Georgia: Lawyer warned Georgia county on dumping new voting system | Kate Brumback and Russ Bynum/Associated Press

A Georgia county has opted to ditch the state’s new voting machines and switch to hand-marked paper ballots during early voting for the March presidential primary, despite a warning from the county’s attorney that the decision could result in litigation that’s tough to defend in court. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 on Tuesday to mothball the new machines after less than two days of using them in early voting ahead of Georgia’s presidential primaries. The board ordered poll workers to switch to paper ballots marked by hand starting Wednesday. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said concerns that bystanders at the polls could see the choices voters made on the new system’s touchscreens rendered it impossible to guarantee ballot secrecy. The March 24 presidential primaries mark the first statewide test for Georgia’s new $103 million voting system, which combines electronic touchscreens with printed ballots to provide a paper record of the vote. Some election integrity advocates have argued the bright touchscreens with their large fonts make it easy to see how other people are voting.

National: Super Tuesday gives feds and states a test run for securing November vote | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

Federal and state officials were up late Tuesday monitoring for threats from hackers and trolls to the biggest primary day of the 2020 election season. A watch floor at the Department of Homeland Security kept election administrators across the country plugged into threat data coming in from the intelligence community.  While there were some notable technical glitches in the voting process, nothing malicious came to pass. Bleary-eyed officials can go back to work Wednesday with a sigh of relief but also some lessons learned on how to protect the November presidential vote, which U.S. officials have repeatedly warned will draw foreign interference attempts. “We had well over 100 state and local officials in the room with us exchanging information with us throughout the day,” a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division said on a 9 p.m. Eastern call with reporters.

National: Report: Russian social accounts sow election discord – again | Amanda Seitz and Barbara Ortutay/Associated Press

Four years after Russia-linked groups stoked divisions in the U.S. presidential election on social media platforms, a new report shows that Moscow’s campaign hasn’t let up and has become harder to detect. The report from University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Young Mie Kim found that Russia-linked social media accounts are posting about the same divisive issues — race relations, gun laws and immigration — as they did in 2016, when the Kremlin polluted American voters’ feeds with messages about the presidential election. Facebook has since removed the accounts. Since then, however, the Russians have grown better at imitating U.S. campaigns and political fan pages online, said Kim, who analyzed thousands of posts. She studied more than 5 million Facebook ads during the 2016 election, identifying Russia’s fingerprints on some of the messages through an ad-tracking app. Her review is co-published by the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy institute, where she is a scholar. The Russian improvements make it harder for voters and social media platforms to identify the foreign interference, Kim said. “For normal users, it is too subtle to discern the differences,” Kim said. “By mimicking domestic actors, with similar logos (and) similar names, they are trying to avoid verification.”

California: Voting changes, computer glitches mar California primary | Adam Beam and Janie Har/Associated Press

A series of changes in California meant to boost voter turnout and smooth its new Super Tuesday primary election led to a surge in last-minute voters, computer problems and short-staffing that appeared to catch elections officials by surprise, triggering scathing criticism Wednesday. Long lines, sluggish computer connections and general confusion plagued polling places statewide — raising serious questions about the ability of the most populous state to handle November’s general election, when millions more voters are expected. Critics called for an overhaul before then. Los Angeles County rolled out a new $300 million voting system, including new scanning devices and voting machines that the state certified despite known security and technical problems. Many of the voting devices didn’t work and there were not enough check-in machines or poll workers, leading to wait times of two hours or more. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign filed a legal complaint in the county that has more than a quarter of California’s 20 million voters, a county supervisor demanded an investigation and a Democratic Party leader gave a stinging rebuke of the “abysmal” infrastructure.

