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Georgia: Hand recounts of Georgia’s paper ballots barred by election proposal | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has repeatedly said paper ballots will give Georgia voters “a physical recount.” But under a proposed elections rule, the only physical part of the recount would occur when poll workers feed ballots into the machines. The rule calls for recounts to be conducted by ballot scanning machines that read votes encoded in bar codes. Election officials won’t review the ballot text to check the accuracy of vote totals until the state develops auditing rules. Election integrity organizations say recounts of paper ballots should be done by hand to help ensure that the printed text matches votes tabulated from the bar code. “You have to have a manual process to confirm a computerized process,” said Marian K. Schneider, the president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that promotes accurate and verifiable elections. “The best way is to do a hand recount that can look at the human-readable text on the paper output.”

Full Article: Georgia election proposal requires machine-based recounts.

National: Election officials get training before 2020 voting begins | Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

When state election officials gathered ahead of the last presidential election, major topics were voter registration, identity theft and ballot design. This year, the main theme is election security. The change since 2016 underscores how election security has become a top concern with presidential nominating contests set to begin next week. Kicking off Thursday’s meeting was a training exercise coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security. Election officials from 44 states joined officials with 11 federal agencies and representatives from more than a dozen voting technology companies to participate in the half-day exercise to help them keep votes secure. “We’ve come a long ways,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. “That’s the strength of doing these tabletops: putting everyone in the same room so we have that contact and preparing for whatever scenarios might come up.” The vast majority of panels at the biannual meetings of the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors are dedicated to cybersecurity, from what states can do to disrupt hacking attempts to the threat of ransomware.

Full Article: Election officials get training before 2020 voting begins.

National: House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Republicans on the House Administration Committee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would seek to update a long-standing federal election law and secure voter registration databases from foreign hacking attempts. The Protect American Voters Act (PAVA) would require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to establish the Emerging Election Technology Committee (EETC), which would help create voluntary guidelines for election equipment, such as voter registration databases, not covered under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA was signed into law in 2002 following problems with voting during the 2000 presidential election. The law established the EAC and set minimum election administration standards.  The EETC would be empowered to bypass the existing Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines process, which is a voluntary set of voting requirements that voting systems can be tested against to ensure their security and accessibility. The new bill would also establish an Election Cyber Assistance Unit within the EAC, which would help connect state and local election officials across the country with cybersecurity experts who could provide technical support. 

Full Article: House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking | TheHill.

National: Securing elections starts with securing voter registration | Samuel S. Visner/StateScoop

It’s Nov. 3, Election Day: You go to the polls at the school where you’ve cast your ballots for the last 15 years, only to be told you are no longer on the voter registration list. And according to your state’s online database, you’re now supposed to be voting at a church 15 miles away. You’re confused, angry and late for work. So, you don’t vote. And your candidates of choice lose. How would you feel about those who won, much less the democratic process, after that? Attacking voter registration databases is one of the many ways threat actors could attempt to tamper with this year’s presidential election. After the 2016 election cycle, U.S. intelligence officials concluded that hostile nation-state actors attempted to access voter files in all 50 states and succeeded in some states, including Illinois. These and other kinds of compromises, such as ransomware that could deny election officials’ access to critical voter data during the 2020 election, could undermine confidence in U.S. institutions and the perceived legitimacy of those elected.

Full Article: Securing elections starts with securing voter registration.

National: There’s a new cross-country effort to train election and campaign pros on digital security | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A team from the University of Southern California has embarked on a 50-state tour to give cybersecurity training to poll workers and state and local campaign staffers who will be the last line of defense against Russian hacking in 2020. The group, called the Election Cybersecurity Initiative, views itself as a bottom-up, grass-roots counterpart to national-level election security efforts led by the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of Russia’s election interference in 2016. It’s hoping to advise local election officials, Election Day volunteers, ground-level campaign door-knockers and even interns in both political parties who national officials are unlikely to reach. The group also wants to build a network of cybersecurity experts at universities across the nation who can help secure local races and polling sites. “There are incredible grass-roots resources and folks who are highly educated,” Justin Griffin, the group’s managing director, told me. “We’re really going to the states to touch those folks who could never take the time or have the budget to come to Washington for a session like this.” The cross-country effort, which launched in Maryland this week, is yet another example of how the threat of hacking and disinformation is affecting every part of the elections and campaign process. The group, which is funded with a grant from Google, is modeling itself after an election campaign and using the tagline: “Our candidate is democracy.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: There’s a new cross-country effort to train election and campaign pros on digital security - The Washington Post.

