National: RSA Cryptographer Ronald Rivest Seeks Secure Elections the Low-Tech Way | Susan D’Agostino/Quanta Magazine

onald Rivest sports a white beard, smiles with his eyes and bestows his tech gifts on the people of the world. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor is the “R” in RSA, which means that he, along with Adi Shamir (the “S”) and Leonard Adleman (the “A”), gave us one of the first public key cryptosystems. It’s still common today: Nearly all internet-based commercial transactions rely on this algorithm, for which the trio was awarded the 2002 A.M. Turing Award, essentially the Nobel Prize of computing. In recent decades, Rivest has continued to work on making it computationally hard for adversaries to break a system, though he now focuses on ensuring that votes in democratic elections are cast as intended, collected as cast and tallied as collected. Elections, he has discovered, have stricter requirements than nearly any other security application, including internet-based commerce. Unlike online bank accounts and the customer names with which they are affiliated, ballots in an election must be stripped of voters’ names because of voting’s secrecy requirement. But the ballot box’s anonymity sets conditions for real or perceived tampering, which makes proving the accuracy of tallies important to voters, election officials and candidates. Another requirement is that voters can’t receive receipts verifying their candidate selections, lest the practice encourage vote selling or coercion. But without a receipt, voters might wonder if their votes were faithfully and accurately counted. It’s a tough problem to crack, and Rivest thinks the solution lies not with fancier computers, but with pen, paper and mathematics. “I mainly argue for some process by which we have confidence in our election results,” he said. “No one should say, ‘It’s right because the computer said so.’”

National: How 4 Big States Are Preparing to Vote as the Coronavirus Spreads | Nick Corasaniti and Patricia Mazzei/The New York Times

Elections officials in the next four Democratic primary states are taking extra precautions before voters head to the polls on Tuesday, as the coronavirus upends the 2020 race and people worry about gatherings and places where they might become infected. There are no plans to cancel primaries in the four states — Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Arizona — and officials are expressing confidence that ballots can be safely cast. Each secretary of state has sent out regular updates, reiterating recommendations from federal officials about preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus, and encouraging voting by mail or early voting. In all four states, the counties run the elections, but state officials have been trying to underscore the new basics of voting, like keeping hand sanitizer at polling locations and making sure local officials properly clean machines. At this point, none of the states are considering expanding polling hours or mail-in-ballot deadlines. The preparations for voting in the age of a pandemic have not led to far-reaching changes. Perhaps the most significant shift for Tuesday’s elections will be the relocation of polling stations away from areas where older people live, like assisted living facilities.

National: Coronavirus forcing changes in campaigning and voting | The Boston Globe

The coronavirus outbreak is colliding with the presidential election and the ramifications are being felt on the campaign trail and at polling places. “Campaigning and conventions could change,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine’s law school, raising the possibility of virtual nominating conventions this summer if the outbreak continues. The effects were clear Tuesday night, when former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders both canceled election night rallies in Cleveland after Ohio’s governor discouraged large gatherings. On Wednesday, Biden’s campaign said it had formed a six-person public health advisory committee to provide “expert advice regarding steps the campaign should take to minimize health risks for the candidate, staff, and supporters.” After consulting with those experts and at the request of local officials, the Biden campaign announced it was shifting “large crowd” events scheduled for Friday in Chicago and Monday in Miami to “virtual events.” And after initially resisting changing Trump’s schedule, the White House and his campaign on Wednesday night cancelled or postponed three upcoming events. At the same time, state election officials are taking steps to adjust voting procedures to keep the virus from spreading. Washington state told voters not to lick the envelopes of their absentee ballots, Ohio is moving polling places for next Tuesday’s primary from senior centers to avoid infecting older people, and Chicago will make paper ballots available for voters who don’t want to use touch screen machines in the Illinois primary, also next week.

