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Pennsylvania: Judge hears arguments over Philadelphia’s voting machines | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Pennsylvania’s top elections official spent hours in federal court Tuesday, defending the certification of voting machines being used by Philadelphia and two other Pennsylvania counties, including one where problems led to undercounted returns in a race in November. The hearing in federal court could help determine how 17% of Pennsylvania’s registered voters cast ballots in the April 28 primary election, as well as in November, when the state is expected to be one of the nation’s premier presidential battlegrounds. It comes after a two-year push by Gov. Tom Wolf to get counties to switch to paper-based voting systems ahead of this year’s presidential election, a move he frames as a crucial election security bulwark against hacking. For part of her three-plus hours on the stand, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar sought to show that no element of a federal court agreement in 2018 specifically outlawed certification of the machine in question, the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system. She also testified that certification of the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system had been well underway during talks to settle the lawsuit.

Full Article: Judge hears arguments over Philadelphia's voting machines.

Verified Voting Blog: Highlights from Verified Voting’s Quarterly Field Report

Highlights from Verified Voting’s Quarterly Field Report

Check out our state highlights from February 2020’s Verified Voting Quarterly Field Report. For the full report (including recent publications, events, and press highlights), click here. 

California

We are continuing to advise the state on proposed risk-limiting audit regulations and Director of Science and Technology Policy Mark Lindeman and Senior Advisor Pamela Smith collaborated with the California Voter Foundation and other partners in submitting a public comment letter responding to the regulations. Read the letter here. Pam Smith also provided a comment on the certification process for Los Angeles County’s VSAP 2.0 system, available here.

 

Florida

Florida Director Dan McCrea and Mark Lindeman joined our lobbying team January 21 and 22 for an intense two-day schedule of stops at the Tallahassee Capitol. While there, we met with numerous Senators, Representatives, key staff, and the Secretary of State on HB 1005/SB 1312, which proposes to expand the use of their insecure image audit system from post-certification audits to conducting recounts. We oppose the bill as written, and are working to pave a path forward. We also met with Representatives to advise them on the risks of opening the door to internet voting.

 

North Carolina

President Marian K. Schneider wrote a letter to the North Carolina State Board of Elections urging them to decline to waive certification requirements for voting systems with known security flaws. Read the letter here. We oppose voting systems in which all voters in a polling place are forced to vote on ballot marking devices, and will continue to advocate for jurisdictions to choose hand-marked paper ballots supplemented with BMDs for those who need to use them.

 

Pennsylvania

After vetoing earlier measures, Governor Tom Wolf signed an election reform bill in October that includes $90 million for counties to upgrade their voting systems. We are proud of the work we did over the past 18 months to obtain this important funding. Many counties in the state are following our recommendations and have chosen hand-marked paper ballots (supplemented with ballot marking devices for those who need them) and we continue to advocate against less secure voting systems that some counties have purchased.

 

We also participated in RLA pilots in Mercer and Philadelphia counties as part of the Department of State’s audit work group. While we oppose voting systems in which all voters in a polling place are forced to vote on ballot marking devices like in Philadelphia County, RLA pilots can provide value for election officials to learn about the RLA process and other security best practices around paper ballots such as chain of custody, proper ballot accounting, secure storage and retrieval methods for randomly sampling ballots to check that the computers counted the ballots correctly. Read more about our role in conducting RLAs here.

 

Ohio

Verified Voting is building relationships in the battleground state and are happy to report that Mark Lindeman participated in risk-limiting audit pilots along with other groups in Defiance and Clark Counties, with the possibility of more work to come.

 

Virginia

After spending the past legislative session outlining security concerns with internet voting proposals targeted at active duty military overseas, Verified Voting is focused on outreach to military advocacy organizations to propose secure methods. We are also engaging with jurisdictions across the state as they move toward RLA implementation, building off our successful 2018 pilot with the City of Fairfax.

