During the recall election for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), some of the state’s voters will be allowed to prepare their ballots at home.
There are two different options. One is called “Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail (RAVBM),” which allows voters to fill out their ballot online, print it out on their printer, and submit it by mail or at a polling location. The voter must request the RAVBM system.
Another option, available in Los Angeles County, is the Interactive Sample Ballot (ISB), in which voters fill out a sample ballot online, then print or display generate a “poll pass” with a QR code, which they can take to be scanned by a “Ballot Marking Device” at a polling place to record a vote.
According to the California Secretary of State, the RAVBM system was developed initially for the 2020 presidential election. It is scheduled to be used again on Sep. 14 for the Newsom recall, as well as the practice of sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter instead of merely those voters who request a ballot. (That practice was extended through 2021 by a law enacted in February, as it was becoming clear to all that there would likely be enough signatures on petitions to force a recall election for the governor.)
The Secretary of State’s office notes that there were “four certified RAVBM systems” for the November 2020 vote: “Five Cedars Group Alternate Format Ballot v5.2.1, Democracy Live Secure Select 1.2.2, Dominion Voting Systems Dominion ImageCast Remote 5.10A, and Los Angeles County Voting Solution for All People Interactive Sample Ballot 2.5.” Though RAVBM is designed for voters with disabilities, “any voter” could request to use it in 2020.
L.A. County produced a video for the 2020 election showing how RAVBM ballots can be returned by mail:
A video showing how the Interactive Sample Ballot and the “poll pass” system works were also shared by L.A. County:
The sample ballot sent to L.A. County voters states the IBS system is designed to simplify voting for all because of the “large number of candidates [43, other than the governor himself] appearing on the ballot” in the recall election.
Katy Grimes of the California Globe notes that voters in California are asking questions about the RAVBM system, including, “Can you print out more than one ballot? How are these verified and by whom?”
In response to the question “How secure are RAVBM systems?” a FAQ page at the Secretary of State website says: “California has one of the most strenuous testing and certification programs in the country to ensure that your private and independent ballot is secure.”