With California’s March 3 presidential primary election less than two weeks away, voting begins in Los Angeles County this weekend at centers with new state-of-the-art machines.
The system will be rolled out at about 1,000 centers across the county when primary voting starts on Saturday, February 22 for the next 11 days through 8 p.m. on Election Day, March 3.
Called “Voting Solutions for All People,” the new, personalized experience allows for voters to visit any of the designated centers within the county — considered the largest voting jurisdiction in the country — that is convenient for them instead of being limited to a place near their home address.
That means, a voter can cast his or her ballot if they work in Santa Monica, for example, even if he or she lives in Glendale.
“Voters have the ability to go to any voting location in the county, something that they weren’t previously able to do. The previous model was actually very restrictive — it only allowed voters one polling place on one day,” said Mike Sanchez, a public information officer for the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office.
To use the ballot marking devices, voters enter their blank paper ballot into the printer and begin selecting options for the various races on the tablet with a touchscreen.
The ballots will be available in 13 languages, including Tagalog, and have an audio interface with a keypad to navigate through the contests and listen using provided headphones.
“If a voter has visual challenges or if they are blind, they can still hear the ballot in all 13 languages and they can navigate through that list with the accessible keypad and make their selections,” Sanchez said, adding that additional accessible features of the devices include the ability to adjust font size, tilt screen angle, color and contrast.
Individuals can also go back to change or review their votes before they finish and print out the paper ballot. They can also review the printed version once more and when it’s ready to go, the ballot is inserted back into the device and is collected in a secured box.
Votes will not be counted at the individual centers, the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office clarified.
“Once the vote centers close throughout the voting period, [the ballots] are securely transported back to our tally operation center,” Sanchez told the Asian Journal. “On election night, that’s when we will begin counting. So the devices that people will vote on, they’re not counting anything.”
The county anticipates higher turnout this cycle given the various options for voters to fill out their ballots.
“In the last several cycles, we’ve seen an increased turnout. We think that trend will continue and we hope that with the new devices, the ability for voters to go anywhere, and with the expanded days of having 11 days to vote, voters will be able to take advantage of that and we hope that they will,” Sanchez told the Asian Journal.
For those who might be hesitant or have questions about the devices, poll workers will be on hand for assistance.
As for security concerns, the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk said the devices are not connected to the internet and will not be gathering the voter data.
“There is no way anyone’s going to be able to get into the ballot marking device and change votes because literally the only thing that’s plugged into this is the power,” Sanchez said. “There is no network connectivity whatsoever.”
The devices, which have been 10 years in the making, were tested out by the public last fall during mock election events.
For those who can’t make it to one of the county’s voting center and still want to vote in-person, voters can head to the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk headquarters in Norwalk, California, where voting began 29 days before the election.
In addition to post office boxes, vote-by-mail voters can also drop off their ballots at one of 206 marked drop box locations in the county, such as in libraries or city halls. Postage is not necessary when doing this.
The full list of vote centers in LA County for the primary will be available on LA Vote’s website. Those eligible to vote but missed the Feb. 18 voter registration deadline can still vote by going to any vote center in the county and complete a conditional voter registration application. (Christina M. Oriel /AJPress)