Hundreds of Southlanders were shocked on “Super Tuesday” when they encountered trouble casting their votes during Tuesday’s California presidential primary.
Voters complained that their names did not appear on polling lists, their party affiliations were changed, or their polling place had been moved to another location.
Added to that, a new and confusing ballot design left voters scratching their heads or walking away from the polls in frustration.
African Americans, in particular, complained about the discrepancies, many saying that their Democratic or nonpartisan party affiliation had been changed to Republican or to another party without their knowledge.
In many cases, voters registered as non-partisans (Decline to State) or Democrats were not told that they had to punch a second “double bubble” specifying which primary they were voting in. With a number of voters complaining about voting procedures, elected officials in Los Angeles County and voter outreach groups have threatened legal action against the County Registrar over the problem.
Iit was also reported that a number of polling places ran out of ballots before voting had been completed. Some voters complained that poll workers appeared to be poorly trained and unable to handle the crush of people casting their ballots.
Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, founder and chairman of the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Project (AAVREP) that registered more than 25,000 voters in the past four months, said that attorneys are intervening to protect the rights of Decline to State (DTS) or non-partisan voters who are not registered as Republican or Democratic.
“I am outraged that any voter would be turned down or turned away from a polling place anywhere in our state when they have a lawful right to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election. This circumstance is unconscionable and it must be corrected immediately,” said Ridley-Thomas. “I’ve spoken with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan about these egregious polling place mishaps. I want this problem solved,” he said.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo also issued a statement in the wake of numerous reports of wide-spread nonpartisan voter confusion over Los Angeles’ ‘double bubble’ ballot: “In light of these reports, I am calling upon Secretary of State Debra Bowen and L. A. County Registrar Dean Logan to review the county’s unique and potentially confusing ballot design. I urge the Secretary of State and County Registrar to do everything within their power to ensure that every vote is counted, and to carefully weigh voter intent against this confusing Los Angeles County design.”
Phone lines lit up at KJLH’s The Front Page (102.3 FM) radio call-in show on Wednesday morning as a number of black voters complained that their names were not registered at polling places or that their party affiliation had been switched without their knowledge.
Front Page host Dominique DiPrima said she was surprised by the number of calls from listeners. “We got at least 10 calls, and every caller was talking about the confusion at the polling booths,” said DiPrima.
DiPrima said that “people were given misinformation and confusing information, so they were registered as Independents, Republican or under another party affiliation. The situation reminded me of what happened in Florida when (President) Bush stole the election,” said DiPrima, who urged listeners to send her emails that she would forward to state lawmakers and call for an investigation.
One caller, Monica, said that she had been listening to black radio stations across the country and that the voting confusion was occurring in many predominately black areas across the U. S. “If we want to fix this thing, we must do it ourselves,” she said. “We don’t have time to wait for the politicians.”
Several voters said they were disgusted by the confusing ballots. “I got my ballot and it said non-partisan,” said advertising executive Andy Newman. “I been voting as a Democrat for 63 years. When did I become non-partisan?”
Nicole Marbory, an administrative assistant, said that when she and her boyfriend, Elliott Bland, arrived at the polling place, poll workers said that they were not on the registrar’s list. “They gave us a nonpartisan ballot to complete, but they did not explain how to fill out the ballot. It was very confusing,” said Marbory.
AAVREP attorney Cynthia McClain-Hill said that “It is incomprehensible to us that voters were looking at something so confusing and so out of the ordinary as the ballots they received Tuesday. There were significant reports of voter confusion over the issue of the decline-to-state ballot,” said McClain-Hill. “Voters felt disenfranchised after realizing that they needed to fill out a special bubble on their ballot in order for their ballot to count.”
McClain-Hill said, “If you didn’t check on the ballot that you were independent, they counted the votes for the proposition, but poll workers didn’t count the presidential preference,” said McClain-Hill. “People were given a ballot they didn’t understand and they have lost their right to have their presidential primary preference counted.”
McClain-Hill said she will be joining a team of five AAVREP lawyers who will be reviewing tens of thousands of ballots throughout the state. “We are committed to protecting the vote and making sure that the voters’ voice is heard,” said McClain-Hill.
“At this juncture, we are reviewing the data that has been collected by others to determine what steps can be taken in order to restore the votes of individuals in the decline-to-state category,” said McClain-Hill.