State

Florida: This small election tech firm in Florida may have been Russia’s front door to the 2016 election | Mark Sullivan/Fast Company

Two high-profile U.S. senators have taken a keen interest in a small Florida-based election tech company that may have unwittingly been used by Russian hackers to interfere with the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Wednesday sent a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray asking for more information about the agency’s interactions with Tallahassee, Florida-based VR Systems, which makes the “pollbook” devices used by counties in eight states around the country to verify the eligibility of voters arriving at the polls. The senators emphasized that “Congress and the American people still do not have a complete picture of the federal government’s efforts to detect and defend against this attack against our democracy.” VR Systems was referenced–first in a leaked 2018 NSA report, then in the Mueller report–as the “U.S. Vendor” or “Vendor 1,” targeted in a GRU (Russian military) spearfishing attack that took place between August and November of 2016. The FBI and the NSA believe the GRU may have been trying to access the email addresses of VR Systems’ county election board end users, then send malicious code to those users that could alter the behavior of the company’s voter check-in hardware and software on election day.

Full Article: Klobuchar, Wyden demand answers about targeting of VR Systems.

North Carolina: Election hacking: North Carolina officials won’t approve new voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina election officials were supposed to certify new voting machines on Thursday for millions of voters to start using in 2020. But they declined to make any decisions, citing uncertainty over who owns the three companies that were seeking approval to sell voting machines here. The state gave them until next week to divulge everyone who owns at least 5 percent of their companies or any parent or subsidiary company. “I believe this follows along with the cyber security concerns we have found in the Mueller report and other documentation that has been furnished to our board,” Robert Cordle, the chairman of the State Board of Elections, said Thursday when the board announced its surprise decision. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report indicated that a company that provides voting software in some North Carolina counties may have been compromised by Russian hackers in 2016. That company’s software can’t be used to change or record votes; it only deals with checking voters in to the polls.

Full Article: Election hacking: NC officials won’t approve new voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer.

Pennsylvania: Voting machine fight could be costly for counties as Republican lawmakers defy Gov. Tom Wolf on refunds | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Republican lawmakers are refusing to commit to the millions of dollars sought by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to back up his demand that Pennsylvania’s counties buttress election security by replacing their voting machines before 2020′s presidential elections. Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Legislature say that a roughly $34 billion budget counterproposal they are finalizing does not include the $15 million Wolf requested, and that they want Wolf to back off his stated intention to decertify voting machines in use last year. Republicans never agreed to require counties to replace voting machines, and helping finance the purchases is Wolf’s problem, not theirs, said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre. “This was a crisis that the governor created, and he needs to resolve it,” Corman said in an interview. “I feel bad for the counties, because he put a huge unfunded mandate on the counties, but that’s his responsibility.”

Full Article: Pennsylvania voting machine fight could be costly for counties as Republican lawmakers defy Gov. Tom Wolf on refunds - The Morning Call.

South Carolina: State preparing for switch to paper ballot voting | Adam Benson/Index Journal

Local election officials say a new paper ballot-based system will give voters more control over their choices by introducing a layer of redundancy not available in more than a decade. On Monday, the state Election Commission said Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software was granted a $51 million contract to swap out 13,000 touchscreen machines, in circulation since 2004, with units that include a BMD, or “ballot-marking device” to verify selections on a paper ballot after using the electronic interface to initially pick a candidate. “Our job was to find the best system out there for the voters of South Carolina,” commission chairman John Wells said in a release. “We were looking for a system that is secure, accurate, accessible, auditable, transparent, reliable and easy for poll managers and voters to use.”

Full Article: State preparing for switch to paper ballot voting | News | indexjournal.com.

Tennessee: Nashville elections: New voting machines to be used for August races | Andrew Wigdor/Nashville Tennessean

Nashville will get new voting machines for the upcoming Aug. 1 election in order to cut down on unintentional mistakes by voters. The most notable change with the new machines is a two-step paper ballot system. Voters are provided with a blank “ballot card” by an polling official that voters then insert into a new “ballot marking device.” Once the card is inserted, the voter selects their choices, and the machine prints out the ballot, now marked with the voter’s choices. The voter then inserts the ballot into a second machine, where the votes are scanned. If voters make a mistake, they are able to look at their ballot before inserting it into the second machine and decide whether they need to make a change. Once the ballot is inserted and scanned into the second machine, a vote is final.

Full Article: Nashville elections: New voting machines to be used for August races.

