Legislation: Election Security a High Priority – Until It Comes to Paying for New Voting Machines | ProPublica

“Today’s voting systems are not going to last 70 years, they’re going to last 10,” says U.S. Elections Assistance Commission Commissioner Matt Masterson. While previous generations of voting equipment, lever machines and punch cards, had hardware that could be relied on for decades, today’s technology becomes outdated a lot faster. While election equipment needs to be replaced more often, election administration remains a low funding priority, a ProPublica review of state and local budgets nationwide found. In 2017, Utah appropriated $275,000 to aid counties in purchasing new voting equipment, but $500,000 to help sponsor the Sundance Film Festival. A few years earlier, Missouri allocated $2 million in grants to localities to replace voting equipment the state, while increasing the Division of Tourism budget by $10 million to $24 million.

National: The Myth of the Hacker-Proof Voting Machine | The New York Times

In 2011, the election board in Pennsylvania’s Venango County — a largely rural county in the northwest part of the state — asked David A. Eckhardt, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, to examine its voting systems. In municipal and state primaries that year, a few voters had reported problems with machines ‘‘flipping’’ votes; that is, when these voters touched the screen to choose a candidate, the screen showed a different candidate selected. Errors like this are especially troubling in counties like Venango, which uses touch-screen voting machines that have no backup paper trail; once a voter casts a digital ballot, if the machine misrecords the vote because of error or maliciousness, there’s little chance the mistake will be detected. Eckhardt and his colleagues concluded that the problem with the machines, made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S), was likely a simple calibration error. But the experts were alarmed by something else they discovered. Examining the election-management computer at the county’s office — the machine used to tally official election results and, in many counties, to program voting machines — they found that remote-access software had been installed on it.

National: Ryan move to replace election agency leader stirs outcry | Politico

House Speaker Paul Ryan faced Democratic criticism Thursday after choosing not to renew the term of a federal agency head who has helped lead the charge on securing elections from hackers. Matthew Masterson, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, will depart once the Senate confirms a successor, three people familiar with the situation told POLITICO. His four-year term as a commissioner expired in December, but he has stayed while Ryan contemplated whom to recommend to President Donald Trump as a nominee for the seat. Ryan has decided that Masterson won’t be on the list. Another commissioner was already scheduled to take the chairman’s slot on Saturday, but Masterson could have remained as a commissioner if he were renominated. … “This is insanity,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, an election security expert who is the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “Matt is extremely capable and has been a champion of more secure and better elections the entire time he’s been on the EAC.”

Voting Blogs: Are voting-machine modems truly divorced from the Internet? | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

The ES&S model DS200 optical-scan voting machine has a cell-phone modem that it uses to upload election-night results from the voting machine to the “county central” canvassing computer.  We know it’s a bad idea to connect voting machines (and canvassing computers) to the Internet, because this allows their vulnerabilities to be exploited by hackers anywhere in the world.  (In fact, a judge in New Jersey ruled in 2009 that the state must not connect its voting machines and canvassing computers to the internet, for that very reason.)  So the question is, does DS200’s cell-phone modem, in effect, connect the voting machine to the Internet? The vendor (ES&S) and the counties that bought the machine say, “no, it’s an analog modem.”  That’s not true; it appears to be a Multitech MTSMC-C2-N3-R.1 (Verizon C2 series modem), a fairly complex digital device.  But maybe what they mean is “it’s just a phone call, not really the Internet.”  So let’s review how phone calls work.

Alaska: To boost election security, Alaska suspends electronic absentee program | Juneau Empire

The Alaska Division of Elections has announced it will suspend a little-used absentee voting program in an effort to improve the security of the state’s elections. In a note released last week, the division said it had received a “B” grade for election security in a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy group. “B” was the highest grade awarded to any state in the country; 11 states received the ranking, the report indicated. Alaska’s report drew attention to the way the state handles absentee ballots submitted from overseas.

Georgia: Kemp faces new voter security questions amid Russia probe | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As evidence mounts that Russia is again trying to interfere in U.S. votes, Georgia’s top elections official faces new scrutiny of his oversight of the state’s voting system. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor, tells voters the state’s elections system is secure and that he doesn’t need additional help from Washington to defend against hackers. But he’s also open to a paper-based voting system, which his critics from both parties say is essential to ensuring the state’s touch-screen voting machines can’t be undermined. And he’s come under fire for past lapses that have left confidential voter data vulnerable. For Kemp, who launched a statewide bus tour Monday, the fears about the state’s voting network are misguided. He said in an interview he’s “completely confident” in the integrity of Georgia’s election system, and brushed aside concerns the state isn’t doing enough to protect the ballots.

