All voting machines these days are computers, and any voting machine that is a computer can be hacked to cheat. The widely accepted solution is to use voting machines to count paper ballots, and do Risk-Limiting Audits: random-sample inspections of those paper ballots to ensure (with a guaranteed level of assurance) that the election outcome claimed by the computers is the same as you’d get by an accurate count of the votes actually marked on the paper ballots. An RLA is any statistical/logistical method that guarantees a quantifiable risk limit. Most RLA methods are much more efficient than a full recount, but some RLA methods are more efficient than others, especially in close elections: the closer the margin of victory, the more ballots you have to random-sample to guarantee the risk limit. One simple method, the Ballot Polling Audit, randomly samples individual ballots from among all the batches of ballots in the entire election, and (by human inspection of the paper ballot) counts how many are for each candidate. If you sample enough ballots, and that “poll” comes out the same way as the outcome claimed by the voting machines, then you get real assurance. (If the “poll” doesn’t come out the same way, you can do a bigger poll or a full hand recount.)
National: ‘Internet of Things’ Could Be an Unseen Threat to Elections | Laura DeNardis/Goverment Technology
The app failure that led to a chaotic 2020 Iowa caucus was a reminder of how vulnerable the democratic process is to technological problems – even without any malicious outside intervention. Far more sophisticated foreign hacking continues to try to disrupt democracy, as a rare joint federal agency warning advised prior to Super Tuesday. Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election has already revealed how this could happen: social media disinformation, email hacking and probing of voter registration systems. The threats to the 2020 election may be even more insidious. As I explain in my new book, “The Internet in Everything: Freedom and Security in a World with No Off Switch,” election interference may well come through the vast constellation of always-on, always-connected cameras, thermostats, alarm systems and other physical objects collectively known as the “Internet of things.” The social and economic benefits of these devices are tremendous. But, in large part because the devices are not yet adequately secure, they also raise concerns for consumer safety, national security and privacy. And they create new vulnerabilities for democracy. It is not necessary to hack into voting systems themselves but merely co-opt Internet-connected objects to attack political information sites, stop people from voting, or exploit the intimate personal data these devices capture to manipulate voters.
Top tech officials working for Joe Biden’s campaign aren’t taking any second chances following the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The campaign is constantly trying to fend off email phishing attacks that could give hackers inside access to the campaign’s data, according to Dan Woods, the Biden campaign’s chief technology officer. “The most famous thing to come out of 2016 was phishing,” Woods said at an election security conference in Philadelphia on Thursday. “Besides misinformation and disinformation, phishing remains, without question, the biggest threat we face.” That acknowledgment reflects Democrats’ difficult lesson from the last presidential cycle, when Russian hackers targeted dozens of DNC addresses with legitimate-looking emails designed to entice unwitting staffers into compromising their own security. They also targeted Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, obtaining tens of thousands of emails that were later published by WikiLeaks.
Editorials: Securing Our Elections Requires Change in Technology, People & Attitudes | Major General Earl Matthews/Dark Reading
The security of our elections is top of mind for practically every voter in the US. With the state primaries underway, all eyes are on our electronic (and in some cases mobile) voting systems to understand if malicious attacks are happening — and if our systems are able to defend against them. Most experts agree that we are unprepared and underfunded when it comes to securing our elections — which should concern us all. A big problem is that when we look at the entire ecosystem of the national election process, we don’t treat it the same way we treat business systems. This is a mistake. Voting is a business of our state governments. And the most valuable asset for states is voter information — similar to the customer information and data assets of a for-profit business (which are increasingly safeguarded by data privacy regulations). To modernize our current model of election management, trust, and security, it’s important to examine three interrelated pillars for state governments: technology, people, and attitudes.
