When Isabel Acosta and her husband Pablo Reyes showed up to vote early Saturday morning at the Weingart East LA YMCA, they immediately noticed the drastic changes in the way they were voting.
“The system is much easier than the one we had before,” said Reyes, who has voted in every election since he became a naturalized U.S. citizen some 20 years ago. “It’s much faster.”
In the past, the Boyle Heights couple had struggled to cast their votes because of their location, work schedule, or time. Speaking in Spanish, Reyes said that at their former voting site, Hollenbeck Middle School, there were sometimes long lines when he showed up to vote early in the morning on election Tuesday.
“This [location] is actually closer to our home,” said Acosta, also speaking in Spanish.
Acosta and Reyes were among the first area voters to benefit from Los Angeles County’s new voting system at Weingart, one of four Boyle Heights locations that opened Saturday morning. Along with three other locations in the neighborhood that opened Feb. 22, they will be receiving voters registered anywhere in the county through March 3.
The extended hours and locations and new, easier to use technology, are the result of this year’s implementation of Los Angeles County’s 2019 Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) initiative. With 5.2 million voters the nation’s largest voting jurisdiction, the County reportedly spent 10 years and $100 million in developing an open source technology system that officials say will cut down on mechanical breakdowns and provide protections against hacking.
To make it easier for voters, the county set up voting centers to be equally spread out throughout the jurisdiction and extended voting opportunities from 13 hours on voting day to 11 days prior to March 3. (Voters can get complete information about available sites at www.lavote.net.)
The new voting system is challenging the traditional method by creating accessible features such as a keyboard, headphones, and a tablet.
A voter showing up to vote Saturday at the local YMCA received assistance immediately. At a table, a poll worker asked for his name and looked for it on her Ebook, an iPad. Once the voter’s name was found, the poll worker turned the Ebook and asked for the voter to verify his address and sign the Ebook. Then a blank ballot was printed with the voter’s name along with his party affiliation, or lack of, on top.
The poll worker then walked the voter to the new tablet and the empty ballot was set on a scanner. Before the selections appeared, the tablet gave the voter a choice from several languages in which to vote. With a simple tap of his finger, the voter was able to read the selections and choose the candidates or write in the name of a candidate if he wished to do so.
Once he finished selecting candidates and deciding on propositions, the voter was allowed to review his choices on the tablet. Before his vote was cast, the paper ballot with all of his selections was printed and the voter was able to review that before his vote was cast.
Watch a video on the County’s new ballot marking device:
The system allows voters to “review that you voted correctly, that you did things well,” exclaimed Acosta, who said that she and her husband voted both for local candidates and initiatives as well as in the presidential primary.
Asked what changes they would like to see in future voting, the Boyle Heights couple said they were less concerned with technology than with the actual result of the election process.
“I’d like to see a difference in people’s attitudes,’ Reyes said. “That they don’t just show up and vote, just to say that they voted.”
Reyes agreed, saying that it would be important for people to “inform themselves well about the candidates proposals and what is most beneficial to us as Latinos.”
Standing outside the YMCA, the couple held on to one unchanged concept about voting. Both declined to state their party affiliation and refused, with a chuckle, to say who they voted for.
“No se dice,” said Reyes.
“No se vale decir, ¡es privado!,” chimed in Acosta.
Need help with where to vote, who to vote for? Check out our complete guide at boyleheightsbeat.com/Vote2020