Editorials: Verifying caucus votes is easy. Iowa could have been much worse. | Edward W. Felten /The Washington Post

On Monday night, political enthusiasts across America waited for votes in the Iowa caucuses to be tabulated. And waited. And waited some more. Because of an ill-designed and poorly tested app, precinct captains couldn’t transmit their vote totals to the tabulators. This was embarrassing for Democratic Party officials and their technology vendor, but it was far from the worst thing that could have happened. In the end, the results will be tabulated correctly. Democracy worked, if a bit more slowly than some might have preferred. But a much bigger failure is still possible, and we’re still not properly prepared for it. The good news is that the problem in Iowa manifested in the tabulation of votes across precincts, which is the easiest part of an election to secure. There was ample public evidence of the vote count in each precinct: Voters filled out paper ballots, and precinct captains conducted public head counts. The rest — adding up votes and calculating delegate counts — is just arithmetic that candidates, journalists and citizens can replicate for themselves. The count went on, it just went didn’t go on as quickly as expected. What we need most from our election systems is resilience. Even in the absence of a cyberattack, things will go wrong. A resilient system can detect problems, recover and reconstruct the accurate result from solid evidence. That’s what we saw in Iowa. Voters made their intentions clear, and the in-precinct paper ballot count was low-tech and public — as resilient as one could hope for. When something went wrong, officials fell back to a verifiable solution. The system worked, even if the app didn’t.

Editorials: The internet and elections don’t mix. So why do we keep trying? | Jack Morse/Mashable

When it comes to conducting secure elections, keeping things old-fashioned is often the best bet. This simple reality can be broken down into two digestible nuggets of security wisdom: The internet and voting don’t mix. And auditable paper trails beat fancy digital recording devices every time. Security experts beat us over the head with these admonitions time and time again. And yet, as yesterday’s Iowa caucus screwup shows, we still have a lot of listening left to do. The Iowa caucuses — trending on Twitter at the time of this writing as the “#IowaCaucusDisaster” — represent a spectacular failure in modern day election reporting. According to numerous reports, a shoddily tested app was employed to relay caucus results to party officials. That app failed to properly function, throwing presidential candidates’ campaigns — and the country — into a brief fit.  Importantly, we should be clear that Iowa caucus-goers did not vote using the app. Rather, the caucus results — which were recorded on paper cards like the one shown above — were, after being tallied, reported to Democratic party officials via the app. Or, at least they were supposed to be. It was in this reporting phase that things took a turn for the terrible, with reports that the app had malfunctioned and perhaps tabulated results incorrectly.

Editorials: Donald Trump’s jokes about defying election results could create chaos | Rick Hasen and Dahlia Lithwick/Slate

As President Donald Trump plans a triumphant State of the Union address anticipating his likely acquittal by the Senate, the White House is reportedly awash in a sense of invincibility. Trump’s certainty that he simply cannot lose could have a real impact on this year’s election. Since assuming office in January 2017, Trump has made at least 27 references to staying in office beyond the constitutional limit of two terms. He often follows up with a remark indicating he is “joking,” “kidding,” or saying it to drive the “fake” news media “crazy.” Even if Trump thinks that he’s only “joking,” the comments fit a broader pattern that raises the prospect that Trump may not leave office quietly in the event he’s on the losing end of a very close election. And unfortunately this possibility is only one of a number of potential election meltdowns we may face in November.

Editorials: Shelby County Tennessee needs cheap, secure hand-marked paper ballots | Joe Towns and Marlene Strube/The Daily Memphian

Sometimes, the low-tech solution is the better one. Let’s say you want a dedicated tool to look up local phone numbers confidentially. You could buy a $500 computer plus subscription fee to search the online White Pages, hope you’ll have reliable Internet connection, and bet that no one is monitoring your searches. Or, you could get the phone book for free and use it reliably and in privacy. Shelby County is faced with a similar choice right now. Everyone agrees we need to buy new voting equipment for the 2020 election. And that it should have some kind of paper record of votes which can be checked against the computer in case of a computer glitch, hacking or just a really close race. But the Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC) is currently considering an expensive “electronic pen” system in which voters would use a touch-screen computer to mark paper ballots, when we could just give voters a paper ballot and a pencil. The low-tech, hand-marked paper ballot approach would be simpler, more secure and half the price.

