Hack the Vote: Election pro tips
With three notable congressional races, 17 statewide propositions and hundreds of local measures and races, the November ballot may look daunting to many. On Thursday, October 6, KPCC senior politics reporter Mary Plummer hosted a conversation with voting experts at Cross Campus in downtown Los Angeles. They answered voter questions and provided tips and tools for Election Day. This was the third installment of KPCC In Person’s “Hack the Vote” event series.
This year, the California Secretary of State’s Voter Information Guide is 224 pages long. Sam Mahood, spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla, says this is the longest voter information guide they have ever produced. “It is too long,” said Deanna Kitamura, project director for the Voting Rights Project at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles. “Nobody is going to read every single page. I work on voting rights; I’m not gonna read all that.”
The panel of voting experts shared the resources they do use with the audience at “Hack the Vote.” Here we pass along some of their tried-and-tested tools and tips:
Pro Tip: Prepare to cast your vote
“People love to say that it’s easy to vote, but it’s really not easy; it’s really hard,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation. With 17 statewide propositions, local ballot measures and judicial candidates on California ballots, voters who want to cast an informed vote down the entire ballot have a lot of homework to do.
The panel offered many suggestions on how to research most efficiently. Angelica Peña, civic engagement director for California at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), suggested voters look to organizations that fall in line with their values for ballot recommendations. (For specific suggested resources from the panel , see the list below.)
Juan Vasquez, a communications and data analyst working with the Mayor’s Operations Innovation Team said he likes to ask trusted, plugged-in friends for their thoughts. “I take the approach that I take for many other things in life: I ask people that I trust that are way smarter than me...but I know their values align with mine,” he said, adding that he relies on a few trusted voter guides as well. Vasquez also recommended scoping out your polling location a few days before the election to avoid confusion and delays.
Alexander said she likes to “crowdsource the homework” with friends. “I get together with friends and have a house party and break up the ballot and ask people to take on different measures,” she said. All panelists agreed that casting an informed ballot takes time and dedication before Election Day.
Pro Tip: Follow the money
Finding out who is funding a proposition or ballot measure can tell you a lot about its true intent, panelists said. “Who’s getting money from big donors versus small donors? Who’s getting money from different interest groups?” Alexander asked, encouraging the audience to use websites like votersedge.org and that of the California secretary of state, which break down proposition funding. Alexander said that voters should also pay attention to whether money is coming from in-state or out-of-state.
It can be difficult even for experienced researchers to figure out who the top donors are behind an election, said Alexander. That’s why California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is compiling that information and putting it on its website, she said, noting that the list would be published soon.
Pro Tip: Consider early voting
The L.A. County Registrar’s office estimates it may take a voter 10 to 11 minutes to get through some of the longer ballots. “Lines are going to be long this time,” Kitamura said.
Voters are encouraged to go to their polling locations during off-hours — not right before or after a regular workday. The registrar’s office is also making in-person early voting an easier option this year, said Peña. In years past, voters had to drive to the registrar’s office in Norwalk to place an early vote,; this year voters will have six locations to choose from across the county, she said. The number of vote-by-mail drop-boxes will also increase from one to 75 this year, Peña said. This gives voters who have requested vote-by-mail ballots the option of hand-delivering their votes. “That’s huge in terms of accessibility; that’s huge in terms of transparency, too,” Peña said, who also said voters getting to interact with voting officials can create trust and accountability.
Pro Tip: Make sure your vote-by-mail ballot gets counted
Ballots get rejected, according to Alexander, when voters send their ballots in late, forget to sign them or have signatures that do not match up with those on file. All signatures on vote-by-mail ballots are verified against those the Registrar has access to: usually, that’s a driver’s license signature.
Pro Tip: Let your local bar association inform your judicial choices
KPCC news sources have told producers judicial elections on the ballot can be confusing. “I have to say that I struggle with the judicial elections,” said Kitamura. “I am an attorney…and I still have difficulty.” She said she goes to her county bar association’s website to check how qualified the candidates are and recommended that voters do the same.
Pro Tip: Be persistent and assert your right to vote
Many voters ran into problems at the polls on primary day in June. The panelists provided a number of tips for dealing with unexpected election-day issues. Kitamura, who was a poll-site observer for the secretary of state’s office on June 7, said that since voter rosters are often printed 15 days before the election, they are not always up to date. Poll workers sometimes do not find registered voters’ names on the first list they check, she said. If this is the case, Kitamura recommended voters ask for a poll worker to check the supplemental roster list. If the voter’s name is not on this list, she can fill out a provisional ballot. Kitamura added that voters who are non-native English speakers should know translated materials exist at their polling location. If these materials are not prominently displayed, Kitamura said that voters should ask the clerk to display them or contact AAAJ’s hotline, listed below.
Peña reminded the audience that as long as a voter is in line when the polls close, she can cast her vote. Peña also provided hotlines for voters to call should they face any voting access issue, whether that’s voter intimidation, campaigning too close to a poll location or a late poll opening.
“Be persistent,” Alexander said, explaining that she has faced trouble at the polls herself. “Personally, I’ve had to advocate to make sure that I can cast my own ballot.” She said voters can ask to speak to a supervisor if they face a problem like a poll worker who cannot find a name on the roster. Voters can also use social media to contact their local officials, she said, noting that she saw L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan intervene on behalf of a voter who tweeted him. “Don’t take the poll worker’s word as the final word,” she said. “They make mistakes too.”
Suggested resources from the panel:
California Fair Political Practices Commission
California Secretary of State
California Voter’s Edge
Statewide information: http://votersedge.org/en/ca/ballot/election/area/42?id=statewide-42-ca
California Voter Foundation
Easy Voter Guide (in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese)
Federal Election Committee
KPCC’s Guide to California Propositions
KPCC’s Human Voter Guide
Hotline: (323) 538 - 5722
KPCC-In-Person “Props and Pints” event
League of Women Voters
Their ballot recommendations: https://lwvc.org/vote/elections/ballot-recommendations
Smart Voter: http://www.smartvoter.org/ca/
Hotline: 1-888-839-8682 (1-888-VE-Y-VOTA)
Neighborhood Info, from City of Los Angeles
Voting Rights Project Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles
Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles