Los Angeles County continues to seek the public’s help with an ambitious new polling place plan scheduled to be rolled out in time for the 2020 presidential election. The Los Angeles County Vote Center Placement Project will transition the county from polling places to “vote centers.”
The goal is to make voting more convenient by enabling county residents to cast a ballot at any vote center location in the county over an 11-day period.
A major part of the Vote Center Placement Project process is selecting the locations for the vote centers. The county is seeking help from the public to identify practical, central, easy-to-access locations.
So far, the Topanga area has three recommendations that have been reviewed and accepted for consideration: the Topanga Library, the Topanga Community Club, and Fire Camp 8. Other nearby locations include Calabasas High School, Woodland Hills Community Church, the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center, and the Malibu Lake Mountain Club.
In the City of Malibu the recommended sites include Bluffs Park and the Malibu Library. Many of the suggested locations throughout the Santa Monica Mountains are already often used as polling places.
An increasing number of county voters are opting for vote-by-mail ballots, but for canyon and coast residents who prefer to vote in person, proximity remains the key concern.
The county is assuring voters that there will be “at least one vote center for every 7,500 residents” on election day and during the three days that precede it. Cities with a minimum of 1,000 registered voters will have at least one vote center, and a smaller number of vote centers in more central locations will be open beginning 10 days before the election. All vote centers will offer same-day registration and full access for people with disabilities.
Topanga residents are encouraged to add their input on the project’s interactive map: http://www.placeworkscivic.com/project/lacovcpp. Although several locations have been recommended, there is currently little input from the community on preferred sites.
Voters who cast their ballot at the new vote centers in November 2020 will be using the county’s new digital voting system, which will be rolled out for the 2020 June Primary. On June 13, 2018, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan officially signed a contract with Smartmatic USA to transition from the current paper ballots marked with ink dots, to a new touch-screen system.
It’s a complicated process: Los Angeles County has more voters than many entire states. The county is hoping the new system will reduce the number of problems that occur during every election, including overvotes, and incomplete or incorrectly marked ballots.
The new system will enable voters to adjust the text size, opt to view the ballot in a variety of different languages, or listen to the ballot being read aloud—an aid to “voters who don’t read well and those who cannot see the screen,” according to Smartmatic.
Although voters will use a touchscreen to vote, the ballot itself will be printed out. QR codes will be used to track the completed ballots and to audit the system after the election.
“The revolutionary new voting experience will make it easier for all Los Angeles County voters, including voters with disabilities and multilingual voters,” a press release enthuses.
Skeptics hope the added layer of electronics and new software won’t cause more problems than it solves.
An audit of the June 2018 election recently revealed that Los Angeles County’s current software is responsible for a formatting change in state voter data that resulted in 118,500 names being omitted from voter rosters on election day.
A summary of the independent review released this month stated that there was no evidence of a security breach and that the problem was entirely software related.
Logan has apologized repeatedly for the incident. At a recent Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting he explained that L.A. “is the most complex electoral jurisdiction in the country.”
In response to the June incident, the state has sent what is being described as a “strike team” to help L.A. County prepare for this November’s election.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla has stated that in addition to assisting the county to sort out its software issues, he is taking the threat of election interference seriously, even if the federal government is not.
“I operate under the assumption that hacking is actually happening and California is a target,” Padilla recently stated.
If the L.A. County software snafu is any indicator of the future, ballots may be more at risk from our own technology than they are from foreign threats, although officials are working to learn from the June 2018 mistake and ensure that the November election, being described as one of the most important in generations, goes smoothly.
For more information on the 2020 Vote Center Placement project visit: http://vsap.lavote.net/vote-center-placement-project.
For up to the minute voter updates during the fall Primary election season, follow the Los Angeles County Registar Recorder/County Clerk’s Twitter feed, @LACountyRRCC, or the official account of the California Secretary of State: @CASOSvote.