Georgia: Map shows spread of touchscreen voting across Georgia and nation | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The kind of voting system rolling out in Georgia is gaining ground across the country but remains much less common than paper ballots filled out by hand, according to a new national map of voting equipment. Georgia is one of three states that will use touchscreens and ballot printers for all in-person voters this year, according to Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election accuracy advocacy organization. Delaware and South Carolina will also use this kind of voting system statewide. Many states use similar equipment but on a smaller scale to accommodate voters with disabilities. The voting computers, called ballot-marking devices, are available in parts or all of 44 states, often alongside hand-marked paper ballots. About 18% of voters nationwide, more than 37 million, will use ballot-marking devices as their primary voting method this year, according to figures provided by Warren Stewart, a data specialist for Verified Voting who worked on the map. That figure includes 7 million registered voters in Georgia.

National: Gutted Election Assistance Commission struggles to recover | Bill Theobald/The Fulcrum

Nine months from an intensely contested presidential election already clouded by anxiety about the integrity of the results, the main federal agency overseeing the process is struggling to get back on its feet after years in turmoil. The Election Assistance Commission is unknown to most Americans. But it certifies the reliability of the machines most voters will use this fall, and it’s at the epicenter of efforts to protect our election systems from being hacked by foreign adversaries. And since last fall it’s been without an executive director or general counsel to coordinate the government’s limited supervision over how states and thousands of localities plan for the 2020 balloting. In fact, none of eight top officials listed on the agency website in March 2017, when the extent of Russian interference in the last presidential election was just becoming clear, are still with the agency. Neither are eight of the other 16 staff members who worked there then. And years of budget cuts have only recently started to be reversed. The ability of the already tiny operation to do its job in the leadup to November — when turnout and fear of hacking could both reach record levels — could go a long way to determining whether the world believes President Trump was either defeated or re-elected fair and square. It is a tall order that will be left largely to the four politically appointed commissioners, and two of them are new since Trump took office. Only a year ago did the EAC gain a full complement of members for the first time in almost a decade.

National: The Iowa caucus app isn’t the only new election tech | Rebecca Heilweil/Vox

Election security in the United States seems more precarious than ever. As the November 2020 election grows closer, states and counties have charged ahead with their own plans to secure — and improve — their voting systems. Congress, meanwhile, has failed to send much-needed reforms to the president’s desk. Anxiety over the mechanics of this year’s election has spiked following the disaster that was the Iowa Democratic caucus. While there’s no reason to believe that the very poorly developed app used in the caucus was hacked, the fiasco does have lawmakers spooked on a number of fronts, as it’s increasingly becoming clear that the integrity of the nation’s elections can be compromised in a variety of ways. In fact, after the phone number for reporting precinct results was posted online, supporters of President Donald Trump managed to flood phone lines and interfere with the counting of results, according to Bloomberg. You could say the country is more vulnerable to election interference than ever. Some worry, with good reason, that the worst is yet to come.

National: The progress the government has made on election security | Andrew Eversden/Fifth Domain

The latest Senate report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, released Feb. 6, contained several broad recommendations for how the government can improve effectiveness in securing American elections. While the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s third volume lists seven recommendations for correcting shortfalls made by the Obama administration in responding to Russian election interference, the federal government has already made progress in several of the recommended areas since the committee started its report. The committee recommends that the executive branch “bolster” partnerships with countries considered “near abroad” to Russia. The bipartisan report states that Russia has been using these countries as a “laboratory” for perfecting information and cyber warfare. For example, in the military conflict between Ukraine and Russian, Russian-backed hackers have targeted the government and shut down the country’s power grid. Expanding partnerships with such countries will “help to prepare defenses for the eventual expansion of interference techniques targeting the West,” the report read.

