The November 3 election is less than two weeks away and a team of experts in cybersecurity, computer science and political science at Boise State has been awarded $500,000 by the Idaho Secretary of State. The team will establish the Idaho Election Cybersecurity Center (INSURE), whose role will be to recommend and develop tools, technologies and policies to protect the election process from cyber and information attacks. “Election cybersecurity is critical to ensure that Americans are able to carry out their democratic duty and privilege with confidence. Our researchers’ new and groundbreaking work in this area will be vital in efforts to help our nation maintain a secure and trustworthy election process,” said Dr. Marlene Tromp, Boise State president.
Idaho: Ada County Election’s Office purchases almost half a million dollar ballot-sorting machine | Nicole Camarda/KIVI
With almost 144,000 absentee ballots already mailed, Ada County sent out their own record number of mail-in ballots for this year’s November election. Ada County purchased a machine to help with the sorting and signature verifications of absentee ballots. The almost half a million dollar Bluecrest ballot-sorting machine, nicknamed “Bessie,” allows the Ada County election’s office to scan in mail-in ballots as soon as they arrive. “It takes a picture of everyone’s signature that we then cross verify with our system,” Ada County elections director Saul Seyler says. Once the signatures are verified, the ballots will get re-run, and the machine will alert to anything that wasn’t adequately verified or causes of concerns.
Idaho: Federal Court rules voters have more time to request their absentee ballot | Ximena Bustillo/Idaho Statesman
Idaho voters will now have until Tuesday to request their absentee ballots, according to a new Idaho federal court ruling Friday night. All voters who submitted a request that arrived at Ada County Elections after the previous May 19 deadline will be issued a ballot, along with any additional requests received before May 26 at 8 p.m, according to a press release from the Ada County Clerk’s office. The ruling is a response to a series of problems the Idaho Votes website encountered in processing last-minute requests on Tuesday. Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said voters had two options: download and email the form or drive it down to their county clerk’s office by 8 p.m. that night. That afternoon, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office announced it did not have plans to extend the deadline to request a ballot.
Idaho: Secretary of State working with Boise cybersecurity company on absentee election security | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press
The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office is working with a Boise-based cybersecurity company to track election security-related issues during the state’s unprecedented absentee ballot election. According to a press release, PlexTrac will allow the secretary of state election cybersecurity team to collaborate with every county in the state about any election security issues that come up. Tuesday, the day of the primary election, was the last day for voters to request a ballot. Completed ballots are due June 2, when results will be released. Foster Cronyn, deputy secretary of state, said the office has implemented several tools over previous election years that monitor and report on election security. “PlexTrac consolidates this very complex information into an organized, actionable report for our cyber security analysts,” Cronyn said. “In previous elections, we have had to manually review these reports and look for patterns. Although this election is absentee ballot only, these are still requested, tallied and reported on using large online computing systems. PlexTrac aggregates security reports from these systems.”
Idaho: Privacy please: Protected information for some Idaho voters accidentally released | Misty Inglet/KTBV
The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office is admitting to a computer glitch that led to some private voter information being released. Recently, the Idaho Freedom Foundation requested a list of registered Idaho voters from the Secretary of State’s Office. That list contains voter names, addresses, and party affiliation. That basic voter information is public and as such, the Secretary of State’s Office followed legal procedure by providing the list to the group as well as eight other organizations. However, Dep. Secretary of State Chad Houck confirmed to KTVB that the list provided did contain some protected information that should not have been released. Idaho Freedom Action, a branch of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, posted the list online on May 13, which drew the privacy issue to the attention of the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as others.
Idaho is holding an entirely mail-in primary for the first time as the state works to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Ballots must be requested by Tuesday and returned by 8 p.m. June 2 to local county elections offices, with results announced that evening. The Idaho secretary of state’s office said 320,000 ballots have been requested and mailed out, with about 100,000 returned in what could be a record turnout. “It’s looking like equal or better than the presidential primary” in March, said Secretary of State Chief Deputy Chad Houck. Democratic voters will see one high-profile name on their ballot: Former 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan of Plummer is running against former congressional candidate Jim Vandermaas, a retired law enforcement worker from Eagle, for a chance to challenge GOP Sen. Jim Risch in November.
