Georgia: Havoc Raises New Doubts on Pricey ImageCast X Voting Machines | Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul/The New York Times

As Georgia elections officials prepared to roll out an over $100 million high-tech voting system last year, good-government groups, a federal judge and election-security experts warned of its perils. The new system, they argued, was too convoluted, too expensive, too big — and was still insecure.  They said the state would regret purchasing the machines. On Tuesday, that admonition appeared prescient. A cascade of problems caused block-long lines across Georgia, as primary voters stood for hours while poll workers waited for equipment to be delivered or struggled to activate the system’s components. Locations ran out of provisional ballots. Many people, seeing no possible option to exercise their right to vote, simply left the lines. With partisans on both sides hurling blame for the meltdown, elections experts said there were too many moving parts to place the onus for Georgia’s election chaos on any single one. “The problem seems to have been a perfect storm (overused metaphor, but apt here) of new equipment, hasty training and a crush of tasks associated with both getting the mail ballots out the door and processed AND with running an in-person voting operation,” Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in an email.

Verified Voting Blog: June Primaries Set the Stage for November; Verified Voting Outlines Recommendations to Ensure Integrity and Verifiability of Elections

The following is a statement from Verified Voting on the primaries conducted on June 2 and June 9. For additional media inquiries, please contact Aurora Matthews, June 17, 2020 – The first set of primaries postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the acute challenges associated with ensuring the accuracy, integrity and verifiability of…

National: House Elections Subcommittee examines voting during the COVID-19 pandemic | Sabrina Eaton/Cleveland Plain Dealer

To Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge, who chairs a House of Representative subcommittee on elections, it’s obvious that election procedures around the nation must change to safely conduct November’s general election during a global pandemic. On Thursday, Fudge’s subcommittee held a hearing to examine how states conducted primary elections during the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and how the federal government can ensure it doesn’t hinder voting in November. “It has become clear that access to the ballot in November is in jeopardy if we do not make substantial investments in our election infrastructure and remove the long standing barriers that continue to keep far too many from exercising their right to vote,” said Fudge. “We must assure every eligible American can access the ballot box, without endangering their health and with steadfast faith in our democratic process.” Witnesses at the hearing described how the virus derailed primaries in states including Wisconsin and Georgia, where mail-in ballots that many voters requested never arrived, and a reduction of in-person polling places resulted in hours-long lines in some areas.

National: Two positions filled at federal election agency | Bill Theobald/The Fulcrum

After staying vacant almost a year, the top two jobs have been filled at the Election Assistance Commission, the principal federal agency overseeing how states conduct voting. The commissioners formally made the hires on Wednesday. The moves could help stabilize the EAC after years of turnover, controversy and inconsistent funding. The appointments come just five months before the presidential election, and in the middle of a primary season when the coronavirus pandemic has created delays and chaos across the country, most recently this week in Georgia. The EAC is a small agency that plays a large role in the execution of the democratic process. It is charged with coordinating the government’s limited supervision of how states and thousands of localities conduct elections. It certifies the reliability of the voting machines and has been at the center of efforts to protect election systems from being hacked by foreign adversaries.

National: Election Assistance Commission Regains Permanent Leaders In Top Positions | Courtney Bublé/Government Executive

With election season well underway, the federal agency responsible for election administration finally has filled its two most senior positions. The Election Assistance Commission announced on Wednesday that the commissioners approved by unanimous consent Mona Harrington as executive director (who was previously serving in an acting capacity) and Kevin Rayburn as general counsel (formerly a top election official in Georgia). The posts had been without permanent leadership since early September, when the commissioners voted not to reappoint then Executive Director Brian Newby and General Counsel Cliff Tatum. “This unanimous vote of the commission shows the confidence we have in these great candidates to lead the EAC into its next chapter,” said Chairman Ben Hovland. “Ensuring elections are secure, accessible, accurate and safe is critical for every election, and 2020 has presented unique challenges. With Ms. Harrington and Mr. Rayburn leading our staff, the EAC is better positioned to add value to the elections community and help election officials in the lead up to November and for years to come.”

