Nevada: Democrats Test a Caucus Plan ‘Without Something You Can Download on Your Phone’ | Jennifer Medina/The New York Times

After abandoning plans to use the same kind of app that led to a debacle in Iowa, Nevada Democratic officials are testing backup plans this weekend as they attempt to come up with a clear alternative for their own state caucus, which begins in less than two weeks. Though party leaders in Nevada are now vowing not to use any kind of app to tally the results of their Feb. 22 caucus, it remains unclear what they will put in their place. “We are not using an app, we are not using something you can download on your phone,” said Alana Mounce, the executive director of the Nevada Democrats. But what they will use instead is still unknown and presidential campaigns are increasingly anxious about what will happen when early voting begins next weekend. The Nevada Democrats began testing backup procedures Friday, but state party officials declined to give any details on what they were testing, other than to say that it would not be a phone-based app. By Tuesday morning, even before the full scope of the chaos in Iowa had become clear, state party officials scrapped their plans to use an app made by Shadow Inc., the same firm that created a caucus app for Iowa.

National: Senate panel wants politicians to put party aside for election security. Fat chance in 2020. | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

A long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report admonishes politicians to forget about politics when dealing with election interference operations and to exercise maximum restraint before suggesting an election was hacked or corrupted.

Good luck with that.

“Restraint” is not the operative word in the Trump era. The bipartisan report arrived just days after President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale suggested without evidence on Twitter that a long delay in reporting Iowa caucuses results was because of a #RiggedElection. In fact, the count was marred by technical issues. And while the Republican-run committee states “the President of the United States should take steps to separate himself or herself from political considerations when handling issues related to foreign influence operations,” Trump has not been living by that mantra. Nor has he been “explicitly putting aside politics when addressing the American people on election threats.” The president has openly contemplated accepting dirt on his opponents from foreign nations in the 2020 race — and cast doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered on his behalf in 2016. And the Senate acquitted the president just this week after the House impeached him for pressuring Ukraine’s leader to help dig up dirt on the family of a political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.

National: Iowa Breakdown Reveals Broken Election Technology Ecosystem | Alyza Sebenius and Bill Allison/Bloomberg

The chaos at the Iowa caucus has been blamed on a small startup called Shadow Inc., but what happened this week is also emblematic of wider problems plaguing the world of election technology. It’s hard to get sophisticated technology companies to build such technology because most buyers have small budgets, and disappear after Election Day. In a four-year presidential election cycle, one campaign’s killer app is woefully obsolete by the next. So political parties and campaigns often create the technology themselves or hire small firms to do it for them. “The tech companies with depth of knowledge and understanding tend to shy away from building critical voting systems,” said Charles Stewart III, a professor and elections scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Editorials: The Iowa disaster makes it clear that we should stick to doing things the old fashioned way | The Washington Post

It’s 2020. Should Americans really still be voting with pen and paper? The answer, amplified by this week’s meltdown in Iowa, is a resounding “yes.” The inaugural Democratic primary caucuses were thrown into disarray after the state’s vote-recording app imploded. Volunteers struggled to download the largely untested product, or to upload their counts onto it once they’d managed to get in. On top of that, what state party officials called a “coding issue” caused the program to spit out incorrect numbers even when results were successfully input. The one bit of good news amid all the bad: There’s a paper trail. Because precinct captains kept handwritten tallies of the outcome, voters can expect a reliable analog answer in the end — no matter how dysfunctional the digital system that delayed it. Election security experts have been insisting on backup paper ballots for votes everywhere, though it’s likely eight states will still be paperless come November’s presidential race. They’ve also been insisting that officials use the backups to conduct what are called risk-limiting audits: hand counts of a sample of all votes to make sure the computers have gotten it right.

