Pennsylvania: These Two Lawsuits Could Force Philadelphia to Purchase New Voting Machines | David Murrell/Philadelphia Tribune

Who knew something as seemingly mundane as voting machines could generate so much conflict? Then again, maybe we should know better — this is Philadelphia, where nothing related to politics is mundane. So of course the procurement process for the city’s 3,735 ExpressVote XL machines — which we wrote about here — was rife with allegations of impropriety, and an eventual City Controller audit concluded that the city had failed to ensure a transparent purchase without conflicts of interest. And that was before two lawsuits challenging the ExpressVote XL’s certification in the first place. The suits — one filed in state Commonwealth Court, one filed in federal court — share a central claim: that the machines, which were used by both Philadelphia and Northampton counties in November (not without some significant Election Day drama in the latter case), don’t satisfy the requirements of Pennsylvania’s byzantine 267-page election code. Needless to say, the stakes are high. If a judge agrees, Philadelphia could potentially have to return its machines — and after all that conflict! — for new ones that are compliant. We’ve broken down the details of the two suits. … “The ExpressVote XL elevates the risk to unacceptable levels, and some of those risks can’t be mitigated mainly because of the hardware design,” says Marian Schneider, a former Pennsylvania Department of State official and president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit that advocates for transparent elections.

National: Preparing for Cyberattacks and Technical Failures: A Guide for Election Officials | Brennan Center for Justice

America’s intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded that the risk of cyberattacks on election infrastructure is clear and present — and likely to grow. 1 While officials have long strengthened election security by creating resiliency plans, 2 the evolving nature of cyber threats makes it critical that they constantly work to improve their preparedness. It is not possible to build an election system that is 100 percent secure against technology failures and cyberattacks, but effective resiliency plans nonetheless ensure that eligible voters are able to exercise their right to vote and have their votes accurately counted. This document seeks to assist officials as they revise and expand their plans to counter cybersecurity risks. Many state and local election jurisdictions are implementing paper-based voting equipment, risk-limiting audits, and other crucial preventive measures to improve overall election security. In the months remaining before the election, it is at least as important to ensure that adequate preparations are made to enable quick and effective recovery from an attack if prevention efforts are unsuccessful. While existing plans often focus on how to respond to physical or structural failures, these recommendations spotlight how to prevent and recover from technological errors, failures, and attacks. Advocates and policymakers working to ensure that election offices are prepared to manage technology issues should review these steps and discuss them with local and state election officials.

Florida: Palm Beach County elections chief ’interested’ in high-speed ballot systems for recounts | Jeffrey Schweers and Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post

Rather than hiring hundreds of people to perform the sometimes messy and always time-consuming job of recounting votes, several county supervisors, including officials in Palm Beach County, of elections want to use their high-speed ballot auditing systems instead. Legislation now has been filed to allow them to do just that. The measure’s co-sponsors this year are state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee (SB 1032) and state Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach (HB 1005). It’s been endorsed by the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association. “There are so many issues and challenges with a recount that it just makes sense,” Montford said. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said her office is considering testing out the technology during the presidential preference primary in March. If the elections office agrees to a trial run with the company, one type of ballot, like vote-by-mail, would be counted with this system. “We’ll be able to test how it works and whether or not we think it’s a useful program for us or not,” Link said. “It also gives us the opportunity to wait and see what the Legislature will do.” If the measure passes in Tallahassee, Link said she would “be even more interested in it.”

Georgia: As Georgia rolls out new voting machines for 2020, worries about election security persist | Neena Satija, Amy Gardner and Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Last month, voters in six Georgia counties cast ballots for local elections using new touch-screen voting machines that officials have said will resolve long-standing questions about the security of the state’s election system. Richard DeMillo, a professor of computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said he was worried as he visited polling places in a county north of Atlanta. DeMillo said bystanders could easily see the screens from 30 feet away, presenting serious privacy concerns. In some counties, elections officials reported that programming problems led to delays in checking in voters, and in some precincts, the machines unexpectedly shut down and rebooted. Georgia is preparing to roll out 30,000 of the machines in every polling place for its presidential primary in March, replacing a paperless electronic voting system that a federal judge declared insecure and unreliable. But election security experts said the state’s newest voting machines also remain vulnerable to potential intrusions or malfunctions — and some view the paper records they produce as insufficient if a verified audit of the vote is needed.

