Multiple factors contributed to Los Angeles County eliminating more than 118,000 registered voters from the rolls during the June 5 California primary election, according to a report published Wednesday. The document, prepared by IBM Security Services, explains that software incompatibilities and clashing file formats between the state’s official voter list and the county’s system led to the voters being dropped from the roster. At the time, county officials attributed the cut names to a printing error. The affected voters accounted for about 2.3 percent of the county’s registered voters, and were spread across about one-third of the sprawling county’s precincts. The most populous in the United States, the county spans from the city of Los Angeles to the edge of the Mojave Desert, and boasts more than 5.1 million registered voters, more than one-quarter of California’s statewide total. People who showed up to vote but were told their names were not on the rolls were still allowed to cast provisional ballots.
The report’s executive summary, which was released by the Los Angeles County Counsel’s office, rules out a data breach or other kind of cyberattack, but it does reveal how quickly mismatched software can muck up an election. Still, it stopped short of being totally conclusive.
“IBM recreated the issue that led to 118,509 registered voters being excluded from the voter rosters, in two separate scenarios,” the report reads. “A definitive answer on which scenario actually took place for the June 5 Primary is impossible to determine due to a lack of audit logging available within the specific voter software system.”
The IBM team found that a change to the file format of the official voter list provided by state authorities made it incompatible with the equipment used by the county. Because the county’s Voter Information Management System, or VIMS, had not been updated to accept the new file format, it generated records for those 118,509 voters without their dates of birth, rendering them ineligible.
“Since the birthdates were missing, the County’s system incorrectly classified these voters as ‘underage’ and left them off the printed precinct rosters,” a county press release states.