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California

‘This is like gridlock on the 405’: Polls have closed, but hundreds still lined up to vote

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People line up to vote at the Hammer Museum in Westwood.
(Ben Oreskes/Los Angeles Times)

It was 8:01 p.m. when Nick Franchino, an L.A. County poll worker, called out to voters lined up outside the Shepherd of the Valley Church in West Hills — and around the corner.

“This is it, if you’re not in line you’re not in,” he said.

He snapped a photo of the last voter in line.

“You have to tell them it’s closed and you’re the last person,” he said. At that point, he counted 222 people in line.

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As Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders earned a resounding win in California’s Democratic presidential race on Super Tuesday, hundreds of voters were still lined up to vote across Los Angeles County. Anyone lined up before 8 p.m. was allowed to vote.

“This is like gridlock on the 405,” said Brentwood resident Myles Berkowitz, who was waiting in line around 8:30 p.m. “It’s an absolute disaster. The longest I’ve waited was in ’92 and that [was for Bill] Clinton. That was an hour.”

Berkowitz stopped by the Hammer Museum in Westwood around 4 p.m. to vote on Tuesday, but was told by a polling staffer that it would be a three-hour wait. So he drove to Felicia Mahood Senior Citizen Center in West L.A., and stood in line for 20 minutes when a staffer there told Berkowitz that two of the center’s five voting machines were down.

The staffer warned it would be a 45-minute wait and suggested that Berkowitz head to another vote center at Brockton Elementary School. He drove there, only to be told it would be a two-hour wait.

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Frustrated, Berkowitz headed back to the senior center, hoping the lines there had died down. They had not.

“They’re telling me, after waiting here for another hour and a half, that it’s another two hours,” Berkowitz said.

At Castlebay Lane Charter School in Porter Ranch, scores of people remained in a line that trailed out the door at 8 p.m. Poll workers estimated they would wait anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to cast their ballots.

“There was never a line the last several years,” said Craig Meier, Porter Ranch resident who works as an executive assistant. At his old polling place at a church “we were in and out within 10 minutes.”

Lesley Kyle put her 5-year-old twins to bed with just enough time to rush to Shepherd of the Valley Church, the closest vote center. She barely made it in, scurrying into place at the end of the line at 8 p.m., with one other woman behind her as Franchino, the poll worker, told voters that the line was closed.

Kyle’s husband, who was at home with the kids, had already mailed in his ballot, but she “wanted to just go over and verify my research on the judges and the measures,” she said.

She said polls should stay open later for those who can’t make it during the day and early evening.

“Who my children see is important to me, who represents my children, and the future and the well-being of my kids, is important,” Kyle said. She planned to vote for Biden.

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But would-be voters outside the Montebello Senior Center said they were turned away at 8 p.m. even though they were in line hours earlier. Alyana Chavez, a 21-year-old student at Rio Hondo Community College, arrived at the senior center at 6 p.m. with her mother. Right as they got to the front of the line two hours later, Chavez said, poll workers closed the doors and threatened to call police when voters complained that they had a right to vote because they were in line.

“Waiting there for two hours and not being able to vote, it’s really upsetting,” Chavez said, noting there were about 80 people in line when the doors were closed.

In the San Fernando Valley, voters were waiting more than two hours outside Monroe High School to cast their ballots. Tensions rose when a poll worker pulled some voters into a separate line for those who had filled out their ballot selections online in advance and had received codes to transfer them to a ballot at the vote center, said Joe Meehan, 51, who was waiting with his wife, Katie. When she finally entered the building to vote around 8 p.m., about 350 people were still in line, Meehan said.

“When you’ve been waiting two hours and you hear how you could have saved time, it starts to get a little ugly,” said Meehan, who works for an event registration company.

In Westwood, a line to vote snaked around the second floor of the Hammer Museum as Angelenos fiddled with their phones, read books and propped up computers to do homework as they waited well past when the polls closed.

At around 8:30 p.m. the last person in line had been told they would likely be waiting up to 3½ hours. Seated on a bench beside her 103-pound St. Bernard, Sandra Kielgass laughed and chatted with new friends who came to pet the dog, Lady. Kielgass lives blocks from the museum and said she had gotten in line around 6:30 p.m. but didn’t expect to wait this long.

Pizza had been distributed to those waiting, but Kielgass was still anxious to cast her vote and get home.

“I always go to a place late on election day,” she said. “It’s to be expected. I guess it’s a good thing it’s so crowded. People are voting.”

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Closer to the front of the line, Daniel La Cava and Jason Nehoray stared off blankly, listening to music. They had both been waiting 2 hours and 20 minutes, and expected to wait at least another hour. Nehoray, a UCLA senior, tried to go to the UCLA Ackerman Union vote center after class, but the line scared him off.

La Cava had stopped by the museum earlier in the day when the line was shorter but didn’t stay. Now the battery life of his phone was top of mind.

“I didn’t prepare well enough for this,” he said. “I should’ve brought a book or something.”

Both intended to stick it out to vote even after a reporter had told them that Sanders was projected to win California. The line wasn’t going to change who they’d be voting for.

Times staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian and Emily Alpert-Reyes contributed to this report.


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