Thursday, March 5, 2020

Los Angeles County debuts its new voting system with good grade

Los Angeles County launched a new voting system during the primaries held yesterday in California. Overall, the debut of this much anticipated new system was successful. 

The vast majority of voters decided to use the new Vote Centers to cast their ballot in person. As of March 5, the county website shows a 60% of the ballots were cast using the Ballot Marking Devices deployed across the country. The remaining 40% voted by mail. 

The debut was not perfect. “There is no question that many voters faced long wait times and challenges in voting in Los Angeles County on Tuesday,” said Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder County Clerk, referring to the issues presented with the check in process. On Election Night, Logan had explained that the poll book used to register voters created bottle necks and long lines. He clarified, though, that the voting machines worked properly. 

The Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) took ten years in the make. It was a long process of consultation and testing that involved all stakeholders, from young voters, to politicians, academics, and above all, the disabled community. With VSAP now active, the county can put to rest the Inkavote that had been deploying since 1968.

An important feature of the VSAP is that voters can cast their vote from any of the nearly 1,000 voting centers spread across the county. Voters can simply go where it suits them. In addition, voting days were expanded to 29 to facilitate participation. For those who preferred to vote at home, mail-in-ballots were sent to every voter.

With VSAP, the county made available the innovative Interactive Sample Ballot (IBS), which is a sort of a hybrid system between online voting and traditional polling-center voting. Voters were able to preselect their preferences on their smartphones or tablets, and then go to a polling place to cast their vote. This optional voting method reduces lines at polling stations and improves voter convenience.

To protect the integrity of the votes, VSAP offered robust security mechanisms. In fact, by complying with the California voting standards, it exceeded those utilized in most other US states. 

After its debut, VSAP will be implemented across the county for the November 2020 presidential elections. With cybersecurity paranoia running high, this will be the ultimate test for VSAP.