Checking LA’s QR Codes


There have been plenty of comments about the QR Codes on ballots used in the Voting Solutions For All People (VSAP) election system used by Los Angeles County. The primary issue being that they are not voter-verifiable since humans cannot normally read boxes with dots in them. But upon further review, it’s easier than one might think. To the point that I hope citizens will use this simple technique to spot-check ballots in future elections.

Checking LA VSAP’s QR Codes

The information here is mostly from this web page, helpfully provided by LA’s registrar, Mr. Dean Logan.

The image below shows a sample ballot from a demo of LA system. Of note, it contains two QR codes (boxes filled with dots) and in the second column, a list of the voter’s four selections. As explained in the web page noted above, the QR code contains information about the voting machine, and the “ballot style”, appropriate for a given precinct. It does NOT contain votes.

The lower, larger QR code contains votes. This is what the system’s scanners read for the vote count, not the list of names/words in the second column.

Citizens can load a QR reader app into their cell phone, and scan the code. I did this with the iPhone QR Code Reader from TapMedia LTD. The iight yellow area in the lower right area of the above image is a screenshot of what the QR code reader showed me on my phone. As you can see, the codes for individual candidates, AL3, PF2, S22, and Y03, match up perfectly between the ballot and what’s in the QR code. Apparently Android devices come supplied with a QR code reader, or you might try the QR Code Reader from TWMobile.

Officials are also publishing a list of the code for each of the candidates in the upcoming election here:

What this means is that citizens can quickly spot check the QR codes on ballots. The most time consuming part of the process is downloading/finding the app, and testing it before using it in a vote center. I doubt there will be an issue with the codes. If there is, notify the officials at the vote center, and if it’s not resolved, please email me at JimSoper2 at gmail dot com.

An Independent Spot Check

Here, we don’t need everybody to check every ballot. We don’t even need a random selection of the ballots. What we want is spot checks that are unpredictable. If there is an anomaly with the QR codes, it would very likely be systematic, and spot checks will ultimately see it.

Please note that the California approval of the LA system requires officials to check the QR Codes. The approval document is here. Item #20 says:

LA Citizens – To Do

The next time you vote at a vote center, I urge you to download a QR code reader, check it at home, and then use it when you vote. This is hardly a check of the entire system. It is a check of one step, among hundreds, in LA’s election system. But as I recently wrote, it’s important to get these details right: The Little Bits Matter.

For testing at home, below is an enlarged picture of the QR code as shown in the web page.

Your scan from your app should include: SEL:4N/4E/H/J/3C/3K/35/4S/45/3Z/4A/X/3Q/3S/3U/3W/3Y/N/Y . This matches the votes shown on the web page .

PS: A colleague kindly sent me photos of their real ballot and the scanned QR code output. They match.

Below is the scanned QR code output from the ballot above.

PPS: If someone has similar documentation for how to read the QR codes for the ES&S, Dominion & Hart systems, please send them to me. Thank you.

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