National: States urge alternative voting methods ahead of Tuesday primaries | Kevin Collier/NBC

As coronavirus continues to spread, election officials in the four states holding presidential primaries next Tuesday are encouraging Americans to vote by unconventional means to avoid crowds. That usually means voting by mail or voting early to avoid large crowds in states where those things are an option — as is the case in those holding primaries March 17. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the coronavirus a pandemic Wednesday, and has recommended that election officials“[e]ncourage voters to use voting methods that minimize direct contact with other people and reduce crowd size at polling stations.” “We have really been pushing as much as we can for voters who are concerned by polling places to take advantage of voting by mail,” Matt Dietrich, public affairs officer at the Illinois State Board of Elections, told NBC News. “That’s obviously the easiest way to avoid any kind of exposure to crowds, or lines or other people.” Thursday is the deadline for Illinois voters to apply to vote by mail, he said. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said that it was still safe to vote in person, although voters who were nervous still had time to register to vote by mail or could vote early to avoid crowds.

National: From handshakes to kissing babies, virus upends campaigning | Alexandra Jaffe/Associated Press

Podiums get sanitized before the candidate steps up to speak. Fist or elbow bumps take the place of handshakes, and kissing babies is out of the question. Rallies are canceled, leaving candidates speaking to a handful of journalists and staffers instead of cheering crowds of thousands. This is campaigning in the age of the coronavirus, when fears of the new pandemic’s rapid spread are upending Joe Biden’s and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns. The urgency of the issue comes at a pivotal time in the Democratic presidential primary, as Biden is beginning to pull ahead as a front-runner for the nomination and as Sanders is scrambling to catch up. “If coronavirus has the lasting impact that we all fear it will, it will also dramatically reshape the way a presidential campaign unfolds,” said Jesse Ferguson, a veteran Democratic strategist and former spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Politics is fundamentally about leaders interacting with the people who they represent, and if a pandemic forecloses that ability, it changes everything — how you campaign, how you knock doors, how you do events and how you do the retail part of politics.”

Editorials: How to Protect the Election From Coronavirus: Let everyone vote by mail | Dale Ho/The New York Times

As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about during this election season — from Russian interference to meltdown scenarios like blackouts — the coronavirus pandemic has come along to threaten the administration of the presidential vote. We are already witnessing significant disruptions to the campaign, with rallies canceled, audiences banned from the next presidential debate and suggestions to call off the parties’ nominating conventions. And even the traditional model of in-person voting may be at risk. Assisted living facilities are often used as polling sites, but states including Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Florida have already made last-minute relocations. Since a majority of poll workers in the 2016 election were over the age of 60, it seems plausible that polling locations could face severe staffing shortages. In a worst-case scenario, many voters may be unable to vote in person because of illness or even government-imposed travel restrictions like those in Italy. Given these possibilities, we have to make it as easy as possible for Americans to vote by mail in 2020, and to prepare for a likely surge in absentee ballots.

Editorials: Coronavirus could normalize voting by mail. That will create other problems. | David Daley/The Washington Post

The worrisome split screen told the story: On one side, college campuses shut down for the semester, the National Guard deployed to create a “containment zone” in New York, and major employers instructed their workforce to telecommute. On the other, massive lines wound through precincts across Michigan and North Dakota, with Democratic voters standing nearly on top of each other, often for hours, before approaching volunteer poll workers protected only by Purell. At the same time that large gatherings were canceled, states of emergency were declared, and public institutions were dusting off catastrophe plans, the queues stretched through community centers, campuses and town halls — and 30 more primaries have yet to be conducted. The coronavirus pandemic presents an entirely new challenge for America’s electoral system: how to ensure that all citizens can exercise their right to vote without jeopardizing public health in the process. One common-sense measure would be to dramatically expand vote-by-mail options, allowing citizens to cast their ballots from a safe distance. (While every state allows voting by mail under some conditions, only five states conduct all of their statewide elections in this manner.) On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose state pioneered vote by mail in the 1990s, introduced legislation that would provide $500 million for states to begin making contingency plans for November’s election. If a state hard hit by coronavirus does need to transfer to a large-scale vote-by-mail operation, it would take months to buy optical scanners, put them in place and retrain poll workers. The transition requires a lot of extra preparation: The long delays counting the primary vote in California and Michigan, which have recently expanded early and absentee voting, have already shown that the system is often unprepared for tallying large numbers of pre-Election Day ballots.

