Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Statement on Ballot Marking Devices and Risk-limiting Audits

Download the pdf here This statement is intended to clarify Verified Voting’s position regarding the use of ballot-marking devices (BMDs) in elections, and the use of risk-limiting audits (RLAs).  It is approved by the President, Board of Directors, and Staff of Verified Voting. Ballot-marking devices Verified Voting believes that voters should vote on paper ballots,…

National: Pressure still on McConnell after $425 million election security deal | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Democrats and activists plan to keep pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for major election security reforms — even after he endorsed delivering an additional $425 million to state and local election officials. That money, which was part of a last-minute government funding deal, marks a major turnaround for McConnell, who for months refused to consider any new election security spending and only recently endorsed a far smaller cash infusion of $250 million. But it doesn’t include any of the election security mandates that McConnell has long resisted and that cybersecurity experts say are vital, such as paper ballots and post-election audits. Without those mandates, Democrats worry the Kremlin will still be able to upend the 2020 election by attacking the least-protected voting districts. Those concerns are also hyper-charged as intelligence and law enforcement agencies are already warning that not just Russia but also “China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors” are all eager to compromise the election. “Mitch McConnell refused to agree to safeguards for how this funding is spent, which means state and local governments will continue buying machines with major security problems,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has called for strict security mandates on states. “Until Congress takes steps to secure the entire election system, our democracy will continue to be vulnerable to foreign interference.” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) applauded the new funding on Twitter, but warned it is “*not* a substitute for passing election security reform legislation that Senate GOP leadership has been blocking all year.”

National: $425M allocated for election security in government funding deal | Maggie Miller and Jordain Carney/The Hill

The spending deal agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators includes $425 million for states to improve their election security, two congressional source confirmed to The Hill on Monday. According to the sources, the appropriations deal, set to be made public later Monday, will also include a requirement for states to match 20 percent of the federal funds, meaning the eventual amount given to election officials to improve election security would reach $510 million. The federal funds set to be given to states through the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) represent a compromise between the amounts separately offered by the House and Senate earlier this year for election security purposes. The House included $600 million for election security efforts in its version of the fiscal 2020 Financial Services and General Government Bill, which the chamber passed earlier this year.

National: Spending Deal Allots Millions for Election Security, but Democrats Say It Isn’t Enough | Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

The U.S. House voted Tuesday to provide more funding to help states secure their election systems as part of a sweeping budget agreement, but Democrats argued that the compromise still doesn’t do enough to protect U.S. elections from hacking or other interference. A budget agreement would provide $425 million to help states upgrade their voting systems, lawmakers said, the largest amount for a single fiscal year in over a decade. That is part of nearly $1.4 trillion in spending which cleared the House on Tuesday and is expected to win approval from the Senate and from President Trump, preventing a possible government shutdown after Friday. The new funding represents a rare moment of agreement between top Democrats and Republicans concerning how to secure U.S. elections in the run-up to the 2020 contests, which U.S. intelligence officials repeatedly have said hostile powers remain intent on disrupting. But the issue is likely to continue to face partisan headwinds. Key Democrats continued to call for more funding and stricter standards. “This is a welcome development after months of pressure, but this money is no substitute for a permanent funding mechanism for securing and maintaining elections systems,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He also called for comprehensive election-security legislation that would mandate stronger standards, which he said top Republicans had blocked.

National: New federal funds for election security garner mixed reactions on Capitol Hill | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The inclusion of $425 million for election security purposes in the House and Senate-negotiated annual appropriations bill garnered mixed reactions on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, with Democrats taking issue with how states will be allowed to spend the funds. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the key Senate Democrats who has advocated strongly this year for the Senate to take action on election security, told reporters on Tuesday that it was a “huge mistake” for Congress to allow the new funds to be spent on items including voting machines that experts might not deem as secure. “Under this language they can basically spend it on a whole variety of things apparently that really don’t go to the heart of modern security,” Wyden said. “As a member of the [Senate] Intelligence Committee, I won’t talk about anything classified, but I will say that the threats we face in 2020 will make what we saw in 2016 look like small potatoes.” The funds were included in the government appropriations deal following negotiations between the House and Senate, along with a requirement that states match the federal funds by 20 percent, meaning the final amount available for election security upgrades will total $510 million.