California: State wants Los Angeles County to mail ballots to every voter to avoid delays in November | Adam Beam/Associated Press

California’s top election official says Los Angeles County should mail ballots to its 5.5 million registered voters at least 29 days ahead of the November general election to avoid the lengthy delays that plagued polling places in the nation’s most populous county on Super Tuesday. Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a letter to Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan that he had “deep concerns” about how the county handled the election. As the county rolled out a new $300 million voting system, many machines failed and other problems at polling locations led to wait times of two hours or more. Plus, traditional neighborhood polling places were replaced with fewer multipurpose “voting centers” that were unfamiliar to voters and contributed to the confusion. The centers, where people could register and vote, were among a series of changes in California meant to boost voter turnout and make voting more convenient. But they also saw problems statewide on Tuesday. Of the 15 counties using the vote centers, 14 mailed ballots to every registered voter at least 28 days ahead of the election. Los Angeles County—with a population bigger than most states—was exempt. That must change ahead of the November general election, Padilla said Thursday. “This would be just a first, but important, step in better meeting the needs of the largest, most diverse voting jurisdiction in the nation,” Padilla said.

California: The Scramble To Fix Los Angeles Voting Before November (And What Went Wrong) | Libby Denkmann/ LAist

Los Angeles County’s new voting system is supposed to make elections more accessible. But on Tuesday, many voters found casting a ballot to be anything but easy. At L.A. County’s new in-person voting locations, many people faced long wait times — sometimes in excess of three hours — caused by technical problems that marred the system’s debut. Late Tuesday, the county’s top elections official apologized. On Wednesday, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn called for an investigation. “Some hiccups are to be expected with a new system,” said Hahn in a statement, “but there were widespread reports of problems.” “These issues,” Hahn added, “need to be fixed before this November.” The snafu prompted California’s Secretary of State to issue a stern statement Thursday: “In Los Angeles County, too many voters faced unacceptably long wait times,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Voters who waited patiently for hours deserve our praise for their commitment to democracy. Voters deserve better.” Padilla said Los Angeles County should mail a ballot to every registered voter, and address staffing, logistical, training and equipment issues that bogged down voting in the country’s largest jurisdiction on Super Tuesday.

California: Probe of Los Angeles County voting problems needed now, supervisor says | Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles County supervisor on Wednesday called for an immediate investigation into widespread voting problems Tuesday that resulted in people waiting hours to vote. Supervisor Janice Hahn said the county needed to launch a “forensic autopsy of what happened yesterday” amid widespread complaints and outrage over the handling of the new balloting system. “I’m not happy with the number of problems,” she said. Hahn pushed back when asked whether the Board of Supervisors had failed to provide oversight of the creation and rollout of the new voting system. “It was about a yearlong, at least, process of testing these machines. There were focus groups about these machines; there was a lot of reports by our county registrar recorder on rolling out. Of course, Alex Padilla, our secretary of state, certified these machines with a few conditions. I think we were all waiting for the proof, which was yesterday, and I’m not happy with the number of problems,” she said. Los Angeles County elections chief Dean Logan acknowledged the problems. “This was a challenging day for a lot of voters in L.A. County, and I certainly apologize for that. That’s something that has to be better,” he said.

Georgia: State Election Board Investigating Athens-Clarke’s Decision To Use Hand-Marked Paper Ballots | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

The Georgia State Election Board is holding an emergency hearing in Athens next week to determine whether Athens-Clarke County is violating several state laws by not conducting elections on the state’s new $104 million voting system. According to a notice sent to the county board of elections, Athens-Clarke officials should be prepared to present evidence explaining why it voted 3-2 to determine that it would be “impossible and impracticable” to use the ballot-marking devices. Athens-Clarke officials have moved to paper ballots instead. The secretary of state’s office says it is investigation whether there are violations of at least six different state laws and rules regarding elections, including OCGA §§ 21-2-300, 21-2-265, 21-2-266, 21-2-267 and State Election Board Rules 183-1-12-.01 and 183-1-14-.02. One of the laws mentioned mandates that every county use the same voting system, which Athens-Clarke is not following after the board cited a different state law that says an election may be conducted by hand-marked paper ballot if the use of the machines “is impossible or impracticable.”