Florida: Coronavirus fears cause poll worker dropouts, safety concerns ahead of Florida primary | Brandon G. Jones/ABC

Election officials across the nation are going to make past-moment modifications to how and where voters will forged their ballots in the remaining most important elections as the U.S. grapples with the widening coronavirus outbreak. The states voting in next Tuesday’s primary – Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio – are all using further precautions to secure each voters and poll personnel from COVID-19, such as moving polling spots, recruiting reserve poll workers and encouraging populations most at danger from the virus to vote early or send in an absentee ballot. Perhaps nowhere is taking the safety measures much more severely than in Florida, where by citizens – together with the state’s far more than 4.3 million people today more than the age of 65, or about 20 per cent of the state’s inhabitants – will head to the polls next Tuesday. The aged and all those with fundamental overall health disorders are most at hazard of developing critical problems if they deal the coronavirus. The Facilities for Disorder Handle and Avoidance has stated that nursing properties are at the best threat of getting influenced by the virus – specified the age of residents and the close quarters in which persons reside – but nursing households are also well-known areas for polling internet sites.

Georgia: State orders Athens-Clarke County to resume use of new voting machines | Tim Bryant/WGAU

The Secretary of State orders Athens to resume the use of electronic voting machines, overturning last week’s order from the Athens-Clarke County Elections Board. That means no more hand-marked paper ballots for the duration of the early voting period that extends through March 20. Voters in Athens and around the state have been casting ballots since March 2 for the March 24 presidential preference primaries. Georgia’s State Election Board voted on Wednesday to punish election officials in one county for their decision not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary, and it ordered them to immediately start using the machines again. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots, citing concerns over protecting ballot secrecy when using the machines with large, bright touchscreens that sit upright. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said it was “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. The State Election Board, chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, unanimously ordered the county to cease and desist and to pay a fine of $2,500 for investigative costs, plus $5,000 a day until the machines are back in place.

Illinois: How Election Day in Illinois is adjusting to the coronavirus: fewer polling places, more hand sanitizer | Patrick M. O’Connell and Sophie Sherry/Chicago Tribune

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday evening the primary election in Illinois will be held as planned despite a wave of other closures and cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “I want to make clear the election will proceed forward on Tuesday,” Pritzker said during a news conference at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. The governor said in-person voting will continue as scheduled, though some polling places previously slated to be hosted by nursing homes may be relocated for the safety of residents. Officials said early voting has been extended by one hour this weekend to 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Pritzker also announced an extension for vote by mail. The deadline for submitting an application online for vote by mail was extended to midnight Thursday, and the governor said voters can apply for a mail ballot in person at their local clerk’s office or any early voting location. Vote-by-mail ballots still need to be returned by Election Day. The governor urged local election officials to extend and expand early voting hours. Concerns about coronavirus have contributed to a surge in vote-by-mail applications and the closure of polling places in the city of Chicago. It also has led to a shortage of poll workers, as hundreds of election judges and poll workers have canceled their assignments. The pandemic also had led election officials to plan extra precautions at polling places throughout northeast Illinois, including deep cleanings and plentiful supplies of hand sanitizer.

