Common Cause Releases Report on Los Angeles County’s New Voting System in March 2020 Primary Election

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LOS ANGELES – July 21, 2020. California Common Cause released a report today on Los Angeles County’s launch of its new voting system and the challenges experienced by voters during the program’s rollout in the March 2020 presidential primary.

Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) was designed to offer Los Angeles County voters more flexibility and convenience. The implementation of the program, however, suffered from a variety of problems. The report “Problems and Promise: Assessing Los Angeles County’s New Voting System Rollout in the March 2020 Primary Election” details findings from our poll monitors’ visits to more than 150 Los Angeles County vote centers on Election Day and in the early vote period. Issues included technical problems, election workers strained beyond capacity, and inundated county support systems. On March 3, these problems led to lines that were over three hours long in some locations. 

VSAP replaced Los Angeles County’s prior voting system that had been in place for years. The program was developed in a highly inclusive, user-centered approach. VSAP improves the voting experience by offering early voting, flexibility for voters to cast a ballot at any voting location in the county, and a ballot marking device with new accessibility features for voters with disabilities and voters with language needs. In the March primary, nearly 1 million voters used this new ballot marking device to mark and cast their ballot at nearly 980 vote centers throughout the County.

While the program brought much-needed changes to the County’s voting system, VSAP’s first rollout during the March presidential primary election was deeply flawed and undermined the very convenience it was designed to offer. The California Common Cause report details the problems experienced and identifies 36 recommendations for improvement, for the November 2020 presidential general election and beyond. 

Key observations:

  • Los Angeles County conducted over sixty community meetings, consulted members of the public in the vote center selection process, and ultimately offered nearly 980 vote centers in the March primary election, significantly exceeding state requirements relating to public engagement and the number of vote centers offered.
  • The County also offered innovative methods of expanding voting options by offering mobile/pop-up vote centers as well as 24-hour voting at six locations throughout the county.
  • Technical issues with ePollbooks led to long lines on Election Day, with roughly 51% of vote centers that we visited on election night having wait times of over one hour long.
  • Resource deployment and other logistical issues led to some vote centers opening late.
  • The County’s capacity for fielding reports and troubleshooting was overwhelmed closer to Election Day, leaving voters and some election workers unassisted.

Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director at California Common Cause“The challenges faced by some Los Angeles County voters in the March 2020 primary were totally unacceptable. The technical and logistical issues experienced in this election served as barriers to their fundamental right to vote. The County has acknowledged it must and will do better in November.”

Kiyana Asemanfar, Report Author and Policy Manager at California Common Cause
“The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) exceeded all requirements by holding countless meetings with community stakeholders and putting LA County residents’ needs first in the design of the new voting system. We are hopeful that the office will use the same inclusive, voter-first approach to solving the problems identified in our report. We are encouraged that the RR/CC has already begun implementing a comprehensive plan to address the issues that arose in March 2020 and to ensure voter access for November 2020.” 

California Common Cause is dedicated to building a California democracy that includes everyone. We work to build governments at the state and local levels that are reflective of and responsive to the communities they are meant to serve. Part of our mission is voter protection: we operate poll monitoring programs in Southern California in every major election. We will return to Los Angeles County vote centers this fall and hope to see a voting experience that delivers on VSAP’s enormous promise. 

Read the report online.

California Common Cause and our partners also issued a letter with specific recommendations for Los Angeles County’s November 2020 election preparations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the County’s recent expansion of its vote-by-mail program. 

Read the letter online. 

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