 

Georgia

Verified Voting sent a letter to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger addressing Verified Voting’s concerns following the November 2019 election in Georgia and providing clarity on Verified Voting’s position and involvement with risk-limiting audit pilots in the state. Read the letter here.

View the full report here. 

 

Nevada: ‘A complete disaster’: Fears grow over potential Nevada caucus malfunction | Laura Barrón-López

The process will break down like this: On caucus day, each precinct chair will be given a party-purchased iPad that will have a link to a Google form — dubbed a “caucus calculator” — saved on it. Pre-loaded on the form will be the early vote total from that precinct. The precinct chair will then input vote totals after the first and second votes. Under caucus rules, voters choose their preferred candidate at the outset, known as the first alignment. But if their candidate fails to reach 15 percent, they can switch to a different candidate, or seek to persuade supporters of another candidate who fails to reach 15 percent to help their candidate clear that threshold during the second alignment. The prompts on the Google form are expected to look similar to how they appear on the physical caucus reporting sheet. When the first and second alignments are completed, the totals will be relayed over the cloud to the Nevada Democratic Party via the Google form, which on the back end appears as a Google spreadsheet. Separately, the precinct chair or site lead will take the printed caucus reporting sheets — each campaign must sign off on them first — and call the Nevada Democratic Party boiler room via a secure hotline. (Site leads oversee multiple precinct chairs in caucusing at a single large location.)

Full Article: ‘A complete disaster’: Fears grow over potential Nevada caucus malfunction - POLITICO.

Wisconsin: Microsoft to deploy ElectionGuard voting software for the first time tomorrow | Catalin Cimpanu/ZDNet

Tomorrow, on February 18, residents of Fulton, Wisconsin will elect representatives for the Wisconsin Supreme Court via voting machines that will be running Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software. These will be the first voting machines deployed in any US election that will be running Microsoft’s new voting software, which will face it’s first real-world test since being announced last year. ElectionGuard is a software development kit (SDK) that Microsoft made available for free on GitHub. The project’s goal was to create the voting software that uses strong encryption, was built by some of the world’s brightest cryptographers, and was extensively audited for bugs. Microsoft created ElectionGuard after numerous media reports over the past years about critical vulnerabilities being discovered in the (closed-source) software of multiple voting machine vendors. The OS maker purposely released ElectionGuard as open-source in an attempt to convince voting machine vendors to adopt it instead of their older obsolete and insecure systems. The project, which is viewed with optimism by US election officials, moved lightning-fast, going from a simple idea to an actual US election pilot program in only nine months.

Full Article: Microsoft to deploy ElectionGuard voting software for the first time tomorrow | ZDNet.

Editorials: There’s always a threat to voting online | Huntingdon Herald-Dispatch

It shouldn’t take an MIT genius to figure out that any internet-based voting system can be hacked, but apparently it did. Last week researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the Voatz app, which has been used in West Virginia and elsewhere by absentee voters and military personnel, has vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to change a person’s vote without detection. The Voatz developer said the analysts used an older version of the app. It accused them of acting in “bad faith.” So far the app has been used by fewer than 600 voters in nine pilot elections. Voatz was used in West Virginia’s elections in 2018 by fewer than 200 voters. No problems were reported. Last month, the Legislature approved a bill that would allow voters with physical disabilities to use the Voatz app in this year’s election. The bill awaits the governor’s signature or veto.

Full Article: Editorial: There's always a threat to voting online | Opinion | herald-dispatch.com.

Kansas: Elections chief’s security plan causes local unease | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas’ elections chief is pushing to make the state’s central voter registration database more secure by changing how counties tap into it, but some officials are nervous about what they see as a big project in a busy election year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab has told county election officials that he wants them to use dedicated tablets, laptops or computers not linked to their counties’ networks to access the state’s voter registration database. He says Kansas is getting $8 million in federal election security funds that could be used to cover the costs. Schwab, a Republican and former Kansas House member from the Kansas City area who became the state’s top elections official last year, contends such a setup will decrease the likelihood of foreign nationals, foreign governments or domestic hackers gaining access to voter registration records. His idea has bipartisan support. In September 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told officials in 21 states that their election systems had been targeted by hackers before the 2016 presidential election. Kansas wasn’t on the list, but Schwab said in an interview last week that “every area of government gets pinged thousands of times.”