Idaho: Canyon County rolls out new Hart Ballot Marking Devices for all voters equipment ahead of March election | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

Thursday morning the Canyon County Elections Office was bustling with county and poll workers unpacking the county’s new voting equipment to prepare for Election Day on March 10. Canyon County voters this election are using the new $3 million system for the first time, a system that will use both an electronic and paper ballot system. Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said the new system isn’t really “electronic voting,” because the machines print out a completed paper ballot once votes are cast. “What the machines are doing is it is running the pencil for you, it prints out a paper ballot that we store. We have it on digital, but we also have a paper ballot,” Yamamoto said. Voters who have participated in early voting have already used the system under the guidance of trained poll workers.

Maine: High voter turnout drives long lines; some towns forced to photocopy ballots after running low | WMTW

Maine’s top election official said turnout in the presidential primary election was heavier than expected on Super Tuesday. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said he’d projected turnout of 15 percent Tuesday, but final turnout will surpass that projection. Long lines were reported across the state, particularly Tuesday evening after people got out of work. Some towns had to get permission from the Secretary of State’s Office to print photocopies of ballots after running low.

If you hear your town is running low on ballots, no worries- we are granting permission to municipalities (upon request) to photocopy ballots as needed. They’ll be hand-counted, as tabulators cannot process them. Be assured: You will receive a ballot and it will be counted!

— MaineSOS (@MESecOfState) March 4, 2020

The law allows Dunlap to certify more copies being made in order to ensure everyone can vote.

Minnesota: Lawmakers question election security funding after Minnesota poll finder error | Stephen Montemayor/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Some GOP lawmakers are questioning a new round of federal election security money after an employee error caused the Minnesota Secretary of State’s online poll finder to link to a partisan liberal website on Super Tuesday. Republican state lawmakers sharply rebuked Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, for what he called a “lapse in judgment” by an IT worker who linked the state’s overloaded poll finder tool to a BoldProgressives.org web page. The link was active for 17 minutes on Tuesday before the office removed it. “How can an employee just redirect and get into IT and do all of this?” said state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, a Big Lake Republican and former secretary of state, speaking at a Tuesday hearing in her Senate state government and elections committee. “It’s a very concerning issue, especially in this time of security — and ample money was given already in May of last year.” Kiffmeyer engaged in a monthslong standoff last year with Simon over $6.6 million in federal election security money approved by Congress. Minnesota law requires the Legislature to sign off on the funding before it reaches Simon’s office.

North Carolina: Super Tuesday vote counting problems in Warren County North Carolina | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

Officials in a North Carolina county accidentally inflated the votes in one Super Tuesday primary election, but fixed the problem on Thursday. Tuesday’s election results are still unofficial everywhere in the state, and officials at the N.C. State Board of Elections will do audits all around the state regardless of whether voting results appear wrong. In one rural area, however, they have already found an issue and say it was due to human error. “It’s very important to note that the results on the election night reporting system are unofficial and this is ongoing,” Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the elections board, said in an interview Thursday morning. Warren County, a small community north of Raleigh on the Virginia border, has only 41 registered Libertarian voters. But on Tuesday the county reported more than 800 votes cast in the Libertarian presidential race.

North Carolina: How did Guilford’s new voting system work? | Taft Wireback/Greensboro News Record

The votes are in, and Guilford County’s new system of hand-marked, paper ballots came through its first, full-fledged test without any major snags. Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said the new equipment worked well in Tuesday’s primary and voters adapted successfully to the shift away from touchscreen voting to paper ballots. “There was some apprehension early in the process because it is something different from what you’ve been doing for the last 15 years,” Collicutt said Wednesday. Voters came out for Tuesday’s primary in robust, if not record numbers: 112,728 cast ballots, or about 31% of the county’s registered voters, Collicutt said. That’s 5% below turnout for the last presidential primary in 2016 when 122,897 voters participated, he said. Once voting got under way Tuesday, the only significant drawback came from delays by state government’s computer system in displaying Guilford’s results online, Collicutt said. “The big issue was how slow the state’s website was,” he said. “The upload was so slow.” Guilford County spent about $2 million for its new voting equipment to comply with changes in state law that require systems to leave a better paper trail than the touchscreen terminals Guilford had been using for years. The new system relies on printed, multiple-choice ballots that voters fill out in ink and feed into a tabulator at their precincts.

