Poll workers in Los Angeles County are reporting that they are short, in some cases well-short, of the number of Democratic and No Party Preference cross-over Democratic ballots required for their precincts tomorrow under California Elections Code Section 14102 (a)1, (a)2, and (b). Dean C. Logan, L.A. County’s Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, is dismissive of these claims, however, suggesting that precinct inspectors should be speaking to his office instead of the media and offering a definition of “registered voters” that flies in the face of Federal law and California’s Secretary of State guidance in accordance with Federal law.
Elections Code 14102’s requirement for stocking precincts with ballots ahead of time states that “in no case shall the number be less than 75 percent of registered voters in the precinct.” CounterPunch has reviewed the numbers of ballots for six precincts as provided to Election Justice USA by Los Angeles precinct workers and has spoken by phone to confirm with three of the six.
Thao Tu is working Precinct 2040004A in Los Angeles. She has 513 regular Democratic and vote by mail Democratic voters on her roster, but only 250 ballots. At 48%, this is far short of the requisite 75%. Tu told me that she tried to contact county election officials throughout the day on Monday in order to request more ballots, but the phone line was constantly busy. Tu is frustrated as “we’ve been anticipating something since Arizona,” where long lines and voters flipped off the rolls against their will saw a severe depression in Democratic voter turnout on election day.
This wrinkle took her by a bit of surprise.
A second precinct inspector, who was not sure her name could be used without legal ramifications, spent two to three futile hours in the Los Angeles County elections office. She realized she had just 32% of the potential ballots for a registered list of over 900 regular Democratic and potential vote by mail Dem voters who are allowed to trade their mail in ballots for regular ballots if they have not voted by election day. At just 30% of the possible total, the number of ballots available to No Party Preference voters wishing to vote Democratic under California law and Democratic Party agreement, is of even greater concern to this second precinct worker. As independents, this is a demographic expected to vote for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in large numbers. Elections officials in Los Angeles told this second inspector that the ballot materials provided were based on lists from weeks or months ago and that inactive voters don’t count as registered voters, a spurious interpretation of the National Voter Registration Act that County Clerk Dean Logan confirmed to me by email.
A massive surge of new or re-registering voters in California has overwhelmed expectations in the last few weeks according to a combination of data publicly available and provided by email to CounterPunch by Political Data Incorporated, a California firm specializing in providing continuously updated voter information to the media, public, and political campaigns.
Jean Camille Bianic, a third precinct worker I reached by phone, attempted to figure things out both with the county and with the Sanders campaign. His precinct is apparently divided in two, but he has been given a list of over 1500 names of people who could vote in his precinct and less than 850 ballots. “It’s crazy,” Bianic told me. “We live in a time when you cannot trust elected people.”
County officials refused to provide the second precinct inspector with additional ballots, but told her she could call on election day and request a rush of new ballots if needed.
Logan confirmed this in writing by email, stating that “[s]tandard protocols and contingency plans are in place to deploy additional materials and/or emergency ballots from Regional Distribution Centers located throughout the County to ensure all voters who appear to vote are able to do so should that be necessary.”
CounterPunch will keep in contact with various precinct workers throughout the day and provide updates on the situation if ballot shortages keep people from voting.