California: Riverside County proposes spending millions to replace vote-counting systems by 2020 election | Sam Metz/Palm Springs Desert Sun

For the past 11 years, the Riverside County Registrar of Voters has used vote-counting machines that can take more than a month to finish counting ballots. It took 32 days before the registrar could count all the votes and certify the results of the 2018 midterm elections. But now, a threat from Secretary of State Alex Padilla to withdraw certification from counties with voting systems that don’t meet the 2015 California Voting Systems Standards is forcing Riverside County to spend millions on new vote-counting machines. “While county officials have worked diligently to keep equipment up and running, our democracy faces increasingly sophisticated threats from nefarious actors, both foreign and domestic,” Padilla said in February press release. “Some counties use machines that are so old that vendors no longer make replacement parts.” Riverside County’s 2019-2020 proposed county budget, which the supervisors begun reviewing this week, earmarks more than $2 million to buy a vote-sorting machine to process mail ballots and lease state-certified equipment that will bring them into compliance.

Full Article: Riverside Co. proposes spending millions to replace vote-counting systems by 2020 election.

Florida: Most Florida Election Officials Forfeited Some Security Cash | Samantha-Jo Roth/Spectrum News

The majority of Florida’s 67 counties were forced to forfeit thousands of dollars in election security funding from the federal government ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to documents obtained by Spectrum News from the Florida Department of State.  A Spectrum News investigation found the majority of election officials across the state believe strict guidelines and short deadlines put in place by the state forced them to return more than $1 million in untapped funds to the State’s federal trust fund. Florida has emerged as ground zero in preventing hacking and Russian interference after the Mueller report revealed Russia successfully hacked election systems in two Florida counties in 2016. “This is the backbone of our democracy, it’s just too important,” said Brian Corley, the Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County in an interview with Spectrum News. “The bad guys have to be right one time, we have to be right every time,” he added.

Full Article: Most Florida Election Officials Forfeited Some Security Cash.

Florida: Official tells Florida Democrats to expect recount in 2020 | Mike Schneider/Associated Press

The new voter protection director for Florida Democrats told party activists on Saturday that they should assume there will be a recount during next year’s presidential election. “We are going to be prepared,” Brandon Peters told a packed room of Democratic activists at the state party’s Leadership Blue 2019 meeting at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Peters, who was hired by the state party last month, said there will be teams of volunteers trained in how to monitor county canvassing boards for recount problems around the state, should one take place in the 2020 presidential election. Florida became famous for recounts after the 2000 presidential election, and last year there were recounts in three statewide races. The Florida Democratic Party is the second state Democratic party in the nation to hire a voter protection director, behind the Georgia Democratic Party.

Full Article: Official tells Florida Democrats to expect recount in 2020.

Michigan: Lansing city clerk pilots new post-election audit | Elissa Kedziorek/WILX

The Lansing community was invited to observe a new post-election audit Monday morning. Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope partnered with the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections, other local election officials and national election security experts to conduct a risk-limiting audit of the May 7, 2019 Lansing School District Special Election. After checking 337 randomly selected ballots as part of a new election audit pilot, Swope declared the Lansing School Millage Election results are confirmed accurate. “It was great to work with election officials at the national, state, county and local level to develop best practices to confirm election results,” Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope. “Each election we learn more, and the City of Lansing will be very experienced by the Presidential Election in November 2020. Nationally, risk-limiting audits are considered to be the gold-standard method for confirming results. This type of audit uses statistical methods that can detect possible discrepancies in areas that may need further attention due to factors such as human error, possible manipulation, cyber attacks,or a variety of other things.

Full Article: Lansing city clerk pilots new post-election audit.

Ohio: Elections chief orders counties to upgrade security | Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Press

Ohio’s elections chief ordered county boards of elections on Tuesday to undergo a host of security upgrades that he says will guard against cyberattacks and other threats ahead of the 2020 election. Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said his goal is to position Ohio as a national leader in election security that goes beyond voting machines to the boards’ software systems, email accounts and websites. “Even the most secure IT environments have lists of things that they want to do to become more secure, so it’s not to say that we have some sort of massive vulnerability,” he said. “But we know that when we have computer systems and personnel involved, there’s always room for improvement.” LaRose’s directive expands on the findings of a statewide review conducted last year. He said he is making available up to $12 million in Help America Vote Act money to pay for the upgrades. The order requires all 88 county boards to request four services from the Department of Homeland Security by July 19: a risk and vulnerability assessment, remote system testing, a communications review and an in-depth hunt for cyber threats.

Full Article: Ohio elections chief orders counties to upgrade security | WKRC.

