Long Voter Lines in LA Were Caused By . . . A Tablet

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.We have finally figured out why voters had to wait for hours in Los Angeles during the recent election. It had nothing to do with the voting machines, but with the electronic tablets that replaced paper lists of voters for poll workers to check off:

The report concludes that these devices — known as electronic poll books — and not the county’s new $300 million voting machines were the source of those delays…Because Los Angeles County did not have backup paper copies of the voter list, poll workers were not able to check in voters when the devices failed, leading to long lines.
….The delays were caused by some poll books taking hours to sync their voter lists with each other and with the countywide voter registration database, making them unusable during this time, the county’s report says. The devices also had another problem: Poll workers were supposed to be able to look up voters’ records by name and address but were limited to name searches, producing hundreds of false positives in some cases that poll workers had to sift through. The report blames a vendor programming error for this issue.

As someone who used to work closely with software development of database applications, I never know how to feel about reports like this. On the one hand, stuff like this happened to us too, and probably to every other team that’s developed a similar application. On the other hand, we’re talking here about a database with a few million records and a peak rate of maybe 30 or 40 transactions per second. This is . . . not rocket science. Not in 2020, anyway. I wonder what the hell this app was doing as it “synchronized” voter lists?

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