State

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.

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..

Georgia: Election Security Scandals in Georgia Heighten 2020 Concerns | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology

In 2016, a vulnerability was discovered in Georgia’s election system that exposed the information of some 6.7 million voters and would’ve given a hacker the ability to manipulate or delete any information within voting machines across the state, according to people familiar with the discovery. While the state has since taken steps to patch the holes, activists are still concerned that the state’s subpar election security practices will endanger the results of the 2020 presidential race. Marilyn Marks, executive director of the advocacy group Coalition for Good Governance, said that while Georgia has corrected some mistakes, it still hasn’t addressed its fundamental weaknesses. The group, which is currently engaged in one of several election-related lawsuits against the state, released a statement this week alleging that the state’s presidential primary was “at risk of failure.” With a highly contentious election looming and heightened concerns about foreign interference, the question remains: has Georgia done what it takes to protect voters and the democratic process?  

Full Article: Election Security Scandals in Georgia Heighten 2020 Concerns.

Iowa: Caucus app chaos shows why American elections should stay analog for now | Brinkwire

Like everything created by humans, code has flaws. One major way to defend against potential problems brought on by the flaws is testing an app before you use it. Unfortunately, it seems like the Iowa Democratic Party did little in the way of testing the app it used to track results from the Iowa caucuses, wreaking havoc on the tenuous Democratic presidential-nominating process. “The situation in Iowa makes the average voter’s confidence in the election process worse than before,” said Ron Gula, a former National Security Agency (NSA) white hat hacker who now invests in startup cybersecurity firms. “Whether or not they might believe the Russians hacked the election before, this is another thing that will make them go ‘wow, we really don’t trust this.’ It’s not a great situation for voter confidence in general.” This was a screw up on a state level, a state that happens to hold a lot of significance for U.S. democracy. “The situation with Iowa’s caucus reveals the risks associated with technology, in this case with a mobile app, but more importantly that there needs to be a low-tech solution in order to recover from technological failures — no matter the cause,” said Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, in a statement to Digital Trends. Verified Voting is a voting accuracy nonprofit that works to eliminate or reduce the use of systems that “cannot be audited or secured, such as internet voting.” Schneider noted it was lucky that Iowa kept paper records of the vote. “It’s clear that mobile apps are not ready for prime time,” she said.

Full Article: Iowa caucus app chaos shows why American elections should stay analog for now – Brinkwire.

Kansas: Elections chief’s security plan causes local unease | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas’ elections chief is pushing to make the state’s central voter registration database more secure by changing how counties tap into it, but some officials are nervous about what they see as a big project in a busy election year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab has told county election officials that he wants them to use dedicated tablets, laptops or computers not linked to their counties’ networks to access the state’s voter registration database. He says Kansas is getting $8 million in federal election security funds that could be used to cover the costs. Schwab, a Republican and former Kansas House member from the Kansas City area who became the state’s top elections official last year, contends such a setup will decrease the likelihood of foreign nationals, foreign governments or domestic hackers gaining access to voter registration records. His idea has bipartisan support. In September 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told officials in 21 states that their election systems had been targeted by hackers before the 2016 presidential election. Kansas wasn’t on the list, but Schwab said in an interview last week that “every area of government gets pinged thousands of times.”

Full Article: Kansas elections chief's security plan causes local unease - StarTribune.com.

Kentucky: Despite Security Push, Kentucky Struggles To Update Voting Machines | Ryland Barton/WFPL

Despite worries from election security experts, Kentucky will be one of only a few states in 2020 that’s still using some voting machines that don’t produce a paper trail — an industry standard to verify election results. The reason is one that Kentuckians have heard often: there isn’t enough money, especially in a state that places much of the burden of election administration on local governments. And despite recent transfusions of cash from the federal government for states to improve election security, the amount allocated to Kentucky in the most recent disbursement only represents about 10 percent of the overall need. But state election officials say that voters have nothing to worry about. The outdated electronic-only voting machines used in the vast majority of Kentucky counties aren’t connected to the internet and there’s no evidence that they’ve been hacked before.

Full Article: Despite Security Push, Kentucky Struggles To Update Voting Machines.

