Sat, Apr

Are LA and California Really Ready for the November Election?


EASTSIDER-Remember the headlines during the primary election? Huge lines, unprepared and insufficient polling places, and, Why California Still Hasn’t Processed Over Two Million Ballots from the Primaries.  

With the November 8 General Election not that far away, the question is whether or not LA and California’s struggling system of voting is going to be ready. I know that the issues over the primary, including the massive number of provisional ballots, may not be matched again this fall, but the trade off is going to be a set of ballot initiatives with explanations the size of a small phone book. In short, a potential mess. 

State Measures--As of July 1, there were already 17 statewide ballot measures approved (nos. 51-67), and there’s still time for the legislature to pass more. There are very contentious issues on this ballot, from the death penalty to the legalization of recreational marijuana and gun control, practically guaranteeing a big turnout. All of these are going to involve the spending of big bucks from outside interests, will become the subject of endless droning from the television and internet media machine, and will likely have us all sick to death of the whole mess long before November 8th

Local Measures--Remember these 17 measures do not include equally contentious local issues from the City Hall cognoscenti. We have DWP Charter Reform, a measure regarding the Airport Police getting into the Fire & Police Pension Fund, the Homeless Affordable Bond measure, and a housing measure interestingly titled, “Affordable Housing and Labor Standards Related to City Planning.” 

The ballot will also include a monster “transportation” sales tax increase for Metro, to which our Jack Humphreville responds, Does Metro Deserve a 120 Billion Blank Check?  

And how about the County Parcel Tax for Parks? It is now titled with the cutsey name, “Safe, Clean, Neighborhood Parks Measure.” It used to be called, “Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks, Open Space, Beaches, River Protection and Water Conservation Measure.” Make no mistake, it is a permanent parcel tax. 

Face it, this is going to be a humongous ballot, and even our hard charging group at CityWatch is going to have a heck of a time explaining all of these issues well enough to keep people’s eyes from glazing over. 

Our Archaic Voting System--“LA Was the Epicenter of Primary Chaos,” as reported by the LA Times on June 7. 

It would be nice to think that issues over provisional ballots will be all cleared up by November, but in California you can register or switch parties up to 15 days prior to the election date. 

Not only that, but Secretary of State Alex Padilla has noted that our voting equipment is “nearing the end of its life expectancy.”  

Add to that the fact each County can have its own different machines, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, and there is little chance of fixing anything before the November vote takes place. 

Statewide, well over 50% of voters use the absentee ballot (aka vote by mail), but that still leaves a whole lot of people at the polls in Los Angeles County in November. And as we have seen, LA County is at the epicenter of California voting issues. 

The big question is, what’s going to happen at the polls on Election Day? Nobody really knows the answer. The pundits are talking about a huge turnout, but most people I talk to are disgusted with the whole mess; a number of them may simply not vote at all. 

For what it’s worth, my personal guess is that fewer voters will turn out in November than voted in the primary so there will be significantly fewer problems with provisional ballots; those kinds of problems are generally bigger during primaries. On the other hand, with all of the ballot measures up for consideration, people are going to be confused and unhappy. They will probably clog up the polling booths trying to figure how the heck to vote. 

It also means, if my friend Jack Humphreville is right, that the tax increase measures could all get voted down on the theory that, when the voters get confused, they shut down and just say no. Actually, that’s not such a dumb idea. 

What to Do?--The reason I’m writing this column now instead of in November, is that there are a couple of things that you can do to make voting a smooth process. First, if you haven’t already, get set it up to vote by mail. That way, you avoid any potential turnoffs at the polling place. 

On the other hand, if you wind up going to vote in person, and I often like to do this just because it feels like a real election that way, do two things in advance. First, find and double check on your polling place, since they can change sometimes, and if you go to the wrong one, you may wind up with the dreaded “provisional ballot.” 

Second, and most important, take your voter guide filled out as to how you want to vote on each item. Be sure to take your filled out guide when you go to the polls. Remember, all these ballot measures are deliberately designed to make you want to vote yes. The name of the measure may or may not have anything to do with what the measure will actually do. That’s how consultants make bags of money. 

Follow these guidelines to have a smooth experience. Remember, it’s hell getting into a voting booth and then trying to read all this crud. Since the poll workers can’t tell you how to vote, they will be of little help at that point. You’re on your own! 

On November 9, I will go back and take another look at this article…just to see how far off I was. 

Please, please VOTE!


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 





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