By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I gave him a provisional ballot, noting that he offered ”no proof“ of residence, but he voted and disappeared, leaving the pink provisional envelope behind. I‘m not sure what he did with his ballot.
By then, there were 34 provisional ballots tucked away in the ballot box, and now three other provisional-ballot envelopes filled out, waiting at my side. Like that man, the other two voters had no identification but were permitted to cast a ballot, and then managed to either slip the ballot into their pockets and leave or put it in the ballot box without the envelope. Amid the crowd and babble, it would not have been hard to do either.
If those ballots were in the box, they were counted; but the pink envelopes with the voters’ names and identifying information went to the Registrar-Recorder‘s Office with a note explaining why they appeared in the security envelope that holds such anomalies. If a clerk at the Registrar’s Office happens to observe that the same voters also signed the rolls somewhere else, or if similar envelopes bearing their names appear in other precinct security envelopes, they may find themselves being prosecuted for a felony if they voted twice or more by doing the same thing at other polling places. In a recent election, that appeared to be happening frequently at the precinct I worked in, but an investigation by the Secretary of State‘s Office produced no charges.
Unlike in Florida, by the way, where some voters have said they were refused new ballots after they realized they had miscast their ballots for Pat Buchanan in Palm Beach County, California voters can get up to three ballots if they make an error. We had just one of those out of 540 voters at my precinct, but last year I made such an error myself. Getting a new ballot was no big deal.
But the saddest job I had on Tuesday was to turn down an Armenian man who was one of several people of various ethnic groups who hoped they could register to vote and then vote on the same day. They were entitled to register -- and I ran out of the registration forms included with the polling-place supplies -- but state law requires that Californians register to vote 29 days before the election.
I don’t remember the fellow‘s name, but I will never forget the urgency he felt to cast a vote. ”I work at my shop from 8 in the morning to 8 at night every day,“ he said. ”Until now, I never had any time to go somewhere and register. But tonight I closed my shop early so I could come over and vote.“
For him, this would have been his first vote, and even in his 40s he had no clue how it was done. He pleaded to see the ballot, and I took him to the sample ballot-punching device and showed him how it worked. His eyes glowed with excitement. I urged him to use the registration card available at the post office to get registered for the next election in April, when Los Angeles will select a mayor. We shook hands as he left. He was disappointed but eager to participate next time.
Unlike other precincts I’d worked, where voters such as Matt Drudge (in 1996, the year he broke the Monica Lewinsky story), sportswriter Diane K. Shah and Richard Dreyfuss appeared in person to vote, I didn‘t recognize anyone’s name on the rolls. I did get one thrill, though.
My final job of the evening was to go to the doors at 8 p.m. and shout, ”The polls are closed!“ The night was still, and not even the dogs barked back. I liked that.
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