By Juan Calvillo
The Los Angeles County Clerk’s office has completely overhauled the voting system in the county and will implement the changes for the 2020 presidential election. These changes are part of efforts to increase voter turnout and were announced last Tuesday at a meeting held by the Clerk’s office, the Women’s studies department and the East Los Ángeles college students for political awareness and advocacy, ELAC Students for Political Awareness and Advocacy, ESPAA club. Changes include longer voting periods for certain polling areas and consolidated elections. Voters will also be able to make use of the Voter Solution for All People, a newly developed electronic ballot system.
Creating and implementing the VSAP has taken some time. “The process of VSAP implementation has been in the works for the past 10 years,” said Christine Lee, project coordinator for the election division.
Starting with the 2020 elections the ballots for voting in person will be changing to the VSAP, an electronic ballot system which will include an electronic sample ballot as well. Voters will be able to downloadan application to use the electronic ballot system.
Part of this system are new voting devices tentatively being called Ballot Marking Devices or BMD. The majority of the voting process will take place there. This does not do away with paper ballots, it simply makes the voting system more streamlined and easier. The BMD will simply read a generated quick response code, QR code, from a voters device and this will generate a voters ballot. There will no longer be a need to give voters information or the ballot that has been cast to anyone, it will simply be fed into the machine after voting is done. The Clerk’s office hopes that by making it digital it will do away with many of the concerns that come from mistakes done during the voting process.
The Clerk’s office has taken steps to secure the BMD against hacking attempts. Hacking of election ballots has been a controversial issue in the past, and these new machines were taken to Devcon in Las Vegas, where programmers took a stab at getting into the system, but told the Clerk’s office that it was unhackable.
One of the biggest changes comes in the form of the expanded vote by mail ballot. It will be much more detailed and in a larger format for first time voters and seniors. The vote by mail ballot can still be sent through the mail but will also be allowed to be deposited at voting centers, or it can be surrendered at a center in exchange for a paper ballot.
Voting centers are undergoing changes as well. Across LA County there have been up to 5000 voting centers in past elections. The number of these has been cut down to 1000 combining two or three districts into each of the remaining centers. With this decrease the amount of time that votes can be cast has been increased. Some voting centers will be open from three to eleven days during the election period. In past elections, voter turnout has been abysmal. Lee said turnout has been as low as 10 percent. With these changes the county looks forward to an increase in turnout.
Elections in the 2020 cycle will also look different. There will no longer be seperate state and federal elections. The elections will be combined, again for a more streamlined experience for voters. The original timetable for elections were, June for primaries and November for the general election. The dates for the primaries has been changed to March 3, while the general elections remain november 3. The order for the new ballots will be voting for city, county, state and federal elections.
Lee urged students that have not registered to register and explained that people only need to reregister if they meet any of the following: a name change, an address change, or a political party change. She also talked about the upcoming 2020 Census.
Lee said, “LA county is one of the hardest, or it is the hardest county to count in the entire nation.” She said that the multiple languages, 90 across the state, is just one of the reasons for the difficulty and misinformation that sometimes comes with the census. Lee said that from the 883 billion federal funds the government had to give to states, California received 115 billion for schools, health care, housing and many other programs.
Lee wanted to confirm that the citizenship question that was struck down earlier by the Supreme Court will not be a part of the Census questionnaire. And that the main way to turn in the Census will be online. An identification number would be sent by the Census Bureau and people would use this to log in and fill out the census. Census Action Kiosks, which are tablets that allow people to enter their codes and answer the entire census. This is for those who may not have internet access.
More information for the VSAP process can be found at http://vsap.lavote.net and for people who have not registered to vote, that can be done through https://registertovote.ca.gov/.