Full Article: Kansas elections chief's security plan causes local unease - StarTribune.com.

Georgia: The power to vote – literally – carries a cost in Georgia | Jessica Waters/Connect

For Stephens County, that cost just increased by $30,500, as county commissioners, at the Feb. 11 regular meeting, unanimously approved the expenditure in order to rewire the Stephens County Senior Center – the county’s sole polling location – so that it is able to handle the electrical draw of the state-mandated new voting machinery. “We have to rewire the Senior Center to handle the amps needed by the new voting equipment. This is a problem all over the State of Georgia, I know of another county that had to spend $68,000 on rewiring. Everyone is having the same problem, and we’ve been jumping through hoops to resolve it,” County Administrator Phyllis Ayers told ConnectLocal.News Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11. A part of the reason the new voting system has a higher electrical draw than the old system is that there are now several components, instead of the single-machine system previously in use. “You’ve got more machines that need to be plugged in. You’ve got your voting machines, the printers, the scanners, and you’ve got the cyber-power battery packs,” Ayers said. “If my Buildings and Grounds Director had not been here, unloading the equipment, and could see what the amps were – and he was calculating it up in his head as he was going by and he come down here and said ‘where’s the power coming from?’” The $30,500 bid to complete the rewiring of the Senior Center, submitted by local electrical contractor Henry Hayes, will be paid out of contingency funds, along with funding for pouring a concrete pad to hold the generator used to power the equipment and a few other minor related expenditures. “There is a grant where the state will consider reimbursing you back those expenses,” she said. “So we’re trying to keep up with that, and will apply for the grant.”

Full Article: The power to vote – literally – carries a cost

National: Is technology consistent with electoral integrity? The hard lessons of Iowa | Sarah E. Hunt/Salon

In the modern era, much of American greatness is derived from the conception that the United States maintains the integrity of its elections, thus ensuring the fair representation of its citizens in the halls of government. Such elections brought about the suffragist and civil rights movements, which marked evolutionary tectonic shifts in American democracy that aligned the nation more closely with the ideals set forth in its Constitution. When revolutionary action is called for, our country has the ability and will to better itself and defend its values. The chaos surrounding the 2020 Iowa caucus two weeks ago was a bellwether, heralding another transformational moment. Our willingness to take action will define America’s trajectory. The events unfolding in the heartland of our country are a wake-up call to the entire nation. They highlight the importance of protecting the security and integrity of our electoral system.

Full Article: Is technology consistent with electoral integrity? The hard lessons of Iowa | Salon.com.

National: The Simple Lessons from a Complicated Iowa Caucus | Gowri Ramachandran and Susannah Goodman/Just Security

The very high-profile failure of a new app that was supposed to help report Iowa Caucus results has generated some important lessons. Even though the New Hampshire primary was not plagued by the same kinds of gross technical failures, it would be a mistake to just quickly move on and forget the lessons of the first debacle. As the Nevada Caucus approaches, it’s clear some lessons have been learned, but not all. As is widely known now, the Iowa app technology was designed to help record results from rounds of caucusing and pull together the results from across the state. But the app didn’t work, and results were not delivered, raising questions about not just the technology but the implementation process for the system. Massive frustration and even conspiracy theories ensued. Fortunately, Iowa had paper records and was able to turn to those in the face of the tech failure to help confirm the results. The media, candidates, and the public had to be patient, but without the paper records, results wouldn’t have been just delayed; they would have been impossible to obtain. The first lesson is clear: Anything computerized can fail for a slew of reasons, from hacking to software defects to inadequate training of election workers. This includes tablets, voting machines, ballot scanners, electronic poll books, and apps on phones and tablets.

