Unlike past years when the local elections were run by the Pasadena City Clerk, this year’s primary election vote count will not be conducted at City Hall. Instead, the Los Angeles County Registrar’s office will run this year’s election on Super Tuesday when L.A. County residents vote for the Democratic presidential nominee. This year also marks the roll out of a new voting system.
Observers say that combination makes it hard to predict when election results will trickle in online.
Mayor Terry Tornek lamented the loss of the local experience at City Hall.
“I can tell you as a candidate, waiting for the results and going down to city hall and watching them count votes, then seeing the results posted is like a rite of passage,” said Mayor Terry Tornek. “People have asked me, should we have an event, should we gather and watch the results come in? I’m not confident we’ll get the results until the middle of the night.”
In 2017, the L.A. County Registrar ran the city’s primary election to avoid voter confusion after county officials called a special election that coincided with the city election.
Results trickled in slowly, and the result of one school board election was not known until after midnight.
This time, though, early voting and new systems are supposed to make the process earlier.
Voting centers have opened around the county that will allow people to vote early. However, new systems can be problematic as recently seen in the Iowa caucus when problems with an app delayed the final results by days.
“I’m hopeful that there’s enough information put out by the county and the city to assist people in easily casting their vote,” said Mayoral Candidate Victor Gordo. “This is a new system. It’s a new way of exercising one’s right to vote. Some of the vote centers are open, and then starting Saturday there’ll be up to 17 more vote centers. I think it’s important for people to take advantage of the early voting and cast their vote.”
Jacque Robinson, president of the Greater Pasadena Area chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus, said she thinks the vote by mail ballots will come in at the usual time, but things will slow down after that.
“I expect it to be a long night in terms of calling races, especially for local candidates who will not only be awaiting the same day voters of the new vote centers, but also the uncertainty if whether voters will choose to vote the entire ballot and not just the presidential race,” Robinson said.
The city was forced to permanently change its local elections to match the state schedule due to low voter turnout per the California Voter Participation Act.
Voters overwhelmingly approved Measures AA and BB, which changed the calendar for City Council and school board elections, respectively, in 2018.
AA passed with 82.29 percent of the vote, changing the City Council election calendar to match statewide elections. Primary elections, like next week’s contests, are held in March. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will meet again in nine months during the presidential election.
Measure BB received 84.28 percent of the vote. Measure BB removes runoff elections from the local school board and changed the elections to a winner take all system, granting victory to the top voter even if the candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote.
“I don’t think there will be a substantial delay; we have often had to wait until midnight or later for semi-final results,” said Jon Fuhrman, executive director at ACT, one of the oldest progressive grass-roots political action group in the Foothills.
“I don’t think it is necessarily a reasonable expectation to have results that night or even early that morning. We get a little spoiled by the instantaneous nature of the internet and expect news to be immediately available, and I’m not sure that’s a reasonable or appropriate expectation. The County does provide real-time updates, which will likely be available on the LAVOTE.net website.”
According to Fuhrman, the results may actually be faster than before due to the state’s new voting system. Before this year, voters had to wait for the ballots to be transported to a ballot collection center after the precincts were closed and the books were balanced as workers rectified the number of ballots cast with the number of signatures on the index roster.