LA County Urged to Improve Voter Experience by November Election

(CN) – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has asked Los Angeles County to mail out ballots to its 5.5 million voters after a disastrous rollout of the county’s $300 million voting system Tuesday in which some voters were greeted with downed computer terminals and wait times bordering on four hours.

In addition to asking LA County to mail out ballots for the November election, Padilla offered other recommendations Thursday including increased equipment at vote centers as well as more staff that is better coordinated and trained.

The line outside the voting center at All Saints Episcopal church in Los Angeles County swelled to about 40 people Tuesday as poll workers saw an influx of afternoon voters for California’s primary. (Martin Macias Jr. / CNS)

“With only eight months until the November General Election, it is critical that these issues are addressed in a timely and efficient manner,” Padilla said.

The March 3 primary was the first election in which voters used LA County’s new $300 million electronic voting system. Voters should have been greeted by polling place staff with touchscreen tablets who would then direct citizens to a nearly paperless voting machine.

Vote centers throughout LA County were open for 11 days before Super Tuesday and voters were not restricted to a center near their home. Unlike in previous years where more than 4,500 polling places were open throughout the county, this election saw about 1,000 open vote centers. Meanwhile, the county is one of just 14 counties participating in the Voter’s Choice Act which gives greater flexibility to local election offices for early voting, but the county does not mail every registered voter a ballot.

Voting centers were overwhelmed on Super Tuesday, with some voters waiting up to four hours in line as they were checked in by staff. There were also reports of a downed voter database across the state.

State Sen. Ben Allen, who represents part of LA County, plans to introduce legislation that will require the mail-in-ballot option. Allen says the county can either open more vote centers in November to alleviate long lines or make sure every registered voter receives a vote-by-mail ballot, which is done in most other California counties.

“For a variety of reasons, many people want to wait until Election Day to vote. We must do more to improve the Election Day voting experience,” Allen said in a statement Thursday.

LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said his office will review the recommendations from state officials but that costs may be a factor.

In a statement, Logan says the county will have to evaluate the capacity and reliability of providers and systems so an additional 2 million voters who have not previously voted by mail can receive their ballots. Californians are also permitted to do same-day voter registration at polling places and would not benefit from mail-in ballots, he said.

Logan also said homeless voters, limited English-speaking voters and college voters could be negatively impacted if his office is forced to shift away from in-person voting options.

“The logistics and capacity for election administration in Los Angeles County are complex and demanding,” said Logan. “Expansion of vote by mail should be explored to determine its viability in the short timeframe ahead of the November election, but more is required.”

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