The Voting News

National: Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump | Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos/The New York Times

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him. The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant. During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he had been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans. Though intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, last week’s briefing did contain what appeared to be new information, including that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election.

Full Article: Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump - The New York Times.

National: Trump sacks intelligence director after congress is warned Russia wants to see him re-elected | Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan/The Washington Post

A senior US intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see president Donald Trump re-elected, viewing his administration as more favourable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House of Representatives lawmakers in a classified hearing, Mr Trump erupted at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, perceiving him and his staff as disloyal for speaking to congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Mr Trump’s furious response ruined Mr Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. It was not clear what specific steps, if any, US intelligence officials think Russia may have taken to help Mr Trump, according to the individuals. Mr Trump announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the US ambassador to Germany. The shake-up at the top of the intelligence community is the latest in a post-impeachment purge. Mr Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists.

Full Article: Trump sacks intelligence director after congress is warned Russia wants to see him re-elected | The Independent.

National: Disability rights groups say focus on election security hurting voter accessibility | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Disability rights advocates on Thursday urged election officials to focus on accessibility alongside security for U.S. elections and pushed for more technological solutions that would allow all Americans to cast secure votes. “For people with disabilities, our votes aren’t secure now,” Kelly Buckland, the executive director of the National Council for Independent Living, said at an election accessibility summit hosted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Thursday. “I believe we could make them more secure through technology that is available today.” After Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections — which according to U.S. intelligence agencies and former special counsel Robert Mueller involved sweeping disinformation efforts on social media and targeting of vulnerabilities in voter registration systems — election security has become a major topic of debate on the national stage. Concerns around the use of technology in elections were also heightened this month following the use of a new vote tabulation app by the Iowa Democratic Party during the Iowa caucuses. The app malfunctioned due to a “coding issue,” leading to chaos around the final vote tally.  After these incidents, election security experts have advocated for using more paper ballots to ensure no individual or group can hack the votes, and to ensure no glitch can occur.  However, disability groups on Thursday noted that moving to just paper could make it difficult to vote for blind or visually impaired people, those who have difficulty leaving their homes, or those for whom English is not their first language.

Full Article: Disability rights groups say focus on election security hurting voter accessibility | TheHill.

Illinois: Citizen Group Questions QR Codes for Voting Audits | Mary Schuermann Kuhlman/Public News Service

Early voting for the March 17 primary is now under way for some Illinoisans, but a citizens group contends voters should wait until Election Day to cast a ballot. Chicago Board of Elections’ new Loop Super Site opened on Wednesday, and features new touch screen voting machines and ballot scanners. Dr. Lora Chamberlain is on the board of the group Clean Count Cook County, which maintains the ballot marking devices have significant flaws. “They print a QR code on the ballot and that’s what’s counted,” she explains. “Not the choices written out, but the QR code. “And there’s no smart app, there’s no machine, it’s proprietary. So the voters can never actually know what’s being counted off their ballot.” The machines print a paper record of the voter’s selections, but Chamberlain notes it doesn’t show races the voter might have missed on the ballot.

Full Article: Citizen Group Questions QR Codes for Voting Audits / Public News Service.

Illinois: Chicago gets new ‘giant iPad’-style electronic voting machines | Ella Lee/Chicago Sun-Times

New electronic voting machines were rolled out in Chicago this week — just in time for early voting for next month’s primary elections. The machines are touch-screen, like a “giant iPad” and capture an electronic scan of the voter’s ballot before printing, according to Jim Allen, Chicago Board of Election spokesman. “Even if those paper ballots were to be damaged, lost, destroyed or tampered with, you’d not only have the paper, but also the scanned images of all the ballots cast,” Allen said of the technological capabilities of the machines. There will be roughly 4500 new electronic machines in city-based precincts on March 17. Early voters started using the machines Wednesday at the Loop Super Site, at 191 N. Clark St. And when early voting expands to the rest of the precincts, the machines will be available at those locations as well. In addition to hiring cybersecurity expert and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the $22 million upgrade is another effort by the election board to improve security since Russian hackers tapped Illinois’ voter registration system in 2016.

