JOINT INFORMATIONAL HEARING
DISCUSSION OF PROBLEMS FACED BY VOTERS AT THE
2008 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ELECTION
ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS AND REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE
SENATE ELECTIONS, REAPPORTIONMENT, AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS COMMITTEE
SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTEGRITY OF ELECTIONS
March 7, 2008
Dean C. Logan
Acting Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk – Los Angeles County
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present information related to voters’ experiences during the February 5, 2008 Presidential Primary Election.
I want to begin my testimony this afternoon by recognizing the phenomenal voter interest and participation in the Presidential Primary election. The 55.26% voter turnout in Los Angeles County far exceeded participation in any primary election in recent history. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedicated efforts of the more than 28,000 volunteers who served Los Angeles County voters as poll workers – staffing more than 4,300 polling locations and facilitating participation of more than 2.1 million voters.
Clearly, the biggest challenge faced by Los Angeles County voters in this election related to the instructions and ballot layout provided to allow decline-to-state or nonpartisan voters the option of crossing over and voting in the Democratic or American Independent party Presidential contests. Despite well-intentioned and proactive steps taken to inform nonpartisan voters of the cross over option and to educate poll workers on cross over voting instructions, the process fell short of facilitating a successful and positive voting experience for many. As an election administrator, I take responsibility for that and I recognize the expectation of this body -- and of the electorate -- for corrective action and improvement.
Voter enfranchisement is our most important job and it is a responsibility we take very seriously. It was with that fundamental purpose in mind that we worked cooperatively and collaboratively with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, County Counsel, the Secretary of State, and community stakeholders to compensate for the deficiency in our ballot layout and to develop a process to identify and count Presidential cross over votes that otherwise would not have been included in the official election returns.
Out of a total of 226,081 nonpartisan ballots cast in the election (slightly more than 10% of the total voter turnout), 60,458 included Presidential cross over votes without a corresponding political party selection. During the canvass of the election, these ballots were reviewed and re-processed and we were able to add 48,525 supplemental Presidential votes in the Democratic and American Independent party contests. This equates to 80% of the originally uncounted nonpartisan cross over votes.
While we were unable to determine the political party selection and count the Presidential votes on the remaining 12,013 nonpartisan cross over ballots, we have compiled a detailed report including a Congressional District and precinct level breakdown of those votes. That report is available on our website along with a full report of the supplemental votes added in the final certification of the election earlier this week.
For background purposes, I think it is important to highlight the steps we took prior to, during and following the election to educate voters and poll workers in anticipation of a high turnout primary. I won’t make reference to all of them, but I have provided sample materials in the folders submitted with my testimony.
Prior to the election, our office issued a series of media releases related to cross over voting and highlighted cross over voting in our pre-election press conference and media appearances. Early messages focused more on informing nonpartisan voters of the option to cross over, while later materials focused on the cross over voting instructions. Sample ballots and vote by mail guides mailed to all nonpartisan voters included specific cross over voting instructions and a sample ballot layout.
Written and video poll worker training materials contained references to and specific instructions on cross over voting. A FedEx mailing to all poll inspectors the Friday before the election included an additional flyer focused on procedures for serving nonpartisan voters. That said, I am well aware that there were significant variables in how these materials were covered in training and executed at the polls on Election Day. We recognize this is an area we must improve.
In anticipation of high turnout, we maximized our ballot orders, provided more provisional balloting materials and increased poll staffing at locations near colleges and universities. Additionally, we used automated “robo” calls to remind voters of polling location changes and to get information to new voters who registered in the final days of eligibility.
Based on concerns related to the ballot layout leading up to Election Day, we prepared additional materials with specific instructions for poll workers and voters on cross over voting. We provided Precinct Coordinators who are assigned to visit polling locations on Election Day an instructional handout reminding poll workers of the cross over voting instructions with specific reference to the party selection bubble. An audio Public Service Announcement was distributed to all broadcast media reminding nonpartisan voters of the option to cross over and of the importance of marking a party selection.
Our focus for this election also included increased engagement with poll monitors and election observers. Pre-election briefing sessions with the activist community and establishing a dedicated phone bank for poll monitors assisted with improved tracking and faster response to Election Day difficulties at polling locations. Efforts are already underway to expand these programs for the June and November elections.