Idaho: May primary election won’t be delayed, but will go all-absentee | Betsy Z. Russell/Idaho Press
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said Monday afternoon that the governor won’t be delaying the May 19 primary election, but it’ll go all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. “He is not going to delay it,” Denney told the Idaho Press. “We still have some things to iron out about exactly what we will be trying to do … and I can tell you we’re going to push very, very hard for as much absentee as we can, so that we don’t have people having to be in contact with each other.” Gov. Brad Little’s office confirmed this decision in a press release later that afternoon and said Little will issue a proclamation addressing the election in the coming days. The election will be conducted by mail, the governor’s announcement states, noting “the move is necessary after it became clear that sufficient polling places and poll workers could not be obtained for the election.” There were legal impediments to delaying the election for a month, as Denney had requested. “Personally, I don’t think it’s legally impossible, but there was a question whether he had the authority to delay it or not,” Denney explained. “By not delaying it, it takes one more potential challenge off the table.”
Idaho: Secretary of State asks Idaho voters to use absentee ballots | Corey Evan/Independent-Enterprise
As the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues, the Idaho Secretary of State is encouraging voters in Idaho to use absentee ballots for the May 19 election. Christine Poe, Deputy Election Clerk for Payette County, said that every effort would be made to preserve election integrity. “The State of Idaho and all counties do all we can insure that when a voter goes to the polls or absentee votes by mail or in person, that privacy and integrity are priorities,” said Poe via email on March 20. “Mail ballot absentees are processed by an election official in our office and personally delivered to the post office for mailing. A new registrant is required to show ID and proof of residency to order to request an absentee ballot. [For] a voter that is already registered, our office will compare signatures with our records. When ballots are returned, our office will place the ballots in a locked ballot box until the evening of May 19, when our staff will remove the voted ballot envelope from the signed affidavit envelope. Only when all the affidavit envelopes are all opened will we begin to open the voted envelopes, so as not to associate any ballot with any voter. We will then run the ballots thru our tabulating machines to get the final voting results.”
Idaho: Election officials work on alternatives to in-person voting for May primary | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press
Secretary of State Lawerence Denney and the 44 Idaho county clerks are discussing possible changes to the upcoming May 19 primary election, amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, Denney released a statement saying the state would be encouraging voters to request absentee ballots for the election. The same day, the Idaho Democratic Party released a letter asking Gov. Brad Little and Denney to hold an all absentee ballot election. Absentee voting requires the voter to request a vote-by-mail ballot. An all-mail ballot election means the counties would automatically mail ballots to all registered voters. Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said he, the other county clerks and the Secretary of State’s Office have been looking at a number of options for the May 19 election. He said he expects to “have clarity” as early as Monday on what the election will look like. McGrane said the group is looking at consolidating polling locations, mailing out absentee ballot requests to voters and what authority the state has to delay the election.
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.”
Idaho: Precincts experience problems with new Hart InterCivic voting equipment | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press
Some Canyon County voters were unable to vote on school levies Tuesday because of issues with the county’s new election equipment. Others experienced problems with their entire ballot and were instructed to come back later in the day to vote. Problems started soon after polls opened, according to Middleton School District spokeswoman Vickie Holbrook, when a Middleton voter was unable to vote on the district’s supplemental levy at their polling place, the Notus Community Center. Holbrook told the Idaho Press in an email that Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto went to the precinct and explained how poll workers could work around the ballot issue, so that people could vote on the correct ballot. Yamamoto told the Idaho Press on Tuesday evening he’s unsure how many voters were affected, but he believes the number is low based on the precincts he visited Tuesday. “I have no way of knowing how many people didn’t vote this morning but we have a good idea in certain places,” he said. The county is gathering information to see how many voters were impacted by the ballot problems, Yamamoto said.
