Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, is asking for more money to upgrade Ohio voting machines than he had originally proposed nearly a year ago. The push for better elections equipment comes as national elections officials and experts caution that outdated systems may be compromised by cyber attackers who may find weak points to enter local and state systems, though they are disconnected from each other. Originally introduced in April, LaRose has increased from $89 million to $114.5 million the amount Senate Bill 135 would provide counties that buy new voting equipment. About $10 million would be drawn from the general revenue fund and the rest financed through borrowing via bond sales.
The Georgia Senate on Wednesday voted to approve a measure that would move the state from using digital to paper ballots during the state’s elections. The measure, Senate Bill 403, calls for the state to scrap its 16-year-old touch-screen voting system and replace it with a paper-based system. “This looks at replacing voting machines so that every single voter in our state’s vote that’s cast will be preserved,” said state Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, the bill’s sponsor. Currently, Georgia’s 27,000 touch screens leave no paper record of how people voted, making it impossible to audit elections for accuracy or to conduct verifiable recounts, lawmakers said. Legislators lately have begun to favor paper ballots because they can’t be hacked.
Counties would get nearly $115 million in state money to replace aging voting machines in time for the 2019 election under a bill expected to pass the legislature this spring. Total funding largely matches the estimate of what it would cost to replace all voting machines in Ohio with the lowest cost paper-ballot machines known as optical scan. However, the bill by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, allows counties to choose their own machines, whether they involve paper, more-expensive touch-screen machines known as DREs, or hybrid models. Franklin County could receive up to $13 million from the bill. The county Board of Elections plans to pick new voting machines by August, said spokesman Aaron Sellers. The board has estimated that new machines would cost $16 million to $30 million, depending on the type chosen. Franklin County has 4,735 voting machines now, and the board estimates it would purchase close to 5,000 if it goes with a similar system, Sellers said.
Georgia: “Misguided” hacking bill threatens to ice security researchers, say critics | Naked Security
The US state of Georgia is considering anti-hacking legislation that critics fear could criminalize security researchers. The bill, SB 315, was drawn up by state senator Bruce Thompson in January, has been approved by the state’s senate, and is now being considered by its house of representatives. The bill would expand the state’s current computer law to create what it calls the “new” crime of unauthorized computer access. It would include penalties for accessing a system without permission even if no information was taken or damaged. One of the bill’s backers, state Attorney General Chris Carr, said the bill is necessary to close a loophole: namely, the state now can’t prosecute somebody who harmlessly accesses computers without authorization.
Ohio counties could soon get some money from the state to help replace aging voting equipment. About $114.5 million would be allocated to Ohio’s 88 counties to buy new voting machines under a proposal unveiled Thursday by Sen. Frank LaRose. Most voting machines here were purchased in 2005 and 2006 with money from the federal Help America Vote Act. In recent years, county officials have said they’re unable to find parts, and some have resorted to makeshift repairs using unconventional materials or parts from dead machines.
Across Ohio, counties are coming up with innovative ways to repair the state’s aging voting machines, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace. In Darke County, an elections worker bought small springs from a farm supply store that he used to hold together a flap on voting machines. In Montgomery County, spare parts are cannibalized from dead machines and pirated from other counties to keep units limping along. And in Clark County, maintenance costs keep climbing on machines built long before anyone held an iPhone. “It’s time for a replacement,” said state Sen. Frank LaRose, a Hudson Republican who is sponsoring a bill that will spend somewhere between $90 million and $118 million on new voting machines for all 88 Ohio counties.
Legislation: Election Security a High Priority – Until It Comes to Paying for New Voting Machines | ProPublica
“Today’s voting systems are not going to last 70 years, they’re going to last 10,” says U.S. Elections Assistance Commission Commissioner Matt Masterson. While previous generations of voting equipment, lever machines and punch cards, had hardware that could be relied on for decades, today’s technology becomes outdated a lot faster. While election equipment needs to be replaced more often, election administration remains a low funding priority, a ProPublica review of state and local budgets nationwide found. In 2017, Utah appropriated $275,000 to aid counties in purchasing new voting equipment, but $500,000 to help sponsor the Sundance Film Festival. A few years earlier, Missouri allocated $2 million in grants to localities to replace voting equipment the state, while increasing the Division of Tourism budget by $10 million to $24 million.
Tennessee lawmakers have rejected a measure that would’ve required a paper receipt for all ballots cast in the state. In a meeting Tuesday of the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee, legislators voted down a bill intended to create a paper trail for auditors to follow in the event electronic voting machines are hacked. The measure had been opposed by state election officials, who say paper receipts are an unnecessary expense. Machines that spit out paper receipts would have cost Tennessee election commissions about $9.5 million up front, and they would have cost millions more to operate. Mark Goins, the state’s coordinator of elections, says there’s also not much evidence that voting machines are in danger of being hacked.
Hoping to counter waves of Russian Twitter bots, fake social media accounts, and hacking attacks aimed at undermining American democracy, state election officials around the country are seizing on an old-school strategy: paper ballots. In Virginia, election officials have gone back to a paper ballot system, as a way to prevent any foreign interference. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe this month ordered county officials to ensure new election equipment produces a paper record. Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation to replace a touch-screen voting system with paper.
A unique effort is underway in Georgia to safeguard elections by taking voting machines back to the future. “The most secure elections in the world are conducted with a piece of paper and a pencil,” said Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner. “It allows you to continue into the future to verify the result.” Turner has proposed a bill that would retire Georgia’s electronic touch-screen voting machines and switch to paper ballots that voters would fill out and then be counted by optical scan machines. The technology has been in use for decades to score standardized tests for grade-school students.