Verified Voting Blog: New Verifier Map and Data

VerifierWe’ve made some changes to the Verifier Map and Data. The maps now display voting equipment usage in election day polling places only and makes a distinction between jurisdictions in which most voters are hand marking paper ballots with Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) provided primarily for accessibility and those in which BMDs are used by all voters to mark ballots. The national map now displays voting system types by county rather than by state, which provides a more accurate representation of voting equipment usage.

Since we started the Verifier database in 2006 we have always tracked voting equipment in terms of tabulation, distinguishing equipment in terms of paper ballot voting systems, Direct Recording Electronic voting systems, and a mix of the two systems in the same polling place. Ballot marking devices served primarily as assistive devices in jurisdictions that used a paper ballot voting system. With the advent of BMDs intended for use by all voters in 2016 and the significant increase in this voting method, we recognized the need for a different classification, and this is reflected in the new map and database.

California: Long Beach’s District 1 special election at the center of lawsuit over Los Angeles County’s new voting systems | Hayley Munguia /Press Telegram

Long Beach’s most recent election is at the center of a lawsuit against Los Angeles County over new voting machines that will go into widespread use during the March 3 elections. Beverly Hills filed a complaint last week against the county, arguing the new voting technology — known as Voting Solutions for All People 2.0 — could impact the results of an election with more than four candidates. The new machines have been in the works for more than a decade and are intended to make voting more accessible. They can display the ballot in 13 languages, and voters who are visually impaired can use an audio headset. But the lawsuit centers on a different aspect of the design: The “more” button that voters must press to see beyond the first screen of candidates, which only includes four names. Voters do not need to scroll through the entire list of candidates before selecting one. The Beverly Hills lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Jan. 22, argues that people may simply pick one of the first four names they see and move on without pressing the “more” button to reveal the rest of the candidates. That city’s evidence? The special election Long Beach held in November to pick District 1’s next representative on the City Council.

Full Article: Long Beach’s District 1 special election at the center of lawsuit over L.A. County’s new voting systems – Press Telegram.

Illinois: Elections officials disclose fresh problems with voter registration | Sophia Tareen/Associated Press

Illinois elections officials disclosed fresh problems Wednesday with the state’s automatic voter registration program, including at least one eligible voter who said she registered to vote but ended up on an opt-out list. The program is already under fire for mistakenly registering over 500 people who indicated they weren’t U.S. citizens, of which 15 people voted in 2018 and 2019 elections. Election officials said at least eight of the people have long voting histories and were likely U.S. citizens, leaving seven voters in question. The individuals involved were applying for standard drivers’ licenses at secretary of state’s offices. Details were scarce on the new issues, disclosed at a State Board of Elections meeting. Brenda Glahn, an attorney with the secretary of state, said registrations of eligible voters who appeared to decline to be registered were still sent to election officials. The problems stem from those applying for a REAL ID, which requires proof of citizenship.

Full Article: Illinois discloses fresh problems with voter registration.

Illinois: From arrows to ovals and ‘giant iPads,’ voters in Chicago and Cook County will see new voting machines at the polls | Dan Petrella/Chicago Tribune

Voters in Chicago and the rest of Cook County will see brand-new voting machines when they head to the polls for the March 17 primary elections. All Chicago polling places will be equipped with new voting machines for paper ballots and each will have at least one new touch-screen voting machine, Chicago Board of Election spokesman James Allen said Monday. The most noticeable change will be that voters will fill in an oval rather than connecting to sides of an arrow when filling out a paper ballot, Allen said. The new touch-screen voting machines, which will resemble “giant iPads,” will print out a paper ballot, which voters will then feed into a scanner, much like they do with handwritten ballots. The city elections board is spending $21 million on the machines, with nearly $19 million coming from the city. The City Council approved a measure Jan. 15 that moves $18.7 million from city’s streetlight replacement program to pay for the new equipment. The city and the local election authority are paying for the new equipment because “everybody’s grown weary of waiting” for new federal funding for election equipment, Allen said. “Numerous jurisdictions around the state are just turning to their local pocketbooks,” he said. Fifty-five early voting sites across the city open March 2 and will all be equipped with the new touch-screen machines, Allen said.

