LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County officials expressed confidence Tuesday in rolling out a modernized voting system, stressing that it cannot be hacked because — despite its modern, multi-lingual electronic interface — it relies on a paper ballot.
Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan updated the Board of Supervisors on the system, a decade in the making, which was certified by Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Friday, Jan. 24.
“We did not do this behind closed doors,” Logan said. “(It) represents a decade’s worth of design, development and manufacturing.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger highlighted concerns about security.
“There’s also a myth out there that the system can be hacked, when it cannot,” she said.
The system produces individualized paper ballots that can be scanned and will be manually counted in an audit process, Logan said.
The touch-screen electronic voting tool will be familiar to users of smartphones, tablets or ATMs.
“It’s been extensively tested and individually reviewed” and avoids some of the pitfalls of older systems, Logan said.
In an even bigger change than the new user interface, voters will have up to 11 days to cast a vote at any one of up to 1,000 voting centers countywide.
Vote “close to where you drop your kids off to school, close to where you work” or wherever is convenient, Logan said.
Some things will remain the same. Voters may still request vote-by-mail ballots.
However, registered voters can also pull up a sample ballot online and create a printed or mobile “poll pass” of their votes to scan into a ballot reader. Those voters will then have the opportunity to make last-minute changes after reviewing their choices.
Not everyone is happy with the system. Beverly Hills has filed suit, seeking to force the county to make changes to how it presents information on races with more than four candidates.
The electronic voting tool shows only four candidates on the first page for each race. Voters must touch a button labeled “More” to see the next group.
The lawsuit contends this unfairly disadvantages other candidates because a button labeled “Next” is also available on the screen, and voters may move onto the next race without reviewing all of their options.
Logan pointed out that the software had been modified to highlight the “More” with a yellow, flashing border in response to earlier feedback from a mock election.
“We believe that voters were able to navigate (the modified system) quite well” in a pilot election, Logan said.
He also noted that inking paper ballots came with its own set of issues, recalling problems with overvoting in earlier statewide elections with more than a dozen candidates.
One of the roughly 30 conditions of the state certification was that the county review this particular feature within five months of the March 3 primary.
The plaintiffs suggested that the “Next” button be disabled on pages with a partial list of candidates or that a warning about additional candidates be provided.
Supervisor Janice Hahn asked whether the button could instead be labeled “More Candidates.”
Logan said that idea and others had been considered. His comments to the board seemed to indicate that any changes to the system between now and Feb. 22, the first day of voting for the primary, are unlikely.
“We didn’t want to be second-guessed for making political decisions” or last-minute changes, he told the board.
The county has a massive outreach campaign planned to get information on the new system to voters and is also working to recruit “an army” of 12,000 to 14,000 volunteers to help voters at the polls, Logan said.
More information on the system will be mailed out to voters between now and Feb. 22 and can be found at vsap.lavote.net.
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