohr, Wittow and McNally said they had voted to reelect Villaraigosa.

"I think he's done pretty good so far," McNally said.

Updated, 3 p.m.: At the Barrington Recreation Center polling place in Brentwood, the clerks took bets on how low the voter turnout would be.

"We thought it would be 30 or 19," said clerk Tina Klein. "We all lost our bet."

By 2:30 p.m., they had a whopping 53 people. The few who turned up walked through a parking lot serenaded by the "thwock" of tennis balls being volleyed on nearby courts.

"Nobody debated the issues," said polling place clerk Suechin Keane on the low turnout. "We don't know what the issues are."

-- Maeve Reston, Joanna Lin and Carla Hall

Barbara Scharf of Encino votes at the Petco Store on Ventura Blvd in Encino Tuesday morning during a light voter turnout. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times