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SB updates its voting systems in preparation for 2020

Views 39 | Time to read: 2 minutes | Uploaded: 5 - 1 - 2019 | By: Rachel Clyde


In preparation for the 2020 primaries, Santa Barbara County is updating their voting systems. After 20 years, the office of the Clerk-Recorder, Assessor, and Elections Department is getting new ballot-tabulation machines. While the systems are “very secure” according to Joe Holland, the registrar of voters, the Department wants to stay updated. Additionally, Holland told the Horizon that these new machines will be significantly faster and will require less people to operate. Not only is Santa Barbara updating their voting systems, but so are 22 other California counties in preparation for the 2020 elections, according to Holland.

In the coming weeks, the Elections Department will be mailing all registered voters in the county with information for the primaries that are coming up in 11 months. They are “specifically targeting those voters that are no party preference,” because in order for them to vote in the primaries, they have to register for a specific party or, if they want to vote for a Democratic primary candidate, they need to fill out a crossover ballot. The Democratic Party allows voters with no party preference to vote in their primaries, while the Republican Party does not. The number of people who are registered with no party preference has gone way up in recent years. Holland told the Horizon that in both the state of California and Santa Barbara County there are more people not registered with a party than are registered as Republican. In 2018, legislation was passed that now allows people with no party preference to register with a party up until election day.

The demos for the new machines will be arriving in June so the Department can make a decision in July of 2019; this will then allow time for testing in the fall. Holland shared with the Horizon that the current machines are optical-scan technology which works similar to a scantron, while the new machines, called a “high-speed central cam system,” are all digital. They take a picture of the ballot and then can recognize the ballot and counts the vote. This system, Holland believes, will be significantly faster and will required fewer people to operate.

Holland anticipates “very high turnout” for both the March primaries and the November general election in 2020. He states that currently “there’s a lot of interest in elections” and people are very “energized.” Mail in ballots are sent out 29 days before the primary elections, so the county anticipates receiving ballots in early February.


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