Editorials: The loser of November’s election may not concede. Their voters won’t, either. | Richard L. Hasen/The Washington Post

When the polls closed on Nov. 5, 2019, the initial count showed the governor of Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin, losing to his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear. But rather than concede that he fell short in what should have been an easy reelection, Bevin claimed that “irregularities” had muddled the result — though he produced no evidence to support his accusations. At first, some Kentucky legislative leaders appeared to back him, and some pointed to the legislature’s power to resolve an election dispute and choose the governor regardless of the vote. But Bevin was not popular even within his own party, and eventually, he had to concede when the local GOP did not go along with him. We could imagine a similar scenario this November: What would happen if President Trump had an early lead that evaporated as votes were counted, and then he refused to concede? The idea isn’t too far-fetched; Trump has raised it himself. Before the 2016 election, he wouldn’t agree to accept the results if he lost. After winning in the electoral college but losing the popular count by about 3 million votes, Trump claimed — with no evidence whatsoever — that at least 3 million fraudulent votes had been cast for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He set up an “election integrity” commission headed by then-Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach to try to prove that “voter fraud” is a major problem. But after the commission faced attacks from the left and the right for demanding state voter records with an apparent plan to use them to call for stricter registration rules, Trump disbanded it, with no work accomplished. In 2018, the president criticized elections in Florida and California, where late-counted votes shifted toward Democrats, suggesting without evidence that there was foul play.

Editorials: Counting on technology: Machines can malfunction, and election results ought to be verified | Keene Sentinel

In 17 days, Granite State voters will head to the polls to exercise what is, arguably, their most well-known right and duty: voting in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire presidential primary. When they do, many will cast votes counted by machine. We hope all will go well. But there’s no guarantee. Absent a campaign-requested recount, there won’t be any verification of the results those machines offer. And that’s because the state’s highest elections officials refuse to allow it. A handful of Monadnock Region residents has been sounding the alarm regarding the vulnerability of voting machines in New Hampshire for several years. And, as noted in a recent report by Sentinel staff writer Jake Lahut, the N.H. Secretary of State’s Office has been refusing to allow local polling officials to even conduct random cross checks by hand. Such hand counts, or audits, could go a long way toward putting voters’ minds at ease regarding the efficacy of the machines upon which so much of our election infrastructure relies. It’s not just a worry for the conspiracy-minded; beyond the idea of Russian or Chinese or, now, perhaps even Iranian hackers gaining access to local or statewide results, there’s the simple question of reliability.

Editorials: Resist push for online ballot box | The Seattle Times

The ubiquity of online life comes with devastating vulnerabilities. Even one of the world’s richest men, Jeff Bezos, is reportedly not safe from hackers of electronic devices. Despite this well-established risk, Washington elections officials are moving in disjointed directions about internet security. In Olympia, Secretary of State Kim Wyman wants to bar emailed ballot returns because of potential fraud and network tampering via attachment. In King County, Elections Director Julie Wise is aiding a local public agency’s experiment with online voting. The King County move is a badly flawed approach to broadening elections access. Washington’s elections must — without exception — be kept safe from online tampering. The best way to do this is to keep elections computers entirely off the internet. House Bill 2647 and Senate Bill 6412 are Wyman’s request legislation that would ban returning ballots by email. The proposal would close a vulnerability without meaningfully limiting access for military and overseas voters. Their current extended voting window of 30 or 45 days to download, print and return ballots reasonably allows for international postal delays.

