‘It was just chaos’: Broken machines, incomplete voter rolls leave some wondering whether their ballots will count
By Matt Pearce
California voters faced a tough time at the polls Tuesday, with many voters saying they have encountered broken machines, polling sites that opened late and incomplete voter rolls, particularly in Los Angeles County.
The result? Instead of a quick in-and-out vote, many California voters were handed the dreaded pink provisional ballot — which takes longer to fill out, longer for election officials to verify and which tends to leave voters wondering whether their votes will be counted.
This year’s presidential primary race has already been one of the most bitter in recent memory. Before Tuesday’svote, Bernie Sanders supporters accused the media of depressing Democratic turnout by calling the nomination for Hillary Clinton before polls opened in California.
Those feelings haven’t gotten any less raw Tuesday as hundreds of Californians complained of voting problems to the national nonpartisan voter hotline run by the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law.
It’s difficult to get a sense for how widespread the problems are or how they compare to recent elections. But experts said the culprit for Tuesday’s voting problems seems to be a confluence of factors — old voting machines, a competitive election that has drawn new voters, plus complex state voting laws that can be hard for poll volunteers and voters to follow.
“Presidential primary elections in California are the hardest elections of all. … This election reminds me of 2008 in that regard,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “Our voter registration deadline is 15 days before election day, and that gives all the counties, and especially L.A. County, very little time to get their polling place rosters updated with all the voters.”
When Sanders supporter Brandon Silverman, 29, showed up at his polling station in Echo Park at 8:15 a.m., he said poll workers immediately handed him a provisional ballot, explaining that their machine wasn’t working yet. The full list of voters’ names for the precincts also seemed to be missing.
Silverman, an assistant television editor, quickly called a Sanders voter hotline and L.A. County voting officials. About 45 minutes later, the problems seemed to be resolved and he was able to cast a regular ballot, he said. But the chaos shook his confidence in the fairness of the electoral process a little, especially after hearing other precincts and states struggle with voting problems this year.
“I tend to agree with most of the Bernie supporters who are disappointed in the media’s handling of the superdelegate counts, but I tend to shy away from the people saying it’s ‘stolen’ or ‘rigged,’” Silverman said. “I’d like to not think the worst, but at a certain point you think, is it a coincidence?”
In Bell, Albert Grey showed up at his polling site Tuesday morning to find that the vote-counting machine seemed to be jammed, and there didn’t seem to be a supervisor on site. So he left without voting.
“I still have my ballot, I’m going to go back, see if the machine is working, and if it is, I’m going to vote,” Grey said.