California: Los Angeles County’s $13M touch-screen voting system gets previewed at Austin’s SXSW | KPCC

Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan presented his much-anticipated voting makeover project this week at South by Southwest Eco, an offshoot of the famous music festival in Austin, Texas. The conference is a flocking ground of sorts for new products and technology that focus on social change. “South by Southwest was a great platform for us to come and share this specifically from a design element,” Logan said. “We felt like it was very well-received.” Since 2009, the county has been working on a major elections revamp that, if fully implemented, will allow voters to mark their choices using touchscreen devices, submit ballots via smartphones and vote on one of several days.

California: L.A. County reboot of voting machine tech makes progress | California Forward

In this age of smartphones, touch-screens and the Internet, Los Angeles County’s 50-year old voting system of punch cards and user guides ranks closer to the era of chalk marks and blackboards. Now, the most populous county in the U.S. is less than one year away from completing the design stage of an overhaul that could mark the beginning of a new way of voting in California and beyond. Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder for Los Angeles, where five million voters currently cast ballots on ink-based machines, expects the design phase to be wrapped up by this time next year and the new voting system fully operational for the 2020 elections. “The hallmark of this project is that we’re designing it for the voter first, to make sure that the voting experience is a good one and the thing that makes this so exciting is that we’re operating in a time when you can do that,” said Logan. “You can focus on the user and then back into the technology and the software.”

California: Design firm tackles aging voting machines with smartphone technology | CBS

In this era of smartphones and the Internet, the way Americans cast their ballots is a bit outdated. Los Angeles County, which is home to the most voters in the country, uses technology that is more than 50 years old. But a campaign of innovation could soon bring change at the ballot box across the United States. In one unorthodox Silicon Valley workspace, a team of developers is trying to change the way we vote, by first determining how we want to vote, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. Blaise Bertrand leads the design team at IDEO, a firm that encourages “out-of-the-box” thinking. IDEO’s human-centered approach is responsible for creating some of the most innovative products in our lifetime, from Apple’s first computer mouse to a talking defibrillator. For the past two years, they have taken on another project — developing a new voting machine for Los Angeles County.

California: Voting Needs A Serious Overhaul And Los Angeles Might Have The Solution | Co.Design

If abysmal election participation is any indication, voter experience in the United States desperately demands an overhaul. In 2014, turnout hovered around just 36 percent. Federal and local governments have been experimenting with ways that technology can streamline services, whether it’s obtaining business permits or healthcare. In Los Angeles County, the focus is on a pillar of democracy: voting. Dean Logan is the Los Angeles County Registrar and County Clerk and is leading the local call for a new approach to voting. “We live in a time where technology is changing rapidly and where voters and citizens are used to some level of customization and choice in how they participate in civic activities,” Logan says. “We need a system that caters to these experiences. It needs to be agile, secure, and private but as a core foundation it needs to be adaptable to technological advancements and changes in voter behavior.” In 2014, L.A. County embarked on a $15 million contract with Ideo to take a human-centered approach to the problem. The resulting prototype, which is still in the review stages, centers around reinventing voting from two angles. The first is recasting the entire experience from beginning to end. The second is building new machines that offer the ease and flexibility of touch screen systems with the security of a paper trail.

California: In Los Angeles, Voting Is Getting the Silicon Valley Treatment | Bloomberg

Last year, a bipartisan commission established by President Obama declared that the U.S. faces an “impending crisis in voting technology.” After the 2000 Florida recount showed the world that the American presidency could be determined by hanging chads, Congress set aside $3.3 billion, most of it to help local election officials upgrade their voting machinery. Bureaucrats with relatively little experience buying advanced technology rushed to purchase machines developed to satisfy the sudden demand. Those devices, designed in the years when Palm and Nokia owned the smartphone market, are mostly outdated. There’s no new money on the horizon, and even if local governments had the budgets for upgrades, they wouldn’t want the standard products currently available. Now, Los Angeles County, the largest voting jurisdiction in the U.S., has hired IDEO, a design company with roots in Silicon Valley, to overhaul how it serves up democracy. IDEO has developed a touchscreen system that incorporates features familiar to voters used to scrolling and tapping. Election administrators across the country are closely watching the experiment. They want to know if L.A. can solve the problem of American voting. “For a long time people muttered that somebody should do something about this,” says Doug Chapin, who runs the University of Minnesota’s Program for Excellence in Election Administration. “What Los Angeles County is doing is just that.”

