National: 5 big takeaways from Politico’s national survey of election offices | Eric Geller/Politico

Paperless voting machines are a glaring weakness in U.S. election infrastructure. They are dangerous, experts say, because they lack paper voting records, making them vulnerable to malfunctions or intrusions that could undetectably change votes. With top U.S. intelligence officials predicting the return of Russian hackers in 2020, cybersecurity experts have urged state and local governments to replace their paperless machines as soon as possible. Since March, POLITICO has been tracking their progress. The nationwide picture is mixed: Some states and counties are moving quickly to buy paper-based machines and others are doing nothing at all. Here are the five big takeaways from POLITICO’s nationwide survey:

1) Many counties don’t have enough money to upgrade

In hundreds of small counties, election officials can’t afford to buy new voting machines, however insecure their current systems are. Between schools, infrastructure, police, environmental protection and emergency services, counties have enough on their plate without having to worry about their voting machines.

The fact that these machines are used so infrequently is another reason they often slip down the list of counties’ spending priorities. It’s hard to justify buying new voting machines when there are overcrowded schools or crumbling hospitals. “It is a huge expense for small rural counties,” said Cheri Hawkins, the clerk in Shackelford, Texas. “I would love to be able to update!”

National: Russian Election Hacking Could Be Much Worse in 2020 | Jonathan Chait/New York Magazine

What if Trump fails to win the Electoral College in 2020? Would he refuse to accept the results of an election? The first thing to remember is that he already has. Back when Hillary Clinton was viewed as 2016’s likely victor, one widely expressed fear was that Donald Trump would not abide by the outcome, threatening the tradition of peaceful transfer of power that has survived more than two centuries. What happened instead was something nobody anticipated: Trump won — and still refused to accept the election results. He has never stopped insisting that the national vote, which his opponent carried by nearly 3 million ballots, was stolen. He has periodically charged that millions of undocumented immigrants cast votes for Clinton and that this fraud was carried out, for some reason, in California, rather than in states where it might have had some bearing on the outcome. In a recent address to the Turning Point USA Teen Summit, Trump went further. “Don’t kid yourself, those numbers in California and numerous other states, they’re rigged,” he said to applause. “You got people voting that shouldn’t be voting. They vote many times, not just twice, not just three times. They vote — it’s like a circle. They come back; they put a new hat on. They come back; they put a new shirt. And in many cases, they don’t even do that. You know what’s going on. It’s a rigged deal.”

National: EAC plans Windows 7 confab | Tim Starks/Politico

The EAC will convene state and local election supervisors, federal officials and cyber experts to discuss the ramifications of Microsoft sunsetting support for Windows 7, which is still used in many voting systems. “It is essential that the election community and the EAC have a full appreciation not only for the scope of this specific software issue, but also the issues of patching and internet connectivity more broadly,” EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a July 26 letter. Wyden had asked how the EAC was handling the issue, including whether it would decertify machines running Windows 7 before the Jan. 15, 2020, sunset. McCormick didn’t answer that question but noted that decertification “has wide-reaching consequences” and that the EAC has an established policy for when to initiate it. Election Systems & Software, one of the companies still selling Windows 7-based voting systems, has submitted new technology for certification that runs on Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, McCormick told Wyden. “The test plan has been approved by the EAC,” she wrote, “and testing is underway.” Based on the EAC’s conversations with vendors, she said, “we are confident that they are working to address” the Windows 7 issue. The vendors “are in direct contact with Microsoft,” she added, and “have received commitments from Microsoft regarding software support.” She did not say whether Microsoft had promised free updates for these products; the company plans to charge everyone else for continued Windows 7 support.

National: DARPA wants help cracking the election security problem | Kelsey D. Atherton/Fifth Domain

If election security is an engineering problem, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is heading to the right place to solve it. The Pentagon’s blue skies projects agency is taking its System Security Integrated Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) to the 2019 DEF CON hacking conference to demonstrate its capabilities before the dark lords and apprentices of the underground community. SSITH will be on display as part of the conference’s Voting Village, where researchers will explore what can and cannot be done to interfere with voting machines and, by extension, elections. “We expect the voting booth demonstrator to provide tools, concepts and ideas that the election enterprise can use to increase security; however, our true aim is to improve security for all electronic systems. This includes election equipment, but also defense systems, commercial devices and beyond,” said Dr. Linton Salmon, the program manager leading SSITH, in a release from DARPA. DARPA sees securing faith in the literal machinery of elections as a national security issue. To prove that faith in the security systems is warranted, they have prepped the “SSITH voting system demonstrator,” with processors mounted on programmable arrays and installed in a ballot box. To get to the system, hackers can enter via either an Ethernet port or a USB port, loading software to try and get past the system’s hardware gatekeeping and security functions.

