Pennsylvania: A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

It was a few minutes after the polls closed here on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices. Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Abe Kassis, a Democrat, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Something had gone quite wrong. Lee Snover, the chairwoman of the county Republicans, said her anxiety began to pick up at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. She had trouble getting someone from the election office on the phone. When she eventually got through, she said: “I’m coming down there and you better let me in.” With clearly faulty results in at least the judge’s election, officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Mr. Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio. “People were questioning, and even I questioned, that if some of the numbers are wrong, how do we know that there aren’t mistakes with anything else?” said Matthew Munsey, the chairman of the Northampton County Democrats, who, along with Ms. Snover, was among the observers as county officials worked through the night to count the paper ballots by hand. The snafu in Northampton County did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest, given how faith in American elections has never been more fragile. The problematic machines were also used in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs — areas of Pennsylvania that could prove decisive next year in one of the most critical presidential swing states in the country.

National: Why we can expect more voting machine headaches in 2020 | Steven Rosenfeld/Salon

Still-incomplete explanations of problematic aspects of new voting systems that debuted in November 2019 and will be used in 2020 suggest that voters will likely see random delays in voting and vote counting during next year’s presidential primaries and fall election. The new voting systems were being tested or deployed in advance of 2020. While the machinery did not widely fail across all jurisdictions, there were diverse and serious problems that could undermine public trust if they recur in 2020. However, the official responses, thus far, have not been reassuring. Take Georgia, for example. There, new systems were tested in nine counties on November 5 before statewide use in 2020’s primaries. In four counties, the start of voting was delayed by more than one hour, according to a secretary of state summary that mostly blamed the users, but not the technology. The users would be poll workers and other officials (who underwent training) and private contractors who program the system checking in voters. The opening of the polls is one of the busiest times at polling places, when people come to vote on their way to work. “We had 45 incidents out of 27,482 votes or an incident rate of 0.164 percent,” the secretary of state’s report summary said. “Nearly all issues were caused by human error or interaction which can be mitigated through training or identified through testing.” That statistical assessment is breezy. The report’s fine print describes poll openings delayed by an hour, but does not say how many voters were kept waiting. The apparent reason was that the electronic poll book system had “an additional field within the dataset erroneously.” If that analysis is correct, that is an amateur programming error. The report said that private vendors used Wi-Fi to access and reprogram it. But that wasn’t the only problem.

National: Pennsylvania voting debacle gives ammunition to paper ballot push | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Massive voting machine failures in a Pennsylvania county in November are giving election security advocates fresh ammunition to call for nationwide paper ballots. The problems, which may have been caused by a software glitch, resulted in some Northampton County residents who tried to vote straight-ticket Democrat initially registering as straight-ticket Republican. It also incorrectly showed a Republican judicial candidate winning by a nearly statistically impossible margin, the New York Times’ Nick Corasaniti reports. In this case, voters got lucky. The county had paper backups for all the votes the machine counted incorrectly. They showed the Democrat judicial candidate Abe Kassis — who the computer tally said got just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots — actually narrowly won the race. But about 16 million Americans spread across eight states won’t have a paper backup for their votes in 2020. That means a similar software glitch or a malicious hack by Russia or another U.S. adversary could cause mass uncertainty about an election’s outcome or even result in the wrong candidate taking office. Even in Pennsylvania, it could have been different. The machines that malfunctioned in November were just purchased this year in response to a statewide mandate to upgrade to new voting machines with paper records.

Indiana: Vanderburgh County Clerk expresses concern after recent election | Miranda Meister/WEHT

A Vanderburgh County official wants to make changes to the way some voters cast ballots. Vanderburgh county clerk Carla Hayden says some people refuse to vote using the machines so they received a provisional paper ballot. Hayden says that’s not the intended use for this type of ballot. Provisional ballots are meant to be used by people whose voting eligibility is in question. Maybe they aren’t registered or maybe they forgot their ID. But she says being uncomfortable with the polling machine is not a reason. She now wants to see if she can keep this from becoming a trend. During the 2019 election, more than 16 thousand votes were cast in Vanderburgh County. Of that, around 15 of them were votes written and put in envelopes like this one. Provisional ballots, a way for the voter to get their opinion in even if their eligibility is in question. But for those counting the votes– this can be a lengthy process. “If someone does cast a provisional ballot then we have 10 days from the election day to investigate that claim,” County Clerk Carla Hayden says. “Then the election board meets when we go to certify the election and they will look into the issue and see if it’s been cleared up.” And this is all before anyone even looks at the the vote inside the envelope. “If we decide it’s going to count then we have to open that envelopes the votes get transferred onto a legitimate ballot and that ballot gets counted,” Hayden explains. She says during this last election three people asked for this ballot because they didn’t trust the machine.