Iowa: $1 million available to Iowa county auditors for cybersecurity | James Q. Lynch/Sioux City Journal

Secretary of State Paul Pate is asking Iowa county auditors to do a “walk-through” of their systems to make sure they are secure ahead of the 2020 elections. Pate is telling auditors that his office will provide $1 million to assist them with cybersecurity resources ahead of the elections. “It’s like we are asking them to walk through their house to see if any windows or doors have been left open,” Pate said Thursday before meeting with the auditors who were in Des Moines. During the next few weeks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the state Office of the Chief Information Officer will conduct scans of all 99 counties’ websites and internal systems to look for vulnerabilities. That could be outdated equipment and software, for example, said Jeff Franklin, Pate’s chief cybersecurity officer. Solutions may include replacing equipment and software, and separating critical infrastructure from non-critical systems, he said. Following the scans, the Secretary of State’s Office will make an initial investment of $1 million to help cover the expenses of recommended upgrades.

Ohio: Elections boards frantically seeking poll workers due to coronavirus outbreak | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio elections officials are rushing to recruit additional poll workers ahead of Tuesday primary as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have led hundreds to drop out before Election Day. Desperate county elections boards are pleading with friends and family members for help. Some are even talking about instantly recruiting voters walking in to cast ballots Tuesday to help work the polls the remainder of the day. “We’re getting into the threshold of scary,” said Brian Sleeth, deputy elections director in Warren County, just north of Cincinnati. “We’re not panicking yet. We’re actively recruiting.” So far, 100 poll workers have canceled, including 50 in the past 24 hours. The county has 800 poll workers still signed up but is now 100 short. “People are concerned and we are losing poll workers at a pretty rapid rate,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. Ockerman said boards are seeing seasonal workers dropping out who had been hired to help process ballots as they are returned to boards after the polls close Tuesday as well. Franklin County has lost 223 poll workers in the past two days, and it is losing three poll workers for every one it gains, said Aaron Sellers, board spokesman. The board needs 291 more to have a full staff of 3,200.

Pennsylvania: Coronavirus could wreak havoc on 2020 Pennsylvania primary election | Chris Brennan and Julia Terruso/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania’s primary election is seven weeks away. The coronavirus pandemic is uncomfortably closer than that. With schools and universities sending students home, the state Capitol in Harrisburg closing its doors to visitors, and professional sports seasons coming to a snap ending, what are elections officials to do about the April 28 primary? State Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Northeast Philadelphia Democrat, wants to require the state to mail a ballot to every eligible voter, moving the primary and general elections out of polling places as much as possible. His proposed legislation would set aside $40 million for ballots to be sent in “postage prepaid, pre-addressed return envelopes.” Voters would still have the option to cast a ballot at a polling place. “I think this is, unfortunately, a once-in-a-lifetime crisis that we’re facing,” Boyle said Thursday, citing projections from medical professionals on how the virus might spread. “If that were to unfold, you’re talking about a situation where I think it would be unrealistic to have in-person voting on April 28.”

Canada: Canada at risk from Russian, Chinese interference – security committee | David Ljunggren/Reuters

Canada’s democracy is at risk from interference by China and Russia, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government must do more to build up its defenses, a special security body said on Thursday. The national security and intelligence committee of Canadian parliamentarians, which was granted access to classified materials, said elected and public officials at all levels were being targeted. “The (main) perpetrators of foreign interference in Canada are the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation,” the committee said in an annual report. “States that conduct foreign interference activities pose a threat to Canada and predominantly threaten the fundamental building blocks of Canada’s democracy.” Canada has poor relations with both Moscow and Beijing. Ottawa imposed sanctions on many senior Russian officials after the annexation of Crimea and is entangled in a diplomatic and trade dispute with China. The report, parts of which were redacted for security reasons, said some countries targeted ethnic communities, sought to corrupt the political process and manipulate news media.

