The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meets today, and among the items to be decided upon is a pay raise for board members.

It’s a modest increase of 3 percent, as recommended by the county’s Human Resources Department staff, and it would push the regular salaries above $100,000 a year, with a little something extra for the board chairperson.

We don’t know how readers feel about elected officials setting their own pay, but it seems something better left to an independent commission, or possibly up to the county's voters.

Speaking of voters, last week the county’s Elections Division revealed that a new voting system will be in place in time for next year’s March primary.

Similar shifts to newer and more reliable voting methods are taking place across the nation, a response in part to the increasing flood of revelations about how foreign governments are keenly interested in helping make decisions that should be made only by American citizens.

Changes to anything can cause turmoil, but county elections officials insist the new voting paradigm will be barely noticed by the majority of the county’s 220,000-plus registered voters. They say it will be business as usual, as it has been for the past two decades.

That process has generally involved voters going to their designated precinct on election day, and marking a paper ballot before dropping it in a ballot box. If you’re one of those folks who prefer voting in the comfort of your own home — about 150,000 people in this county do — you will still mark and return those paper ballots.

The biggest change involves voters with disabilities, military personnel and citizens who are out of the country. For them, big improvements are on the menu.

The new processes all are based on the paper-ballot principal, which as it turns out is better protected from foreign interference.

This may seem a cruel reversal for those who firmly believed computers will rule everyone’s universe, but the problem with computers and their relationship to the internet is that hackers in China, rural Russia, the Ukraine or about anywhere can infiltrate, pretty much at will.

In fact, most elections officials in the United States now fully understand how vulnerable our voting systems can be — and are — when the world wide web is part of the equation.

Another interesting aspect of this change is that county elections officials have opted to go back to the future, as in being able to use store-bought digital scanners to accomplish a faster tabulation of election-night results.

In other words, if the system works as expected, the general public can have local voting outcomes in a matter of hours, instead of days with the system being replaced, which county officials correctly refer to as “extremely clunky.”

The Board of Supervisors has authorized funding for the upgraded system, much of which will be coming from state and federal grants. We don’t see how the county and its taxpayers can lose in that kind of deal.

Voting in America is a right for most all citizens, but it’s also a privilege, one that Americans need to be able to exercise without concern about miscreants in other countries interfering. And that threat is existential, it has happened, some nations are already threatening to interfere, and it could continue to happen without significant changes on our part.

Bravo to the Board of Supervisors and county elections officials for protecting a basic right.


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