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Revolutionizing the Voting System

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Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

Determined to revolutionize its voting system, Los Angeles County unveiled a high-tech and user-friendly prototype to replace the aging InkaVote Plus, as well as a host of other proposed innovations and reforms to better serve the nation’s largest electorate.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said this reimagining of the voting system, tentatively slated for a full rollout in 2020, could have a profound effect on the democratic process. He said, “Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, and these improvements will make elections more accessible, secure, transparent and trustworthy.”

DFB_8722 (1)Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan added that efforts to modernize and streamline the voting system go beyond upgrading technology. “We envision a systemic and holistic improvement in the way we provide election services, providing more accessible and flexible voting options,” he said. “The new system will allow us to meet voters where they are, and give them the ability to have choices and customize their experience in a manner that instills trust, confidence and possibly even excitement in the experience of casting a vote.”

The County’s five million registered voters currently cast ballots using the InkaVote Plus, which relies on components developed in 1968. To ensure greater citizen participation in designing the next generation of voting machines, the County kicked off the Voting Systems Assessment Project in 2009. Consultations with elections, security and technology experts, as well as different kinds of voters, concluded that none of the existing off-the-shelf voting machines could satisfy the County’s complex needs. IDEO, an award-winning global design firm credited with helping design Apple’s first computer mouse, among other innovations, was then brought in to develop a prototype.

DFB_8697 (1)The vision for the new voting system includes a Ballot Marking Device that lets voters click on a touch screen, press buttons on a tactile handheld device, or make voice commands to cast ballots. It would also be able to “read” Interactive Sample Ballots on smartphones.

Another novel idea is to create a 10-day early voting period and allow voters to go to any conveniently located Vote Center to cast their ballot, instead of limiting them to a specific polling place on Election Day. Also being rolled out are an Electronic Pollbook that would replace paper rosters for checking in voters, and Vote-by-Mail ballots that are easier to understand.

The County purposely made the engineering specifications, intellectual property and functional prototypes to be nonproprietary and remain in the public domain, so that other jurisdictions can take advantage of the data for upgrading their own voting systems.

A Second Chance at a Better Life

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All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County is taking steps to help people clear their criminal records under Prop. 47. The Public Defender’s Office and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas recently joined forces to host a Jobs, Legal Services and Resource Fair in the Vermont Manchester area, offering assistance with everything from job-hunting to housing to reducing traffic fines. One of the day’s key offerings: legal help for those seeking a second chance under Prop. 47.

Image-10Hundreds of people flocked to the Rita Walters Learning Complex to meet with attorneys, County service providers, employers and community-based organizations. Aside from meeting several potential employers, including FedEx, Los Angeles County, and the Los Angeles Community College District, they were also able to apply for health insurance, housing, Cal Fresh/Medi-Cal and other  services. Several in the crowd also obtained free legal services to clear their record and to benefit from the Traffic Amnesty Program. 

FairAmong the many County departments present at the event were Public Social Services, and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services. Southwest College and the nonprofits A New Way of Life and Drug Policy Alliance were among the partners. Several more fairs are planned throughout the County.

Prop. 47, approved by 60 percent of California voters in 2014, downgrades certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors, and requires misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less. No one is automatically released from state prison because of Prop 47. Instead, it allows those already serving a felony conviction to petition the court for resentencing. Those who have already completed their sentences can ask the trial court to downgrade their conviction.

Planning the Next Step with Measure H

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All photos by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas brought together key stakeholders in the fight against homelessness to collaborate on a spending plan for Measure H, after a supermajority approved the ballot measure creating an unprecedented annual funding stream for programs to end and prevent homelessness in Los Angeles County.

