Mariachi bands and YouTube celebs: Voting at Dodger Stadium on election day
Their reasons for coming to Dodger Stadium varied from making sure their vote would count to casting a ballot at a highly Instagrammable polling place.
Of course, on the final day of anything, procrastination is a factor.
Then, there was the spectacle. And for that, the venue did not disappoint on election day.
A mariachi band was playing in front of a disaster relief group handing out free food when two bare-cheeked streakers in American flag jock straps ran up, trailing their own camera crew.
They were there to “boost stoke,” as Chad Kroeber, the blond surfer dude, put it.
“What’s up, 949?” said the other dude, J.T. Parr.
Kroeber’s real name is Tom Allen, and Parr is John Parr. The two are West Hollywood comedians who have become YouTube celebrities for their alter egos’ antics, which include handing out free face masks in Huntington Beach and advocating for house parties at L.A. City Council meetings.
The dudes first had to run a security gauntlet, including a guard operating a drone from his wristwatch.
Challenged mail-in ballots could play a deciding role in hotly contested states in the 2020 presidential election.
They were eventually allowed to approach the polling area, where they were greeted with laughter, applause and a sea of camera phones.
“This is … L.A.!” Allen exclaimed, using an expletive.
“This is … L.A.!” a woman crowed.
She declined to give her name, but her husband Art Mercado, 47, said they waited to vote at the stadium on the last day of voting for the novelty and the bragging rights.
“We vote all the time, but it’s the novelty of saying we voted here,” said Mercado.
Mercado, a facilities manager for a chain of fitness clubs, said he is voting for Joe Biden to end the divisiveness that has torn the country apart in the last four years.
“I can’t even talk to my Republican friends,” he said, putting the blame on President Trump and his rhetoric.
Mercado’s gym chain, which has 50 outlets from Temecula to Ventura County, had to ban political discussions because of loud, emotional arguments — but luckily, no fistfights.
“It’s the United States of America. We should be able to talk about our views without fighting, and it’s got to be the president causing it,” said Mercado, adding that as the son of Mexican immigrants who crossed the border illegally, he is especially upset about Trump’s disrespect for Latinos.
Mercado said he also voted to mark the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Anybody who helps women helps our country grow,” he said.
Alexander Anguiano, 23, and Robert Flores, 26, neighbors in the city of Bell, drove to the stadium together on the spur of the moment to cast the first ballots of their young lives.
“I was watching the news this morning, and they said there was a band, and I said, ‘Let’s see what’s up,’” said Flores, who wore a Dodgers mask.
He said he hoped his one vote for Biden could make a difference.
“Maybe I’ll be like ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ the one with the golden ticket,” said Flores, a deli worker.
President Trump and Joe Biden battled into Wednesday morning with no clear winner, as major contests remained too close. Biden urged patience, while Trump called the election into question.
With the Dodgers winning the World Series, voting at the stadium would bring good luck, he added.
Both men have been unemployed for seven months because of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and feel Trump has done nothing to remedy the situation.
“In Europe, countries shut down and came back, but Trump didn’t do much of anything,” said Anguiano, a massage therapist. “He just let it all run down.”
Both are also sick of his racism, particularly against Latinos.
“I don’t like racism. My family came from Mexico,” Anguiano said. “He and his supporters talk down to us.”
In Latino households and communities, disinformation about the presidential election is rampant. Many are trying to combat it online and in person.
Louis Aguilar, 34, a laid-off warehouse worker and Mid-City resident, had already mailed his ballot. But on Tuesday, he escorted his mother to Dodger Stadium.
“She feels more comfortable face-to-face, to make sure her ballot goes through,” Aguilar said.
“I came for the Latin people, who generally don’t get respect,” his mother said in Spanish, with Aguilar translating.
She is dubious her vote will change that. “But I have hope,” she said.
David Rodriguez, 31, said procrastination brought him to the stadium at the voting deadline.
“I wanted to make it even if it means waiting in long lines,” said Rodriguez, who broke away from his job as a grocery store manager to cast his ballot.
Luckily, in the early afternoon, the lines moved quickly, he said.
Rodriguez is looking for social justice reform and, especially, an end to police brutality.
Orange County authorities are looking into reports that a fake polling place was set up in Westminster, where ballots were being accepted and “I Voted” stickers were handed out.
“It happens to more than just Black people, and it’s not taken seriously enough,” he said.
Born and bred in Los Angeles, Rodriguez went to Dodgers games four or five times a year, until the pandemic reduced live audiences to cardboard cutouts this year.
Voting was no replacement for celebrating the World Series championship there, but it was the next best thing.
“Looking back, I can say the year we won the World Series and there was COVID testing here, I also voted here,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been here so many times I can’t count, so there’s a special connection.”
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