Full Article: From arrows to ovals and ‘giant iPads,’ voters in Chicago and Cook County will see new voting machines at the polls - Chicago Tribune.

Ohio: Boards of Election face Friday deadline to finish security updates ahead of March primary | John Kosich/News5Cleveland

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will tell you that talk of efforts to interfere in our elections isn’t talk, it’s a reality. “There are foreign adversaries who want to undermine the credibility of this thing that is really fundamental to our way of life as Americans and that is the ability to elect our leaders,” LaRose told News 5 from Israel, where he was asked to speak this week at a cyber-security conference in Tel Aviv. “They’ve heard about some of the work we’re doing in Ohio where in many ways we’re leading the nation with a very aggressive cyber-security posture that we’ve put in place to protect the integrity of our elections,” he said. “While I’ve been here I’ve had the chance to meet with my counterparts from Israel’s electoral commission as well, so there’s a great exchange of information between the Israeli experts that work to keep their election’s safe and secure and myself.” The state’s county boards of election this week have been busy completing LaRose’s task of making sure they are all individually protected against attack — a 34-point checklist that they have until January 31 to complete.

Full Article: Ohio Boards of Election face Friday deadline to finish security updates ahead of March primary.

Pennsylvania: Northampton County Election Commission Board says no to electronic poll books | Peter Blanchard/The Morning Call

Fears of another Election Day fiasco in Northampton County have public officials feeling uneasy about implementing modernized voting technology — even at the risk of waiting weeks after votes are cast for official election results. Despite the urging of Northampton County Director of Administration Charles Dertinger, the election commission board voted 4-1 Thursday against recommending a roughly quarter-million dollar purchase of 350 electronic poll books ahead of the April 28 primary election. Last week, Tenex Software Solutions representatives provided a demonstration of the electronic poll books — iPads containing Apple’s encryption technology and reconfigured to disable Wi-Fi capabilities — to election board members and County Council last week. Dertinger requested the board make its decision at that meeting, but board Chairwoman Maudeania Hornik said it would be imprudent to rush into a decision given the numerous issues with new voting machines in the November election.

Full Article: Northampton County Election Commission Board says no to electronic poll books - The Morning Call.

Pennsylvania: New voting machines. Sweeping election reforms. What could go wrong in 2020? | Ford Turner/The Morning Call

Held three months to the day before the Pennsylvania’s presidential-year primary, a legislative hearing on the readiness of the state’s voting infrastructure was a mixture of reassurance and concern. The focal point of those who testified before an all-Republican array of senators on the Senate Majority Policy Committee was implementation of the just-passed Act 77 of 2019, the most sweeping set of Pennsylvania election reforms in decades. Worries also were expressed about voter privacy and delays in seeing the results election night. Faced with the welter of changes state and county officials must adopt before the April 28 primary ― mail-in ballots, changed registration deadlines and the elimination of straight-party voting among them ― the guarded tone was obvious in an answer given by Lehigh County Chief Clerk Tim Benyo. Asked by committee Chairman Sen. David Argall of Schuylkill County what might happen in the coming election, Benyo said, “I don’t foresee anything worse than what we saw in November, even with the addition of Act 77.”

Full Article: New voting machines. Sweeping election reforms. What could go wrong in 2020? - The Morning Call.