California: Los Angeles County voting to shift from inkblots to open source | Ars Technica

Los Angeles County is home to a burgeoning technology industry. It boasts a roster of high-profile companies including Hulu, Snapchat, and Tinder. As of 2013, it offered more high-tech jobs than other major markets in the country, including Silicon Valley and New York City. Come election time, however, its residents cast their votes by marking inkblots on ballots that resemble Scantron forms. This discrepancy hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, thanks to recent efforts, it’s gradually narrowing. LA County is finally in the process of developing an open source voting system, purported to be a flexible, intuitive replacement of the incumbent method. Under the new system, slated for public use in 2020, voters will indicate their choices on a touchscreen-operated tablet, after which a machine at the voting booth will print and process their paper ballots to be tallied. This is a leap from the ink-based system, which has remained unchanged since its adoption in 2003. The project, which began in 2009, stems from a combination of misfortune and luck. After the 2000 presidential election, many jurisdictions adopted paperless voting systems in compliance with new federal legislation. LA County couldn’t make the shift; the electronic systems on the market lacked the capacity to process its high volume of votes, and the county was forced to develop its own software. Eventually, some of the other jurisdictions’ machines began to fail and lost their certification. Though spared, Los Angeles County recognized this volatility, and it started drafting plans for a more sustainable solution.

California: Los Angeles County’s reluctance to vote by mail hurting candidates, causes | San Francisco Chronicle

For California Democrats, sprawling Los Angeles County is the scary-looking guard dog that just won’t bark. In November’s election, California’s largest county was dead last in turnout, with just over 31 percent of registered voters casting ballots. And even that dismal number was a huge improvement from the June primary, when Los Angeles County turnout was 16.9 percent — also the lowest in the state. The dismal local turnout makes a difference, particularly to Southern California politicians who aspire to statewide office, like former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Rep. Jane Harman. Both have been mentioned as potential candidates for the seat that Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer will be giving up after 2016. Plenty of politicians, consultants and academics blame the county’s turnout woes on the mail. “Los Angeles County is still suffering the effects of not embracing vote-by-mail years ago,” said Douglas Herman, a Democratic political consultant in Pasadena.

California: Los Angeles County takes step toward voting system overhaul | Los Angeles Times

Supervisors took a significant step Tuesday to overhaul Los Angeles County’s antiquated ink-based balloting system by approving a $15-million contract with Palo Alto consultant Ideo for the design of a more modern way to record votes. Elections officials — who must serve about 4.8 million registered voters scattered across 5,000 precincts — began planning for a new system five years ago. The process was guided by an advisory committee that included local city clerks, voting rights and open government advocates, and officials from the local Democratic and Republican parties. The current system is known as InkaVote and requires voters to mark a paper ballot with their selections. Under the new system, projected to roll out in 2020, voters would make their selections using a touch screen, and the voting machine would then print a paper ballot to be tallied.

Editorials: Democracy gets a facelift | Zev Yaroslavsky

Envisioning a future that would make the founding fathers proud, Los Angeles County is investing $13.6 million to revolutionize its voting system and possibly set the standard for the rest of the country, too. After decades of putting up with the clunky InkaVote and its even clunkier predecessors — Votomatic punch cards, anyone? — the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to develop a prototype with a touch screen and other high-tech innovations designed to serve the different needs of the county’s nearly 5 million registered voters. Barring any serious glitches, the new “ballot marking machine” will be field tested in 2017 and mass produced in 2018, in time for the gubernatorial election. “If this works well in L.A. County, it could be a game changer for the nation,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that advocates election accuracy, transparency and verifiability. Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan said the machine’s engineering specifications, intellectual property and functional prototypes would be nonproprietary and remain in the public domain. “From the beginning, we’ve adopted the principle of doing this in a very transparent manner so other jurisdictions can take advantage of the data,” he said. The project’s first priority is to upgrade the county’s voting system but Logan added, “If we can do that in a way that is transferrable to other jurisdictions, that can advance voting systems across the country, it would be icing on the cake.”

California: Major challenges await Bowen’s successor in California | Sacramento Bee

Voting equipment around the state is breaking down. There is limited money for new systems. A complex statewide voter registration database has been years in the making. And while hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars change hands every day in California, the state’s public-disclosure system confuses searchers and occasionally stops working. Whoever gets the keys to California’s secretary of state’s office in January will inherit a lengthy to-do list for the post’s role overseeing voting and elections, its most public responsibility. The office also handles businesses filings. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who recently disclosed that she is battling depression, has defended her tenure and blamed politics for would-be successors’ criticism of her office during this year’s campaign. Budget cuts during the recession and a lack of new funding have hampered efforts to improve some programs, she has said, such as the Cal-Access campaign-finance website. But whether it is Republican Pete Peterson or Democrat Alex Padilla, California’s next secretary of state will need to hit the ground running, county registrars and other experts say.

