New County-wide voting system shown to community Tuesday will make voting easier, more accessible to more voters
Published : Wednesday, June 5, 2019 | 4:40 AM
Pasadena and Los Angeles County voters will vote in the 2020 election in an entirely new way, thanks to a new voting system developed by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office called the Vote Center Placement Project.
The new system was presented at a meeting Tuesday evening at the Pasadena Convention Center and according to Registrar-Recorder Public Information Officer Mike Sanchez, the changes are significant, though familiar.
“Fundamentally,” Sanchez told Pasadena Now Tuesday, “It remains the same in that there’s still a paper ballot.”
But the new voting system, called Voting Solutions for all People (VSAP), also features a digital touch screen ballot marking device which resembles an iPad, Sanchez explained.
Sanchez also stressed that the new voting devices are stand-alone units with no connection to the Internet, to lessen the threat of hacking.
“For lack of a better word, it’s a very expensive pen and paper,” said Sanchez. The system also virtually eliminates provisional voting except in limited cases. (“Provisional voting” occurs when a voter believes himself or herself to be registered to vote but their names are not on the official voter registration list; their “provisional voite” is allowed but not counted until their registration is confirmed later.)
In 2020, instead of local polling places as many as 1,000 “vote centers” may be placed throughout Los Angeles County for eleven days up through and including Election Day.
Voters may vote on any one of the eleven voting days at any vote center, regardless of where they are registered.
“A voter in Pasadena, for example, can go to a polling place in Downey, and the system will locate and verify the voter immediately,” said Pasadena City Clerk Mark Jomsky, who was at the County Registrar’s presentation.
Jomsky also explained that votes cast prior to Election Day would not be counted or reported until Election Day so as not to unduly influence the outcome of the election.
For ten days before the election for a minimum of eight hours per day at least one vote center will be provided for every 30,000 registered voters in the County.
On Election Day and the three days prior, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., at least one vote center is provided for every 7,500 registered voters.
Every city with at least 1,000 registered voters would have at least one vote center, according to the County Registrar’s presentation.
An ePollbook at every vote center will also replace the printed list of voters and will be used by vote center staff to verify the registration eligibility of a voter in real time. The ePollbook enables Conditional Voter Registration, which will allow a voter to register and vote on the same day.
The ePollbooks will also indicate if a voter has already voted anywhere in the County and will not allow voting at multiple locations.
According to the County’s presentation, the VSAP system was launched by the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office to address an aging voting system and the complex needs of an electorate with 5.3 million voters.
According to Sanchez, the system is unique in the US.
“There is nothing like this anywhere,” said Sanchez. “We couldn’t buy the system we needed because it didn’t exist, so we had it designed and built,”
LA County partnered with the design firm IDEO to create the voting system through a “human-centered design process driven by the needs of LA County voters,” according to the County presentation.
Among numerous features, the new system will print a paper ballot that can be verified by the voter before casting. Voters can also adjust the font size of the screen, tilt the screen, and change the angle, color and contrast, to view the screens more easily.
Users also have an option to use an audio ballot interface with a keypad to listen and navigate in 13 languages through the various ballot measures and candidates.
Voters may also use an Interactive Sample Ballot (ISB), that will allow them to mark their sample ballot with an app on a mobile device or computer, and generate a Poll Pass prior to arriving at a vote center. The voter would scan the Poll Pass on the Ballot Marking Device to verify or make changes to their selections before casting their ballot.
According to the County Registrar’s presentation, Vote by Mail ballots will also be redesigned with a larger font and clearer instructions. Vote by Mail drop boxes throughout the County will be available for 29 days prior to Election Day, with no postage necessary.
PlaceWorks and RR/CC conducted 8 focus groups and nearly 2,500 surveys with registered and potential voters in Los Angeles County to determine the potential locations of the vote centers. Survey participants said that public libraries, places of worship, community and Recreation centers, public schools, and City Halls were the most desirable spots for vote centers
Currently, 2,000 viable vote center locations and 250 dedicated Vote By Mail Drop-off locations have been noted. Voters may also visit the County’s vote center at http://www.placeworkscivic.