South Carolina: Richland County board votes to hire new elections director | Chrisa Trainor/The Post and Courier

After nearly nine months of searching, Richland County will look to Tennessee for its new elections director On Thursday night, the Richland County Election Commission unanimously voted to offer the director of elections and voter registration position to Tammy Smith, who is currently the assistant administrator of elections in Wilson County, Tennessee. Wilson County has a population of more than 136,000 and is just east of Nashville. Election commission vice chairman Craig Plank said Thursday that Smith would be notified of the board’s decision “as soon as possible.” Plank says he feels confident Smith will accept the post and that she “has expressed her desire to be an active part of Richland County.” The election commission chose Smith over the other finalist for the position, Terry Graham, the former Chester County elections director who has served as Richland County’s interim elections director since July 2019.

Texas: Long voting lines in Texas spotlight concerns about access to the polls | Elise Viebeck/ The Washington Post

The lines stretched in the dark across the plaza at Texas Southern University, as hundreds of would-be voters stood for hours Tuesday to cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary. As they waited, students shared phone chargers, activists sent in pizza and exhausted voters resorted to sitting on the ground. The voting center at the historically black university in Houston was one of a number of such locations around Texas that were plagued by long delays on Super Tuesday, raising questions about the readiness of local election officials and spurring outrage among voting rights advocates. Many cited as a factor the closing of hundreds of precincts around the state after a pivotal Supreme Court decision in 2013. One of the remaining Democrats in the presidential field — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — seized on the episode, tweeting that it revealed a “crisis of voter suppression.” However, interviews with election officials, activists and voters pointed to a number of complicated factors that combined to produce the massive lines in Harris County. “There was actually a failure in the system at multiple junctures,” said Beth Stevens, the voting rights program director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, in an interview  “The effect is that you have black and brown people on college campuses standing in line for two hours, four hours, seven hours to vote,” she said.

Texas: Harris County’s cascade of election day fumbles disproportionately affected communities of color | Alexa Uren/The Texas Tribune

From the sunlit atrium of the science building on campus, former Vice President Joe Biden asked Texas Southern University for an assist. It was election day eve, and Biden was visiting the university just days after black voters in South Carolina had forcefully revived his presidential bid. That Biden had chosen to spend precious hours at Texas Southern ahead of Super Tuesday seemed to signal he hoped to make the historically black college and the community it represented a nexus between his last pivotal win and the next crucial test of his campaign. “Tomorrow, Texas is going to speak,” Biden said to a raucous throng of supporters surrounding him. “I think we’re going to do well here in Texas with the help of all of you. I’m asking you for your vote. I’m asking you for your support because I’ve got to earn it.

Texas: Bexar County’s new ES&S voting system ‘crashed’ 3 times, tying up race results, election chief says | Scott Huddleston/San Antonio ExpressNews

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said computers used to post results in a new voting system “crashed” three times, forcing election officials to post separate sets of numbers, rather than consolidating them as they had on past election nights. “We will be working today with the vendor to get the regular report that y’all…

Texas: Harris County Democrats waited for hours to vote. Two-thirds of polling sites were in GOP areas. | Zach Despart and Mike Morris/Houston Chronicle