National: As Election Nears, House Democrats Push Harder for Vote-by-Mail | Brandi Buchman(Courthouse News

Americans are caught in a conundrum: a pandemic is raging but it is also an election year, and lawmakers are feeling pressure to find the right solutions with just 145 days until the presidential election and a possible surge in coronavirus cases looming. A House Administration subcommittee on elections met Thursday for a remote hearing to consider these challenges and weigh the merits of mail-in and absentee voting in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic ,which has infected over 2 million Americans and killed over 113,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. Though mail-in voting has been an American staple since the Civil War, for President Donald Trump and many other Republicans the concept has fast become unwelcome and is often the subject of intense criticism underpinned by unproven allegations of rampant fraud or abuse. During Thursday’s hearing, the sole Republican and ranking member of the subcommittee, Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois, balked at the notion of widespread absentee voting. He argued the call by Democrats to drastically ramp up federal assistance that would make mail-in voting more accessible is overreach, but also is not feasible. “I support states increasing capacity for mail-in voting but to suggest every state can dramatically increase that capacity is ridiculous,” Davis said.

National: ‘It’s broken’: Fears grow about patchwork US election system | Steve Peoples and Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

The chaos that plagued Georgia’s primary this week is raising concerns about a potential broader failure of the nation’s patchwork election system that could undermine the November presidential contest, political leaders and elections experts say. With less than five months to go, fears are mounting that several battleground states are not prepared to administer problem-free elections during the pandemic. The increasingly urgent concerns are both complex and simple: long lines disproportionately affecting voters of color in places like Atlanta with a history of voter suppression; a severe shortage of poll workers scared away by coronavirus concerns; and an emerging consensus that it could take several days after polls close on Election Day to determine a winner as battleground states struggle with an explosion of mail voting. “We want a democracy in the United States we can showcase for the world, and right now it’s broken and on full display,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

National: Suit seeks immediate citizenship for those waiting on oath | Associated Press

Scores of people waiting to recite the oath of citizenship — the final step in the citizenship process — should be naturalized immediately so that they have time to register to vote this fall, immigrant rights groups argued in a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia federal court this week. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and other groups filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of legal permanent residents whose applications for naturalization have already been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ field office in Philadelphia. The organizations say their clients are among thousands nationwide who have had their oath ceremony cancelled or not scheduled due to the pandemic. They argue that federal law allows the courts to expedite the naturalization process during special circumstances. The organizations say the courts should authorize “judicial oath ceremonies or immediate administrative naturalization by USCIS” to assure that all approved candidates for naturalization are sworn in by late September.

National: US voter registration plummets during coronavirus pandemic, challenging both parties | Joey Garrison/USA Today

The registration of new voters dropped dramatically in the USA amid the coronavirus pandemic, challenging efforts of both major political parties to enlist supporters in battleground states before the 2020 election. The number of new voters registered across 11 states in April 2020 decreased by 70% compared with April 2016, according to a report from the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research released Thursday. Voter registration was well ahead of the 2016 pace in most states through February. It started to decline in March, when states began enforcing stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. By April, registration plummeted as the two most popular methods of signing up voters – third-party at schools and other public venues and “motor voter registration” – virtually halted. The latter refers to a federal law that requires states to give individuals the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver’s license.

California: Senate OKs bill to mail ballots for fall election | Adam Beam/Associated Press

Fearing a surge of coronavirus cases that could force a second statewide shutdown in the fall, the California Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would guarantee all registered voters get a ballot in the mail before the November election. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has already ordered ballots to be mailed. But Republican congressional candidate Darrell Issa and the Republican National Committee have sued, arguing his order is illegal. The bill is an attempt by lawmakers to make sure it happens anyway. Election officials nationwide have explored vote-by-mail options this year because of the pandemic, prompting condemnation from President Donald Trump, who has claimed that “mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”

Editorials: Can Connecticut GOP block safe pandemic voting? | David Collins/The Day

President Donald Trump in April explained in very stark terms the longstanding efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote as a strategy to win elections. “You’d never have a Republican elected again,” Trump said, in response to proposals to expand the use of mail-in ballots for November to allow for safe voting during a pandemic. The more votes that are cast, the Republican strategy suggests, the more likely they are to lose. Alas, this is true for Republicans even here in enlightened Connecticut, and a partisan battle is setting up over what should be a simple measure to allow voters to participate in democracy while keeping themselves and their families safe. Gov. Ned Lamont has said he would convene a special session of the General Assembly this summer for the limited dual purpose of allowing no-excuse absentee ballots this November and to address new police accountability measures.

