Los Angeles County is aiming to eliminate ballot punching to using new voting machines designed specifically for the County by IDEO
Los Angeles County is changing the way its residents vote and the Registrar’s Office recently test drove the system with a county-wide Mock Election. The new system, “Voting Solutions for All People,” is set to make its official debut during the California primary elections in March 2020.
“We’ve really reimagined that voting experience. We have new equipment that’s publicly owned, publicly designed that allows for language accessibility and a full range of accessibility features for voters with disabilities,” explained Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan. “This has been designed to create a user-friendly voting experience that lives up to the significance of casting your vote and having an impact on public policy and the leaders who govern us.”
The new voting system is part of the California Voter’s Choice Act, a law passed in 2016 to modernize elections in California by allowing counties to conduct elections under a new model which provides greater flexibility and convenience for voters. Fifteen of the California’s 58 counties are participating in the Voter’s Choice Act.
Along with the new equipment, Los Angeles County will now have “voting centers,” which will be open for 10 days before the election and will allow any registered voter to vote at any location. Gone will be the one-day neighborhood polling places restricted to the residents in specific precincts. Voters will be able to cast their ballot near their home, workplace or wherever is convenient to them.
The City of Lynwood hosted one of the County’s 50 mock voting sites. Lynwood City Clerk Maria Quinones was impressed by the new features including the audio availability and ballot review. She expects the new system to increase Los Angeles County’s traditionally low voter turn-out. “A lot of people have the excuse of not getting there on time. You’ll be able to vote before, so I think that will expand the opportunity for people to vote,” said Quinones.
Voters cast their votes on large touchscreens. Before the ballots are officially cast, voters can review their selections before the paper ballot is deposited into the ballot box. This ensures the integrity of the votes.
“This was a big investment on our part for the County of Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. “Given what we experienced in the previous presidential election, we know that we wanted to make sure we had a system that was secure, transparent and could also give confidence to voters immediately that their ballot wouldn’t be tampered with and was marked the way they wanted it to be marked.”
The new system also attracted voters who like technology such as mock voter Angelica Morales. “It’s really good, especially for us technological people that like to do the computers and the touchscreen and all that stuff. It was easy – in and out – five minutes,” said Morales.
As the largest county in the country, all eyes are on the Los Angeles County project. “A lot of people here in California are watching as well as people nationally,” said Logan. “We have folks out from D.C. who are visiting these locations today. There is a lot of interest in what we’re doing, but also, I think, on how we’re doing this. We have focused primarily on the voter experience.”
Mock voter Morales agreed, “I’m a permanent absentee (voter), so I might have to change the way I vote to come in, because it was quick.”
One of CA Fwd's early priorities was to support election reforms aimed at expanding voter access, information, and turnout while making election administration more cost-effective. After all, for democracies to work, elected leaders need to be responsive and representative, and voters must be able to hold elected officials accountable for results.