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In LA, smooth voting (so far) after primary stumbles

A group of people wearing masks stand and maintain social distance in line on a sidewalk. An individual in a cap and mask appears to be directing the crowd. The background includes storefronts, a McDonald's sign, and a few pedestrians walking by, capturing the essence of Berkeley Journalism's street scene.

A poll worker ushers a voter into the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles’ Korea Town neighborhood on Oct. 24, 2020. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters.

OCTOBER 30, 2020

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.

LA County residents can find their nearest voting center here, and their nearest ballot drop box here.

Elena Neale-Sacks is a reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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Elena Neale Sacks

Elena Neale-Sacks ( 2022 )


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