Editorials: Are we really listening to what MLK had to say? | Peniel Joseph/CNN

In 2020, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday falls in a national election year, one that reminds us of the importance of voting rights, citizenship and political activism to the health of our democracy. King imagined America as a “beloved community” capable of defeating what he characterized as the triple threats of racism, militarism and materialism. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, alongside the 1954 Brown Supreme Court decision, represents the crown jewels of the civil rights movement’s heroic period. Yet King quickly realized that policy transformations alone, including the right to vote, would be insufficient in realizing his goal of institutionalizing radical black citizenship toward the creation of the “beloved community.” King argued that justice was what love looked like in public. 2020 also marks the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, legislation that proved transformative for black citizenship, at least until the 2013 Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision that has helped enable the increase of voter suppression nationally. The most powerful way Americans can honor King now is through the pursuit of new national voting rights legislation that ends voter suppression and ID laws, allows prisoners to vote and automatically registers every 18-year-old citizen to vote.

Editorials: Connecticut needs to share election security test results | David Levine/Connecticut Post

As the 2016 presidential election demonstrates, U.S. election systems — from the voting machines themselves to internet-connected electronic pollbooks (e-pollbooks) — are vulnerable to cyberattacks, including from foreign governments seeking to undermine the integrity of our democracy. Connecticut recently found that e-pollbooks are not completely secure and could be vulnerable to cyberattacks that disenfranchise voters. Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, it is essential that Connecticut make these results widely known, so other state and local governments can take necessary precautions. Earlier this year, Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill chose not to give funding she already had received for e-pollbooks to local jurisdictions after the University of Connecticut’s Center for Voting Technology Research (VoTeR Center) reviewed proposals from three vendors and found that none of them was sufficiently secure. This development is remarkable not only in light of the nationwide trend towards adopting e-pollbooks, but it also reflects a complete reversal by Merrill, who secured funding for the e-pollbooks in 2015 because she initially thought they would be more accurate and less work than paper pollbooks. Merrill is now concerned that election officials have acquired the technology too quickly and that there has not been a sufficient consideration of the risks and benefits of e-pollbooks.

Editorials: Ballot images must be made public after all New York elections | New York Daily News

Honoring Dr. King’s legacy, state Senate Elections Committee Chairman Zellnor Myrie is introducing the New York Voting Rights Act to protect the franchise for citizens. He is also advancing welcome transparency with a bill requiring that the electronic images of the paper ballots be made public no later than a week after voting. This should have happened a decade ago with the arrival of computerized scanners. Those machines take a photo of each paper ballot and store it electronically. Having the images available allows anyone to examine the results, while keeping the original ballot secure. The state’s highest court made of botch of it with a terrible ruling last spring that locked away the images. Myrie’s bill sets it straight.

Editorials: Facing the primary attack on democracy | Emily Frye & Philip Reitinger/The Hill

Democracy is under attack — and our federal, state, and local elections are the front lines. Both technical attacks and disinformation campaigns designed to undermine election legitimacy are being deployed on a daily basis to threaten the basic tenets of American society. The Justice Department’s special counsel recently concluded that “there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our elections. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.” A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is possible only if the will of the people is known. We must be able to trust the results of our elections. Without that trust, governments appear illegitimate. The next presidential election is less than a year away, but our nation’s elections infrastructure has far less time to prepare to preserve the basic principles of democracy.

Editorials: You could be disenfranchised in California’s presidential primary if you’ve registered nonpartisan | Jessica A. Levinson/Los Angeles Times

California is at risk of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters in the March 2020 presidential primary election. The problem is so large it could impact who becomes the Democratic nominee. Voters in the Golden State are accustomed to seeing candidates from of all parties on the same ballot. This, of course, is how we vote for governor, and members of the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress. We have every reason to believe that if we are registered to vote, we will be able to weigh in on the presidential primary contest without doing more. But voting for president is different. The rules for presidential primaries are set by the national political parties — not California’s secretary of state or local county officials. And the national parties have divined a process sure to trip up millions of nonpartisan voters. If you are a nonpartisan voter, there is a different process for how you vote in the presidential primary versus any other election. If you registered as “no party preference” — previously known as “decline to state” — your ballot will not include any presidential candidates unless you take an extra step. The same applies to those registered with a party so small it isn’t officially recognized. (For instance, maybe you wrote in “Whig party” on your voter registration.)

