As election season nears, residents of Beverly Hills should know about the new voting system coming to L.A. County. The new system, called Voting Solutions For All People (VSAP), will apply to the municipal elections in Beverly Hills next March. There will be two City Council seats on the ballot on March 3, 2020.
Beverly Hills elections are consolidated and administered by the Los Angeles County Registrar- Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC). The county-wide VSAP initiative brings a number of significant changes to the voting process. For one thing, voters will be able to cast ballots at any designated “Voting Center” in Los Angeles County. Voters are no longer limited to voting at their assigned polling place. Additionally, voting will take place over an extended election period of 11 days.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents the 3rd District that includes Beverly Hills, told the Courier, “L.A. County is eager to pioneer promising strategies that may increase the number of eligible voters who participate in the democratic process and ensure the integrity and privacy of every ballot. By doing this, we hope more people will vote.”
The County has opened 10 Demonstration (Demo) Centers that offer the public an opportunity to experience the new fully accessible Ballot Marking Devices and to preview the Electronic Pollbooks (ePollbook) prior to the March 2020 elections. The Courier visited one of the Demo Centers to experience the new ballot marking device and ePollbook first-hand.
Changes to the Voting Process
Los Angeles RR/CC spokesperson Mike Sanchez told the Courier that there are benefits to using the new ballot marking devices. “Voters will be able to easily read and mark their paper ballot using the accessible technology provided by the ballot marking device.” He explained that the device includes access to 13 languages, adjustable touch screen, and display settings to make the font size larger or to adjust the screen contrast in addition, an audio headset and control pad for Braille is built into the device for voters with visual challenges. Voters with mobility or visual challenges will no longer have to go to a separate voting booth because the new device provides all the accessibility features in one device. The new technology also requires voters to review their ballot twice before casting their final vote.
Although the ballot marking device works as a touchscreen display for voters
to cast their vote, there is still a physical paper ballot that is generated after the voter is finished. Sanchez explained, “The system was specifically designed to utilize a paper ballot to ensure security and integrity.” He added that the devices are not connected to the internet or a network and that they do not count the ballots. All ballots that are cast at a Voting Center will come to the RR/CC central Tally Center for counting.
March 3 Presidential Primary Election
According to the Los Angeles RR/CC, the first day of in-person voting for the March 3 Presidential Primary Election will be Feb. 22. There will be 250 Voting Centers available throughout the county. An RR/CC spokesperson explained that as Election Day gets closer, more voting centers will open. Up to 1,000 will be open through Feb. 28 and March 3.
The Electronic Pollbook
An Electronic Pollbook (ePollbook) will replace the printed roll of voters and will be used by Voting Center staff to verify the registration eligibility of a voter in real time. Additionally, ePollbooks will indicate if a voter has already voted anywhere in the County and will not allow voting at multiple locations. The voter information on the ePollbooks is not connected to the Ballot Marking Device or the tally system. They remain independent from one another to protect a voter’s personal information. Printed ballots do not contain any voter information.
According to the RR/CC, the ePollbooks allow voters to check-in and go to any Voting Center within the County to vote. In addition, voter registration information can be updated in real time. The system also allows vote by mail voters to cast a regular in-person ballot without having to surrender their mailed ballot.
The Demo Centers are open to the public to try the new fully accessible ballot marking device and to preview the ePollbook. Demo Centers are currently open during both weekdays and weekends. Location information is available at LAVote.net/DemoCenters.