California's primary election: What's at stake, what you need to know

FILE: Voters cast their ballots at the Los Angeles Fire Department, Fire Station #43 in Culver City on March 5, 2013.
FILE: Voters cast their ballots at the Los Angeles Fire Department, Fire Station #43 in Culver City on March 5, 2013.
Rebecca Hill/KPCC

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Voters headed to the polls Tuesday for California's long-awaited primary election. Voting at most precincts appears to have gotten underway without a hitch, though some reported delays and other problems that forced voters to cast a provisional ballot instead of their own. At one precinct, an election official also warned voters to be careful when choosing a candidate for the U.S. Senate race — because of the way some ballots may be printed, voters are accidentally choosing two, resulting in a rejected ballot.


Updated 11:46 a.m.: Mistaken overvotes causing some ballots to be rejected

Be careful when filling out that ballot. Some voters are reportedly having their ballots rejected because of a misunderstanding arising from the way they're printed.

A polling inspector at a precinct in the L.A. neighborhood of Cypress Park said because there are two pages of U.S. Senate candidates, three of five voters were picking two candidates, invalidating their ballots.
At least, that the case until about 9 a.m. Now Nina Zvaleko is giving voters very explicit instructions.
"There are two pages of Senate candidates, and there is only one vote for that race. So when you get to Page 4 and 5, you must read your candidates and make only one vote," Zvaleko told KPCC's John Rabe.
Zvaleko is also asking people coming in with their provisional ballots to double-check to make sure they didn't pick two.

Updated 11:18 a.m.: A few hitches at the polls

A handful of voters around Southern California were reporting problems at the polls as primary voting got underway Tuesday.

In posts on Facebook and Twitter, a couple of voters reported polls opening late. Others reported problems with voting machines or missing roll books preventing people from casting their own ballots.

Clarita Georgina Perez said her polling place hadn’t opened by 7:30 a.m. Voting officially started at 7 a.m.

Lindsey Newell reported that missing roll books caused her precinct to open late.



Missing roll books at another polling place prompted election workers to direct a small crowd of voters who gathered early to fill out provisional ballots instead, according to Laura Myerchin.

And Marité Vargas-Storniolo said she had to use a provisional ballot because the voting machines at her precinct were not working.

Primary voting started without a hitch at other polling places.

At the polling station in Canyon Country Park in Santa Clarita, voters were ready to cast ballots as soon as precinct manager Jim Gray stuck his head out the door and called out, “The polls are now open!”

Some Republicans in the high-turnout, conservative-leaning city said they were disappointed their candidates won’t be on the final ticket — but they handled it in different ways.

“I really don’t like Donald Trump so I wanted to be sure to cast my vote for someone else,” said Deanna King, who said she was casting a protest vote Tuesday. “I really needed to make my voice heard.”

King voted for Ted Cruz. He wasn’t her first choice back when the Republican side had 10 candidates running, but of those still on the ballot, she figured a Cruz vote would at least bring down Trump’s vote tally by one.

Craig Hoeft said he would have liked to vote for Jeb Bush, who’s no longer in the race. He voted for Trump.

“He’s already the one. He’s going to be the nominee. It’s more about who I’m not going to vote for, and I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and that’s really the facts,” Hoeft said.

As for Democrats at the precinct, Audrey Risher said she sees Clinton as the more experienced candidate due to her experience as first lady, senator and secretary of state.

Younger voters like Monica Castro, 19, were more inclined to vote for Bernie Sanders. She came with her parents, immigrants from Mexico. She said she was offended by Trump’s comments about immigrants. Her parents went through a lot to come here and provide her with a better, more secure life.

Like Castro, Adam Weideman, 19, was casting his first-ever ballot. “Environmental issues are what are important to me and social issues like LGBT rights, and equal pay and stuff like that.”

Inside Canyon County Park, two precincts shared the same room, so voters had to check their addresses to see if they were to vote at the green station or the orange station. Stacking multiple precincts into the same polling place has become more common in recent years as the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters works to stretch limited numbers of poll workers across the vast county.

In the hectic few minutes before the polls opened this morning, Gray said he makes one cookie for every voter he thinks will turn out to vote, and they come in more flavors than political parties.

He said he has been making voters cookies for years, as a little thank you for participating in democracy.

“It’s more than just voting, but, hey, come on out, we’ll give you a little treat,” Gray said.

6:28 a.m.: What's at stake, what you need to know

Voters head to the polls Tuesday for California's long-awaited primary election. 

While the presidential contest has drawn the most headlines, there are slew of other races on the ballot. Among the contests Southern California voters will be weighing in on: one of California's U.S. Senate seats, two open Los Angeles County supervisor seats, one statewide ballot measure, state Senate and Assembly seats, judicial elections, local ballot measures and more.

To see what will be on your ballot, go to our Voter's Edge Voter Guide and pop in your address. You can then research the candidates, select your choices, and print out or email your list to yourself.

Election officials are expecting strong voter turnout. Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan said with about 22,000 poll workers, inspectors, field staff and translators ready to go, his staff is ready.

"Overall, I don't expect there to be long lines," Logan said.  "It may take slightly longer to vote than what voters are typically accustomed to, but nothing that I would expect to compare to what people have seen in the national news in other states with lines. We just have a different infrastructure here."

