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Democracy Is Happening In Downtown LA, But It Is Taking A While

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Democracy is in action — but moving at roughly a snail’s pace — at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where hopeful voters are waiting hours to cast their ballot in Tuesday’s primary election.

County officials scrambled to add more voting machines and staff Tuesday morning as images of people lined up along Broadway and complaints of the long waits began popping up on Twitter. The line grew even longer into Tuesday afternoon, practically stretching back to 9th Street.

Michael Atallah went there because it was the closest vote center to where he lives — plus his friend’s coffee shop is next store.

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“Honestly, I could have mailed [my ballot] in,” he said, “but I kind of did want to participate in being in a line and going to the ballots. It was a sensation I wanted to pursue.”

Voters in line to cast their ballot at the Ace Hotel vote center in downtown Los Angeles are contending with wait times of more than two hours on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Natalie Chudnovsky/LAist)

Marisol Rubio, center lead for the county site, told KPCC/LAist the location was opened as a “microcenter” and had been fully staffed over the weekend, but wasn’t equipped to handle Tuesday’s crowd. The site opened with five voting stations, compared to 50 at other vote centers downtown, she said.

“They weren’t expecting this big of a turnout today,” Rubio said.

Since this morning, the center is now well-staffed, she said. The county added two more voter registration machines and two more voting machines were on the way

Grace Chee, a longtime volunteer at the vote center who’s celebrating her birthday is making sure people can exercise their right to vote.

She said she’s noticed some people — both poll workers and voters — find the new method much easier thanks to the technology, while others find that same technology frustrating.

“Every election is just fun and exciting,” she said.

The Ace Hotel vote center had five machines, but one went down Tuesday morning. (Chava Sanchez/LAist )

The line is long and the sun is beating down, but voter John Wright said the wait is “worth it in the end.”

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He also came to the Ace Hotel because it was close and convenient. Wright was braving the wait mostly to weigh in on the presidential primary and climate issues, but said he doesn’t care too much about local politics.

Chau Nguyen had been waiting a little under an hour, which was not what she expected.

“Next year I’m just going to try to mail it in first,” she said.

One bright spot of the long lines: free pizza, provided by the Ace Hotel.

Pizza at the Ace Hotel vote center in downtown Los Angeles where people reported wait times of more than two hours on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Natalie Chudnovsky/LAist)

Natalie Chudnovsky and Ryan Fonseca contributed to this report.

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