Editorials: Florida: Don’t make a mess of voting in this year’s elections | Tampa Bay Times

Georgia made a spectacle out of its primary elections Tuesday, as chaos reigned across polling sites in what should be a cautionary tale for November’s general election. No doubt, the impacts of coronavirus didn’t help, but that threat isn’t going away. Governors and local elections supervisors in Florida and elsewhere need to prepare now by encouraging absentee voting and making fallback plans to keep voting safe and accessible during this pandemic. Georgia’s elections were made-for-TV embarrassing, as voters waited in long lines for hours because poll workers failed to show while other staffers fumbled equipment. Fear of the coronavirus led officials to consolidate voting precincts, creating more crowding and confusion. Several polling places in metro Atlanta opened late because officials misjudged the size of voting machines, forcing delivery trucks to make extra trips. Elsewhere, some workers couldn’t operate the machines because they were inserting voter cards upside-down.

Georgia: Secretary of State showed ‘deliberate indifference’ to voters: Stacey Abrams | Quinn Scanlan/ABC

Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, said Thursday that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “showed a deliberate indifference to the needs of Georgia voters” after Tuesday’s primary election faced numerous problems, from lack of poll workers to issues with the voting machinery. “(Raffensperger) refused to exercise his responsibility to oversee our elections,” Abrams said on ABC’s “The View.” “In fact, he said that he had no responsibility for what went wrong, that it wasn’t his fault that he paid for $170 million worth of machinery that he didn’t train people adequately to use.” Abrams and the voter protection organization she founded, Fair Fight Action, were collecting voter testimonials all throughout Election Day and during an election night media availability, she said litigation would be coming and that it would be coming soon. Georgia’s primary election was plagued by problems that left many voters waiting in line for hours, particularly in the state’s largest county, Fulton, which is home to most of the city of Atlanta. On election night, Rick Barron, the director of elections for the county, said they hadn’t “seen anything like this since 2012 in terms of issues on election day.”

Editorials: Georgia deserves much better on elections | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia blew it — big time. An election meltdown that had been simmering here for a long time finally boiled over Tuesday for all the world to see. The election process — what should be a near-sacred ritual of this Republic — quickly devolved into what national and local commentators called, with ample justification, a hot mess. Georgia must do much better when the next election comes. That’s a big lift, given looming deadlines and wild cards like a global pandemic. But it’s a task that this state must resolve. Democracy demands that much, especially during this divided, angry age that’s strained or shattered faith in bedrock civic institutions. There is adequate blame to go around, and leaders here chose to play the currently fashionable blame game of institutional finger-pointing. Given the magnitude of what happened and the risks for democracy now laid bare, it matters less who screwed up and how. What is of paramount importance is to assess what went wrong and fix it before the next election. The intramural sniping should stop, and the focus needs to shift toward repairing an embarrassing, intolerable mess.

Iowa: Republican lawmakers in Iowa push to limit absentee voting

Barely a week after Iowa election officials reported a record primary turnout after mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, Republican legislative leaders in the Senate pushed a bill that would limit the secretary of state’s ability to do so again. Senate Republicans argued the changes are needed to to fight voter fraud, though studies show millions of ballots have been cast by mail without significant problems. House Republicans worked with Democrats to amend the bill saying the Legislature should have the final say in how elections are conducted. “There’s a dire need to put common sense constraints on the secretary of state because they’re sorely needed,” Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann said during Thursday night debate in the House where the amendment passed 93-2. Democrats said the Senate bill was an effort to suppress voting because Republicans believe a higher turnout benefits Democratic candidates. On Wednesday night, the Senate approved extensive changes to election procedures in a vote with only Republican support.

Louisiana: Secretary of State rejects federal money with strings attached for fall elections | Greg LaRose/WDSU

Louisiana’s top elections official says he won’t accept federal money to expand voter access this fall if it comes with strings attached. His declaration today comes as civil rights advocates have said Louisiana is among the states with unreasonable barriers to voting. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin was among the witnesses who spoke to members of a congressional subcommittee about how states will handle elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. Congress is considering whether to send COVID-19 stimulus funds to states so they can offer options like mail-in voting in order to keep citizens safe. President Donald Trump and conservatives have argued the expansion of mail-in voting would exacerbate election fraud, although without examples of where it has occurred widespread. “Receiving one-time money during an unprecedented crisis at the expense of radically changing our election system is a tradeoff we’re not willing to make,” Ardoin told members of a U.S. House subcommittee on elections.

