Minnesota’s voting equipment is aging out, and without legislative help, the burden of about $28 million in replacement costs will fall squarely on cities and counties. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met Monday with the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools to drum up support for a state-funded solution to voting infrastructure now more than a decade old. He’s not asking for the Legislature to foot the bill for the entire cost, rather follow Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal calling for a 50-50 split between the state and local governments. Covering half the cost — about $14 million — would keep the state on pace with efforts in Maryland and Michigan. “We think local government should have some skin in the game,” Simon said during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News.
Nigeria: Solar-Powered Electronic Voting Machine Developed for 2019 Elections | The Guardian Nigeria
Nigeria has recorded a scientific breakthrough with the local manufacture of an electronic voting machine designed to eliminate all problems associated with existing ones. Presenting the innovation to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu in Abuja yesterday, the Executive Vice Chairman of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Professor Mohammed Haruna said the device is a solar-powered EMV with cloud-based collation of election results. According to Haruna, the device does not store data, thus making it useless to anyone who snatches it. He explained: once the device receives data in form of voting, it sends it to the central electronic system of the electoral body from where it can be viewed online.
New voting equipment will be available for the next statewide election in August 2018 after the Michigan Secretary of State announced the selection of three vendors Tuesday that local clerks can use for future elections. The pricetag will not be cheap. The state administrative board approved contracts Tuesday with the three vendors that will cost between $52 million and $82 million. The state has $30 million leftover from the federal Help America Vote Act funds that were provided to states for new equipment after the 2000 elections. And the Legislature approved an additional $10 million last year to pay for the new machines. And while that will cover the majority of the cost for the new system, Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, said Tuesday that there will be a cost for local communities of roughly $1,000 to $2,000 per precinct. Some communities have a minimal number of precincts, but for cities like Detroit, Warren, Southfield and Grand Rapids, the costs could be significant. Detroit has nearly 500 precincts, while Grand Rapids has 77, Warren has 58 and Southfield has 36.
North Dakota county officials are warning the state’s aging election system could be “unworkable” by the next presidential contest and are seeking state funding for new equipment. But legislators who are trying to fund state agencies and programs with significantly less tax revenue than they had just a few years ago are hesitant to meet the request. House Bill 1123, introduced at the request of the Secretary of State, would appropriate $9 million from the general fund to replace equipment such as ballot scanners across the state. House Bill 1122 would appropriate $3 million to place electronic poll books, which are currently used by only eight counties to check in voters, in every polling location in North Dakota.
California: Los Angeles County Voting System Redesign Enters Solicitation Phase | Government Technology
Work to redesign the process of how residents vote in Los Angeles County, the largest local election jurisdiction in the U.S., is entering a critical but transformational stage after eight years of research and conceptualization. The county’s Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP), which began in 2009 at Caltech essentially as a research project, has been in design for the past three years. But in October, officials signed an agreement with technology researcher and adviser Gartner Inc. to do a sourcing strategy and readiness assessment over a five-month period. Gartner finished its preliminary work at the end of 2016 and should begin reaching out to members of the IT community during the next few weeks to get feedback, likely finishing its assessment by the end of February.
Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission Puts New Voter Registration System First | Memphis Daily News
Before Shelby County voters get new voting machines, the elections administrator wants a new voter registration system to begin a badly needed upgrade of election technology. “Mostly, we really need a system that I don’t fear is going to crash and burn,” administrator Linda Phillips said. She and the five election commissioners are working on a request for proposals and intend to have the new voter registration system installed and working by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The election commission’s budget for the current fiscal year has $1 million available for such a system. “I really do not know,” she said of the exact cost of a new system. “The model in registration systems is moving more toward software than service. So a relatively low upfront price, but you pay an annual maintenance license fee. … I would expect it to be less than $2 million without question.
New Hampshire: With Dozens of Election Law Bills on Deck, Here Are Five Issues to Watch in 2017 | New Hampshire Public Radio
From changes in voting registration to changes to party primaries or the Electoral College, New Hampshire lawmakers are preparing a slew of bills aimed at reforming the state’s elections. In all, at least 40 bills aimed at tinkering with the state’s election laws are in the works for 2017. At least fifteen of those bills come from just one lawmaker, Representative David Bates, a Republican from Windham who has made revising the state’s voting rules a top focus in recent terms. On one side of the aisle, Bates and other Republicans have their eyes on tightening up the rules around who can vote here, but there are lots of different, sometimes diverging, paths on what that would look like.