National: Experts’ Views On NSA Launching New Cyber-Security Directorate | Sophanith Song/The Organization for World Peace

The National Security Agency (NSA) has announced its intention to create “cybersecurity directorate” in order to defend against foreign cyber interference. The cyber defense arm launch date is currently set to be this fall.  According to the NSA, Anne Neuberger, who is currently the Director’s Senior Advisor, will be leading the Cybersecurity Directorate. The advisor also used to serve as NSA assistant deputy director of operations, chief risk officer and head of the NSA/US Cybercom Election Security Small Group that involved in working to prevent foreign interference with 2018 US midterm elections. The launch of this initiative was believed to be motivated by the upcoming 2020 general election. The NSA continued by stating that this approach to this cybersecurity objective will prepare the NSA in a suitable state to corporate with a key partner across the United States government such as the US Cyber Command, Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The initiative will also prepare the NSA to easily share information with the customer with equipped security measure against malicious attacks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the NSA recently concur with a “broader fusion” of intelligence agency’s offensive and defensive portfolio.

National: Congress’ fight over election security bills | Mary Clare Jalonick/Associated Press

While House Democrats are haggling over whether to consider impeachment of President Donald Trump, Senate Democrats are focusing on a different angle in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — securing future elections from foreign interference. Democrats have tried to pass several election security bills in recent weeks only to have them blocked by Republicans, who say they are partisan or unnecessary. The federal government has stepped up its efforts to secure elections since Russians intervened in the 2016 presidential election, but Democrats say much more is needed, given ongoing threats from Russia and other countries. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has seethed in response to criticism over the issue, including some Democrats’ new moniker for him: “Moscow Mitch.” In an angry floor speech on Monday, he noted that Congress has already passed some bills on the subject, including ones that give money to the states to try to fix security problems. McConnell also left the door open to additional action, saying “I’m sure all of us will be open to discussing further steps.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer predicted that Democrats’ “relentless pushing” will work. “We’re forcing his hand,” Schumer said. The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said Thursday that he’s “much more optimistic than even 10 days ago” that the Senate will ultimately pass something on election security. Warner said he believes that in his home state, at least, the issue “has broken through” with voters more than other aspects of Mueller’s probe. But action will have to wait until at least September, with senators having scattered from Washington for the summer recess.

Arkansas: Official doubtful on state election aid | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

The announcement of money from the state for counties to purchase new voting equipment has left a Jefferson County election commissioner less than enthusiastic. Jefferson County Election Commissioner Stu Soffer says the county has no money to meet the matching requirement. “We do not see a light at the end of the tunnel on new voting equipment,” Soffer said. On Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that $8.24 million had been provided to the secretary of state’s office to allow counties to improve voting equipment, programming and maintenance. A day earlier, during a meeting at the Arkansas Association of Counties, Kurt Naumann, director of administration and legislative affairs in the secretary of state’s office, told several dozen county officials that the office expected to receive these funds in mid-August from the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Connecticut: More money needed to improve Connecticut election security | Ana Radelat/CTMirror

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill and many of her peers across the nation are dismayed that Congress will break for summer recess without doing more to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. “We were quite shocked when we heard Congress would not go forward with any assistance,” she said. Merrill and other state election officials have been making the case for months that the nation’s electoral system needs to bolster its defenses against hacking and meddling in other ways, including disinformation campaigns on social media, by Russia or other foreign powers. They have been joined in their calls for increased protections by congressional Democrats. Those calls grew louder after last week’s testimony by special counsel Robert Mueller, who told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee that the Russians and others were meddling in U.S. elections “as we sit here.” Despite the growing concerns, there’s been little action by Congress on the issue, mainly because the Senate does not want to consider any voting security bills. The issue flared up last week after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked bills aimed at protecting the electoral system, a move that prompted detractors to dub him “Moscow Mitch.”

Illinois: 3 years after Russian hackers tapped Illinois voter database, officials spending millions to safeguard 2020 election | Rick Pearson/Chicago Tribune

Three years after Illinois’ voter registration database was infiltrated by Russian hackers, Illinois and local officials are spending millions to upgrade the cyber defenses protecting voters and their ballots leading up to the 2020 election. “It’s gone from being among the concerns to the paramount concern,” said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. “Now, every election official across the country is engaged in some level of a security program.” Efforts to prevent foreign hacking range from hiring internet security specialists to, in the case of Chicago and Cook County, making plans to buy new polling machines. The June 2016 breach of the state’s voter database remains the warning sign for election system vulnerability, with national security experts now saying all 50 states had been targeted for Russian intrusion. At least 21 states reported being contacted by addresses associated with Russia, largely by scanning public websites, but Illinois’ data breach was the most significant.

Maryland: National Federation of the Blind sues State Board of Elections over ballot privacy | Danielle E. Gaines/WTOP

A group of Maryland voters is suing the state of Maryland, alleging that state policies require them to cast a segregated ballot. The National Federation of the Blind, its Maryland affiliate and three blind registered Maryland voters — Marie Cobb, Ruth Sager and Joel Zimba — filed a lawsuit against the Maryland State Board of Elections in U.S. District Court on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges the elections board is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws by maintaining a segregated system of voting that denies blind voters their right to a secret ballot and an equal voting experience. At issue are the state’s policies for using ExpressVote ballot-marking devices – which can allow voters who are blind or have motor disabilities to use headphones, magnification, touchscreens and other features to independently cast ballots. The machines do not record votes directly but mark a paper ballot that is printed and scanned. ExpressVote paper ballots are a different size and shape than paper ballots filled out by hand, making those votes cast by Marylanders with disabilities immediately identifiable, advocates say.

