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Bell and Cudahy residents get free bus rides on election day

March 4, 2013 |  6:45 pm

This election season, residents in Bell and Cudahy will get free bus rides to polling places as part of a "Get Out the Vote" campaign.

Both cities hired the county to run their elections in an effort to improve voter turnout, which is often low.

"The free Dial-A-Ride service ensures that Bell voters elect their candidate for Bell City Council at the polls and demonstrates our commitment to an open and transparent process," Bell Mayor Ali Saleh said.

According to officials, both towns have partnered with transit companies and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder to provide the free rides.

In Bell, Global Paratransit Inc. will run between 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday Residents should call (855) 441-7433 to schedule a pickup.

In Cudahy, the Parking Co. of America will run its buses -- Cudahy Area Rapid Transit or CART -- from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The city is paying $100 for the service.

The free rides follow two high-profile scandals that led many to question the results of past elections.

In 2010, eight former Bell officials were arrested on charges of illegally inflating their salaries. The scandal prompted residents to speak out about possible voter fraud. Some said that they were told how to vote or that incumbents and city workers had picked up their absentee ballots in the 2007 and 2009 elections, a violation of state laws.

Last year, three former Cudahy officials were charged in a federal bribery and extortion case. All three pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison or probation.

Federal documents in the case also revealed allegations that absentee ballots had been tampered with or thrown away in the 2007 and 2009 city elections.

Despite the scandals, leaders in both cities have been pushing for reform and transparency. They have also sought to dispel any doubt about the March 5 elections by contracting with the county.

Last week, two public forums were held in which council candidates responded to questions from residents. The events were the first held in many years, according to residents from both cities.

"The goal of the city is to have free and honest elections, so we're doing everything in our power to ensure that will happen," Cudahy City Manager Hector Rodriguez said.

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-- Ruben Vives

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