The Los Angeles County election will cover 4,698 voting precincts and over 2,800 physical locations across the county. The price tag: $35 million. 

"We feel confident that the level of staffing and commitment is where we need it to be," Logan said. 

Tuesday's election comes after a surge in voter registration across the state. 

In the final 45 days before the May 23 voter registration deadline, close to 650,000 voter registrations were added to the state total, according to the Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The latest numbers released Friday show 17,915,053 Californians are registered to vote — that's up by about 760,000 from the 2012 presidential primary.

A large percentage of new registrants are young people. They could prove critical in the primary and especially beneficial to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Recent polls show presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Sanders are in a virtual tie in California's closely watched primary. Clinton has locked up the required number of delegates needed for the party nomination, according to Associated Press, but both have campaigned heavily here for political clout and bragging rights should they win the popular vote in the country's most populous state.

Vince Hall, executive director of Future of California Elections, a collaboration between election officials and voting advocates working on election issues, said he thinks Southern California counties are ready for Tuesday's election. Election officials opened additional polling locations and ordered extra ballots to prepare for the expected high turnout. 

Hall said the biggest problem of the day may be misinformation. Tuesday's election is California's third under its unique top-two primary system, which voters approved through Proposition 14 in 2010. 

"2016 is the first competitive presidential primary under the new system," Hall said. "A lot of voters are learning really for the first time under our new system about the complexity of voting in the presidential primary."

Under rules in California, the Republican presidential primary is closed to voters who are not registered Republicans. The Democratic presidential primary is open to voters registered without a political party affiliation, known as no party reference (NPP) voters. NPP voters must request a crossover ballot at their polling location if they wish to vote in the Democratic primary.

Other races, like state and congressional races and the race for the U.S. Senate seat fall under the top two system. This allows the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, to advance to November.

And, there's yet another option: some local races like Los Angeles County supervisor seats can be won outright with 50 percent plus one of the votes. 

You can follow KPCC's election coverage throughout the day on air and on our website. Starting at 8 p.m., KPCC's airs its special election coverage hosted by Larry Mantle, Patt Morrison and Nick Roman on 89.3 FM. 

You can also join us at an election day party at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes starting at 7 a.m. RSVP here.

We've gathered questions and answers to help you on primary day:

Election FAQs

1. When do the polls open and close on Tuesday? 

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. 

2. Where is my nearest polling location? 

Find your nearest Los Angeles county polling place by searching here. Beyond L.A. County, check the Secretary of State's website for your local information.

3. Am I registered to vote? 

Check if you are registered in the county of Los Angeles here. If you live outside of Los Angeles County, check the Secretary of State's website for your county's info. 

4. I can't find my polling place. Where can I go? 

You can always go directly to your county's election office and vote there. In L.A. County, the election headquarters are in Norwalk. Officials there will be accepting ballots there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The address: 12400 Imperial Hwy., Room 3002, Norwalk, CA 90650. For other counties, check the Secretary of State's website

Also, you can call the statewide voter help line at 1-800-345-VOTE with any voting questions. 

5. What do I need to bring to my polling place?

Technically nothing. California does not require identification to vote. Election officials recommend that you bring your sample ballot that was mailed to you to help you at the polls. You may also want to bring your vote by mail materials; if you're opting to vote in person instead of mailing in your ballot, you'll need to surrender it at your polling location to get a regular ballot.

Another tip, if you're a newly registered voter, is to bring some form of identification in case you're not on the list. A sample ballot with your name and address will work. This will help the poll workers to assist you. 

6. Are there ballots in different languages?

In Los Angeles County, ballots are available in English, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.

7. Can I take time off from work to vote? 

You are allowed up to two hours at the beginning or end of your work shift to vote on paid time, according to state law. This is allowed only if you do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote.

8. What is the best time of day to vote to avoid lines?

The middle of the day is typically the slowest. Polls are normally busiest right when they open, and then again later in the day between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

9. I have a mail in ballot but I want to vote in person. Can I do that?

Yes, you can vote in person at your polling location even if you've received a vote by mail ballot already. One tip: when you go into your polling place bring your vote by mail ballot with you. When you arrive, you’ll surrender that ballot so that you can vote in person.
Another tip: If you’re a no party preference voter and you want to cast a ballot for the Democratic presidential primary, remember to ask for a “crossover ballot” when you go to your polling location. 

10. I have more questions about voting. Where else can I go?

Check out our Human Voter Guide series to find answers to listener questions about voting. Another good resource is KPCC's Voter's Edge Voter Guide, which let's you research your ballot my entering your zip code. 

11. I requested a mail in ballot, but it never arrived in the mail. Can I still vote?

Yes, you can go to any polling location within the county you live in and cast a provisional ballot.

Additionally, if you are a no party preference voter and requested a crossover ballot to vote in the Democratic presidential primary by mail but never received one, you can also go to a polling place and vote in person. If you bring your vote by mail ballot with you to your assigned polling location, you can surrender it and vote in person with a regular crossover ballot. 

Logan said all voters within L.A. County who requested vote by mail or crossover ballots by the May 31 deadline have been mailed voting materials. Yours may still be coming in the mail. The last batch was mailed Saturday.

Regardless of when it arrives, all vote by mail ballots must be postmarked by June 7 and received by June 10 to be counted.