Los Angeles County Registrar develops new digital voting system

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

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CALIFORNIA, United States — The Los Angeles (LA) County Registrar-Recorder's Office in California has created a new voting system, to be implemented in 2020, which could influence a change in how persons vote across the United States of America.

The new system, which will transform the way persons vote from a physical to a digital format and from paper to electronic ballots (though there is a paper backup), was introduced last Friday to journalists who are part of the Foreign Press Center's International Reporting Tour.

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Dean Logan, said the voting population is the largest in the United States and with that, the new voting procedure, which is much more efficient, can influence how other states choose to issue and count their ballots.

“LA County is a very large and diverse jurisdiction with the largest local Government jurisdiction in the United States, so while we function as a local government, we're larger than most state governments in the country, so that's a little bit of a unique situation [which influences how other states operate with regard to the voting procedure],” Logan said.

He added, “In terms of registered voters, we have more registered voters in this county than 42 of the 50 states have statewide, so the dynamics of how we function, structured as a local government, both given our size and diversity, is particularly interesting.”

Election Assistant, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's Office, Andrew Khatami El, explained that the new voting system will really be a multimedia voting machine that is flexible enough to accommodate all voter types, including the elderly and persons with special needs, and builds on the traditional process of voting in a digital way.

“We have an Electronic Poll Book [on a tablet device] which replaces paper rosters. We have a Modern Tally System, which uses new technology. We have an Interactive Sample Ballot, which gives voters new opportunities and ways to use their sample ballots. They can actually log into our website and pre-mark their selections, which will expedite the voting process. We have a new Ballot Marking Device (BMD) which is kind of the big game changer for the new voting experience,” Khatami El said.

California's new voting machines will also have four simple user-interface modes, which makes it easier for all voters to vote privately and independently, especially people with special needs.

These four new user interface models include 'Touch', where voters can interact only by touching a screen; 'Touch and Audio', where voters can interact with a touch screen and audio instructions through headphones for privacy; 'Controller and Audio', where voters interact with a tactile controller that has Braille labels for blind individuals to feel; and an 'A/B or Dual Switch Port', which allows voters to use their own personal device to vote by connecting it to the machine.

Khatami El said the new voting system is in accordance with the California Voters Choice Act (SB 450) which allows the State to have voting 10 days before Election Day, and technically gives voters a total of 11 days to vote.

Khatami El further outlined that with the new machines, voters will no longer be required to go to their registered polling station.

“Voters will no longer be limited to voting only at their local precinct polling place. Currently, if a voter is not in their precinct polling place assigned to them, they have to vote provisionally, but now with some of our new technology, that's no longer the case,” he said.

This project began its first phase in 2009 with the initial goal of identifying a new system for the LA County.

It then moved into another phase between January and December 2011 for the establishment of its principles; its third phase between January 2012 and July 2016 for the system's design and engineering; and its fourth phase between August 2016 and October 2018 for its manufacturing and certification.

It is now in its fifth phase for implementation between November 2018 and March 2020.

In addition to this major change that is coming, voters in LA County have the option to vote without identification cards, which could influence change among not only other states, but other countries as well. The state of California believes these measures will make it easier and more transparent to vote.

Logan said the State has decided to do this “since there is no universal national identification (ID), which means that depending on where you live in the United States, you're subject to state and local laws and while some states have required picture ID for voting, there have been studies to show that that disproportionately disenfranchises [persons in] minority communities who may have difficulty getting identification”.

The tour of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's Office was part of the Foreign Press Centers International Reporting Tour on the US Mid-term Elections, which will take place today.

This tour, which is taking place between November 1 and 8, includes 25 journalists from different geographic regions around the world, including Jamaica.

The tour includes presentations by American academics, pollsters and journalists covering their respective state's mid-term elections.

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