Minnesota: Key GOP senator revives fight over election security money | Steve Karnowski/Associated Press

An influential Senate Republican who held up federal election security funding for most of the 2019 legislative session moved Tuesday to tie approval of a new round of money to passing her proposal for a provisional balloting system that Democrats warn could suppress turnout. Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, of Big Lake, who chairs the Senate’s elections committee, wants to require that the ballots of citizens who register at the polls on election day be designated as provisional ballots that aren’t counted until their eligibility can be verified. Currently, ballots of Minnesotans who register at the polls are counted along with all the other votes. The committee approved her bill on a 6-3 party-line vote and sent it to its next committee stop. At a news conference ahead of the hearing, Kiffmeyer, a former secretary of state, framed the issue as one of equal treatment of voters. She pointed out that applications from residents who pre-register undergo more verification before voting than people who register at the polls. Minnesotans who register at the polls need only to present identification, such as a driver’s license, and their information is verified later.

Full Article: Key GOP senator revives fight over election security money - StarTribune.com.

Nevada: Democrats scramble to avoid Iowa-like chaos as Democratic caucuses approach | Kari Paul/The Guardian

Democratic party officials in Nevada are rushing to avoid the fate of Iowa, where technological and organizational failure left the first caucus in the 2020 presidential race without a clear winner. Nevada Democratic party officials had initially planned to rely on the same app that caused chaos in Iowa to transfer results from local precincts during the caucus on 22 February. But during the Iowa vote, a “coding issue” caused the app, developed haphazardly and on a low budget by the tech firm Shadow, to report only partial data from the state’s 1,700 caucus sites. Spotty cellphone coverage in some voting locations, poor training of some caucus volunteers and troubles with a backup phone line to report results compounded the chaos. Following the Iowa caucus, Nevada officials said they were determined to avoid similar problems. “NV Dems can confidently say that what happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada,” the state Democratic party chair, William McCurdy II, said in a statement at the time. Since then, it has been difficult to pin down the Nevada Democratic party regarding what process it will use instead. It did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment and its website includes no information on the topic.

Full Article: Nevada scrambles to avoid Iowa-like chaos as Democratic caucuses approach | US news | The Guardian.

Pennsylvania: State officials unclear on backup plan if federal courts decertify voting machine | Emily Previti/PA Post

Pennsylvania doesn’t appear to have a backup plan if a federal lawsuit succeeds in getting at least one voting system banned before the presidential election. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond pressed Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar Tuesday on what might happen if he orders her to decertify the ExpressVote XL – the machine used by nearly 2 million voters in Philadelphia, Northampton and Cumberland counties – and if he applies his order to other devices. “I can’t overstate how much chaos would ensue, frankly,” Boockvar said. County election directors already are dealing with the state’s first major election law changes in decades amid the higher turnout that comes during a presidential election, she said. And when Diamond asked Boockvar how counties would proceed if he barred them from using the ExpressVote XL, she didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know how that would work,” she said. “But there would have to be some ability for voters to vote.”

Full Article: State officials unclear on backup plan if federal courts decertify voting machine | PA Post.

Pennsylvania: Judge hears arguments over Philadelphia’s voting machines | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Pennsylvania’s top elections official spent hours in federal court Tuesday, defending the certification of voting machines being used by Philadelphia and two other Pennsylvania counties, including one where problems led to undercounted returns in a race in November. The hearing in federal court could help determine how 17% of Pennsylvania’s registered voters cast ballots in the April 28 primary election, as well as in November, when the state is expected to be one of the nation’s premier presidential battlegrounds. It comes after a two-year push by Gov. Tom Wolf to get counties to switch to paper-based voting systems ahead of this year’s presidential election, a move he frames as a crucial election security bulwark against hacking. For part of her three-plus hours on the stand, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar sought to show that no element of a federal court agreement in 2018 specifically outlawed certification of the machine in question, the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system. She also testified that certification of the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system had been well underway during talks to settle the lawsuit.

Full Article: Judge hears arguments over Philadelphia's voting machines.

Wisconsin: Microsoft to deploy ElectionGuard voting software for the first time tomorrow | Catalin Cimpanu/ZDNet

Tomorrow, on February 18, residents of Fulton, Wisconsin will elect representatives for the Wisconsin Supreme Court via voting machines that will be running Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software. These will be the first voting machines deployed in any US election that will be running Microsoft’s new voting software, which will face it’s first real-world test since being announced last year. ElectionGuard is a software development kit (SDK) that Microsoft made available for free on GitHub. The project’s goal was to create the voting software that uses strong encryption, was built by some of the world’s brightest cryptographers, and was extensively audited for bugs. Microsoft created ElectionGuard after numerous media reports over the past years about critical vulnerabilities being discovered in the (closed-source) software of multiple voting machine vendors. The OS maker purposely released ElectionGuard as open-source in an attempt to convince voting machine vendors to adopt it instead of their older obsolete and insecure systems. The project, which is viewed with optimism by US election officials, moved lightning-fast, going from a simple idea to an actual US election pilot program in only nine months.

