California elections officials want state lawmakers to place a $450 million voting-equipment borrowing measure on the June 2018 ballot, saying that many counties’ voting machines rely on outdated equipment that make them vulnerable to breakdowns and hacking. The bond measure in Assembly Bill 668 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales Fletcher, D-San Diego, would be more than double the size of the last voting machine borrowing proposal to go on the ballot. In March 2002, voters approved Proposition 41, a $200 million bond prompted by disputed Florida presidential vote in 2000 that highlighted hanging chads and other voting equipment problems. Some of the machines purchased with Proposition 41 money later were decertified after state officials imposed new paper-trail requirements and other rules. Counties either retrofitted machines to bring them into compliance, or pulled older equipment back into use.
Using state-of-the-art voting machines wouldn’t have changed the controversial results of Michigan’s presidential election last fall, according to Detroit and state election officials. But new digital machines unveiled Saturday — to about 1,200 volunteer supervisors of Detroit’s polling sites — won’t suffer the frequent breakdowns of the old machines, causing lines to back up with impatient voters, and soon will be used statewide, officials said. “At the end of the day, we all have one goal, right? To ensure that every person that wants to vote gets to vote and we count that vote accurately,” Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey told the poll workers. In an event billed as an equipment fair, Winfrey and her staff showed off the new, $4,000 voting tabulators to noisy, curious crowds of election volunteers who gathered — one group in the morning, another in the afternoon — at Wayne County Community College in downtown Detroit.
For many years, the voting integrity community has grappled with the question of how to accommodate voters with disabilities without making elections less secure. There might finally be a solution on the horizon. One-sixth of the American electorate — over 35 million eligible voters — is disabled. For many of them, simple tasks that many of us take for granted — say, putting pen to paper — is, at best, terribly inconvenient, and, at worst, impossible. This is why the disabled prefer direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs), which advertise handicap-friendly features like touchscreens and audio-enabled ballots. But these machines often do not leave a paper trail, and are therefore considered less reliable by the voting-integrity community. This debate has created a rift among the advocates, forcing each side to think long and hard about how exactly to define a “fair election.” For many advocates, auditability — the degree to which an election outcome can be verified (audited) independent of the original vote-tabulating system — is the most important standard. According to this point of view, the only way to assure voters that elections have not been compromised (by incidental code hiccups or intentional tampering) is to create total system transparency — which means physical ballots and the paper trails they make possible. This is considered the ultimate safeguard against election tampering.
New electronic poll books for elections are supposed to make voting faster, more accurate and more secure, but Butler County commissioners don’t like the state’s “use it or lose it” policy regarding money to pay for them. County elections officials presented a plan Monday to spend $524,900 on the new technology. The state will pick up the lion’s share, $394,465, for the equipment, but county leaders said the catch is the elections board must be under contract with the vendor by May 31 or the money will vanish. “I don’t like the state saying you have to use it or lose,” Commissioner Don Dixon said. “I think if they are going to allocate that money, then if we have a plan to bundle that with something else, and it may be a year before we’re there, we should be allowed to do that.”
Kansas: WSU statistician: New voting machines more tamper-resistant, but not perfect | The Wichita Eagle
Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson says Sedgwick County’s new voting machines leave less room for vote tampering than the old ones did, but still aren’t perfect. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Clarkson, who has a doctorate in statistics and works as chief statistician at WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research. “If we would audit (the machines), that would be another step in the right direction.” On the plus side, she said, the new machines do print paper ballots with the voters’ choices printed on them. That allows voters to review their ballots and verify their selections before they feed the cards into a separate counting machine. It also will make it possible to do a hand recount in future races if problems are suspected with the machine counts, she said. On the downside, Clarkson said, the votes are still counted by computerized machinery, which creates the possibility of hacking or tampering with the software to change the outcome. Clarkson is a leading skeptic of the vote counting in recent south-central Kansas elections, citing what she says have been statistical anomalies between precincts and conflicts with the results of exit polling she oversaw last year.
