The Scramble To Fix Los Angeles Voting Before November
by Libby Denkmann in News on March 5, 2020
Los Angeles County’s new voting system is supposed to make elections more accessible.
But on Tuesday, many voters found casting a ballot to be anything but easy. At L.A. County’s new in-person voting locations, many people faced long wait times — sometimes in excess of three hours — caused by technical problems that marred the system’s debut.
Late Tuesday, the county’s top elections official apologized. On Wednesday, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn called for an investigation.
“Some hiccups are to be expected with a new system,” said Hahn in a statement, “but there were widespread reports of problems.”
“These issues,” Hahn added, “need to be fixed before this November.”
The snafu prompted California’s Secretary of State to issue a stern statement Thursday: “In Los Angeles County, too many voters faced unacceptably long wait times,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Voters who waited patiently for hours deserve our praise for their commitment to democracy. Voters deserve better.”
Padilla said Los Angeles County should mail a ballot to every registered voter, and address stang, logistical, training and equipment issues that bogged down voting in the country’s largest jurisdiction on Super Tuesday.
State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), one of the authors of the Voter’s Choice Act — the law that’s ushered in massive changes to the voting system in 15 California counties so far — also weighed in.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG ON ELECTION DAY?
Let’s break down what we know so far…
ABOUT THE ELECTRONIC CHECK-IN STATIONS
Remember how in elections past, you signed your name — probably upside-down — in a giant white book that confirmed you lived where you were registered?
L.A. County’s new system tossed those old paper rosters. Instead, election workers now check in voters electronically, on iPads that are connected to a database of registered voters.
This change was huge. It allows voters to check in at any one of 979 “vote centers” to cast a ballot. Even if that location isn’t close to where a voter lives, the system still prints a ballot with the races from their home precinct. (It’s also designed to prevent anyone from voting twice, because the database is regularly updated.)
But L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan said this process proved to be a choke point when hundreds of thousands of Angelenos showed up to vote on Tuesday. Many of the electronic poll books had problems with connectivity, Logan said, and this slowed the ow of voters.
ABOUT THE STATE’S VOTER DATABASE
What types of “connectivity” problems did these check-in devices experience? We still don’t know exactly.
It’s not clear if there was a problem with the iPads themselves — or if slowdowns were related to internet connections in some buildings that hosted the vote centers. California has regulations on the books requiring any electronic poll books that are connected to wi- to have secure, dedicated wireless access points.
Also, California has a statewide database of registered voters, nished in 2016, called VoteCal, that encountered some problems in other counties on Tuesday.
Padilla’s oce said in an email that 15 counties “had connectivity issues” with the database — but that Los Angeles was not among the affected counties.
ABOUT THE NEW TOUCHSCREEN VOTING MACHINES
Voters vote on the new voting machines at LAC+USC Medical Center. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
Tuesday night marked the rst election for L.A. County’s new “ballot- marking devices,” voting booths each tted with its own touchscreen, headphones, printer and ballot container. These devices were key features in the county’s big overhaul of how and where Angelenos vote.
In general, Logan said the ballot-marking machines performed well, once people could get to them.
On Twitter, the CEO of Smartmatic — the vendor that built the new ballot-marking devices — highlighted the ambitiousness of L.A. County’s election plans.
“Only those initiated in the elections path,” wrote the CEO, Antonio Mugica, “know how difficult it is to pull the biggest revamp in US election history.”
But there were also widespread reports of paper jams and other unexplained technical problems. Many in KPCC’s and LAist’s audiences reported machines were “out of order,” contributing to wait times at their vote centers.
A spokesperson with the L.A. County Registrar’s oce estimated earlier Tuesday that about 20% of the machines were not in service.
Some of this could be due to election worker error: the ballot marking devices were, after all, brand new. It’s also possible that poll workers were not adequately trained on the new technology, adding to wait times.
But people who did get in to vote had positive things to say: KPCC/LAist heard from many voters in Los Angeles who had a good experience with the new ballot-marking devices.
ABOUT THE NEW VOTING LOCATIONS
This primary marked the first time that voters could cast a ballot at any of the 979 vote centers in L.A. County. But predicting which vote center a resident would choose proved difficult.
Reports of long wait times at downtown locations, as well as on college campuses — where volunteers sent pizzas to students waiting in line — suggest that there weren’t enough staff or equipment at the vote centers with the highest demand.
Logan said his office plans to review the locations. The centers, he said, “were not as evenly distributed as one might desire.”
