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Thursday, April 24, 2014

What happened to my polling place?

Photo by Ed Sugden

Many voters in Echo Park and Elysian Heights are asking that question after receiving a postcard last week from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk informing them that the polling place listed on their sample ballot, Elysian Heights Elementary, “is no longer available.”  Instead, they have been reassigned to a new polling location, which for some voters means driving to Elysian Valley to cast their ballots. However, on lavote.org, the county website that provides polling place information,  some voters in at least two precincts are still being directed to vote at the Elysian Heights Elementary.

The last-minute changes have left some voters like upset as well as confused.  Said Meredith Hammon in an email:

I live in Elysian Heights and could walk under half a mile to my previous polling place, Elysian Heights Elementary. My new voting place is 2 miles away in Elysian Valley. I got this flimsy postcard in the mail less than a week from the election. How is this acceptable notice to voters? How many other voters in Los Angeles have had their polling place changed?

A spokeswoman for the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is checking some figures but does advise folks to be aware that the location of polling places–there are 4,621 in Tuesday’s election– can and do change from election-to-election and at the last minute. The spaces are not guaranteed.

Elysian Heights serves as the polling place for two precincts, according to the Registrar-Record’s website. Elysian Heights Elementary Principal Veronica Herrera said  “staffing issues” prevented the school from hosting the polling place, which requires the campus to  be open beyond its normal  hours to accommodate the set up of the polling station and the closing of polls at 8 p.m.

The school, however, will be open for next year’s city elections in March, she said.

23 comments

  1. 4 Years ago I went to my usual polling place only to be told that it had changed to another venue. Ok , got it.
    I got in my car and drove there and voted.
    Although it was an inconvenience, i STILL got to vote and I wasn’t shot at , I didn’t wait in 3 hour long lines, and wasn’t intimidated not to vote by bands of thugs with guns like in other countries.
    Yes , it is inconvenient and a short notice i get that , but it really is not that bad of an inconvenience considering the other options.
    Get out and VOTE .

  2. Staffing issues? This is a national vote. Organizations move mountains to facilitate access to polling places and she’s having staffing issues? This article paints it as though the responsibility for making this space available falls to principal Herrera. If so, then let’s hear more about her inability to find a solution. My guess is that many in the community would have come forward to assist had they known about this issue.
    A big thanks to The Eastsider for reporting this since we didn’t get the postcard!

    • Vote by mail. Simple, easy, and Fun!

      • @Beanteam
        Yeah, next time – the mail-in registration deadline has passed. I have no problem reaching the new polling place, though, it is a bit inconvenient and I’m guessing the line could be long with voters condensed to this location. The real problem is for those who don’t have transportation or that have a work schedule that will make access difficult. The short notice (or no notice in some cases) of the change compounds these problems. There are plenty of polling places throughout the city that are set up at private residences. That this trouble wasn’t foreseen and alternative arrangements made is a total shame. Somebody dropped the ball here.

    • A thought? Maybe if more Echo Park parents sent their kids to this amazing school instead of farming them out to other neighborhoods, she would have more funding.

      If you want a neighborhood school, then support it!

  3. I’m curious about the nature of these “staffing issues.” Was this a lack of poll workers? A volunteer shortage? A budget shortfall? A flu outbreak? How long ago did those responsible for staffing know there was a “staffing issue?” Did those responsible do everything in their power to resolve the “staffing issue?”

  4. Wow thank you! Dud not receive a post card

  5. I am still wondering why I have to vote by mail. The not enough registered voters in my district of Silverlake excuse seems like nonsense.

  6. About the staffing issues:
    I don’t have the answer but I do know that most schools don’t have their own cleaning crews, they’re scheduled by the district…
    I don’t know if the school is paid for providing the place (as are some places like basements of churches, garages, privately owned buildings) and knowing how LAUSD can function it could be that it takes a long period of time for workers outside of regular hours to be available to close the school up after the vote.
    I would imagine that the person (s) responsible for locking things up after the polls close must be a LAUSD employee…and would probably be paid overtime.

    I can remember when my polling place (Figueroa side of Mt Washington) was at Nightingale school on Fig near Cypress, then it was moved to a residential care home just off Marmion Way, then for other elections it is moved to the basement of a church off Cypress: Horrible location. Election day is Tuesday and Tuesday is trash day so most of the parking places are taken up by the bins so I had to wait until someone else left (after voting) to park and vote.
    It was at that point that I decided to switch to permanent absentee voting and it’s worked very well.

    I’m not alone:
    http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2012/11/voter_rolls_in_la_in_deta.php

    “As of Thursday afternoon, about 549,000 mail ballots have already been returned to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s office. ….

    ……The Registrar-Recorder also found that Los Angeles County is home to the largest permanent mail-in voting bloc in California, with more than one in four voters now registered to always cast their ballots by mail.”

    For those who don’t read the article on line, an interesting fact: Because each signature has to be verified, it costs the county more to process an absentee ballot than one submitted at a polling place. And absentee voting takes longer to tabulate so many propositions and races may not be determined by Wednesday…or Thursday…
    but at least we did vote.

  7. I live in Echo Park. As you know it is a demographically mixed neighborhood. There are a lot of working families and elderly here, many of whom depend on public transportation. That’s why I was alarmed when I saw that the County Registrar had changed our polling location this year from a centrally located and accessible Methodist church at the corner of Alvarado and Sunset – a transportation hub if you will, to a remote Lodge in Chavez Ravine, that when I google it from an address near my house (see attached map) I am given no public transportation option because the park is not serviced by the metro. What I am given is a 29 minute walking route (ultimately along the south end of Elysian Park Drive – a gated, broken black-top park service road) that doesn’t mention that the only true approach to the lodge is Stadium Way – itself a four lane parkway that is busy all morning and late afternoon with downtown commuter traffic and along the length of which are no sidewalks. Instead what you have is a dirt slope on the east side and a gopher ridden grass bank on the other – neither ideal walking terrain, especially if you use a cane or a walker, much less a wheelchair.

