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.”

Comments (9)
  1. notrombones says:

    Smartmatic should change thier name to RIGmatic.

    These machines are a sham and cannot be trusted!

  2. Jaeson says:

    The machine does not Tabulate anything. You can look (manually) and see your votes before it is cast. Worst case they can hand-tally all of them. To hack the machine you’d have to be really savvy and gain access to their back end systems inside their offices. It isn’t so easy. You’d have to actually daisy chain everything and somehow reprogram them. The machines are basically glorified touch-screen printers. THAT IS IT.

  3. Brent Turner says:

    This project was initiated to be an open source software voting system. It is not currently open source as promised. IDEO designed the system. The Kelly Bros.own Ideo and were paid 15 million dollars. One of the Kelly Bros is married to KC Branscomb. Branscomb is the former CEO to Mitch Kapor from Lotus Industries. Kapor is also the financial backer of OSET . OSET was involved with the software licensing scheme of the L.A. project. One family controlled both software and hardware for this project and there is 300 million dollars spent for a poorly designed proprietary code system. Logan and Padilla should be indicted for violating the public trust and misappropriation of public funds. – For open source voting info see http://www.navo-us.org

  4. Brent Turner says:

    The original Alan Dechert / OVC design of the system would have created a shareable cost effective GPL open source /paper ballot system. New Hampshire and now San Francisco are moving toward simple open source- off the shelf -tablets- ballot printers – and scanners. It is too late for Los Angeles but there is still hope for CA and the USA. If we start now we can secure the voting systems in America by 2026. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephenkey/2018/11/29/this-voting-invention-would-help-jurisdictions-significantly-reduce-their-costs/#75cab7ce4042

  5. ijamessaxon says:

    ORDER YOUR MAIL IN BALLOTS NOW!!! I’ve got my very own paper ballot on my desk waiting for me! I’m not trusting a gadget with my vote!!! You shouldn’t either!

  6. Natalie Williams says:

    Stalin once said, “It’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.” No matter the system, even paper ballots. We must demand full transparency and institute a system much like Jury Duty, where randomly selected citizens oversee the entire process, count and tally the votes and report the results, with citizen reps and the press allowed in to ensure no shenanigans.

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