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2020 Primary: A Few Technical Stumbles As LA County Opens Doors To New Voting Centers

A multilingual sign and American flag greet early voters at the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank on the first day of in-person early voting. (Rebecca Nieto / LAist)
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The day got off to a rocky start, but a new era of in-person voting has officially begun in L.A. County.

Welcome to voting in 2020:

  • Traditional neighborhood polling places are no more
  • Instead, to vote in person you must use new "vote centers"
  • 232 of them opened their doors today, Feb. 22
  • More than 700 more will open Feb. 29

The L.A. centers are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Tuesday, March 3rd -- still the official Election Day -- when the hours are extended from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Another new feature: Yellow booths with touch-screen ballot marking devices greeted voters who ventured into the new Los Angeles centers on Saturday.

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VOTER GAME PLAN: Get everything you need to research the candidates and issues >>

VOTE CENTERS: Where To Go To Vote In The 2020 Primary in LA and OC Counties >>

VOTER GUIDES: Judges, District Attorney, Prop. 13 (the new one) and more >>

So how did it go?

The system stumbled a bit early on opening day.

Our staff visited seven vote centers on Saturday. At five of them -- Union Station and Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Downtown L.A., the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness in Eagle Rock, Robinson Recreation Center in Pasadena, and Centro Estrella in East L.A. -- election workers had early problems. Staff couldn't log into new ballot marking machines to get voting started because they lacked the necessary barcodes.

On social media, reporters and the public shared glitches they were seeing or hearing about:

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As of mid-morning, county inspectors were making the rounds and troubleshooting. Many of the problems appeared to be resolved by noon.

"There are a lot of sites that opened properly and have been serving voters," Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder's office said in an email.

He added there were "first day coordination issues" having to do with equipment, supplies and facility access.

"We are working through those, getting every site operational and ready for the full run up to March 3rd."

Those who used the new L.A. County machines mostly reported good experiences.

"I was able to vote pretty much instantly from my phone," said Jonathan Garzon, who was in the lobby of Centro Estrella in East L.A. He used the new interactive sample ballot that lets voters pre-select their choices at home, then scan a QR code at the voting machine to instantly populate their ballot at a vote center. "It was very fast."

Orange County also opened the doors to 38 vote centers with more than 150 other locations scheduled to open next Saturday.

OC Registrar Neal Kelley in an email sent Saturday evening said it was a "successful first day."

"As of right now we have had 1,314 voters vote!" Kelley wrote. "We had a very smooth opening (honestly I have been very pleased with the operations today)."

In contrast to L.A., most in-person voters in Orange County will be hand-marking their paper ballots at vote centers. Ballot marking machines are available for people with language or physical barriers. Orange County also sent every registered voter a mail-in ballot, per the requirements of the 2016 Voter's Choice Act that outlined the new vote center model.

Los Angeles County has a one-time exemption built into the law and is not mailing ballots to all 5.4 million registered voters.


5:30 p.m. This article was updated with a comment from OC Registrar Neal Kelley.

This article was originally published at 3:55 p.m..