Agenda Item   

AGENDA STAFF REPORT

 

                                                                                                                        ASR Control  19-000154

 

MEETING DATE:

02/26/19

legal entity taking action:

Board of Supervisors

board of supervisors district(s):

All Districts

SUBMITTING Agency/Department:

Registrar of Voters   (Approved)

Department contact person(s):

Neal Kelley (714) 567-5139 

 

 

Kim Golden (714) 567-5107

 

 

Subject:  Authorize Request for Proposal for Vote Centers and Vote System Equipment

 

      ceo CONCUR

County Counsel Review

Clerk of the Board

Concur

Approved Resolution to Form

Discussion

 

 

3 Votes Board Majority

 

 

 

    Budgeted: N/A

Current Year Cost: N/A

Annual Cost: N/A

 

 

 

    Staffing Impact:

No

# of Positions:

Sole Source: N/A

    Current Fiscal Year Revenue: N/A

  Funding Source: GF: 100%

County Audit in last 3 years: No

 

 

    Prior Board Action: 6/13/2017 #S2A

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION(S):

 

Authorize by resolution the Registrar of Voters or a designee to issue a Request for Proposals for the procurement of a new voting system that will support one of four options (cost options one through four corresponding to Resolutions one through four, respectively) described in the Background Information section and in the attachments, defining the voting model to be used for future elections throughout Orange County.

 

 

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

Approval to issue a Request for Proposals for a new voting system that will replace current election equipment that has reached its end of life and will support vote center voting in compliance with California Senate Bill  450 or continue with a polling place model.

 

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

 

As noted in a prior request brought to the Board of Supervisors (Board) on June 13, 2017, the County’s current voting system was initially implemented in 2003.  Under federal certification, a voting system must be designed to last “10 years.”  Through careful maintenance, the useful life of the system has been extended.  Despite these efforts and due to several critical factors noted below, continuously failing equipment have been removed from service as the current voting system reaches its end of life.

 

 

The voting system contains aging hardware components that are increasingly failing and require higher levels of maintenance between elections.  In addition, the system relies on hardware, software and operating system components that are at the end of their useful life, no longer supported and cannot be updated.  Finally, there are limited hardware options for ballot printing and scanning; it is not optimized to support Risk Limiting Audits, recounts or manual hand counts, and the ballot creation process is not scalable for the increasing language and accessibility requirements in the County.

 

While traditional polling place voting remains an option for the County, more efficient options are available.  The California Voter’s Choice Act, effected via California Senate Bill (SB) 450, was signed into law on September 29, 2016.  The bill authorized specified counties, including Orange County, on or after January 2, 2018, to conduct any election using Vote Centers instead of polling places.

 

Under the Voter’s Choice Act model, multiple polling places are replaced by highly accessible neighborhood Vote Centers that are carefully selected facilities and open for four to 10 days prior to an election.  In addition, secure ballot drop-off boxes would be located throughout the County to allow voters to drop off their vote by mail ballots.

 

Since late 2015, the Registrar of Voters has been conducting research on how Vote Centers work, the implications of implementing Vote Centers and the advantages and disadvantages of moving to a Vote Center model.

 

The research shows that with technology constantly advancing, the traditional polling place model has fallen behind the needs and expectations of Orange County voters.  Multiple polling places in a single neighborhood cause confusion with local voters and leave them uncertain about where to vote, and eventually lead to an increased casting of provisional ballots.  In addition, the narrow timeframe of Election Day is becoming increasingly difficult for voters to work around.

 

Orange County voters have gradually changed the way they vote to accommodate their own schedule and lifestyle.  Because of these changes several trends have emerged:

 

·         

Of the 1.1 million ballots cast in the 2018 Statewide General Election, nearly 700,000 were vote-by-mail representing approximately 44% of the 1.6 million registered voters.

 

·         

Currently, 69% of all registered voters have signed up for permanent vote-by-mail status (a 7,360% increase since 1996).

 

·         

Voters dropping off mail ballots in person has doubled since 2004 (currently, one in five voters chooses this method over mailing).

 

·         

Provisional ballots have doubled since 2004 (due to voters voting in the wrong polling place or neglecting to bring their vote-by-mail ballot to surrender).

 

·         

The number of voters casting ballots at polling places has dropped an average of 20% since 2004 (exceeding 50–75% in many locations throughout the County).

 

 

These trends illustrate that voters are trending toward convenience rather than physical proximity.  Over time, voter behavior has shifted to meet the benefits found in a Vote Center model.

 

The voting experience at a Vote Center is similar to voting at a polling place, while much more efficient.  Upon entering the Vote Center, the voter is greeted by a County-employed election worker who directs the voter to a check-in line.  However, unlike a polling place, the check-in stations would be equipped with electronic poll books equipped with voter fraud controls, which allow the election worker to verify the identity of the voter quickly and easily.  Some additional features of a Vote Center include:

 

·         

In-person voting: the primary function of a Vote Center is to provide a place for voters to cast their ballots.  Any registered voter would be able to vote at any one of approximately 150 Vote Centers, regardless of where he or she is registered in Orange County (eliminating provisional ballots due to incorrect polling locations).

 

·         

Open multiple days and weekends: Vote Centers would be open four to 10 days prior to Election Day, including weekends.  They would also be open during longer hours - 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. - on the four days before Election Day to provide more opportunity for voters to cast their ballot or drop off their vote-by-mail ballot.