Idaho: Canyon County rolls out new Hart Ballot Marking Devices for all voters equipment ahead of March election | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press
Thursday morning the Canyon County Elections Office was bustling with county and poll workers unpacking the county’s new voting equipment to prepare for Election Day on March 10. Canyon County voters this election are using the new $3 million system for the first time, a system that will use both an electronic and paper ballot system. Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said the new system isn’t really “electronic voting,” because the machines print out a completed paper ballot once votes are cast. “What the machines are doing is it is running the pencil for you, it prints out a paper ballot that we store. We have it on digital, but we also have a paper ballot,” Yamamoto said. Voters who have participated in early voting have already used the system under the guidance of trained poll workers.
Local officials say they’re more optimistic that new voter registration software will be ready by March 11. Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced the statewide software rollout in 2018. Florida-based company Tenex is making the system on a $4 million contract. Election officials from several local counties had expressed concerns that the software wouldn’t be functional by March 11. But Bannock County Clerk Jason Dixon says a Thursday meeting in Boise between county clerks from around the state and the Secretary of State’s Office was “very encouraging.” Dixon says a software update fixing 35 system issues should be rolled out in the next few days, and training for counties across the state on the new software begins next week. Dixon says that while the Secretary of State’s Office hasn’t met benchmarks in the past, he has “faith and hope” that this time will be different.
Idaho: Voter registration system to be overhauled, according to election officials | Trevor Fay/KBOI
The Idaho State Voter Registration System (ISVRS) needs to be replaced, according to the Canyon County Clerk’s Office. CBS2 News spoke with election officials about what needs to happen to get the voting system up to speed. Chris Yamamoto, Canyon County Clerk, and Chief Elections Officer, worked with the Idaho Secretary of State to replace the ISVRS. Yamamoto wants the new system to be GIS-based, meaning it keeps track of voter addresses. He says the current system is known to crash when many people use it at once, like during elections.
Idaho: Canyon County approves purchasing $3 million election equipment from Hart Intercivic | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press
The Canyon County Board of Commissioners has approved a roughly $3 million contract for new voting equipment. After two separate meetings Monday, the commission in a 2-1 vote approved the contract between the Canyon County Elections Office and Texas-based Hart InterCivic. Commissioners Pam White and Tom Dale voted in favor of approving the contract, and Commissioner Leslie Van Beek voted against it. The contract includes the purchase of an entirely new voting system, including polling pads, ballot distribution machines and precinct counters. The system would eliminate most of the human error that comes with having election poll workers distribute ballots, said Haley Hicks, elections supervisor for Canyon County. The equipment and contract with Hart will cost the county just over $3 million. Canyon County has historically had multiple problems during elections, including late nights of ballot counting — the county finished counting ballots after 3 a.m. one election night in 2018 and at 7 a.m. the next morning in 2017. In 2018, the elections office forgot to count 39 ballots from overseas citizens and active members of the military on election night.
Blue Valley Mobile Home Park, a community of about 900 people in Boise’s far southeast corner, was annexed into the city in 2014. But when it came to city elections, Blue Valley voters were disenfranchised. A clerical error kept about 150 voters off the city voting rolls in the 2015 city election and 190 in the 2017 election, according to county Elections Director, even though property owners were paying city taxes by then. Voters in Blue Valley were added to city rolls in June, Levine said Wednesday, after Blue Valley residents realized what had happened and complained. He said officials are looking into how the problem occurred and who is responsible. One resident, Jennifer Wiley, told the Statesman that she went to her polling place to vote in the 2015 mayoral race just to be turned away. An Idaho Statesman reporter who reviewed voting rolls was unable to find a single Blue Valley address on more than a hundred pages of voting rolls for November city elections in those years — the first two elections in which Blue Valley residents should have been able to vote. Blue Valley, along with other homes near the neighborhood, is assigned to Precinct 1803 in Ada County. When Wiley got to her polling place, poll workers told her she wasn’t eligible to vote in the city election.
