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Early & Absentee Voting Scandals in D.C. & L.A.

Early & Absentee Voting Scandals in D.C. & L.A.

By Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG

We've got two shameful situations with early and absentee voting. Well, there are many more, no doubt, but for purposes of this article, we'll focus on the outrage in D.C. where thousands of voters are not receiving their absentee ballots, so they're being forced to go vote at county headquarters. And out here in Los Angeles, the world's largest voting jurisdiction with just one, single early voting location.

News on both of those scandals --- and the response we received from our inquiry about the L.A. situation from L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan --- follow below...

On the D.C. scandal...This from "Fox News" today:

Despite efforts to reduce long lines and voting irregularities on Election Day, thousands of voters this week have been waiting in line for hours at Washington, D.C., Election Board headquarters to cast ballots in person after requested absentee ballots failed to arrive before the voting deadline.

In a city with no early voting rules, elections officials have been accommodating the in-person vote since many voters said they had requested ballots by mail but none came. With the deadline for absentee voting looming, voters said they didn't want to miss their chance to participate in the milestone election.

"I called them up this morning and they couldn't guarantee that my ballot would arrive by tomorrow and that I should come in and vote in person," Bella Sewal told FOX News.
Washington, D.C. --- like many states across the country --- has experienced its share of voting headaches. Election board officials said they sent out more than 16,000 absentee ballots but do not know yet how many did not reach their intended destination or why not.

John Gideon of (and a frequent contributor to The BRAD BLOG) brought the article to our attention. He also noted: "DC does not have early voting yet they are allowing voters to vote early because they have no idea if absentee ballots will be delivered. And the unasked and answered question in this article; what about the military and overseas voters? Did they get their ballots? Will they be able to vote?" Good questions.

And speaking of problems with the lack of early voting... Los Angeles, the largest voting jurisdiction in the country, larger than 41 states combined --- and where we happen to live --- has a single early voting location at the county's election headquarters. The drive, if L.A. traffic plays along (and it rarely does), from The BRAD BLOG World News Headquarters is about 40 minutes from here.

That's an absolute scandal, frankly. In previous elections there had been a dozen or so locations around the county for early voting. LA County Clerk and Recorder Dean Logan explained via email (posted below in full), after we'd forwarded an email from a voter troubled about it (also posted below) that the reason is due to CA SoS Debra Bowen's requirement that the county's Diebold touch-screen voting machines, previously used for early voting, must have their so-called "paper trails" 100% hand-counted, following severe security and accuracy issues discovered during her landmark "Top-to-Bottom Review" of the state's voting systems.

Though we appreciate Logan's thorough and quick response, his reasoning, frankly, is pretty weak, in our estimation, even if he wasn't responsible for selecting this system. That was done by former Registrar, Conny "Diebold Cover Girl" McCormack, who suddenly resigned in January, just one month before Super Tuesday.

But if Florida, of all places, can serve every one its voters by easing the expected historic turnout on Nov. 4th with early voting across the state --- albeit with several problems, largely due to failures in the state's e-registration computers and Republican insistence that voting hours be cut back --- so can Los Angeles. Next Tuesday will be a nightmare out here.

The email from the concerned Los Angeles voter, and Logan's full email in response, follow below...

From: Susan
Sent: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 2:00 PM
Subject: Los Angeles County early Voting problem

Los Angeles County has *only one* early voting location for the entire county; the county is over 4000 square miles and has a population of over 9,948,000. I would have to drive at least 37 miles to vote early. When I called the registrar's office. I was told that there was nothing to be done about it.

This is not right and constitues a veiled form of voter suppression. Too much is at stake in this election. I do not know where to turn. I have called the CNN voter's hotline, the LA League of Women's Voters, and Election Protection, so far no one has anything constructive to offer as far as action to increase early voting locations in LA county. I sure hope you can help or at least bring it to the public's attention.

Susan [redacted]
Los Angeles County

After sending the above to Logan, he replied the next day with the following...

From: Dean Logan
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2008 12:15 PM
To: Brad Friedman
Subject: Re: [Fwd: fw: Los Angeles County early Voting problem]

Brad --

Thanks for the question and the opportunity to respond. I responded to a similar question from LAist last night.

Los Angeles County operated a successful early voting program in the past; however it was dependent on the use of touch screen voting technology. Following the Secretary of State's top-to-bottom review of voting systems and the subsequent conditional approval of voting systems, the early voting system used in Los Angeles required a 100% manual count of all ballots cast on touch screen devices. Based on the size of our jurisdiction and the number of measures and contests on the ballot, it is simply not practical or logistically feasible to do that in a large scale, high volume election such as the one we are conducting now. As a result, we discontinued the program.

We were very clear about this during the review of voting systems --- with the Board of Supervisors, the Secretary of State and the election protection community. Collectively, I believe we all recognized the trade-off associated with the need for the conditions of use applied to the touch screen voting system(s).

With our paper-based, central count Optical Scan voting system, it is also not feasible to issue ballots at remote locations. For this election, we have over 700 different ballot styles. The ballot security, accountability and inventory control issues with this kind of volume and its associated variables would be significant and a drain on resources needed to ensure secure, transparent processes inherent to administering elections in Los Angeles County. I believe many other California counties have faced a similar reality with regard to early voting.

We have emphasized options for vote by mail voting --- including an on-line application and tracking system on our web site at Additionally, we have expanded hours and access at our Norwalk headquarters for those who need or choose to vote prior to election day. In fact, we are will be open every day through election day for this purpose.

Please be assured that an early voting component will be a consideration in any future discussions or plans with regard to voting systems in Los Angeles County.

I hope this information is helpful.

Best regards,

--- Dean

Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
Los Angeles County



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