Editorials: There’s a lot to like in Congress’s new election security measures. But there’s a big omission. | The Washington Post

President Trump has signed into law a bundle of election security measures buried in this year’s spending bills. What the package includes says a lot about legislators’ commitment to safeguarding our democracy. What it does not include may say even more. There’s a lot to like in this year’s appropriations agreements, starting with a lump sum for states to bolster critical voting infrastructure. The $425 million Congress is providing in 2020 comes many days late and many dollars short according to experts, who say billions were needed starting at least two years ago. But it’s still an improvement over the $380 million allocated in 2018, and the $0 allocated this past year. These funds will be doled out in grants to states, which can then decide how to use them. The National Defense Authorization Act also includes essential measures, such as allowing state election officials to receive top-secret security clearances. The step will open the road at last to robust information-sharing between the federal and local governments. The same is true for public-private partnerships: The legislation establishes a threat analysis center at the office of the director of national intelligence responsible for coordinating between intelligence officials and technology companies to root out influence campaigns.

Editorials: Congress waited too long to start securing the 2020 elections | Justin Rohrlich/Quartz

After the US House and Senate passed a $1.4 trillion spending package this week, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle congratulated themselves, which funds the federal government through September. It adds nearly $2 billion in additional funding for fighting wildfires, sets aside $25 million for gun violence research, and apportions $7.6 billion for the 2020 Census. Under the terms of the deal, all 50 states will also receive funding to improve election security. But according to Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, securing the 2020 elections from top to bottom require more time and money than what has been allocated thus far. “Congress has been completely absent when it comes to funding for election security,” Norden told Quartz. “For the most part, Congress has said, ‘States, it’s up to you,’ and states have said, ‘Counties, it’s up to you,’ and election security has been neglected.” Congress voted to distribute $425 million among the states. A provision calls for states to match an additional 20% of the amount received within two years, bringing the eventual funding for election security to about $500 million nationwide. Last year, Congress also earmarked $380 million for states to strengthen election security. State governments have until October 2023 to spend it all.

Editorials: Cybersecurity Experts Are Leaving the Federal Government. That’s a Problem. | Josephine Wolff/The New York Times

At the end of 2019, with less than a year to go until the presidential election, the government official who has been leading efforts to secure voting systems in the United States will leave the Department of Homeland Security to join Google. The impending departure of Jeanette Manfra, the assistant director for cybersecurity at the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is a major loss for the federal government’s civilian cybersecurity efforts, and it comes at the end of a year that saw a series of departures by key cybersecurity personnel. In August, the White House chief information security officer, Joe Schatz, left government to join a consulting firm, TechCentrics. A few months later, in October, Dimitrios Vastakis, the branch chief of White House computer network defense, resigned as well, explaining his reasons in a memo, obtained by Axios, with the subject line “cybersecurity personnel leaving office of the administration at an alarming rate.” Mr. Vastakis’s memo stated that the majority of the high-level cybersecurity personnel at the White House had already resigned because of the administration’s “habitually being hostile” to them, including using tactics such as “revocation of incentives, reducing the scope of duties, reducing access to programs, revoking access to buildings and revoking positions with strategic and tactical decision making authorities.” Through these tactics, in combination with a structural reorganization this summer, the White House effectively dismantled the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer, which was established by President Barack Obama in 2014 following the discovery that Russian hackers had infiltrated White House networks.

