Minnesota: State to provide funds to counties for election equipment | Park Rapids Enterprise

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon stopped in Hubbard County last week as he toured the state talking about the need to replace aging election equipment. Simon was seeking $28 million from the Legislature to help counties pay for the project. In May, a bill was signed into law that created a $7 million grant fund to help replace the aging equipment by 2020. The fund provides up to a 50 percent match between the state and counties for mandatory equipment and up to a 75 percent match for electronic poll books. Grant applications are expected to be made available in September, with an expected submission deadline in mid-December, according to Secretary of State’s office.

National: The One Kernel of Truth at Trump’s Voter Fraud Summit | WIRED

The first meeting of the Trump administration’s new advisory committee on election integrity consisted mainly of voter-fraud fear-mongering. … Hans von Spakovsky, a committee member and senior legal fellow at the right-learning Heritage Foundation, pointed to his organization’s database of 1,071 documented cases of voter fraud over the last several decades, neglecting to mention that figure constitutes just .0008 percent of the people who voted in the 2016 election alone. Together, they painted a picture of a pervasive and insidious threat to free and fair elections, despite the mountains of research showing that actual voter fraud is scarce. But amid all the conjecture came one nugget of actual truth, offered by Judge Alan King of Jefferson County, Alabama. Not only did Judge King, one of the committee’s few Democrats, state that he’d never seen a single instance of voter fraud in all his years as head of elections in Jefferson County, he was also the lone member of the committee to use his opening remarks to raise the critically important issue of outdated voting technology. Unlike phantom zombie voters, that issue poses a real, and well-documented, threat to people’s voting rights.

California: Los Angeles County Sets Its Sights On Updated, ‘Secure’ Voting System | KHTS

As Los Angeles County prepares for the procurement and manufacturing stage of its nationally-recognized Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP), Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan is focusing resources on election security. “Amid continuous investigation of attempted nation-state hacking of voter data and ongoing concerns about the age and technical vulnerability of the voting equipment used in the United States,” said Logan, “it is imperative that next generation voting systems like the one we are developing in Los Angeles County are equipped to deliver voters a secure, usable and transparent voting experience.”

National: 15 States Use Easily Hackable Voting Machines | HuffPost

In 2006, Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten received an anonymous message offering him a Diebold AccuVote TS, one of the most widely used touch-screen voting machines at the time. Manufacturers like Diebold touted the touch-screens, known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, as secure and more convenient than their paper-based predecessors. Computer experts were skeptical, since any computer can be vulnerable to viruses and malware, but it was hard to get ahold of a touch-screen voting machine to test it. The manufacturers were so secretive about how the technology worked that they often required election officials to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from bringing in outside experts who could assess the machines. Felten was intrigued enough that he sent his 25-year-old computer science graduate student, Alex Halderman, on a mission to retrieve the AccuVote TS from a trenchcoat-clad man in an alleyway near New York’s Times Square. Felten’s team then spent the summer working in secrecy in an unmarked room in the basement of a building to reverse-engineer the machine. In September 2006, they published a research paper and an accompanying video detailing how they could spread malicious code to the AccuVote TS to change the record of the votes to produce whatever outcome the code writers desired. And the code could spread from one machine to another like a virus.

Texas: Harris County, Texas, Officials Won’t Say Whether Election Systems Were Targeted | Government Technology

Despite widespread alarm over the breadth of Russian cyber attacks on state and local election systems last year, including revelations of Dallas County being targeted, Harris County officials are refusing to say whether hackers similarly took aim at the nation’s third-largest county. Releasing information on whether Harris County election systems saw attacks from Russian hackers would threaten the county’s cyber security by emboldening hackers to further target local systems, county officials said this week.  The county’s argument was dismissed by experts, who said the secrecy is unnecessary, and could actually downplay the seriousness of the threat and the resources needed to combat it. “There’s this concept in security called ‘security through obscurity,’ sort of, if they don’t know about it they won’t come after it,” said Pamela Smith, a consultant at Verified Voting, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes voting integrity. “But to really have robust security, you want people to be able to know that it’s there … I think what the public wants to know is that you’re aware of the threat and you’re taking steps to mitigate.”

Texas: Why one of the largest counties in Texas is going back to paper ballots | The Texas Tribune

Frank Phillips spent last Wednesday staring down 600 boxes of election materials — voted ballots, blank ballots, precinct records — sitting in a warehouse run by Denton County. After sitting in storage for the legally required periods — up to nearly two years in some cases — the roughly 24,000 pounds of paper were finally ready to be shredded. Yet despite the hassle — and the significant cost — Phillips, Denton County’s elections administrator, is looking forward to this fall, when he will implement the county’s newest voting plan: a complete return to the paper ballot. The unusual move sets Denton, the ninth-largest county in Texas and one of the fastest-growing, apart from the state’s other biggest counties, which all use some form of electronic voting, according to data collected by the Secretary of State’s office. Both Bexar and Harris Counties, for example, have had all electronic voting systems in place for 15 years.