Editorials: Iowa’s message for the other states: Be ready for everything to go wrong | Lawrence Norden/The Washington Post

Just when you thought the Iowa caucus debacle couldn’t get worse, it went full Murphy’s law. On Thursday, Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called for a full recanvass of the results. Immediately, the Iowa Democratic Party responded that it would do so if a campaign requested it. As we all know now, the human and technical mistakes in Iowa were legion. Yet one overlooked fact in coverage of the meltdown is that the caucus was run by a state political party — not professional election officials. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important lessons for all the other primaries and caucuses in the weeks ahead. Here are the four most important things election officials can do to keep the 2020 election cycle free, fair and secure. Don’t roll out untested technology in a big election. As an election professional from Ohio recently told me, “Macy’s wouldn’t roll out new cash registers on Black Friday.” There is a ton of new technology, from voting machines to electronic pollbooks, being employed in 2020. And for the most part, it is long overdue. For years, we have neglected our election infrastructure in the United States, with states using voting machines and registration databases with unnecessary security and reliability flaws. The key, however, is to test out this technology in low-stakes, low-turnout elections throughout the year — a best practice that the Iowa Democratic Party ignored.

Editorials: Messing with elections messes with democracy | Ross Ramsey/The Texas Tribune

Elections depend on trust — on the idea that the declared winners and losers were the real winners and losers. So how’s that going right now? “In a democracy, people have to have faith that elections are being run fairly, so that losers will accept the results and fight another day,” says Rick Hasen, an elections lawyer and professor at the University of California-Irvine. “That’s been taken for granted in this country and, effectively, no longer can be, with so much stress on our system and so much agitation that undermines confidence.” He’s written a book — “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy” — that went public Tuesday. That’s the day the Iowa caucuses started coming to pieces. “Confidence is the system,” Hasen says. “We don’t have a single election system. We have all of these pieces that fit together so that there’s legitimacy to the process. At some point, that can break down and you could have a substantial number of people who say, ‘This is broken, and I don’t believe this was a fair election.’ That’s what I’m really worried about.”

Editorials: How to Prevent the Next Election Meltdown | Richard L. Hasen/Wall Street Journal

Will your vote be fairly and accurately counted in the 2020 elections? It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds after this week’s fiasco in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, and it reminds us of a troubling fact: Nearly two decades after the Florida debacle over the 2000 presidential vote, too many places in the U.S. are still vulnerable to an election meltdown. Such anxieties add to well-founded concerns about the possibility of cyberattacks on our voting systems, by Russia or other malign actors. What’s worse, in today’s hyperpolarized, social-media-driven environment, such voting problems provide sensational grist for conspiracy theories that may further undermine Americans’ confidence in the fairness and accuracy of the 2020 elections. Over the past decade, a familiar frame has developed in the contentious debate over voting rules: Republicans express concern about voter fraud and enact laws supposedly intended to combat it; Democrats see these laws as an attempt to suppress Democratic votes, press for measures to expand voting access and rights, and worry about cyberattacks intended to help the GOP at the polls. It is an important debate, in which I have taken part, but it misses a deeper, more urgent reality: Most American voters in 2020 are much more likely to be disenfranchised by an incompetent election administrator than by fraud, suppression or Russian hacking.

Georgia: State officials partner with Georgia Tech for voting security | Albany Herald

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is launching a partnership with Georgia Tech, the Georgia Institute of Technology, to combat cyber threats to Georgia’s election system. This new effort will provide Georgia with the cyber expertise necessary to stay ahead of the continuously evolving threats to our voting infrastructure. “I am thankful to be working with a premier academic institution like Georgia Tech, whose cybersecurity program is ranked second in the nation,” said Raffensperger. “Together, we will be able to combat the growing cyber threats to our voting system and Secure the Vote in Georgia.” Georgia Tech officials said such security is a focus of the university.

