Ah, technology. It’s a love and hate affair.
The recent Iowa caucus—the nation’s first say in the 2020 presidential race—was a titanic win for the old pen-and-paper crowd.
A broken mobile phone app, delayed results, frustrated candidates and worse— doubt in the reliability of the entire democratic process—cast a pall over the electoral process.
But enough about Iowa.
Could it happen here?
Los Angeles County is debuting its new Voting Solutions for All People ballot system in the March 3 primary election, and all indications are that it will be a vast improvement over the decades-old punch-card system we’re all familiar with.
Election officials will be rolling out a new touchpad screen with intuitive, operational features, plus accommodations for disabled voters and non-English speaking people.
And although residents who show up at the polls—where they can vote as early as Feb. 22—will be using a digital tablet to register their choices, the results will still be printed on paper so participants can eyeball the final results themselves. If they see something wrong, they can simply dispose of their ballot and begin again. It’s safe to assume that their voting choices will be safe and protected.
In the past, the old fill-in-the-line cards were tricky to complete. Errors, we have to suspect, were typical. (Who can forget the “hanging chad” ballot cards made famous in the 2000 election debacle from Florida?)
Though conspiracy theorists continue to evoke fears of a cyberattack—that isn’t what happened in Iowa from what we can tell—the county election department has assured us that they’ve done everything in their power to protect their new system from hackers.
Individuals’ choices, in fact, are more secure because the machines are not connected to the internet or to the cloud (data storage on remote servers). The system also has been certified by the California secretary of state’s office, which measures voting systems based on their functionality, accessibility and security.
Another big change this year is the replacement of the neighborhood voting precinct—where people in the past were required to go if they didn’t vote by mail— with the establishment of 250 countywide vote centers where eligible voters can visit regardless of their city of residence. If you live in Agoura Hills, for example, but work downtown, you can vote at a center near your office. Although it would be nice if there were more local vote centers, this is still a great new feature.
The Iowa caucus got this year’s election off to a demonstrably poor start. But we hope voters don’t use the incident to question the integrity of the local election and use it as an excuse not to cast ballots on March 3, or before. We think L.A. County’s new system is a big step forward. Don’t miss out.