Voting in the upcoming March 3rd election will be very different for Whittier and L.A. County voters. Many old polling places are gone. In their place are vote centers. Residents can vote at any vote center for up to 10 days before Election Day. The goal of this article is to clear up any questions and misconceptions about the new voting system.
City Elections No Longer Held Separately from County and State Elections
In 2018, the Whittier City Council decided to consolidate City elections with the primary in March, instead of holding separate April elections. This costs the City less money and increases voter turnout.
League of Women Voters Whittier President Margo Reeg told Sustainable City News, “That was the goal; to get away from having isolated elections, where the turnout was anywhere from 10-20%, and try to get more people involved in the local elections. This is the first time that Council District 1 and Council District 3 will be coming up for renewal. Council Districts 2 and 4 will remain the same until 2022, and then they will come up for re-election.”
The March 3rd primary ballot will include elections for Whittier City Council members and Mayor, County Supervisor, District Attorney, State Assembly and Senate, U.S. Congress, and U.S. Presidential candidates, as appropriate.
Reeg says, “The idea is to get people to vote on what is called a ‘down ballot race,’ which is designed to get more people to vote on other positions besides just the one for President by featuring the least important positions first and the most important ones last. This forces voters to work their way through the ballot before they vote for the more important issues.”
Vote Centers: L.A. County Adopts Radical Changes to the Voting Process
In addition to a minor date change for Whittier voters, voting practices will undergo major changes throughout the county under the four-year-old Voters’ Choice Act. This act regulates how and where we’ll vote, according to political consultant and Sustainable City Board Chair Andre Charles.
Forget your regular polling place. It might be history–and you can vote anywhere. “Polling places are not going to be as numerous,” Charles says, “Instead, there are fewer vote centers that are open longer–Election Day and the ten days before that. This was designed to increase turnout with the thought that you don’t just have one day you have to take off of work or move around your schedule; now you have eleven days.”
Final decisions are still being made about the county’s new 11-day and 4-day vote centers. Whittier will host one or two vote centers, with more 4-day vote centers opening closer to Election Day.
Register to Vote on Election Day–What??
Vote centers will allow people to register or re-register to vote as late as Election Day (rather than the previous 15-day-in-advance registration), get their ballot, vote their ballot, and request or turn in a vote by mail ballot.
New electronic voting machines will also be available to aid voters, particularly those who request ballots in one of the 13 available languages, including three Native American languages and Asian languages including Chinese and Cambodian.
Electronic Voting Machines Produce Printed Ballots
The electronic voting machines can pull up any ballot for the whole county, so voters can vote in a city that is outside of the precinct they are registered in. The machine will serve as a ballot aid by allowing voters to mark and review their selections electronically, but will still print a paper ballot. This still allows for a redo if there is an error on the printed ballot.
In advance of voting, if they wish, voters can download, mark, and save E-sample ballots on the County Registrar’s website. The site will provide a QR code to be scanned by the electronic voting machine, which will bring up the completed ballot for review, print, and submission. Submitted ballots will be stored in a secure locked box, from which ballots will be collected daily and counted via a ballot counting machine.
Don’t Look For Your Old Polling Place–Find a Vote Center
Your polling place is likely gone, replaced by a vote center. Charles says, “If Whittier voters are used to voting in their neighborhood polling place, they need to find out where the vote centers are. Remember, you can go to any vote center in the county.”
Right now, the above link for vote centers says, “Please check back closer to your election date. There are no active elections for this address at this time.” This is expected to change early in the new year.
For now, be sure to check your registration status periodically, as mistakes can happen. Visit this link to confirm you are still on the voter rolls.