Editorials: Will your 2020 vote actually get counted? | Michael Chertoff/Los Angeles Times

On Monday, congressional leaders announced that their government-wide spending bill for fiscal year 2020 will include $425 million for states to protect U.S. elections against foreign interference and cyberattacks. This is an important, if overdue, step in the right direction. But our election systems need far more than a one-time rescue mission. To secure American elections in 2020 and beyond, Congress and the local election officials who will soon receive these funds must treat them as a starting point. When I was secretary of Homeland Security in the Bush administration, we warned of intensifying cyberthreats to critical infrastructure like power grids and transportation and communications systems. Interference with elections emerged only later, as geopolitical rivalry with Russia increased. One vulnerability that needs urgent correction is the use of paperless voting machines. These voting systems are extremely susceptible to hacking without detection because they produce only a digital record of votes. Without a paper record, officials have no way of verifying a vote count when a machine is hacked. The Department of Homeland Security, the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, and countless other experts have said that replacing paperless machines is critical. Yet up to eight states are still expected to use paperless machines in some or all polling places next year. The Brennan Center has estimated that more than 16 million Americans could vote on insecure paperless machines in 2020 unless further action is taken. Once they receive the funds from Congress, states relying on paperless machines should take immediate steps to replace them.

Editorials: The Wisconsin Elections Commission is ignoring cyber threats to counties | Scott McDonell/Wisconsin State Journal

If your neighborhood had a string of robberies, you wouldn’t lock your front door but leave the garage door wide open. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Wisconsin is doing ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Here’s the story: The nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission recently received $7 million from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to safeguard election infrastructure in our state. The federal commission is rightly concerned about Russians or other bad actors hacking or intentionally crashing our computer systems. Anything that could cause the public to question our election results would be considered a victory by the hackers. But so far, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has committed over 95 percent of the $7 million in federal money to the state’s online voter registration system — WisVote — while leaving counties without any additional funding to head off cyber threats. This is a crucial issue because all votes are collected at the county level. Certainly, protecting the integrity of WisVote is important. If a hacker were to target WisVote, for example, the hacker could alter the voter database and cause chaos prior to an election as well as on Election Day. And the Wisconsin Elections Commission has provided some funding to cities, villages and towns to upgrade their old equipment and software to ensure WisVote is accessed in a secure environment.

Editorials: North Carolina elections board made elections less secure | David Levine/The Fayetteville Observer

Using a barcode ballot system makes it harder to audit election results — an essential election security feature for confirming the outcomes of the election. This past August, the N.C. State Board of Elections made a decision to enable large numbers of North Carolina voters to vote on Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), which could have made the state’s elections less secure and more vulnerable to malicious foreign actors heading into the 2020 presidential elections. Last month, the vendor for these Ballot Marking Devices told a Board of Elections attorney that they had only one-sixth of the equipment needed to match demand for the 2020 elections under the current certification. To remedy the shortage, the vendor requested that the state certify an updated version of its voting systems through an administrative process that only applies to equipment that do not “substantially alter the voting system,” rather than go through an entire certification process which might not conclude before the 2020 election cycle.

Editorials: Election security: Oversight of vendors is lacking | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Well-documented Russian meddling in U.S. elections demands keen concern for the protection of election integrity. This concern should rise to the level of immediate action in light of a new report verifying the lack of federal oversight of the private companies that make voting equipment. The Brennan Center for Justice, which is based at New York University School of Law, reported that three companies provide more than 80% of the voting systems in the U.S., yet they lack meaningful oversight, leaving the electoral process vulnerable to attack. A cyberattack against any of these companies could have deep consequences for elections across the country. Other systems that are essential for free and fair elections, such as voter registration databases and electronic pollbooks, also are supplied and serviced by private companies. Yet these vendors, unlike those in other sectors that the federal government has designated as critical infrastructure, receive little or no federal review, the Brennan Center found. Oversight is needed. Federal standards must be set. Congress should establish a framework for certification of election vendors.