Moving forward, it is abundantly clear that we need to eliminate the double-bubble ballot layout and replace it with a cross over voting process that doesn’t require voters to take an additional step to make sure their votes are counted. The Board of Supervisors and I have stated clearly that such a revision will occur immediately and the double-bubble format will be discontinued. A revised ballot layout, however, is only one part of the solution. We must also revamp our poll worker training programs and conduct an effective voter outreach and education campaign in advance of the June 3rd State Primary and beyond. That work has already begun.
It is also important to make a distinction between a problematic ballot layout and the integrity of our voting system. Los Angeles County voters are familiar with the InkaVote Plus voting system and our central vote tabulation model. It is auditable, reliable and secure -- and it is well-equipped to serve us in the June and November elections.
This morning we held the first in a series of working sessions with voter advocacy organizations, political party representatives, the League of Women Voters and others to identify alternative options for cross over ballot layout and to begin formulating training and education plans. We have already made tremendous progress and I want to thank the many individuals and organizations that have come forward to work in partnership with the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office on this important project.
In addition to cross over voting, I know the committees represented
here today are concerned with adequate ballot supply, accessible polling
locations, fail-safe provisional ballot procedures, multi-lingual assistance,
the integrity of voter registration files, and the capabilities and security
of voting systems. Each of these are areas Los Angeles County has had success
in through our partnerships with voter advocacy groups, stakeholders and
policy makers -- and they are all priorities for us in preparing for the
June and November elections.
COUNTY INFORMATION SERVICES
CONTACT: Marcia Ventura (562) 462-2726
Eileen Shea (562) 462-2648
February 5, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGISTRAR-RECORDER/COUNTY CLERK STATEMENT ON CROSS OVER VOTING
I want to assure voters in Los Angeles County that this office takes the issue of voter enfranchisement very seriously. Clearly, there is concern about the ballots cast today by nonpartisan or decline to state voters who were permitted to cross over and vote in the primaries of the Democratic and American Independent parties.
It is important to note that while hundreds of thousands of voters across the state encountered new voting systems this election, voters in Los Angeles County were fortunate to be able to cast their ballots using InkaVote Plus, which has been in place for several elections. The manner in which cross over voting was presented in Los Angeles County was no different than that of the last three statewide primary elections (2002, 2004 and 2006). The voter instructions provided in the sample ballot booklets, which were mailed to all voters in the County, highlighted the steps to be taken by nonpartisan voters when voting a cross over ballot. Likewise, poll worker training materials and the actual vote recorder page instructions were consistent with past practice. Additionally, this office engaged in extensive voter outreach and education focused on cross over voting.
Reports from across the County indicate that Los Angeles County voters turned out in record numbers for this Presidential Primary Election. The close contests among the Presidential candidates inspired thousands of new and infrequent voters to take part in this historic election. Our department extended considerable effort to educate voters about the cross over process – from the sample ballot to the polls on Election Day – particularly, among new decline to state and nonpartisan voters.
Tonight our focus must be on counting the votes cast in Los Angeles County. I have made a commitment to the parties and organizations with concerns regarding the ballot layout to conduct a thorough review of the nonpartisan ballots cast and to identify the extent to which potential voter disenfranchisement may have occurred in relation to ballot layout. This will take time, patience and cooperation. We will conduct the process during the post election canvass period in an open and transparent manner to ensure that the interests of all parties are respected and considered.
In cooperation and consultation with the Secretary of State we will seek to determine whether or not this issue has potential impact on the outcome of the Democratic Presidential contest. If such an impact is established, we will exhaust every available option under state law to count cross over votes on nonpartisan ballots where the intent of the voter can be clearly and definitively determined.
California’s modified Primary Election process is complex. Additional variations in political party rules and the recent pace of regulatory change with regard to voting systems in California and throughout the nation are factors that must be contemplated in ensuring voters’ understanding of instructions and ballot layout.
Over and above those factors, I recognize the importance of ensuring that every effort is made to facilitate voters’ option to cast ballots as permitted under California Election Code.
The integrity of the administration of elections in Los Angeles County remains the first and foremost mission of this office.
-- Dean C. Logan
Acting Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
Los Angeles County
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