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"The bedrock of a representative democracy is participation. When individuals are prevented from voting — whether through increased physical barriers or through digital deception — that undermines our entire political system. It is our job, as a country, to ensure that voter suppression in any form is stamped out. Anything less contravenes the very ideals and values on which the entire country was founded.” Ann M. Ravel of Maplight

Our Elections

As a lifelong Los Angeles County voter, I have nostalgia for the past simple process of voting. Early on, pencils were used to mark paper ballots eventually replaced by ink pens, then hole punching styluses. Counting ballots was done onsite at the neighborhood precincts, publicly observed by local residents. Each precinct finished with results counted by the end of the day or into the early morning hours. Voter rolls and precinct results were publicly displayed. People did not wait hours in line to vote. Pencils and paper did not cost $300 million dollars.

We knew who was registered, who voted and what the results were in real time at our precinct. Voters were not confused. There was no intermediary between us and our ballot. No variety of ballots for different categories of voters within the same party primary. We handed our ballot to human beings and watched as votes were tabulated at a table on site. Voters were informed about the process because it was simple and uniform. We had a local, transparent and democratic balloting system. There was a paper trail. How things have changed!

Bev Harris of Black Box Voting reminds us…a democratically run election requires ballots that are publicly cast, privately marked and publicly counted. We in Los Angeles County have fallen down the rabbit hole of dystopia. We now have private casting, public ballot marking (I could see the terminal screens from 20 feet away) and private tabulation by computer. The issue of ballots, the marking of ballots and the tabulation of our ballots are controlled by non transparent software programs.

The removal of genuine public oversight and the custody of our ballot relegated to a technology “black box,” replete with machine dysfunction and failure as demonstrated on March 3rd, is very troubling.

We all know computers are not fail-safe nor absolutely secure. The removal of genuine public oversight and the custody of our ballot relegated to a technology “black box,” replete with machine dysfunction and failure as demonstrated on March 3rd, is very troubling. Voting has been made ridiculously and unnecessarily expensive with $300 million machines. As Judy Alter of Protect California Ballots remarks…these computers are very expensive pencils.

Election day March 3rd, I poll watched and flyered for Maria Estrada AD63, County Committee Progressives and Bernie Sanders at a North Long Beach community location amidst a large public housing project of primarily Black and Latinx voters. Voters were a wonderful mix of ethnicities, all ages arriving to cast their ballots within a complicated, inefficient morass of rules, confusing to even the poll workers. The obstacles to voting that people faced made it very clear to me that the system was not serving the voters; voters were burdened with serving the system.

Our elections have been largely removed from the public domain. The entire process has been made a private affair replacing voting as a communal exercise of a social good and a robust expression of participatory democracy. The public has been removed from the “debates” which are now staged performances run by corporate-owned news media. Our ballots issued, cast, and counted are unknowable mysteries. We lack visible accounting, observable public records of who voted, paper receipts for the voter, system transparency.

Oddly enough, standing 20 feet away from the booths, I could see people's screens and how they voted as they voted…that was public.

Personal privacy was violated. Poll workers were poorly prepared: still demanding IDs, sending people away to retrieve IDs with addresses after they waited in line for over an hour, not telling people they could crossover vote, issuing provisionals rather than regular ballots when machines failed and when names did not pop up on the tablet screen first try. For long-registered Democratic Party party voters, a drivers license renewal resulted in provisional ballot designation though nothing about the voters themselves had changed.

I spoke to a woman who had no presidential candidates on her no party preference (NPP) ballot and when she asked how she could vote for president, she was told that was her ballot. The poll worker rebuffed her with “I cannot discuss politics.”Scribbled on an awkward suspended tablet, signatures not resembling those done on paper decades ago were suspect and provisionals were suggested. Some people were told their names were not listed but after insisting on subsequent attempts, their names popped up. Software dysfunction? Badly programmed system? Lack of training? Poll worker exhaustion?

One LA city administrator campaigning for his wife’s city council seat, when told that people were being turned away, glibly remarked, "Oh well, systems aren’t perfect” with a big grin. This comment was made as an elderly man (wearing a veterans cap) was leaving visibly upset after waiting over an hour in line without having voted because the poll worker demanded an ID with an address. One of our volunteers walked the man back in and got him his ballot. Parking was difficult, especially for disabled and elderly coming in on wheelchairs, walkers and canes. And for entire families with small children and strollers. My heart went out to them in gratitude for their strength and determination. Some people left complaining about the wait without voting...others left going to another location in hopes of a shorter wait. The 2- to 3-hour waits in line and the machine mishaps resulted in anger, frustration, humiliation and de facto voter suppression.

