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L.A. County voters bring concerns about election day issues to supervisors

Election day problems cited
Voters and poll workers complained to Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday about election day problems. Above, a voter in Downey.
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County supervisors heard complaints Tuesday from dozens of voters and poll workers about problems they encountered on election day -- including broken voting machines, names missing from voter rosters and polling stations that ran out of ballots.

Marcia Martin, an inspector at a polling station in Bell Gardens, said she saw many voters who were unwittingly recorded as vote-by-mail voters or never received their mail-in ballots, people whose names did not appear on the rolls, and voters registered with a party they said they had not signed up for.

“Trust in the election is central to democracy,” she told the supervisors. “Without this trust, true democracy cannot exist.”

Other poll workers spoke of being short-staffed when volunteers failed to show up, running out of Democratic ballots, and not receiving updated voter rolls.

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Jeanna Harris, another poll inspector, said she had to hand pink provisional ballots to first-time voters, including immigrants, whose names did not appear on the roster.

“I literally saw people break down into tears because they were ready to take pictures of them voting,” she said.

Many of the speakers were supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and believed the voting-day issues had harmed his chances in the California Democratic primary contest.

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Chelsea Kirk, a volunteer organizer with the Sanders campaign, said she had heard from many supporters who encountered issues on election day, including voters registered as no party preference who were not allowed to cast a “cross-over” ballot in the Democratic primary at polling stations in Woodland Hills.

“Many people were denied the right to cast a vote for a presidential candidate,” she said. “It’s really disconcerting to think that I’m over here saying, you’re fortunate if you got to vote provisionally, because some people didn’t get to cast a vote for a presidential candidate.”

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan acknowledged there had been issues and said his staff is working to fix them.

Sixty-seven vote-scanning machines had to be replaced throughout the county on election day, he said.

He attributed other issues to the surge in new voters registering and existing voters switching their party preference before the election, resulting in a need for new materials to be sent out.

Logan also blamed much of the chaos on the complexities of party primary system rules, which he described as “challenging for voters, cumbersome for poll workers and difficult to administer.”

Many voters were upset about being required to cast provisional ballots and concerned that their votes would not be counted.

More than 600,000 provisional and late vote-by-mail ballots remained uncounted in the county the day after the election.

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Logan said that historically, 85% to 90% of provisional ballots have been validated and counted during the canvass period. The registrar’s office is expected to continue counting outstanding ballots over at least the next two weeks, and is scheduled to certify the results on July 1.

An estimated 251,894 voters cast provisional ballots in the June 7 primary election throughout the county, compared with 176,479 in the 2008 presidential primary and 271,074 in the 2008 general election.

The county is working on an overhaul of its voting system that will eventually replace ink-based balloting with touch-screen machines. Logan said he hopes that once the new system is in place, the need for provisional ballots will be eliminated.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

Twitter: @sewella

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