Maryland: Election official: We should have explained disappearance of Baltimore returns sooner | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

State election officials should have been more transparent about the disappearance of early returns from the State Board of Elections website on the night of the primary last week, the board’s deputy administrator said Thursday during a panel discussion about what can be learned from the election. Early results for Baltimore, which initially appeared on the website late Tuesday, were removed after officials found that a mistake in the way some ballots were printed had led to incorrect results being tabulated for a City Council race. Officials were not initially sure how widespread the problem was, said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator for the State Board of Elections. The results were pulled off the website out of an abundance of caution, she said. “It had no impact on the ballot counting, but when something like that happens, it clearly makes people anxious,” she said. “We should have been more quick in explaining what happened.”

Michigan: Secretary Of State Benson Comments On Risk Limiting Audit | Keweenaw Report

After the presidential primary election in March, a Risk Limiting Audit was performed, and the results have suggested that Michigan is ready for the August and November elections. Of Michigan’s 83 counties, 80 participated in the audit, and the results reinforced the accuracy and security of the results. The audit, the largest of its kind in the nation, was part of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s ongoing efforts to strengthen Michiganders ability to vote. Benson had this to say. “The overwhelming participation from county and local clerks in this audit underscores the hard work they do to safeguard our elections, and their dedication to public service.” Throughout the state, 669 random ballots were selected in the audit, and they mirrored official election results within one percentage point for the leading candidates in each primary, suggesting had an actual audit been conducted, the outcome of the election would remain unchanged.

Pennsylvania: Officials fear election “nightmare” in November with mail-in votes still not tallied after a week | Zak Hudak/CBS

In Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County, a longtime Democratic stronghold overtaken by Donald Trump in 2016, officials were still counting mail-in ballots two days after the state’s June 2 primary election. I have this nightmare of CNN, Fox, CBS and everyone else waiting for these things to come in on election night, and we don’t have them,” said David Pedri, the county manager. The delay, Pedri said, was simply that the process of counting mail-in ballots is tedious and there’s little that can speed it up. “No matter how many people we send in to count ballots, we still have to open an envelope, open another one, check it and smooth it down before we can scan it,” he said. Luzerne’s experience was replicated across the state. This was the first time all Pennsylvanians were allowed to vote by mail, and a surge of mail-in ballots driven by the coronavirus pandemic left some counties counting ballots days after the election. It’s a challenge that local election officials say could continue into the November general election and delay the results of the presidential race if the state doesn’t let them start processing ballots earlier. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s biggest city was still counting ballots it had received by primary day a week earlier. At the beginning of the day, Philadelphia elections officials hadn’t counted nearly 150,000 mail-in ballots from the previous week, over three times President Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016.

South Carolina: Voting problems in primary prompt fears about November election | Kirk Brown and Conor Hughes/Greenville News

Calissa Brooks and Contrina Young are sisters who live together in Greenville, but they said they were given different ballots after arriving at a branch library on Anderson Road to vote in Tuesday’s primary. “We didn’t have the same options, and we live at the same address,” Brooks said Wednesday. “You show up to vote and then you can’t get the correct vote — that’s very frustrating.” Young said that when she asked questions about the different ballots, a poll worker “brushed her off.” Other voters shared similar stories with The Greenville News, including Susann Hellams Griffin. She said that although she and her son live in state House District 6, they were given ballots at Pendleton Elementary School that included candidates from state House District 8. “I am horrified by it, frankly,” said Griffin, who didn’t realize that she and her son received the wrong ballots until after they left the polling place. She said she called the Anderson County elections office and a staff member confirmed the mistake.

Tennessee: Judge: ‘Shame’ on state for shirking mail voting order | Jonathan Mattise/Associated Press

A judge on Thursday said “shame on you” to state officials for not abiding by her order that allows a vote-by-mail option for all of Tennessee’s 4.1 million voters during the coronavirus pandemic, saying she now had “to clean up confusion” from the state’s decision to reword its absentee voting applications on its own. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ordered changes to the absentee form but stopped short of ordering sanctions against the state for not complying, citing tough budget times for the state during the pandemic. But she warned “there always is the specter of criminal contempt if after today’s orders there’s still noncompliance and there’s disobedience.” “Shame on you for not following that procedure and just taking matters into your own hands,” Lyle said at Thursday’s hearing. “So, I’m calling the state out on that, for not adhering to the standards of legal process, and not adhering to the order.” Only a handful of states are not offering by-mail voting for everyone during the pandemic, though two-thirds of states allowed the practice before the outbreak.

Wisconsin: Officials creates grant programs for local election security efforts | Local government | Briana Reilly/The Cap Times

Wisconsin elections officials on Wednesday signed off on a plan to make available over $5 million in federal funding to beef up local voting security efforts ahead of the November general election. The money — made available under two separate subgrants, one for counties and another for municipalities — seeks to bolster cybersecurity technology and training specifically, rather than tackle costs associated with the COVID-19 crisis. Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe touted the importance of continuing to focus on the importance of localities’ cybersecurity efforts before voters cast ballots this fall, noting currently there’s “a much larger pot of money available” for coronavirus-related costs.” “These are the only funds that are out there that are specific to cyber security and elections,” she said of the federal Help America Vote Act funding. “I just really think it’s important that we not lose light of all the cybersecurity things that still need to happen in our state to make sure that we can continue to keep pace with the cybersecurity threats that change every single day.”

National: Beyond Georgia: A Warning for November as States Scramble to Expand Vote-by-Mail | Nick Corasaniti and Michael Wines/The New York Times

The 16 statewide primary elections held during the pandemic reached a glaring nadir on Tuesday as Georgia saw a full-scale meltdown of new voting systems compounded by the state’s rapid expansion of vote-by-mail. But around the country, elections that have been held over the past two months reveal a wildly mixed picture, dominated by different states’ experiences with a huge increase in voting by mail. Over all, turnout in the 15 states and Washington, D.C., which rapidly expanded vote-by-mail over the past few months, remained high, sometimes at near record levels, even as the Democratic presidential primary was all but wrapped. The good news was millions were able to vote safely, without risking their health. The bad news was a host of infrastructure and logistical issues that could have cost thousands their opportunity to vote: ballots lost in the mail; some printed on the wrong paper, with the wrong date or the wrong language; others arriving weeks after they were requested or never arriving at all. But the most definitive lesson for November may be what many have already begun to accept — that there’s an enormous chance many states, including key battlegrounds, will not finish counting on election night. The implications are worrisome in a bitterly divided nation facing what many consider the most consequential election in memory with the loudest voice belonging to an incumbent president who is prone to promoting falsehoods about the electoral system.

National: Why Can’t People Vote Online? Election Security Analysts Weigh In | Chris Iovenko/Observer

The coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the way we live; it is also upending the way we vote. Traditional polling stations, which often have long lines and use crowded indoor spaces and shared voting equipment, pose substantial risks for spreading the disease. Unless there is a massive switch to remote voting, the predicted second wave of COVID-19 this fall could be catastrophically escalated by large in-person turnouts at polling stations. And in turn, efforts to prevent increased infections can be used as an excuse for targeted, discriminatory curtailment of in-person voting, with the outrageous events in Georgia’s primary election on Tuesday a clear example of the potential derailment of democracy. Currently, the most common way to vote remotely is by mail. It’s a proven, convenient, and safe technique; in the 2016 election,  1 in 4 Americans voted by mail. However, President Donald Trump (who himself votes by mail) and his allies have falsely attacked vote-by-mail as wide-open to fraud and an attempt by Democrats to steal the election. The Republican National Committee has launched a lawsuit in California contesting expansion of vote-by-mail and in states controlled by Republicans obstacles to voting by mail will likely be greater than those faced by voters in other states.

South Africa: Electronic voting being considered, as ANC’s national working committee discusses challenges facing local elections | Lizeka Tandwa/News24

The ANC’s national working committee (NWC) has discussed a range of possibilities, including electronic voting for next year’s local elections. News24 recently reported that the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is in consultation to possibly postpone next year’s local government elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During its Monday meeting, the NWC said it discussed a range of responses on these and other challenges impacting next year’s electoral system. It includes a synchronisation of elections at national, provincial and local spheres of government; introducing elements of constituency-based representation at national and provincial spheres, consistent with the constitutional requirement for an electoral system that results, in general, in proportional representation; and the use of electronic voting.