Editorials: Will your 2020 vote actually get counted? | Michael Chertoff/Los Angeles Times

On Monday, congressional leaders announced that their government-wide spending bill for fiscal year 2020 will include $425 million for states to protect U.S. elections against foreign interference and cyberattacks. This is an important, if overdue, step in the right direction. But our election systems need far more than a one-time rescue mission. To secure American elections in 2020 and beyond, Congress and the local election officials who will soon receive these funds must treat them as a starting point. When I was secretary of Homeland Security in the Bush administration, we warned of intensifying cyberthreats to critical infrastructure like power grids and transportation and communications systems. Interference with elections emerged only later, as geopolitical rivalry with Russia increased. One vulnerability that needs urgent correction is the use of paperless voting machines. These voting systems are extremely susceptible to hacking without detection because they produce only a digital record of votes. Without a paper record, officials have no way of verifying a vote count when a machine is hacked. The Department of Homeland Security, the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, and countless other experts have said that replacing paperless machines is critical. Yet up to eight states are still expected to use paperless machines in some or all polling places next year. The Brennan Center has estimated that more than 16 million Americans could vote on insecure paperless machines in 2020 unless further action is taken. Once they receive the funds from Congress, states relying on paperless machines should take immediate steps to replace them.

Georgia: State Buying More New Voting Machines For Counties Ahead Of 2020 Rollout | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

Nearly half of Georgia’s 159 counties are getting more voting machines than allotted in the original request for proposals, according to the latest numbers from the secretary of state’s office. Georgia has purchased 33,100 Dominion ballot-marking devices as part of the largest single implementation of a new voting system in U.S. history, with 31,826 of them slated to be delivered to counties ahead of the March 24 presidential preference primary. Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer and project manager with the secretary of state’s office, said that each county will receive either the number of machines requested in the RFP or one machine for every 225 active registered voters in the county, whichever is larger. That ranges from 10 machines sent to Taliaferro, Quitman and Webster counties to more than 3,300 in Fulton. No county will have fewer BMDs than they had direct-recording electronic machines in the 2018 election. Sterling said the purchase of 3,000 additional machines as well as high-capacity scanners for every county and mobile ballot printers are the result of cost savings and negotiations with Dominion over the past few months.

SPREADSHEET: Voting Machines By County

Georgia: Election Day absentee ballots rejected as Georgia creates voting rules | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The State Election Board voted down a citizen petition Tuesday that would have allowed voters to deliver their absentee ballots to the polls on Election Day, but the board moved forward with several other rules for running elections with printed-out paper ballots. One of the new rules calls for mobile ballot printers that can print absentee, provisional and back-up paper ballots on demand in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. The mobile ballot printers will prevent local election officials from running out of ballots. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the chairman of the State Election Board, said the rules will ensure that votes are counted when the state’s new $104 million voting system is rolled out to all voters during the March 24 presidential primary. The system will use touchscreens that are connected to printers that create paper ballots. The State Election Board voted 4-0 to open a 30-day public comment period on the rules, which require voting equipment testing, voter registration application forms, ballot security, provisional ballot access and notification of voters about rejected absentee ballots within three days.

North Carolina: Divided elections board approves untested upgrade to voting system | Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press

The NC Board of Elections narrowly voted Friday to allow an upgraded version of a previously approved voting system to be used in 2020 elections, following the recent revelation that the system’s manufacturer does not have an adequate supply of the version it encouraged the state to approve and test earlier this year. But the 3-2 decision did not come without criticism aimed at the company, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, by a bipartisan mix of board members, including from those voted both for and against allowing the Electronic Voting System 5.2.4.0 as a replacement for EVS 5.2.2.0 without requiring additional testing. “I’m disappointed,” said Board of Elections Chairman Damon Circosta, a Democrat who voted with the board’s two Republican members to allow the upgraded systems. “I’m disappointed with ES&S, who in their zeal to sell their product have lacked candor, and not been forthcoming with this agency.” Republican board member Kenneth Raymond expressed similar concerns. “During the certification process, many individuals expressed their concerns to this board about working with ES&S as a vendor, and the vendor is fully aware of that,” Raymond said. “But unfortunately, rather than take action that would mitigate those concerns, their behavior and events of the last month or so (has) only increased them.”

