Letter: Voter Disenfranchisement in Election

Was the low turnout in Tuesday's primary election a result of voter disenfranchisement?

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This letter was originally sent to Secretary of State Debra Bowen by local poll worker Marge Piane.

I was a poll worker for the election this past Tuesday. I’ve done the job of “inspector”—basically in charge of the set-up, running and packing up of the polling place—for quite a few years. Of course, in that time there have been a few minor problems, but none that would prevent a voter from exercising his or her right to vote.

This year, however, I am convinced that many voters in my neighborhood were effectively disenfranchised. I was amazed when I saw my close neighbors arriving at the polling place that shared my location, at 3981 San Rafael Avenue in Los Angeles.

Glassell Park voters who live in Precinct 9006313A were required to travel up into the hills of Mount Washington to find a location that is not served by any public transportation, and is well beyond walking distance from any home in that precinct—let alone the fact that it would be an uphill hike.

Therefore, any voter from Precinct 9006313A who did not have a car or access to a ride could not cast a ballot at Mount Washington Elementary School.

As a poll worker I know that any voter can vote provisionally at any polling place. However, I also know that many voters don’t trust that a ballot cast provisionally will actually be counted; most voters want their ballots to be included in the count they will see reported on election night; and in local races, like for State Assembly candidates, it’s important to vote in your assigned precinct.

One voter arrived in my polling place and said, “It’s so nice not to have to drive to the flats to vote.” She was happy. I was appalled. All people who live in the hills (as I do in Glassell Park) must travel “to the flats” to get on a freeway or go to a grocery store. They are familiar with the streets and public buildings. Many people who live in “the flats” have never been in the hills.

Given the reams of paper taken up with laws about voting rights, polling place layout, multi-lingual materials and handicapped access, how is it possible something as basic as easy access for all voters is not required?


Monte Vista Neighbor June 10, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I also worked the June 5 primary, as a clerk at Franklin HS. Since we are "in the flats", I doubt any voters were unable to reach us as described by Ms. Piane. However, I question, and many of our voters questioned, why the precinct polling locations move around so much? I am aware that every registered voter should receive a sample ballot by mail, in advance of every election, with their polling location noted on the cover. But people have some expectation that their poll location won't or shouldn't change from one election to the next. We had many voters turn up at our location because "I always vote here", or we heard, "Why did I have to come here when there is a poll across the street from my house?" About 10% of our voters either voted provisionally or left to try to find their correct location. I will be bringing this up with the county clerk's office. Perhaps other voters affected by this problem will also contact them.
Tae Macias June 11, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I'm in precinct 9006313A as well, and this was a factor in my not voting for the first time in a long time. My only window for voting would have had me voting before or after dropping my daughter off at a different school, then treking up the hill to Mt Wash Elem, fighting the school traffic, and searching for an elusive parking space in that chaos - all of which seemed too much trouble on an already stressful day. Even without the school traffic to contend with, Mt Washington El is difficult to get to from our neck of the 90065; the shortest one-way driving distance is 2.5 miles. We might as well have been voting at Eagle Rock Elem (or any point in between on "the flats") if that's the distance we have to drive!


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