National: Georgia’s primary debacle should sound alarm bells for November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Multiple problems plagued voters as they went to the polls yesterday in Georgia’s primary, from hours-long lines, technical disasters and absentee ballots that never arrived, They’re another ominous sign for states and the general election officials trying to run a safe and trustworthy elections this year, though Georgia’s issues were known for some time and are more unique. In fact, the problems in Georgia were especially galling because the seeds of the failure were evident for months to technologists — since long before the novel coronavirus pandemic arrived and multiplied the obstacles facing election officials.  They included an overly complex voting system designed to improve security but may have compromised it, a rushed time frame to implement that system and a training program for poll workers that wasn’t up to the task, especially after a slew of new workers replaced elderly people more vulnerable to covid-19.  The long lines were exacerbated because election officials failed to send mail-in ballots to many people who requested them during the pandemic and who then showed up to vote in person. There may also have been a surge in voters driven by anger over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the nationwide protests that have followed.

National: Georgia Was A Mess. Here’s What Else We Know About The June 9 Elections. | Nathaniel Rakich and Geoffrey Skelley/FiveThirtyEight

Tuesday’s primary elections were once again marred by serious problems at the polls, especially in Georgia. However, in this case, the issues probably had less to do with the COVID-19 pandemic and more to do with the state’s own ineptitude. Almost 90 percent of Georgia’s polling places were open on Tuesday, which is far more than in many other states that have held primaries recently. Only one problem: Georgia’s new voting machines, which were put in place after claims of voter suppression in 2018, didn’t work as well as hoped. There’s no evidence of foul play, but the state was clearly not prepared to hold an election with the new equipment. The state apparently passed on what it deemed the best voting machines available, opting for a cheaper vendor that had never installed so much equipment in such a short period of time. And some polling places in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties opened late because of problems booting up the machines; some didn’t even receive the necessary equipment until after polls were supposed to open. Poll workers in Columbus also had trouble setting up the ballot printers, which they blamed on lack of training due to the coronavirus. And at one precinct, workers spent an hour trying to figure out how to insert the cards that record votes into the new machines — before figuring out they were putting them in upside-down. There were also numerous reports of voting machines simply not working, which led to some of the longest lines. The problems seemed to be most acute in metro Atlanta, raising fears of problems assuring equal voting access in the general election.

National: Cybersecurity Concerns with Online Voting for 2020 Presidential Election | 2020-06-11 | Security Magazine

A new report by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of Michigan discusses the cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with OmniBallot, a we-based system for blank ballot delivery, ballot marking and (optionally) online voting. Three states – Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey – recently announced they would allow certain voters to cast votes using OmniBallot. Researcher Michael A. Specter at MIT and J. Alex Halderman at the University of Michigan reverse engineered the client-side e portion of OmniBallot, as used in Delaware, in order to detail the system’s operation and analyze its security. “We find that OmniBallot uses a simplistic approach to Internet voting that is vulnerable to vote manipulation by malware on the voter’s device and by insiders or other attackers who can compromise Democracy Live, Amazon, Google, or Cloudflare,” the researchers explain. In addition, Democracy Live, which appears to have no privacy policy, receives sensitive personally identifiable information— including the voter’s identity, ballot selections, and browser fingerprint— that could be used to target political ads or disinformation campaigns, the report says.

National: Researchers say online voting tech used in 5 states is fatally flawed | Timothy B. Lee/Ars Technica

OmniBallot is election software that is used by dozens of jurisdictions in the United States. In addition to delivering ballots and helping voters mark them, it includes an option for online voting. At least three states—West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey—have used the technology or are planning to do so in an upcoming election. Four local jurisdictions in Oregon and Washington state use the online voting feature as well. But new research from a pair of computer scientists, MIT’s Michael Specter and the University of Michigan’s Alex Halderman, finds that the software has inadequate security protections, creating a serious risk to election integrity. Democracy Live, the company behind OmniBallot, defended its software in an email response to Ars Technica. “The report did not find any technical vulnerabilities in OmniBallot,” wrote Democracy Live CEO Bryan Finney. This is true in a sense—the researchers didn’t find any major bugs in the OmniBallot code. But it also misses the point of their analysis. The security of software not only depends on the software itself but also on the security of the environment on which the system runs. For example, it’s impossible to keep voting software secure if it runs on a computer infected with malware. And millions of PCs in the United States are infected with malware.