Agenda Item   

AGENDA STAFF REPORT

 

                                                                                                                        ASR Control  17-000051

 

MEETING DATE:

05/09/17

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

No Legal Objection

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: N/A

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION(S):

 

Authorize the Registrar of Voters or a designee to issue a Request for Proposals for the procurement of a new voting system that will support a Vote Center voting model throughout the 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 (SB) 450 requirements addressing a growing need for updated voting methods.

 

 

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

 

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, the system has now reached its end of life due to several critical factors.

 

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 end of 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.

 

Additionally, California Senate Bill (SB) 450, entitled the California Voter’s Choice Act, was signed into law on September 29, 2016. The bill authorizes specified counties (including Orange County) on or after January 2, 2018, to conduct any election using Vote Centers instead of polling places.

 

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

 

Since late 2015, the Registrar of Voters has been conducting research in 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 more 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 1.2 million ballots cast in the 2016 Presidential General Election, 45.3% equaling nearly 700,000 were vote-by-mail ballots.

 

·         

Currently 61% of all registered voters have signed up for permanent vote-by-mail status (a 6,507% increase since 1996).

 

·         

Voters dropping off mail ballots in person has doubled since 2004 (currently 1 in 5 voters choose 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 tending 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 somewhat like voting at a polling place. A voter enters the Vote Center and 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 anyone 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 - 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 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

Direct Record Electronic voting units

*

*

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 Board authorization to issue a Request for Proposals for a comprehensive voting system specifically designed for County elections meeting the design and requirements listed in California Senate Bill (SB) 450 as well as any and all applicable federal, state and local election code requirements. In addition to supporting Vote Center elections, the desirable system will provide efficiencies in the processing of Orange County’s 1.5 million registered voters focusing on security, integration, customization, data conversion, training, documentation and project management. 

 

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 outlined in the California Voter’s Choice Act, which include the use of In-Person Electronic Capture Voting Systems and/or Ballot on Demand ballot creation options are estimated at $14,177,550 and $8,537,550 respectively.  These figures are a substantial savings compared to projected costs for capital expenditures to support traditional election models estimated between $40,000,000 and $23,400,000 for similar equipment options on the larger platform of polling based elections. 

 

Additionally, the County would be eligible for potential reimbursement via Assembly Bill (AB) 668, the “Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018.”  If passed by voters in June 2018, the County would receive $3.00 in matching funds for every $1.00 spent on Vote Center equipment, versus $2.00 in matching funds for every $1.00 spent on traditional election equipment.

 

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, it is recommended that the County implement the Voter’s Choice Act in all future elections, beginning with initial implementation in the June 2018 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 2017-18 recommended budget.  FY 2017-18 Recommended Budget Book published on May 9, 2017, included an Expand Level of Service Augmentation as a placeholder for the New Voting System (with zero amount), which will be modified for the FY 2017-18 Public Hearing Budget based on the directions and authorization from the Board of Supervisors for this Agenda Staff Report.

 

 

 

STAFFING IMPACT:

 

N/A

 

ATTACHMENT(S):

 

Attachment A – Voter’s Choice Act Briefing Document
Attachment B – California Senate Bill 450