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LA vote count not slow, elections chief says, discounting complaints

Los Angeles City Clerk employees ready computers and counting machines for a final tally following the March 5 primary.
Los Angeles City Clerk employees ready computers and counting machines for a final tally following the March 5 primary.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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It took until 3 a.m. Wednesday morning for the L.A. City Clerk to report the results of Tuesday's vote.

Some election watchers complained that vote counting in the city was just too slow, while the City Clerk's office says the count was normal, with no unusual delays.

Election night Twitter posts mocked the glacial pace of ballot counting. Attendees at campaign parties around town waited — and waited — for a definitive result.

Rick Jacobs, who raised money to help elect Eric Garcetti, was among the impatient masses milling about at the candidate's party at the Hollywood Palladium: "It was slow! I mean, it was really slow, and that has to be fixed."

The City Clerk counted 380,000 votes by 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. Los Angeles County managed to count more than 3 million ballots in about the same amount of time in last fall's presidential election.
There were a few minor glitches in getting ballots transported from 1,600 polling places to downtown Tuesday night. A helicopter pad on the city's Westside was fogged in, so ballot cards that might have been flown downtown were instead taken by car.

But while the election results might not have been ready to announce in prime time, or the late news, or by most people's bedtime, the city does not see its work as slow.
Jacob Wexler, chief of elections for the L.A. City Clerk, says his prime directive is to be accurate and to maintain the security of ballots. That takes time, he said.

"I think that our focus has been, and will continue to be, the accuracy and integrity of the election process," Wexler said. "And whoever comes down and observes our process, they see that we work incredibly fast. There's nothing that I would describe as slow."
The size of L.A.'s voting population rivals that of some states, so  it's a logistical challenge to count votes quickly here, said Thad Hall, a political science professor at the University of Utah. Hall has studied L.A.'s election system and he noted a couple of other factors also slow down the process here. For example, some other jurisdictions count ballots at polling places and can report results more quickly, but not in Los Angeles.

Some jurisdictions also permit voters to cast ballots in person weeks before Election Day. That way, more votes are in place and ready to be counted as soon as polls close, and a larger share of the vote is known earlier in the evening.
There is change on the horizon. The city is closely watching Los Angeles County's efforts to modernize its voting systems in the next year or so, and may consider adopting some of the same measures, said city elections chief Wexler.
Some suggestions from voters to speed the process, such as sending precinct totals to the City Clerk via the Internet, are actually barred by a California law, said Efrain Escobedo, who is overseeing the county's voting modernization effort.

Meanwhile, about 82,000 mail-in and provisional ballots remain to be counted, and the City Clerk has until 21 days after the election to accomplish the task. City Controller Wendy Greuel would have to win about two-thirds of those votes to surpass Garcetti.