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28 Feb 2011 - Chaos at the polls last year had prompted rumors that advisory voting by parents, students, and other stakeholders under the Public School Choice reform could be eliminated for the second round of the initiative, but last week Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials informed parents and stakeholders that voting would continue, with some changes to the eligibility rules.
While the voting guidelines have been tightened in some areas, one of the areas that caused the most controversy during the first round of voting in 2010 will once again be allowed. The “community member” category—defined as anyone who is not a parent, student or teacher in the voting boundaries — who can demonstrate a connection to the community, such as residency or church attendance, can still vote.
Last year, children of any age were allowed to line up with their parents and to cast a vote. According to the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles (LWVLA), the agency contracted by the district to run the election for the second year in a row, the only minors eligible to vote this time around in “any category,” are high school students currently enrolled at schools that will be relieved of overcrowding by a public school choice high school.
There were many other changes in the second round of the reform’s advisory vote process in order to ensure a clean election, Elizabeth Ralston, acting chair of the League of Women Voters told EGP on Monday.
“We had protocols last time, [this year] we created the Bill of Rights to let eligible voters know what they are entitled to,” Ralston said.
The Bill of Rights is a page-long document clearly defining who is eligible to vote, that voters have the right to cast a secret advisory ballot free from intimidation, and how to solicit more information or report fraudulent activity.
Besides the change to eligible student voters, parents/guardians of students at current, feeder or relief schools can vote, as well as parents of charter school students from the neighborhood. PSC employees—feeder and relief schools included—are only eligible to vote once, even if they qualify as employees, parents and community members.
The point of the document was to make it clear that one person can vote once, eliminate confusion, and make sure people weren’t surprised, Ralston said.
The district wide Advisory Vote process began last week, and many people have been turned away, said Ralston. Over the weekend, there were two attempts to bus people in to vote at different sites, she said, noting the applicant teams were not pleased when their supporters were asked to produce identification.
Community members, whose names do not appear on the lists provided by LAUSD, will be asked to show identification, non-governmental IDs are accepted, or proof of address.
Last year, electioneering was allowed to go on 50 feet from the polling place—at times turning into shouting matches between competing groups.
Entire campuses are now off limits to electioneering, however groups can handout information on the sidewalk. Applicant teams were also allowed to contact stakeholders via Connect-Ed, a robo call system, send or mail flyers to homes at their own expense and participate in door-to-door canvassing.
Other changes include orientation sessions to explain the PSC process to parents and stakeholders followed by brief presentations by applicant teams. Voting is now scheduled to take place following the full applicant presentations; the morning-weekday voting has been eliminated. Saturday voting was previously 8 am to noon, this time the polls will operate from 9 am to 3 pm in order to ensure more access, Ralston said.
Education centers have also been set up at each voting place to answer questions, and United Way and Families in Schools are collaborating with the League of Women Voters to make materials more parent-friendly, facilitate presentations and answer questions at polling places.
The district currently has 13 PSC advisory vote elections underway, each with its own ballot, said Ralston.
Voters can report perceived “illegal or fraudulent activity” by calling the League of Women Voters’ election management hotline at (213) 368-1616.