“It is imperative that we draw on the expertise and experience of those on the frontlines in the fight against homelessness, as well as those who have lived it, to get the best bang for our buck with Measure H,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

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Acting on a Feb. 7 motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, County CEO Sachi Hamai and Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell convened a 50-member planning group that includes County government staff and technical experts, representatives of cities within the County, nonprofit service providers, leaders of the faith, business and philanthropic communities, and formerly homeless individuals.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending, and a Citizen’s Oversight Advisory Board will publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations. The County will continue to release quarterly progress reports in connection with the Homeless Initiative strategies. Finally, the nonprofits that implement the strategies will be held to specific outcomes and standards, tracked and monitored by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, the County CEO and County Department of Health Services, and other relevant County departments.

“The voters of Los Angeles County have clearly demonstrated their commitment to combating homelessness by approving Measure H,” County CEO Hamai said. “Today, we demonstrated our commitment to them by beginning a process that will ensure transparency and accountability in making sure every dollar is spent effectively and efficiently.”

“Los Angeles County voters have entrusted us with $355 million annually to fund supportive services for our homeless neighbors,” added Elise Buik, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which hosted the first planning group meeting at its headquarters. “Now, it’s our responsibility as a community to mobilize these resources effectively and efficiently – and that can only be done with a diverse coalition of community stakeholders: faith leaders, homeless service providers, community organizations and civic leaders.”

The planning group’s meetings on April 6, April 20 and May 10 are open to the public. Measure H is a 1/4-cent County sales tax that would generate approximately $355 million annually. This dedicated funding is expected to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within five years and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

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Rally to Save Obamacare

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act hours before it was set to go to lawmakers in Washington for a vote.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The rally, convened by APLA Health, was convened to encourage Republican lawmakers to vote against plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The March started on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in the morning and culminated at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building on East Temple Street in the afternoon.

As the crowd arrived, the count indicated that 28 Republicans intended to vote against the measure, which would stop the overhaul. If all Democrats and 23 Republicans in the House vote against the bill, it would be defeated.

“I think it’s great, I’m hoping those 28 don’t change their mind between now and tonight,” said Dr. Paul Gregerson, the Chief Medical Officer for John Wesley Community Health.

“We believe in justice. We believe in fairness. We believe in healthcare for all!” the Supervisor said.

“If it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act, I wouldn’t have been able to have my son,” said one clinic patient from Westside Family Health Center who brought her two year son on stage in her arms. “We can’t afford private healthcare, and the ACA has been such a blessing for our family. We are fighting for our right to take care of our next generation so they can be the best citizens they can be!” she said.

40% of the residents of Los Angeles County are enrolled in Medi-Cal. 360,000 residents of the County are enrolled in Covered California.

“Do we have enough faith and enough courage to say, ‘it’s temporary Los Angeles’,” said SEIU ULTCW President Laphonza Butler.

“We’re not going to let them loose their insurance are we? We’re going to keep fighting,” said Department of Health Services Dr. Director Mitchell Katz.

During the press conference after the march, GOP House leaders announced that they would postponed the vote.

“Don’t postpone. Cancel!” the Supervisor said.

The move was seen as a setback for President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan in their first major legislative test.

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County Library Bookmark Design Winners

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All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas awarded scrolls to four young winners from the Second District who competed in the Public Library’s 37th annual bookmark design contest.

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Library Director Skye Patrick

First grader Shania Phillip, fifth grader Sashia Maas, eighth grader Itzel Martinez and high school senior Jenifer Sid will have their artwork printed on bookmarks that will be distributed across the public library system, parks and community centers countywide.

Shania, who wants to be an artist when she grows up, entered the contest at the Wiseburn Library in Hawthorne. So did Sashia, who considers The Little Match Girl her favorite book.

Itzel entered the contest at the Compton Library and looks forward to being an animator. College-bound Jenifer is a patron of Lynwood Library and wants to major in illustration so she can become a concept designer for games and movies.

“Libraries build readers. Who become thinkers. Who become doers,” said county Library Director Skye Patrick.

In all, 20 students – four in each of the five supervisorial districts – won this year’s contest, which had the theme: “Read for the fun of it.” More than 10,000 students submitted entries.

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