Georgia: Many Troubling, Unanswered Questions about Voting Machinery in Georgia House Runoff | Alternet

The results from Georgia’s sixth district congressional race are odd. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic newcomer who ran against Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel, won the absentee vote 64% to 36%. That vote was conducted on paper ballots that were mailed in and scanned on optical scanners. Ossoff also won the early voting 51% to 49%. Those results closely mirror recent polls that had him ahead by 1-3 points. In the highest of those polls, he was ahead by 7% with 5% undecided and a 4% margin of error. On Election Day, Handel pulled out a whopping 16 percent lead, for a crushing 58% to 42% division of the day’s votes. That means that all 5% of the undecided voters broke for Handel, the poll was off by its farthest estimate and another 3.5% of Ossoff’s voters switched sides into her camp. All this despite Ossoff’s intensive door-to-door ground offensive that Garland Favorito, who lives in the heart of the sixth district called the “most massive operation” he’s ever seen. Favorito is the founder of VoterGA, a nonpartisan election reform group. He said Handel had signs up, but her canvassing operation didn’t approach Ossoff’s.

Ohio: Ohio Joins Nationwide Effort to Update Voting Equipment | GovTech

“We don’t want to be another Florida.” Those words from Delaware County Elections Director Karla Herron are being echoed across Ohio — indeed, throughout much of the country — as elections officials grow increasingly worried about the growing necessity to replace aging voting equipment. Virtually no one disagrees with the need. Problem is, virtually no one wants to pay for a new voting setup. The statewide tab could top $200 million, judging by central Ohio cost estimates. Tim Ward has a ready retort for such reluctance: “You think having a good election is expensive? Try having a bad one.” The president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials and Madison County elections director said, “We don’t want to be sitting there saying I told you so.”

Ohio: Could the 2000 election debacle in Florida happen in Ohio? | Columbus Dispatch

“We don’t want to be another Florida.” Those words from Delaware County Elections Director Karla Herron are being echoed across Ohio — indeed, throughout much of the country — as elections officials grow increasingly worried about the growing necessity to replace aging voting equipment. Virtually no one disagrees with the need. Problem is, virtually no one wants to pay for a new voting setup. The statewide tab could top $200 million, judging by central Ohio cost estimates. Tim Ward has a ready retort for such reluctance: “You think having a good election is expensive? Try having a bad one.” The president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials and Madison County elections director said, “We don’t want to be sitting there saying I told you so.”

Texas: Texans had problems voting in presidential election | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Nearly 9 million Texans headed to the polls in November to weigh in on the fierce battle for the White House — and many stumbled upon roadblocks while trying to cast their votes. Texas voters faced long lines, equipment glitches, intimidation — and confusion over the state’s Voter ID law and whether photo IDs were still required — according to a new report, Texas Election Protection 2016. “Unfortunately, through the state, voters faced numerous obstacles that complicated the process,” said Beth Stevens, voting rights director at the Texas Civil Rights Project that compiled the report. “We heard directly from thousands of voters about the barriers they faced in our electoral system. “Texans deserved better.”

National: Can US Elections Be Hacked? Security Experts Call For More Protections Against Election Hacking | International Business Times

More than one hundred security researchers and experts signed on to a letter sent to member of the United States Congress to warn of their belief that not enough has been done to protect against potential threats to state and federal elections. The letter, published Wednesday as a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, argues many states are unprepared to respond to cybersecurity risks that may arise during upcoming election.The signatories laid out three primary suggestions for securing the electoral process and prevent against any potential tampering that may occur. First, the experts called on election officials to establish voter-verified paper ballots as the “official record of voter intent.” Doing so would require phasing out paperless voting machines that offer no way to verify if a vote tallied by the system corresponds to the vote intended to be cast by the voter.

Nigeria: Electoral Commission Explains Why It Rejects Solar-Powered E-Voting Machine | Information Nigeria

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has rejected the solar-powered electronic voting machine made by the National Agency of Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), after the INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud. According to sources at the meeting, held behind closed doors, expressed fears that the machine could fail in the middle of the exercise and cause problems, leading to litigation against the commission.The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has rejected the solar-powered electronic voting machine made by the National Agency of Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), after the INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud, according to sources at the meeting, held behind closed doors, expressed fears that the machine could fail in the middle of the exercise and cause problems, leading to litigation against the commission.

California: Assembly Bill Would Allow Voting System Upgrades | Techwire

The last time voting technology was updated in California was 2002. That’s four presidential elections with the same voting machines each time. In Sacramento County, vote-counting machines have paths worn into the trays that hold ballots to be scanned, often causing ballots to fray as they pass through machines. Counties normally administer most election activities and cover the costs associated with them. States have specific requirements about elections, costing about $30 million a year. However, the state and federal governments do not regularly pay for elections, leaving counties with large modernization bills. Assembly Bill 668, the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018, would change all that. The bill would allow the state to sell $450 million in bonds that would be spent upgrading voting technology after a two-thirds vote in both houses and passage as a proposition by direct vote of the people.

