Gary Horton | L.A. County Makes Democracy More Accessible

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There are big, big, changes coming to your voting booth this upcoming primary election. Almost everything we’ve come to accept as standard and routine for how we vote has now changed…

Last Thursday night, my wife, Carrie, and I attended a “March Election Update” meeting at College of the Canyons, conducted by the Santa Clarita League of Women Voters. The meeting’s purpose was a non-partisan review of our new Los Angeles County voting machines and systems, as well as a discussion on the 2020 Census, and a super-informative Jim de Bree explanation of the three propositions on this year’s ballot. 

While all parts of the meeting were informative, the bright yellow, curvy new voting machines — Ballot Marking Device, or BMD — stole the show. 

L.A. County, the nation’s largest voting jurisdiction, containing 5.4 million registered voters, larger than 42 of our 50 states (yes, we’re really that big!), is launching its new experience in the modernization and democratization of voting. 

Gone, are your trusty old InkaVote system with that fun push-and-click pen you’d use to stick little black dots on paper cards. Gone is your old polling place. And as of this election, gone will be your old voting day. 

Everything has changed.

The new system is called, “Voting Solutions for All People” (VSAP) and was developed by L.A. County itself over the past 10 years at a cost of $300 million. The goal was to modernize voting while increasing the democratization of the voting process — to make voting more accessible for more people, to be more inclusive regardless of abilities, disabilities, languages and timetables. 

The new VSAP system is a national standout and may become a new gold standard in American voting, depending, actually, on just how well it works during the upcoming elections.

Representatives from the county demonstrated the new Ballot Marking Device. The machine is brilliant in simplicity and gorgeous in design. It addresses just about every voting concern I can imagine – from security to our diverse languages in L.A. County. 

You vote by jumbo touchscreen, but ballots are marked and stored in locked boxes on unhackable paper ballots. The machines are standalone and are fully disconnected from the Internet for security. 

The screens are adjustable for height, angle, brightness and 14 different languages. They’re designed to be fully adaptable for hearing, visual and physical impairments. Notably, some testers have been able to vote with their toes… No kidding. 

The physical design of the machine is brilliant and can easily be mistaken for the simplicity and user-friendliness of Apple consumer products. 

The county has produced more than 30,000 of these new wonder-machines. But they likely won’t be located at your old polling place. In place of the familiar are 1,000 voting centers. The largest here locally will be at COC and will feature more than 30 BMD’s. 

You can find all local voting centers here: https://locator.lavote.net/locations/vc. 

Here’s good news: You can vote at any voting center in the county. No need to rush to that one polling place with your name on that giant book of names and addresses. 

Voting days and times have changed, too. Voting begins as early as Feb. 22 and continues through March 3. Check ahead, as each voting center may have unique open days and hours, depending on the facility. No rush, no fuss, and you can now vote on your schedule, at your convenience, and your choice of location. 

Of course, you can always vote by mail and by now you already have your VBM ballots.

But, “How do they know it’s you, if you can vote anywhere?” 

That was the big question at our meeting. “By your signature.” Apparently, technology has advanced sufficiently that unique names, addresses and statewide stored signature types are sufficient to certifiably eliminate election fraud. 

L.A. County welcomes you to the modern voting world. This upcoming election is the Big Trial and we’re the voting lab mice in the voting laboratory…

Meanwhile, while we hear of conservative states restricting voter access and making voting harder and harder for working classes, L.A. County make a bold move toward furthering easy, accessible, convenient voting for all.

Let’s hope for our county’s success, no matter how you vote.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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