Louisiana: Cyber Attack Has Louisiana State Lawmakers Asking Questions | Chuck Smith/Red River Radio

The ransom-ware  cyberattack that occurred two weeks ago on Louisiana’s state government computer servers disrupted several state agency operations and prompted Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency. The state activated its cybersecurity response team following the ransomware attack on government servers, and according to a press release the state did not lose any data nor pay any ransom, AND no personal data was compromised as state cyber-experts explained the attack was aimed at disrupting state server operations only. The shut-down was to prevent any unauthorized access and allow tech teams to take necessary cyber-security measures. While inconvenient the breach was nowhere near the worst-case scenario, of widespread  data  theft  or  crippled government services  for weeks or months. During  a recent meeting of the Joint House and Senate Budget Committee, Republican  Sen. Sharon  Hewitt  from  Slidell  praised  the quick response from Louisiana’s technology services office to the Nov. 18th  ransom-ware, but asked about  potential  vulnerabilities for future attacks.

Missouri: No more touch-screen ballots in St. Louis County after $6.9 million voting equipment upgrade | Josh Renaud/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Touch screens are out and paper ballots are in after St. Louis County upgraded its voting equipment ahead of the 2020 elections. The county election board signed a $6.9 million contract with Hart InterCivic in September to replace its legacy voting equipment. The new system prints paper ballots on demand at polling places, said Eric Fey, the board’s Democratic elections director. The price tag was $3 million lower than competing touch-screen-based systems, he said. Polling places also will be equipped with assistive devices for use by voters with disabilities. The new system got its first workout in the special election on Nov. 5. “The equipment worked almost flawlessly at the 30 polling locations we utilized,” said Rick Stream, the board’s Republican elections director. He said there were minor printer toner issues, but election staff fixed those immediately. With its old system — and the county’s many municipalities, school districts and taxing districts — St. Louis County had to preprint hundreds of unique ballot styles, estimate how many would be needed at each polling place, then deliver them to the correct polling places. Sometimes this process went wrong, as in April 2016, when delivery mistakes prevented residents in more than 60 precincts from voting. Fey said that printing ballots as voters walk in will eliminate this problem.

North Carolina: Voting machine reliability brought up as concern after issues with similar machines in other state | Paige Pauroso/WBTV

The North Carolina State Board of Elections is taking a closer look at voting machines they plan on purchasing after the same company’s machines were part of an election nightmare in a county in Pennsylvania. The company ES&S makes the Express Vote XL, which was used in Pennsylvania on Election Day in November, but due to what is said to be a programming error, the votes were counted incorrectly. Now, Mecklenburg County said they will do everything they can to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen here if the county gets state approval to purchase similar voting machines made by the same company. The two voting machines are different models and work differently when a voter goes to cast a final ballot, but operate similarly when you’re marking the ballot. Mecklenburg County plans to purchase the Express Vote model instead of the Express Vote XL model. The problems voters faced in Pennsylvania are bringing up some concerns of will North Carolina have enough time to properly test the machines before they’re supposed to make their debut in 2020.

Ohio: Official: Russian-Owned Company Attempted Ohio Election Hack | Associated Press

Ohio detected and thwarted an election-related cyber attack earlier this month, the state’s elections chief said. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the “relatively unsophisticated” hacking attempt on Nov. 5, which was Election Day, originated in Panama but was traced to a Russian-owned company. LaRose told The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday that the would-be attackers were looking around for vulnerabilities in his office’s website. “They are poking around for soft spots,” LaRose said. The ultimate goal of such attacks is disrupting and undermining the credibility of elections, but LaRose said Ohio’s election results are safe because neither the election machines nor the ballot counters the state uses are connected to the internet.

Pennsylvania: How Pennsylvania could improve voting and elections, according to advocates and experts | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania is implementing the biggest changes to its electoral system in decades, including an expansion of absentee ballot access, easier voter registration, the elimination of straight-party voting, and tens of millions of dollars for new voting machines. But when it comes to ballot access, those changes, part of a bipartisan deal enacted in October, will only move the state from the back of the U.S. pack to the middle. “It’s clear improvement on the whole to the process — sort of maybe revolutionary only by Pennsylvania standards,” said David Thornburgh, head of the Philadelphia-based good-government group Committee of Seventy. “On the Richter scale of change, it’s not a nine.” So, voting rights advocates and experts, while applauding the changes, want lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf to go further. The Inquirer asked for their wish lists. They offered dozens of ideas about voting rights, election security and integrity, and political representation. Some would likely garner support only on partisan lines; others could have bipartisan backing. Some are bolstered by research and proven track records elsewhere, while others are newer ideas. All came from a sense that Pennsylvania can do better, and that election modernization and voting reform should not end with this year’s law.