Maryland: Officials look to shore up election defenses after Russian tampering | Baltimore Sun

As details emerge of the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 election, officials in Maryland are working to protect the state’s voting system for this year and beyond. State elections officials are working with federal authorities to shore up Maryland’s defenses against tampering with electronic voting systems and electoral rolls. Lawmakers have introduced proposals to fix perceived flaws, audit results more rigorously and to compel greater disclosures about advertising on social media. … Poorvi Vora, a professor of computer science at George Washington University, says Maryland is among the worst of the 50 states in securing absentee ballots. The state allows voters to request absentee ballots through its web site and mark them online before mailing them in. That function is part of the system that allows voters to register online. It’s also the system that hackers probed in August 2016. Charlson said they did not breach it.

Legislation: Lawmakers Reject Plan To Require Paper Trail For Voting | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee lawmakers have rejected a measure that would’ve required a paper receipt for all ballots cast in the state. In a meeting Tuesday of the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee, legislators voted down a bill intended to create a paper trail for auditors to follow in the event electronic voting machines are hacked. The measure had been opposed by state election officials, who say paper receipts are an unnecessary expense. Machines that spit out paper receipts would have cost Tennessee election commissions about $9.5 million up front, and they would have cost millions more to operate. Mark Goins, the state’s coordinator of elections, says there’s also not much evidence that voting machines are in danger of being hacked.

Sweden: Security service braced for possible Russian election meddling | Reuters

Russia could try to influence the outcome of national elections in Sweden in September if authorities in Moscow feel their strategic interests are threatened, the Swedish security service said on Thursday. The service’s head of counter-intelligence, Daniel Stenling, cited membership of NATO – which Sweden has debated joining – and security around the Baltic Sea as two important issues for Russia. “Russian espionage is still the biggest threat to Sweden,” he told an annual press briefing. “We see that Russia has an intention to influence individual issues that are of strategic importance. If these issues become central in the election campaign, we can expect attempts at Russian influence.” Stenling declined to say if his force had already seen evidence of such attempts.

Switzerland: How risky are flawed e-voting systems for democracy? | SWI

A leading data protection expert has warned of future security breaches if the government’s plan to introduce e-voting at a nationwide level goes ahead. Bruno Baeriswyl, data protection commissioner in canton Zurich, urged the authorities to give up plans, announced last April, for online voting across Switzerland. Speaking on the occasion of this year’s European Data Privacy Day at the end of January, Baeriswylexternal link said that current technology could not guarantee that ballots remain secret in votes and elections. He and other cantonal data protection commissioners argued that digitalisation could undermine democratic principles even while online systems help to simplify procedures. “The current systems for e-voting override the secret ballot in votes and elections. But it is imperative that all transactions must always be verifiable in a secure system. As a result, either we have ballot secrecy or we don’t have a secure method,” Baeriswyl said. “And this is highly risky for our democracy.”

National: Critics target partisan gerrymandering with state reforms | Associated Press

Responding to complaints about partisan gerrymandering, a significant number of states this year are considering changing the criteria used to draw congressional and state legislative districts or shifting the task from elected officials to citizen commissions. The proposals, being advanced both as ballot initiatives and legislation, are part of a larger battle between the political parties to best position themselves for the aftermath of the 2020 Census, when over 400 U.S. House districts and nearly 7,400 state legislative districts will be redrawn. Since the start of this year, more than 60 bills dealing with redistricting criteria and methods have been introduced in at least 18 state legislatures, already equaling the total number of states that considered bills last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

National: Election Assistance Commission Chairman being replaced | Reuters

The head of a federal commission who has helped U.S. states protect election systems from possible cyber attacks by Russia or others is being replaced at the behest of Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House. Matthew Masterson, a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission who currently serves as its chairman, has been passed over for a second four-year term as one of the agency’s four commissioners. “The appointment expired in December and we are going in a different direction for our nomination. We nominate people for a variety of positions and generally speaking choose our own folks,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said by email on Thursday. Strong rejected the notion that Masterson was being removed or shoved aside, characterizing the change as routine.

