Dozens of voters and poll workers complained to county supervisors this week about a lack of ballots and staffing, inaccurate voter rolls, malfunctioning voting machines, the widespread use of provisional ballots and the possibility of voter fraud during last week’s primary election.
“It shouldn’t be harder to vote than it is to set up a Facebook account,” one voter said.
Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan told the Board of Supervisors that this year’s primary was particularly challenging because of party-specific primary rules that resulted in 10 different possible ballots and three sets of voter rosters for poll workers at 4,511 polling places to manage.
This was the first state presidential primary since legislative changes that send the top two vote-getters to the general election regardless of party affiliation. Many voters changed their party affiliation or requested cross-over ballots after registering with no party preference, leading to a shortage of certain types of ballots.
Many first-time voters also registered, contributing to a county turnout nearly double that of 2012, Logan said.
“It seemed like there was a lot of blaming the voter” for problems on election day, said Sara Watts, who told the board she volunteered as an inspector at one polling place where voter rolls weren’t up to date.
Other poll workers said they didn’t get enough training.
Trainers went “too fast and sped through very critical information that we needed,” according to volunteer Debra Mayes.
Many of those who appeared before the board today identified themselves as supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Some told stories of voters registered for years as Democrats appearing on voter rolls as Republicans. Others said many residents listed as vote-by-mail voters said they either hadn’t requested or hadn’t received a mail-in ballot.
Some suggested that the discrepancies were intentional and designed to prevent some residents from voting.
Many objected to having to give voters provisional ballots.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said her office had received “a lot of calls” about voters who didn’t realize they needed to turn in their vote-by-mail or absentee ballot if they instead wanted to use a polling place voting machine.
In order to ensure that no one is voting twice when the county has a record of sending a mail-in ballot, voters who cannot produce that ballot are given a provisional ballot.
Those provisional ballots are not counted until they are cross-checked with vote-by-mail information to ensure there is no duplication. However, Logan assured the board that 85-90 percent of provisional ballots are typically certified.
The registrar-recorder told the board that the number of provisional ballots issued was “high but not exceedingly high” and that he expected the final results would show that “we made sure that every vote was counted in L.A. County.”
Logan said “a lot of misinformation was out there” about provisional ballots based on restrictive rules in other states.
“California has very open provisional ballot regulations,” which serve “a form of enfranchisement in California … a fail-safe” for voters, rather than any attempt to limit voting, he said.
Logan’s comments did little to satisfy those who came to report trouble at polls across the county.
Several condemned The Associated Press’ decision to tally the results of prior primaries and announce that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had gathered enough delegates to win her party’s nomination even before the California vote.
Logan pointed out that the county has no role in “calling” the election and only certifies the final vote.
The county counted more than 1.4 million ballots overnight on election day, but another estimated 570,000 remained to be tallied the next morning.
An updated count was expected to be released this afternoon, as provisional and vote-by-mail ballots either postmarked on or before the election or hand-delivered to the polls are processed, qualified and tallied.
The county expects to certify final results by July 1.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas reminded those with complaints that many on the board have fought significant battles over voter suppression, while Supervisor Hilda Solis struck a more conciliatory note.
“There is democracy at work. We know that we can do better,” Solis said.