Long Beach organization says new voting system botched ballot recounts

An image from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) project showing new technology designed to ease and enhance the voting experience.

The activist group Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC), who is seeking a recount of the March 3 primary election results of the Measure A sales tax extension may take their request to court.

As previously reported in the Signal Tribune, the group announced that it would cost about $20,000 to pay for the recount. They asked members of the community to make a donation.

On April 7, Ian Patton, LBRC executive director, sent an email to the Signal Tribune stating that the county had raised the cost to “well over $200,000”

“It turns out, this new system makes retrieval of physical ballots almost impossible, requiring a team of 16 County workers an estimated 16 full days to retrieve Long Beach ballots mixed into up to 5,000 boxes from vote centers all around the county,” Patton wrote.

In a phone interview with Patton Friday, he said the LBRC had encouraged the LA County Registrar Recorder to ask the state’s courts for more time, citing the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis that has hindered other operations from small business to other government practices.

He said they have not done that, but carried on with the recount.

County voting employees began the Measure A ballot recount process on April 8, but Patton said he had concerns with how the process was unfolding, adding that there was a noticeable lag between a person counting the votes and the other person verifying it.

The group stated in their email to the Signal Tribune that the matter may be taken to court.

The LBRC claimed that the newly implemented voting process has made it difficult for ballot-recount requests, and to an extent, they weren’t alone.

The new voting system, which allowed folks to vote at any polling place they desired following the Voter’s Choice Act, did face some push back from voters. Some people took video and photographs of large lines outside of polling stations, while others stated the new system made the process much simpler.

On March 4, LA County 4th District Supervisor Janice Hahn called for an investigation into the reported long lines and complaints.

“The hours-long wait times that many voters experienced on election night are unacceptable,” Hahn stated in the press release. “This new voting system was meant to make the voting process easier and more accessible for voters with opportunities to vote-in-person over 11 days, machines designed for people of all abilities, and multilingual ballot marking devices. Some hiccups are to be expected with a new system– but there were widespread reports of problems. We need a full investigation of the challenges that voters faced, and these issues need to be fixed before this November.”

In an email to the Signal Tribune, a spokesperson for the LA County Registrar Recorder stated that “the counting of the ballots on election night doesn’t impact the recount process.”

“As a result, the ballots are secured, processed, tallied and stored in batches rather than sorted and stored by precinct or jurisdiction,” the email read. “A record is maintained that allows for identifying the specific box and storage location for a given ballot or set of ballots. The new system also captures a high-quality image of each ballot allowing the option to review and conduct recounts or audits using those images.”
On the question of ballot recount costs, LA County Registrar Recorder officials stated that various variables dictate the actual cost.

“The costs fluctuate depending on a number of variables, such as the number of boards selected by the requesting party, order of precinct counting and the number of ballot challenges,” the spokesperson wrote.

With the current health crisis of COVID-19, many businesses as well as government institutions have had to shut down or drastically reduce staff to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to the spokesperson, the LA County Registrar Recorder’s process to recount ballots has not been impacted by the virus.

“Our office is able to conduct the recount in a safe and transparent manner while maintaining public health and safety guidelines such as physical/social distancing, protective gloves, and masks, etc,” the emailed response read. “There are some limitations to available space and the number of observers.”

Patton said the LBRC was “getting donations everyday” and over 230 unique donors sent funds to cover the cost of the recount. The group has collected almost $50,000.

Long Beach voters passed the original Measure A in 2016 to collect funds for public infrastructure and emergency services.

The Measure A extension passed by 16 votes following the March 3 primary election, extending the city’s 1% sales tax.

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  1. The County Clerk should be fired for not planning for potential review of votes with efficiency. The County Clerk should have filed all votes by precinct ALWAYS! I bet we can find 50 people to review and track 100,000 ballots on this measure to verify accuracy without all this ridiculous costs the LBRC should not have to incur (like gathering all the voters in LB in one place). This is a reasonable expectation!

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