Idaho: Local officials now optimistic about voter registration software | Rachel Cox-Rosen/KPVI

Local officials say they’re more optimistic that new voter registration software will be ready by March 11. Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced the statewide software rollout in 2018. Florida-based company Tenex is making the system on a $4 million contract. Election officials from several local counties had expressed concerns that the software wouldn’t be functional by March 11. But Bannock County Clerk Jason Dixon says a Thursday meeting in Boise between county clerks from around the state and the Secretary of State’s Office was “very encouraging.” Dixon says a software update fixing 35 system issues should be rolled out in the next few days, and training for counties across the state on the new software begins next week. Dixon says that while the Secretary of State’s Office hasn’t met benchmarks in the past, he has “faith and hope” that this time will be different.

Iowa: The Iowa Caucuses App Had Another Problem: It Could Have Been Hacked | Jack Gillum and Jessica Huseman/ProPublica

A glitch in the smartphone app used to count and report votes from individual precincts continues to delay results from Monday’s Iowa caucuses. But a closer look shows that the app had a potentially graver problem that apparently did not come into play: its vulnerability to hacking. The IowaReporterApp was so insecure that vote totals, passwords and other sensitive information could have been intercepted or even changed, according to officials at Massachusetts-based Veracode, a security firm that reviewed the software at ProPublica’s request. Because of a lack of safeguards, transmissions to and from the phone were left largely unprotected. Chris Wysopal, Veracode’s chief technology officer, said the problems were elementary. He called it a “poor decision” to release the software without first fixing them. “It is important for all mobile apps that deal with sensitive data to have adequate security testing, and have any vulnerabilities fixed before being released for use,” he said. The weaknesses reinforce concerns about political parties managing elections, especially in an era of heightened sensitivity to digital security issues — and about the Iowa Democratic Party’s actions in particular. Party officials, who touted the new technology as a fast way to tally votes, may have given short shrift to assuring not only the app’s effectiveness but also its security, experts said.

Iowa: Democrats to undergo independent review of caucus chaos | Thomas Beaumont and Seth Borenstein/Associated Press

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, under immense pressure following the state’s presidential caucus debacle, said Friday that an independent review will determine what caused the problems that led to a dayslong delay in reporting the results, inconsistencies in the numbers and no clear winner. “We will be undergoing an independent, forensic review,” Price told reporters Friday in Des Moines. “What went right? What went wrong? Start to finish.” But almost nothing went right Monday night, first when an app local Democratic volunteers were to use to report the results from almost 1,700 precincts failed, and then when a massive backlog of phone reports and inquiries followed. It brought the reporting of the results of the leadoff presidential nominating contest to a standstill. It took until Thursday for the state party, which operates the series of statewide political meetings, to issue what it said are complete results.

Iowa: Docs: Shadow Inc. Directly Tied to Left-Wing Media Operation | Anna Merlan and Tim Marchman/VICE

A company called Shadow earned instant infamy this week when an app it created to tabulate the results of the Iowa caucuses led to a statewide meltdown that has thrown the Democratic presidential campaign into disarray. In the wake of that disaster, a lot of people have a lot of questions about Acronym, a well-connected startup that’s tied to but has distanced itself from Shadow. This week, Acronym founder Tara McGowan put out a statement describing Shadow as an independent company and Acronym as a mere investor; she also reportedly reached out to major Democratic donors like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to do damage control over Acronym’s role in the Iowa fiasco, and disclaimed any “day-to-day engagement with Shadow business.” A June 2019 draft business plan for Acronym written by McGowan and obtained by VICE, though, shows the companies as thoroughly entwined, with Shadow playing a key role in Acronym’s plans. As has been previously reported, Acronym’s goal is to create a pipeline pouring propaganda favorable to Democrats and liberal causes into swing states, ostensibly to combat the right wing’s significantly more advanced media machine, which among other things comprises Fox News, Breitbart, and other operations advancing Republican interests. The document shows the news-like sites that comprise that pipeline as connected not just to Acronym and a Democratic consulting firm called Lockwood Strategies, but to Shadow itself, with an organizational chart showing ties between Shadow and the “national editorial team” of Acronym’s news operations.