Indiana: Election cybersecurity: Local election officials prepare for “doomsday-like” scenarios | Andy East/The Republic

How would Bartholomew County handle a cyberattack that compromises its election systems? The answer to that question, as well as other “doomsday-like,” election-related scenarios, will be put down on paper for the first time as Bartholomew County election officials continue their efforts to prepare for the 2020 presidential election, said Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps. Next month, Phelps and other county election officials will begin drafting written contingency plans for how his office would respond to a range of threats that would constitute what he described as an election administrator’s “worst nightmare” — including a cyberattack directed at the county’s voting systems, theft or physical tampering of electronic poll books and even a catastrophic natural disaster that wipes out electricity and cellphone towers. Phelps clarified that his office already has a “verbal plan” in place for these scenarios and his staff knows the general practices for how to deal with them, but no written, step-by-step plans have been drafted. Phelps said he expects to have the written plans ready by April 1, just over one month before Indiana’s presidential primary on May 5.

Indiana: New Money For Needed Voting Machines Unlikely In 2020 | Brandon Smith/WVIK

It’s unlikely the General Assembly will give counties more money in the 2020 session for new voting machines. More than half the machines in Indiana don’t have a paper backup – something election security experts insist is critical. The legislature appropriated enough money in the 2019 budget to provide backups to 10 percent of the machines that need them. Lawmakers do plan in the 2020 session to use excess surplus dollars on cash payments for some pre-approved projects – like a swine barn at the State Fairgrounds. But money for more voting machines doesn’t make the list. Gov. Eric Holcomb says that’s because Secretary of State Connie Lawson has assured him Indiana’s voting systems are secure.

Kansas: Election Officials Say They’re On Guard For Hackers Messing With Your 2020 Vote | Stephen Koranda/HPPR

Kansas and federal election officials say they know the 2020 election could come under attack from foreign governments or rogue hackers. They also insist they’re braced to guard against efforts to tamper with voting. In recent elections, Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in more than 20 states and successfully accessed voter registration data in Illinois. The top election official in Kansas assumes  the state’s voting system could be next. “We got a U.S. Senate seat up for election, so that even makes it more of a target,” Republican Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said. “We’re not going to assume we’re safe, even though we are right now.” Federal law enforcement officials warn that foreign governments will try to undermine the results and influence public sentiment. “Russia, China, Iran and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” read a joint statement from the FBI and other federal security officials last month.

New Hampshire: Dixville Notch may have to ditch traditional midnight voting | Kathy McCormack/Associated Press

A tiny, isolated community near the Canadian border known for casting ballots just after the stroke of midnight in presidential elections may need to forfeit that tradition in 2020. Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, has been in the spotlight for years for voting first in the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary and in November general elections. But the attorney general’s office recently said the community is currently missing a required official in order to hold an election come the Feb. 11 primary. Dixville Notch has shared midnight voting with two other places. One is Hart’s Location, a small town in the White Mountains that started the early voting tradition in 1948 to accommodate railroad workers who had to be at work before normal voting hours. Hart’s Location suspended the midnight voting in 1964 and brought it back in 1996. The town of Millsfield, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Dixville Notch, had midnight voting as far back as 1952, but stopped after a while. It decided to revive the early voting in 2016. Dixville drew notice after Neil Tillotson, who bought a resort called the Balsams, arranged for early voting at the hotel beginning in 1960. Tillotson, who ran a rubber factory and is credited with inventing the latex balloon, died in 2001 at age 102.

