County to survey voters on proposed changes


By Jacqueline Fernandez

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County voters will get to voice their opinion on where they get to practice their civic duty during the 2020 elections.

Being tied to a single polling location will become a thing of the past.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office announced June 10 that it is seeking public input on the Vote Center Placement Project and published a survey to analyze the preferences of Angelenos on where new voting centers should be located.

In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 450 into law and it temporarily establishes voting centers across the county.

As prescribed by the bill, the selection of voting locations will involve community input and will include factors such as accessibility, proximity to public transit, security and convenience.

Beginning in 2020, voters will have the choice of voting near their home or work, or on weekends rather than weekdays.

The county has contracted with PlaceWorks to facilitate the survey of voters.

After gathering input and conducting assessments, the company will identify and select the vote center locations.

Community meetings are scheduled to begin this summer, with updates next spring.

“The survey is important for voters to learn that their traditional polling place will not likely be the same location as the new vote center,” said Sandra Mendoza, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Office. “However, the options of where to vote exponentially increase with the voter having the option of voting from any location model.”

After the survey is done, the county will publish the final list of proposed vote centers for final public comment.

The change from polling precincts to voting centers isn’t the only modification to the way residents will vote in 2020.

The new model will allow voters to cast a ballot over an 11-day period, compared to the traditional one Election Day.

Also, voters will be able to vote through an electronic interface — it looks like a large tablet — at the voting center. Voters can change the font size, language and contrast to accommodate their needs.

There will be a built-in scanner and printer so voters can print out, check and scan in their ballot. Paper ballots will record each vote and be fully auditable.

A QR reader will replace the days of taking in a “cheat sheet” with all of your choices.

Voters can make their decisions on their phone and scan the QR code for faster voting.

The overall goal is to have an easier, user-friendly system to help increase voter turnout.

The five-phase project started in 2010 with public opinion research — where a variety of data was gathered from elections staff, voters, advocates and community organizations that represent underserved voter groups.

The second phase was the process assessment in which a Voting Solutions for All People Advisory Committee was created to oversee the development of the new system.

The group is comprised of stakeholders, experts and community leaders.

In the third phase, the county hired Bay Area design firm IDEO to come up with a new voting process and something that fits the smartphone era. A Technical Advisory Committee also was created.

Phase four is geared towards building a prototype and testing the system. At the end of the phase, a system will be ready for mass production.

During the final phase, the new voting system will go through state testing and certification. Once it is certified, it gets the green light to be used at elections.

It seems like more reasons come up to why this overhaul is important, the most recent case being the California Primary in June in which 118,0000 voters’ names were left off polling place rosters.

A week later, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to fund the massive redo. The contractor, Smartmatic, is set to help manufacture and implement the new system.

Expenses could reach up to $282 million.

However, not everyone is happy with Smartmatic. Critics say the British company isn’t qualified for the job due to its history with the Venezuelan election last year — where at least 1 million votes were manipulated.

Elections have remained basically unchanged in L.A. County since the 1960s.

In 2000, the county was one of the few jurisdictions that didn’t spend any of its earmarked money to digitize the process.

Full implementation of the new system isn’t expected until the March 2020 primary election.

Voters can go to: bit.ly/VoteCenterSurvey to add their input.

For more information on LA County’s Voting Solutions for All People, go to vsap.lavote.net.

 

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