The idea of the new vote centers, part of the Voter’s Choice Act, is to make it easier for people to vote: Many opened 10 days before Election Day; others opened last weekend. Half a dozen were open overnight between Monday and Tuesday.
But these consolidated vote centers replaced roughly 4,800 neighborhood polling places. And not everyone may have known where the new locations were: vote center locations were only announced to the public a little over a month ago.
WHAT OTHER ISSUES MAY HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO LONG WAIT TIMES?
Same-day changes. State law now allows same-day voter registration at all polling places and the ability to switch your political party on Election Day. No Party Preference voters also had the option to ask for a crossover ballot to vote in the Democratic primary — all of which could add to the time it takes to check-in and process voters.
Few people voted early. The idea of an 11 day voting period is great — if enough people take advantage of it. But many vote centers were virtually empty during early voting. County Supervisor Janice Hahn told KPCC/LAist that county ocials should have foreseen that few people would vote early, leading to a rush on election day. “We should’ve been prepared to have more people vote yesterday,” Hahn said.
Californians had good reason to wait to cast their ballots — three major candidates dropped out of the race by the time Super Tuesday happened.
(This article above can be found on the internet. Source: Google)
In My Opinion by G. Juan Johnson
I was a qualified write-in candidate for the March election. “Qualified” means I was certified by the City clerk to receive the vote, and designated as “write-in” candidate (minus my name) on the ballot. (Votes do not count for write-in candidates not certified by the clerk.) As part of the certification process, I paid $300 to the city government.
Many of you know that even though voting is generally a right available to everyone, the process itself is much of “elitism”; the have’s and the have-nots. Believe me, many people have a prejudice against write-in candidates, even though in this election, for Los Angeles County there were over 250 write-in candidates, many of the positions were for judges or state assembly. In the city of Los Angeles race, council seats, by February 19, there were 13 write-in candidates certified by the city clerk.
The 2020 election was not operated in a “fair, accessible and transparent manner.” The voter ballot incorrectly said lists of write-in candidates were not available. Public officials kept write-in candidates from speaking at voter forums. Let me explain. This has been reported to Alex Padillo, secretary of state, as well as the Los Angeles Mayor and Council, city attorney Mike Feuer, the county registrar, and the city election division.
The problem started over a year ago when the city council and city election division changed the deadlines for write-in candidates to register; prior to last year write-in candidates could register starting the day after the deadline for nominating petitions for non-write in (“regular”) candidates. But last year the city council changed the registration date until about three weeks after the deadline for regular candidates. This of course gave a media advantage to the regular candidates. Then when write-ins could register on January 6 (which I did so), the county registrar initially refused to publish those names onto its county website which was the go to place on the election. I protested that the county list was incorrect because it did not show the qualified list of city write-in candidates, to that date. Shortly thereafter, the county posted a list from the city but made a distinction that the city list was not “final”. I protested to the extent that the word “final” would mislead early vote by mail voters into thinking they could not vote for Los Angeles city write-in candidates until the list was marked “final”. No one government official responded or made any changes. In the meantime, the county registrar around February 1 (the election was held March 3 but early voting started around February 11) mailed out a sample ballot and subsequent vote by mail ballot that said, “A list of qualified write-in candidates is available eleven days before the election at lavote.net.” In truth, the list of write-in candidates had already posted to the county website around January 1, 2020, and the city list to date sometime after January 6, so why would the county send out a misleading statement to over 3.5 million registered voters? The statement was sent twice, first in the sample ballots, and then again in the official absentee ballot. Again, no officials responded to me at the time. Voters at that point were not treated to a process that was fair, accessible and transparent because the election officials engaged in unethical conduct that mislead voters, and favored the “regular” candidates. In the meantime, as reported to government officials, numerous elected officials of the neighborhood councils conspired with businesses and churches and held so-called candidate forums where certain write-in candidates like myself were excluded from speaking. Again another misrepresentation to the public who attended these forums. Public officials like Mark Ridely-Thomas and Herb Wesson may have participated in these forums and made no comment as public officials, IMO business as usual. At one forum, I was physically assaulted by church security guards as I tried to speak as a candidate. In the meantime, the city clerk Los Angeles refused to mark as “final” the list of Los Angeles write-in candidates on the grounds the deadline for such candidates to sign up was February 18, again IMO another ploy to give unfair advantage to regular candidates and deny equal opportunity to write-in candidates like myself. The neighborhood councils who participated in this deprivation of civil rights receive $42,000 per year of city tax monies. I support that this system needs to be fixed if not for November 2020 then at least by the mayoral election for 2020.