Full Article: Illinois elections: Chicago gets new ‘giant iPad’-style electronic voting machines - Chicago Sun-Times.

Kentucky: Election Machinery Regularly Scanned by Foreign Hackers, Official Says | DH Kass/MSSP Alert

The state of Kentucky’s election systems are “routinely scanned” by foreign hackers, including North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, a senior election official told legislators in a state House budget subcommittee hearing. “This is not something that is in the past, that happened in 2016,” Jared Dearing, executive director of Kentucky’s Board of Elections told the subcommittee, according to the (Kentucky) Courier Journal. “It happens on a weekly basis.” A U.S. Department of Homeland Security official meets with the board every week to go over every scan against Kentucky’s system, he said. Cyber break-ins at the state election level are a growing concern for security defenders, with many states complaining rightfully that funding to fend off attacks is sorely lacking. “We’re asking county clerks with very, very limited resources, with not enough IT staff, to fully maintain their own systems,” Dearing said. “We’re asking them to participate in national security.” Late last year, some help arrived in the federal government’s fiscal 2020 budget agreement that includes $425 million in state election grants to improve cybersecurity. Increased awareness by state officials combined with supplemental financial support could present new opportunities for managed security service providers (MSSPs) and managed service providers (MSPs).

Full Article: Kentucky’s Election Machinery Regularly Scanned by Foreign Hackers, Official Says - MSSP Alert.

Michigan: GOP leader opposes bill to process surge of absentee ballots | David Eggert/Associated Press

A top Republican lawmaker on Wednesday came out in opposition to legislation that would ease Michigan election clerks’ ability to process an expected surge of absentee ballots and avoid a delay in releasing results, saying it would set a “dangerous precedent.” Local officials want legislators to let them start opening return envelopes for absentee ballots the day before Election Day. The actual ballots would still stay inside secrecy envelopes until counting on Election Day. As of Tuesday, the number of absentee ballot applications was at 703,400 for the March 10 presidential primary, up 70.5% from 412,425 at the same pointin 2016. The figures have jumped since voters approved a ballot initiative in 2018 that allows people to vote absentee for any reason, according to Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office. The number of returned ballots was at 245,874 three weeks before the primary, up 48% from 165,947 four years ago. While the bill was not expected to be approved in time for the primary, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s stance means the proposed change may not be enacted before the November presidential election in a key battleground presidential state.

Full Article: Mich. GOP leader opposes bill to process surge of absentee ballots.

Minnesota: Standoff looms over election security, provisional ballots | Brian Bakst/MPR News

The Republican-sponsored bill for a provisional ballot system is tied to a measure unlocking more federal funding to enhance election security. The Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee advanced it Tuesday on a 6-3 party-line vote. The rules would apply to anyone who registers at the polls. Their ballots would be kept out of counts until additional eligibility and residency verification checks are done within a week of an election. Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said it’s an election-integrity safeguard. “Once the ballot is in the box, it’s like pouring two cups of water together — one has toxins in it and the other doesn’t. You can’t separate that water again,” he said. “The same thing goes here.” Democrats argued it would impose new voting obstacles — and could tie up legitimate votes — when there isn’t widespread evidence of ineligible people casting ballots. “If a person were to swear erroneously and after the fact be found out that it was a lie, they have a felony. They have a felony,” said Sen. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights. “This is not done light-heartedly. And as we know in the state of Minnesota it is rarely done and usually by mistake.”

Full Article: Standoff looms over election security, provisional ballots | MPR News.

Nevada: Caucus chaos again? Experts fear vote-counting problems in Nevada | Adam Edelman/NBC

A new early-voting system, high turnout and questions about a never-before-used digital tool being used to process results could threaten the success of the Nevada Democratic caucuses on Saturday, election experts told NBC News. “I don’t see how any technologist or any party official or any political scientist can promise that this will turn out OK,” said Mark Lindeman, the director of science and technology policy for Verified Voting, a nonpartisan nonprofit group that advocates for election accuracy and transparency. “There are too many tools and procedures that are being rolled out, some at the last minute,” he continued. “And my impression is that the people on the ground who are charged with implementing these procedures and using these tools are not confident they can do it.” Lindeman added, “I hope that it goes better than Iowa, but it is definitely at risk for similar reasons.”

