Early voting centers open across L.A. County
Traditionally, election day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but early voting in Los Angeles County has already begun.
If you want to vote in person, you can now go to one of the 118 vote centers throughout the county. They’ll be open every day, including weekends, through election day, Nov. 3, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The line of voters outside the South Pasadena community room stretched the length of two football fields by the time the doors opened at 10 a.m. Saturday. After the initial surge, the crowding subsided but traffic remain steady throughout the day.
Several voters said they preferred to vote in person, with all the discussion this year about the U.S. Postal Service potentially being delayed in delivering mail-in ballots.
Others said they wanted to get their vote in the presidential race recorded as quickly as possible and voting in person seemed the best option.
“There is a tension in the air this year and extra excitement about voting and setting an example,” said Thea Page, a communications and marketing executive. “There are just a lot of issues in the public consciousness right now.”
Alexius Dixon, 32, an accountant for a law firm, said he wanted to record his vote against the president as soon as possible.
“This election is very important because the last four years of the experiment with Donald Trump has been a disaster,” Dixon said. “A lot of people picked him because he wasn’t a typical politician, but now we have a track record and we know that he was just not the right person for the job.”
Ann Crigler and her husband dropped their mail-in ballots at the same South Pasadena vote center, eager to record their disapproval of the president.
“Trump has got to go. He’s got to go,” said Crigler, a USC political science professor. “He’s endangering our democracy, undermining the institutions of government.” Her husband concurred: “He’s fundamentally trying to undermine the way the government is supposed to work.”
Both said they have their hopes set on a Trump loss, but they aren’t assuming anything about the outcome, or that there will even be a victor declared on election day.
Also early Saturday, the line to vote at the Iman Cultural Center in the unincorporated community of Palms near Culver City snaked through the mosque’s large parking lot and down the length of the city block.
Some appeared eager for the chance to cast their ballots; two people snapped a selfie near the flag marking the voting site.
The rush appeared tied to the desire to vote as soon as the doors opened for the first time in the general election. By 1 p.m., there was no line at all outside the site.
On Oct. 30, the county will open 650 more voting stations. A wide range of public venues are serving as polling centers this year, including Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park, the Forum in Inglewood and Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, whose open spaces make social distancing easier while accommodating more voters
NBA arenas across the country are being used as voting centers as part of social justice initiative that the league and its players agreed to in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests this summer.
These vote centers represent a departure from how residents could vote in previous election cycles. Before this year, Angelenos voted at designated polling places in their neighborhoods, whereas now they can cast their ballot at any voting center, from Long Beach to Lancaster, regardless of where they live in the county.
“You’re not tied into only being able to vote in one specific voting place, as you were before,” Justin Levitt, a political science professor at Cal State Long Beach told The Times before the March presidential primary. “Of course, for voters going to these centers, this is going to be a new experience.”
L.A. County plans to send 5.6 million mail ballots to voters in early October while still offering in-person voting amid the pandemic.
Officials hope this flexibility and encouraging people to either vote by mail or simply drop off their filled-out ballots at a vote center will reduce the lines on election day and the pressure on the new voting technology the county is using. The March election was marred by breakdowns and delays at the polls as the county rolled out its new $300-million voting system. November will mark the first election since that problem-riddled debut, and officials have spent months trying to fix the glitches.
And it will be the first election in which ballots will have been mailed to all 5.6 million registered voters, not just those who request them. Voters can drop their filled-out ballots into boxes that have been placed around the county. Voters can find the location of their nearest drop box online.
“Am I concerned? Yeah, and I am going to be concerned until Nov. 4,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who has been vocal in her criticism after long lines and computer problems frustrated some voters in March. “We have a huge challenge in front of us.”
The U.S. Elections Project calculates that more than 57 million Americans had cast ballots by mail or at early-vote centers by Saturday evening. That is about the same number as the total early-vote count for the entire 2016 election, with 10 days of voting left to go.
You can look up the closest voting center to you on the county’s website.
Matt Stiles contributed to this report
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