Reporter Sues to See Report on LA County Election Meltdown

The line outside the voting center at All Saints Episcopal church in Los Angeles County swelled to about 40 people this past March as poll workers saw an influx of afternoon voters for California’s primary. (Courthouse News photo/Martin Macias Jr.)

(CN) — Los Angeles County’s rollout of a $300 million custom-made voting system this past March stalled voters at polling places for hours and left a lot of unanswered questions.

Reporter Kim Zetter wrote about LA County’s misstep for Politico and has sued for copies of a report detailing what exactly happened with the voting system. Zetter filed the lawsuit Tuesday in LA County Superior Court.

This past March, voters in LA County were greeted by a new voting system with touchscreen ballots and iPad-like check-ins operated by poll workers. The $300 million Voting Solutions For All People 2.0 voting system was in development for over a decade, but the ePollbook system was not tested to meet the county’s demand — namely how individual polling places would sync up with the county’s voter database.

This resulted in a bottleneck that left voters waiting in long lines and forced others to cast provisional ballots. The LA County Board of Supervisors asked the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office to investigate the missteps and that 135-page internal report was released to the public, with recommendations on how the voting system could be improved by November.

A separate, external audit conducted by Slalom Consulting did not see the light of day, with the county choosing to release a summary of the report instead.

A national cybersecurity reporter, Zetter requested a full copy of the report on June 25, but her request was immediately denied via email. She followed up with a formal request under the California Public Records Act, which the county also denied on July 27.

According to Zetter, the county said the records were exempt from disclosure. Zetter argues the county has not been able to make a proper “determination” as to why it is withholding public records as required by California law nor did it entertain the prospect of redacting portions of the document that could be withheld before they are released. Finally, Zetter says the records “contain information that is already public or is not subject to any basis for withholding” under California law.

Zetter is represented by attorneys James Wheaton and Paul Clifford of the First Amendment Project.

This past June, Courthouse News requested a full copy of the Slalom report. A county spokesperson said the county would not release the full document to the public because the report “contains confidential information prepared for the Board of Supervisors and intended to safeguard and improve the voting system and the technology that supports it.”

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