Editorials: North Carolina should require that all voting machines produce a clear ballot | Raleigh News & Observer

t seems obvious that when North Carolina voters cast their vote they should see a paper ballot showing their selections. But one-third of North Carolina counties — including Mecklenburg, but not any in the Triangle — are still using touchscreen voting machines that leave the recorded vote unclear to the voter and vulnerable to outside manipulation. The General Assembly recognized those weaknesses in 2013 when it passed a law that will require all voting machines used in the 2020 election and beyond to generate a paper ballot. But this being North Carolina and the subject being voting, this basic safeguard is turning into a dispute. For counties that still want to use touchscreen technology, the board must certify which voting machines counties can purchase that will meet the paper ballot requirement. The five-member State Board of Elections is temporarily split between two Republicans and two Democrats because of last week’s resignation by former Board Chairman Bob Cordle, a Democrat. The two Republican members want to approve a touchscreen machine that generates a paper ballot that accompanies each selected candidate’s name with a bar code that is read by an electronic tabulator. The two Democrats want all voting machines to generate a paper ballot with “human-readable marks,” such as a filled-in bubble. The board will vote on the requirements at its next meeting on Aug. 23.

Tennessee: State hits roadblock requiring paper trail voting | Kimberlee Kruesi/Associated Press

As advocates push nationally for states to increase voting security, Tennessee election officials who are trying to win approval for voting machines that produce a paper record have hit a roadblock. A proposal by the state Election Commission for all future voting machines to be capable of producing some sort of paper trail was halted when a surprise legal opinion emerged from the GOP-controlled Legislature’s legal team. The opinion, written on behalf of state Republican Sen. Ken Yager, contests the commission’s process on how it certifies voting machines. Fallout from the opinion has once again tempered attempts to make sweeping changes to Tennessee’s voting systems, which Republican leaders have resisted: They point not only to the importance of allowing local experts decide what is best but also to the significant expense of replacing voting machines statewide. “When it comes to elections, we need to do it the right way or we’ll be buying ourselves a lot of headaches,” Yager said in a Friday phone interview. Democrats have voiced concerns about the lack of paper trail requirements, as have cybersecurity experts, who have criticized Tennessee as one of 12 states that does not require electronic voting machines to print out hand-marked paper ballots. That can leave election results vulnerable to untraceable manipulation by hackers.

Texas: How an election security push is running aground in Texas | Eric Geller/Politico

Election officials across the country are spending millions of dollars to replace their insecure voting machines ahead of the 2020 election. But America’s patchwork voting system is a long way from being secure. To understand why, take a look at Texas. More than a quarter of the state’s 254 counties are sticking with paperless voting machines that cybersecurity experts and intelligence officials have condemned as vulnerable to hacking, according to an extensive, first-of-its-kind POLITICO survey of state and local election offices. At least 14 of them are even buying new paperless machines as they replace devices that nearing 20 years old. In the nation’s second-largest state, the forces impeding the effort to secure the machinery of democracy are the same ones stalling this push for paper ballots nationwide. They include a lack of money, an absence of leadership from above, and a shortage of basic cybersecurity knowledge among the local election officials who make the technology decisions in much of the country.

Washington: Key test for Washington state as Tuesday’s primary features new elections system, same-day registration | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Substantial new changes to Washington’s elections system face a key test this week, as voters around the state cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary. Washington has adopted same-day voter registration, which allows eligible citizens to register and receive a ballot up until 8 p.m. Tuesday, the end of the election period. And elections officials are deploying a new, statewide voter-management system that has had a rocky rollout in some counties. Known as VoteWA, it is expected to make elections more secure, reduce the risk of fraud and give many counties an upgrade in their elections capabilities. At the root of the new system is a statewide voter database that is updated in real time. So if someone wants to register to vote in King County, for instance, elections workers should be able to immediately determine whether that person has already cast a ballot elsewhere in the state. The system’s data is also exported to create ballots, voter-registration cards and other materials provided to voters. The state’s actual vote-tabulation machines are separate from VoteWA and not connected to the internet, and thus not affected by any potential VoteWA issues.

Namibia: Electoral Commission Postpones Electronic Voting Machine Hacking Challenge | Informanté

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has postponed the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) hacking challenge that was scheduled to take place later today. Vikitoria Hango, Corporate Communications Officer of the Electoral Commission of Namibia said the event is called off following a communication from majority of members of the Political Parties Liaison Committee (PLC) who requested the ECN to postpone the EVM hacking challenge date to allow political parties’ sufficient time to prepare for the session. Hango said the political parties have raised a number of concerns with regard to the credibility and integrity of the EVM both to the Commission and various communication platforms such as newspapers and social media. Political parties allege that the EVMs can be hacked to store results other than the choice of voters and that it can be tampered with to favour a particular candidate or political party by altering the results stored in the EVMs after the polls.