Many of the 322,000 Harris County Democratic primary voters who surged to the polls Tuesday faced long lines that forced several balloting sites to stay open late into the evening. Though Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2 to 1 on Election Day, almost two-thirds of the county’s voting centers were in county commissioner precincts in west Harris County held by Republicans. And, in a decision that worsened delays, the Harris County Clerk’s Office placed an equal number of voting machines for each party at every voting center. That meant that in Democratic strongholds like Kashmere Gardens, where Republicans were outnumbered 30 to 1 during early balloting, Democratic voters languished in line while GOP machines sat unused. Adding to the frustration was a County Clerk website that is supposed to show wait times at poll locations. Numerous voters on Tuesday complained the website led them to a polling place showing a minimal wait only to stand for hours because poll workers failed to update the site. Housing advocate Chrishelle Palay said she saw two or three Republican voters while she waited two hours to cast her ballot in Kashmere. “People were confused and infuriated,” Palay said. “They were definitely upset at the approach and how the machines were set up.”

Texas: Voting delays in Fort Worth area blamed on machine set up | Anna M. Tinsley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Some Tarrant County voters waited in long lines — some that took an hour or more to get through — to cast their vote Tuesday in the presidential primary election. Officials said that was because the turnout at some sites was larger than expected, some sites were understaffed, and some voters are still getting accustomed to the new voting machines. But frustration grew on Super Tuesday when there was, for instance, a long line of Democrats waiting to vote at a polling site as several machines went unused because they were set aside for Republicans. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said he believes the problem can be avoided. “I hope we will take advantage of what technology offers us and share the machines between the two parties,” he said Wednesday. The catch is that early voting, which is run by the county, lets residents use any of the 600 voting machines set up to cast ballots in either the Republican or Democratic primary.

Washington: Senate committee reviewing Secretary of State’s election security bill | Northern Kittitas County Tribune

Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s election-security legislation, Senate Bill 6412, received a hearing in the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee recently. The bill aims to bolster election security on four fronts — eliminate cyber threats by removing risky electronic ballot-return methods, improve third-party ballot collection, provide post-election security through statistical audits, and appropriate $1.8 million in order to draw nearly $9 million in federal matching funds to augment security. Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, is sponsoring the bill. “These critical election security improvements cannot wait. Cyber criminals are relentless, and in this upcoming, momentous election cycle, voters need to have confidence that our systems are secure and their information will remain protected,” said Wyman. “The race to secure our elections has no finish line, but Senate Bill 6412 propels elections officials in the right direction for 2020 and beyond.” Testifying in support of the bill was Kirstin Mueller, election-security issue chair for the League of Women Voters of Washington. “Over the last few years, detailed cybersecurity reports have been released, outlining what each state can do to improve the security of their elections. These reports have many recommendations in common – ensure a secure chain of custody of voted ballots, require paper ballots that voters have marked by hand or with the use of an assistive device, perform statistically based post-election audits that can catch and correct incorrect election outcomes, and keep all elements of voting and tabulation away from the internet. This legislation improves Washington’s election security in all of these critical areas,” Mueller said. “We believe this bill provides the right balance of access and security, and it protects organizations like the League, who want to help, by providing a way to track ballots.”

West Virginia: Secretary of State opts for different voting application for electronic absentee ballots | Chris Lawrence/WV MetroNews

The Secretary of State’s office will go with a different vendor as they work to expanded electronic absentee voting in West Virginia during the 2020 election cycle. Secretary of State Mac Warner has announced that for the upcoming primary election, West Virginia will use the Democracy Live electronic voting system after testing the Voatz app in the last election cycle. “They’ve been around for a decade. They’ve participated in elections throughout the United States since 2010 and they have a fully compliant A-D-A functionality in their system which allows a voter who is blind or visually impaired to mark their ballot without assistance,” Deak Kersey, general counsel for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office said. West Virginia was part of a pilot program in 2018 and allowed members of the military stationed overseas to vote via the Voatz App.The Voatz App was on a mobile phone whereas Democracy Live is on a fixed server. According to Kersey, only 144 voters used the App in West Virginia’s 2018 general election and only 13 during the primary. It was a pilot project and a test.