Russia: How Russian election meddling is back before 2020 vote — via Ghana and Nigeria — and in your feeds | CNN

The Russian trolls are back — and once again trying to poison the political atmosphere in the United States ahead of this year’s elections. But this time they are better disguised and more targeted, harder to identify and track. And they have found an unlikely home, far from Russia itself. In 2016, much of the trolling aimed at the US election operated from an office block in St. Petersburg, Russia. A months-long CNN investigation has discovered that, in this election cycle, at least part of the campaign has been outsourced — to trolls in the west African nations of Ghana and Nigeria. They have focused almost exclusively on racial issues in the US, promoting black empowerment and often displaying anger towards white Americans. The goal, according to experts who follow Russian disinformation campaigns, is to inflame divisions among Americans and provoke social unrest. The language and images used in the posts — on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — are sometimes graphic. One of the Ghanaian trolls — @africamustwake — linked to a story from a left-wing conspiracy website and commented on Facebook: “America’s descent into a fascist police state continues.”

National: Elections officials scramble for options as coronavirus worries mount | Elise Viebeck /The Washington Post

Elections officials have stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Many are urging voters to cast absentee ballots or vote early to avoid crowds. But as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, local and state officials are scrambling to identify other options if public health leaders ultimately determine that there are risks to visiting polling places — an assessment that could change the basic mechanics of running an election midstream in a presidential campaign year. “If you’re talking about something on that level, then we’re clearly facing a crisis and not just an emergency, and public health and safety will have to dictate whatever we do,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who said he would follow the advice of public health officials and law enforcement. “One of the very few things that would take precedent over a free and fair election is public health and safety, right?” LaRose said, adding that such a move would be a last resort. The spiraling covid-19 pandemic that has shaken the global economy and upended millions of Americans’ routines in the past month has emerged in the past week as a unique and unprecedented challenge for elections officials already grappling with a range of threats such as online disinformation and security vulnerabilities. While many jurisdictions have emergency plans in cases of natural disasters or power grid failures, there has been little planning for a health pandemic that could keep the public quarantined inside their homes, experts said.

National: Government report offers guidelines to prevent nationwide cyber catastrophe | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A much-anticipated government report aimed at defending the nation against cyber threats in the years to come opens with a bleak preview of what could happen if critical systems were brought down. “The water in the Potomac still has that red tint from where the treatment plants upstream were hacked, their automated systems tricked into flushing out the wrong mix of chemicals,” the Cyberspace Solarium Commission wrote in the opening lines of its report. “By comparison, the water in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool has a purple glint to it. They’ve pumped out the floodwaters that covered Washington’s low-lying areas after the region’s reservoirs were hit in a cascade of sensor hacks,” it continues. So begins the report two years in the making from a congressionally mandated commission made up of lawmakers and top Trump administration officials, pointing to the vulnerabilities involved with critical systems being hooked up to the internet.

National: Coronavirus threatens to pose an unprecedented challenge to the 2020 elections | Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

When asked what kept him up at night, Ben Wikler, who is responsible for delivering a must-win state in November as chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, used to answer, “unknown unknowns.” He no longer has to wonder what such a risk might look like. Presidential campaigns, parties and state election officials are scrambling to heed health warnings while safeguarding the democratic process against a growing coronavirus epidemic whose scope is difficult to predict. Their planning has included advising voters not to lick their mail-in ballots, relocating polling places away from senior living communities, and weighing whether to move forward with plans to bring tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Milwaukee and Charlotte for the planned Democratic and Republican summer conventions, respectively. Former vice president Joe Biden’s digital staff was envisioning options for virtual campaigning if sweeping changes were necessary. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign already has an elaborate streaming operation, which it said it could tap in the event that campaigning is curtailed. Already, both campaigns have been providing hand sanitizer at events. Over the weekend, the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, canceled a presidential forum scheduled for Thursday in Orlando, where Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.), the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, had been scheduled to appear. It was the first such cancellation to have been attributed to the coronavirus’s spread.

