AN ENTERPRISING and civic-minded California movie producer named Ed Shaw has come up with an imaginative scheme for encouraging voter turnout in today's Golden State primary. He has organized a lottery in which only those who turn up at the polls will be eligible to participate. Voters must simply put name, address and phone number on the back of a ballot stub and mail it in for the drawing that will be held June 21. Merchants from all over the state have donated prizes, and Mr. Shaw has raised $5 million to purchase additional goodies. There are, in fact, so many prizes that organizers expect that almost everyone who votes will win one. State election officials have ruled that the lottery is legal because it doesn't influence anyone's vote. We're not so sure.
A cursory look at the list of prizes brings to mind a certain kind of voter. A chance to win some vitamins, a membership in a health club and a supply of protein powder, for example, might not bring your Uncle Archie Bunker to the polls, but could be a powerful incentive for supporters of the Vegetarian Party and perhaps even the backers of Governor You-Know-Who. We doubt that many migrant farm workers will leave the fields for an opportunity to win "a lunch in Waikiki with James MacArthur of 'Hawaii Five-O' if they happen to be in Honolulu." But affluent law-and-order Californians might adjust their schedules for a chance at that prize.
Mr. Shaw is already thinking about a national lottery for the 1984 presidential elections. Before this scheme is allowed to go any further, however, it might be well to establish a fully funded, bipartisan ecumenical federal commission on voter lottery prizes to supervise the bonanza. Otherwise, the possibilities of manipulating the outcome -- Chablis and Brie versus beer and Fritos -- will be too numerous to count, or countenance. There could be a referendum on what the lottery prizes should be, to be held no more than eight months before the election with no write-ins allowed unless there has been previously a petition signed by fully two-thirds of those who prefer Velveeta to Brie in the state of Massachusetts. You get the idea -- sort of like the system we have now.