Aman Bhullar, CIO for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk, strives to maximize election participation with modern technology.

Feb 12 2024

Local Electoral Jurisdictions Upgrade Voting Infrastructure to Boost Trust and Participation

Officials modernize IT systems to ensure votes are counted swiftly, securely and accurately.

In a state-of-the-art warehouse in Los Angeles County, protected by biometric security and other advanced measures, is a vast, deployable network just waiting for the next election. Thirty-one thousand custom-designed voting devices, 6,000 tablets for checking in voters and 800 wireless network routers stand ready for deployment throughout the nation’s largest electoral jurisdiction.

“For every election, we stand up a network operations center,” says Aman Bhullar, CIO for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk. “A team of dedicated staff monitors the entire network. And before the routers and electronic poll books are even deployed, we take steps to secure everything so that no foreign devices can get in.”

Bhullar says that to its credit, LA County has never suffered a cybersecurity incident related to its electoral infrastructure. And even as his team remains vigilant, it’s also able to focus on a program devoted to improving the voter experience, including through an app that guides people to voting centers with the shortest wait times.

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“We want to be in the media for the right reasons,” Bhullar says. “Importantly, we want citizens to use our systems. It’s always an evolution. Every election, we’re learning, streamlining our processes and bringing in new technology.”

Since the 2020 general election, held at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, local jurisdictions have introduced or enhanced systems to streamline and protect elections. Some have made significant strides in modernizing their voting systems, while others have been more cautious.

“Some of it is about budget. Some of it is that the applications they need to modernize have been around for 25 or 30 years and still work, but they can’t be upgraded securely,” says Rita Reynolds, CIO for the National Association of Counties. “And then there’s change management and the challenge of training election volunteers on new systems.”

“But the biggest challenge in election modernization is maintaining the public trust,” Reynolds says. “For example, electronic poll books are definitely a modernization tool that enhances the voter experience — they’re quicker and more efficient than manual methods — but the public needs to trust that e-poll books haven’t been compromised in any fashion.”

LEARN how LA County's Human Resources Department automated data analysis for its records. 

Local Agencies Seek to Maintain Modernization Momentum

For its e-poll books, which provide election workers with the interface for checking voter registrations, LA County uses Apple iPad devices running software that maintains a constant connection to its central voter database. The poll books are used at about 800 voting centers, some in the county’s most rural areas, where broadband isn’t reliably available.

In addition to electronic poll books, LA County deploys a Cradlepoint E3000 router to each center, which offers secure, temporary networking via Ethernet, Wi-Fi or 4G/5G cellular connectivity.

“We’re even using satellite connectivity to help eliminate the digital divide,” Bhullar says.

Before an election, the IT staff installs fresh security certificates on all poll books and routers. “We make sure only the poll books are interfacing with the routers. There is no way a foreign device can get into our network,” Bhullar says.

Aman Bhullar
Every election, we’re learning, streamlining our processes and bringing in new technology.”

Aman Bhullar CIO, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk

Once the voting centers are up and running, the county uses Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Manager to monitor all network traffic. “Our network operations center also monitors bandwidth during elections,” Bhullar says. “If one carrier is getting overtaxed, we can switch over to a different one from the operations center.”

Voting occurs on touch-screen devices custom designed by LA County. They’re completely isolated from the internet, with no network connectivity, and include a built-in scanner and printer so that voters can interact in their preferred manner. At the end of the process, however, in accordance with California law, a paper ballot represents the authoritative vote.

“It’s a digital experience, but it’s not electronic voting,” Bhullar says. “We still rely on paper ballots because, frankly, paper can’t be hacked.”

DISCOVER why IT modernization is a top priority for state and local governments. 

Modernized Networks Return Swift Election Results

In Chicago, the city’s 950-plus voting centers include touch-screen devices that generate their own paper ballots. They’re also outfitted with digital scanners and Verizon cellular modems for transmitting ballots to the Board of Elections’ central facility. Each scanner’s modem has a security certificate that’s renewed before every election and establishes a point-to-point multiprotocol label-switching (MPLS) connection via Verizon’s wireless network infrastructure.

As an important security measure, the scanned ballot images are transmitted only after polls close, when the modems are temporarily activated. They’re sent to the board’s servers through secured Juniper routers for tallying.

The city has been investing in its electoral infrastructure to maintain security, allow citizens to vote where it’s most convenient and fulfill its commitment to timely results. In one recent Chicago election, an April 4 runoff, roughly 95 percent of precincts were able to report their tallies by 9 p.m., a significant improvement over recent years and a testament to the city’s built-out infrastructure.

“With the newer voting equipment, the data files we’re transmitting have gotten much bigger,” says Matt Lin, IT manager for the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago. “So, we’re upgrading our MPLS circuits and routers to run at 1 gigabit per second.”

31, the number of states using voting equipment that will be at least a decade old as of 2024


The city’s poll books communicate with the board’s servers over dedicated Verizon VPN links, with no access points to or from the public internet. Chicago is switching its poll books to Apple iPads for extra security.

For an added layer of cyber protection, Chicago has worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to install a network sensor in the board’s data center that constantly scans for vulnerabilities or suspicious activity.

“Once all the systems are up, they’re very reliable,” Lin says. “When the election is over, everything is locked up, and the certificates expire.”

Modern Tech Enhances Usability and Accessibility

Having established the infrastructure to support secure, accessible elections, LA County and Chicago have also turned their attention to tech solutions for other parts of the voting experience. LA County’s efforts fall under its expansive Voting Solutions for All People platform, which includes more than 20 systems and processes, including public-facing web applications such as an interactive sample ballot and an app that shows average wait times at every voting center.

This fall, Chicago launched a new elections website designed for better usability and accessibility. It allows members of the public to more easily check that their registration information is up to date, request mail-in ballots and more.

“Voting technology has been intentionally behind the times, but now we’re at a moment of meeting voters where they are, especially with the expansion and popularity of early voting,” says Max Bever, director of public information for the city’s Board of Election Commissioners. “Throughout Chicago, we’re increasing our capacity with digital tools. That extends to our vastly enhanced secure network infrastructure.”

Photography by Matthew Furman

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