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Huntington Park to get two new voting centers after community outcry

A man drops his ballot into an official ballot drop box
Jonathan Franco casts his vote with brother Christian Franco, left, at the Huntington Park Library ballot drop box in Huntington Park on Thursday.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Huntington Park is set to receive two new mobile voting centers after local leaders complained that the existing options hampered voting access for the city’s residents.

Under Los Angeles County’s new $300-million voting system, the number of voting centers in Huntington Park shrank from seven in a typical year to two, Councilwoman Karina Macias said. Worried that the change could affect voter turnout, Macias said she and other council members requested more.

All L.A. County voters are able to cast their ballots at one of the nearly 800 vote centers and more than 400 drop box sites in the county, said Michael Sanchez, spokesman for the L.A. County registrar’s office.

“You trust that the registrar’s office is doing their due diligence to make sure there’s no voter suppression,” Macias said. “Yeah, we can vote anywhere now, but it’s not that easy for everyone to get to a voting center,” especially when it’s a distance away.

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Late Thursday, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis and the registrar announced that the 3-square-mile city of nearly 59,000 would receive two more voting sites for election day. Vote centers will open at Huntington Park Library and Salt Lake Park on Friday, with in-person voting available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Monday. On Tuesday, election day, those centers plus two mobile sites at Raul R. Perez Memorial Park and Nimitz Middle School will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“The county of Los Angeles will safeguard its duty to ensure and protect the right to vote, including voting in person during this election,” Solis said. “The voices of our Huntington Park residents matter, and that is why the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder, at my direction, is taking the appropriate steps to ensure all voters can exercise their fundamental right to vote in an option of their choice.

Previously, the plan was for Huntington Park to have vote centers at only the library and Salt Lake Park. KABC-TV Channel 7 reported Wednesday evening that city leaders were pleading with the registrar’s office to give Huntington Park voters more options, calling the situation “voter suppression.”

“We are happy that the county is now working closely with the city to make possible an additional two voting areas where there was a need,” Macias wrote in a text Thursday evening.

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For the March primary election, four voting centers were open in Huntington Park, Sanchez said. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that number dropped to two. In a written statement, the registrar’s office said it had considered eight locations, but four were deemed unsuitable because of COVID-19 safety precautions and another two “declined to participate.”

“Our office is confident that there is adequate coverage of vote centers and drop boxes within reasonable distance of Huntington Park to allow for a safe and secure voting experience,” Sanchez said in the statement.

In a phone call, he added that the registrar had sent a flex voting center — a temporary canopy set up with voting devices — to Huntington Park for the day Thursday.

“It’s a targeted approach where we bring voting to communities that may not have as much accessibility,” Sanchez said.

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Huntington Park Vice Mayor Graciela Ortiz posted a Facebook video Thursday afternoon from the pop-up voting site, saying, “Let’s get out that vote; it’s so important that we get out that vote!”

Huntington Park resident Judy Ahumada was upset with local officials for their handling of the general election. On Thursday afternoon, the city’s webpage for election information still listed the March primary ballot box locations — including one spot that is not available for the November general election. The webpage was updated Thursday evening. The website’s voter registration page is blank.

“Yeah, I mean, it might be a fault for us [at the city] only because we were waiting to see if we would get more locations,” Macias said when asked about the outdated webpage.

Ahumada drove around her Huntington Park neighborhood Monday, searching for a ballot box. When she didn’t readily find one, the 38-year-old drove to the post office, thinking she’d surely locate one there — no luck, so she dropped the ballot in the mailbox instead.

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Ahumada said county and city officials should have secured more ballot box locations readily accessible to Huntington Park residents.

“I feel like these communities are very vulnerable for a lot of reasons, and to see people in power not empowering their community members to be more active is pretty disheartening,” she said.


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