National: Primaries show high volume of absentee voting as states grapple with coronavirus | Meg Cunningham , Kendall Karson and Quinn Scanlan/ABC

Against a backdrop of coronavirus concerns, early signs from across the six states voting in Tuesday’s primaries showed a high volume of voters turning to absentee options. Yet several state and party officials who ABC spoke with pushed back against the notion that turnout would be affected. Washington, which is vote-by-mail only, is the state with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. But Kylee Zabel, the communications director in the secretary of state’s office, said they “haven’t heard of any concerns that people have expressed” regarding the coronavirus. As Washington uses only mail-in ballots, a tweet last week instructed voters, “Whether healthy or sick, please don’t lick!” after state health officials recommended voters seal ballots using alternative methods like a sponge. The secretary of state’s office said it recommended that ballot counters use gloves, but in King County — which includes Seattle — Elections Division Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson told ABC News that the practice is mandatory. Hodson also said that there were regular hand-washing breaks for ballot counters, and at the six vote centers in the county where people can do same-day registration, there was extra hand sanitizer available. The Elections Division was also asking people who were feeling sick to contact them so they could try to accommodate them.

Editorials: Another reason to worry: Coronavirus could upend our election | Greg Sargent/The Washington Post

As if there weren’t enough to worry about already, it’s becoming clear that coronavirus could wreak untold havoc in an area that’s only beginning to garner attention: our coming presidential election. This is already happening in a very visible way: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both canceled their election-night rallies on Tuesday, citing fears of coronavirus’s spread. Vice President Pence, too, announced that future rallies by President Trump will be decided on a “day-to-day basis.” But there’s a less visible way the disease could shake up our politics. And Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is often focused on election security issues, is sounding the alarm about it, by proposing $500 million in federal funding to help states prepare for voting disruptions caused by coronavirus. Wyden has also filed legislation to make it possible for all Americans to vote by mail if necessary:

Wyden’s bill would give all Americans the right to vote by mail if 25 percent of states declared an emergency related to the coronavirus outbreak. The bill also would require state and local officials to prepare for possible coronavirus disruptions and to offer prepaid envelopes with self-sealing flaps to minimize the risk of contagion from voters’ licking envelopes.

All states allow vote by mail in certain circumstances, and this trend has been advancing here and there. But what Wyden is envisioning is something much broader: a federal mandate that states make this option fully available, if one quarter of them declare an emergency requiring it.

California: Los Angeles County greenlights probe into Election Day voting-system failures | Ryan Carter/Los Angeles Daily News

L.A. County will investigate how an overhauled county vote system failed during the March 3 primary, leaving many voters confused and frustrated while waiting in long lines — and thousands of votes still uncounted a week after the election. The action — which would tap an independent, outside firm to analyze the voting system — came after a fiery Board of Supervisors meeting in which supervisors, voters and pollworkers laid into the county’s top voting official, Dean Logan, some calling for his dismissal. That election-day meltdown led to three-hour waits to vote and numerous bottlenecks amid the introduction of the $300 million system. “There were a lot of things that probably did go right, but to me that doesn’t mitigate everything that did go wrong,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, worried that the issues with the system need to be worked out before the general election in November. “A lot went wrong. I’ve got to tell you I was very, very, very disappointed.”

Georgia: State election board requires touchscreen voting in Athens-Clarke County | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The State Election Board on Wednesday unanimously ordered Athens-Clarke County to immediately switch back to Georgia’s touchscreen voting system, a rebuke of its decision to use paper ballots filled out by hand. The board, led by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, found that voters’ right to a secret ballot can be protected on the state’s new $104 million voting system, which combines touchscreens and printers to create paper ballots.“There are reasonable concerns about ballot secrecy in some limited number of precincts,” said David Worley, a member of the State Election Board. “The reasonable way to deal with that is not to make a wholesale change.” State election officials said voter privacy can be protected by turning large, bright touchscreens so they face walls instead of voters. The Athens-Clarke County Elections Board last week rejected the touchscreens, deciding on a 3-2 vote that they exposed voters choices to their neighbors. It was the only county in the state that had attempted to use hand-marked paper ballots. More than 100 supporters of hand-marked paper ballots packed the seven-hour emergency hearing Wednesday, wearing stickers saying “Protect the Secret Ballot.”

