In this age of smartphones, touch-screens and the Internet, Los Angeles County’s 50-year old voting system of punch cards and user guides ranks closer to the era of chalk marks and blackboards. Now, the most populous county in the U.S. is less than one year away from completing the design stage of an overhaul that could mark the beginning of a new way of voting in California and beyond. Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder for Los Angeles, where five million voters currently cast ballots on ink-based machines, expects the design phase to be wrapped up by this time next year and the new voting system fully operational for the 2020 elections. “The hallmark of this project is that we’re designing it for the voter first, to make sure that the voting experience is a good one and the thing that makes this so exciting is that we’re operating in a time when you can do that,” said Logan. “You can focus on the user and then back into the technology and the software.”
To find out exactly what kind of experience people want when they vote, the County gave its project the Silicon Valley treatment by teaming up with the design firm IDEO, the Bay Area company that helped create one of the most innovative products millions of people now take for granted: Apple’s first computer mouse.
“Their expertise is in the user experience,” Logan says. “[Aside from extensive surveys,] sometimes they just randomly talked to people about how they interact with other services and got their feedback.” The result: If you’ve ever used a smartphone, voting should be a cinch.
“For example, some of the components will include touch-screen technology and the majority of people are already familiar with that,” said Logan. “It also allows for voters to customize the equipment if they want to hear the ballot in another language. If they want to change the font size or the screen contrast they can do that as well.”