Reporting

February 05, 2013 by Ed Coghlan

Video: California innovation found—in the public sector

In California, when one thinks of innovation, thoughts invariably turn to the Silicon Valley and perhaps some company with an uncommon name. 

But sometimes new thinking in technology can spring from traditionally slow moving places.

In fact, this time the innovation that's is underway is happening in a very unlikely spot: The office of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County ClerkThat's right, innovation in, of all places, the public sector. 

Registrar Dean Logan is doing what all innovators do: He's looking to solve a problem that no one else can. What's the problem? He can't find a voting machine that works well for his large, diverse and complex County. 

So he's designing his own. And he's doing it the old-fashioned way. He's first talking to his customers--the voters of Los Angeles County.

Logan in a recent speech to the Future of California Elections meeting in Sacramento (organized by Common Cause and sponsored by the Irvine Foundation) told election officials about why he has taken such a dramatic step. 

Logan pointed out three factors that drove the decision:

  1. The age of the voting equipment is old and options for new equipment are limited. (If you vote in Los Angeles County, you know how arcane the system is)
  2. Voting Machines must be approved by federal and state officials, and the national regulatory environment has been, to use Logan's words, "unstable and erratic in the last ten years." So not much new is coming to the market.
  3. The issue of funding. Even if new and approved voting machines were available, there's no public money to buy them.

But something has to be done because as Logan told the FOCE audience, "Los Angeles' system is at the end of his life." And there's nothing approved on the market that would meet the needs of L.A.'s large and diverse community. 

Logan has been working on this for over two years, collecting data, asking voters questions and working toward a solution that will be secure, transparent, easily used and functional. 

"It is a daunting project that we are committed to doing and doing right," Logan said. 

The County will review 3-5 design models later this year. While Los Angeles County is obviously much bigger and more complex than many other California counties, other officials will be watching to see what Logan and his team come up with. And it will have the input of the voters included in the design. 

The audience that is watching what Logan and his team come up with isn't limited to California. This is a process that people around the nation are watching. 

Pamela Smith of Verified Voting--a group that works to make sure that every vote that is cast is counted---thinks that Logan's effort underscores California's leadership in good and trustworthy elections:

Categories: Innovation

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