Pennsylvania: Another lawsuit targets Philadelphia’s voting machines | Associated Press

Pennsylvania is facing another lawsuit over its certification of a voting machine bought by Philadelphia and that was at the center of an undercount in one Pennsylvania county’s election last month. The lawsuit was filed late last week by a pair of election security advocacy organizations and 13 registered voters who live in Philadelphia or Northampton County, where the undercount occurred. The lawsuit asks the state Commonwealth Court to block Pennsylvania’s certification of the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system made by Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. The plaintiffs say the voting system can’t ensure that each vote is properly recorded and counted, doesn’t allow voters to keep their choices secret, doesn’t offer equal access to disabled voters and uses ballot cards that don’t comply with state requirements. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration declined comment Monday. It will have 30 days to respond in court. In a separate case in Philadelphia’s federal court, Wolf’s administration is defending its certification of the ExpressVote XL.

Texas: Missing Midland County ballot box could throw bond election into question | Stacy Fernández/The Texas Tribune

A proposal for a $569 million bond to build two new high school buildings in Midland failed by 25 votes in the November election, a margin slim enough it set off calls for a recount. The ballots were recounted manually, and to the delight of Midland ISD officials, the results flipped and the proposal passed by a margin of 11 votes. But last week, a Midland elections staffer found a box on the bottom of a shelf in the office containing 836 ballots that weren’t tallied in the recount. Those votes threaten to again reverse the election results, which school officials are counting on to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for school construction. The elections office obtained a court order to open the ballot box on Monday morning, when staffers began to count up the missing votes. The first and unofficial vote tally on Nov. 5, which used the electronic ballots, took the missing ballots into account. The paper ballots are a physical copy of how constituents voted on the electronic system. The paper ballots came into play during the manual recount, which was missing the more than 800 ballots, making the recount number inaccurate.

West Virginia: Judiciary Committee Will Recommend Electronic Absentee Voting Bill For People With Disabilities | Emily Allen/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the Joint Judiciary Committees voted Monday to recommend a bill to their respective chambers, allowing voters with certain physical disabilities to cast absentee ballots electronically. Currently, West Virginia allows voters with qualifying impairments to cast paper mail-in votes, as long as they’re on a special absentee voting list maintained by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. But, according to Jeremiah Underhill, legal director for the group Disability Rights of West Virginia, navigating a piece of paper can be an impediment for someone who has a serious hand or visual impairment. “Voting is a fundamental right that is preserved in the U.S. Constitution,” Underhill told the committee. “Everyone is afforded a legal opportunity to vote.”

Editorials: The Wisconsin Elections Commission is ignoring cyber threats to counties | Scott McDonell/Wisconsin State Journal

If your neighborhood had a string of robberies, you wouldn’t lock your front door but leave the garage door wide open. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Wisconsin is doing ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Here’s the story: The nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission recently received $7 million from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to safeguard election infrastructure in our state. The federal commission is rightly concerned about Russians or other bad actors hacking or intentionally crashing our computer systems. Anything that could cause the public to question our election results would be considered a victory by the hackers. But so far, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has committed over 95 percent of the $7 million in federal money to the state’s online voter registration system — WisVote — while leaving counties without any additional funding to head off cyber threats. This is a crucial issue because all votes are collected at the county level. Certainly, protecting the integrity of WisVote is important. If a hacker were to target WisVote, for example, the hacker could alter the voter database and cause chaos prior to an election as well as on Election Day. And the Wisconsin Elections Commission has provided some funding to cities, villages and towns to upgrade their old equipment and software to ensure WisVote is accessed in a secure environment.

India: Electronic Voting Machines Not ‘Information’ Under Right to Information Act: Delhi High Court | Karan Tripathi/Live Law

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday quashed the order of theCentral Information Commission which had held that Electronic Voting Machines are within the definition of ‘information’ under section 2(f) of the RTI Act. The HC Single Bench of Justice Jayant Nath noted that the Central Information Commission erroneously passed an order in favour of the…

Taiwan: Chinese ‘rumors’ and ‘cyber armies’ – Taiwan fights election ‘fake news’ | Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard/Reuters

Taiwan is ramping up efforts ahead of a Jan. 11 election to combat fake news and disinformation that the government says China is bombarding the island with to undermine its democracy. But Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which favors close ties with China, is crying foul, accusing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of running its own disinformation campaign, saying the threat is closer to home. Taiwan’s rambunctious democracy has long been deeply polarized and partisan. Accusations of dirty-doings, denials and counter-denials are part and parcel of political life on the island, played out on its many cable news channels and online, mostly on Facebook, messaging app Line and the Taiwan-focused bulletin board PTT. Fake news and disinformation campaigns are a problem governments around the world are trying to tackle. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted U.S. media for what he says is its “fake news” about him and his administration.