Voters confused, frustrated in long lines
SAN FRANCISCO — California voters waited in lines to cast their ballots Tuesday and peppered elections officials and monitors with questions about polling locations and absentee ballots, as voting got underway in the Golden State in what was expected to be a high turnout election.
Frustrations ran high at a Los Angeles polling place as voters were left waiting two hours when ballot marking devices arrived late. Elections officials didn't say what caused the delay at Delano Recreation Center in Van Nuys.
"It's been a fiasco," said voter Bob Corbett, who arrived well before the 7 a.m. opening time.
There were no immediate reports of similar problems or glitches elsewhere in the state.
A record 19.4 million voters in California are registered for the presidential election — about 78 percent of those eligible. That's the highest percentage of eligible citizens registered before a general election in 20 years, the secretary of state's office said in a statement. About 5 million people have already cast ballots in early voting, according to the data tracking firm Political Data Inc., with millions more voters expected to show up at polls Tuesday.
At least 150 people were waiting to vote at the North Hollywood Amelia Earhart Regional Library in Los Angeles before it opened. Long lines were reported at polling places across the city, as voters hoped to cast their ballots before heading to work.
In Northern California, a steady stream of cars pulled up to an absentee ballot drop-off station outside a courthouse in Oakland. And at a columbarium in San Francisco that served as a polling location, people filled out their ballots on steps next to urns and crypts after officials ran out of voting booths.
Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said she fielded calls from people who lost their absentee ballots or wondered whether they could cast a vote in a different county because they weren't going to be in their home county. Alexander said you can vote at a different polling place in the county in which you're registered, but cautioned against trying to vote in a different county.
Tuesday's turnout appeared consisted with heavy in-person crowds reported by elections officials at polling sites over the weekend and Monday. In Los Angeles County, thousands of voters waited hours over the weekend to cast ballots, some standing in line for three hours or more. Nearly 18,000 ballots were cast Saturday and Sunday in the county.
California is not known for long lines on Election Day, but some observers said that this election is different. There are 17 statewide ballot measures, in addition to local measures, that may take time for voters to digest while they are inside voting booths. And the state has a record 11.7 million people registered to vote by mail, some of whom may show up at polling sites unaware they have ballots at home that they need to surrender before they can get a new ballot.
Voter advocacy groups, meanwhile, are on high alert, worried about possible voter intimidation stemming from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's repeated assertions that the election is rigged against him.
Trump's California campaign said trained observers will report discrepancies to lawyers.
"We are not using this to suppress the vote. We are using this to make sure everyone is doing the right thing and to get their vote counted," spokesman Jon Cordova said.
Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data, said he expects counties this year to issue a large number of provisional backup ballots to people whose eligibility can't be immediately verified. Those ballots are counted after counties verify the voter is registered and hasn't voted already, he said, which means close contests may not be decided right away.
"As a result we have to wait for a few days for the papers to tell us who won," he said. "But the worse outcome is to not let these people vote in the first place."