California Primary 2020: Santa Clara County voters to use new technology to cast vote on Super Tuesday

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County's 948,975 registered voters overwhelmingly vote by mail (80%), and the Registrar of Voters office has already tabulated about 55,000 of them.

However, those who choose to vote in person will be seeing a new array of technology at 110 voting centers that replace traditional polling places.

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The county spent $13 million to lease and create an electronic system from two vendors that replaces an old system in use since 2003. Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey says the new system is secure because it is not connected to the internet and is not vulnerable to hacking.

At the voting centers, voters will first encounter a tablet-based check-in process to verify registration and to allow no party preference voters to request a specific party ballot. A voter may elect to vote by touch screen or by paper ballot. If a paper ballot is requested, the voter can then specify a language choice, such as Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog or Vietnamese. Special printers produce the ballot on demand.

Electronic voters are given a chip card that is used to activate and display the ballot on a touch screen. Those with hearing needs will find headsets and a hand controller to adjust volume and speed of the voice assistance. Those with sight impairment can adjust the size of the image on the screen.

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The touch screen then produces a paper ballot that is taken to a scanner where it is either accepted or flagged because of a problem, such as a stray marking or a ballot with too few or too many choices cast.

Even marking the ballot has changed. Instead of filling a gap between two sections of an arrow, voters will find a red dot, which they will fill with a provided marking pen.

Back room tabulations are handled by 18 high-speed scanners, called Hi-Pro's, which can process up to 200 ballots per minute. All voting results are backed up by a paper trail.

While vote-by-mail balloting is already underway, the 110 voting centers will open this Saturday. Any registered voter can cast ballots at any center in the county, which is a new option.

A small army of elections workers has undergone weeks of training on the new system. They are now preparing to distribute 1,200 new tablets, 600 printers and 900 touch screens to the voting centers on Friday.

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