Technical Issues Lead To Long Lines For California Voters

Mar 3, 2020, 6:37 PM
LOS ANGELES,  - MARCH 03: Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a vote center at a Masonic L...
LOS ANGELES, - MARCH 03: Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a vote center at a Masonic Lodge on March 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. 1,357 Democratic delegates are at stake as voters cast their ballots in 14 states and American Samoa on what is known as Super Tuesday. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Some California voters waited in long lines Tuesday because of technical glitches connecting to the statewide voter database or in the case of the nation’s most populous county, too many users trying to cast ballots at once through a new election system that had raised concerns about technical and security defects.

Election workers in 15 counties could not connect to the statewide voter registration database, said Sam Mahood, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. He said there was no evidence of malicious activity and that the issues were resolved.

“This should not prevented any voters from casting a ballot, as counties have contingency procedures in place to check-in voters. If a voter left without casting a ballot, we encourage them to go back to the polls before 8 p.m.,” Mahood said.

The secretary of state’s website also was offline sporadically throughout the day. California is among 14 states holding presidential primary contests on Super Tuesday, and voters in the nation’s most populous state also are weighing in on congressional races, legislative seats and a statewide school bond.

In Los Angeles County, which has more than a quarter of the state’s 20 million registered voters and a new $300 million voting system, electronic pollbooks were operating slowly because so many voters were trying to use them at the same time, said Mike Sanchez, spokesman for the county Registrar-Recorder.

Delays were up to two hours in some locations.

Technicians have added more devices in some polling places to speed up lines, Sanchez said. There had been no indication of security breaches with the pollbooks, which are hooked up to the state’s voter database, he said.

The county’s new elections system is undergoing a trial by fire after the state certified it for use despite serious technical and security defects identified in testing. That includes the ability of an attacker to bypass seals, locks and sensors and boot from a USB port, which could allow election data to be modified. Testers also found the machines susceptible to paper jams at five times the acceptable rate.

Election integrity activists had warned that the system was bound to experience serious failures and should have never been certified for use. The conditional certification was contingent on several defects being remedied — after Tuesday’s primary.

Long lines also were reported in Beverly Hills, which has sued Los Angeles County over the new voting system’s user interface, calling it severely flawed.

A Beverly Hills City Council member, Dr. Julian Gold, said the lines were up to three hours long and that he was told the delays were related to voter check-in.

“There’s a lot of frustration, (and) people walk away. I don’t know if they’ll come back. I hope they do,” Gold said.

The problems have emerged as California Democrats are eager to elect a candidate they hope can oust President Donald Trump in the fall. The state moved up its primary from June to March so voters could weigh in earlier.

The primary also coincides with a number of changes aimed at expanding voter participation in California. Those changes may end up confusing voters or contributing to longer lines.

New this year, Californians will be able to register to vote through 8 p.m. Tuesday at any location where ballots are accepted, which could tie up lines as people fill out paperwork. Results may be delayed because provisional ballots take longer to count.

Also, 15 counties representing more than half the state’s voters have replaced traditional neighborhood polling places with a smaller number of multipurpose vote centers where people can register, vote and take care of other election business.

The new centers are designed to make voting more convenient but may confuse people who are accustomed to visiting their local polling place.

In Sacramento County, one of the 15 that uses vote centers and that experienced glitches Tuesday, spokeswoman Janna Haynes said officials had to resort to a backup plan of treating every voter as a new voter and have them fill out a conditional voter registration form. Then they called their main office with the person’s address to determine which precinct ballot each voter needed and printed it out.

Haynes said the system was down for about an hour mid-morning.

“Fortunately, it was short lived and didn’t impact us all day,” she said.

Officials expected more mail-in ballots to arrive Tuesday because many voters waited to see results from other primaries before sending them in.

“We got 20,000 ballots in the mail today, and many people are showing up at the polls and dropping off their mail-in ballots,” said John Arntz, director of San Francisco’s Department of Elections.

In Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area, about a quarter of the mail-in ballots that were issued had been received, Evelyn Mendez of the registrar’s office said from the Santa Clara County.

“People tell us they were waiting to the last minute to see if candidates dropped out,” Mendez said.


Associated Press writers Stefanie Dazio and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles, Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, Olga R. Rodriguez and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco, and Amy Taxin in Tustin contributed to this report.

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Technical Issues Lead To Long Lines For California Voters