Stung by the slowest 2018 election tabulation in all of California, San Diego's Registrar of Voters is currently looking for a contractor to come up with a brand-new vote-counting system from scratch.
"The Contractor shall provide the County a Voting System with a set of System Components that is agile to be used in any voting model afforded in California law by utilizing modern technology in a transparent, secure, and cost-effective manner," says a February 19 request for proposals due by March 19.
"This includes but is not limited to an: all-mail ballot voting model, traditional polling place and mail ballot voting model, and vote center voting model."
Vote centers, per the website of the National Conference of State Legislators, "are an alternative to traditional, neighborhood-based precincts. When a jurisdiction opts to use vote centers, voters may cast their ballots on Election Day at any vote center in the jurisdiction, regardless of their residential address."
Possible drawbacks, per the legislators' conference website, include the need for costly high-tech gizmos that could add yet another confusing layer of security vulnerability to the counting process. "Vote centers must be able to produce the appropriate ballot for each voter; this requires either touchscreen machines that can be reset for each voter or 'print-on-demand' equipment."
Following San Diego's prolonged wait for final results of November's 2018 election, county registrar of voters Michael Vu gave Washington's The Hill a laundry list of reasons for the famously slow vote tally here. "In San Diego County, there are 594 different ballot combinations," per The Hill's November 10 report, headlined, "Why California Counts its Ballots so Slowly."
"The longest, a multi-card ballot, is four and a half feet long when laid out end to end. When a voter goes to the wrong precinct or casts a provisional ballot, the county determines which races that voter is eligible to vote on and counts those votes, rather than throwing out the entire ballot."
Duplicate ballots mistakenly dispatched to voters added to the perfect storm of mix-ups and confusion, another report has suggested. A January 31 review by the Sacramento Bee blamed the state's so-called Motor Voter program for compounding electoral headaches across California.
“In hindsight, I wish we could figure out the damn technology issues that we have in state government,” Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who helped pass the 2015 bill, told the Bee. “We were scheduled to launch on Monday (April 16). On Thursday (April 12), they called and said they weren’t ready.”
Estimates of the San Diego system's final cost do not appear in the county's request for proposals but gutting and replacing the present system is expected to be pricey, with Gonzalez's husband, freshly minted county supervisor Nathan Fletcher, also a Democrat said likely to play a key behind-the-scenes role.
"The new Voting System will replace in whole the existing [Global Election Management System] Voting System including all ancillary voting system(s) and components," says the request for proposals, which is expected to attract a horde of would-be vendors and their lobbyists.
San Diego is not new to abrupt and costly revisions of its election systems, as Bloomberg reported in September 2016. "After California declared almost all of the electronic voting machines in the state unfit for use in 2007 for failing basic security tests, San Diego County put its decertified machines in storage. It has been paying the bill to warehouse them ever since: No one wants to buy them, and county rules prohibit throwing millions of dollars’ worth of machines in the trash bin."