Florida: FBI urged to disclose Florida election hack details after ignoring request | Andrew Blake/Washington Times

The FBI faced fresh calls Friday to release additional details about the hacking campaign that compromised election systems in Florida during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, pressed for transparency nearly two months since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Russian election interference began to reveal the scope of its success in the Sunshine State. The FBI assessed that Russian hackers infiltrated at least one Florida county government during the 2016 race, Mr. Mueller wrote in the report. Many state officials were unaware of the breach prior to the report’s publication, and individuals briefed by the FBI afterward said they were told that a total of two Florida counties had been compromised. Nearly no further details have emerged since, however, and Florida’s governor said he signed a non-disclosure agreement legally preventing him from revealing what counties were hacked.

Full Article: FBI urged to disclose Florida election hack details after ignoring request - Washington Times.

Michigan: Three communities auditing May election results as part of election security pilot program | Lauren Gibbons/mlive.com

Michigan elections officials are continuing pilot tests of an auditing system to check election results, with the ultimate goal of perfecting a process for verifying outcomes of both local and statewide races. The pilot audit kicked off in Lansing Monday, where local and state elections officials joined national experts and observers from around the country in overseeing a “risk-limiting audit” of the results in a May ballot question regarding a millage for the Lansing School District. The risk-limiting audit process relies on a mathematical formula to randomly select ballots for auditors to review, and is intended to detect any potential irregularities that could have influenced the outcome of the election. Colorado currently uses risk-limiting audits to test election results.

Full Article: Three Michigan communities auditing May election results as part of election security pilot program - mlive.com.

North Carolina: With Guilford and Mecklenburg voting machines facing decertification, confusion looms for 2020 election | By Will Doran/Greensboro News & Record

Roughly a third of North Carolina voters use electronic machines with no paper ballots. But that might all change next year for the 2020 presidential election. Supporters of the change say it will help ensure election security, especially given reports from the FBI and other sources that the Russian government attempted to influence America’s 2016 elections and may have hacked into some U.S. voting software. But the switch has been held up for years, despite first being ordered in a 2013 law. Now, some officials — including some in Guilford County and the new state elections director — worry that there’s not enough time left to get new voting systems in place for the 2020 elections. Guilford County uses an electronic machine with a paper backup, said Chris Duffey, deputy director of the Guilford County Board of Elections. However, these DRE touch-screen machines, which use electronic ballot counting as opposed to paper tabulation, will be decertified by state law effective Dec. 1, he said. The law, adopted in 2013, aims to thwart cyber hackers who might have the skills to manipulate digital election results.

Full Article: With Guilford and Mecklenburg voting machines facing decertification, confusion looms for 2020 election | Local News | greensboro.com.

North Carolina: Laptops used in 2016 North Carolina poll to be examined by feds – after 2.5 years | Lisa Vaas/Naked Security

More than two and a half years after the fact, the Feds are finally going to investigate the failure of voter registration software – from a ­company that had been cyber-attacked by Russians just days before the November 2016 US presidential election – in the swing state of North Carolina. Politico has reviewed a document and spoken to somebody with knowledge of the episode, both of which suggest that the vendor, VR Systems, “inadvertently opened a potential pathway for hackers to tamper with voter records in North Carolina on the eve of the presidential election.” Specifically, VR Systems used remote-access software to connect for several hours to a central computer in Durham County so as to troubleshoot problems with the company’s voter registration software. In fact, election officials would come to find out that this was common practice, according to Politico’s source, in spite of the fact that election technology security experts agree that it opens up systems to hacking.

Full Article: Laptops used in 2016 NC poll to be examined by feds – after 2.5 years – Naked Security.

Ohio: Students find new uses for old Ohio voting machines that shouldn’t have been sold to Dispatch | Marc Kovac/The Columbus Dispatch

Government offices have different ways of dealing with stuff they formally declare is no longer needed. Electronics often are shipped to a recycler, but furniture, vehicles, clothing and other items sometimes are offered for sale to the general public. Licking County offers old equipment, confiscated property and other items on GovDeals.com, an online auction site used by government offices across the country. For a couple of months earlier this year, the county’s board of elections posted a handful of different auctions for “Diebold AccuVote-TSx” voting machines, purchased for $2,700 each in 2005 and ’06. The lots sold for between $7 and $19. “Be Creative… what could I do with a Used Voting Machine?,” the auction listing read. The Dispatch took the suggestion literally and bought one lot of five machines at a cost of $3.40 each, receiving touchscreen units and stands, along with headphones, keypads, memory cards, keys and voter access cards. The actual elections software was removed before the sale, but the units were otherwise functional.

Full Article: Students find new uses for old Ohio voting machines that shouldn't have been sold to Dispatch - News - The Columbus Dispatch - Columbus, OH.

