Decision 2020

What Went Wrong in the First Test of LA County’s New Voting System

Long lines and wait times were reported during Super Tuesday in Los Angeles County, prompting its top election official to publicly apologize

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What to Know

  • A new electronic voter-check-in system was blamed for some of the long lines at voting centers in LA County.
  • Voting Solutions for All People was an effort to replace the county's five-decade-old process of collecting and tabulating ballots
  • As of early Wednesday, a total of 1,137,023 ballots were processed and counted in LA County.

Some voters waited in line for hours to cast ballots Tuesday in the first test of a revamped voting system that prompted Los Angeles County's top election official to publicly apologize on election night.

The implementation of the touch-screen voting system dubbed Voting Solutions for All People was an effort to replace the county's five-decade-old process of collecting and tabulating ballots. Several voters told NBCLA they liked the touch screens, but the wait to use them during Tuesday's high-stakes primary was a major problem.

The combination of an overwhelming number of voters, difficulties with the electronic voter-check-in system and the questionable placement of the vote centers themselves led to dramatically long waits, some of which continued close to midnight -- four hours after the polls had technically closed.

Obviously, not the rollout we had hoped for.

LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan

Under state law, anyone who was in line at the poll-closing time of 8 p.m. is allowed to vote.

"Obviously, not the rollout we had hoped for," said LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan. "The majority of the issues we dealt with today are on the technical end, connected to the check-in process."

Los Angeles County Clerk Dean Logan talks about the long lines at voting centers. Hetty Chang reported on NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

Long lines had already formed at some of the roughly 1,000 vote center locations by mid-afternoon. That prompted Bernie Sanders' campaign to seek a court order requiring the polls to remain open to voters who arrived at voting locations as late as 10 p.m.

The order was not granted, but even with the 8 p.m. closing time, lines persisted into the night.

Logan went before a bank of television cameras Tuesday evening and publicly apologized to voters for the delays, saying, "there's a lot to be learned" from the experience. The electronic check-in system, which is used to ensure voters only cast one ballot at one location, appeared to be the most significant problem, he said.

Pictures: Tech Glitches and Long Lines Can’t Keep SoCal Voters Away on Super Tuesday

Once people got beyond that check-in, the actual voting system worked smoothly, he said.

Part of the problem was that the county might have overestimated the number of early voters. Logan said a surprisingly low number of voters took advantage of the availability of early voting at the vote centers, which opened 10 days prior to the election. Only about 250,000 people voted early at the centers.

"I think that we perhaps overestimated how many of those voters would take advantage of the 10-day early voting period and that resulted in a significant amount of voters turning out on election day," Logan said. "And then the distribution of the vote centers themselves I think is something we need to look closely at as well.

"We know there are portions of the county where the (centers) functioned quite well today, but there were other places -- in particular in downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Carson and also particularly at our college campuses, where for the first time ever we had voting available on the campuses and where voters could actually register to vote and vote on the same day, which is a great service but it's difficult to plan for the capacity of that."

The roughly 1,000 vote centers that were open on election day was a dramatic reduction from the roughly 4,000 precincts that were offered during previous elections.

As of early Wednesday, a total of 1,137,023 ballots were processed and counted, with 20.62 percent of of eligible registered voters casting ballots, according to Logan's office.

Ballots cast at vote centers numbered 651,392. The vote-by-mail total was 485,631.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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