California: State doesn’t allow write-in candidates in its general election, so a write-in candidate is suing | The Washington Post

An independent candidate who received a single vote for a U.S. House seat in California is suing the state over it’s top-two primary system, which allows write-in candidates in the primary but not the general election. Theo Milonopoulos, a PhD student at Columbia University, filed to run as a write-in candidate in the crowded primary race to replace the retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D), after missing the deadline to appear on the ballot. Under California’s election law, the top two candidates with the highest number of votes in a primary election move onto the general election, regardless of party, and any write-in votes in the general election are not counted.

California: How Los Angeles County is Rethinking Oudated Voting Technology | NationSwell

With 4.8 million registered voters, 5,000 polling places and the need to provide voting material in 12 different languages across the country’s largest election jurisdiction, Los Angeles County has its hands full during election season. Which is why local election administrators are looking beyond repairing old systems to design a new one that meets the unique needs of its voters, according to Governing. The project, helmed by registrar-recorder/count clerk Dean Logan, is aimed at creating a public-owned and operated, transparent and safe system that ensures voters their ballot is accurately cast and counted. The current system, which was developed by the L.A. County government during the late 1960s, employs different contracts from various commercial vendors for components of the overall voting system, according to Logan. He contends there has yet to be a voting system on the market to meet L.A. County’s needs, and creating a modernized system rather than rebuilding a version of an existing model is the solution.

California: No ballots, no voting machines and other glitches at Los Angeles County polling places | Daily News

With some 5,000 polling places operating throughout Los Angeles County on Tuesday and a shortage of volunteers, some voting locations reported problems such as missing ink and other materials and a lack of staffing. Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles, which had students at polling sites throughout the area, was keeping track of the problems through its Twitter feed, noting issues such as an absence of workers at one site, and voting machines without ink. “Still no ballots at Fire Station 99. Polls have been open for FOUR HOURS,” one tweet noted, referring to a site on the Westside.

National: Futuristic voting is on the way, presidential panel told | The Washington Post

Voters could one day print ballots at home like airline boarding passes, or skip traditional precincts for weekend voting at vote centers. But first, elections administrators nationwide must stop trying to fix problems of the past and focus on innovations, a panel of Western elections officials said Thursday before a presidential commission touring the nation looking for ways to improve voting. Elections officers from California, Colorado, Oregon and New Mexico laid out ideas to slash wait times and bring vote procedures into the Internet age. They said advances are possible without alienating older voters and people who don’t want to give up in-person Election Day voting. Los Angeles County is developing new voting machines that can “read” ballots printed at home, similar to checking in for a flight at airports. Oregon’s elections chief talked up the possibility of voters receiving bar-coded ballots on email and returning them in person, like returning a rented movie to Redbox.

Voting Blogs: Los Angeles County Registrar Says ‘No’ to Internet Voting, But ‘Yes’ to Touch-Screen Voting | BradBog

The good news: When the largest voting jurisdiction in the nation gets its new voting system, perhaps as early as 2015, it will not including Internet Voting, according to Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles. The bad news: It will very likely include touch-screen computers and, with them, 100% unverifiable voting. I interviewed Logan last week on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show [full audio interview is at the bottom of this article], and we had a very informative discussion about what voters in Los Angeles may have to look forward to in the coming years, as well as many of you in the rest of the country, since the new system is being designed with an eye towards selling it to other counties in California as well as in the rest of the country.

California: Los Angeles County Remakes How Its Citizens Will Vote | The California Report

Los Angeles County is re-inventing the nation’s largest voting system, which serves nearly 4 million registered voters. The goal is to build a more flexible, user-friendly system that could be licensed for use in other cities and counties around California. … The architect of all this is Dean Logan, registrar-recorder for Los Angeles County. He oversees a system that dates from the 1960s. The county uses ink-marked ballots and old IBM card-counting machines. The  50-year-old system is nearing the end of its useful life. After the presidential election in 2000, when voters complained they mismarked the controversial butterfly ballots used in a Florida county, Congress and state governments gave counties millions of dollars to replace old punch-card ballot systems with digital voting machines. Across California, counties adopted those systems, some of which now need updating. Los Angeles County resisted buying the machines, and still has $60 million of federal and state money to spend on a new system. Only five brands of voting machines are certified for use in California. Logan said the county doesn’t want them. They are too expensive and bulky to put in some 5,000 polling places. “There really is no existing voting system out on the market,” he said. “It’s a very limited market in the first place.”