Amid a major spat between House Republicans and Democrats that threatened to slow the House’s business to a crawl for the rest of this year’s legislative session, a controversial redistricting bill was pulled from the House floor on Tuesday by unanimous consent. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, asked to send HJR 2 — the GOP redistricting bill that proposed amending Idaho’s Constitution to add a seventh member to the Redistricting Commission — back to the House State Affairs Committee. The bill would let the state’s top elected officials — all Republicans — pick that final tie-breaking commission member. “That resolution, when it came to the floor, caused a lot of concern from some of our members here on the floor,” Moyle said.
Lawmakers say they are working on an agreement involving an impasse on legislation that could lead to changing the Idaho Constitution involving redistricting that Republicans want but Democrats oppose. Republican and Democratic leaders on Monday said they are talking, and that was enough for Democrats not to use procedural rules to slow down progress in the House by forcing the full reading of bills as they did on Friday.
Three Democrats on a House panel considering a change to the Idaho Constitution involving redistricting walked out in protest on Friday at what they called a clear attempt at gerrymandering before the 10 Republicans voted unanimously to send the legislation to the full House. A short time later, the Democratic House Minority Leader, Mat Erpelding, continued the protest by requiring the full text of three bills be read before debate could begin. Democrats have said the redistricting legislation made public Wednesday followed by the hearing on Friday happened too fast to allow adequate public participation. “If they want to speed up the process, I can slow down the process,” Erpelding said after the House adjourned.
Lawmakers voted Wednesday to consider a change to the Idaho Constitution to add a seventh member to the independent commission that redraws congressional and legislative maps. The House State Affairs Committee voted to conduct a hearing on the proposal. If it passes by a two-thirds majority in the GOP-dominated Senate and House, the plan would then go to the voters for approval. Redistricting is important because it can decide which party gets the majority of congressional and state legislative seats. It is a contentious issue nationwide. Currently, the commission in Idaho is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats.
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said last week he would like to hire a cybersecurity specialist for his office to lead the state’s efforts to repel attempts to hack its election infrastructure. The new position would give Denney’s agency a full-time worker who can monitor and respond to threats against the state’s voter registration database and coordinate with clerks and other officials across Idaho’s 44 counties. Denney made the formal request to members of the Idaho state legislature last Friday, though plans for the new position have their origin in the $3.2 million grant the state received last year from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. According to a document Denney’s agency submitted to the EAC last July, Idaho would spend up to $220,000 in salary and benefits for a cybersecurity professional specializing in election issues.
Signs at the polls in Rexburg warning students in the college town, home of BYU-Idaho, against voting there “simply because you failed to register and vote at your true domicile” were taken down Tuesday afternoon, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho charged that they violated the federal Voting Rights Act. Chief Deputy Idaho Secretary of State Tim Hurst said, “They never turned anybody away. I talked to the county clerk over there today.” Nevertheless, the signs, which were headed in big letters at the top, “STUDENTS,” were taken down mid-afternoon. Hurst said the signs originated with the Secretary of State’s office a decade or more ago, but he wasn’t aware of any other counties that were still posting them. “They were displayed just about everywhere a number of years ago,” he said. Hurst maintained the signs accurately reflect Idaho law about establishing residency. However, he said, “If you’ve been a resident for 30 days, you’re entitled to vote.”
