Jan 25, 2020

California approves new voting system even as concerns remain

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has conditionally approved Los Angeles County's new publicly-owned computerized voting system on Friday.

Why it matters: The Voting System for All People (VSAP) will be the first publicly owned and designed voting system in the U.S. However, many concerns and questions remain about the security of the election machines and other technical problems, AP notes. VSAP still requires some modifications to address these concerns.

  • Padilla is requiring polling centers to offer hand-marked ballots during the March 3 presidential primary.

The state of play: The system cost Los Angeles County up to $280 million to build. However, many reject VSAP because it relies on computerized-ballot marking devices they believe could be hacked, per AP.

  • Testers found that the VSAP system's "seals, locks, labels and sensors can all be bypassed," and that the ballot box can be easily opened.
  • Padilla has ordered all of these concerns be addressed.
“The certification of the first publicly owned voting system in the nation is a historic milestone for American democracy. VSAP is a big step forward in modernizing elections in Los Angeles County, which has been home to some of the oldest voting equipment in the state. Upgrading to a modern system will improve the long-term reliability and security of elections in the largest county in America.”
— California Secretary of State Alex Padilla

The big picture: Election security experts say all voters should use hand-marked paper ballots that will be available for audits and recounts, AP writes.

  • In reality, U.S. elections are ruled by three voting equipment and services companies that control about 90% of the market, and they've all been criticized for being vulnerable to tampering.

Go deeper:

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Internet voting takes flight

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A small agency in Washington state is about to break new ground by letting residents vote by smartphone.

Why it matters: The U.S. suffers from chronically low voter turnout, but experts are concerned that internet voting is vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.

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After Iowa, thinking smarter about election security

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The big lesson from Iowa: Security is only a starting point in protecting elections. Usability, reliability and redundancy are just as important.

Why it matters: As long as election officials neglect software fundamentals and view security only as a matter of locking hackers out, we will keep facing trust-eroding system meltdowns like this week's Iowa caucus fiasco.

WSJ: Millions of Florida voters are unsure if they qualify to cast ballots

A 60-year-old man's voting rights are restored in a Miami-Dade County courtroom in Nov. 2019. Photo: Zak Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

Florida has given little guidance to election officials after the state restored voting rights to an estimated 1.4 million former felons last year, resulting in "widespread confusion," the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: Floridians have until Feb. 18 to register to vote for the presidential primary in the critical swing state. Felons in the state are required to pay outstanding court fees and fines before casting ballots, per a bill that went into effect last year.