New Voting System

When the LA County Registrar held a mock election this weekend to acquaint voters with our new voting system, my wife Holly and I decided to check it out. Here’s the report. 

Online

I decided to make my voting choices online beforehand, which generated a poll pass–a pdf with a QR code on it (containing my choices)–that I brought with me to the polling place (now a voting center) in Culver City. Though the barcode contained all my choices, it was NOT my official ballot or vote–I’d need to input that in the booth later. So I wasn’t using the Internet to vote. But it took the pressure off to think about my choices at leisure at home.

A Thousand Centers

Culver City was the closest mock election voting center to our home. In a real election, there will be 1000 polling places distributed throughout L.A. county, which will be open for 11 days.

No Line

 There was no line, and plenty of volunteers eager to assist us.

Check in

Check in via a tablet. No ID necessary by California law. The poll worker entered my information, I signed the tablet to verify my identity, and was handed my ballot, an 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper sheet, which was blank.

When the new system is in place, it will register any new voter instantly. Just show up.

The registration system is of course connected to the Internet–you can register online–a point of vulnerability to bad actors wanting to mess with the voter rolls. This is not new.

Drivers License

There’s an option to check in using your drivers license. The tablet will scan a barcode on the back of the license and find you in the system. 

Voting Booth

Next stop: the voting booth. You can use either the tablet (on the right) or the audio system (left). To the right (not shown in this photo) was a printer/scanner where I put the blank ballot I’d been given.

The voting booth system is not connected to the Internet. Each voting booth setup would have to be physically hacked to compromise it.

 

Touchscreen

The touchscreen system was easy to navigate. I was given the option to allow the scanner (below and separate from the printer) to input my poll pass, which contained the voting choices I had made online. After the scan of the poll pass, all the choices I’d recorded at home showed up on the tablet screen exactly as I’d made them. The system allowed me to make any changes I wanted.

Holly hadn’t gotten a poll pass–she was choosing how to vote for the first time in the booth.

Ballot

After I made all my choices, the system asked if I was ready to have my completed ballot printed. Yup, I said. My blank ballot which I’d earlier put on the printer was rolled in and then rolled back out with all my choices printed. I inspected it to verify it was what I wanted. If it hadn’t been, I could have asked for a new ballot and begun the process over again.

Note the QR code–that is what will be eventually scanned to record my vote.

QR codes have gotten mixed reviews from election security experts. An altered QR code would not be noticeable by a voter, though an alteration in inked ovals (LA County’s old system) could be. Other experts say an automatic, statistically significant, post-election, hand-counted audit of paper ballots is the best guarantee of election security.

Once I was sure, I touched “Yes” one last time, and the completed ballot rolled away again and was deposited in the secure ballot container at the back of the booth.

Ballot Box

At this point my ballot with the QR code and my printed choices has not been counted.

The ballot containers from each booth are emptied at the end of the day and all the ballots are transported to Norwalk to be tabulated. The machines in Norwalk read the barcodes and count the votes.

The Norwalk scanning/tabulating system is not connected to the Internet. It would have to be physically hacked to compromise the count.

All the printed ballots are preserved in Norwalk and available for hand re-counts.

I Voted

See a short video about the new voting system here: How to Vote in LA County