Candidates Worry LA County Is Heading For A 'Six-Lane Highway' Of Election Confusion

By LIBBY DENKMANN
LAist
February 13, 2020

It's early, but a few presidential campaigns seeing the fundraising writing on the wall have "suspended" their quests for the Democratic nomination after dismal performances in New Hampshire. And clarity may be on the horizon: Super Tuesday brings primaries in a number of delegate behemoths — including California.

But the drama may not wait for the close of polls on March 3. In Los Angeles County, by far the largest jurisdiction in the country, voters will be navigating a gauntlet of changes to how they cast their ballots, including new locations and technology.

Some worry sunny L.A. could be headed for a perfect storm of election confusion: 

  • For starters, most Angelenos who've headed to the same polling place near their homes year after election year won't be casting ballots there anymore. 
  • Instead, the county is opening up a smaller number of new "vote centers" offering up to 10 days of early voting. 
  • Once inside, in-person voters will mark their ballots on brand-new machines that were recently certified by the state. 

It's all adding up to worries about how disorientation or delays due to these changes could impact participation in a hotly contested presidential election year. 

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Last month, the state certified the new voting system. Secretary of State Padilla sang its praises, calling it "A huge milestone not just for Los Angeles County but for Democracy."

But Padilla also added a stack of conditions the county must meet before voters start using the new machines. That includes smoothing out paper jams that could slow down and frustrate voters, tightening security flaws that popped up in testing and better training election workers to guide voters through the process.

Padilla also insisted voters be given the option to hand-mark ballots when vote centers open later this month. 

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, says she's hoping for the best, because the stakes are high. In a "supersized" county like L.A., "Those problems take on a much bigger scale," Alexander said. 

Alexander pointed out that if voters take advantage of the new, expanded in-person voting period, that could alleviate strain caused by possible election day delays, like lines forming while voters learn how to use the ballot marking devices.

"We need to be encouraging people to vote early—not to wait until the last minute," Alexander said. (full story)