Full Article: The Simple Lessons from a Complicated Iowa Caucus - Just Security.

National: Security experts raise concerns about voting app used by military voters | Brian Fung/CNN

Security researchers are reporting flaws in a smartphone-based voting app that’s been used by military voters overseas and is now being tested for use in the US. The vulnerabilities could allow nation-state hackers to view, block or even change smartphone ballots before they’re counted, according to a new paper written by three researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The app is designed by the company Voatz, whose technology has been piloted so far in West Virginia, Colorado and Utah. The company called the report “flawed” in a statement posted to its website Thursday. “We want to be clear that all nine of our governmental pilot elections conducted to date, involving less than 600 voters, have been conducted safely and securely with no reported issues,” Voatz said in the statement. “The researchers’ true aim is to deliberately disrupt the election process, to sow doubt in the security of our election infrastructure, and to spread fear and confusion.” The report comes amid rising concern about the use of apps and online voting tools in the 2020 election following the failure of reporting tools in the Iowa caucuses.

Full Article: Security experts raise concerns about voting app used by military voters - CNNPolitics.

National: Smartphone voting stirs interest — and security fears | AFP

West Virginia’s disabled residents and overseas military personnel will be able to vote by smartphone in the US presidential election this year, the latest development in a push to make balloting more accessible despite persistent security fears. Rising interest in electronic voting has heightened concerns among security experts who fear these systems are vulnerable to hacking and manipulation that could undermine confidence in election results. Overseas service members from West Virginia first voted by smartphone in 2018 with the blockchain-powered mobile application Voatz, which is now being tested in some elections in Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington state. West Virginia recently expanded the program to people with physical disabilities. A report released Thursday by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers uncovered Voatz “vulnerabilities” which could allow votes to be altered and potentially allow an attacker to recover a user’s secret ballot.

Full Article: Smartphone voting stirs interest -- and security fears - RFI.

California: Los Angeles County built its new voting machines from scratch. Will they be ready? | Kevin Monahan, Ben Popken, Rich Schapiro and Cynthia McFadden/NBC

Los Angeles County has spent the last 10 years creating what it hopes is the voting system of the future, a $300 million fleet of cutting-edge machines built from scratch. But as it prepares to roll out the new equipment for the first time when early voting in California’s Democratic primaries kicks off next week, the county is in a race against the clock to shore up critical vulnerabilities highlighted in an alarming third-party assessment. The technical report commissioned by the California secretary of state identified a wide variety of security flaws and operational issues, including insecure ballot boxes and exposed USB ports that rogue actors could exploit to alter votes. “At first reading, it’s terrifying,” said Richard DeMillo, a computer science professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who specializes in voting security. “There are things that are clear security vulnerabilities in the system that are brushed aside.” L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan, who is in charge of the system, said the majority of the security flaws have been fixed, and the county has complied with the requirements set out by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Padilla just last month approved the system for use in the Democratic primaries so long as certain conditions are met.

Full Article: LA County built its new voting machines from scratch. Will they be ready?.

Connecticut: Voting security in Connecticut: Not another Iowa, but other threats persist | Westfair

If you ask Connecticut’s Secretary of the State Denise Merrill if the state is in danger of repeating the infamous Iowa caucus debacle when tallying its primary and general election results this year, you will get a hearty laugh. “That’s not going to happen here,” she said. The reason, Merrill said, is simple: Connecticut’s voting process relies on paper ballots “that undergo a rigorous post-election audit and (is) run by election professionals at the state and local level. Although it may take a little longer to report results, Connecticut’s reliance on paper is our best defense against threats to our cybersecurity.” The Feb. 3 Iowa Democratic caucus, whose victor, Pete Buttigieg, wasn’t finalized until Feb. 9, was marred by the use of a vote tabulation app called Shadow, whose enormous technical errors contributed significantly to a three-day delay in reporting results. The Shadow app was distributed through mobile app testing platform TestFairy, instead of official app stores on Android and iOS, which boast higher security and performance requirements. The poor performance has already caused other states that had contracted Shadow to tally their results, like Nevada, to cancel those plans, and has resulted in any number of late-night TV hosts’ wisecracks.