Jefferson County election officials, with the March 3 primary behind them, are looking toward what lies ahead as they continue struggling with old touchscreen voting machines that have become balky and prone to failure. Last week, on Super Tuesday, those shortcomings became apparent as technicians struggled to power the machines up and as poll workers struggled to keep them operating. According to Election Commissioner Stuart “Stu” Soffer, a number of poll judges said they won’t be back until the machines are replaced. The voting machines that Jefferson County uses are iVotronic touchscreen voting machines that were purchased from Election Systems & Software more than 15 years ago and were donated to the county from other counties that had upgraded to the new ExpressVote equipment after Jefferson County lost most of its iVotronic machines to water damage in 2018. The total cost of the 140 machines Soffer said the county needs, according to an estimate supplied by the Jefferson County Election Commission, is nearly $940,000. According to a formula worked out by the secretary of state’s office, to purchase the machines, the state would put in $618,434 from federal grant funds, leaving Jefferson County to come up with the remaining $321,367 — money that both Soffer and County Judge Gerald Robinson have said the county does not have.
Local election officials spent one decade and $300 million to design an innovative voting system that many experts thought was the future of elections. But at vote centers throughout the sprawling city on Super Tuesday, some Angelenos waited for more than three hours to cast their ballots. The frustration was hard to ignore as more than 100 people stretched down South Broadway around noon, queueing in front of the opulent Ace Hotel in LA’s Theatre District. Inside, there were just four working voting machines and two check-in stations. One voting machine had been broken since Saturday, but the county had not yet sent anyone to fix it. Los Angeles County is the first jurisdiction to own and design its own voting system. Officials ditched paper ballots for hybrid paper-electronic machines built for accessibility, while also allowing voters to cast their ballots in any vote center, the county’s term for a location where people can vote or drop off a ballot. With more voters than 42 states, the county could provide a template for other jurisdictions looking to develop an accessible voting system that doesn’t skimp on security. This week’s botched rollout could complicate that prospect.
California: Los Angeles County Urged to Improve Voter Experience by November Election | Nathan Solis/Courthouse News
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has asked Los Angeles County to mail out ballots to its 5.5 million voters after a disastrous rollout of the county’s $300 million voting system Tuesday in which some voters were greeted with downed computer terminals and wait times bordering on four hours. In addition to asking LA County to mail out ballots for the November election, Padilla offered other recommendations Thursday including increased equipment at vote centers as well as more staff that is better coordinated and trained. “With only eight months until the November General Election, it is critical that these issues are addressed in a timely and efficient manner,” Padilla said.The March 3 primary was the first election in which voters used LA County’s new $300 million electronic voting system. Voters should have been greeted by polling place staff with touchscreen tablets who would then direct citizens to a nearly paperless voting machine. Vote centers throughout LA County were open for 11 days before Super Tuesday and voters were not restricted to a center near their home. Unlike in previous years where more than 4,500 polling places were open throughout the county, this election saw about 1,000 open vote centers. Meanwhile, the county is one of just 14 counties participating in the Voter’s Choice Act which gives greater flexibility to local election offices for early voting, but the county does not mail every registered voter a ballot.
Bernie Sanders supporters who complain that the Democratic primary contest is rigged may have an ironic point. Look how he was denied what might have been a bigger victory in California on Super Tuesday that would have countered Joe Biden’s Eastern U.S. rout narrative. Blame incompetent progressive government. California’s tally at our deadline Friday had Mr. Sanders with 33.6% of the statewide vote to Mr. Biden’s 25.3%. But about three million mail-in and provisional ballots still have to be counted, and the state has until April 10 to certify results. So we won’t know how many of California’s 415 delegates Mr. Sanders won for another month or so. Experts predict Mr. Sanders will win most of the uncounted ballots since young people often vote late. But the delayed results will dampen the benefit he might have gained from his California victory on Super Tuesday’s election night. Not that his friends on the left in Sacramento care. “In the state with the largest electorate in the nation, the vote count does not end on Election Night—and that’s a good thing,” declared Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Tuesday. Mr. Padilla is trying to put a positive spin on California’s voting fiasco. Lawmakers recently overhauled election procedures in the name of making it easier for young people and Hispanics to vote. Yet the result was the opposite, and Mr. Sanders is the victim.
The state election board is challenging a decision in Athens to set aside the state’s new voting system in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. The state board posted its intention to meet in Athens Wednesday, March 11 to get an explanation from local election board members who dumped the state’s new voting system and began allowing early voters to cast hand-marked paper ballots. The board withdrew the large, bright electronic ballot-marking devices Tuesday, following concerns about whether voters’ ballots were sufficiently concealed from people inside the precinct. The state election board, posting a meeting notice on the Secretary of State’s website, cited four Georgia laws that the local board may have violated by withdrawing the voting machines. The election board is chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who selected the Dominion voting system amid a flurry of sometimes-partisan controversy over whether the electronic system was susceptible to hacking. Critics of the selection contended hand-marked paper ballots were the only way to avoid electronic election hacking. The state bought 33,000 of the machines last year, at a cost of more than $100 million. The state delivered the last of them to Georgia’s 159 counties Feb. 14.
