Mock election in Hermosa Beach

Participants cast mock ballots during a polling demonstration in Hermosa Beach. (Photo courtesy Trent Larson)

Election season is well under way — does it ever really end any more? — and this weekend, the Los Angeles County registrar’s office showed off how it is preparing for the 2020 vote.

The public got a hands-on look at new, higher-tech voting devices by participating in a mock election at 50 sites around the county, including at Hermosa Beach's Clark Building on Saturday and Sunday.

The devices, slated to be debuted for the Presidential Primary in March 2020, are able to be used in 13 languages, and exceed national security standards for voting, according to Dean C. Logan, the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk for LA County.

For security reasons, officials wouldn’t allow photos to be taken of the machines on Saturday, but images are available on the registrar’s website. Suffice to say, they look a lot like iPads or other tablet-style computers.

What’s the endgame?

The new devices aim for a middle ground between the assured security of traditional paper ballots and the ease of modern, touch-screen voting machines.

The devices are electronic and easy to navigate — but they are not connected to the Internet, and, in the end, the ballots voters cast still result in paper ballots.

So what’s the difference? The new voting devices replace the old ink-dab-on-paper process with a user-friendly electronic interface designed to be accessible across language barriers and to people living with disabilities.

Instead of making selections by filling in bubbles with ink pens, the new devices allow voters to via simple, easy-to-understand touchscreen device. The machine prints the voter’s choices in plain language onto a paper ballot, for them to check, double-check, change if necessary and then, officially, cast.

Perhaps the biggest changes from the past is that voters will now be allowed to vote during the 11 days leading up to election day, instead of just on election Tuesday itself. And they will be allowed to vote at any location in LA County, not just the assigned polling place closest to their homes.

Upon receiving their noticeably blank ballot from the registrar’s volunteers, voters insert the sheet into the voting device, choose their language and accessibility options by using the touch screen menu, or the hand controller.

Headphones are available at every booth, with options for changing volume, rate of speech, and language. Voters then are led option-by-option through the ballot, which still allows voters to write-in candidates, too.

For the mock election, participants were asked to vote on their favorite LA sports teams (lobbying for the Dodgers was noticeably NOT banned at the location this reporter visited), their favorite LA parks, landmarks, beaches and the like.

When finished, the device prints their choices onto their ballot and returns it to the voters for them to examine. When they’re satisfied, voters may then return the ballot to the device which casts it into a secure collection bin on the back of the device, or hand it to the volunteers.

There are still one or two bugs in the system that prevent it from being accessible to everyone. But officials are confident they will be ironed out before the devices officially debut.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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