National: Election Security 2020: States Take Cybersecurity Measures Ahead of November | Adam Stone/StateTech Magazine

In the Buckeye State, officials are doing more than just keeping an eye on the upcoming national elections. As the threat of cyber tampering looms large, state and local leaders are working diligently to ensure voting is secure. “We want to set the tone for the rest of the nation,” says Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who in June issued a 34-point directive to guide state, county and local efforts on election cyber strategies. It calls for the use of event logging and intrusion detection tools, along with segmentation — disconnecting voting apparatus from external networks. “We want to make sure our boards of elections aren’t leaving a door opened by being attached to other, less secure assets,” LaRose says. Ohio may be out in front, but it is hardly alone. Authorities in all 50 states are taking steps to not only to secure the vote, but to ensure that the public perceives that vote as valid. They are getting help from the federal government, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an operational component under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Experts say the aggressive action is justified, given the high likelihood that adversarial nations and other bad actors could try to tamper with the election.

National: Russia engaging in ‘information warfare’ ahead of 2020 election, FBI chief warns | Eric Tucker/Associated Press

The FBI director, Christopher Wray, has warned that Russia is engaged in “information warfare” heading into the 2020 presidential election, though he said law enforcement has not seen ongoing efforts by Russia to target America’s election infrastructure. Wray told the House judiciary committee that Russia, just as it did in 2016, is relying on a covert social media campaign aimed at dividing American public opinion and sowing discord. That effort, which involves fictional personas, bots, social media postings and disinformation, may have an election-year uptick but is also a round-the-clock threat that is in some ways harder to combat than an election system hack, Wray said. “Unlike a cyber-attack on an election infrastructure, that kind of effort – disinformation – in a world where we have a first amendment and believe strongly in freedom of expression, the FBI is not going to be in the business of being the truth police and monitoring disinformation online,” Wray said.

National: Iowa and the grand tradition of election tech mishaps | Andrew Gumbel/The Guardian

The great Iowa caucus meltdown of 2020 may be triggering anguish, anger and, on the Republican side of the political fence, expressions of unalloyed glee; but for one Miami lawyer and voting rights activist it is also bringing back vivid memories of another high-profile primary contest that fell victim to untested new technology and administrative incompetence. The year was 2002, and the race was a hotly contested Florida gubernatorial election in which Janet Reno, the former US attorney general, was vying for the Democratic party nomination against a prominent lawyer from Tampa. A politically connected company called Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S) was rolling out new touchscreen technology to replace the punch card machines that were widely blamed for the meltdown in the presidential election two years earlier between George W Bush and Al Gore. ES&S, though, was very far from ready for prime time. Many of the machines in Miami-Dade county took so long to boot up that polling stations could not open before lunchtime. When a freak storm caused power blackouts, the battery backup on many machines failed. One Miami precinct reported 900% turnout; another showed just one ballot cast. The governor declared a state of emergency, and Reno – who was trailing narrowly – demanded a re-examination of the ballots, only to realize that the new technology made recounts impossible.

Editorials: Verifying caucus votes is easy. Iowa could have been much worse. | Edward W. Felten /The Washington Post

On Monday night, political enthusiasts across America waited for votes in the Iowa caucuses to be tabulated. And waited. And waited some more. Because of an ill-designed and poorly tested app, precinct captains couldn’t transmit their vote totals to the tabulators. This was embarrassing for Democratic Party officials and their technology vendor, but it was far from the worst thing that could have happened. In the end, the results will be tabulated correctly. Democracy worked, if a bit more slowly than some might have preferred. But a much bigger failure is still possible, and we’re still not properly prepared for it. The good news is that the problem in Iowa manifested in the tabulation of votes across precincts, which is the easiest part of an election to secure. There was ample public evidence of the vote count in each precinct: Voters filled out paper ballots, and precinct captains conducted public head counts. The rest — adding up votes and calculating delegate counts — is just arithmetic that candidates, journalists and citizens can replicate for themselves. The count went on, it just went didn’t go on as quickly as expected. What we need most from our election systems is resilience. Even in the absence of a cyberattack, things will go wrong. A resilient system can detect problems, recover and reconstruct the accurate result from solid evidence. That’s what we saw in Iowa. Voters made their intentions clear, and the in-precinct paper ballot count was low-tech and public — as resilient as one could hope for. When something went wrong, officials fell back to a verifiable solution. The system worked, even if the app didn’t.