Full Article: Caucus chaos again? Experts fear vote-counting problems in Nevada.

Nevada: Will there be more presidential caucus chaos? ‘Nevada is just praying’ | Seema Mehta and Matt Pearce/Los Angeles Times

Dozens of Democratic volunteers scurried around Doña Maria Mexican Restaurant in polite pandemonium last week as they staged a mock caucus to prepare for the real thing on Saturday in Nevada. A dining area filled with cries of “Salma Hayek!” “Jennifer Lopez!” “Salma Hayek!” as the volunteers playfully grouped themselves by favorite celebrity rather than by favorite candidate to familiarize themselves with the state’s caucus process. That was the fun part. But when it came time to actually count votes — not a mere act of addition but a whole range of subtraction, multiplication and division to award delegates — the room fell quiet as participants stared at a whiteboard spreadsheet more than eight columns wide. The complexity of Nevada’s new rules, which now include adding absentee early voters to the mix, had set in. Democratic officials and campaigns in Nevada are desperately hoping to avoid another caucus meltdown like the one this month in Iowa, where campaigns devoted millions of dollars and deployed hundreds of volunteers in the hopes of emerging as clear winners, only to see the results delayed, misreported and still under challenge of recount. In recent weeks, the Nevada Democratic Party ditched a new app it had planned to use to report results and trained caucus volunteers on new procedures. Meanwhile, campaigns pressured party officials behind the scenes to release more information about how, exactly, the state planned to avoid a retread of the Iowa fiasco. “Everybody in Nevada is just praying and focused on not being Iowa,” said Tick Segerblom, a commissioner in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. “I think we’ve learned our lesson.”

Full Article: Will there be more presidential caucus chaos? 'Nevada is just praying' - Los Angeles Times.

Nevada: In Nevada, a last-minute scramble to make voting tech work | Reed Albergotti/The Washington Post

As early voting came to a close here Tuesday evening, a small group of caucus volunteers waited in the parking lot of a dimly lit strip mall to get a hands-on demonstration of the software they would use to tally votes during Saturday’s Democratic caucus. “This will not be like Iowa,” one of the volunteers said defiantly, referring to the caucus process in that state roiled by technological mishaps. She said she was determined to learn how the software worked and avert any embarrassing glitches. She asked not to be named for fear of upsetting party officials here. As Democratic presidential hopefuls campaign here, the role of technology has hung like a cloud over the process that will help determine the party’s nominee. Nevada’s place early on in the presidential nominating process is a point of pride in this fast-growing Western state. And everyone from volunteers to party officials to ordinary voters is hoping it doesn’t turn into an embarrassment. Nevada’s Democratic Party, which runs the caucus, had planned to use software developed by the same company behind Iowa’s botched caucus app. Nevada had less than three weeks to put a new system in place, a rush to the finish line that also contributed to Iowa’s problems.

Full Article: What software will be used for the Nevada caucus? - The Washington Post.

North Carolina: New Mecklenburg voting equipment ready for Super Tuesday | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

Elections are unpredictable. Election administration does not have to be. For example, the Bipartisan Policy Center and MIT have jointly conducted research on polling-place lines in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Their findings, which are consistent with other research, show that voters of color wait in line, on average, longer than white voters and that election jurisdictions using electronic voting machines had longer wait times than those using hand-marked paper ballots. The factors that cause long lines on election day – outside of unforeseeable problems like storms or power outages – are known weeks if not months in advance. Charles Stewart III is a professor at MIT and an expert on election administration. He has used the predictable nature of things like line length at a polling place to help counties prepare for elections. “If you know how long it takes to serve somebody, so, like how long it takes to check somebody in or how long it takes for somebody to vote, you can estimate the average wait time,” Stewart said. Rather than waiting for the election to see if there were long lines, Carolina Public Press investigated the distribution of voting equipment in Mecklenburg County to detect red flags ahead of primary election day on March 3.

Full Article: Analysis: New Mecklenburg voting equipment ready for Super Tuesday.

