Silicon Valley voters will be using an entirely new system to cast their ballots in 2020.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized the Registrar of Voters’ first voting technology upgrade since 2003, marking the end of drawn-out talks over how to bring its outdated system into the 21st century.
“We are looking forward to this change,” Registrar of Voters (ROV) Shannon Bushey said in a news release after the Board of Supervisors OK’d the plan. “We think voters will like the new system, and we appreciate the increase in performance and processing speed the new voting system will bring, as well as its stringent vote-security measures.”
Tuesday’s vote greenlights a complete system overhaul. That means Bushey’s office is slated to receive high-speed central scanners and new ballot review stations for staff at the ROV office on Berger Drive in San Jose. It also entails in-person voting equipment such as ballot scanners, tabulators and ADA-compliant ballot-marking devices for the Vote Centers that will replace polling places next year.
One of the biggest boons from the new system will be the decentralized count, officials say. Under the current setup, all ballots must be returned to the ROV headquarters for tabulation. After this system overhaul, the county will be able to conduct remote tallies, which will greatly speed up posted results on election night.
Each Vote Center will have at least three ADA-compliant ballot-marking devices, including a touchscreen tablet and individual printer, according to the county ROV. These contraptions will give voters an intuitive interface, ROV officials said in a press release sent to reporters on Tuesday.
“After marking a ballot on the touchscreen, voters will print the ballot in their voting booth,” the announcement explained. “The voters will then deposit their paper ballot in the ballot tabulator. The ballot tabulator will warn the voter about potential errors and allow the voter an opportunity to correct the error.”
One of the perks of the new system is that it will create an audit trail for each ballot cast, according to the county. It will also document how each mark on each ballot was interpreted and counted so it can be reviewed at any time during a post-election canvass.
“This provides insight into how the system interprets ballots when counting voters,” county officials stated, “something that was previously not available.”
To make sure that the new system is secure, it will remain completely disconnected from the internet and any external communication network.
The county will lease the new system for $15 million over the next eight years. Leasing will provide the flexibility in case there’s a need to upgrade or swap out the system entirely. State grants for voting modernization may offset about $5.6 million of the cost.