As the polls opened Tuesday for Los Angeles County primary elections, Al Gordon — the Los Feliz chef who has been the subject of KPCC's #MakeAlCare series of stories — was among the first people to vote, his first ballot in a municipal election.
But his valiant effort to vote wasn't without hiccups. More on that in a bit.
Voters are going to the polls to select candidates to fill seats for Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles Unified School District board, as well as positions on city councils in cities around the county.
L.A. County has 4.8 million registered voters, but Dean Logan, the county's registrar of voters, says another 1.2 million eligible citizens have not registered. And Los Angeles County has the worst voter turnout in the state.
As part of an effort to tackle voter apathy, we chose one person who doesn’t usually vote and we're trying to make him care about the March 3 primary elections in Los Angeles.
A couple weeks ago we introduced you to Al Gordon, a Los Feliz chef who said he didn't have time for local elections. KPCC reporter Meghan McCarty has this account of Al's day at the polls.
#MakeAlCare: Al votes
The last time I left Al, I felt pretty confident that we had succeeded in our mission to #MakeAlCare. But today, to put it in culinary terms, the proof was in the pudding: Al voted.
Bright and early this morning I met up with Al at his restaurant, Community, and we walked one block to his polling place.
"Walking a block is no problem: Who can't walk a block?" the reformed Al told me as he hummed the theme song to "Mission: Impossible."
It certainly wasn't mission impossible, but there was a little hitch. When we got to the polling place, Al's name wasn't on the rolls.
It turned out Al had moved since he last voted, and he hadn't reregistered or changed his address with the DMV.
Al was asked to file a provisional ballot. He simply had to fill out an envelope with his new address, his prior address and a signature, which will later be checked against registrar records to ensure he is already registered in L.A. County.
The extra verification does take some time, but if all checks out, Al's vote will be counted. And in a race this tight, the candidates will need all the votes they can muster to make it into the top two for the May runoff.
Al lives in L.A. Council District 4, where 14 candidates are vying for an open city council seat.
Tom LaBonge has been termed out after 14 years in office. Mara Cohen Marks, a political scientist with Loyola Marymount's Center for the Study of Los Angeles said it could come down to just hundreds of votes separating the candidates that advance into the runoff.
Al won't tell us how he voted
Al declined to tell me who he actually voted for once he went into the booth. He said he had a top three list that included David Ryu, Sheila Irani and Steve Veres, but he was still deliberating right down to the last minute.
After Al punched in his Scantron and dropped his envelope into the election box, he finally got the all-important "I Voted" sticker for his first city election (see the photo above).
"I've been waiting for this sticker for a week," he said. "You know what I went through to get this sticker?"
So after two weeks of constant hounding, we managed to #MakeAlCare and vote. But what will it take for the rest of the public to get engaged?
"Just be aware, just be inquisitive," said Al. "It does take a little bit of work, but if you can turn me around, it doesn't take too much to do it."
Oh, and Al suggests everyone take a look at KPCC's 2015 L.A. County Primary Election Guide. He said it was indispensable in his research.