Madera County Clerk-Recorder & Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez has seen a lot over her 44-year career with the county, but nothing has excited her more than improvements that will “modernize the voting experience” by implementing the Voters Choice Act of 2016.
Martinez and her staff are currently preparing to streamline and simplify the voting model for county voters for the June 5 primary election.
Unlike the old model that provided just one day to vote, the new system will allow voters to cast their ballots during an 11-day period, including weekends, at two locations, one in Oakhurst and one in Madera.
Vote-By-Mail Ballots, which are utilized by 67% of county voters, will be sent to every registered voter in the county about a month before the primary election, and there will be four secure, accessible ‘Drop-Off’ locations throughout Madera County including one in Oakhurst and Madera for voters as an additional way to return ballots postage free.
During the last election, 4,458 out of 9,789 registered voters (69%) in District 5 voted by mail.
In addition, starting three days before the election, four additional Vote Centers will be available (specific locations will be announced at a later date) providing the ability to vote in-person utilizing new ballot marking machines. The machines will print a paper ballot for review before the voter deposits the ballot in the ballot box. Voters who prefer to vote on a traditional paper ballot will still be able to.
Martinez has has held informational meetings with Mountain Area political groups; receiving positive feed-back from those who attended.
The county Elections Department will hold public meetings in the near future and will be mailing additional information detailing the new system.
The new streamlined system will allow Martinez to reduce the number of election day volunteers from about 350 people to about 50.
“We want people to be excited about all the improvements this new model will bring to Madera County,” Martinez said. “We hope that by offering expanded services and more choices we will increase voter participation throughout Madera County.”
Only 14 counties in the state were eligible to enact The Voters Choice Act (SB 450) in 2018, and Madera County is one of only five of the 14 counties who will have the changes in place and operational for the June election. All the remaining counties are planning implement the new system for the 2020 elections.
To accommodate the Voters Choice Act,Madera County posted a request for proposals for a new voting system. After a thorough review, Dominion Voting Systems Inc. was selected as the preferred vendor.
Dominion’s proposal is a voting system that meets current State and Federal Standards for accessibility and security.
“Our current voting system is nearly 30 years old,” explained Martinez. “While the current system has served all of us very well, it has gone beyond its useful life and we are at a point where it must be replaced.
The new system is still a paper based system. Paper based systems provide security and reliability as well as allow for a verifiable audit trail should there be any doubts about the validity of machine counting.
“It is important that we have a system that utilizes modern technology like high speed scanners and accessibility for those with limited mobility,” explained Martinez. “However, at the same time I had to chose a system that provided the utmost confidence to voters that their votes are counted accurately every time. This system provides that confidence.”