The next president of the NASS has strong words for House Democrats considering a range of election security measures: Butt out. H.R. 1, a Democratic grab-bag bill with election security provisions, “seems to be a huge federal overreach,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate told POLITICO. “No matter how well-intentioned, the provisions of the bill give the authority of overseeing and conducting elections and voter registration to the federal government.” (In fact, the bill would not do this.) Pate’s remarks, first reported by National Journal, mirror comments by former Georgia Secretary of State Paul Kemp in August 2016. Pate cited NASS’s long-standing opposition to federal mandates for election procedures — in October, the group warned against tying federal funds to regulations — and said state election offices like his are “better prepared than the federal government to determine what is right for their residents.” Despite Pate’s suggestion that “our country’s legal and historical distinctions in federal and state sovereignty” invest states with the exclusive authority to regulate elections, Article I Section 4 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “at any time by Law make or alter” election processes.
Georgia’s voting security commission on Thursday endorsed an electronic voting system over paper ballots after a meeting in which commission members routinely overrode suggestions of the group’s lone cybersecurity expert. The vote to approve recommendations to the state legislature was 13-3, with the expert, Dr. Wenke Lee of Georgia Tech, among the dissenters. Lee proposed several amendments based on the consensus view of cyber experts, including a provision explaining that experts favor paper ballots processed by optical scanners over ballot-marking devices, which process voters’ decisions electronically and generate paper slips showing those choices. But the Republican-led commission rejected most of them. (Asked for comment, Lee pointed to a blog post he wrote. The final recommendations have not yet been posted.)
Georgia’s woefully insecure election technology grabbed the spotlight during the 2016 and 2018 elections, when the Peach State was one of five to rely exclusively on paperless machines. As mentioned above, Kemp, elected governor in November, spent years blasting the federal government over its increasing involvement in election security. But facing mounting pressure from election integrity advocates and security experts, he created a commission to guide state lawmakers in replacing the paperless machines.
Georgians testifying before the commission overwhelmingly argued for paper ballots. Some of them grew emotional as they described Georgia’s insecure machines as a source of national embarrassment and urged the commission to chart a better future for the state. While ballot-marking devices sound secure because they involve paper records, if hackers compromise the devices, they can manipulate votes printed on the slips, which voters often fail to verify. Hackers can also manipulate the barcodes on the slips, which are the official vote records, so they display differently from the accompanying text.