National: Experts surprised by extent of Russian election meddling, demand voting security for 2018 | SC Magazine

The leak of a classified NSA document confirming that Russian military intelligence interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential race has reinforced the need to fix vulnerabilities in America’s voting infrastructure before the next election cycle, say experts who expressed dismay over the reported intricacy of the Kremlin’s campaign. According to the leaked report, which was dated May 5 and published yesterday by The Intercept, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, launched a spoofing attack against an unnamed electronic voting vendor, in order to get access to that company’s data and internal systems. Next, the GRU hackers (often referred to as the APT Fancy Bear) sent various government employees spear phishing emails that appeared to be from this e-voting vendor, but in actuality contained attachments that infected machines with malware. … J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security & Society at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, said that Russia’s spearphishing plot “raises an enormous number of questions about how far they got [and] if other vendors were attacked that haven’t been detected or announced yet, about what they were trying to do, and about whether they succeeded” in their ultimate objective.

Editorials: Our election systems are at grave risk of cyberattacks. When will Congress take action? | Lawrence Norden/Slate

On Monday night, the Intercept published a leaked National Security Agency report that recounts a Russian military intelligence cyberattack against a voter registration software company. According to the report, Russian government hackers appear to have used “data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration–themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.” On one level, this story was not particularly surprising. Even before the Intercept article, we knew—based upon previous news reports, as well as a January report from American intelligence agencies—that hackers working on behalf of the Russian government were targeting state and local voter registration databases. And there is nothing in the NSA report or the Intercept piece that supports the idea that Russian hacks against election offices and registration system prevented anyone from voting or changed vote totals in any way. (It always bears repeating that the voter registration system and vote tallying systems are different. An attack against the registration system will not change vote totals on a voting machine.)

Georgia: Expert witnesses weigh in on alleged ‘unsafe’ voting machines at hearing | WXIA

A non-profit group is demanding that Fulton County use paper ballots during the sixth district runoff race. In a motion brought by Rocky Mountain Foundation and members of Georgians for Verified Voting, the organizations presented a case that the state’s touch screen-based voting system is “uncertified, unsafe and inaccurate” and that the county officials must instead use paper ballots in the election to have a verifiable transparent election. The group noted a FBI investigation of a cyber-attack on the Center for Election Systems (CES) at Kennesaw State University, the entity responsible for testing and programming voting machines across Georgia.

National: Why the United States Still Needs Paper Ballots | The Atlantic

It’s time to fix the voting process. American voting systems have improved in recent years, but they collectively remain a giant mess. Voting is controlled by states, and typically administered by counties and local governments. Voting laws differ depending on where you are. Voting machines vary, too; there’s no standard system for the nation. Accountability is a crapshoot. In some jurisdictions, voters use machines that create electronic tallies with no “paper trail”—that is, no tangible evidence whatsoever that the voter’s choices were honored. A “recount” in such places means asking the machine whether it was right the first time. We need to fix all of this. But state and local governments are perpetually cash-starved, and politicians refuse to spend the money that would be required to do it.

National: 3 Things Election Tech Officials Need Right Now | Government Technology

The U.S. is in the midst of a historic moment of civic participation. And while protesters march in the streets and politicians wrangle with each other over the aftermath of an election, the people who actually run elections are quietly working on making their systems better. And those systems are, by all accounts, in need of updating. At the first-ever Global Election Technology Summit on May 17 in San Francisco, hosted by the Startup Policy Lab, a diverse group of people involved in elections and the technology used to run them gathered to talk about how they can improve the process for everyone involved. Here are three things they said the government could use right now to make elections better.

Papua New Guinea: Electoral Commission to use technology to transmit election results | Post Courier

The mobile application that the Electoral Commission will use to transmit election results will increase transparency for polling and counting processes, according to an IT expert. Electoral Commission Software Technician Henry Wakit said the application which does not rely heavily on the internet is installed in a tablet with each electoral officer for the 111 open and regional electorates in the country.

Nevada: New Voting Machines Could Be On the Way for Nevada | KTVN

The next time we head to the polls, there is a good chance we will cast our ballots on new voting machines. Some of Nevada’s machines have been in use since 2004, spanning more than a dozen elections. “Their expected life-span was about ten years when we got them and we’re already well past that,” Luanne Cutler, Washoe County Registrar of Voters said. There are 6,894 voting machines throughout Nevada’s 17 counties. If the legislature approves funding, the cost could be up to $25,000. “Dominion Voting Systems” and “Elections Systems & Software” are the two companies that the Secretary of State’s Office could buy the new machines from. “The accuracy is very, very important but also the new technology,” Barbara Cegavske, Nevada Secretary of State said. “We’re looking at all of those aspects, all of the new bells and whistles.”

California: Election officials support $450 million voting-equipment bond | The Sacramento Bee

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.

Michigan: Detroit getting new voting machines, bound statewide | Detroit Free Press

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.

National: The Coming Voting Rights Battle: Access vs. Accountability | WhoWhatWhy

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.

Ohio: Butler County leaders don’t like state rules on electronic voting | Hamilton Journal News

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.

Massachusetts: MIT Launches an Election Data and Science Lab | Paste

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.

Voting Blogs: Election Assistance Commission Offers Election Technology Training Course | EAC Blog

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.

National: Should Americans trust their voting tech? | FCW

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.