Voters line up outside at a Hasley Canyon Village polling place in Castaic in 2012. Signal File Photo

City Council takes closer look at new voting system

Santa Clarita and the rest of Los Angeles County will trade an aging voting system for a completely new and digital approach by the 2020 primary election.

The Santa Clarita City Council received a presentation at its Sept. 10 meeting, which broke down how the new county program, called Voting Solutions for All People, or VSAP, works. Council members also had the chance to ask questions, which included concerns over possible voter fraud. 

The current voting process of ballots, manual labor and polling places will change with the goal of improving and expediting the overall experience for voters and election workers, who often spend hours tallying up results. 

“The ‘new voter experience’ is what we call it,” said Jeff Klein of the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, which developed VSAP. “There’s a number of components to that voter experience. It’s not just a new voting system.” 

Goodbye polling locations

Voters will be able to cast a vote at any of the planned 1,000 “vote centers” throughout the county as electronic rosters will access data in real time and allow for same-day registration. 

“(A digital roster) allows us to maintain the integrity of the election a little better because, when you show up to vote, we’re going to mark you as ‘voted real-time.’ This prevents people from going from one center to the other trying to vote multiple times,” Klein said. 

Each center, which will be open for 11 days to submit ballots, will have technology-run machines, much like a tablet computer, that will help voters mark their selections. The devices aren’t connected to the internet, but can print out a paper ballot for voters to physically cast for security purposes. 

Interactive sample ballot

Voters currently receive a booklet in the mail that indicates for whom one is eligible to vote, but under an interactive sample ballot, pre-marking digitally is now an option. 

Selections ahead of time will be doable via a mobile device or computer, which then generates a QR code for voters to bring to a vote center, either printed or on a phone, to be transferred to an official ballot-marking device.

“You still have to confirm, print and cast your ballot,” said Klein. “It’s not your ballot; it’s just an expedited process that allows you to save time.” 

Concerns

This option prompted fraud concerns among some council members. 

“I’m going to make it simpler and more direct: Can anybody walk in there with anything from me and vote in my name?” asked Councilwoman Laurene Weste. 

Klein said, “Sure,” adding that voters sign under penalty of perjury, which “is required by state law, and that’s the process that we currently have, and that’s the process that will continue moving forward unless there’s a change in state law.” 

For that matter, voters are encouraged to go through the interactive sample ballot and review their selections on their own, said Mike Sanchez with the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

On Monday, Colorado became the first state to ban the use of QR codes on ballots, a process similar to that of VSAP, citing cybersecurity concerns.  

Residents will have a hands-on opportunity to try the new system and ask questions at an upcoming mock election at College of the Canyons on Sept. 28-29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

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