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After Public Outcry, LA County Registrar Adds 3 Vote Centers In Koreatown And Chinatown

A map shows two red lines around Chinatown and Koreatown demonstrating that there were no planned vote centers in either neighborhood
A Tweet last week successfully called attention to a lack of voting centers in Koreatown and Chinatown
(Screenshot via Twitter)
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The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office, facing criticism over a scarcity of places to vote in-person in Chinatown and Koreatown, has announced the addition of three locations for the June 7 primary election.

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Dean Logan, the county’s top election official, said while his office had exceeded the minimum number of vote centers required to be set up under law, it appreciated the critique that arose after a Twitter user nearly two weeks ago noted the lack of polling places in the two neighborhoods.

“That initial post on Twitter certainly heightened our awareness to the sense within the communities that [the lack of vote centers] was not meeting the need — or their sense of the need — in the heart of those two communities,” Logan told LAist on Friday. “It was through the collaboration, following up on that, that we were able to establish these additional locations.”

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Voters in Koreatown can go to the Anderson Munger Family YMCA and Berendo Middle School — in addition to a previously-identified polling location at Trinity Central Lutheran Church.

In Chinatown, which prior to the registrar’s announcement had no polling station for the upcoming election, voters can cast ballots at Castelar Elementary School.

The three newly-added locations will be open starting June 4 for four days. Trinity Central Lutheran Church opens May 28 for 11 days of voting.

In addition, Chinatown will get a “flex” vote center at the Los Angeles chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance on May 29-30, meaning it will be open for less than the four days required of an official vote center.

With the election less than three weeks away, voting advocates are working to get the word out about the new vote centers and recruiting volunteers to canvas in the two neighborhoods on Monday.

Godfrey Plata says he plans to pass out flyers about the added vote centers to the predominantly Latino and Asian residents of Koreatown, where he lives.

Plata, a civic engagement consultant with AAPI Equity Alliance, was one of the voting advocates who reached out to the registrar’s office after learning about the lack of polling places in the two neighborhoods after it was pointed out on Twitter.

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“My reaction was shocked, not surprised,” said Plata, who explained that civic outreach to AAPI communities has been historically low.

Plata and advocates from the Korean American Coalition, the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-L.A. worried older voters would feel discouraged to vote, “especially around this time of a lot of fear in our communities because of API racism, when people aren't going to go on a bus even for a mile.”

Eunice Song, executive director of the Korean American Coalition, said prior to the involvement of community leaders, the registrar’s office had looked at about 40 locations in Koreatown, but was unable to secure any as election sites.

To be a vote center, locations must meet requirements for parking, Internet connectivity and size, which is a challenge to find in dense neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Koreatown. The community leaders worked their contacts to identify sites that may not have been considered.

“We told [the registrar’s office], we are more than happy to help you if you run into a wall and that it should be done prior to the announcement of all of the votes center sites if at all possible in the future,” Song said.

One of the attractions of in-person voting for some Chinatown and Koreatown residents is the availability of in-language assistance.

But Song said more bilingual election workers are needed and the community groups are trying to find more people to work the polls. Compensation is $100/day.

The newly-added vote centers brings the county’s total tally to 642 locations.

Vote centers were introduced in 2020 as a way to increase civic participation. Voters can cast ballots at any vote center across L.A. County for up to 11 days before Election Day. They can also mail in their ballot — the most popular option — or deposit it at an official drop-off site.

The registrar’s office locates vote centers by “service area” rather than by neighborhoods. But community leaders emphasized the importance of having a vote center close by for residents who may not want to leave their neighborhoods out of inconvenience or concerns about safety. In the case of Chinatown residents, their closest vote center, prior to the addition of Castelar Elementary School, was the Metro headquarters by Union Station, which meant crossing the busy thoroughfare of Alameda Street.

Logan said he recognized that “the kind of intersections and the traffic patterns add to people's comfort level of where they're used to going.”

Have a question about Southern California's Asian American communities?
Josie Huang reports on the intersection of being Asian and American and the impact of those growing communities in Southern California.

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