National: Democrats move to give grants to states for boosting voting security, access to polls | The Hill
A pair of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday that would give federal grants to states to boost voting system security and increase voter access to elections. Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.) and Jim Langevin (R.I.) introduced the Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely (FAST) Voting Act to improve voter participation and voting system security and encourage automatic voter registration. “Access to the ballot is fundamental to American democracy,” Connolly said in a statement. “In recent years, several states have taken action to restrict the franchise under the guise of preventing ‘voter fraud.’ America doesn’t have a voter fraud problem; we have a participation problem. Rather than erect barriers, we should be looking for innovative ways to expand the franchise and streamline the voting process.” Connolly appeared to buck President Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election.
While many Americans are still digesting the ramifications of our most recent election, Charles Stewart III, professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is already looking towards 2020. Stewart is the founding Director of MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab: an initiative that strives to bring together data from American elections into one place so that researchers, academics, the press and policymakers can use the information as a resource to inform improvements of elections. It’s a non-partisan gathering ground for that beautifully objective jewel of a thing—raw data—to be stored, aggregated and then transformed into meaningful, accessible content. It’s a “one-stop shop,” as Stewart said, of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but that.
Whether they think they are, want to be, or were trained to be, the Election Official of 2017 is also an Information Technology (IT) Manager. IT management requires a unique set of attitudes, knowledge and skills, all of which are necessary to plan, direct and control contemporary elections. The Election Assistance Commission recognizes this challenge and now has resources available for local election administrators wishing to hone their IT management skills. After the adoption of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, election officials were forced, in a matter of just a few years, to move from managing voluminous paper poll books, paper voter registration application forms and (often) paper ballots to managing electronic statewide voter registration databases, e-poll books and either DRE or optical scan voting systems with their accompanying computer-based election management and ballot building systems. The ramifications of the shift from managing paper to managing computer based systems cannot be underestimated. In less than a decade, election administration posed new demands on its practitioners, who were asked to understand and successfully implement increasingly complex technologies. A few election officials with sufficient resources were able to hire skilled computer technicians and engineers to augment their staff. The vast majority, however, were forced to become more dependent upon systems vendors to integrate new technology into their local election environment while trying as best they could to effectively manage this new paradigm.
Editorials: Want Secure Elections? Then Maybe Don’t Cut Security Funding | Dan S. Wallach and Justin Talbot-Zorn/WIRED
Last Week, the House Administration Committee voted on party lines to defund the Election Administration Commission, the leading federal agency responsible for helping states run smooth elections and preventing hacking. Republicans justified the move as a way to save money and shrink the size and scope of government: “We don’t need fluff,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the committee chairman, explaining his vote. But the move wasn’t just Capitol Hill budget politics as usual. It’s evidence of a radical disconnect between a handful of influential House Republicans and nearly everyone else—including the scientific community, leading cybersecurity experts, and even the White House—who contend that voting vulnerabilities are a serious problem. On the morning of the election, Donald Trump called Fox News to give his views on the state of voting in the United States: “There’s something really nice about the old paper ballot system—you don’t worry about hacking.” Trump wasn’t going rogue. While his “voter fraud” comments have gotten serious attention of late, he has also, like many conservatives, expressed concern about the vulnerability of voting systems.
Despite finding no signs of foul play during the 2016 elections’ actual ballot-casting, state officials told the Election Assistance Commission they are looking to shore up the cybersecurity of voting systems to ensure that Americans are confident in their election results. Director of the New Jersey State Department’s division of elections Bob Giles said at an EAC meeting Feb. 13 that although “cybersecurity wasn’t as big a concern” entering the 2016 election because his state’s voting machines were not connected to the internet, the attention garnered by Russia’s reported electoral influence has led to a rethinking of his agency’s cybersecurity protocols. Giles said cyber hygiene practices such as improving password strength and multifactor authentication will be included in the state’s plan to modernize its voter registration system.