I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
In Los Angeles County, this election is bringing big changes. I predict chaos. Los Angeles is getting rid of the old “Inkavote” system, where you would go to your local precinct, and use an inked stamp to mark a ballot, which you then took to a precinct worker to confirm you didn’t mismark (i.e, vote twice for an office, not ink dark enough), and then you put your ballot in the collection box.
Under the new system, everything — and I mean everything — changes. Gone are your local polling places. Instead, there are regional voting centers — fewer in number, but open for between eleven to four days before the election. You don’t have to go locally — you can go to any center in the county and they will verify your registration and pull up and print your ballot for you to vote.
Here’s a description of the process, somewhat edited, from LAist: “First, a county poll worker looks up your information on new digital “e- pollbook.” The election worker confirms your address and prints a custom ballot specific to your precinct. You then walk that ballot over to a machine, insert it into a slot. The tablet reads your ballot, and presents you the selections to vote on a touchscreen. It then lets you review your selections at the end, and prints it out for you again. After looking things over and confirming they are correct, you insert the ballot back into the machine and you’re done.
Oh, lots. They’ve done tests, but small scale. I can just imagine the lines when the electronic verification of registration gets backed up or goes down (here’s your first point of failure, with no backups). There are printers, and tested demonstrated problems with getting ballots printed. Then there are the ballot readers — and remember anything with mechanical collection can break down. That’s not to mention all the behind the scene risks related to the software, counting, collection, and such.
There’s also the user interface: it takes multiple screens to see all the candidates, and on a touch screen, people are more used to swiping as opposed to a “more” button. Some security experts are concerned about independent test results showing vulnerabilities, and there is a vocal contingent of election advocates who believe the only way to safeguard voting is by requiring hand-marked paper ballots whenever possible. Luckily, as the County Registrar notes, “It is still a voter-marked paper ballot. This device is not retaining your voter choices, it’s not tabulating your votes. It’s just allowing you to mark the ballot in a way that’s clear. For tabulation, the printed ballot is the official ballot.”
Note that, as part of the conditions for certifying the system, everyone has the option of hand-marking a paper ballot.
As for me, I’ll be voting early. Partially, that’s because I’ll be out of town (in Madison WI) on election day. But I also want to try this system when it is less crowded. That’s one reason I’ve been pushing to get this analysis done.
Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:
- The Presidential Primary (this post)
- The Congressional, State and Local Offices
- Judicial Offices
- Ballot Measures
This part covers the Presidential Primary.