L.A. County voters to track wait times for November election

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

Los Angeles County announced Friday that new technology will help registered voters track wait times at the polls and that everyone will receive mail-in ballots this November, changes aimed at improving operations amid the pandemic and provided after a report found multiple issues with the March primary election, including software breakdowns. 

This year, the county pushed out its Voting Solutions for All People to replace the former system with touchscreen voting and provided voters with multiple locations to cast their ballots, as well as offer them a voting period of 11 days.

For November, every registered voter is expected to receive a vote-by-mail ballot in an effort to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 due to continued concerns about overcrowding at vote centers. Still, the county has announced that centers will be open with safety measures in place for voters who would still like to cast their ballots in person. 

Voters will also receive new tools that will allow them to track wait times at the locations with shorter lines. Poll workers will also have access to more devices used to check in and verify voters, known as electronic pollbooks, and will include new, streamlined voter look-up search functions. 

These changes come after an independent review of the March primary election found issues pertaining to faulty e-pollbooks, staffing shortages, a lack of training and poor technology vendor management, which “led to long wait times and a poor voter experience during the election,” read the report by Slalom LLC, which interviewed 50 vote center workers and surveyed more than 250 voters. 

“Design and testing issues with the voter check-in technology caused the system to freeze frequently, resulting in long delays and bottlenecks during check-in at vote centers and requiring workers to provide provisional ballots to many voters who otherwise would have been permitted to vote in the traditional manner,” read the report. 

In the Santa Clarita Valley, many residents experienced wait times of up to two hours, including Stevenson Ranch resident Shana Thomas, who had to wait with her children, one of whom is paralyzed. “It was a circus to have her wait outside for two hours,” she said on Super Tuesday in March. 

To address the various issues, the report recommended improving training and communications, improving the e-pollbooks technology for better voter check-ins and begin vote center selections and recruitment activities as soon as possible ahead of November. 

The county’s Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk also conducted its own investigation following a Board of Supervisors’ motion and identified improvements, such as the new technology to track wait times and sending out mail-in ballots. 

“RR/CC is engaged with the Secretary of State and a broad range of community stakeholders to prepare for the November 2020 Presidential General Election considering the effects of COVID-19 on the voting experience,” the county report read.  

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