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Santa Monica Legislator Proposes Changes to LA County's Voting System

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By Jorge Casuso

March 5, 2020 -- Following reports of widespread voting problems, Santa Monica State Senator Ben Allen announced Thursday that he is introducing legislation to improve Los Angeles County's voting system.

The Legislation would require the County to either boost the number of voting centers that largely replaced neighborhood polling places or provide every registered voter with a vote-by-mail ballot.

The move comes one day after the County Board of Supervisors called for an immediate investigation into why many voters -- including those in Santa Monica -- waited hours on Tuesday to cast their ballots.

Allen said he was "dismayed to hear of the delays and lines that significantly impacted the voter experience for many Angelenos."

“We passed the Voters Choice Act to increase access and convenience,” Allen said in a statement. “While many had good experiences with the new system, many, particularly those who waited to vote on Tuesday, did not.

"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."

The Senator cited reports that found some voters in Los Angeles County experienced wait times of up to three hours, with many left waiting in line when the polls were scheduled to close.

The delays stemmed from the County's new new $300 million electronic voting system, with one-fifth of the county’s touch-screen voting machines needing to be replaced after failing, according to reports.

Some polling places cited "slow network speeds or glitches," Allen said, while others "lacked a sufficient number of machines to handle high Election Day voter turnout."

County officials spent months educating voters about the voting system rolled out for Tuesday's primary elections, showcasing the new devices at Demo Centers.

The County replaced neighborhood polling places with regional Vote Centers that allowed voters to cast ballots outside their precincts or cities, with the centers opening ten days before the election.

According to a post on Santa Monica's website, the centers "can quickly accommodate any voter registered in Los Angeles County thanks to electronic rosters that allow election workers access to voting data in real-time to look up pending/cast ballots or process conditional voter registration forms."

But on election day, some of Santa Monica's nine Vote Centers saw long lines, some with more than 200 voters that stretched outside their doors.

"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," Allen said.

"Requiring the County to send voters ballots by mail and/or providing more vote centers on Election Day will make for a much better experience for voters and ensure that no one is discouraged from voting because of lines or delays," he said.

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