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Opinion

Editorial: How’s that new voting system working out for you, L.A.?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti votes at Wilshire Park Elementary School on Tuesday morning
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti casts his ballot on the new voting machines at Wilshire Park Elementary School on Tuesday morning.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday’s election brought a whole new approach to voting to Los Angeles County, offering more times and places to vote, but also introducing potentially befuddling new procedures and equipment. Members of The Times’ Opinion section staff cast their ballots over the past two weeks, and here are some of their experiences.

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L.A. County recently spent $300 million to update and expand its voting system so that, as county elections chief Dean Logan said, “there are no longer wrong places to vote.” But when my wife and I tried to do so on Saturday, every place seemed wrong. At John Burroughs Middle School, the machines weren’t ready to check us in at 8:15 a.m. We went instead to Third Street Elementary School, where the machines … also weren’t ready. Back at Burroughs we were told to wait 15 more minutes, so we walked around the block. Then we were informed we would have to vote provisionally. even though there were no doubts about our registrations.

My wife didn’t want her ballot to be counted as much as 30 days after election day, so we went to a third voting center, oddly just across the street. There, she voted successfully on the new machines, but my vote didn’t, well, “connect” in some way, so my ballot had to be submitted provisionally after all. The whole process took longer than ever before — well over an hour. On the other hand, there were no lines, and the election workers were all delightful.

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— Nicholas Goldberg

I voted at 1:30 Monday afternoon at the Proud Bird, a bar and restaurant a few blocks from The Times’ El Segundo office. I was the only voter there. No lines, and about 20 voting booths available. It took me about five minutes. This was the first time in my life I voted on a day other than election day.

Because you’re wondering, I should point out that the voting booths were upstairs, and the alcohol was downstairs. As was the barbecue.

— Robert Greene

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I thought I would get ahead of the long lines on election day, and so I headed to the local senior center in Sherman Oaks on Monday afternoon, which is one of several new vote centers within a five-minute drive of my home. I figured I’d be in and out in 15 minutes, just like every other election I’ve voted in. Wrong. The line of voters stretched out the door and deep into the courtyard. One hour and 20 minutes later I finally cast my ballot.

Why the long wait? Poll workers, who were exceptionally helpful and friendly, said that the electronic check-in systems, which replaced the old-school registration books that checked voters’ addresses and recorded their signatures, could be sluggish. Also, voters using the new touchscreen machines to mark their ballots (instead of the low-tech Ink-a-Vote devices of yore) needed a bit more hand holding. A few extra minutes here and there added up. The senior center also happened to be a very popular location; apparently, there was no waiting at the mall down the road.

— Kerry Cavanaugh

I wanted to avoid the lines expected on election day and I sure did. Though there were a number of people at the Echo Park Recreation Center on an early afternoon a week before Super Tuesday, none appeared to be there to vote. I had the touch-screen ballot-marking tablets (one was out of order) and a quartet of poll workers to myself. One helped me check in on a tablet and choose a crossover ballot. One explained the machine and pointed out the crucial difference between the “more” and “next” buttons; pressing “more” pulled up the names of additional candidates in races where there were too many people running to fit on a single screen, while pressing “next” moved on to the next contest. And another helped me submit my ballot — sending it back up through the machine that had printed it — after I made my selections.

— Mariel Garza

I voted Monday night at the all-night center in East L.A. When I arrived a man was raising his voice at the poll workers about provisional ballots not being counted — the machines were iffy — causing at least half the people who were waiting to leave. When the man (a journalist who hosts a podcast supporting one of the presidential candidates) stopped shouting, I went up to him and politely said his yelling was causing people not to vote, because I was concerned that many would not be heading to another center to try again on Tuesday. Let’s just say he didn’t welcome my input. The machines were back up pretty quickly, and as far as I can tell, everyone who did not flee was able to cast a ballot.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor

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What about you? Did you cast your ballot with ease, or were there new and troubling hiccups? Tell us in the comments section below.


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