Full Article: Microsoft to deploy ElectionGuard voting software for the first time tomorrow | ZDNet.

Wisconsin: Microsoft tests new voting technology in a small Wisconsin town | Bill Glauber/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Voters in the Town of Fulton, which is 8 miles north of Janesville in Rock County, gave Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software a tryout. ElectionGuard enables voters to verify that their ballot was counted through generating a ballot tracking code. The software also provides encrypted results. VotingWorks, a nonprofit voting software company, supplied the voting equipment, which consisted of card readers, tablets, ballot marking devices and printers. The process appeared seamless. After checking in, voters received a key card to insert into a tablet. They then selected candidates on a touch screen. They printed the ballot and placed it in the ballot box. They received a second printed piece of paper that provided a tracking code that they could use later to verify that their vote was counted, by logging into a Microsoft website.  The verification system does not allow the voter, or anyone else for that matter, to see who they voted for. Although it was the first time the software was used in an election, this was just a test. All of the paper ballots voters cast were to be hand-counted by local election officials.

Full Article: Microsoft tests new voting technology in a small Wisconsin town.

Georgia: The power to vote – literally – carries a cost in Georgia | Jessica Waters/Connect

For Stephens County, that cost just increased by $30,500, as county commissioners, at the Feb. 11 regular meeting, unanimously approved the expenditure in order to rewire the Stephens County Senior Center – the county’s sole polling location – so that it is able to handle the electrical draw of the state-mandated new voting machinery. “We have to rewire the Senior Center to handle the amps needed by the new voting equipment. This is a problem all over the State of Georgia, I know of another county that had to spend $68,000 on rewiring. Everyone is having the same problem, and we’ve been jumping through hoops to resolve it,” County Administrator Phyllis Ayers told ConnectLocal.News Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11. A part of the reason the new voting system has a higher electrical draw than the old system is that there are now several components, instead of the single-machine system previously in use. “You’ve got more machines that need to be plugged in. You’ve got your voting machines, the printers, the scanners, and you’ve got the cyber-power battery packs,” Ayers said. “If my Buildings and Grounds Director had not been here, unloading the equipment, and could see what the amps were – and he was calculating it up in his head as he was going by and he come down here and said ‘where’s the power coming from?’” The $30,500 bid to complete the rewiring of the Senior Center, submitted by local electrical contractor Henry Hayes, will be paid out of contingency funds, along with funding for pouring a concrete pad to hold the generator used to power the equipment and a few other minor related expenditures. “There is a grant where the state will consider reimbursing you back those expenses,” she said. “So we’re trying to keep up with that, and will apply for the grant.”

Full Article: The power to vote – literally – carries a cost

California: Los Angeles County built its new voting machines from scratch. Will they be ready? | Kevin Monahan, Ben Popken, Rich Schapiro and Cynthia McFadden/NBC

Los Angeles County has spent the last 10 years creating what it hopes is the voting system of the future, a $300 million fleet of cutting-edge machines built from scratch. But as it prepares to roll out the new equipment for the first time when early voting in California’s Democratic primaries kicks off next week, the county is in a race against the clock to shore up critical vulnerabilities highlighted in an alarming third-party assessment. The technical report commissioned by the California secretary of state identified a wide variety of security flaws and operational issues, including insecure ballot boxes and exposed USB ports that rogue actors could exploit to alter votes. “At first reading, it’s terrifying,” said Richard DeMillo, a computer science professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who specializes in voting security. “There are things that are clear security vulnerabilities in the system that are brushed aside.” L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan, who is in charge of the system, said the majority of the security flaws have been fixed, and the county has complied with the requirements set out by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Padilla just last month approved the system for use in the Democratic primaries so long as certain conditions are met.

Full Article: LA County built its new voting machines from scratch. Will they be ready?.

Connecticut: Voting security in Connecticut: Not another Iowa, but other threats persist | Westfair

If you ask Connecticut’s Secretary of the State Denise Merrill if the state is in danger of repeating the infamous Iowa caucus debacle when tallying its primary and general election results this year, you will get a hearty laugh. “That’s not going to happen here,” she said. The reason, Merrill said, is simple: Connecticut’s voting process relies on paper ballots “that undergo a rigorous post-election audit and (is) run by election professionals at the state and local level. Although it may take a little longer to report results, Connecticut’s reliance on paper is our best defense against threats to our cybersecurity.” The Feb. 3 Iowa Democratic caucus, whose victor, Pete Buttigieg, wasn’t finalized until Feb. 9, was marred by the use of a vote tabulation app called Shadow, whose enormous technical errors contributed significantly to a three-day delay in reporting results. The Shadow app was distributed through mobile app testing platform TestFairy, instead of official app stores on Android and iOS, which boast higher security and performance requirements. The poor performance has already caused other states that had contracted Shadow to tally their results, like Nevada, to cancel those plans, and has resulted in any number of late-night TV hosts’ wisecracks.

