Skid Row Voting: It’s Time for President Wesson to Keep His Word and Fix the NC System

SAVING THE SYSTEM-Having read General Jeff’s CityWatch article about online voting for Neighborhood Council elections, it is clear that both sides have a good argument.

From Jeff's perspective, online voting has its challenges. 

But, denying online voting to all of DLTA and Historic Cultural is disenfranchising all of those who do have computers and smart phones and would like to use them to vote. 

I personally believe that in order to have a fair and equitable Skid Row NC election -- since both the DLANC and Historic Cultural all vote -- the following should take place: 

1) Online elections should occur with two weeks advance voting. 

2) Pop-up polls should be pre-designated throughout the three areas. 

3) Vote by mail should be available for anyone who wishes to vote. 

4) Three onsite polling locations should be set up: one in skid row, one in DLANC and one in Historic Cultural. 

5) Since the homeless are not documentation voters, then all three locations should use self-affirmation. 

6) All polling locations should be open for six hours and be centrally located within each of the three districts. 

If there is an issue with the timing being too soon for the above to be instituted, then I think everyone would agree that the elections should be postponed for 60 days. 

As for online voting, here’s my two cents. The reason the beta test was not as big a success as the department wanted is because: 

1) The LA City Council under-funded the entire project, thereby not allowing the department to order and use the equipment that would have streamlined the process. (For the record, the medical marijuana industry uses a system to register patients by IPad using "Indica,” a cloud based service that registers patients in two minutes.) 

2) We were all led to believe that online voting would dramatically increase the number of voters. This is not true. The lack of outreach by DONE, as well as the resistance to spending neighborhood council money by the NC's, led to only 14 of the 35 NC's having an increase in voters -- and the department realizing a less than a couple of hundred voter increase over 2014. This is certainly not what was expected. 

The Skid Row and Hermon elections will also be lackluster if there is no concentrated effort to market the campaign, which DONE is woefully poor at doing; that is under-funded as well. 

As I see it, the Skid Row election is heavily weighted toward Skid Row, having only one polling location, and with the Skid Row Formation Committee responsible for the outreach, which, based on my conversations with both Downtown and Historic Cultural, has been minimal to non-existent. There are claims of falsehoods being told about what was done in areas quoted within the Skid Row application. 

And as for Hermon, my only question to all is the following: 

How do you give $42,000 to an area with less than 3,300 people, when you also give $42,000 to Koreatown that has more than 100,000 people? 

So, something is dramatically wrong with the NC System and it’s time for President Wesson to fulfill his promise to fix it. 

Herb, step up and step in. Make the tough decisions and begin the process of fixing the best thing that could have happened to our City -- as opposed to watching it cave in under its own weight.


(Jay Handal served at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for ten months as Election Manager for the 2016 Neighborhood Council elections. He is Treasurer of the West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates Committee for the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year, and a hearing examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.