Georgia: Athens-Clarke County punished for ditching voting machines | Kate Brumback/Associated Press

Georgia’s State Election Board voted on Wednesday to punish election officials in one county for their decision not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary, and it ordered them to immediately start using the machines again. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots, citing concerns over protecting ballot secrecy when using the machines with large, bright touchscreens that sit upright. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said it was “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. The State Election Board, chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, unanimously ordered the county to cease and desist and to pay a fine of $2,500 for investigative costs, plus $5,000 a day until the machines are back in place. County elections director Charlotte Sosebee said she could have the machines back up by Thursday for a continuation of early voting. Evans said he was disappointed with the state board’s decision and that he would talk to the board and its attorneys to determine next steps.

Idaho: Canyon County working to determine how many voters affected by Hart InterCivic voting machine errors | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

The Middleton School District’s supplement levy request fell short Tuesday, while three other school districts in Canyon County successfully passed levies. Some Middleton district voters, however, contacted the school district Tuesday morning to say they weren’t given a chance to vote on the levy because of issues with the county’s new election equipment. The issue was resolved early in the day, school district spokeswoman Vickie Holbrook told the Idaho Press Wednesday. “I think there were a few (affected voters), but do I think it affected the outcome? No,” she said. Nampa voters also experienced issues with the equipment, and some were told to come back later in the day to vote. County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said Wednesday the county is compiling information and talking to the poll workers to try to get an estimate on the number of affected voters. Estimates are expected by Thursday, county spokesman Joe Decker said. The Idaho Press emailed county commissioners Wednesday morning requesting comment on the scope of the issue and what the county would do next. Commissioner Leslie Van Beek responded, saying she needed more time to talk with the clerk and learn more before commenting.

Idaho: Tenex Voter Registration Software Leads to Issues with Election Results in Idaho | Joel Mills/Lewiston Tribune

A 2-year-old, $4 million Idaho Secretary of State’s Office contract with a Florida election software company continued to cause headaches during Tuesday’s presidential primary, with botched reporting of results for the second election in a row. Nez Perce County Auditor/Recorder Patty O. Weeks said that while local results were counted accurately by her office, the information was garbled when election workers tried to upload it to the state-run voter information interface designed by Tenex Software Solutions of Tampa, Fla. Weeks said the county had to hide an erroneous initial voter turnout figure that showed 933 percent participation, as well as precinct-by-precinct results that have been available in past elections. Similar problems cropped up during the 2019 municipal elections last November, when incorrect early results had to be removed, leaving the public guessing late into election night. Last November, Weeks had to report those final election results to the Lewiston Tribune by texting a photo of a printed page to a reporter. “I’ve been trying to work with the Secretary of State’s office to get things working correctly,” Weeks said. “But it’s frustrating.” Weeks said she heard reports of similar problems from other counties, including Bannock and Power. A report last month by KPVI television in Boise quoted Bannock County Elections Administrator Julie Hancock saying the new system “lacks functionality.”

Illinois: Secretary of State can’t explain latest voter registration gaffe | Neal Earley/Chicago Sun-Times

In the latest gaffe in the state’s voter rolls, 1,151 Illinois residents were improperly classified as not registered to vote in next week’s primary before officials caught the mistake. State election officials sent out letters Monday to local election authorities, ahead of the March 17 primary, alerting them to the problem and telling them to allow the people mistakenly listed as not registered, to vote. All 1,151 people affected by the problem were attempting to apply for REAL ID, but a spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said he does not know what caused the error, saying it could have been any one of a number of problems. A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections said he doesn’t think anyone who was mistakenly listed as not registered was inappropriately turned away during early voting, which began last week, since anyone not registered to vote has the option to do so on the spot and election judges are trained to tell people about that option. “This is our way of making sure that these folks got registered in time for the election,” said Matt Dietrich, board spokesman. Dietrich said the 87 local election authorities impacted by the error should work to make sure those wrongly classified as not registered are allowed to vote.