Louisiana: Amid election fears, Louisiana is one of the last states to use aging Sequoia Advantage machines in 2020 | Sam Karlin/The Advocate

When voters in Louisiana go to the polls during the 2020 presidential election, they will cast their ballots on aging electronic voting machines that the nation has largely abandoned over concerns that they have no paper record that could serve as a fail-safe if something goes wrong. The state is moving toward getting new machines that will provide a paper record of votes, and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the state’s chief elections official, had aimed to have them ready for the 2020 elections. But the contract with a private vendor selected by Ardoin’s office was cancelled after a challenge to the bid process, stalling delivery of the new machines. Election security has taken on newfound importance in recent years, following Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And in Louisiana, a string of cyber attacks against state and local governments that crippled public-facing departments and cost millions of dollars has shone a light on cybersecurity more broadly. Officials, including Ardoin, say they are more prepared to run secure elections in 2020 than ever before, following election interference in 2016 that caught many off guard and prompted reviews among federal and state policymakers. Still, Louisiana’s aging machines invite a greater risk of malfunction than newer equipment that features a paper backup, experts say. And while Ardoin insists there is no risk of hacking because the machines are not connected to the internet and aren’t programmed with computers that are connected to the internet, it is impossible to eliminate the risk of malware entirely, especially if the computers used to program the machines were inadvertently connected to the internet.

Maryland: Elections officials drops plan to make largest counties share data with state over wireless network on Election Day | Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun

Maryland elections officials said Friday they will no longer require the state’s largest jurisdictions to use a wireless network to transmit voter information to the state during its upcoming primary and general elections, after the network caused a significant slowdown during voting in the special 7th Congressional District primary. Baltimore City and Montgomery County promptly opted out. Howard County said it would keep using the network, pending a review. The network, which cost about $2 million in federal funds to set up, was used for the first time Tuesday in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County, where voters were electing nominees to fill the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ term in the House of Representatives. The Maryland Board of Elections said it could return the network to service in the future but won’t require its use in the April 28 primary or in the general election on Nov. 3, when voter turnout is expected to be far larger than Tuesday. “We’re just making a decision for the 2020 elections. 2022 is two years from now. We see the need and benefit of it, so I would say it’s not scrapped. It’s just been postponed,” said Nikki Charlson, the board’s deputy administrator. “We always hope that every voter has a good voting experience, and when they don’t, we take that seriously, and that’s what we’ve done.” The network connects tablet-like pollbooks that poll workers use to check in voters, allowing the workers to transmit information to the elections board in real time.

Nevada: Caucus will use new ‘iPad tool’ they swear isn’t an app and things don’t sound great | Marcus Gilmer/Mashable

Oh lordy, here we go again. The Nevada State Democratic Party is planning to use a new app for the state’s caucus on Saturday, Feb. 22, just days after it abandoned the app that threw the Iowa caucus into chaos. Adding to the fun: Nevada Dems are refusing to call it an app. Per the Nevada Independent, the “new caucus tool that will be preloaded onto iPads” was introduced to volunteers at a training session on Saturday.  According to a video used in the training session that the Independent viewed, the instructor “tells volunteers that the new mechanism ‘is not an app’ but should be thought of as ‘a tool.'”

Nevada: Democrats debut to volunteers new iPad-based ‘tool’ to calculate math on Caucus Day in the wake of Iowa fiasco | Megan Messerly/Nevada Inpedendent

Nevada Democrats are planning to use a new caucus tool that will be preloaded onto iPads and distributed to precinct chairs to help facilitate the Caucus Day process, according to multiple volunteers and a video recording of a volunteer training session on Saturday. The new tool will help precinct chairs fold in the results from people in their precinct who chose to caucus early with the preferences of in-person attendees on Caucus Day by calculating the viability threshold and carrying out the two alignments in the caucus process, according to the volunteers and the video recording. Details about the tool come two days after Nevada Democrats said that they would not use any apps for their Feb. 22 caucus after a coding error in a similar program used by Iowa Democrats delayed the release of results from that state’s nominating contest earlier this week. In the video, a party staffer tells volunteers that the new mechanism “is not an app” but should be thought of as “a tool.”

