LOS ANGELES – State officials will send a technology “strike team” to Los Angeles County to ensure compatibility between state and local voter databases and guard against future problems with county voter rolls, the registrar-recorder/county clerk said.
The assist comes after a software mismatch resulted in more than 118,000 people being omitted from printed voter rosters during the June 5 primary election.
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan apologized again for that error.
“I also, again, want to publicly apologize to any voter who experienced difficulty voting in June,” Logan said during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. “It is a complex process, and we are the most complex electoral jurisdiction in the country. And we are working hard to reduce our complexity and the need for workarounds that are necessary to conduct elections here.”
An independent review by IBM Security Services found that changes in the statewide voter database made it incompatible with the software the county uses to generate the printed lists for polling places. The county’s Voter Information Management System application had not been updated to process the state’s format change, so the system generated voter records with empty spaces for the birthdates of 118,509 voters. Because the birthdates were missing, IBM said the county’s system incorrectly classified those voters as “underage” and left them off the printed precinct rosters.
IBM concluded the omissions were not the result of any cyberattack, and that there was no pattern of voters being excluded from the printed roster due to demographic characteristics or geographic boundaries.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said other counties also encountered some issues with the state database.
“This was not L.A. County alone,” Barger said. “There were some deficiencies that impacted other counties. But … because we are the largest, the impact was of the greatest magnitude in L.A. County.”
The Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk said the roster problem ultimately affected about 12,000 voters who went to the polls and had to cast provisional ballots, which were processed and counted as part of the official election results. No voters were removed from voting rolls because of the roster error, and the right to vote was never at issue, the clerk’s office said.
Supervisor Janice Hahn said the result, whatever the cause, was unacceptable.
“While we were glad the Russians were not meddling in L.A. County elections, clearly what we experienced in June is unacceptable,” Hahn said. “And we absolutely cannot allow it to happen again.”
IBM also investigated a 21-minute outage of the county’s voter information website, LAVote.net, on the evening of the election after the polls had closed, and found no evidence of a cyberattack while attributing the outage to heavy demand on the website.
Following IBM’s recommendations to the letter, the board directed county workers to update the software code so the state and local voter databases are compatible; implement new quality control practices; resolve deficiencies in the system used to create the printed voter roster; and increase capacity and change configurations on LAVote.net to accommodate periods of high demand.
The county has already put measures in place to ensure that voter rosters are correctly printed for November’s general election, according to Logan.
And while more work is needed to create a seamless interface between the state and county databases, Logan said the county is working around issues that may take longer to resolve. He pointed to Tuesday’s special election in the 32nd Senate District as evidence that things were running smoothly even as longer-term fixes were in process.
Logan also reminded voters that they can check the status of any absentee or provisional ballot at the LAVote.net site.
The board asked for a report back in 30 days.