Full Article: Voting security in CT: Not another Iowa, but other threats persist.

Florida: Palm Beach County elections ransomware attack raises security questions | Anthony Man and Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

From Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., officials and citizens voiced concern Thursday over an until-now undisclosed ransomware attack on the Palm Beach County elections office during the 2016 election season. The bombshell disclosure about the attack came from Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link, who said Wednesday she learned in November about the ransomware attack. Link, who took office in January 2019, said some of the agency’s data was corrupted, but the problem apparently was corrected and didn’t affect the November 2016 elections. The picture was muddied by the response from Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections at the time, who said it never happened. The current county elections chief said she wasn’t trying to alarm the public — but the disclosure heightened concerns for some, coming just five weeks before Florida’s presidential primary and the local government elections for 20 cities, towns and villages in Palm Beach County.

Full Article: Palm Beach County elections ransomware attack raises security questions - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Kansas: Democrats sue over Kansas delay in start of ‘vote anywhere’ | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas and national Democratic Party groups on Friday sued the Republican official who oversees the state’s elections, accusing him of violating voters’ rights by delaying the implementation of a law designed to make voting on Election Day more convenient. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Topeka after Secretary of State Scott Schwab said his office would need another year to draft regulations needed for counties to take advantage of a 2019 state “vote anywhere” law. The law permits counties to allow voters to cast their ballots at any polling place within their borders on Election Day, rather than only at a single site. Some officials in Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city, Wichita, believe it is ready to allow voters to choose their polling sites. They note that it has allowed voters to cast their ballots in advance at multiple locations for more than a decade, with the county’s entire electronic voter registration database accessible to workers at each one. It also deployed new voting machines in 2017 that allow a “vote anywhere” system.

Full Article: Democrats sue over Kansas delay in start of 'vote anywhere'.

Minnesota: From disinformation to hackers, new ‘cybernavigator’ racing to protect Minnesota’s 2020 elections | Stephen Montemayor/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bill Ekblad spent nearly three decades as a naval cryptologist, working from ships and planes stationed in the Middle East and Germany to fight cyberattacks coming from around the world. Now, the Minnesota native is back home and facing a uniquely tall order. Ekblad is the state’s first “cybernavigator,” hired by the secretary of state’s office to help local election workers guard against an increasingly expanding set of threats, from disinformation campaigns to foreign actors trying to penetrate election networks. “It’s a tale of surprises: I mean, I think that nobody really saw realistically the potential for foreign adversaries to meddle in elections prior to 2016,” Ekblad said in an interview from his office near the State Capitol. “And then in 2018, the game changed. It became less about the hard computer network operations and more about the soft skills of influence and hacking the mind of the voter.” Ekblad, hired through a federal election security grant, is now drawing on that history to pose a new question to the scores of local officials in Minnesota’s 87 counties who are in charge of running this year’s elections: “Why do we think 2020 will be something predictable?”

Full Article: Minnesota's new 'cybernavigator' racing to protect 2020 elections - StarTribune.com.

Nevada: Democrats Say They’ll Replace Their Caucus App With iPads And A Google Form | Kaleigh Rogers/FiveThirtyEight

In just two days, Nevadans will begin early voting in the state’s Democratic caucuses. For the past few weeks, it’s been unclear how those votes would be integrated into the overall vote tallies after Nevada Democrats were spooked by the chaos in Iowa’s Democratic primary and decided to toss a previous plan to use an app. But today, the state Democratic party revealed how it intends to incorporate those early votes into the live caucuses on Feb. 22: “a simple, user-friendly calculator.” What that means, exactly, is still a bit unclear. In a memo sent to campaigns Thursday and shared with FiveThirtyEight, the party wrote that “the caucus calculator will only be used on party-purchased iPads provided to trained precinct chairs and accessed through a secure Google web form.” The memo didn’t provide any specifics about whether the calculator would be accessed through the Google form, or whether the Google form itself is the calculator. It’s also not clear if early-vote tallies will live on the web, or if they’ll be pre-loaded onto each district’s iPad. The state party did not immediately respond to our request for further comment.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats Say They’ll Replace Their Caucus App With iPads And A Google Form | FiveThirtyEight.