Editorials: This is our last chance to ensure the 2020 election is not rigged | Myrna Pérez/The Guardian

On Friday the House of Representatives showed the country that it will not tolerate racial discrimination at the polls. It passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act to its full strength. Our country needs that reform and others to make the 2020 election free and fair for all. Since its founding, America has moved slowly towards granting suffrage to more and more Americans, bringing more people into the electoral process. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been instrumental to that progress. But in 2013 the supreme court dramatically weakened that law. In Shelby county v Holder, the court disabled the act’s provision that required states and localities with histories of racial discrimination in voting to “pre-clear” new voting regulations. The pre-clearance system had allowed federal authorities to vet proposed voting rules for racial discrimination before they could cause injury. From 1965 right up until the Shelby decision, this safeguard blocked many restrictions that would have made it more difficult for black and brown people to participate and vote.

Editorials: More openness, less secrecy, on election security | Tampa Bay Times

State Sen. Annette Taddeo said on national television Sunday that she has been advised to stop talking about how Russian hackers released confidential information regarding her 2016 congressional campaign. That’s an issue from Washington to Tallahassee to county courthouses. Less than a year from the 2020 election, voters need more transparency, not more secrecy, about foreign interference in our democracy and what is being done at every level to combat it. There were few new revelations in the 60 Minutes report that featured Taddeo, a Miami Democrat who narrowly lost a primary race for Congress in 2016. But it provided a succinct, compelling narrative that reminded viewers how Russian interference in the elections stretched well beyond the race for president. The report also included a frank warning from a former FBI cyber-security expert that the Russians have not abandoned their efforts to influence U.S. elections and can be counted on to refine their methods for 2020.

Editorials: Florida must do better than ‘Trust us’ to instill confidence in 2020 elections | The Palm Beach Post

The 2020 elections are just around the corner, and government officials responsible for ensuring the upcoming vote occurs without a hitch are asking a lot from the public — trust. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said late last month that the state’s voting systems are adequately prepared for electronic attacks — a pressing concern since the specter of Russian hacking haunted the last presidential election. Securing Florida’s voting systems is long overdue. Unfortunately, Lee undermined her message by refusing to provide any details that might convince the public that these latest efforts to stem cyber-attacks on Florida’s elections systems would work. “The Department of State stands here in 2019 with an incredible amount of information we never previously had,” said Lee, who is Florida’s top elections official, without a word of specifics about that incredible amount of information. “I believe that should inspire a level of confidence that we have access to far more information than we had at any prior point.” Not really. Ever since the Mueller report on the 2016 presidential election determined that hacking efforts by Russian intelligence were successful in “at least one” Florida county, Floridians wanted to know where they’re vulnerable. Compounding the anxiety, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in May that he learned from the FBI that Russians hacked two counties — their voter-information files, not systems involved in vote tallying. But state officials, saying they’ve been muzzled by federal investigators, still refuse to say which counties were hacked in 2016. And although they just conducted a review of state and county election systems, they won’t say what kind of security weaknesses were uncovered — if any. Nor will they promise to tell us about any future breaches.

Editorials: Averting a voting-machine disaster: New York must stay far away from election devices with a proven record of failure | Ritchie Torres/New York Daily News

Imagine spending millions of taxpayer dollars for brand-new voting technology. Then imagine the first time the machines are used in an election, they fail catastrophically. That’s what happened this month across the state line in one Pennsylvania county. How bad was it? Widespread and alarming were failures of this machine, an Election Systems & Software (ES&S) product called ExpressVote XL. Hypersensitive touchscreens picked candidates without voters actually touching the screens. Tick-marks next to selected candidates randomly disappeared. Some machines were unable to tabulate “yes/no” questions at all. In some races, there were “severe undercounts,” including one judicial candidate who received an implausible zero votes, according to the machine’s false reporting. Another candidate won by roughly 1,000 votes, but the ExpressVote XL machine reported 15 votes cast total. Amid the chaos that ensued in this low-turnout election, poll workers were forced to physically pry open the machines, pull out ballot papers and wait for scanners to arrive from outside the state to recount the votes. Weeks later, ES&S has still “has not determined root cause” of the malfunctions, and now reports indicate that lawsuits are likely to be filed against the company and the county. If this sounds like a nightmarish but distant scenario with no practical relevance to us, think again. In fact, if New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Mike Ryan gets his way, the voting technology that catastrophically failed in Pennsylvania will be heading to polling places in the five boroughs for next year’s presidential elections, when turnout will be through the roof.