Puerto Rico: Internet Voting Plan Threatens Election Security: ACLU | Shannon Bond/ NPR

Puerto Ricans could be casting their ballots online only in the next eight years, according to a bill that is expected to pass this week. Civil liberties advocates are ringing alarm bells over this plan to shift voting online, warning that the move threatens election security and voting rights. The American Civil Liberties Union and its Puerto Rico chapter urged the island’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, to veto a bill containing the Internet voting plan. “There is no secure way to hold elections online,” they wrote in a letter to the governor on Wednesday. “This measure is misguided, dangerous, and will needlessly expose Puerto Rico’s voting system to hacking and disruption.” The ACLU said “such disruption will only result in greater public mistrust of key democratic institutions.” The online voting plan is part of a bill to reform the U.S. territory’s electoral code. The bill is expected to be approved by the legislature by the end of this week. The measure calls for Puerto Rico’s electoral commission to create an Internet voting program that could overhaul the way all the island’s citizens cast their ballots within eight years.

Full Article: ACLU Says Puerto Rico's Push For Internet Voting Raises Security Fears : NPR.

Editorials: Shelby County Tennessee needs cheap, secure hand-marked paper ballots | Joe Towns and Marlene Strube/The Daily Memphian

Sometimes, the low-tech solution is the better one. Let’s say you want a dedicated tool to look up local phone numbers confidentially. You could buy a $500 computer plus subscription fee to search the online White Pages, hope you’ll have reliable Internet connection, and bet that no one is monitoring your searches. Or, you could get the phone book for free and use it reliably and in privacy. Shelby County is faced with a similar choice right now. Everyone agrees we need to buy new voting equipment for the 2020 election. And that it should have some kind of paper record of votes which can be checked against the computer in case of a computer glitch, hacking or just a really close race. But the Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC) is currently considering an expensive “electronic pen” system in which voters would use a touch-screen computer to mark paper ballots, when we could just give voters a paper ballot and a pencil. The low-tech, hand-marked paper ballot approach would be simpler, more secure and half the price.

Full Article: Shelby County needs cheap, secure hand-marked paper ballots - The Daily Memphian.

Post Election Audits: What Is A Risk-Limiting Audit (RLA)?

Download Risk Limiting Audit 2-pager (pdf)

Today Verified Voting released a guide describing risk-limiting audits, how they are different from other types of audits, and how a risk-limiting audit is conducted. The chart also outlines the elements needed for an RLA to meaningfully support confidence in reported election outcomes. For more information on the types of risk-limiting audits, view our chart comparing RLA methods.

National: Election Officials To Convene Amid Historic Focus on Voting And Interference | Pam Fessler/NPR

Top election officials from all 50 states are meeting in Washington this week to prepare for 2020 — a gathering amid widespread concern over whether the upcoming elections will be fair and accurate, as well as free of the kind of foreign interference that marred the 2016 campaign. Despite major government efforts to upgrade security, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that about 41% of Americans surveyed do not think the country is prepared to protect the U.S. election system from another attack. Voters also say their biggest concern is disinformation, followed by voter fraud and voter suppression. Forty-four percent think it’s likely that many votes will not actually be counted in 2020. While most voters have confidence in their state and local governments to run a fair election, 43% do not think those officials have done enough to make sure that there’s no foreign interference. Many more blame President Trump. Fifty-six percent say he has done little or nothing to keep the elections safe. A slim majority think the president, who has repeatedly questioned Russian tampering in 2016, actually encourages foreign interference.

Full Article: Election Officials To Convene Amid Historic Focus on Voting And Interference : NPR.

National: It takes too long to detect hacking after elections. Here’s 3 ways to help. | Jeremy Epstein/Fifth Domain

In 33 states in America, millions of voters are still at risk of having their ballots deliberately changed, uncounted, undercounted, misrecorded or otherwise subverted. Why? Simply because these states either permit some form of Internet voting or because one or more parts of their voting processes are connected to the Internet. This should disturb us. What is doubly worrying is the fact that, even if an intrusion is detected in these systems, there is no way to determine with certainty the impact on vote counts from the malicious hacks without paper ballots. There is no paper-based, traceable record of citizens’ votes without paper ballots. This means there is no way to reliably audit the election results. While paper ballots don’t prevent hacks, they can nullify the impacts of hacks because they allow authorities to reliably and accurately recount votes. The ability to retrace elections is critical in many ways: to restore the will of the people by accurately reflecting their votes, and to maintain confidence in our elections and our democracy.

