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Early Turnout Modest At Pasadena Polling Places

Not many problems, but small crowds at local voting centers

Published on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 | 5:42 am


Around noon on Monday at the Robinson Park Recreation Center on Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena, a handful of voters were on hand, navigating their way around the new, hi-tech, touchscreen “Ballot Marking Devices” that will get their first major test in L.A. County today on Election Day.

But the 30 machines at the Robinson Center have actually been up and running since Feb. 22, accommodating between 30 and 50 early voters daily, with about 70 coming in on Sunday, Kim Thompson, the lead election official at the site, told Pasadena Now.

Monday afternoon’s trickle seemed to foretell of similar numbers for the rest of Election Day Eve – with the real test expected to come today, when a distinctly larger turnout is expected, election officials said.

Thompson reported no issues with the machines since they’ve been up and running, and also said she’s heard generally satisfied comments from voters – though random interviews conducted by Pasadena Now on Monday did turn up a few skeptics.

For the most part, though, the new system has been getting good reviews, officials said.

“We’ve had a lot of happy customers,” said Angel Romero, the lead election official at the nearby Villa Parke Community Center on East Villa Street.

Romero also reported that early-voter numbers at Villa Parke were “in the ballpark” of those reported at the Robinson Center, though he was reluctant to be more specific.

There were 40 machines set up at the Villa Parke site, and they’ve been open since Saturday.

On Monday, just after 1 p.m., a handful of voters had stopped by to cast ballots at Villa Parke, most getting a guiding hand from poll workers who helped shepherd them through the new voter experience.

“If you have any questions, we say just raise your hand and one of three people will help them,” Thompson had said over at the Robinson Center – adding that one fairly constant issue the poll workers faced was reminding voters to keep hitting the “More” button on the multi-page voting process.

“Older people think it’s fun,’’ Thompson said. “One senior was so excited after voting on a new machine that she did a little dance for us.”

Added Romero: “It’s very intuitive. Most people comment and say they really like it.”

Indeed, one voter, 29-year-old Brittni Hamilton, called the new system “awesome.”

Still, some early voters needed a bit of help.

“My daughter helped me,’’ Hortencia Guzman, a senior citizen, said as she exited the polling station at the Robinson Center. “The young do it faster.”

Pam Jackson, a 76-year-old who voted at Villa Parke, said, “It’s slick – I think you get the hang of it.”

But Jackson said she still was not a huge fan of the new hi-tech approach, preferring the old-fashioned – and what she called “unhackable” – “InkaVote” system that for years was the L.A. County norm.

“For my money, we should be going backwards in how we vote, in that people can’t hack,’’ Jackson said. “I would go back to the old-fashioned, unhackable system.”

Pamela Valfer, who voted at the Villa Parke, was similarly skeptical.

“If I think about it in a larger context, I don’t like it,” said Valfer. “It’s confusing.”

Valfer also said she asked a poll worker “what protocol (is in place) to make sure the computer count lines up with the paper count” – and she didn’t get a satisfactory answer.

“That makes me very nervous,” Valfer said.

For her part, Thomson said the new machines don’t actually tally the votes – that’s still done at the county elections office in Norwalk. While a vote is cast electronically, a paper ballot is stored in a locked box attached to each machine. Each day, those boxes containing the paper printouts are driven to Norwalk for official counting.

“I expected, ‘oooh, hacking, hacking,’ and I didn’t get that at all – everybody’s gone out happy,” said Thompson.

Thomson said workers in Norwalk were already busy counting the ballots of early voters.

Meanwhile, Romero, the Villa Parke lead election official, said his troops were gearing up for Tuesday’s voter deluge.

He said he expects “long lines,” with his biggest challenge being “keeping things streamlined.”

He also said that, as the lead election official, he has “multiple” helplines he can reach out to on Tuesday for troubleshooting, in case of system errors and other possible glitches.

RELATED:  Early Turnout Modest At Pasadena Polling Places

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