'This is what voter suppression looks like': Huntington Park officials make desperate plea for more vote centers

With more than 21,000 registered voters in Huntington Park, city officials are concerned that two vote centers in the city won't be enough. For the primaries, the city had four vote centers.
HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- With the election only a week away, Huntington Park officials are concerned there may not be enough vote centers to accommodate their city.

The city has more than 21,000 registered voters, but only two voting centers for the Nov. 3 election; that's half the number they had for the primary election in March--which city leaders say wasn't enough.

"We're concerned because for the primary election in March, we, we needed to adapt," said Graciela Ortiz, vice mayor of Huntington Park. "Our voters were waiting over four hours. We had senior citizens that were waiting over four hours. And we as a city expressed this concern to the county."

The Los Angeles County Registrar's Office said when identifying vote centers they used strict safety standards to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In a written statement to ABC7, they said: "Of the eight locations pursued in the city of Huntington Park, four did not meet the necessary safety standards to protect the public, two declined to participate as vote centers, and two were confirmed that met all necessary requirements."

"Not once were we told that some of our facilities didn't meet COVID-19 guidelines," said Ortiz. "We are very confident that many of our facilities would be able to accommodate to COVID-19 guidelines."

According to an ABC7 analysis of Los Angeles County voting data shows, Huntington Park has less than one vote center per 10,000 voters. Many surrounding communities have at least one voting center per 10,000 voters, if not more.
"This is what voter suppression looks like. And it's unfortunate, and it's heartbreaking that nobody's talking about it," said Ortiz.

The data also shows the neighboring City of Bell has nearly 14,000 registered voters, less than Huntington Park, but they have three vote centers. Beverly Hills has about the same number of registered voters as Huntington Park, but they have nine vote centers.

The Registrar's office also said in their statement that Huntington Park residents can vote at any of the vote centers in the county.

"Our community members don't have the luxury of having cars; they take public transportation, so walking over a mile to a voting site is definitely a barrier," said Ortiz. "It's unfortunate that our low-income communities are being neglected when it comes down to the opportunity of having voting centers."

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Here is the full statement from Registrar's Office:
With the expansion of vote by mail to over 5.2 million registered voters, the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office has worked diligently to ensure County residents have access to safe and secure locations to exercise their fundamental right to vote. When selecting locations as Vote Centers, the Registrar's office applied strict safety standards in line with guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health to combat the spread of COVID-19. Of the eight locations pursued in the City of Huntington Park, four did not meet the necessary safety standards to protect the public, two declined to participate as Vote Centers, and two were confirmed that met all necessary requirements.

Huntington Park residents are still able to vote at the more than 790 Vote Center locations throughout Los Angeles County for the 2020 Presidential Election, 57 of which are located in the Southeast Los Angeles region. Additionally, there are over 400 drop box locations in Los Angeles County. Our office is confident that there is adequate coverage of Vote Centers and Drop Boxes within reasonable distance of Huntington Park to allow for a safe and secure voting experience. We also encourage voters to utilize the U.S. Mail when possible.
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