At the polls in Southern California, few problems, lots of rain — and ballots delivered by speedboat

People are hunched over desks with yellow shields.
Voters cast their votes in the midterm elections at Plummer Park in West Hollywood.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California voters who braved the rain to cast their ballots Tuesday found the process relatively smooth, with isolated reports of problems concerning voting machines and documentation. The weather also closed at least two polling places — and grounded some helicopters used to transport ballots.

Dave Martell, a 65-year-old film editor, said he faced an “uncomfortable” situation when he tried to vote at the vote center at Beverly Hills City Hall. For the first time in the more than two decades that he has lived in his current home, he said, poll workers did not have his correct address on file.

As a result, he said, he had to fill out and submit a change-of-address form, even though his address had stayed the same.


“I live on North La Peer [Drive] in Beverly Hills, but they had South La Peer,” he told The Times in a phone interview early Tuesday afternoon. “It’s the first time in years that I’ve walked away feeling anxious about the vote.

“I don’t know if that’s just because of the times we’re in,” he said. “And I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I’m a very progressive Democrat. It’s just a very strange situation.”

Gabe, a voter who did not provide his last name, reported to The Times that his voting machine at Oakwood Recreation Center in Venice “began to auto-select candidates and move forward screens without touching the machine.”

Voters across Southern California braved the rain Tuesday to cast their ballots

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He said he had to scroll back to previous screens to fix the incorrect selections. He asked a poll worker for assistance, he said, and he ultimately had to cancel his ballot and begin the process over again.

“I was concerned that other voters may not notice the issue and vote incorrectly, or give up and vote for whatever was chosen,” Gabe, who did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday morning, wrote via a web form. “Or that it would start a conspiracy theory. … A volunteer out front gave me the number to call to report issues, which I did. They said a tech was coming to the Oakwood Rec Center that afternoon.”


Still, Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the L.A. County registrar’s office, said Tuesday afternoon that “everything is going well” in the county.

“It’s steady, it’s smooth. We’re helping voters throughout the county — no irregularities or issues to report. Other than a lot of rain, vote centers remain open,” he said.

That held true through the end of the day, Sanchez said in a telephone interview shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m happy to report that there were no issues throughout the day and voting was smooth,” he said. “And of course now we have a long night ahead of us to count the votes that were cast today.”

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Asked about isolated reports of issues at the polls that voters reported to The Times, Sanchez said, “What you just described is the first I’m hearing of it so I can’t really speak to it. ... We haven’t had any widespread issues” at vote centers in the county.

“In the event there is an isolated incident at a location, our office is prepared to send or deploy resources or equipment to ensure voting continues,” he said.

After polling places closed, bad weather and low visibility limited the use of helicopters to take ballots to be counted, the registrar’s office tweeted Tuesday night.

A speedboat was used to transport ballots from Santa Catalina Island, the registrar’s office said in a follow-up tweet, and deputies brought ballots from Lancaster and Santa Clarita in patrol cars instead of helicopters.

Richard Wajda, a 51-year-old West Hollywood resident, was one of dozens in line to vote at Plummer Park in West Hollywood Tuesday afternoon.

Echoing concerns shared by some voters of all political stripes across California and the nation, Wajda said he wanted to vote in person because he is wary of ballot tampering.

“To have the trust of everyone, I want to put it right in the machine,” he said.

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Sheila Davis voted via drop box at the Van Nuys courthouse. She told The Times that when she arrived, three men were “hovering” around the ballot box, one of whom was leaning on it as she put her ballot through the slot.

“No eye contact, no hassle, but it felt like intimidation,” she said. Davis reported that a woman was also harassing another person sitting in a car outside the voting center, asking him, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? You know I can have you arrested right?”

Davis said she was “deeply saddened” by the experience, which left her questioning whether she had even been at a genuine ballot box.

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“Voting was always joyful for me and my family. … Now all the joy in the act of voting is lost,” she said. “What a terrible loss to our country.

In Orange County, the vote center at Library of the Canyons in Silverado near Limestone Canyon Regional Park was closed Tuesday. Local officials issued an evacuation order in the burn scar area left by the Bond fire, due to concerns about possible mudslides and other hazardous conditions caused by rainfall. The order was issued for 4 a.m. Tuesday through 7 a.m. Wednesday.

“We closed the location yesterday, and as of yesterday we had 130 voters that were able to cast their vote from that center,” Rosa Vizcarra, community program specialist for the Orange County Registrar of Voters, said. “It’s an evacuation order from the county. So people and us had to evacuate the zone.”

Other than the closure in Silverado, “everything else ran pretty smoothly in Orange County - no major incidents that I’m aware of,” Vizcarra said in a telephone interview after the polls closed Tuesday evening.

In San Bernardino County, the vote center at Fire Station No. 98 in Angelus Oaks was closed for much of Tuesday. A mandatory evacuation order was issued because of potential mudslides in burn scars left by two wildfires.

Across the U.S., stories of long lines, malfunctioning voting machines and other problems at the polls have made the news frequently in recent years, as have concerns about vote hacking and election fraud; there is little evidence of widespread problems.

In Maricopa County, Ariz., Tuesday, dozens of voting machines malfunctioned. The disruption added fuel to local and national conspiracy theories — pushed mainly by right-wing and Republican individuals and groups — about voter fraud and interference.

In the Southeast, the spotlight is on Georgia, where a key race Tuesday will help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. In the Peach State, observers worry that perennial problems with long lines and voting suppression could be exacerbated by recently approved voting restrictions, including a controversial 2021 ban on the distribution of food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, many are keeping an eye on Wisconsin, another swing state with a consequential Senate race this year. Election officials received death threats there after unfounded conspiracy theories arose questioning President Biden’s narrow defeat of Donald Trump in the state’s 2020 presidential election.

To date, just 24 people have been charged with 2020 election fraud in Wisconsin, where more than 3 million ballots were cast that November.

Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.