South Carolina: Company that courted South Carolina elections chief wins $51M bid for new voting machines | Tom Barton/The State

South Carolina voters will get a paper printout of their completed ballots starting next year, when the state puts in place some 13,500 new voting machines. State officials on Monday announced that a $51 million contract had been awarded to Election Systems and Software, the nation’s largest voting equipment vendor, to provide the new voting machines which promise more security in producing a paper ballot. ES&S has a lengthy history with South Carolina. The company provided the state’s existing voting system, in place since 2004. The paperless system has drawn increasing scrutiny, raising questions about accuracy of counting votes and whether the system is vulnerable to hacking. The company also has ties to elections officials in South Carolina and other states, an investigation by McClatchy and The State revealed. Marci Andino, executive director for the S.C. State Election Commission, formerly served on an advisory panel to the company, which treated her and elections officials from other states to trips to Las Vegas and elsewhere. Andino said she ran her trips by state ethics officials and has stepped down from the advisory role with ES&S prior to the state’s efforts to procure a new voting system.

Full Article: South Carolina unveils new paper-based voting system | The State.

South Carolina: State chooses new voting machines that will print paper ballots but some fear it’s not safe | Mike Fitts/Post and Courier

Beginning with the presidential primary next year, South Carolina voters will mark their choices on paper ballots by touching digital screens under a new $51 million voting system announced Monday by the state Election Commission — a choice criticized by a civic group that advocates for safe balloting. Under the system made by Election Systems & Software, voters will put their paper ballot into a touchscreen system and choose their candidates. They print out a completed ballot to review their selections and then put the ballot into a scanner to formally record their votes. The paper ballots will be kept in a locked box where can be used to verify results. Using this system of more than 13,000 new machines should produce a verifiable paper trail while also avoiding the issues of stray or misleading ballot marks from written ballots, said John Wells, chairman of the State Election Commission. “There can be no question as to the accuracy of the election,” he said. The League of Women Voters of South Carolina, however, was disappointed in the choice. The group sees this system as overly elaborate and possibly vulnerable to hacking or other mischief, especially when compared with a simple paper ballot.

Full Article: SC chooses new voting machines that will print paper ballots but some fear it's not safe | News | postandcourier.com.

Florida: Election officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no. | Lawrence Mower/Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he wants state officials to “review” the state’s elections systems after news that two county elections offices were hacked in 2016. But for the last two years, Florida’s secretaries of state have asked for that help — only to be turned down twice by state lawmakers. Last year, then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner asked the Legislature for $488,000 to create a full-time elections cybersecurity team with five people, according to the department. Even though it was a measly amount in the scope of their $88.7 billion budget, lawmakers refused, and the department instead hired five cybersecurity contractors to help local supervisors in last year’s election. This year, Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked lawmakers for $1.5 million to keep those cybersecurity contractors, and lawmakers again refused. Thankfully, all were not lost.

Full Article: Florida officials wanted an elections cybersecurity team. Lawmakers said no. | Tampa Bay Times.

Florida: VR Systems says it has proof it wasn’t breached by Russians | Kim Zetter/Politico

A Florida-based maker of voter registration software says it has proof that neither its employees’ email accounts nor its systems were penetrated in a Russian cyberattack in 2016 — an attack that could have allowed hackers to prevent voters from casting ballots during the presidential election if successful. The company, VR Systems, said in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) this month that an analysis by a cybersecurity firm found that it had not been breached, despite allegations to the contrary in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference. Mueller’s report said Russian hackers installed malware on the network of an unnamed voting technology company. A leaked National Security Agency document published by The Intercept contained details that indicate VR Systems was the most likely victim. Furthermore, in its letter to Wyden, the company admits to receiving so-called “spearphishing emails” in 2016. In the letter, VR Systems responded to questions from the senator about whether computer forensic experts or a government agency had examined the company’s computers and networks after the phishing campaign occurred.

Full Article: Florida election vendor says it has proof it wasn't breached by Russians - POLITICO.

North Carolina: Is North Carolina rushing into major election changes? Some officials warn of confusion in 2020 | Will Doran/Charlotte Observer

Roughly a third of North Carolina voters use electronic machines with no paper ballots. But that might all change next year for the 2020 presidential election. Supporters of the change say it will help ensure election security, especially given reports from the FBI and other sources that the Russian government attempted to influence America’s 2016 elections and may have hacked into some U.S. voting software. But the switch has been held up for years, despite first being ordered in a 2013 law. Now, some officials — including the new state elections director — worry that there’s not enough time left to get new voting systems in place for the 2020 elections. The state’s biggest county, Mecklenburg, is one of the counties that will have to make the switch away from touchscreen voting machines. But officials there still don’t know what machines they might be allowed to buy as replacements, or how much they’ll cost. Meanwhile, the deadline to get new machines in place is coming up at the end of this year.

Full Article: Election hacking concerns spur NC changes, but is it too fast? | Charlotte Observer.