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March Primary First Test Of San Diego’s New Voting System

San Diego County's new touch-screen voting systems, Feb. 25, 2020.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: San Diego County's new touch-screen voting systems, Feb. 25, 2020.

The March presidential primary will be the first test for San Diego County’s new multimillion dollar voting system.

"The last time we introduced a new voting system was 16 years ago so this is very significant," said San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu.

The county's old system was slow and outdated. The computers were using Windows XP, which was debuted in 2001 and Microsoft no longer offers support for the system.

"So what we needed to do was scale up and add more capacity to the system," Vu said.

New technology means ballots will be counted faster and more accurately.

"The total number of ballots they could scan [before] in a 45-minute time frame was 500," Vu said. "This is 10,000 cards per hour, much more efficient than before."

That means we could see results coming in faster on election night. The entire upgrade is costing around $16 million. The county has a contract to use the new system for at least a decade.

"We have been very methodical about how we introduce this new voting system where the impact is very minimal to voters that are out there," Vu said. "The only thing that they will see that may be different is going to be the ballot marking device at a polling place."

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

The new touch-screen voting units will print out ballots that need to be given to a poll worker. There will be one at each polling place. People going to one of the new satellite voting locations or to the registrar's office will have to use them.

The new technology is approved and vetted by state officials and Vu said the system is safe.

"Not only is it secure, but we’ve looked at this from very different angles to see ‘How can this go wrong?’"

Nearly 2,000 people have already voted using the new machines and Vu said there have been no issues. The real test will be election day — in total at least a million people in the county are expected to vote in the March presidential primary.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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