Los Angeles County: Building & deploying VSAP, a model for 21st Century elections

Editors note: Smartmatic was chosen to support Los Angeles County’s VSAP program in 2018. The system was officially launched in 2020. Since it’s initial deployment, Smartmatic continues to support the county with products and services in multiple local, municipal and state elections every year. Smartmatic supported LA in the June 2022 primary election. Click here to read the press release.

Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) began in 2009 when Los Angeles County started looking to replace its aging voting system. The county sought to create a system that was less complicated for voters and more inclusive. Of course, it also needed its new system to be secure, transparent, and easy to maintain and upgrade over subsequent years. LA is America’s largest election jurisdiction with more than 5.8 million registered voters.

The VSAP ballot marking devices, a key piece of the VSAP system, came through the 2020 Presidential election with flying colors. Under the specter of the coronavirus pandemic, the county deployed almost 20,000 ballot marking devices (BMDs) to nearly 800 vote centers across the county. Since then, the VSAP system has proven accurate and secure in several statewide and LA County local elections. The system continues to earn high marks from voters for simplicity, speed and accessibility.

In an exit poll of 3,600 voters conducted by Loyola Marymount University after the 2020 California Presidential primary, 95.4% of Angelinos said using the VSAP ballot marking device was “very easy” or “somewhat easy.” More than 87% of voters in that same survey said their overall voting experience was “excellent” or “good.”

Services

Smartmatic provided the following:

  • Engineered and manufactured the BMD hardware
  • Programmed and installed the BMD software
  • Led the California certification process
  • Created the backend software to manage the devices
  • Provided systems integration services
  • Built the VSAP operations center
  • Handled logistics and setup/breakdown of the vote centers
  • Oversaw real-time data management for deployment
  • Smartmatic had, at times, as many as 200 staffers supporting the project.

By the Numbers – 2020 General Election in Los Angeles County

  • 791 – Vote centers open on Election Day
  • 31,000 – Ballot marking devices (BMD) manufactured for LA by Smartmatic
  • 19,445 – BMD deployed for the election
  • 800+ – Election workers hired and trained by Smartmatic for the County
  • 6,129,494 – Citizens eligible to vote
  • 5,785,377 – Citizens registered to vote
  • 73.8% – Turnout of registered voters
  • 4,270,129 – Votes cast in the 2020 general election
  • 834,150 – Votes cast in-person in the 2020 general election

About Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP)

The County sought input from a wide variety of stakeholders. It quickly became clear, however, that a jurisdiction as large and diverse as Los Angeles County needed a system that was more sophisticated than any off-the-shelf system on the market.

In imagining its system, the County undertook an unprecedented process of soliciting input from the technology sector, political parties, voting rights groups, disability advocates, the academic community, the language minority community, and the voting population of Los Angeles County.

The research led the County to replace its precinct-based voting model with a vote-center model. Instead of requiring citizens to vote only at their assigned local precinct, they would now be able to vote at any voter center anywhere in the jurisdiction.

On June 12, 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to award the VSAP manufacturing contract to Smartmatic. The County cited Smartmatic’s unparalleled experience in providing secure, advanced election technology and services to election commissions throughout the world as the primary reason for its choice. Smartmatic immediately established an office in Los Angeles County to begin VSAP development.

Under the agreement, Smartmatic was responsible for systems integration, engineering and manufacturing. In addition, the company developed the VSAP BMD Manager (BMG). The BMG device enables the County to perform device management tasks, including loading software, locating individual machines in the warehouse, troubleshooting, and downloading usage data from BMDs after elections.

The final component of the VSAP project that Smartmatic delivered to Los Angeles County is the Interactive Sample Ballot (ISB). The ISB is a web interface that allows voters to pre-mark their ballot selections on their smartphone or tablet. They then bring the device to the vote center and download their ballot to the VSAP. This expedites the voting process and reduces possible wait times.