New York: Groups warn against ExpressVote XL voting machine being considered for New York | AnneMarie Durkin/The Legislative Gazette

Common Cause New York and Disability Rights New York are calling attention to new voting technologies they say will make it difficult for disabled voters to cast their ballot in upcoming elections. As the state Board of Elections is in the final stages of certifying the new machines, disability rights groups are asking the agency to reject the new machines because they say they are hard to read, can be confusing for those who are hard of hearing, are expensive and they are prone to undercounting votes. The voting machines, ExpressVoteXL, operate as a touch-screen machine and are completely technology centered, as opposed to the traditional paper-ballot voting system that has been in place up until now. Common Cause/NY also dropped off thousands of petitions from New Yorkers across the state against the machine. The New York State Board of Elections is currently in the final stages before it does, or does not, certify the new voting machine. Common Cause says that the company that makes the machine has spent more than $600,000 lobbying New York state officials. Common Cause released a report that details reasons they say the machine should not be used in the upcoming elections.

Texas: Bexar County GOP Chair, Former Constable Question Election Integrity | Jackie Wang/Rivard Report

Cynthia Brehm, who heads Bexar County’s Republican Party, criticized the Bexar County Elections Department’s handling of the March primary election and demanded that the election be redone at a county commissioners meeting Tuesday. “Not a recount,” Brehm said. “Throw it out. Bexar County citizens deserve better than a system that is faulty and flawed.” Brehm, who will face candidate John Austin in a May runoff election for her second term as party chair, pointed to the software issues that caused a delay in early voting result publication. “I can tell you right now – I’ve already talked to the people above me that I don’t have the confidence in this election at all,” Brehm told reporters Tuesday. “And my constituents don’t trust it.” Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said the comments made by Brehm and Michelle Barrientes Vela, a former constable and Democratic sheriff candidate, were “misinformation.” “I stand behind this election,” Callanen said.

Texas: Dallas County recount turns up 9,149 ballots that were missed | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A Dallas County recount turned up 9,149 ballots that were missed on Super Tuesday, but the new votes did not affect the outcome of any race. Through the recount — which was prompted by vote discrepancies discovered last week — county election officials found 6,818 votes Wednesday that were not included in their initial tally of votes in the March 3 Democratic primary and 2,331 votes that were left off the results of the Republican primary. More than 329,000 votes were cast in Dallas County during early voting and on election day. The county is still processing mail-in ballots and provisional votes. A state district judge ordered the recount Tuesday at the request of Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. The county asked to redo its vote count after discovering it missed ballots from 44 tabulating machines used on election day. Dallas County officials realized they were missing votes when they were unable to reconcile the count of voters who checked in at some polling places and the number of votes recorded.

Wyoming: State makes switch to new election equipment vendor | Jackson Hole Buckrail

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office this week announced that a final contract was awarded to Election Systems & Software (ES&S) for the purchase of election equipment for all 23 Wyoming counties. The new equipment will be in place for the 2020 Election. “Wyoming’s elections are held with integrity from beginning to end, and Election Day 2020 will be no different. After a diligent and thorough evaluation process, made possible thanks to an appropriation from the legislature in 2019, Wyoming has signed a contract, formed a new partnership and purchased the most secure and up-to-date voting equipment on the market,” said Secretary of State Edward Buchanan. Locally, not much will change. County Clerk Sherry Daigle told Buckrail Teton County has been ahead of the curve for years now. “We’re pretty excited it is going to them. We’ve been using their updated system for four years now and, really, since the ‘80s when we were using BRC’s punchcard ballot machines, and then ES&S bought out BRC in the ‘90s.