For thousands of voters in Los Angeles County, the primary last March was a debacle. A glitch in the new electronic voting system, compounded by the inability of election workers to rectify problems, meant that many voters waited in lines for up to three hours to cast their ballots. Some encountered broken ballot-marking machines when they did eventually make it to the front.
This time will be different, the LA County Registrar has vowed. And so far, voting seems to be running smoothly.
Ironically, it was the pandemic, which spurred mail-in voting, that helped pave the way.
As they are throughout the state, voters in LA County have already mailed in their ballots in unprecedented numbers; by October 30, more than one-third had voted by mail.
“A lot of our folks are sending their votes early,” said Jessica Panduro, civic engagement coordinator for InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit in East LA.
So far, in-person voting also seems to be problem-free. The first day of early in-person voting saw six times as much participation as the first day of the primary in March.
By law, the county was also required to provide 570 in-person vote centers. In fact, “the total number of vote centers is more than 790 as large locations [such as The Forum] serve as multiple vote centers,” said LA County Registrar spokesperson Mike Sanchez in an email. Some vote centers opened 11 days ahead of Election Day, with the rest coming onboard on October 30.
In addition, the county set up 400 secure ballot drop boxes on October 5, compared to 205 ahead of the primary.
Serene as the picture seems, Los Angeles’s police aren’t taking anything for granted. In a press release, LAPD noted that officers are “receiving ongoing training on crowd control and crowd management in preparation for any protest activities.” And Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, home to the likes of Prada and Ferragamo, will be closed to the public for 48 hours, from the midnight before Election Day through November 4. The area was a target for protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May. The police department “will be on full alert,” it stated in a press release.
Elena Neale-Sacks is a reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post and the UC Graduate School of Journalism.