Early voting center

Bill Murray took his granddaughter Nora Hartley, 7, to vote with at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach, as the LA County Registrar Recorder’s office opens its 11-day voting centers around the county on Saturday, Oct. 24.

True to their name, many of 2020’s early voters showed up to voting centers before they even opened on Saturday, Oct. 24, the first day of in-person balloting in Los Angeles County.

But much to the relief of voters and elections officials, the kind of polling-place meltdowns that left voters angered and election officials worried back in March, when the county debuted its $300 million network of vote centers, did not repeat. Back in March, for the primary, many voters were left seething after tech glitches delayed the opening of some sites and even forced the Hollywood site to close down.

But Saturday’s voting played out much more smoothly. And when issues did pop up, they appeared to have been resolved quickly in most cases.

Behind the scenes, poll workers reported paper jams and other tech issues, some of which caused short delays.

The new hybrid voting devices bring together old-fashioned paper ballots and high-tech, touch-screen computers. Voters must insert their paper ballot into the device to commence voting, but some ballots were not recognized by the devices.

Poll workers at the Azusa Woman’s Club said that they solved such problems by removing the ballot and re-inserting it into another voting device.

A stranger issue arose Saturday morning at the voting center at Pasadena City College, when poll workers could not find the reporting paper used in the voting devices. The paper should be in stock by Sunday, officials said, and poll workers were instead instructed to use ballot papers on Saturday.

“Overall, everything is going smoothly, everything is going well,” said Fabian Herrera, lead election worker at the Pasadena City College voting center. Herrera, a first-time election worker, says he feels he has the staff and the funding to manage his location effectively.

In South El Monte, at the South El Monte Community Center, a poll worker sign-in issue shut down voting for over an hour as about 30 people waited outside. Election officials worked it out, and by shortly after 11 a.m., a poll worker announced the center was back online. By then, the line of voters had dwindled to about 10, some of whom got tired of waiting and left.

Machine issues were also reported at Riviera Methodist Church in Redondo Beach. Some complained about a lack of signage outside the centers.

But voters seemed generally tolerant of the glitches.

Many voters were certainly eager to cast their ballots. Several voting centers saw a line wrapped around the building before they opened. Such hubs included large polling locations, such as the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Arcadia, stocked with 45 of the county’s new voting devices.

Inside the polling centers, social distancing was well maintained with clear guidelines, but some polling centers didn’t account for long lines outside.

After an hour or so, the lines shrunk swiftly at each location, and most voters were able to get in and get out without much hassle.

For the most part, voters had few complaints about using the voting centers themselves. Some, however, expressed anxiety over the election in general.

Some voters were absolutely adamant about voting in person, be it for caution or tradition. Others were concerned about the possibility that their mail-in ballot would be lost or tampered with, and thought that voting in person would prevent that.

“​They have it down to a science,” said Tanya Palacios, in Norwalk. “I don’t think I will vote on election day again. I’ve never gone in and out this quickly.”

Reporters Mike Sprague, Stephanie Stutzman and Elizabeth Chou, along with photographer Keith Durflinger contributed to this report.

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