Editorials: Hand-marked Paper Ballots: How this Tried-and-True Method Makes Us More Secure | Bennie J. Smith/Memphis Commercial Appeal

In 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo on Instagram (owned by Facebook) to celebrate Instagram’s historic milestone of reaching 500 million users. Though Zuckerberg was excited to share his company’s success, headlines instead focused on the unintended revelation that his laptop’s webcam and mic were covered with tape. As one of the greatest high-tech inventors, he knows the dangers of modern technology and reveals his simple low-tech method of protection from hackers. One thing is clear, he doesn’t blindly trust technology, and neither should you.We’ve blindly trusted voting technology until it recently came under intense scrutiny. Many technologists, concerned citizens and others now want to replace voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots to record our votes. Combined with post-election audits, these low-tech methods provide evidence that voters’ choices were counted correctly when tabulated. If you think about it, paper marked by a human is immune to any virus since no computer is involved. It’s your starting line in an election, with its most important fact (true voter intent) undeniably created by you. Your available choices and who you chose are both verifiable and documented. Voters unable to mark a ballot by hand will need ballot-marking device choices.

Editorials: Restoring Trust And Security In U.S. Elections | Earl Matthews/Forbes

There was a time when we didn’t think twice about the security of our election systems. We trusted that when we cast our votes, they would be accurately counted. That has changed. During the 2016 election, a powerful threat appeared from outside our own borders – the shadow of other governments hacking and attempting to unduly influence our election systems. If we care about voting and election security, and if we still believe that every voter and every vote counts, then there is a big existential question that we must be willing to address: Is cybersecurity fundamental to the health, if not the very existence, of a democracy today? I say absolutely yes. The issue is not significantly different from the challenges that businesses face as they try to protect their data and digital assets. It’s the ramifications that are so much bigger.

Editorials: An Inconclusive 2020 Election Night Is Already Looming | Jonathan Bernstein/Bloomberg

We’re one year from the 2020 presidential election. And I hope that the folks who run newsrooms at the broadcast and cable news networks, as well as at any other major media outlets, are arriving at a plan to deal with one of the trickiest parts of Election Day coverage: The slow vote count in western states. We know it’s going to happen. In several states where voting by mail is either the only or a major form of casting ballots, and where those ballots take time to collect, the Election Day counts are — not can be, but are — highly misleading. We know that millions of votes will be counted after election night. And we know that those votes will tilt toward Democrats. Therefore, we know that the count on election night will be better for Republicans than the eventual total count. One of the states involved, Arizona, is likely to be an important swing state in 2020, so it’s possible that election night will end with Arizona seemingly giving Republicans the presidency, only to flip to the Democrats a few days later. After all, in the 2018 Arizona Senate contest, Republican Martha McSally led after Election Day, but Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won when all the ballots were counted and it wasn’t all that close; Sinema prevailed by 2.4 percentage points, or 55,900 votes. The late-count tilt to Democrats isn’t just found in the vote-by-mail states. One study after 2012 found that it had become a national phenomenon, with Democrats typically gaining ground after the initially reported election-night totals. In most states, however, it’s a relatively small effect, and not entirely consistent (that is, even though Democrats usually gain a bit, sometimes Republicans do). But in a few states, the effect is predictable and large enough that ignoring it really misses the story. After election night in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s advantage in the nationwide popular vote was just over 100,000; she eventually won by 2.9 million votes. Those are very different stories, and reporting correctly requires picking the right one while everyone is still watching.

