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Drug Arrest Leaves Voters Scrambling for a Booth

Times Staff Writer

Voters at Precinct 295-0072A in Inglewood had a series of unusual problems Tuesday that bedeviled their right to vote.

Their polling place at an apartment on Plymouth Street was the scene of a drug raid last week in which one of the men arrested turned out to be the precinct’s chief inspector, police said. County registrar officials--told of the arrests by narcotics investigators who noted the presence of voting booths and election materials along with the cocaine and cash seized at the home--scrambled over the weekend to arrange for a new polling place and a new inspector.

They did so, but their problems didn’t end there.

On Tuesday morning, voters expecting to cast ballots at 7 o’clock when the polls opened were turned away because there were no poll workers at the precinct’s new polling location in the Beach Street home of Dian Jones, the new precinct inspector. Officials were not certain why the assigned workers didn’t show up.

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“I asked one of them why and you couldn’t print what she said,” Jones said.

The polling place remained closed for more than an hour while Jones, faced with the increasing ire of people in a hurry to vote, pleaded with election officials to let her open the election booths. Regulations require that at least three precinct workers be on duty at a polling place during the hours of voting.

Registrar officials finally relented and allowed Jones to open with the help of a family friend who was hastily recruited. County officials later sent a third person to help out.

Some voters, who had a tough time finding the new polling place although it was only three blocks from the old one, were angered by the situation. One woman was so frustrated that she called a radio talk show to complain.

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“Voters who finally got in here were pretty hostile,” Jones said.

The woes of Precinct 295-0072A began last Friday morning when police narcotics officers from Culver City raided a home in the 300 block of West Plymouth Street, Police Lt. Tom Mahoney said.

“It was part of a narcotics investigation and we were there to serve a search warrant,” he said.

Arrested at the home was a resident of the household, Michael H. Moore, 26, and another man, Robert Billups, 27, of Hawthorne, Mahoney said.

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Among the items found at the home--including an undisclosed amount of cocaine, cash and drug sales paraphernalia--were sealed boxes of election ballots, other election materials and voting booths, he said.

Mahoney said officers called the county registrar’s office and asked, “Is this stuff supposed to be here?”

County records showed that Moore, who was arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine for sale and later freed on $10,000 bail, was to be the precinct’s inspector for Tuesday’s election. Registrar officials then went to the Plymouth Street home last Saturday and collected the precinct equipment and set out in search of a new polling place.

At 6 a.m. Sunday, they frantically called Jones, who said she was “honored” two weeks earlier when she was asked to serve as a clerk at the old polling place.

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“They came over and asked if they could have the polling place here,” she said. “Of course! When I turned 21, I made my mother take me to register so I could vote!”

Her joy turned sour Tuesday morning when the complaints from voters began. But as the day progressed, tempers subsided and more than one voter was heard to greet the affable Jones with a “Glad to find you so I can vote. . . .”

Meanwhile, some voters showing up on Plymouth Street were directed to the new polling place by some friends and an uncle of Moore’s.

“We’re sorry for the inconvenience to the voters, but I’m more concerned right now for my nephew,” Lakes Thompson said.

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Moore could not be reached for comment.


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