Early voting starts in LA County — observing site opening and first hour of voting

I began my 2006 election observations at an early voting location in LA County — the East LA County Regional Library, a location where I had observed early voting before in LA County. Some quick observations:

  • This particular early voting location (seen here from the street) is still very difficult to access. The parking lot associated with the library was full as of 10AM (an hour before early voting was going to start), and given the heavy construction in the area it is hard to park on the nearby streets. One of the early voters (I was there for about an hour of voting) complained about the lack of parking, and it was a problem that the election judge in this location also commented on. This is an obvious concern for those who worry about polling place accessibility, and also is a potential problem for denial-of-service threats to polling places (it would be very easy in this location to fill up all of the nearby parking locations).
  • Unfortunately, I was not allowed to observe the setting up of the polling place, in particular, the generation of the zero tapes nor the sealing of the voting machines used in the polling place. I arrived at 10:10am (again, it took me some time to find a parking place!), and the doors were closed to the polling place (a marked difference relative to the last time I was at this location, when the doors were open and I was given free access to observe the polling place set-up operation). At about 10:35 the judge noticed I was there, and opened the door; when I asked to come inside to observe I was told (nicely) that “we’re still setting up”. At about the same time an official from the county library (nicely) asked me what my business was, and he said that it was okay for me to stand in a public building, as long as the election workers knew what I was doing. In all honesty, I don’t know exactly whether the public is allowed to witness the setting up of an early voting location, but in my opinion, we should be able to witness it!
  • When they opened up the polling place (11:05am) it was apparent that two of the eight voting machines were not quite ready for action. By the time I left an hour later, one of the voting machines was still not functioning, and three of the pollworkers were working hard to get it operational.
  • In the first hour of operation, the site had six voters (about one every ten minutes), and as we have a long ballot, they were averaging about 9 minutes and thirty seconds to cast their ballots. One voter took a relatively long time (almost 11 minutes, but he was someone who was admittedly unfamiliar with the technology).
  • I learned some good news, though, once the first few voters had cast their ballots and I had a chance to talk with the pleasant and helpful election judge in this early voting site. She showed me the voting machines, and I noticed that the plastic flap that was on the Diebold VVPAT device the last time I observed early voting in LA County had been removed from all of the voting machines used in this early voting location (including the one set up for disabled voters). Here are some pictures of the Diebold Accuvote TSx I took at IACREOT, showing the VVPAT flap closed, open, and partially open. This was something I wrote about earlier, and which I brought to the attention of the vendor and the LA County election officials … glad to see that they seem to have fixed this particular problem.
  • Last, the judge in this early voting location had developed one innovation. Typically all of the paperwork for the voting machines (especially the logs of activity regarding the devices) in the past have been in huge binders, and I’ve noticed in the past that poll workers have had to spend considerable time finding the logs for specific machines. Here the judge had separated all of the logs for each machine into an independent folder, making it much easier for the election workers to locate and deal with the paperwork for specific machines. She was quite proud of this innovation!

More from other early voting sites in the coming days!