Florida: State Could Allow Counties To Use A Different System When Recounting Voter Ballots In Elections | Robert Gaffney/WFSU

When elections are close, voter ballots are recounted. First by machine and if the results are still slim, by hand. It’s a process Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) remembers during the 2018 election. Byrd says he saw that election’s recount in Duval County. “We’re in a room, and you’ve got dozens of people and tables spread around and tens of thousands of ballots out, and all it takes is one stray mark to spoil a paper ballot,” Byrd says. Now, Byrd is backing a bill that would allow election staff to use a system, currently used for auditing,  for machine and manual recounts too. Right now, for manual recounts, election staff have to sort through ballots by hand. Byrd says the technology he’s proposing is already approved by the state. Currently, voting systems can make digital copies of paper ballots. Still, Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says those copies are hard to access and don’t have any sorting capability. The auditing system Byrd wants the state to use keeps an inventory of all paper ballots and makes them easier to find so staff can cross-check them with digital copies. Earley says he’s been working with the technology for 11 years.

Iowa: Caucus app is latest example of politicos building faulty technology with disastrous results | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The Iowa caucus debacle is just the latest example of politicos building faulty technology — with serious political consequences. Professional technologists shuddered at the apparent incompetence and hubris as details emerged yesterday about the Iowa Democratic party rushing a contract for its caucus results app with a little-known tech company founded by veterans of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, pushing the app out faster than it could be responsibly built and rejecting opportunities for testing and security vetting. The resulting implosion of the app from Shadow Inc. on the first vote of 2020 undermined faith in the electoral process just as Democratic party leaders were trying to restore it. The country is still waiting for the full results. “The most important lesson anyone should take away from this is that if you’re going to use a new technology that you need to very rigorously test it and exercise it and plan for what your backup will be if it fails,” Eric Rosenbach, a former top Pentagon official who leads the Defending Digital Democracy program at Harvard University, told me. “That didn’t happen here, which is disappointing,” he said. “That’s not something that’s good for democracy.” The high-profile coding error, which produced inconsistencies in reported caucus results, was reminiscent of other times when the government or campaigns built digital tools — but the hard work of getting the tech right took a backseat to other priorities.

Iowa: Maker of glitchy Iowa caucus app has Democratic Party ties | Michael Biesecker and Brian Slodysko/Associated Press

The little-known technology start-up under scrutiny after the meltdown of the Iowa Democratic caucuses on Monday was founded little more than a year ago by veterans of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign who had presented themselves as gurus of campaigning in the digital era. Shadow Inc. was picked in secret by the Iowa Democratic Party after its leaders consulted with the Democratic National Committee on vetting vendors and security protocols for developing a phone app used to gather and tabulate the caucus results. Party officials in Iowa blamed an unspecified “coding issue” with the software that led to it producing only partial and unreliable results. It did not identify the firm that produced the technology, but campaign disclosure reports show that the Iowa party paid $63,000 to Shadow in late 2019. After the company came under withering criticism on social media Tuesday, it issued a series of tweets that expressed “regret” over technical glitches which contributed to a delay in the release of results, but stopped short of apologizing.

Iowa: Here’s the Shadow Inc. App That Failed in Iowa Last Night | Jason Koebler and Emanuel Maiberg/VICE

Jonathan Green said that everything was going well until he had to use the IowaReporterApp. “On the ground, it went great,” Green, the chair of the Democractic presidential primary caucuses in Iowa’s Fremont Township and Lone Tree precincts and an IT systems administrator for a financial services firm, said. “I got pissed off four years ago at how my precinct was run, which is why I volunteered to do it this time around,” he said. “We had 113 people and everyone was pleasant. I had to recruit a secretary once we were going—I couldn’t find one ahead of time. Everyone was patient and in good cheer. I know that’s not likely the case today. My girlfriend, especially, is distraught. She has poured her life and soul into this thing, and for naught.” Green, like many other precinct chairs, faced problems reporting the results of the caucus to Iowa’s Democratic Party using the app. Due to a coding error, the app, created by a company called Shadow Inc., wasn’t reporting the correct data, according to the Iowa Democratic Party. The error resulted in the Democrats delaying all public reporting of the results of Monday’s caucuses, and has sown chaos and confusion in a hotly contested and deeply important primary.