New Hampshire: New Hampshire is not Iowa, but some voting concerns remain | Ethan DeWitt/Concord Monitor

It’s not clear exactly where the trouble started in Iowa. Perhaps it was user error that caused many of the precincts to report irregular vote totals in last Monday’s caucus, prompting Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to call for a partial re-canvass. Perhaps it can all be attributed to technical failures with a mobile reporting app. It could have been partly related to unfamiliarity with new caucus rules that added increased reporting requirements. Whatever the cause, the effect of the days-long delay in results was clear. Candidates were left frustrated, party officials ashamed and voters confused. This week, New Hampshire’s governor and secretary of state called a throng of reporters to the State House and took to a podium, anxious to promote a counter-message: No worries here. “Given the news and uncertainty out of Iowa, it’s important that we assure the public that the systems we have in place here in New Hampshire are truly beyond reproach,” said Sununu.

Ohio: Overseas voters could be blocked by security measures meant to stop hackers | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Cybersecurity measures meant to keep foreign hackers from accessing government websites could make it harder for overseas civilian and military voters in some countries to determine how to cast their ballots. At least one voter eligible to cast a ballot in Franklin County recently could not access the county Board of Elections website because it had blocked all traffic from Brazil. Security filters that block international traffic would affect a relatively small number of Ohioans. Overseas voters from Ohio requested about 9,600 ballots in 2018, and only about 7,500 of them were returned, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But government agencies increasingly are looking to balance access for those who need it versus protections from hackers in other countries as public officials put a higher premium on cybersecurity, particularly around elections systems. Voting rights groups have raised the issue with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office. LaRose issued a sweeping security directive last summer for Ohio’s county boards of elections in preparation for the 2020 election.

Wisconsin: Racine suffers cyberattack, early voting still going on but meetings canceled | Adam Rogan/Journal Times

It’s been one week since the city’s computer systems were frozen by ransomware and City Hall is slowly returning to the 21st Century. The city’s website went back online Tuesday, but links to other parts of the city’s computer systems — such as email or online bill payment — are not working. Because of the technical challenges, city meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been canceled, including Finance and Personnel, Public Safety and Licensing and Public Works and Services committees. … Citywide, there is a primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court; there also is a primary for Racine’s 4th Aldermanic District. The city’s insurer, Cities and Villages Municipal Insurance, has commissioned Stroz Friedberg to do a forensic analysis of the computer systems and assist the Management Information Systems Department with “wiping” each computer and making sure no trace of the malware is left before reconnecting it with the system. “That’s a time-consuming process,” said city spokesman Shannon Powell. “They have to be really thorough.” Computers still work, but pretty much anything involving the internet has been blocked. Email? Doesn’t work. Paying fines? Needs to be check or cash. Voicemail? Useless.

India: What India can learn from the clamour for paper ballots in the US | Mala Jay/National Herald

The United States, the world’s most developed nation, is having serious problems with its electronic voting system that India cannot afford to ignore. The last few days have been so traumatic in the state of Iowa that it has triggered demands for a total manual recount and for a return to the “good old paper ballot”. Just three headlines in influential newspapers convey the message.  One says: “Don’t entrust Democracy to the Techies”. The other says: “The Iowa election fiasco proved one thing:  over-reliance on electronic machines in the election process makes Democracy more opaque”. The third was a plaintive cry:  “Please let’s go back to paper voting”. What happened during counting of votes in Iowa on Monday can be summed up in three words – Spectacular Software Glitch. Just like what the Election Commission of India keeps repeating, those in charge of the primary election in the State of Iowa had claimed that the electronic voting system was “fail-safe” and “tamper-proof”. But some of America’s leading politicians – like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, all of whom are feverishly trying to win the nomination to become the Democratic Party candidate against Donald Trump in the US presidential election in November – were stunned when the results of Monday’s election caucus were withheld because a computer application crashed.