Los Angeles County’s Got a New Voting System. Will it Work?

Bill Boyarsky
Columnist for LA Observed and former reporter, editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times

These are busy times for the many volunteers helping Los Angeles County officials educate voters on a new system for the March 3 primary that will revolutionize voting in the nation’s most populous county.

Say good-bye to the familiar neighborhood polling place.  Voters will have to find their way to centralized voting centers or vote by mail.  They don’t have to rush to the polls on election day. Voting will extend over 11 days. And no more punching those paper ballots, hoping that your puncher connects with your candidate’s name.  You’ll be voting on a device that looks like an I Pad.

 The details of how this will work was spelled out by Fox&Hounds editor and co publisher Joel Fox in a column on this site Sept. 30.   He went to one of the demonstrations and tests held by the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder. It shows what a big change the new system will mean in the coming primary.

I was interested in how the registrar recorder will explain the radical changes to the county’s 5.2 million voters.  I’ve seen too many elections in the county where the polling booth officials can’t find names on the voter list, took too long to count votes or got tangled up in other mistakes.

Registrar-recorder Dean Logan reached out to a number of community organizations to help his staff explain the new system.

I talked to Marilu Guevara, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Greater Los Angeles about the efforts.

I wondered about older voters, long accustomed to the neighborhood polling place and who will be confronted with distant voting centers and electronic voting devices. Older people, she noted, use mobile phones and other devices as well as home computers.  “I am not too concerned about the older people. They are so committed and invested in voting, they will vote.

“I am more concerned about new voters because they don’t have a long history of voting, so we need to make sure they know there is a vote center, and there is a new way of voting.  I think it will motivate more to come out, that they will feel voting is easier and feel it is secure. I think this will work.”

But others, in the camp known as “security hawks,” are skeptical of the new system.  They fear hacking of the votes and believe that only paper ballots provide the security needed for an election.

Judy Alter of Protect California Ballots told a program on the coming election “we are terrified.”

She said that the Los Angeles County system “has not been tested,” despite the trial elections held throughout the county in the past few months.

And she criticized the voting centers, saying, “They are fraught with problems,” including Angelenos finding them.

In the end, the county faces two tasks.  One is to educate the public. The League of Women Voters’  Guevera said the county signed up more than 60 community organizations around the county to do outreach and education.  

The other task is for the county to make the new system work.  We won’t know how that comes out until election day.

 

 

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