What sort of voting machines should Tippecanoe County go with? For two hours Monday evening, voters will have a chance to test models from four companies, as Tippecanoe County election officials consider what will replace a system in use since 2006. “We want to know what people like, what they prefer, after they get to try them out,” Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush said. “We think we know what we like, as an Election Board. But we’re hoping this will help us make sure it’s what people want.” That night, voting equipment from four vendors – Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic Inc., MicroVote General Corp. and Unisyn Voting Solutions – will be on display. People will be able to test the features of each machine, all of which will be equipped with a verifiable paper trail. Roush said the vendors come from a list of those approved by the Indiana Secretary of State, which has a site dedicated to the particulars about each machine and each company. To see it, go to: www.in.gov/sos/elections/4532.htm. Roush said the Tippecanoe County Election Board will not make decisions about the machines. Instead, the open house will include a survey to get feedback from those who come test the equipment.
Louisiana: Secretary of State says 2020 election secure without paper ballots | David Jacobs/The Center Square
Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin hopes to acquire electronic voting machines that also record votes on paper, though he said this year’s elections will be secure even without a paper trail. Ardoin spoke Thursday evening at a panel hosted by LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications. Panelist Susan Greenhalgh, policy advisor for the National Election Defense Coalition, said digital-only voting is the “most concerning” method from a security standpoint. Critics say Louisiana voting machines’ lack of a paper component goes against the national trend and violates best practices. Greenhalgh said voting machines can malfunction and can be “maliciously infected” even if they’re not connected to the internet. Paper ballots allow voters to see for themselves that their vote was tallied correctly, while a “black box” voting machine does not, she said. Paper backups also can be used to audit the electronic results, Greenhalgh added. “We need to trust the process,” she said.
South Carolina: Richland County selects new elections director. Can she whip the office into shape? | Bristow Marchant/The State
After almost a year, Richland County is close to having a new elections director. The county elections board voted Thursday to offer the job to Tammy Smith, currently the deputy elections director in Wilson County, Tennessee. Smith would be the latest person to hold what has become a revolving door position, with seven people serving in the position in the past seven years. The county has struggled with long lines and lost ballots in past elections. “She’s ready to hit the ground running,” said board vice chair Craig Plank. “She’ll be able to watch things with meticulous detail.” Smith would be the first full-time director since Rokey Suleman was fired last May after two years heading the department. That decision came after Richland County failed to count more than 1,000 ballots in the 2018 general election, and the entire election board was fired by Gov. Henry McMaster. Current board chair Charles Austin said Smith’s biggest challenge will be restoring staff morale and public confidence in the office.
Texas: Dallas County asks for Super Tuesday recount after discovering it missed some ballots | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune
Dallas County officials are seeking a recount of the March 3 primary results after discovering that an unknown number of ballots were not initially counted. In a petition filed late Friday in state district court, Dallas County election administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said her office has discovered that ballots from 44 tabulating machines were not accounted for in the election results reported by the county on Super Tuesday. It’s unclear how many ballots were missing from the county’s tally of votes. The issue turned up after county officials were unable to reconcile the number of voters who checked in to cast ballots at some polling places and the number of ballots received from those sites. The tally of ballots had been compiled from flash drives that were turned in to the county, and the county initially believed it had received all ballots from the 454 vote centers, Pippins-Poole said in an affidavit filed with the court. “However, it was later determined that there are ballots from 44 of the precinct scanner and tabulator machines that are unaccounted for,” Pippins-Poole said. She could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.
