National: EAC Certifies ES&S Unity Voting System | Election Assistance Commission

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has certified the Unity voting system by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) to the 2002 Voting System Standards. It is the fifth voting system to achieve federal certification under EAC’s Voting System Testing and Certification Program. The Unity comprises two precinct-based optical scanners—the M100 and the DS200—and…

National: DOJ probe says Panthers case handled appropriately | Associated Press

In a case that has drawn strong criticism from Republican conservatives, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has found no evidence that politics played a role when department attorneys dismissed three defendants from a voting rights lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party. OPR, which investigates allegations of attorney misconduct, concluded that the government…

National: In states, parties clash over voting laws that would affect college students, others | Washington Post

New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They’re “foolish,” Speaker William O’Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group. “Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and…

National: EAC Initiates Formal Investigation Into ES&S Unity Voting System | Election Assistance Commission

As part of its Quality Monitoring Program, EAC will investigate the EAC-certified ES&S DS200 Precinct Count Optical Scanner (Firmware Version contained in the ES&S Unity for possible non-conformities with the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. Download correspondence related to the investigation and a timeline of activities leading up to it. Learn more about EAC’s…

National: Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) Introduces Bill to Terminate EAC | Yall Politics

Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections Chairman Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., introduced legislation to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and save taxpayers approximately $14 million dollars a year. “The Election Assistance Commission is a prime example of an unnecessary government organization developed with good intentions that has outlived its usefulness. By eliminating the…

National: Vote Flipping and Touch Screen Calibration

Again this election cycle, stories have emerged about “vote flipping”, most notably in Texas, where a video of erratic touchscreen behavior was posted on several sites, and in several North Carolina counties. (link, link, link, link) As voting technology expert Douglas Jones wrote several years ago, it seems unlikely that vote flipping is evidence of intentional hacking. However, these incidents do highlight the lack of transparency of software-generated election results and undermine confidence in elections generally. Vote flipping can be caused by a voter touching the screen in two places, for example resting one hand on the machine while making selections with the other (see pp. 20-22 here), but the most likely cause of “vote-flipping” is miscalibration. As Rice University computer scientist Dan Wallach explains in a post at ACCURATE:

The screen shows pictures of buttons with labels for the various candidates, which the voter selects by touching the screen with their finger. Some voters using these machines have reported problems where they pressed the button for one candidate and a different candidate was selected. These issues are most likely the result of poor touchscreen calibration rather than any security problems with the voting machines’ software.

The clear, touch-sensitive layer is separate from the part of the screen that displays the buttons. The thickness of the touch-sensitive layer directly implies that when different voters are looking at the screen from different angles, they will naturally want to touch the screen at different locations. This can be partly addressed by “calibrating” the touchscreen in advance. The calibration process, familiar to anyone who owns a PDA, involves the machine displaying a series of cross-hairs and asking the user to press on the center of each cross-hair. The machine then computes a correction to ensure that selections are mapped to the correct part of the screen below. Of course, if the calibration was done incorrectly, or even if the voter is notably taller or shorter than the person who did the calibration, then presses on the screen might still be misinterpreted. Furthermore, different voters may use different parts of their finger (ranging from the fingernail to the whole finger), which may differ from how the system was calibrated. (See also “Touch Screen Usability: Election Edition!” and “Vote Flipping and Touchscreens“) Vote flipping was investigated in several articles during the 2008 election cycle. Computerworld interviewed both voting machine vendor and election integrity activists for “Are design issues to blame for vote ‘flipping’ in touch-screen machines?” and Wired magazine posted an article about the potential for maliscious calibration as detailed in the Ohio EVEREST report.

National: Schumer Applauds Justice Department for Requiring ES&S to Sell Off Voting Machine Unit Purchased from Diebold

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees election issues, today applauded the Department of Justice’s decision to require Election Systems & Software to sell off the voting systems unit it purchased from Diebold last November. The consent decree in this case lasts for ten years, ensuring that competition is protected in the voting system industry. Schumer raised serious questions about the merger of ES&S Inc. and Premier Election Systems when it was first revealed in September 2009, because it created one company that would control at least 70 percent of the U.S. market for voting systems. The merger had been completed without any advance notice or consultation with the Justice Department.

“This decision will restore competition to an industry that is critical to our democracy. If left unchallenged, this merger would have created a virtual monopoly that could have done serious harm to the idea of free and fair elections,” Schumer said. “This action will prevent one company from garnering three times the market of its next closest competitor. Localities need choices in their voting machines, just like voters need choices on the ballot.”

National: Feds Move to Break Voting-Machine Monopoly | Wired

Citing anti-competitive concerns, the Justice Department sued Election Systems & Software in order to force the company to divest itself of the voting machine assets it obtained from Premier Election Solutions last year. The department’s antitrust division, along with nine state attorneys general, filed the civil antitrust lawsuit (.pdf) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., charging that the acquisition threatened competition. The department proposed a settlement that, if accepted, would dissolve the merger and force ES&S to sell its Premier business to a buyer approved by the Justice Department. “The proposed settlement (.pdf) will restore competition, provide a greater range of choices and create incentives to provide secure, accurate and reliable voting-equipment systems now and in the future,” said Molly S. Boast, deputy assistant attorney general for the antitrust division in a statement. The nine states that joined the suit are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington.

National: In Industry First, Voting Machine Company to Publish Source Code | WIRED

Sequoia Voting Systems plans to publicly release the source code for its new optical scan voting system, the company announced Tuesday — a remarkable reversal for a voting machine maker long criticized for resisting public examination of its proprietary systems. The company’s new public source optical-scan voting system, called Frontier Election System, will be submitted for federal certification and testing in the first quarter of next year. The code will be released for public review in November, the company said, on its web site. Sequoia’s proprietary, closed systems are currently used in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The announcement comes five days after a non-profit foundation announced the release of its open-source election software for public review. Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Shafer says the timing of its release is unrelated to the foundation’s announcement. … Sequoia in fact has been a champion of security through obscurity since it’s been selling voting systems. The company has long had a reputation for vigorously fighting any efforts by academics, voting activists and others to examine the source code in its proprietary systems, and even threatened to sue Princeton University computer scientists if they disclosed anything learned from a court-ordered review of its software.

National: Microsoft reports hundreds of election-related cyber probes | Associated Press

Tech giant Microsoft says it has detected more than 740 infiltration attempts by nation-state actors in the past year targeting U.S.-based political parties, campaigns and other democracy-focused organizations including think tanks and other nonprofits. However a company spokeswoman would not name or further characterize the targets. All of them subscribe to Microsoft’s year-old AccountGuard service, which provides free cyberthreat detection to candidates, campaigns and other mostly election-related groups. Microsoft did not say how many infiltration attempts were successful but noted in a blog post Wednesday that such targeting similarly occurred in the early stages of the 2016 and 2018 elections. “Cyberattacks continue to be a significant tool and weapon wielded in cyberspace,” Microsoft said. “In some instances, those attacks appear to be related to ongoing efforts to attack the democratic process. A year ago, Microsoft said it had detected attempts to infiltrate the networks of U.S. senatorial candidates and think tanks. “As we head into the 2020 elections, given both the broad reliance on cyberattacks by nation-states and the use of cyberattacks to specifically target democratic processes, we anticipate that we will see attacks targeting U.S. election systems, political campaigns or NGOs that work closely with campaigns,” Microsoft said.