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New voting system for county, one of five in state to get one

The Madera Tribune Steven Bennett, Regional Sales Manager at Dominion Voting Systems, gives a demonstration.

Madera County Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez has announced the county-wide implementation of “The Voters Choice Act,” known as California Senate Bill 450.


“The purpose of SB 450 is to improve the process for the voters,” said Martinez.

Under the previous balloting system voters who chose to vote in person were required to visit the polling place provided, based on geography, on Election Day.

Using the new system the polls will be open for 11 days, including weekends, at two Vote Centers. The last four days’ balloting will be available at six locations. Vote Centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Election Day. On Election Day Vote Centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In the last election, 67 percent of registered Madera County voters received a vote-by-mail ballot, Martinez said. There were 15,211 voters who visited polling places and 28,975 ballots returned by mail.

Beginning with the upcoming June 5 primary election every registered voter in the county will be sent a vote-by-mail ballot 29 days prior to the election. The public needs only to fill out their ballots and have them postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

During the 10-day period leading up to Election Day those interested in voting in person need only to visit one of two designated Vote Centers. Beginning on June 2 the number of Vote Centers will expand to a total of six locations.

“The specific locations of the Vote Centers has yet to be determined,” said Martinez.

Speculation is there will be one or two in the city of Madera, one in Madera Ranchos, one in Chowchilla, with the other two located in Eastern Madera County.

The county has used an antiquated voting system purchased by Martinez in 1990, commonly known as the mark-a-vote system. The ballots were printed on cards that were fed through a counting machine.

The ballots used by the new system will consist of sheets of paper designed to be more user-friendly and will continue to rely on the coloring-in of ovals next to the candidate or ballot measure of the voter’s choice. Voters who choose to vote in person may use an electronic ballot marking device that will provide a print-out allowing the voter to review their choices prior to placing the ballot in the collection box.

Similar to the old system, voters may choose to fill out a paper ballot without the assistance of an electronic device.

Madera is one of five California counties authorized to implement this new system in 2018. Napa, Sacramento, Nevada and San Mateo counties are the other four. In 2020 all California counties will be permitted by law to participate in the Voters Choice Act.

“Our goal is to improve the voting experience using available technology and improved processes” Martinez said.

Vote Centers provide the option to vote in person, drop off a ballot, get a replacement ballot, vote using an accessible voting machine and get help and voting materials in the voters preferred language. The California Secretary of State and the Federal Government have determined Madera County needs to provide information in English and Spanish.

Prior to the June 2018 election, registered voters will receive printed materials explaining the new system and the timelines involved.

As required by law, citizens may register to vote as late as Election Day. One of the financial advantages of this new system is that it will reduce the waste that occurs when the registrar tries to estimate how many ballots to print in advance as opposed to printing ballots as needed.

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