California: Los Angeles County developing a voting system for the digital age | SCPR

Los Angeles County is re-inventing the nation’s largest electoral system, which serves nearly 4 million registered voters. The goal is a more flexible, user-friendly system that county officials hope will increase turnout. To design the system from scratch, county officials started in 2010 by surveying voters and stakeholder groups. They added observations from poll workers. The county registrar of voters also co-sponsored a design challenge on a crowdsourcing website that drew responses from all over. Cansu Akarsu, a designer from Turkey, suggested a computer tablet that helps poll workers interact with disabled people to select the right voting method. A person could use the system to select polling place accommodations days in advance. Tina Lee, a U.S.-based designer, suggests a tablet app that lets the voter decide the pace of the ballot display or the order in which contests would appear. Some other suggestions included a van that travels to voters, voting kiosks at grocery stores, and a two-week voting period.

National: U.S. Election Assistance Commission and NIST trumpet innovation in voting technology | California Forward

Last week, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission hosted a Future of Voting Systems Symposium. The three-day meeting outside of Washington, DC was designed to look at the latest developments in the field of voting technology and assess how such developments mesh with the current federal structure for testing and certification. The takeaway from the meeting was sobering and exciting; while it is increasingly clear that existing testing and certification requirements aren’t working, there is a burst of creativity underway by election officials, technologists and other stakeholders in the effort to design a different and better approach.

California: Los Angeles County crowdsources ideas for new voting system | 89.3 KPCC

Los Angeles County is by far the biggest election jurisdiction in the U.S., but if dealing with 4.5 million voters isn’t enough, the county is also hampered by an outdated voting system. The registrar says it’s due for a major facelift, and he’s looking to the public for answers. Logan says a countywide election can mean organizing up to 5,000 polling places and 25,000 poll workers on election day. “Election day is equivalent to a military operation. We literally have helicopters bringing the ballots back to our headquarters, we have people deployed all over the county — it’s a mega operation,” Logan says.

Voting Blogs: L.A.’s Elections Overhaul Could Provide a New Model |

Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder/county clerk in Los Angeles County (the largest voting district in the country), is currently facing a daunting goal that will affect over 4 million voters: completely overhauling its dated election system over the next five years. Recognizing that it’s time for a change, Logan and his office are now trying to determine what, exactly, should they replace their election system with. They might wind up with something truly unique, something of the people.

The current system, Logan says, lacks the flexibility to suit the county’s increasingly diverse population. The county currently uses something like a punchcard voting system adapted from technology developed more than 40 years ago. Voters slide a paper ballot into a template with candidate names and mark it with ink. The ballots can be tabulated quickly, are easy to store, and provide a physical record of each vote. But they don’t list candidate names on the actual paper — those appear on the template — so it’s difficult for those who use the increasingly popular mail-in option to case their votes. The system also offers little in the way of of sophisticated language assistance or help for disabled voters.

“It’s old technology,” Logan says. “It’s not going to sustain a whole lot longer.”
None of the system’s original developers are employed by the county, and it’s become increasingly difficult to find people “with requisite skills in obsolete mainframe technologies” to replace retiring staff, according to a county report. Purchasing a new system don’t fit well with L.A. County’s operations: direct-recording electronic (DRE or touchscreen) machines are too expensive to be rolled out and maintained across 5,000 polling locations. A low-tech system — such as one that relies on hand-counting — could yield inaccuracies in a county as large as Los Angeles.

Editorials: Dean C. Logan and R. Michael Alvarez: Let’s bring registration online now | LA Daily News

The world looks to California for 21st century innovation, especially for the application of technology that makes life less costly and more efficient.
Californians are well into the 21st century, working in the cloud, using smart phones and tablet computers, and getting their entertainment on demand by satellite. But when it comes to voter registration, California seems to be stuck in the 18th century. State law won’t allow eligible citizens in our state to register online until at least 2015 — and maybe much later.

Fortunately, Californians may not need to wait much longer. SB 397, a bill that would allow for online voter registration as soon as 2012, has now been approved by the state Senate and passed through the Assembly Policy Committee. Since the bill’s introduction by Sen. Leland Yee in February of 2011, SB 397 has continued to garner legislative support by adding a number of coauthors.