New Jersey: ExpressVote XL Will Make Debut in Middlesex Count on March 10 | Charlie Kratovil/New Brunswick Today

On March 10, the citizens of Edison and Woodbridge will be casting ballots on new electronic voting machines for the first time in over two decades. While some of the Middlesex County’s new “ExpressVote XL” machines have already arrived at the Board of Elections warehouse in Edison, the bulk of the $7.6 million equipment purchase is set to arrive in the coming weeks. The former voting machines have been stripped down and will soon be on their way to a local landfill, according to elections officials. The county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the purchase in February 2019, but it’s taken a long time for the transition to finally move ahead, under the leadership of new Elections Administrator Thomas Lynch. The 720 new machines include “touchscreens” and produce a paper record for every vote. That’s more than enough for each of the county’s voting districts to have its own machine in use on the same day. The county also purchased 720 “electronic poll books” and two “high speed image scanners” from the same vendor that is providing the machines: Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software (ES&S).

Ohio: 8 counties fall short on elections cyber security check up | Laura A. Bischoff/Dayton Daily News

Eight Ohio counties failed to fully comply with a directive ordering local elections officials to tighten and check their cyber security protections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. LaRose said on Wednesday that he expects seven of the eight to be in full compliance within a week but he is placing Van Wert County Board of Elections under state administrative oversight because county officials there failed to take the directive as seriously as they should.LaRose said all 88 Ohio counties are 100 percent compliant with orders to conduct physical security checks, personnel background checks, transition to .gov email and website domains and training for staff. The compliance rate for required cyber attack detection and network defense steps is 99 percent, he said. “Ohio is the best prepared state of any state in the nation. That was my goal from the beginning. That’s what we expect as buckeyes, that’s what we expect as Ohioans. We know that the eyes of the world are on us each time we conduct a presidential election in Ohio. When the world is watching, Ohio will be ready,” LaRose said.

Pennsylvania: Get ready for ePollbooks: Northampton County Council bucks recommendation | Kurt Bresswein/Lehigh Valley Live

Going against the Northampton County Election Commission, county council on Thursday night voted to allocate $311,140 needed to purchase electronic pollbooks in time for the April 28 primary election. The ePollbooks have been a contentious topic, following problems with the county’s new touchscreen paper-ballot voting machines that marred their debut last November. The election commission a week ago voted to recommend council not approve the purchase of another new piece of technology for the polls. Election officials were left with little alternative, according to county Executive Lamont McClure. Pollbooks are needed to ensure people are properly registered to vote at their precinct. But under Act 77, the overhaul of state election law adopted last October, complete pollbooks can’t be printed in time for the election and the paper version would slow the tally of election results — possibly for weeks, officials said. “We have to give this county the tools to have a functioning election,” Councilman William McGee said. “They need the tools, whatever the tools are, to have a functioning election. Bottom line.” Thursday’s meeting occurred against a backdrop of chaos in Iowa with tallying caucus results in the nation’s first contest of the 2020 presidential election.

Ukraine: Zelensky hopes to hold online voting through smartphone at elections in Ukraine | InterFax

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has set a goal to bring all relations between a citizen and the government to a digital dimension, in particular to hold online voting during presidential, parliamentary and local elections. “In general, our goal is to make sure that all relations with the state can be carried out with the help of a regular smartphone and the Internet. In particular, voting. This is our dream and we will make it real at presidential, parliamentary or local elections. It is a challenge. Ambitious yet achievable,” he said during the presentation of the Diia mobile application in Kyiv on Thursday. Zelensky also said that The State in a Smartphone project changes the attitude of the government to a citizen and saves citizens’ time, money and nervous system.