 

·         

Vote-by-mail ballot drop-off options: Vote-by-mail voters would be able to drop off their ballot at any Vote Center, and select Vote Centers would have drive-thru drop-off stations.  In addition, approximately 100 secure vote-by-mail ballot drop-off boxes would be located throughout the County to allow a voter to bypass the postal system.

 

·         

Ballot status and replacement ballots: Vote Center poll books would be connected to the statewide and Countywide database of registered voters and their voting status, providing real-time data and verification regarding ballots cast.  For example, this would allow an election worker to void an original vote-by-mail ballot left at a voter’s home and print a replacement ballot for the voter, who can then fill it out and cast it on the same visit (also eliminating the need for provisional ballots).

 

·         

General voter assistance: Voters would be able to visit any Vote Center in the 10-day period to inquire about any election-related questions or concerns.

 

 

The full range of benefits between polling places and Vote Centers includes:

 

Comparison of Benefits - Polling Places vs Vote Centers

 

Polling Places

Vote Centers

Electronic tablet voting booth

*

*

Disabled access voting units

*

*

Drop-off vote-by-mail ballot at any site

*

*

Secure electronic poll books with voter fraud controls

 

*

Voter list, synced with master database

 

*

Ballot-on-demand technology

 

*

Elimination of provisional ballots

 

*

Well-trained extra help staff

 

*

All sites fully accessible during voting period

 

*

Vote at any site in the County

 

*

Voting period is open for multiple days

 

*

 

The Registrar of Voters is requesting the Board’s direction on options one through four below and authorization to issue a Request for Proposals for a comprehensive voting system specifically designed for County elections meeting the design and requirements listed in SB 450, as well as any and all applicable federal, state and local Elections Code requirements.  In addition to supporting Vote Center elections, the desirable system will provide efficiencies in the processing of Orange County’s 1.6 million registered voters focusing on security, integration, customization, data conversion, training, documentation and project management. 

 

Options 1–4

Vote Center model voting includes financial advantages in addition to the enhanced voting options listed above.  Estimated costs for capital expenditures to support Vote Center elections as required in the California Voter’s Choice Act, which include the use of In-Person Electronic Tablet Voting Booths and/or Ballot on Demand ballot creation options, are estimated between $11,273,550 and $49,199,254, respectively.  Options 1 and 2 represent a substantial savings compared to projected costs for capital expenditures to support traditional election models.  Option 4 is estimated to cost between $23,400,000 and $40,000,000 for similar equipment on the larger platform of polling based elections. 

 

Vote Center Model

Description

Estimated Capital Costs

Option One

188 total site locations

$11,273,550-$18,846,546

Option Two

313 total site locations

$18,398,550-$31,009,077

Option Three

500 total site locations

$29,057,550-$49,199,254

 

Traditional Polling Place

Description

Estimated Capital Costs

Option Four

1200 site locations

$23,400,000-$40,000,000

 

 

Funding Opportunities

 

New State Funding Sources for System Replacement

 

The Governor’s FY 2018–19 state budget provides $134 million for replacing voting systems throughout California.  This cost includes a one-time purchase of a portion of the necessary hardware, software, peripherals and one year’s worth of software licenses.

 

The use of this funding will require that Orange County match funds for eligible expenditures on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  Orange County has been allocated $9,823,000. The amount allocated to Orange County was based on a number of factors, including the size of our County, the number of voting precincts and voting equipment needs.

 

New Federal Funding Sources for System Replacement

 

Recently, the United States Congress passed, and the President signed, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which appropriated $380 million in 2018 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Election Security Fund grants for election security.

 

California was awarded $34,558,874 of these allocated funds. The Secretary of State has been designated to decide how the funds will be used in California.  His office has submitted its plan to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and has broken down the funding for the current fiscal year as follows:

 

q  $1.5 million for county support for cyber security related to the statewide voter database

q  $1.5 million for county support for polling place accessibility and improvements

q  $20 million for county support for Vote Center implementation

q  Remaining $10 million for additional cyber security, election auditing, training and associated personnel costs in fiscal years 2019 – 2020 and 2020 – 2021.

 

Based on the current $3 million allocated for cybersecurity and polling place accessibility, Orange County has been allocated $110,000, or 3.7 percent, of the total funds.  Allocations have not been made for the $20 million in Vote Center support.  If the same formula is applied, Orange County is estimated to receive $740,000.  However, the total amount has not been finalized and is likely to be larger, as equipment costs are much higher in comparison.  The Registrar of Voters continues to discuss with the Secretary of State how the $20 million will be allocated, along with what types of restrictions will be placed on the funding.

 

Based on the detailed analysis of the County’s current voting system, extensive research on the benefits of a Vote Center model and the reduced costs associated with implementation of Vote Centers, the Registrar of Voters recommends and requests that the Board select a proposed option that supports implementation of Voter’s Choice Act in all future elections, beginning with partial equipment implementation in the March 2020 Primary.  This recommendation aligns with trends in voter behavior and preference, technology advances, voting system costs and community input.

 

Upon evaluation of the merits of the proposals by a qualified evaluation panel of raters, the Registrar of Voters will return to your Board with a recommendation on a specific vendor(s) following completion of the Request for Proposals process.

 

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT:

 

 

Appropriations for the replacement of the voting system will be included in the FY 2019-20 recommended budget and will be included in the budgeting process for future years.

 

 

STAFFING IMPACT:

 

N/A

 

ATTACHMENT(S):

 

Attachment A – Voter’s Choice Act Briefing Document
Attachment B – California Senate Bill 450
Attachment C – Resolution 1
Attachment D – Resolution 2
Attachment E – Resolution 3
Attachment F – Resolution 4