LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — It’s the future of Los Angeles County’s voting machines: a touchscreen-computerized method which every voter in the county will be using for the March 3 primary.
It cost taxpayers $300 million to develop. But not everyone is confident it’ll work properly.
Radio talk show host Brad Friedman is a former software programmer who’s critical of election integrity issues nationwide, as well as the L.A. system.
“They are untested,” said Friedman. “They failed more than forty California voting system standards when they were tested by independent testers.”
CBSLA investigative reporter David Goldstein obtained reports commissioned by the California Secretary of State’s office which show dozens of security problems, including “a large number of publicly known vulnerabilities” that increase the “statistical likelihood of a problem in the future”.
Another report stated: “Lock picking was attempted and was successful”, “tamper-evident adhesive label seals were removed” by testers, calling them “easily defeated locks and seals”.
Even so, Secretary of State Alex Padilla certified the system for use pending completion of certain conditions, but it doesn’t satisfy everyone.
The machines have what’s called ballot marking devices – a piece of paper that the computer generates with your vote. Once you’ve finished voting, you print your ballot, check it to make sure it’s right, then put it back in the slot and it’s official.
But once inside the machine, critics say your ballot could get changed without anyone knowing.
“The overall design of the system is something I have trouble with,” said Phillip Stark, a Berkeley professor who has studied the machines.
L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan says there are backup systems and select post-election audits that he claims will ensure that every vote will be accurate.
“I’m confident we’ve done the due diligence to ensure we designed a system to make the process work better for voters,” he said.
While the machines are Logan’s baby – developed and owned by L.A. County – a company called Smartmatic won the bid to manufacture them.
Smartmatic has come under fire after irregularities in the Philippines during last year’s elections. The country’s president even lashed out at the company.
Published reports also show delays with Smartmatic machines in Utah in 2016.
But Logan says he’s not concerned because the L.A. machines are designed by the county, not Smartmatic.
“I have a high confidence in the work they’ve done,” he said. “I think it gets blurred with their history as a company is very different for what they’ve done for us here.”
In response to this report, Smartmatic Communications Director Samira Saba provided this statement: “Since 2010, when Smartmatic began assisting the Philippines automate its elections, the integrity of the election process has seen dramatic improvement. We are proud of the positive impact our technology has had in Philippine elections. Election results have been independently validated.”