The opening of a new vote center, located on 30th Street in Lancaster, was announced through a news release distributed in the late afternoon Friday, as voting for the 25th Congressional District went into its final few days.
The opening was met with controversy that resulted in national news coverage and statements from both sides, with Democrats saying the opening of the polling location increased voter accessibility, while Republicans stated it was an 11th-hour rule change to the benefit of the Democrats.
Although all vote centers had been previously announced for the mail-in election, the last-minute addition of the new one in a heavily Democratic area prompted Republican observers to cry foul, arguing that the addition was motivated by partisan politics.
President Donald Trump and Republican candidate Mike Garcia tweeted about the opening of the new Lancaster vote center for Tuesday’s special election to replace former Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned amid a House ethics investigation late last year. The area in which the new location was opened has voted primarily Democratic in previous elections. No new vote centers have been opened in areas that have predominantly voted Republican.
In one of Garcia’s postings, the candidate alleged his opponent Christy Smith and her Democratic allies were attempting to “change the rules to steal an election.”
“(Christy Smith) and her liberal Dem allies didn’t say anything for weeks even though the polling places were in full view of the public,” Garcia said in a tweet. “Even after every voter received a ballot, they are desperate and trying to change the rules to steal an election. We can’t let them succeed.”
The Garcia campaign deferred comment to his tweets.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Smith thanked Democratic allies, the Congressional Black Caucus and Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris — a Republican who has endorsed Garcia in the election — for getting the new polling center added.
“Great news!” said Smith’s post. “L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan has added a much-needed Vote Center in Lancaster for the May 12 special election. We thank Dean and his team, along with Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the Congressional Black Caucus, Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and LACDP Chairman Mark Gonzalez for working to make this possible.”
Smith said on Saturday that her campaign was not involved in the decision, but was told the opening of the polling location was due to the long lines voters saw at the in-person voting centers during the primary.
“Voting centers are necessary,” said Smith. “For people who want to register and vote provisionally the same day, in California we’re allowed to do that. For our disabled voters who often require assistance to complete the voting process and they can do that with the help of staff at a vote center or with an adaptive device.”
Smith said the desire to open a polling place in Lancaster was also in part due to distance. According to Smith, the disabled and those wishing to register and vote on the same day would need to drive to Palmdale in order to do so.
A GOP analyst familiar with the 25th Congressional District race took issue with this, saying that everyone in the district had received a mail-in ballot and that the Palmdale polling location would have been within 10 miles.
The analyst, when asked why there was an issue with opening up another voting center, said she believes it was wrong for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office to open a polling location and announce it through a news release in the late afternoon on the Friday before election day.
The analyst said she did not know how this would benefit Smith’s campaign or harm Garcia’s.
Weighing in during a series of Saturday morning tweets, Trump called the election in the 25th Congressional District rigged following the decision to open a new polling location in the Antelope Valley.
“CA25 is a rigged election. Trying to steal it from Mike Garcia,” Trump wrote.
Said Smith: “It was important that that expansion happened because it is just going to make it more accessible, more convenient on that day and also reduce the numbers of voters who might be going to other locations… We don’t want any one of these locations to be overcrowded because that’s unsafe.”