INGLEWOOD — When 90-year-old Korean War veteran Willie E. Agee first saw the new ballot marking device being demonstrated in Inglewood, he was skeptical at best.
Agee’s apprehension is understandable because as long as he can remember, he’s been voting on a paper ballot, the same way every election day.
However, when the concerned citizen who attends every Inglewood City Council meeting saw an opportunity to get to know the new device he will be using in the March 3 state primary election, he figured he better get used to it.
“I will have to use it when I get ready to cast my vote and (now) I’ll know how to do it,” Agee said. “It’s good to know. Knowledge is always good. I can tell someone now that I know how to use the new machine.”
The ballot marking device is similar to a touch-screen computer tablet but county officials said the technology is combined with a paper ballot for the “security and integrity” of the election.
“It’s not electronic voting and it’s not computer voting,” said Jeff Klein, manager of voter education for Los Angeles County. “I know there’s a concern that people that aren’t good with technology, maybe seniors or some other folks might have a little difficulty.
“We’re aware of that and we feel that it’s a little more a fear of technology rather than a practical application because when you see someone actually use the equipment, you realize everyone finds it pretty intuitive.”
Klein added the devices will not be connected to the internet for security purposes.
The changes are a part of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Voting Solutions for All People program, which is being billed as a way to modernize the voting process.
“It’s a very important election (in March 2020),” said Inglewood City Clerk Yvonne Horton. “One thing I do like about the way the ballot is supposed to be designed is that local races are first. The [presidential] races come after. There will be some frustration but we will make it and I believe that in years to come, it will be a good thing.”
The changes are not only centered around a new ballot marking device but also vote centers. Voters will no longer be limited to voting at their assigned polling location. They will have equal access to hundreds of vote centers throughout Los Angeles County.
Early voting is the key tenet of the vote centers, extending the traditional election period to 11 days.
“I think it’s good,” Horton said. “I think it gives people an opportunity to add the voting day into their day. I feel comfortable with the county telling us that people cannot double vote.”
Voters will still have the option to vote by mail or vote on the traditional election day.
“I think it’s a good way to provide access to people who don’t traditionally vote,” said Inglewood resident Miya Walker. “Our seniors are generally the folks who vote the most consistently and they’re going to have to have a good sense of this new system and confidence that their vote is being recorded the way they intended it to be, so education is going to be critical.”
“We are going to have staff specifically at vote centers whose only job it is to help people get on the equipment, use the equipment and make sure people are comfortable,” Klein said.
The new ballot marking device will be available for live, one-on-one demonstrations at the Inglewood Public Library Dec. 16-20 during normal library business hours.
By John W. Davis