Texas: Midland County officials share update on investigation into ballot discrepancy

The Midland County Elections Office has shared the latest on their investigation into how hundreds of votes went missing during the Midland ISD bond recount. The following comes from Midland County: This is an update on the steps we have and are continuing to undertake to find where the discrepancy has occurred. A telephone conference was held on November 25, 2019 between Keith Ingram and Christina Adkins of the Legal Department of the Texas Office of Secretary of State, and including Terry Johnson, County Judge, Russell Malm, County Attorney, and myself. We were given steps to go through to compare voter check-ins with totals tapes from each vote center, both early voting and election day. We are completing that task at this time.

Australia: Government steps up against foreign interference | Casey Tonkin/ACS

Australia’s top intelligence agents will form a new taskforce to target foreign interference. A joint statement from Prime Minister, Scott Morrison; Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton; and Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds outlined some of the scope given to the Counter Foreign Interference Tasforce. “The number one priority of our Government is to keep Australians safe which is why we’re investing $87.8 million for a new Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce,” the statement said. “It highlights our focus on stepping up our efforts as the threats to Australia evolve.” The taskforce will be led by a senior ASIO officer and combines members of the AFP, AUSTRAC, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation, and the Office of National Intelligence. “This is a boost to our ability to discover, track and disrupt foreign interference in Australia,” the statement said. “The increase in intelligence collection, assessment and law enforcement capabilities will help turn more intelligence assessments into operational disruptions to better protect Australians from foreign interference. “The new dedicated capability of the Taskforce will also increase the collaboration and streamline the decision-making between agencies, and strengthen Australia’s analysis of the sophisticated disinformation activities happening across the world, particularly against democratic processes and elections.”

Namibia: Electronic Glitch Makes For Slow Start to Namibian Elections | Kaula Nhongo/Bloomberg

Faulty machines caused delays as voting got underway Wednesday in Namibia’s general election that is set to hand President Hage Geingob a second term and extend the almost 30-year rule of the South West Africa People’s Organization even as the economy flags. Voting came to a standstill at a polling station on the outskirts of the capital, Windhoek, after it ran out of forms. A WhatsApp message group created for journalists by the Electoral Commission of Namibia, reported malfunctioning electronic voting machines at various stations, including one in Windhoek. Geingob said he was confident of another victory. “I campaigned like hell,” he told told reporters after casting his vote. “If I lose I will accept it. I am a democrat.” After securing 87% of the presidential ballot in 2014 and the ruling party garnering 80% support in the parliamentary vote, neither are realistically at risk of losing their majority, even if their margins of victory may narrow.

Nigeria: PDP Asks INEC To Push For Legalisation Of Electronic Voting | Channels Television

The National Working Committee of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Monday met with representatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over issues of electoral reforms. Leaders of the political party during the meeting urged the electoral body to lead the process of electoral reforms that will legalise electronic voting and reduce military presence during elections. “I would like to urge your commission to move quickly and initiate Electoral Act amendment that will legalise electronic voting and remove the influence of the military as primary security on the Election Day,” National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, said while welcoming the INEC representatives to PDP National Secretariat, Abuja. The party also lamented over alleged military involvement in elections noting that the recent elections including the 2019 general elections calls the integrity of the electoral umpire to question. “Despite a standing lawful court ruling that military should be kept at a distance during elections as secondary security, we have all watched how they not only took over the primary security role from the Police but in some instances dictated and even connived with some INEC officials,” they said.

United Kingdom: Elections: A New Battleground For Cyber Confidence | Stuart Reed/Minutehack

Elections make for a volatile time, not only in politics but also in terms of resilience to cyber attack. They offer an opportunity for citizens to have an opinion on the governance of their country and beg the question, ‘do you have trust in the country’s governance?’. The consequences of a cyber attack during an election campaign can therefore be extremely damaging; with the potential to both undermine trust and give life to disinformation campaigns that may have otherwise been ignored. The Labour Party knows this only too well after suffering the consequences of two DDoS attacks in 24 hours. While Labour has publicly said that they have dealt with the incident ‘quickly and efficiently’, it has led to a wider debate around cyber security and underlines that attacks do not necessarily have to be sophisticated in nature to succeed. Consequently, getting the security basics right is now more essential than ever before. Our research has shown that this disconnect isn’t so unusual. When surveying almost 300 CISOs we found that the cyber confidence among CISOs often doesn’t align with that of the business. Indeed, more than a third of security professionals were not moderately or very confident with the final choice of security solution, despite 71% saying that their organisation touts its cyber robustness to partners and customers.