Nevada: First test of Nevada Democrats’ new caucus plan arrives as early vote begins | Megan Messerly/Nevada Independent

Nevada Democrats will head to early voting sites across the state on Saturday — from the Old Post Office in Fallon to the Chinatown Plaza Mall in Las Vegas — to begin casting their presidential preferences ahead of the state’s Feb. 22 caucus. In some ways, it’s an exciting moment for Democrats here in the Silver State: Never before have they been able to participate early in the state’s presidential caucus, as they will over a four-day period. In others, it’s a nerve-wracking one: No one quite knows if the new process the party has quickly re-designed in the wake of Iowa’s problem-plagued contest earlier this month is going to work. What they do know is that beginning Saturday, Nevada Democrats, or those wishing to re-register as a Democrat, will show up at roughly 80 sites across the state to cast their early caucus votes. Once voters are there, a volunteer will check a PDF voter roll to confirm their registration, or direct them to fill out a voter registration form if they aren’t, since Democrats here allow same-day registration for the caucus. From there, they’ll check in on an iPad through Google Forms and be given a paper scannable ballot, similar to a Scantron, where they will be asked to mark a minimum of three and up to five presidential preferences in order. Once they’re done, that ballot and a paper voter card, both of which contain a unique voter PIN to match the ballot to the person, will be placed into a secure ballot box, which will be taken to a designated ballot processing hub to be scanned.

Full Article: First test of Nevada Democrats’ new caucus plan arrives as early vote begins.

Ohio: Millions spent to safeguard Ohio elections: What’s really going on | Chris Stewart/Dayton Daily News

Officials say Ohio’s elections are safe despite worries fueled by 2016 foreign meddling, thousands of uncounted Miami County ballots in 2018 and this month’s collapse of a Democratic Party vote-counting app at the Iowa caucuses. Ballot-casting and counting infrastructure — fresh off an exhaustive update of security software, hardware and office procedures to fend off cyber attacks — is sound and secure, say state and local elections officials.“Your vote is safe, and it will be counted as it has always been counted, if it’s countable,” said Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. But as millions of dollars are spent to guard against malicious computer attacks, it’s harder to thwart bad actors resorting to disinformation campaigns to diminish people’s confidence in the vote, said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican. “What our foreign adversaries have tried to do instead of actually tampering with elections, is tried to tamper with our own perception of elections,” he said. “They’ve tried to cause Americans to lose faith in elections.” “The really damaging part of that is it would cause the average person to start to wonder or worry that maybe their vote wasn’t going to be counted accurately,” he said.

Full Article: Millions spent to safeguard Ohio elections.

Editorials: Paper ballots still the best election system | Medford Mail Tribune

Sometimes, the old ways are still the best ways. We would argue that especially applies to election systems, despite continuing pressure to offer voters the option of casting ballots using smartphones or other devices. Jackson County is one of two Oregon counties that experimented with a smartphone app that allowed county residents overseas — most of them in the military — to vote in the Nov. 5, 2019, special election. Of 213 Jackson County voters eligible to participate, only 27 did. One reason could have been that the November ballot had only one item on it — a proposed bond levy to upgrade the county’s emergency communications system. Maybe a full ballot would have enticed more county voters stationed overseas to use the smartphone app. Maybe not. But the turnout isn’t the primary concern here. Anything that gives voters more options to participate is a good thing, in theory. In practice, voting systems that use the internet to transmit votes are inherently more vulnerable to hackers seeking to manipulate the outcome. They are also more likely to simply fail to perform as designed.

Full Article: Paper ballots still the best election system | Wire Commentary | heraldandnews.com.