With California's primary election just a few weeks away, officials are making the rounds to get the word out about how Los Angeles County residents will have a brand new voting experience and what will be different for them this year. The new voting system, Voting Solutions for All People, isn't just aiming to make voting easier and more convenient for the 5 million registered voters across the county, it's also an effort to modernize a system that hasn't been updated in more than four decades.
Dean Logan, L.A. County's Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, talked about the changes and why LA's voting system was in serious need of an upgrade.
"If you think about it, through the lens of the voter, when you walk into a polling place, the type of equipment and the process that you go through has been the same since 1968, obviously that's been a long time. That was when Robert Kennedy was on the ballot in the primary that year and things have changed since then," said Logan.
Logan says that while some things in the background and with infrastructure have changed over the years, voters have had the same voting experience for decades.
"As far as what you experience as a voter, inserting the equivalent of an IBM card over the vote recorder device, putting it over those pegs, and then punching or inking the holes on that, it's just not a familiar technology," Logan said. "Part of what we tried to do in this process, is to modernize that to address usability issues."
Logan says LA County wanted a voting system that anyone could use - whether they have some kind of disability or speak a different language.
"This new system gives them the ability to customize that voting experience and to vote independently," Logan said.
in response to the previous, aging systems and are meant to make it easier for voters to to customize their voting experience to fit their needs. Voters can access 13 languages and adjust the touch screen to a comfortable angle as well as change the display settings such as text size and contrast or go through the ballot using the audio headset and control pad. The iPad-like device is attached to a plastic table with privacy dividers to allow voters privacy while they cast their ballot.
Logan says it's understandable that people might be nervous about using the new ballot marking devices - especially as there are reported efforts to disrupt elections across the country.
"It is secure," Logan said. "I think what's important to remind everybody about this is what the title implies - it's a ballot marking device. So we still rely on, and our law requires in California, a paper ballot."
That means when voters go to the vote center this year, you'll receive a blank paper ballot which you'll insert into the ballot marking device, giving you all the benefits of the touchscreen user interface. Logan the new system gives voters the chance to ensure they didn't miss anything to vote on, and prevents over voting which has been a problem in the past.
"At the end of that, you'll review your choices on a screen and when you're satisfied that that's how you intend to vote, you'll actually print that out on the paper ballot," said Logan. "Get a chance to review that in human readable text and then that goes into the secure ballot box."
That ensures that the county has a paper record that can be audited or recounted while retaining all the benefits of the touchscreen device and avoids problems like extraneous marks on paper ballots. The device isn't counting your vote or retaining any data - it's just being used as a way to obtain a clear record of voter's votes.
Listen to our full conversation with Dean about how voting is changing in Los Angeles County so you can be ready to vote in California's primary on March 3!
Photos: Getty Images & @rickerthewriter