    I’ve lived in this neighborhood for over twenty years and I hike the park several days a week. I of course know where the Lodge is and I know shortcuts through the woods off of fire roads and coyote trails, and as romantic as that may sound in an Abe Lincoln sort of way, I kid you not when I say that I know people who live here who don’t know where the Lodge is – and even though it has a street address, the park is not laid out in a grid, and in fact the Lodge is not visible from Stadium Way. A couple of weeks ago I had a film location scout up in the park and half the scout crew, armed with GPS smart phones and years of experience in filming all over the city, had difficulty finding our scout, even with the coordinates and the proximity to Dodger Stadium. I wonder what someone whose day to day revolves around a handful of dense urban streets, and a reliable bus route or two, will make of this idyllic setting once they find it? I think its a valid question given the atmosphere of roadblocks that have elsewhere been put before voters, especially the elderly and immigrants, in this election cycle.

    Incidentally, when I called the County Registrar the first person I talked to basically said that since I wasn’t elderly, it wasn’t really an issue was it? She didn’t seem to grasp the complexities of my position, or at the very least she didn’t appreciate them. Afterwards I was put on with her supervisor who told me that they had used the Lodge in the past and he wasn’t aware of any issues or complaints with the location, but that he would certainly look into it. I don’t think he was aware that are no sidewalks servicing the only road in or out of that part of the park, much less about the lack of metro service. I can’t fault him, if as he indicated, he and his staff were involved with securing polling places in every precinct in LA County, many with unique terrains and urban constraints. Nonetheless, this is not a satisfactory condition, and I assured him he would probably be fielding some complaints as of tomorrow. To that end, I hope this letter finds its way to your discerning readership.
    Sincerely,
    Paul McConnell

  8. Full of crap site thank u for editing my post..actually flagging it..

  9. The point is that you shouldn’t have to drive or have access to a car to vote. It’s true, we’re not being fired upon by drug lords, and it’s just a short drive, a minor inconvenience if you will, unless you walk or take the bus, unless you are hobbled by a bum knee or arthritis, or have to get to a job by public transportation and the polling place takes you an hour and a half on foot out of your usual route, and so on. It just shouldn’t be that hard to get to a polling place within 2 miles of downtown los angeles and there should be sidewalks and a bus stop or two along the way. Vote by mail is a great option but I know some folks who don’t trust want they can’t touch themselves, and for good reason given some of the shenanigans in recent memory.
    If you don’t value our democracy then you won’t have a problem with isolationist polling places. If that’s the case then we don’t really have anything to discuss here.

    • Stop Whining Paul.

      You can vote by mail. No one cares that you have to walk up hill both ways in the snow to vote. Yes, changing the poling place is inconvenient to you and many others but, c’mon really?

      When I was in Iraq I watched people hike for 15K + to come die their fingers purple (indication that they’ve voted). Stop being a whiny self-entitled American!

  10. “If you don’t value our democracy then you won’t have a problem with isolationist polling places. ”

    Really ?
    Its a conspiracy !

  11. No, not a conspiracy….just a bad move. Why would you make it difficult to vote for certain people?

  12. CALL YELLOW CAB , TODAY , and mention the code LAVOTE , and they will take you to your voting place for free.

  13. Great comments Paul – I agree!

    I live on Echo Park Avenue/Scott and if you are voting at grace simmons lodge and are able bodied – I suggest walking up Morton to the fire road/paved trail and taking a left walking along until it comes to parking lot of Grace Simmons lodge. Came across several friendly EP walking voters on this path during my walk this am and even met a new neighbor!

  14. I didn’t even get the damn post card.

    On my ballot, it says my polling place is Room 21 / Orange Table @ Elysian Heights School.

    I went there.

    There was a very small sign on the door that said
    Important Notice to Voters
    Your Polling Place has been moved to 1811 Ripple Street

    No map. Nothing. And Ripple Street is a very long way from Elysian Heights School. What are people who walk supposed to do?!

    So I went home, got directions, and drove to Ripple Street… where there is NO record of me (or my husband or my two sons).

    I had to fill out a provisional ballot. I don’t even vote by mail because I want to go to my polling place, fill out my ballot, and cast it. I want it counted immediately, not in case there’s a question later on.

    I just went online to find my real polling place, which is apparently St. Theresa School… also a very long walk from Elysian Heights.

    I have been registered at the same address since 1976 and I have voted in every single election. How can something like this happen?! And what about the people without the wherewithal to actually find Ripple Street?

    This is obstructing people’s right to vote.

    • I had the same exact experience as Eleanor today when I went to vote.

      I have lived at the same address for nine years and have never had a voting problem like today. At the Ripple Street location, my name was not found on any of their voter lists. I filled out a provisional ballot and will not be able to verify if my vote counted NO SOONER than 30 days from the election.

      I don’t mind if my polling location changes, but I am a registered voter and my name should have been on the list at the new location.

      I feel cheated by my “democratic” experience today.

    • “This is obstructing people’s right to vote.”

      Which, I believe, is exactly the point.

  15. I live on Bonnie Brae. Neither I nor my neighbors in my building recieved our official ballots. We all had to vote provisionally which may or may not be counted as it is not mandatory. There are nearly 800,000 votes in Los Angeles county that have yet to be counted. I’m angry.

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