Full Article: Voting security in CT: Not another Iowa, but other threats persist.

Florida: Palm Beach County elections ransomware attack raises security questions | Anthony Man and Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

From Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., officials and citizens voiced concern Thursday over an until-now undisclosed ransomware attack on the Palm Beach County elections office during the 2016 election season. The bombshell disclosure about the attack came from Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link, who said Wednesday she learned in November about the ransomware attack. Link, who took office in January 2019, said some of the agency’s data was corrupted, but the problem apparently was corrected and didn’t affect the November 2016 elections. The picture was muddied by the response from Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections at the time, who said it never happened. The current county elections chief said she wasn’t trying to alarm the public — but the disclosure heightened concerns for some, coming just five weeks before Florida’s presidential primary and the local government elections for 20 cities, towns and villages in Palm Beach County.

Full Article: Palm Beach County elections ransomware attack raises security questions - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Kansas: Democrats sue over Kansas delay in start of ‘vote anywhere’ | John Hanna/Associated Press

Kansas and national Democratic Party groups on Friday sued the Republican official who oversees the state’s elections, accusing him of violating voters’ rights by delaying the implementation of a law designed to make voting on Election Day more convenient. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Topeka after Secretary of State Scott Schwab said his office would need another year to draft regulations needed for counties to take advantage of a 2019 state “vote anywhere” law. The law permits counties to allow voters to cast their ballots at any polling place within their borders on Election Day, rather than only at a single site. Some officials in Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city, Wichita, believe it is ready to allow voters to choose their polling sites. They note that it has allowed voters to cast their ballots in advance at multiple locations for more than a decade, with the county’s entire electronic voter registration database accessible to workers at each one. It also deployed new voting machines in 2017 that allow a “vote anywhere” system.

Full Article: Democrats sue over Kansas delay in start of 'vote anywhere'.

Minnesota: From disinformation to hackers, new ‘cybernavigator’ racing to protect Minnesota’s 2020 elections | Stephen Montemayor/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bill Ekblad spent nearly three decades as a naval cryptologist, working from ships and planes stationed in the Middle East and Germany to fight cyberattacks coming from around the world. Now, the Minnesota native is back home and facing a uniquely tall order. Ekblad is the state’s first “cybernavigator,” hired by the secretary of state’s office to help local election workers guard against an increasingly expanding set of threats, from disinformation campaigns to foreign actors trying to penetrate election networks. “It’s a tale of surprises: I mean, I think that nobody really saw realistically the potential for foreign adversaries to meddle in elections prior to 2016,” Ekblad said in an interview from his office near the State Capitol. “And then in 2018, the game changed. It became less about the hard computer network operations and more about the soft skills of influence and hacking the mind of the voter.” Ekblad, hired through a federal election security grant, is now drawing on that history to pose a new question to the scores of local officials in Minnesota’s 87 counties who are in charge of running this year’s elections: “Why do we think 2020 will be something predictable?”

Full Article: Minnesota's new 'cybernavigator' racing to protect 2020 elections - StarTribune.com.

Nevada: Democrats Say They’ll Replace Their Caucus App With iPads And A Google Form | Kaleigh Rogers/FiveThirtyEight

In just two days, Nevadans will begin early voting in the state’s Democratic caucuses. For the past few weeks, it’s been unclear how those votes would be integrated into the overall vote tallies after Nevada Democrats were spooked by the chaos in Iowa’s Democratic primary and decided to toss a previous plan to use an app. But today, the state Democratic party revealed how it intends to incorporate those early votes into the live caucuses on Feb. 22: “a simple, user-friendly calculator.” What that means, exactly, is still a bit unclear. In a memo sent to campaigns Thursday and shared with FiveThirtyEight, the party wrote that “the caucus calculator will only be used on party-purchased iPads provided to trained precinct chairs and accessed through a secure Google web form.” The memo didn’t provide any specifics about whether the calculator would be accessed through the Google form, or whether the Google form itself is the calculator. It’s also not clear if early-vote tallies will live on the web, or if they’ll be pre-loaded onto each district’s iPad. The state party did not immediately respond to our request for further comment.

Full Article: Nevada Democrats Say They’ll Replace Their Caucus App With iPads And A Google Form | FiveThirtyEight.