Sen. Ben Allen introduces legislation to address Super Tuesday delays at polling centers
By Sam Catanzaro
With many Santa Monica voters waiting over four hours to cast their ballot on Super Tuesday, State Senator Ben Allen has introduced legislation aimed to prevent such back-ups from occurring in the November election.
Cole Miller, a local actor, headed to the polls after work on Tuesday. Arriving at the Main Branch of the Santa Monica Public Library around 7:45 p.m., Miller soon learned that he would be in for a wait.
“I arrived at the Santa Monica Public Library and walked for what seemed like half a mile around the bend, with my jaw dropping lower and lower as I curved each corner,” Miller said describing the line. “After an hour of waiting in line, a man came out and told me he arrived at 4:30. It was almost 9 p.m. At that point, I seriously considered ditching to get food or see a movie or relax and read, but I was determined to support my political party and exercise my right as a citizen to vote for what I believed in.”
All in all, Miller says he ended up waiting four hours and ten minutes to vote.
The lines were not unique to Santa Monica, as voters across the county experienced similar waits.
In response, State Senator Ben Allen, who represents Santa Monica, has announced legislation that would require L.A. County to improve the voter experience requiring the County to either increase the number of vote centers made available on Election Day or provide all voters with vote-by-mail ballots for the Fall 2020 presidential election.
“Some reports suggest the delays came at least partly as a result of the County’s new electronic voting system. Recent reports said polling places cited technical issues like slow network speeds or glitches, while others lacked a sufficient number of machines to handle high Election Day voter turnout. According to some reports, it’s estimated that about one-fifth of the county’s touch-screen voting machines did not work and had to be replaced,” reads a news release from the senator’s office.
Current law allows counties to switch from traditional polling places to vote centers that are open 10 days before the election, with the number of available centers increasing four days before the election. It also requires counties to provide all voters with a vote-by-mail ballot. LA County, however, is not currently required to send every voter a vote-by-mail ballot, but rather provides voters with more vote centers. According to Allen, the number of required vote centers, while adequate for the days before Super Tuesday, proved inadequate for the high turnout on Tuesday itself.
“We passed the Voters Choice Act to increase access and convenience,” Allen said. “While many had good experiences with the new system, many, particularly those who waited to vote on Tuesday, did not, and I was dismayed to hear of the delays and lines that significantly impacted the voter experience for many Angelenos. For a variety of reasons, many people want to wait until Election Day to vote. We must do more to improve the Election Day voting experience.”
Allen’s legislation provides L.A. County with two options. The County can either add a third step to the rollout process, increasing the number of vote centers that are made available to voters in neighborhoods on Election Day – or – provide every registered voter in the county with a vote-by-mail ballot, as is done by most other California counties.
According to Allen, providing additional vote centers will lessen the burden on any individual center, providing voters with more options to go somewhere else if one center is overcrowded or experiencing technical difficulties.
Miller, the Santa Monica voter who waited over four hours to cast his ballot, says more voting centers are absolutely needed.
“I actually brought up the idea with a new friend I met in line that there should be a voting center on every other block. It requires more manpower, but that’s more people getting paid. And you know, Mr. Bloomberg can use a chunk of his half a billion campaign dollars in three months to pay for it,” Miller said.