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$300 million dollars was spent for machines that failed en masse election day. That taxpayer money should have been spent hiring more workers, establishing more polling sites not fewer, and having a uniform training of all poll workers, until they demonstrate competence. 17,000 vote by mail (VBM) ballots arrived too late for voters. Some people got VBM ballots, others did not.

LA County’s 5.5 million LA County registered voters now have fewer than 1,000 polling places, down from 5,000. When the system was previewed, Secretary of State Alex Padilla enthusiastically proclaimed “ We made it a lot easier if you’re eligible to be a registered voter in California. Our automatic registration has shown big success and big numbers. We’re making it easier for registered voters to cast their ballots.” For real? Who is doing the counting?

As more VBM ballots are issued In future elections, what happens to all those that expensive equipment paid for by taxpayers when fewer voters show up in person? The stated goal of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is a single-access system of VBM ballots which has been adopted by at least 15 California counties. Yet Padilla's enthusiasm for Logan’s system and Allen’s legislation resulted in an LA County exemption from state regulations issued from his office, mandating VBM ballots for all residents in a county.

In 2006, Dean Logan was hired as deputy to the then LA County Register Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Connie McCormick. His resume included no college education, a disastrous record of multiple problems under his leadership as RR/CC for King County- Seattle, Washington including erroneous election tallies, lost ballots and a public information lawsuit costing King County $225,000. Despite deep concerns and public testimony against his hiring, Dean Logan was hired as the RR/CC by Los Angeles County Supervisors.

But Logan did not create this current mess alone. Senator Ben Allen authored the “Voters Choice Act” bill favoring this huge public expenditure on this technology and pushed it through the legislature. Secretary of State Alex Padilla was on board from the beginning, even while acknowledging that it could take as long as 30 days to count the votes with this new “improved” system.

LA County Board of Supervisors’ gave this project their unanimous support, despite recent LA County election system problems with ever new system “fixes”. Recall the 2008 “double bubble” confusing ballot design invalidating 50,000 votes for president and the 2018 election Provisional Ballot fiasco when 118,000 voters were left off of the voter rolls and 363,000 voters moved to VBM status without their consent. Those resulted in record numbers of provisional ballots being cast. Some precincts in the 63AD were 80% provisionally cast.

California leads the nation with half of all provisional ballots cast in the US. Voting machines and balloting technology schemes nationwide have faced severe criticism for vote flipping, failing certification, malfunctioning and lack of security. Many systems foisted on the public have proven to be expensive, opaque, easily reprogrammed and unreliable. Public money flows into these schemes. Who benefits?

In the grand tradition of political posturing, those irresponsible architects of this expensive and dangerous albatross, Alex Padilla and Ben Allen, are now positioning themselves as champions of the people who will fix the system. In partnership with Dean Logan, they broke something that didn’t need fixing. Like so many projects siphoning tax dollars out of the general budget, away from genuine human need, someone is making a lot of money through lucrative contracts. No doubt those beneficiaries of this public largess will show their gratitude to their political friends. We need to keep a close eye on that.

Our employees Dean Logan, Alex Padilla, Ben Allen and the LA County Board of Supervisors must answer to the public for this 2020 breach of democracy, obscene waste of tax payer resources and failure to protect our basic right of citizenship. Our election system must be protected not plundered for political gain. Political employees who have damaged the public trust should be fired in the next election.

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” Joseph Stalin

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Maureen Cruise

A Los Angeles area native, Maureen Cruise has voted in every election in a Los Angeles County since 1968. She just missed being eligible to vote for her father Wallace J. Duffy opposing Governor Pat Brown in the 1966 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary. Involved in political canvassing since her 1950’s childhood, Maureen is concerned about the unnecessary consolidation, complexity and technical monopolization creating balloting obstacles, lack of transparency and opportunities for mass manipulation of our most basic democratic right to vote. Most importantly we must be guaranteed our votes are fully counted, and counted openly and honestly.