The websites for the Idaho Legislature and Idaho’s iCourt portal were hacked Friday morning by a hacktivist group called AnonPlus Italia. From about 11 to 11:10 a.m., both websites were replaced with a black screen, and a manifesto written in Italian about government and media slavery. (The entirety of the text is posted at the end of this article.) AnonPlus is a sporadically active branch of Anonymous, a loosely connected group of hackers, which claim responsibility for online hacks that take place around the globe. AnonPlus was originally associated with a social network for Anonymous, but that network was later hacked by another group and ultimately abandoned. The name “AnonPlus” has been used occasionally in association with others hacks since then. It appears the most recent iteration of the group began activity this year. Italian media reported this week that AnonPlus had performed a seemingly identical hack — with the same message — on the K-9 Web Protection website, which is part of the Symantec antivirus company. K-9 Web Protection filters internet content.
As midterm primary elections inch closer and closer, cybersecurity of election systems is top of mind across the nation. Seventeen states requested on-site risk assessments from the Department of Homeland Security to ensure elections are secure against cyber-tampering. Idaho was not one of those states but election officials say the Gem State is involved in informal conversations with both DHS and the FBI regarding election cybersecurity. That includes constant vulnerability scans. … Just last week, election officials implemented several DHS processes and recommendations to keep state elections secure. But among Idaho’s high-tech security measures, the state’s best defense against a potential threat is much simpler.
Idaho lawmakers on Monday proposed a measure with strong Republican support that would dramatically change the state’s independent commission in charge of re-drawing congressional and legislative maps every decade. Redistricting is important because it can decide which party gets the majority of congressional and state legislative seats. It is a contentious issue nationwide. The Senate State Affairs Committee introduced a proposal that would amend Idaho’s Constitution to change the state’s redistricting commission from six to nine members, with the state’s legislative council deciding the ninth commissioner. The proposal will go to Idaho voters in November if it passes by a two-thirds majority in the GOP-dominant Senate and House.
Idaho: Secretary of state seeks budget boost to upgrade software, transparency | The Spokesman-Review
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney is asking for a budget increase next year of more than 70 percent, with most of the increase coming in a major upgrade to the state’s election software system to allow more transparent reporting of campaign finances, lobbyist records and election management and results. “This will allow us to migrate the full functionality of the state’s election software management applications into a single, comprehensive and purpose-built software suite that will carry us into the future,” Denney told the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “These areas represent within the election system the highest customer interest from a voter-information standpoint. It’s through these areas that voters can look up who is running and what they’re running for, who is contributing to the campaigns, and who is lobbying, along with our election management and an upgrade to our election-night reporting.” The move was endorsed unanimously earlier by a legislative interim committee that’s recommending more and more frequent campaign finance reporting.
A recount for a local election in southern Idaho has overturned a win that was decided by a coin toss last month. Dick Galbraith and Glen Loveland ran against each other for a seat on the city council in the small southern city of Heyburn. Officials said the race ended in a 112-112 vote tie, The Times-News reported To select the winner, a coin toss was held in mid-November. Galbraith lost and then requested a recount as allowed under state election laws. “I had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t right,” Galbraith said. “And honestly, I just had too much heartburn over losing to a coin toss.”
Idahoans can now register to vote online for the first time. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Tuesday that the move will offer convenience to voters and cut down administrative work for county election officials. “Today, Idahoans can not only find out things like where to vote, whether they are registered to vote, or whether the county has received their absentee ballot, but also register to vote online,” Denney said. Online registration requires voters, who would have to have a state-issued ID, to fill out an electronic application that is then sent to state elections officials for validation. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide digital copies of voter signatures from state-issued driver’s licenses to become part of the voter registration database.
The contest pits incumbent Mayor Rebecca Casper against Councilwoman Barbara Ehardt. Thirty miles to the south, Blackfoot also will hold a runoff election between incumbent Mayor Paul Loomis and challenger Marc Carroll. Runoff elections are triggered when a single candidate doesn’t garner more than a 50 percent of the vote. Though Idaho Falls’ 2005 runoff ordinance is relatively new, Gem State cities are generally trending away from the contests because of their impact on local budgets and how infrequently they change general results. Still, a handful of Idaho cities use runoffs to magnify and hone candidate viewpoints, as well as allow their community to elect with consensus.