Los Angeles County’s risky voting experiment

By Kim Zetter,
March 3, 2020


Los Angeles County spent nine years working on a government-designed and -owned voting system with the goal of setting a new standard for security, reliability and transparency.

Instead, millions of county voters on Super Tuesday will cast ballots on a system in which numerous security flaws were found. This has prompted some election integrity experts to call for barring the system from elections until they’re fully resolved. The issues include multiple digital and physical vulnerabilities, some of them identified in a recent assessment by California’s secretary of state and others identified by outside computer security experts

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Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve the voting process, said the county should be commended for building a publicly owned system, but the delay in disclosing the source code is perplexing.

“At the end of the day the fact that L.A. owns the code, not Smartmatic, is something that should give voters peace of mind, especially once [the code] gets disclosed,” she said. “But it’s not like they’re being told after the fact that you have to disclose the code. It’s been part of the game plan from the get-go.”

Many registered voters in the county won’t be using the machines this year, because about 63 percent of them have requested absentee paper ballots to vote by mail. But that would still leave a significant percentage of voters using the machines in what could be a tight contest.

To accommodate voters casting ballots in person who don’t want to use the new VSAP system, the state has required every voting center in the county to have paper ballots on hand. But those ballots are blank, requiring voters to write in every candidate’s name.

Alexander said the state could have required the county to provide every voter with a mail-in ballot for the primary — something the county plans to do in the future — or install ballot-on-demand printers at vote centers that are capable of printing ballots with candidate names already on them.

But Mahood said the blank-ballots solution “was the most feasible method to provide a hand-marked paper ballot option for a jurisdiction of this size in time for” Tuesday. (Full Story)