Beverly Hills Sues Over 'Severe Ballot Design Flaw' In LA County Voting Machines

A member of the news media operates L.A. County's new voting machines in Norwalk, California, Monday, September 16, 2019. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)

With weeks to go before voting starts for California's March 3 primary, Beverly Hills has filed a lawsuit targeting the user interface of new Los Angeles County voting equipment.

The filing names L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan as a defendant and claims the new machines have "a severe ballot design flaw, one that threatens the integrity and accuracy of dozens of races in the upcoming consolidated primary election."

At issue? Only four candidates fit on the first digital "page" of a given race on the ballot-marking machines, and it's too easy for voters to unknowingly skip candidates further down the ballot by hitting "NEXT" instead of "MORE" on the touch screen, said City Attorney Larry Wiener.

"We're really doing this on behalf of all the voters in the county of Los Angeles," Wiener said. "This isn't just a Beverly Hills issue."

This would primarily impact local contests where names don't rotate on the ballot, like many city council races.

How could the county fix it? It's up to election officials to decide, Wiener said, but the city has some ideas:

"The City is asking LA County to gray out the NEXT button until the voter has moved to the last page of that individual race and viewed all candidates," Beverly Hills spokesperson Keith Sterling wrote in a press release. "Alternatively, the City is asking that instructions be included on the first screen indicating there may be additional candidates than the first four names listed and to select MORE to view all choices."

Read the Beverly Hills lawsuit here:

Logan responded to Beverly Hills' concerns in a letter to City Clerk Huma Ahmed dated Jan. 6.

"The ballot layout features have been subject to significant review," Logan said.

After the public got a chance to try the ballot-marking devices in mock elections last fall, Logan's office added a pulsating yellow ring around the "MORE" button and a gradient feature to let voters know there is more of the ballot to view past the visible page.

Logan says there is evidence from a Long Beach City Council election in November showing consistency in results when people voted by mail, in-person with pen and paper, or using the ballot-marking machines.

Read the full letter:

Los Angeles County voters are facing big changes and some uncertainty about where and how they will vote starting next month.

Absentee ballots will begin hitting voters' mailboxes Feb. 3. But unlike most of California, more than half of Angelenos still vote in person — and they'll be contending with the loss of their neighborhood polling places as they switch to voting in new, consolidated "vote centers." It's an additional change they'll have to adjust to on top of the brand-new machines to mark their ballots when voting starts next month.

The new 11-day in-person voting period starts Feb. 22, when the first wave of vote centers is scheduled to open. L.A. County hasn't announced the precise locations of those voting sites yet, however — and the new high-tech voting system is still not state-certified.

The Secretary of State put L.A.'s new equipment through a mountain of tests to check for safety and accuracy.

They found dozens of issues related to security and paper jams that could cause delays. You can read more on this from LAist here.

Registrar-Recorder Logan said his office has dealt with any problems that popped up in testing, during a mock election and a November pilot program — and he's confident the new system will make voting easier and more convenient for Angelenos.