LOS ANGELES – With polls closed, California Common Cause reports the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline received 2,000 calls from voters with questions and voters experiencing problems at the polls. This surpassed the call volume from the last midterm election, likely due to higher voter turnout and changes in how and where voters cast ballots.
Some issues reported by voters and poll monitors:
- More than 1,000 calls came from voters inquiring about polling places, because either the voters or polling places themselves had moved – likely a foreshadowing for 2020 when Los Angeles transitions to community vote centers instead of neighborhood polling places.
- Another 700+ had questions about registration, including on conditional registration. This was the first time voters could register and vote on the same day at one location in each county.
- A significant number of people had issues with mail ballots – either they requested a mail ballot and didn’t receive it or they were registered as vote by mail and didn’t know it. Most of these callers indicated that they received provisional ballots.
- Poll monitors or voters reported poll workers were asking for IDs at polling places in Los Angeles, Moreno Valley, National City, Pasadena, San Diego. IDs are not required for most voters to vote in California.
- Multiple polling places did not have voter rolls to start the day, such as Mark Twain Middle School in Los Angeles which had no voter rolls at 11 a.m., and voters were unable to cast ballots until they arrived.
- Many polling places experienced equipment problems. The polling place at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles had no working voting machines until 10 a.m., and voters were asked to fill out paper ballots until the machines were operational.
- Polling places at University of California-San Diego ran out of ballots late in the day, and students had to wait several hours to cast a ballot.
The hotline also received some calls about suppression and intimidation, for instance: a San Diego poll worker who asked voters if they were American, a Los Angeles woman was turned away from a polling place for wearing a Women’s March t-shirt and a Hollywood poll worker who joked about a voter’s Jewish name.
“In addition to the usual problems, we saw an uptick of vigilante poll workers who are illegally denying some people the vote based on who they believe should not vote,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. Reed Smith LLP is hosting the Los Angeles call center, and poll monitor command center – serving as a hub to serve hundreds of voters in Central and Southern California.
California Common Cause and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have led the Election Protection coalition work in California for more than 10 years. More than 400 volunteers monitored polls Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino and Tulare counties and more than 200 volunteers took calls at Election Protection call centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Mountain View.