The Public Comment period regarding certification of Los Angeles County's 100% unverifiable new touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) system ends today (Jan. 20th at 5pm PT).
As we have been discussing in great detail recently on The BradCast, the new system failed its independent certification tests, by revealing more than 40 violations of California Voting System Standards. Nonetheless, CA Sec. of State Alex Padilla appears set to certify these horrific new unverifiable voting systems anyway in time for its first time county-wide use in the critical March 3rd Super Tuesday Presidential Primaries.
Here is the letter I wrote to the Public Comment address (VotingSystems@sos.ca.gov) earlier today, advising against the certification of these machines and in favor of HAND-MARKED paper ballots instead for all...
I have covered voting systems in the United States as a journalist for more than 15 years. I have reported on concerns about voting systems of all types --- touch-screen DREs, touch-screen BMDs, hand-marked paper ballots --- on both the national and local level, on air and in print over those many years, having broken innumerable stories that have affected the use (and sometimes decertification) of these systems.
After spending all of that time, largely uncovering and reporting on failures of voting systems in other states (though I spent many years working closely with Secretary Bowen's office prior to your tenure), it is with much regret that I've had to turn my concerns to the new "Voting Solutions for All People" (VSAP) systems set for use here in my own county of Los Angeles, where I have been a voter for well over 20 years.
I was at the very first meeting of the VSAP system about 10 years ago, as invited by L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, and offered many of the same warnings I am forced to issue today, on my nationally syndicated radio program (The BradCast, syndicated by the Pacifica Network and heard in L.A. on 90.7FM KPFK) at my media website, BradBlog.com which has focused closely on voting systems since its inception.
One year ago, via email on January 10, 2019, Registrar Logan assured me that "The equipment/system components [for VSAP] are/will be … in compliance with California's voting systems standards that exceed the federal voluntary system standards." He also promised in the same response that the "deliberative processes in the regulatory and legislative process in California" meant that new systems must meet "system requirements and standards with which the systems and processes we use must align."
Sadly, neither of those promises appear to be the case, as the independent testers contracted by your office during the certification process of VSAP have uncovered more than 40 violations of California Voting System Standards (CVSS).
While Mr. Logan suggests that some of those violations have been "mitigated" by his office, he neither explains the mitigation techniques, nor appears to have independent testing research to determine or demonstrate whether the promised mitigations cure the initial violation of state standards.
Beyond that, the larger problem is that these systems violate not only state certification standards, but common sense. After an election held on a VSAP system, it will be 100% impossible to know if ANY computer-marked ballot reflects the intent of ANY voter, given that, as studies have shown for years, most voters do not review BMD/DRE printouts and that, even when reminded to do so, as a recent University of Michigan study (PDF) found, more than 93% of voters do not notice that the computer has changed one or more of their votes on the print-out. Ninety-three percent!
Add to those concerns the serious design flaws that prevents voters from seeing candidates on the ballot beyond the first four listed, and the terrifying possibility that voters will not be able to vote at all at our new "Voting Centers" if the Internet becomes unavailable for any number of reasons, or --- and this is one of my worst fears about the new systems --- if there is a ransomware attack on Election Day.
Moreover, a hacker need not even hack the hardware or software to hack a VSAP election. These systems are wildly vulnerable to a group of voters merely saying that the system has flipped their vote when printing it out. If they do so --- whether it is true or not --- there will be no way for elections officials to know whether they are telling the truth or not, and the machines will need to be taken out of service. When that happens, lines will begin to increase, and voters will be unable to vote. Or, worse still, ALL machines will need to be taken out of service. But, if so, what then? As far as I can tell, there is no PLAN B if any of these nightmare scenarios come to pass --- all of which seem merely waiting to occur.
IT IS LATE, BUT THERE IS A SOLUTION (MAYBE)
Even though our previous Inka-Vote system has now been decertified, and it is likely too late to revive the 5,000 community precincts that we used to (smartly) use, it is (hopefully) not too late for Registrar Logan to move quickly to a Print-on-Demand system before the March 3rd Super Tuesday primary. Such systems print a ballot in any style and in any language, for a 5th or less of the price we are paying for this $300,000,000 boondoggle, for every voter as needed. Such a system would accomplish the same goals of Mr. Logan's, would remove many if not all of the risks he is currently running and, most importantly, would allow a verifiable HAND-MARKED paper ballot for every voter, rather than the unreliable, 100% unverifiable touchcreen BMD computer-marked ballots produced by the VSAP system.
St. Louis County, MO, another large, sprawling county (if not as large as L.A.), after years of using touchscreen systems, just moved to a Print-on-Demand system last November, with voters and elections officials alike saying that it was as simple, inexpensive and as effective as it could be.
For the good of all voters in the County, the state, and, yes, the country, I hope you will use your authority to deny certification for the VSAP systems and order a verifiable, publicly-overseeable system of voting for the nation's most populous jurisdiction of Los Angeles County.
This will be your legacy, as much as it is ours. I hope you do the right thing for the VOTERS of Los Angeles County, California and the nation,
If I can help in any way, I hope you will let me know.
For more details on VSAP's specific failures of CA Voting System Standards, as uncovered by Sec. Padilla's independent testing team, and many other related concerns, see this post from last week. And for much more information on why these ungodly systems and others like them should never be used in L.A. or anywhere else, other than by disabled voters who may choose to use an assistive device, please listen to that day's BradCast program linked within.