Orange County Rolls Out Vote Centers with Hart InterCivic System

Orange County is taking delivery of new Verity® Voting technology from Hart InterCivic.  Registrar of Voters, Neal Kelley, is overseeing the implementation of the new system that will support convenient Vote Centers in time for March 2020 elections.

“I’ve spent four years of my life working to bring Vote Centers to Orange County. Now is the time to return attention to what is best for the voters,” said Kelley, an advocate for Vote Centers at the state and national level who previously served as president of a national association of county election officials. “The notion of tying people down to a home precinct makes no sense in modern society.”

With Vote Centers, people cast their ballots at any center in the county, not just their home precinct, by bringing their by-mail ballot to the center or receiving a blank ballot printed for them at the center. Once hand-marked, the voter feeds the ballot into a scanning device that reads their choices directly, not from a barcode.

Vote Centers also allow a longer voting period, with locations open 10 days before Election Day, including two weekends.

Kelley, past president of the state’s association of election officials (CACEO), worked closely with the Secretary of State on a bill to allow California counties to switch to Vote Centers that was approved in 2017 for 2018 trials.

“Our County chose not to join those first trials for the 2018 elections. But, once our Board of Supervisors saw the data and the successes in other counties and states, they approved Vote Centers unanimously for 2019,” said Kelley who oversees elections in one of the largest jurisdictions in the country with more than 1.6 million registered voters.

“That was part one of a two part process. The next step was to identify the best system to use,” said Kelley. His office appointed a committee of seven experienced subject matter experts to compare the qualified responses to the County’s request for bids. After months of review, interviews and study, Hart was top-ranked across the board.

“I concurred with my committee and so did the Board of Supervisors. They unanimously approved Verity on Sept. 10.”

“Verity is the most intuitive tool to use,” he said. “The moment a voter sees and touches it, they know what to do. The design provides a better voter experience without a lot of explaining. People see the landing lights and they know where to put their ballot to be scanned. They like it.”

“Plus, Verity provides a full human readable paper ballot throughout the process, not a computer barcode. That’s important to our voters and for the security of our vote. That’s an absolute must for me.”

Kelley, an appointee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Election Security Task Force, which helps oversee the nation’s election infrastructure, also is assured by Hart’s deep experience with election solutions.

“Verity is one of the few election technologies certified in California that is backed by extensive experience,” he said. Hart, which has worked with election solutions for more than 100 years, draws on input from its partners to respond to evolving needs of jurisdictions like Orange County.

County Supervisors shut down a request to consider a lower-ranked, uncertified vendor, which Kelley said has inferior paper ballot backups to ensure votes are counted correctly.

“It’s clear that no one wants voter choices to be encoded, whether by barcode or other techniques. Orange County chose a verifiable solution, leading the way with a smart choice for their voters,” said Phillip Braithwaite, President and CEO of Hart InterCivic, a U.S. company with more than 100 years of experience providing election solutions.

“Verity does not encode voter choices. Period.”

“We’ve seen other jurisdictions have to go back to vendors and ask for untested workarounds to avoid barcodes. Orange County will never have this concern or expense,” he continued. “California has the toughest standards in the country and Orange County sets a high bar for their partners.”

Colorado bans barcodes for counting votes.

“Hart understands our vision,” said Kelley. “They see where we are headed with respect to Vote Centers and have been very responsive. Of course our process was very competitive, but Hart’s support and their ability to solve problems were certainly taken into account.”

The next few months are critical times for jurisdictions replacing aging election equipment and considering a switch to Vote Centers.

Kelley encourages his peers in other counties to focus on the voter experience. “Sticking to precinct polling is another layer of headache and Vote Centers will reverse that. They may not solve every problem, but they improve the experience.”

For those still undecided, Braithwaite invites them to follow Orange County’s lead with a hard look at Verity’s trustworthy, user-friendly approach. “Verity has enabled Vote Centers across the country and Hart has the experience and expertise to support any size county with proven paper-trail security. With 2020 elections just around the corner, Verity is ready today.”

Learn more about Verity:

About Orange County Voting

With more than 3 million residents and 1.6 million registered voters, Orange County is the fifth largest voting jurisdiction in the United States. Neal Kelley has served as Chief Election Officer since 2005 and has led the Registrar of Voters’ office through the largest cycle of elections in the County’s 130-year history.

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