Rhode Island: After Iowa fiasco, is Rhode Island’s voting tech ready for Primary Day? | John Krinjak/WLNE

Who knew a smartphone app could grind a caucus to a halt? Earlier this month in Iowa, it took days for Democratic officials to figure out who won. Here in Rhode Island, that fiasco is raising some eyebrows. “Any time there is a problem in an election in the United States, it’s troubling,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. With our primary coming up on April 28th, Gorbea wants to reassure concerned voters. “They might mistakenly believe that’s what’s happening in Iowa, could happen in Rhode Island, when it can’t. they have a completely different system. They have caucuses, we have primaries, and we are really well set up for our primary,” said Gorbea. She says Rhode Island is taking steps to make sure it all goes off without a hitch. “Every day until Primary Day and beyond, the state-whether it be the board of canvassers or at the state board of elections or in my office-we will all be working to make sure that that primary election happens smoothly,” said Gorbea.

Full Article: After Iowa fiasco, is RI's voting tech ready for Primary Day? - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather.

Tennessee: Shelby County Commission scrambling to move millions to purchase new voting machines | Kendall Downing/WMC

Shelby County Commissioners said Wednesday they’re being forced to move money to fund new voting machines in time for this fall’s presidential election. The last-minute effort comes after the initial plan to pay for the machines through capital improvement funds hit a major roadblock. Last week, county attorney Marcy Ingram revealed a 50-year-old provision would require a county-wide referendum vote for county officials to be able to purchase new voting machines with capital improvement dollars. “It’s really critical we get the funding in place by this Monday that will not require a referendum,” said Mark Billingsley, Shelby County Commission Chairman. Billingsley said commissioners are exploring their funding options quickly. The leading thought at this time includes moving roughly $7.2 mllion from an emergency fund to pay for the new voting machines. It’s expected the state of Tennessee will reimburse $2.4 million. If commissioners wanted to buy the machines with capital improvement funds, as initially planned, they’d have to put the issue to voters.The referendum would delay the purchase date, likely missing November’s election.

Full Article: Shelby County Commission scrambling to move millions to purchase new voting machines.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): U.S. and Allies Blame Russia for Cyberattack on Republic of Georgia | David E. Sanger and Marc Santora/The New York Times

The United States and its key allies on Thursday accused Russia’s main military intelligence agency of a broad cyberattack against the republic of Georgia in October that took out websites and interrupted television broadcasts, in a coordinated effort to deter Moscow from intervening in the 2020 presidential election in the United States. The accusation, issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was particularly notable at a time when President Trump has been seeking to shift blame for interference in the 2016 election from Russia to Ukraine, a central element of his impeachment trial last month. Russian military intelligence, known as the G.R.U., was one of the agencies implicated in the cyberoperations aimed at interfering in that election and in a 2017 attack that struck major companies around the world, including Merck, Federal Express and Maersk. That attack is considered one of the most destructive and expensive in history, causing billions of dollars in damage.

Full Article: U.S. and Allies Blame Russia for Cyberattack on Republic of Georgia - The New York Times.

Nevada: ‘A complete disaster’: Fears grow over potential Nevada caucus malfunction | Laura Barrón-López

The process will break down like this: On caucus day, each precinct chair will be given a party-purchased iPad that will have a link to a Google form — dubbed a “caucus calculator” — saved on it. Pre-loaded on the form will be the early vote total from that precinct. The precinct chair will then input vote totals after the first and second votes. Under caucus rules, voters choose their preferred candidate at the outset, known as the first alignment. But if their candidate fails to reach 15 percent, they can switch to a different candidate, or seek to persuade supporters of another candidate who fails to reach 15 percent to help their candidate clear that threshold during the second alignment. The prompts on the Google form are expected to look similar to how they appear on the physical caucus reporting sheet. When the first and second alignments are completed, the totals will be relayed over the cloud to the Nevada Democratic Party via the Google form, which on the back end appears as a Google spreadsheet. Separately, the precinct chair or site lead will take the printed caucus reporting sheets — each campaign must sign off on them first — and call the Nevada Democratic Party boiler room via a secure hotline. (Site leads oversee multiple precinct chairs in caucusing at a single large location.)