Full Article: It takes too long to detect hacking after elections. Here’s 3 ways to help..

National: FBI breach notice rules lauded by states, but some want more | Derek B. Johnson/FCW

Under a recent policy change, the FBI will notify states if local election systems are hacked, but some state officials and lawmakers want the feds to commit to informing a broader range of stakeholders. The federal government, in particular the FBI, have taken heat for taking three years to notify the Florida state government and members of Congress that voter registration systems in two counties were breached by Russian hackers leading up to the 2016 elections. While U.S. officials have said they do not have any evidence that suggests voting machines or tallies were compromised, security experts say bad actors tampering with registration data can still sow confusion and wreak havoc on election day. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he and his counterparts in other states spent years pressing the federal government to notify states about local election hacks, arguing that many counties and municipalities lack the technical resources to effectively respond to a breach of their election systems. “They’re not in a position to give any attention to what was going on and to try to correct the issue, and so if [the feds aren’t] contacting us, what’s the value of calling anyone?” he told FCW. “And when we explained that to [the federal government,] they understood.”

Full Article: FBI breach notice rules lauded by states, but some want more -- FCW.

National: Nonprofit expands free security services for campaigns as election season heats up | Cat Zakrzewski/The Washington Post

Political campaigns might not have the time or money to seek out tech talent and services in their busiest season, even as concerns loom about election hacking and interference. A political odd couple is trying to change that. Defending Digital Campaigns — founded by Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, and Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager — is offering campaigns a wide range of free and discounted cybersecurity services. The nonprofit organization, which acts as a clearinghouse between campaigns and the companies, announced yesterday that it broadly expanded its industry partners to include tech heavyweights such as Microsoft and Cloudflare. DDC is designed to be a one-stop shop for campaigns to get protections against phishing, websites and mobile app security, multi-factor authentication through security keys, and more. “DDC will create even more value for campaigns by housing a number of these offerings from different companies,” Ginny Badanes, director of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, tells me. “We think this will help increase adoption of these services and ultimately make campaigns more secure.” Microsoft is offering its suite of Office and business products for campaigns at a discount. It’s also a more expedient way to ensure campaigns can access their services, especially in a complicated regulatory environment, companies say. DDC secured Federal Election Commission approval to provide campaigns with free or discounted services last year. By partnering with the organization, companies don’t have to seek out individual approvals — a process that can take several months.

Full Article: The Technology 202: Nonprofit expands free security services for campaigns as election season heats up - The Washington Post.

Editorials: The loser of November’s election may not concede. Their voters won’t, either. | Richard L. Hasen/The Washington Post

When the polls closed on Nov. 5, 2019, the initial count showed the governor of Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin, losing to his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear. But rather than concede that he fell short in what should have been an easy reelection, Bevin claimed that “irregularities” had muddled the result — though he produced no evidence to support his accusations. At first, some Kentucky legislative leaders appeared to back him, and some pointed to the legislature’s power to resolve an election dispute and choose the governor regardless of the vote. But Bevin was not popular even within his own party, and eventually, he had to concede when the local GOP did not go along with him. We could imagine a similar scenario this November: What would happen if President Trump had an early lead that evaporated as votes were counted, and then he refused to concede? The idea isn’t too far-fetched; Trump has raised it himself. Before the 2016 election, he wouldn’t agree to accept the results if he lost. After winning in the electoral college but losing the popular count by about 3 million votes, Trump claimed — with no evidence whatsoever — that at least 3 million fraudulent votes had been cast for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He set up an “election integrity” commission headed by then-Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach to try to prove that “voter fraud” is a major problem. But after the commission faced attacks from the left and the right for demanding state voter records with an apparent plan to use them to call for stricter registration rules, Trump disbanded it, with no work accomplished. In 2018, the president criticized elections in Florida and California, where late-counted votes shifted toward Democrats, suggesting without evidence that there was foul play.

Full Article: The loser of November’s election may not concede. Their voters won’t, either. - The Washington Post.