Sweeping Changes to Malibu Voting Process Will Begin in 2020

A couple of people attending LA County’s presentation at the Malibu Public Library get a lesson on the new voting machines.

Big changes are in store for Malibu voters beginning with California’s presidential primary election on March 3, 2020.  It will be the first time the state holds its presidential primary election in March instead of June, after a law passed in 2016. In addition, it will be the first election to implement sweeping changes in LA County’s election process that have been in the works for years.

LA County gave its first local presentation on all the voting changes at the Malibu Public Library on Monday night, Aug. 26, kicking off what is expected to be a massive public education campaign before the primary. 

“Even if you live under a rock, by next March, you will still know that LA County has a new voting system,” joked Laura Herrera, VSAP (Voting Solutions for All People) project assistant. 

She told about upcoming “mock elections” that will be held in 50 county locations on Sept. 28 and 29, including the Malibu Senior Center (not officially announced yet), to further introduce people to the new system. 

Traditional polling places will be replaced by a smaller number of multipurpose “vote centers.”  Potential vote center locations for Malibu include: Fire Camp 8 (1960 Rambla Pacifico), Malibu Bluffs Park, City Hall, Malibu High School and Webster Elementary School. In addition, Pepperdine University has volunteered to host a vote center and provide staff. The voting center locations aren’t finalized yet, because they still have to be approved at the state level and go through a public comment period. The new vote centers are all required to be wheelchair accessible. 

The new voting model will allow voters to cast a ballot at any vote center location in the county over an 11-day period. In other words, a Malibu voter can vote anywhere in the county that’s convenient—they don’t have to just stick to Malibu. If there’s a vote center near work, school or errands, a voter can just go there. There will be an online list of vote centers, and the county has put a great deal of effort into studying the best places to put them. No matter what location a voter goes to, the county will bring up the proper ballot for a voter’s precinct based on their residential address. 

Because there will be fewer vote centers than there were traditional polling places, the county hopes to save money by having fewer “election workers” (formerly known as “poll workers”).

Voters can also use the vote centers to drop off absentee ballots, cast their vote on a newly designed ballot-marking device or update their registration. Eventually, all registered voters will receive their ballots by mail, and will be able to use them to vote by mail or in person.

The new system, passed by state lawmakers in 2016 as the California Voter’s Choice Act, is intended to give voters more choices on when and how they cast ballots. Supporters of the new law say having just one day and one location in which to vote is an outmoded way of doing things.  

LA County is also replacing its low-tech voting devices with new machines designed by the firm IDEO, based on focus group feedback, input and in-person testing. The machines will be tested at some voting locations during local elections in November and then used by all voters on March 3, 2020.

The new voting system, also referred to as a “ballot marking device” features an adjustable touch screen to vote on, audio and visual output, printer, ballot box, built-in scanner, the ability to select one of 13 different languages, and adjust font size and contrast. 

The new voting “machine” is not connected to the internet, and is therefore impossible to hack, Herrera said. In addition, it is not paperless voting. “You still get a paper ballot,” she said. And the new system is expected to reduce the number of “provisional” ballots cast in each election by 90 percent. 

Voters can make their voting choices on their own smart phone at any time, then go to the voting center and scan in their QR code for fast and easy voting. Voters will also have the option to enter their ballot choices in-person at the voting center or to vote-by-mail with printed ballots.