National: Winner-Take-All Electoral Practice Faces Voter-Rights Challenge | Bloomberg

Civil rights activists are challenging the legality of four states’ winner-take-all method of allocating U.S. presidential electoral college votes, claiming the practice magnifies some votes at the expense of others and violates voters’ constitutional rights. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Texas and South Carolina, two states seen as “solidly red,” or Republican, and Massachusetts and California, two states seen as “solidly blue,” or Democratic, according to a statement from the activists’ lawyers. Veteran U.S. Supreme Court litigator David Boies, of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, are spearheading the “non-partisan” challenges.

Editorials: Who Needs Congressional Districts? | Michael Tomasky/The New York Times

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed down its new set of congressional district lines on Monday, replacing those drawn by Republicans after they captured the state legislature in 2010. The state’s highest court had earlier ruled those lines unconstitutional. The new map, The Times’s Nate Cohn said, “comes very close to achieving partisan balance.” Republicans, who held a big advantage under the old lines, plan to challenge the new ones in federal court. It’s a huge fight, with enormous ramifications. But as they argue over what lines should go where, I ask you to consider a more fundamental question: Why have lines at all?

Editorials: The Russians are coming. Republicans need to do something about it. | The Washington Post

President Trump has shown an alarming unwillingness to respond to Russia’s hostile influence campaign during the 2016 election and to counter its effort to interfere in this year’s vote. That means Congress and the states must step in, and soon, to secure the midterms against an emboldened adversary that has already penetrated state election systems once and that continues to wield online provocateurs to disseminate lies and inflame national divisions. Over the past week, the Democratic minority has offered some good suggestions. Will Republicans treat the issue with the same urgency?

Editorials: The Case for Allowing Felons to Vote | Daniel Nichanian/The New York Times

In the 1870s, the woman’s suffrage movement claimed the right to vote by citing the new 14th Amendment’s promise that no state “shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Their opponents didn’t see it that way. “Citizenship no more carries the right to vote than it carries the power to fly to the moon,” The Rochester Union and Advertiser scoffed in an 1872 editorial. But suffragists insisted. The right to vote, they argued, cannot be carved away from citizenship. “Is the right to vote one of the privileges or immunities of citizens?” Susan B. Anthony asked in an 1873 speech. Her answer: “It is not only one of them, but the one without which all the others are nothing.”

Alabama: Civil Rights Groups Appeal Alabama Voter ID Ruling | Associated Press

Civil rights groups are again challenging a federal judge’s ruling that an Alabama law requiring a government-issued photo ID for voting is not discriminatory. Legal counsel for the Alabama NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and minority voters filed an appeal in the U.S. district court in northern Alabama on Wednesday. Since 2014, Alabama has required voters to show government-issued photo identification when they vote. The civil rights groups sued over the law in 2015, calling it discriminatory and an infringement on voting rights. They contended Alabama politicians knew when they enacted it that black and Latino voters “disproportionately lack the required photo ID.”

Illinois: In the aftermath of Russian interference, local election officials say security efforts are crucial | Chicago Tribune

Protecting the integrity of American elections against foreign hackers is a more difficult job than preventing voter fraud, but election officials in Lake and Cook counties say they are working to to do both. U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) met with local election officials Wednesday at the Northbrook Public Library to discuss the steps that have been taken to prevent or minimize interference since the 2016 election and to look for ways to prevent it in the upcoming primary and general elections. Joining Schneider was Cook County Clerk David Orr, Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff, Noah Praetz, the director of elections for Cook County, and Debra Nieto, chief deputy Lake County clerk.

Kansas: Senate votes to fix elections law after Sedgwick County throws out votes | Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas Senate on Thursday moved to fix a state elections law that Sedgwick County officials cited last year when they threw out 23 disabled Kansans’ votes in a local election. Senators voted 39-0 in favor of Senate Bill 264, which clarifies disabled and elderly voters who may need assistance filling out their mail-in ballot do not have to sign it. The bill still faces another vote to pass the Senate. Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, brought the issue after the Sedgwick County Board of Canvassers decided to throw out 23 advance ballots because disabled voters had not signed them. Current law says that voters are required to sign their advance ballots.

Editorials: Election cybersecurity is a race with no finish line | Steve Simon/Pioneer Press

When people ask me to name my biggest challenge since becoming Minnesota secretary of state, I talk about the intense demands of cybersecurity. Just a few years ago, overseeing electronic defenses was merely an important part of the job. Now, it’s essential. Recently, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said publicly that he has “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the 2018 midterm elections in November. We have a strong election system in Minnesota, and we have to protect it from cyberattack. That requires focus, time and resources. With less than a year until the next statewide general election, we owe it to all eligible voters to safeguard our system as best we can.

