County experiments with new voting system during mock election

Kyle Write read the prompts while using the headphones in the electronic booths during a mock election held at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Replacing the status quo and procedure for the first time in decades, county officials introduced Santa Clarita to Los Angeles County’s new electronic voting system Saturday.

Punching out chads are now a thing of the past in the county as the entire system works through a computer that prints out your ballot.

Walking in, a voter will register in the typical way, talking to a volunteer and giving them their information so as to get a blank ballot. They then take a piece of paper, walk up to one of the many machines at the voting center, insert the paper and begin to make their selections on a touch screen monitor.

View inside the electronic voting booth of the touch-screen, keypad and headphones during a mock election held at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Once they’ve reviewed their answers on the screen, a printer next to the machine returns the ballot with their selections typed onto it. They then review it once again, and once they decide it is correct in its entirety, they reinsert the completed ballot back into the machine for delivery.

“We’ve been working on this for about 10 years to modernize the voting process and a lot of work has gone into this,” said County Clerk Dean Logan. “It’s going to go live for the 2020 March primary presidential election.”

The mock election on Saturday, Logan said, included fun options for people to vote on such as, “favorite Los Angeles monument” and “favorite place in Los Angeles to take a picture.” Not only did the mock election help introduce people to the new voting model, it also allowed county officials to have a chance at seeing what portions of the process could be improved upon.

College of the Canyons student Jah-Kez Moore, 19, reads the prompts on the screen and uses the headphones in the electronic booth during a mock election held at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Logan said that possibly the biggest changeup coming though is not the electronic voting systems themselves, but the fact that people will now be allowed to vote over an 11 day period. And now, instead of going to small local polling stations, voters will be going to voting centers that house the new voting apparatus.

“While for some voters they will have to travel some distance further from their home to the voting place, but we’re reminding people that that’s why it’s over an 11 day period,” said Logan.

With seniors, Logan said the county has realized there might be obstacles to them reaching the more centralized voting center. In order to solve that issue, Logan said mobile voting centers will be traveling around for the 11 days, allowing people to vote wherever the voting-booth-on-wheels is.

College of the Canyons student Diana Frye reads the prompts on the screen in the electronic booth during a mock election held at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“If we can provide a good experience for the first time they vote, data shows they’re more likely to become regular voters,” said Logan. “For voters, the biggest hurdle we have to get over is that this is such a huge change, and how do you get the word to 5.4 million registered voters.”

All in all though, the voting system, despite the obstacles, is being considered as a positive step forward by officials, Logan said.

“I think the biggest game changer is that we’ll be able to resolve issues in real-time,” said Logan. “If somebody shows up to vote and there’s a problem with their registration or if they have difficulty in the act of voting, we know have the tools to address that right away.”

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