Full Article: ‘A complete disaster’: Fears grow over potential Nevada caucus malfunction - POLITICO.

National: ElectionGuard could be Microsoft’s most important product in 2020. If it works | Alfred Ng/CNET

Building 83 doesn’t stand out on Microsoft’s massive Redmond, Washington, headquarters. But last week, the nameless structure hosted what might be the software giant’s most important product of 2020. Tucked away in the corner of a meeting room, a sign reading “ElectionGuard” identifies a touchscreen that asks people to cast their votes. An Xbox adaptive controller is connected to it, as are an all-white printer and a white ballot box for paper votes. If you didn’t look carefully, you might have mistaken all that for an array of office supplies. ElectionGuard is open-source voting-machine software that Microsoft announced in May 2019. In Microsoft’s demo, voters make their choices by touchscreen before printing out two copies. A voter is supposed to double-check one copy before placing it into a ballot box to be counted by election workers. The other is a backup record with a QR code the voter can use to check that the vote was counted after polls close. With ElectionGuard, Microsoft isn’t setting out to create an unhackable vote — no one thinks that’s possible — but rather a vote in which hacks would be quickly noticed. The product demo was far quieter than the typical big tech launch. No flashy lights or hordes of company employees cheering their own product, like Microsoft’s dual screen phone, its highly anticipated dual-screen laptop or its new Xbox Series X. And yet, if everything goes right, ElectionGuard could have an impact that lasts well beyond the flashy products in Microsoft’s pipeline.

Full Article: This could be Microsoft's most important product in 2020. If it works - CNET.

Editorials: There’s always a threat to voting online | Huntingdon Herald-Dispatch

It shouldn’t take an MIT genius to figure out that any internet-based voting system can be hacked, but apparently it did. Last week researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the Voatz app, which has been used in West Virginia and elsewhere by absentee voters and military personnel, has vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to change a person’s vote without detection. The Voatz developer said the analysts used an older version of the app. It accused them of acting in “bad faith.” So far the app has been used by fewer than 600 voters in nine pilot elections. Voatz was used in West Virginia’s elections in 2018 by fewer than 200 voters. No problems were reported. Last month, the Legislature approved a bill that would allow voters with physical disabilities to use the Voatz app in this year’s election. The bill awaits the governor’s signature or veto.

Full Article: Editorial: There's always a threat to voting online | Opinion | herald-dispatch.com.

Florida: Experts Reiterate Cybersecurity Warnings for 2020 Election | Sarah Nelson/The Gainesville Sun

Cybersecurity experts warned in late 2019 that internet hacking has climbed to crisis level. And based on what they’ve seen in early 2020, a similar warning has now been issued: that hackers show no signs of letting up and will likely focus on the 2020 election. “What’s more likely is that these cybercriminals will cause disruption,” said Brett Callow, Emsisoft spokesman. “Because most elections operate at the county level, local governments need to prepare.” But because of this year’s tense political climate, and overall spike in cyberattacks, Callow predicts cybercriminals will zero in on the election. Kim Barton, supervisor of the Alachua County, Fla., Elections Office, says the department began to look at cybersecurity preventive security measures years ago, and officials work to keep up with the latest internet security updates. “Cybersecurity is an always evolving field, so our office expects that we will continually be updating our training, procedures, and systems to keep ourselves as protected as possible,” she said.

Full Article: Experts Reiterate Cybersecurity Warnings for 2020 Election.

Florida: Florida’s best election security measure? Paper ballots. Nationally? It’s more complicated. | Christopher Heath/WFTV

Lessons learned from the 2016 election and the 2020 caucus in Iowa show it doesn’t take much to disrupt the ballot counting process. But in Florida, the best protection offered against election issues is simple, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. “Every voter in Florida votes on paper,” Cowles said. For voters, that paper trail provides a sense of security. “(In) 2016 we all learned about elections and hacking,” Cowles said. Since then, Florida’s elections offices have been working overtime to protect the process by placing the voter registration database and ballot tabulation systems on separate servers.

Full Article: Florida’s best election security measure? Paper ballots. Nationally? It’s more complicated..