Texas: Bexar Elections Official: Software Issue Will Be Resolved by November | Iris Dimmick/Rivard Report
Bexar County wasn’t the only county in Texas that experienced difficulties reporting election results on Super Tuesday, but it was one of the last large counties to start doing so. While software issues caused a delay in reporting vote tallies Tuesday night, one problem election officials encountered early on election day was fixed with a simple flip of a switch. Backup generators kicked on at the Copernicus Community Center voting site to power printers, laptops, and voting machines during the early hours of Tuesday. Utility crews and facility staff investigated the problem; they couldn’t figure it out at first, said Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen. “There [were] no power issues. … Everything was plugged in, it looked great,” Callanen said. “Well, nobody had turned the surge protector on. … They had not looked at the little light at the bottom.” Power was restored to the far East Side voting site by 2 p.m., she said. Callenen called a press conference Wednesday morning to outline the factors that led to Bexar County’s “rough morning” and slow, cumbersome posting of voting results on Tuesday night. In short, a record-breaking number of voters resulted in technical issues.
It is often said, “every vote counts.” In West Virginia, every voter counts, too. For too long, segments of voters have been disenfranchised from our democratic process through no fault of their own. Deployed armed services members often lack access to mail, printers, and scanners — components needed for casting paper ballots from remote locations. Similarly, voters living with a physical disability are often prevented from marking and casting a ballot secretly when they cannot make it to the polls in person. Technological advancements have torn down barriers to convenient interaction with government and private entities and have increased accessibility without sacrificing a person’s privacy. It is common for people to bank, transfer money, sign documents, shop and receive sensitive medical information via mobile devices, regardless their location around the world. Not only is technology available to help people vote, West Virginia law now requires it. On February 3, 2020, West Virginia took a huge step forward to expand the voting franchise with the signing into law of SB 94. This law requires election officials to make absentee voting fully accessible to voters with physical disabilities who are prevented from voting in-person at the polls and from marking ballots without assistance. These absentee voters with physical disabilities now have an option to mail or electronically submit their ballot back to their county clerk using approved technology.
Editorials: Dumb decisions led to long Texas voting lines. Here’s what to do next time | Fort Worth Star-Telegram
For a brief moment Tuesday night, Texas was in the national political spotlight, with huge voter turnout and a pivotal role in the changing direction of the Democratic presidential primary. But before long, we were the story of the day for the wrong reason — intolerably long lines to vote in several of the state’s big cities. The most attention went to Houston, where voters waited up to six hours at a polling center at a historically black college. But Tarrant County had its problems, too, with Democratic voters often facing long lines while machines dedicated to the Republican primary sat largely unused. Blame has flown in all the expected directions for these failures, with finger-pointing at county and state officials, the political parties, and the Supreme Court for weakening federal supervision under the Voting Rights Act. There’s elements of truth to each, and it’s a mistake to judge an entire system on the worst possible anecdotes. But polls are only going to get busier in November. Elected officials and political players at all levels need a plan of action that’s based in reality before our democracy breaks down right in front of our eyes.
Philippines: Comelec to test mobile voting app in the Netherlands, Spain | Leslie Ann Aquino/Manila Bulletin News
Aside from San Francisco in the United States, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will also test the mobile voting application in the Netherlands and Spain for possible use in future polls. The Comelec was initially planning to conduct the test run in San Francisco, Singapore, and Middle East but decided to drop the last two due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) there. “We will be testing this mobile voting app in San Francisco (United States), Amsterdam (the Netherlands), and Spain,” Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said in an interview Thursday. “During the test run we will see how fast it is and also the problems before we make a recommendation to the Senate, House of Representatives and the JCOC (Joint Oversight Congressional Committee),” she added. Guanzon believes having a mobile voting app system would be very helpful especially in situations where there is a disease outbreak or natural calamity.
Venezuela’s electoral system was damaged but not destroyed after a fire broke out in a warehouse used to store voting equipment, the National Electoral Council said Sunday. A 6,000-square-meter (65,000 square feet) warehouse in Caracas caught fire on Saturday. In just half an hour, the fire devoured thousands of pieces of electric equipment. These included 44,408 voting machines, 582 civil registry computers and more than 49,000 biometric identification devices used in the elections, according to the electoral council (CNE) president Tibisay Lucena. “The Venezuelan electoral system is far from being destroyed,” Lucena said, adding the electoral procedure is a multi-step process, only two of which have been damaged. “This act, which we are waiting to hear if it was criminal, affected only two of the processes: the inventory process and the machine production process,” she told reporters.