California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Jan. 24 that he had “conditionally” certified Los Angeles County’s new publicly-owned voting system.

The Voting Solutions for All People 2.0 (VSAP) system – which is the first publicly owned and designed voting system certified for use in the United States – will make its debut during the March 3 Presidential primary election.

“The certification of the first publicly owned voting system in the nation is a historic milestone for American democracy,” said Padilla. “VSAP is a big step forward in modernizing elections in Los Angeles County, which has been home to some of the oldest voting equipment in the state. Upgrading to a modern system will improve the long-term reliability and security of elections in the largest county in America.”

Despite his praise, Padilla only granted it a conditional certification due to ongoing concerns with the voting system.

“As part of my certification of VSAP, I am insisting on some essential modifications to the system and requiring on-going reports from Los Angeles County so that we can continue to improve the voting experience for Angelenos,” Padilla explained.

The two main modifications Padilla requested have to do with paper ballots and post-election audits.

With the VASP system, voters who choose to vote in-person will use an electronic tablet to make their selections, the tablet will then produce a paper ballot. Padilla’s office noted that the tables are not connected to the internet, are not used to count votes, and are not allowed to store any data. However, as part of VASP’s certification, Padilla is mandating that “voters who vote at a vote center, but object to using a ballot marking device will also have the option of requesting a paper ballot they can mark by hand.”

Padilla is also requiring Los Angeles to comply with a California state law that requires county elections officials to conduct a post-election audit after every election. This audit consists of a manual tally of paper ballots representing a random sampling of one percent of precincts after each election.

The Secretary of State’s office had additional conditions for VASP’s certification:

  • Los Angeles must use Secretary of State approved locks and/or tamper-evident seals throughout the voting system to enhance security and detect tampering. This includes USB port covers, the ballot marking devices, and county computer workstations.
  • Passwords and secure access to the VASP environment “shall be limited to employees on an as-needed basis only.”
  • The County is required to provide a written report to the Secretary of State’s office within six months of being granted conditional approval. The report has to include the “status of encryption of components of any server or workstation hardware used for VSAP programming and development.”
  • Within five months from the date of conditional approval, Los Angeles County shall provide a plan to the Secretary of State for reviewing the “functionality and usability of the system as it pertains to the current use of the ‘more’ button on the ballot marking device including engagement with stakeholders, disability rights advocates and recognized election material design and usability experts.”

“I appreciate Los Angeles County’s efforts to engage a broad range of stakeholders and to seek community input during their years long design and testing process,” Padilla said. “Elections officials have a duty to make voting both as secure and as accessible as possible.”

Read More About
Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs