In an effort to prevent disenfranchising ethnic voters during the 2024 presidential elections, Los Angeles County will pursue creation of additional in-person voting centers in non-English speaking communities, and will  incentivize the hiring of bilingual polling workers.

An initiative including a broad array of actions was ordered by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 12. The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is required to increase engagement with diverse communities in the county, where some 200 languages other than English are spoken in immigrant households.

“We must consistently fine-tune and enhance how we are engaging with these voters,” said First District Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion with Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn. It was adopted unanimously.

Solis mentioned the absence of voting centers in Koreatown and Chinatown shortly before the June 2022 primary. Only after the problem was brought to the county’s attention were some smaller, makeshift voting centers added to neighborhoods where many voters speak Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese.

“Regarding voting centers, some of the criteria (for choosing locations) was preventing us from having vote centers. We want vote centers,” said Nancy Yap, executive director of the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE), during the meeting.

Rick Eng, president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, said in an interview on Monday that his group has worked with the Registrar-Recorder since 2018 to place smaller voting centers with only two machines — known as “flex vote centers” — at the group’s headquarters in Chinatown. He expects to see voting machines at their Bamboo Lane office next year.

He said the supervisors’ motion was part of a “reasonable request” from the board. He said his group and Dean Logan, the county’s Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, have been working together since 2018.

Vote centers were first introduced in L.A. County in 2020, when the old system of neighborhood precinct voting was overhauled and replaced with voting centers, where anyone registered to vote in the county can cast a ballot in the 11 days leading up to and including Election Day.

“I helped set up voter outreach activities in the past four years. That is part of CACA’s objectives, to do proactive voter education for our members, especially knowing the history of marginalizing certain communities to be able to vote to the full extent granted by the Constitution,” Eng said.

In 2017, Korean-speaking voters received sample ballots with misinformation. The names of some candidates were printed in an order that did not match the order in the mail-in ballots, according to the motion adopted by the supervisors. The error impacted 305,000 voters, the motion stated.

“I was extremely disappointed to hear about an instance in which Korean language ballots were misprinted,” Solis said during the board meeting. “We must do all we can to be accurate in our materials and in our education.”

The supervisors directed Logan to work more closely with nonprofit groups representing non-English speaking and limited English-proficient voters. He’s been directed to find places for more in-person voting centers and is empowered to provide cash incentives to hire bilingual poll workers.

Logan must report back to the supervisors in 45 days on a plan to improve voting materials and voting access in multi-ethnic enclaves. “These will soon become a majority minority in the next few years,” said Solis. The Registrar-Recorder is required to produce a post-election report after the March 2024 presidential primary and the November 2024 presidential election.

“We want our residents to feel empowered and included in the democratic process,” said Hahn.

Hahn added that Logan’s office should find a solution for cities who were hesitant to locate mail-in ballot drop boxes.

“There were a lot of fear tactics perpetuated about drop boxes,” Hahn said. “I’d like to see our Registrar-Recorder address the hesitancy by some cities that almost refused to have drop boxes in their cities or limited them to only one. They are safe, secure and a viable way to cast your ballot.”

Second District Supervisor Holly Mitchell wanted to increase the number of languages used in voting materials and ballots. Currently, 18 languages are used.

But Mitchell said residents who are from Africa or Haiti do not have voting ballots in their native tongue. She suggested adding French and Portuguese to the list, the languages of colonization spoken by these immigrants. She received support from Common Cause, the nonprofit civil rights group.

Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the north county, said in the past that residents in Palmdale and rural communities often had trouble voting. “They are hampered by sparse geography and limitation of transportation,” she said.

Third District Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said studies show that the votes cast by California voters are from mostly older people who are married, college graduates and own their homes. Infrequent voters and non-voters are much younger, more often single, and more often renters.

“We have to do much better to engage our diverse communities in the act of voting,” Horvath said.


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