Editorials: Cities like Philadelphia are sitting ducks for cyber attacks | David Morris/The Philadelphia Inquirer

According to a new report, during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Romanian hackers used ransomware to seize control of two-thirds of the Beltway’s police security cameras – a stunning feat only slightly diminished by the fact that they went on to order pizza from an email account linked to the attack, then used hijacked police computers to run an easily traceable Amazon scam. That combination – a successful, high-profile ransomware attack executed by thumb-fingered amateurs – shows the challenges now faced by local governments. It no longer takes a genius to hack municipal computer systems: Anyone can log onto the dark web and buy email lists and the malware needed to lock police officers, hospital workers, and government officials out of their computers. One ransomware program dubbed “Philadelphia,” available online for just $400, is specifically designed to help inexperienced hackers take victims’ data hostage. Such attacks are devastating. Without the hackers’ digital key, it’s impossible to unlock hacked files, leaving cities unable to access not just cameras, but 911 systems, hospital records, communication tools, and even water and power systems. That’s why cities make enticing targets: You can’t put public services on hold, so hackers can charge a premium when extorting government entities. Hacked companies pay an average of $36,295 to retrieve their data, but public entities pay an average of $338,700, or almost 10 times as much, according to a Coveware study.

Editorials: Northampton County voting system flunks a crucial first test | Rudy Miller/Lehigh Valley Live

What now? In the run-up to the most consequential election in modern American history — as counties throughout the U.S. are arming themselves with tamper-proof voting machines — Northampton County proved last week that you don’t need Russian interference to bungle an election, seriously damaging public confidence in the process. No, you can do it all by yourself. In Tuesday’s balloting, Northampton County’s all-new machines were plagued by hypersensitive push-buttons that confused voters, sometimes requiring them to go back and re-hit buttons to correct the machines. But that was just the beginning of the troubles. Incredibly, some of the electronic machines couldn’t handle registering simple “yes-no” voting on judge retentions, and displayed severe undercounts in contests with cross-filed candidates. Most incredibly, one judge candidate, Abe Kassis, ended up with zero votes at the end of the day. Some voters were confused by the paper readout they are asked to inspect before they leave the booth (voters don’t actually get a printout in hand), to make sure the electronic machine got it right. Long story short: Northampton County’s new ExpressVote XL machines failed their first crucial test in Tuesday’s election. The county paid $2.8 million for the voter-verifiable paper trail system, an upgrade required by state law.

Editorials: Empower the FEC to Fight Election Crime – A depleted commission faces threats from Russia and beyond | Bloomberg

Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudolph Giuliani, are charged with funneling $325,000 in foreign money into a super-PAC supporting President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Their indictment should serve as a warning about the threat of foreign manipulation of U.S. elections. It also proves the need for a functioning Federal Election Commission. After a resignation in August, the six-seat commission is down to only three members. The commission needs four for a quorum, and requires a quorum to authorize investigations by its office of general counsel. So FEC lawyers can work on cases previously authorized, but they can’t investigate new ones until the president nominates, and the Senate confirms, at least one new commissioner. Trump has nominated Texas lawyer James “Trey” Trainor III — but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has fast-tracked dozens of federal court nominees, has dragged his feet on this one, failing to schedule a hearing or a vote. McConnell’s antipathy to campaign regulation appears to be trumping his duty to voters.

Editorials: Could Matt Bevin steal the Kentucky governor’s election? | Richard Hasen/Salon

Will the Kentucky Legislature assist Matt Bevin in stealing the governor’s race from Democrat Andy Beshear, who appeared to have won Tuesday’s election by about 5,000 votes? Ordinarily, I would consider the possibility preposterous. We do not live in ordinary times, though, and on Wednesday Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers raised the prospect that his institution, not the voters, could determine the outcome of the race. If Stivers and Republican Kentucky legislators were to make such a hardball move without good evidence that there were major problems with the vote count, the election would likely end up in federal court, where it is anyone’s guess what would happen. Either way, that we’re even discussing this potentiality one year before Donald Trump—who has repeatedly challenged the vote totals in his 2016 election victory—is set to face reelection is a wrenching sign for our already-damaged democracy.