Despite being home to more than 23% of Long Beach residents, the 8th and 9th districts have fewer vote centers than almost every other district across the city. Historically, the two districts are comprised of largely communities of color and low-income residents.
“Patterns of disparity don’t happen by accident—they’re intentional,” 9th District Councilman Rex Richardson said. “That means the system is doing what it’s designed to do: continue to disenfranchise public participation. As California continues to tear down barriers to voting, we have to do the same thing locally.”
With a combined population of nearly 107,000, the two districts are hosting only three of the city’s 34 vote centers. The three vote centers are all in North Long Beach, which encompasses half the 8th District and all of the 9th. The 8th District has one vote center while the 9th has two.
The Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder’s office did not immediately respond.
According to the county registrar website, staff analyzed population density, demographics and voter behavior to determine “when and where voters are most likely to vote.” The analysis included income, ethnicity, language, traffic patterns, street connectivity and barriers to movement. Richardson noted that the one original 9th District vote center—Powell Academy for Success—is on the very edge of the city and is not easily accessible.
During a Sept. 15 presentation by the Los Angeles Registrar’s office to the Long Beach City Council, Richardson’s district only had one listed vote center. He noted that more centers were available during the March primaries and asked if the Houghton Park Community Center, which was previously under construction, could be considered. Ultimately, the community center was added.
“I’m really proud that we’re using Houghton Park because it’s right in the heart of North Long Beach,” Richardson said. “But moving forward, democracy has to be protected. It’s not something we can take for granted. We have to remain vigilant in making sure voting is accessible.”
By comparison, the city’s affluent 3rd District—with a population of 52,320—is hosting six vote centers. Districts 1, 5 and 6, all with populations less than 50,000, have five vote centers each. Like the 9th, the 4th District only has two vote centers.
The county opened early voting in stages, with the first round of centers opening 11 days before the election and the remainder opening five days before. Only one North Long Beach vote center was open for 11 days.
“When we talk about voting participation, it has a direct correlation to access,” Richardson said. “These are things we have to continue to fight for to make sure people have a fair opportunity to vote in a way that’s not burdened by long lines and is safe.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated no vote centers were located in Cambodia Town. There is one vote center in that neighborhood.