Planning to vote in 2020? Your traditional polling place may cease to exist. In 2020, some polling places will be replaced with vote centers.
Under the California Voter’s Choice Act, counties are allowed to revamp the election process and switch to a new model of voting. Fourteen counties in California were authorized to replace polling places with vote centers this year. The rest, including Los Angeles County, will be able to opt in and make the switch in 2020.
"The biggest difference between a traditional polling place and a vote center is that it really changes the game in terms of when, where and how a voter is able to cast his ballot," Los Angeles County Clerk Dean Logan said.
Citizens will be able to vote at any center in their county during an 11-day period that ends on Election Day. In contrast to polling places, the number of vote centers will be based on population. As Election Day gets closer, more centers will open.
"At traditional polling places, if there was any problem with your registration—if you hadn’t registered, if you’ve moved, changed parties—you couldn’t address that on Election Day,” Logan said. “Now you can take care of all of that in person at any vote center."
In addition to voting in-person at vote centers, people may: register to vote, update their voter registration, drop off their ballot or get a replacement ballot. County election officials will access voter registration data through an electronic mechanism. This technology will record when a voter casts a ballot.
"It eliminates provisional ballots because all of that will be able to be resolved on site," Logan said.
Vote centers in LA County will be equipped with new ballot-marking devices. The devices come with an array of accessibility features that will allow voters to customize their ballot. Voters can pick from multiple languages, adjust screen brightness, font size and toggle back and forth through the ballot.
The ballot then prints out on traditional paper that will be counted independently.
"The device itself assists you in marking the ballot, it doesn’t retain any of your vote data," Logan said. "It really is to ensure that you have marked the ballot clearly."
Five counties in California decided to implement vote centers for the 2018 primary elections. California Common Cause, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, monitored vote centers in some of these counties. Pollsters found that vote centers helped accommodate people’s busy lives.
"It’s enabling people who are ready to vote to have a lot of different options and not to hit barriers, just because they’ve missed a particular deadline or because they didn’t know where to vote," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.
Voter turnout also increased in minority and lower income communities where vote centers were implemented, Feng said.
As 2020 approaches, LA County is working with organizations like California Common Cause and city clerks to educate communities on the future of voting.
Want to get involved? You can nominate a place to be a voting center by visiting this site.