County workers are expediting the count of what is likely to be thousands of provisional ballots Wednesday, due to a printing glitch that left nearly 120,000 voters off of Los Angeles Country rolls.
The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office estimated that 141,000 total provisional ballots, from all sources, have yet to be counted and a spokesman said the root cause of the error was still being investigated.
In the wake of the problem, members of the Board of Supervisors summoned Dean Logan, the county’s registrar-recorder/county clerk, to answer questions during a weekly public hearing.
Logan first offered his “regret and apologies that we fell short … I understand the gravity of it,” before assuring the board that there was no issue related to individual voters’ eligibility to vote.
“This was an issue with the names being printed on the rosters in the polling places,” Logan said.
Just what caused that issue was not explained.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl called for a “deep dive” investigation into the glitch, saying she had heard multiple explanations, including voters left off rolls because they hadn’t voted for many years or because their birth date was omitted from records.
“They may all be true, it may have been the perfect storm,” Kuehl said. “But we need to know … what was that glitch?”
Logan said he had a “high level of confidence” that all poll workers were well trained to hand out provisional ballots to voters not showing up on the rolls because training involves an emphasis on allowing everyone who wants to vote the opportunity to vote. However, Kuehl said one of her deputies whose name was omitted was told to try another polling place and had to ask five times before someone agreed to give her a provisional ballot.
According to the county, the printing issue affected the voter rolls at 1,530 of the 4,357 precinct locations. A total of 118,522 voters’ names were omitted from the lists. That represents roughly 2 percent of registered voters.
Supervisor Hilda Solis worried that some people, particularly first-time voters, might have left in frustration without bothering to fill out a provisional ballot, and said she had heard about an entire city block that was left off the rolls, a problem echoed by other colleagues.
“I get that everyone was told they could get a provisional ballot at that time, but I wonder how many people did not,” Solis said, asking Logan to provide a district-by-district analysis of the problem.
Though Logan did not provide a breakdown by district during his public comments, Solis issued a statement afterward saying that “many of those left off rosters were individuals of color” and assuring residents that “the board will take any actions necessary to ensure that all registered voters in L.A. County can feel confident that their names will be on the voter rosters in future.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said “a riot almost broke out” at one polling place because a voter was so angry. “In the Antelope Valley, there were people who felt totally disenfranchised.”
Logan said he first recognized the problem while reviewing lists of issues being raised at various polling places around 10 a.m. and spoke about it during a couple of scheduled radio interviews that followed.
But he apparently failed to notify either the board or the county’s chief executive officer, according to Kuehl.
Actor Henry Winkler was among those surprised to find their names missing when they showed up to vote Tuesday.
Winkler, best known for his long-running starring role as The Fonz on the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” posted to Twitter that “My name was left off the polling registry” and then later posted a photo of his shirt with an “I Voted” sticker on it, telling followers, “Your turn!!!”
Logan said the process of counting provisional ballots from those whose names weren’t printed on polling place rosters would be expedited. Provisional ballots are part of every election, he stressed, and 85 to 90 percent are typically validated. These particular ballots can be more easily verified because there is no question of these individuals voting at multiple polling spots.
Anyone who voted provisionally can monitor the status of their vote online at www.lavote.net, and Logan promised that his office would contact each of those voters individually to let them know when their vote is or isn’t validated, in line with regular policy.
The registrar-recorder said he hoped to have a good portion of the provisional votes created by the glitch counted by Friday and the entire lot counted by next Tuesday.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla released a letter addressed to Logan early Wednesday evening, setting a deadline of June 15 for processing and asking Logan’s staffers to individually notify impacted voters that they are registered to vote.
Padilla, who said he was “gravely concerned,” also asked for a summary by June 19, to include which precincts were affected, how many were vote-by-mail voters or polling place workers, and the results of the verification process. He also requested a report by June 22 on the root cause and steps taken to prevent a recurrence.
“I particularly urge you to utilize an independent third-party expert with the relevant election administration and election technology expertise to make the necessary determinations and recommendations,” Padilla wrote.
In a release late Wednesday afternoon, Logan’s office said in addition to provisional ballots, an estimated 358,700 vote-by-mail ballots still need to be counted, along with 3,970 miscellaneous ballots that are damaged, include write-in candidates or otherwise need verification. With 952,633 ballots already counted, that means roughly one-third of all ballots have yet to be verified and counted.
Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will also continue to be accepted.
If 90 percent of the estimated outstanding ballots were validated, that would translate into roughly 27 percent voter turnout, but no official turnout estimates have been published.
The first ballot-counting update from the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office is expected Friday, while final certification is tentatively scheduled for June 29.
At one point Tuesday night, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa questioned whether the printing error might impact his chances in the governor’s race and called for the polls to remain open until Friday to ensure that everyone had a chance to vote. But as vote-tallying continued, it became clear that his fortunes were unlikely to change and Villaraigosa conceded defeat and endorsed Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who got the most votes Tuesday.
Technically, the provisional ballots could push Los Angeles County candidates who narrowly failed to pick up a majority into winning territory, but that’s extremely unlikely as it would require voters left off county rolls to turn out in much higher proportion that the overall population and vote almost exclusively in favor of Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Assessor Jeffrey Prang.
Whether other close races in various districts might be affected was not immediately clear.
Supervisor Janice Hahn called the error “unfathomable” but also expressed support for Logan.
“We do have confidence in you that you will make sure that this will never happen again,” she said.