Mega Millions jackpot reaches $180 million

Mega Millions, a multistate lottery drawing, reached $180 million Tuesday after no player matched the winning numbers. Lottery games like Mega Millions are infamously regressive, but one city has found an intriguing new way to use them. 

By , Associated Press

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    A customer holds a Mega Millions lottery ticket at a convenience store in Chicago last year. A Mega Millions jackpot hit $180 million this week.
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 The Mega Millions jackpot has risen to an estimated $180 million for the next drawing in the multistate lottery game.

The grand prize amount rolled over because no player matched all the winning numbers to take the $160 million jackpot up for grabs Tuesday night. Mega Millions will be played again on Friday.

Four players who bought a ticket in Michigan won a lesser prize of $5,000, and 30 Michigan ticket-buyers won $500.

Recommended: Can you manage your money? A personal finance quiz.

The winning numbers from Tuesday were: 22, 39, 56, 67 and 71. The Mega Ball number was 15.

Lottery tickets in the US  are infamous as a regressive tax – low income members of the population tend to buy the most tickets, the funds from which go on to pay for certain local and state programs. But as the AP reported last week, the city of Los Angeles is toying with the idea of using lottery drawings for another purpose – getting people out to vote. Part of the story is below: 

With fewer than a fourth of voters showing up for recent local elections, the city's Ethics Commission voted to recommend that the City Council consider a cash-prize drawing as an incentive to vote.

Commission President Nathan Hochman said a pilot program should be used first to find out the number and size of prizes that would bump up turnout.

"Maybe it's $25,000 maybe it's $50,000," Hochman said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "That's where the pilot program comes in."

"When I heard that he really wants to consider this, and was enthused and excited about this out-of-the-box idea, I thought, 'Let’s get an action item before his committee,'" Hochman said

"I can't wait to have this conversation," he said, but added that he didn't want to be the "poster child" for the proposal.

It wasn't immediately clear whether there was any precedent in other cities or states for such a move, which brings with it questions of propriety and legality.

Federal law prohibits payment for voting, but Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, who is also an attorney and law school professor, says that statute wouldn't apply to elections without federal races on the ballot.

California law prohibits money or gifts for votes for a particular candidate or measure, or payment to stay away from the polls altogether.

Hochman said the proposed prizes would be for simply entering the voting booth.

"If they truly think there are no good candidates, we're not going to force them" to choose one, he said. "What the studies have shown is, if you get people to the voting booths and they're being incentivized to be there ... over time they will vote for someone."

The idea may require a ballot measure for approval, depending on the source of the funding.

Other ideas for turning up turnout — including changing municipal elections to even-numbered years to sync with federal elections — could prove longer and more laborious, making faster, blunter approaches more desirable.

"We have turnout in citywide elections in the high teens and low 20s and I think that's pretty dismal," Levinson said.

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