North Carolina: Clear Ballot leaving North Carolina, seeks probe of ES&S’s practices | Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press

Clear Ballot, one of three companies certified to provide election systems to North Carolina counties for 2020, formally withdrew from the state on Thursday, citing certification and marketing rules that Clear Ballot said perpetuate a virtual monopoly by competitor Election Systems & Software. Jordan Esten, chief executive officer of Boston-based Clear Ballot, told Carolina Public Press on Thursday that he has asked the N.C. Board of Elections to look into whether ES&S improperly capitalized on its presence in North Carolina with older generations of election equipment, marketing its elections systems to counties before the state certified it this summer. Separately, N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, issued a letter to the state Board of Elections calling for the board to “to delay this use of (ES&S’ systems) until after the 2020 election.” She pointed to many questions that have been raised about ES&S and its newly certified ballot-marking devices. North Carolina and Indiana are the only states that prevent elections systems makers from marketing systems prior to certification. Clear Ballot CEO Esten said he thinks this is a foolish law, but his company has followed the rule. Esten said he remains suspicious about ES&S’ compliance because many counties rapidly adopted its new electronic voting system almost immediately after it was certified. N.C. Board of Elections member Stella Anderson told CPP Thursday that she also had concerns about ES&S having an uncompetitive advantage. She observed that many counties have chosen to go with ES&S systems even though she felt its product wasn’t strong. “I haven’t met a person yet who thinks the ES&S Express Vote is good technology,” she said.

Ohio: Is Ohio Ready for the 2020 Election? Secretary of State, League of Women Voters Weigh-In | Kabir Bhatia/WVXU

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose says the state’s voting systems are secure and ready for 2020. But Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters is concerned about voter turnout. LaRose has been touring each of Ohio’s 88 Boards of Elections. He finished up last week in Akron, touting more than $114 million spent this year to equip almost every county with new voting machines. He estimates another $13-15 million in federal “Help America Vote Act” funds is on its way. And he says counties will be completing his 34-point voting security checklist by the end of next month to ensure readiness. “We’ve required every board of elections to install an intrusion detector – it’s essentially a burglar alarm for your server and IT infrastructure. What it does is, it allows us to know – whether it’s 4 a.m. on a Saturday or whenever – if there is malicious activity occurring so we can respond to it.”

Pennsylvania: Northampton County officials unanimously vote ‘no confidence’ in ExpressVote XL voting machine | Emily Previti/PA Post

Northampton County Election Commissioners unanimously supported a “vote of no confidence” in the county’s new voting machines after vendor Election Security & Software presented findings Thursday night from an investigation into tabulation errors and other problems when the system debuted. The incorrect tallies in last month’s election were linked to races with cross-filed candidates and straight-ticket ballots cast by voters. Cross-filed candidates are ones seeking an office on more than one party line, while the straight ticket option lets voters click one box to select every candidate on the ballot from one party. Voters also complained that the ExpressVote XL touchscreens registered votes they hadn’t cast. Commissioner Kathy Fox said it happened to her. “I didn’t even think I touched it,” Fox said at Thursday’s meeting. “And [the machine] recorded that vote. And so that made me a little nervous. Just because I don’t really think I was touching it.” According to ES&S, a selection on the XL can be triggered by an infrared sensor without the voter actually touching the machine. “It’s very thin, but you can make a selection just by getting just close enough,” said ES&S Vice-President of Product Development Adam Carbullido.

Wisconsin: ‘Model’ disability rights voting program has declined | Rory Linnane/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Despite the clamor to turn out Wisconsin voters in 2020, some voters might be stopped at the doors of their polling places. Auditors have flagged hundreds of violations at Wisconsin polls that make it harder or impossible for voters with disabilities to vote in person. A Journal Sentinel review of audits found officials are missing required action plans to fix most of these issues from the last two years. Though Wisconsin once had a robust program for monitoring accessibility problems at polls — one that was lauded as a best practice by a presidential commission in 2014 — state officials have let it wane. Since the recognition, officials have missed audits, been slow to follow up on accessibility violations and provided fewer supplies to help polling places become more accessible. “This dramatic decrease in the audit program is troubling as these audits provide critical information on the accessibility of polling places around the state,” said Denise Jess, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Jess serves on an advisory committee for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which runs the accessibility program. She and other disability rights advocates on the committee want to see the commission do more to address problems that shut out voters with disabilities.