Pennsylvania: GOP asks the U.S. Supreme Court to block Pennsylvania redistricting | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Republicans have intensified their fight over Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, appealing to the nation’s highest court on Wednesday and reviving talk of impeaching the state Democratic Supreme Court justices who threw out the old map. Top GOP lawmakers submitted an emergency request to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking the justices to block implementation of the new district boundaries. Meanwhile, national and state Republicans were preparing a separate federal challenge to the map. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, submitted their application for a stay Wednesday evening.

Texas: Weaknesses in Texas’ voting systems put under microscope | KXAN

Are Texas voting systems susceptible to a hack? Who polices wrongdoing at the polls? Should lawmakers make any changes to help Texas elections run more smoothly? State senators met Thursday to address concerns of fraud, irregularities and weaknesses in the system. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked a Senate select panel to address a handful of issues pertaining to election security. Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who chairs the committee, said there are few rights more precious than the right to vote. He said he expected the bipartisan group to take a “thorough look” at making possible changes to “ensure Texas is still leading on voting security.” 

Utah: Navajos make deal with San Juan County to end voting-rights lawsuit | The Salt Lake Tribune

A federal lawsuit saying San Juan County does not provide equal voting opportunities to Navajos has been settled less than a month before it was to go to trial. The two sides filed a joint motion Tuesday that listed the settlement’s terms — which include language assistance for Navajos at the polls — and asked U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish to dismiss the suit. The bench trial was to begin March 16. The measures will be in place for the 2018 elections. The ACLU of Utah says that according to the 2016 U.S. Census, 4,314 of the 10,275 adult citizen residents of San Juan County speak a language other than English or Spanish — primarily Navajo — with 766 of these residents, or 18 percent, also speaking English less than “very well.”

Cambodia: Ruling Party Set to Sweep Senate Election | Reuters

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Hun Sen is poised to sweep a Senate election at the weekend, helping to consolidate the prime minister’s rule of more than 30 years amid a crackdown on the opposition. Sunday’s election for 58 members of the 62-strong Senate will see 123 members of parliament and 11,572 commune councilors vote at 33 polling stations across Cambodia. Two Senate members each are appointed by the king and the National Assembly. But rights groups and opposition politicians say the Senate vote is a farce that shows Hun Sen, who faces a national election in July, is not committed to multi-party democracy. Almost half of the commune councilors have been stripped of their right to vote in Sunday’s election after their opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by a court last November at the request of Hun Sen’s government.

Canada: P.E.I. Opposition calls for calls for electronic voting, despite security concerns | The Guardian

Opposition Leader James Aylward is calling on government to adopt electronic voting in P.E.I. for the next provincial election, in spite of concerns raised by a panel of independent auditors about the potential for serious security breaches. Aylward issued the call earlier this week via press release, saying electronic voting could be a way to revolutionize democratic accessibility and increase voter engagement. “It’s the way of the future,” he told The Guardian Thursday. … P.E.I.’s 2016 plebiscite on electoral reform was the first province-wide electronic vote ever held in Canada. Because this introduced possible new risks, an independent audit of the results was required by the province’s Plebiscites Act.

El Salvador: EU Mission: El Salvador Election Campaign Unfolding Peacefully | Latin American Herald Tribune

Campaigning for the March 4 legislative and municipal elections in El Salvador is taking place peacefully and all signs indicate the balloting and its aftermath also will unfold smoothly, the head of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission to that country told EFE on Thursday. Spain’s Carlos Iturgaiz, a member of the European Parliament, said his delegation had not registered any confrontations and that the anomalies that had been detected were negligible or very small. “The campaign is being carried out amid a great deal of tranquility … the EU’s mission has been here for a month and so far no confrontations have been observed,” he added.

Turkey: Opposition sounds alarm over proposed voting law changes | Reuters

Turkey’s opposition said on Thursday new electoral regulations proposed by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies could open the door to fraud and jeopardise the fairness of 2019 elections. Under a draft law submitted to parliament on Wednesday, security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bill also grants the YSK High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, formalising a decision made during a referendum last year that caused a widespread outcry among government critics and concern from election monitors.