The drumbeat of election rigging and foreign hacking of voting machines have energized ongoing efforts to develop a new model of digital election equipment designed to produce instantly verifiable results and dual records for security. Election experts say this emerging system, one of three publicly funded voting machine projects across the country, shows potential to help restore confidence in the country’s election infrastructure, most of which hasn’t been updated in more than a decade. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s taken years and years to get it done,” said Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County clerk and leader of the voting machine project. “Now that we’ve had this election, there’s renewed interest.” A prototype of the system, dubbed STAR Vote, sits in an engineering lab at Rice University, and bidding is open for manufacturers who want to produce it wholesale. Similar efforts to innovate voting systems are in the works in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “County clerks in these jurisdictions are the rock stars of running elections,” said Joe Kiniry, CEO of Free & Fair, an election systems supplier currently bidding on contracts to manufacture the designs of both Travis and Los Angeles counties. “If they have success in what they do, it will have, in my opinion, a massive impact on the whole U.S.”
Australian voters could soon use pens to vote at federal elections, as part of a plan to replace traditional ballot box pencils. Since 1902, electoral laws have required ballot boxes to be “furnished with a pencil for the use of voters”, but in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry the Australian Electoral Commission has asked to be given the option of voters using pens. The plans comes amid moves to replace pencils for voting in state and overseas elections, although Australians have always had the right to bring their own pen on election day. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers has asked the inquiry, which is reviewing the July 2 federal election, to recommend the change to section 206 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as technology for counting votes continues to improve.
In May 2006, Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, launched an e-voting system, producing a nationally notorious election disaster in which every technical and management system failed. One of the largest election jurisdictions in the nation, the county used DRE touchscreens similar to Allegheny County’s. When the election tabulation database grew beyond what it was designed to handle — a flaw concealed by the manufacturer — it silently began dropping votes and other data, without notifying officials. An accurate recount was possible, however, because Ohio had required paper printouts of voters’ e-ballots. Recounts showed that some previously announced winners actually had lost. The hidden software problem did not extinguish anyone’s voting rights only because there was a paper trail. Experts in election technology have pointed out that most Pennsylvania counties — including Allegheny — use e-voting systems that have been outlawed by most states. The chief reason? The omission of voter-approved paper printouts that can be recounted and that allow for audits to check on the accuracy of the electronic machines. Even when voting systems are aged and vulnerable to hacking or tampering, durable paper ballots combined with quality-assurance audits can ensure trustworthy results. Cuyahoga County election officials, like many around the nation, have learned that, even though their voting machines are certified and function perfectly one day, on another day they may fail to count accurately. Software bugs — especially from updates, malware and errors in programming — can lead to unpredictable inaccuracies. Cuyahoga County now conducts an audit after every election, using paper ballots, which most Pennsylvania counties are unable to do.
Michigan: Detroit to get new voting machines as city clerk blames state, human error | Detroit Free Press
Five weeks after a national scandal involving broken Detroit voting machines and ineffective poll workers, state Elections Director Chris Thomas said Wednesday evening that the city will get all new voting machines in time for the 2017 mayoral and City Council elections. But broken machines were not the biggest problem Detroit endured election night. Citing a memo he just received, Thomas said there were dozens of other problems that occurred Nov. 8. “I got an e-mail yesterday from Wayne County showing me what the issues were on (Detroit) polling places and precincts, and quite frankly, it was somewhat shocking,” he said. Thomas said his staff soon will head to Detroit to get a better understanding of why the city has such problems running elections and to find ways to help. Among the problems cited in the memo, he said: Ninety-one precinct reports were not delivered on time. County officials had to re-create missing poll books. Five precincts had no poll books, so Detroit election officials had to find voter applications and re-create the books — and hundreds of poll worksheets had either too few or too many ballots.
Nebraska: Plan sought to update Nebraska’s election equipment; prospect of statewide all-mail voting raised | Omaha World Herald
The Legislature needs a plan in place to update aging election equipment, though many decisions will hinge on whether leaders pursue statewide all-mail voting, lawmakers were told Monday. Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse told the Legislature’s Special Election Technology Committee that two of his county’s nine vote-counting machines weren’t operating properly on Nov. 8, contributing to some numbers not being available until 5:30 the next morning. But he cautioned against replacing the machines until decisions are made about whether the state should switch to voting only by mail, an option he said he believes has support among the Douglas County Board. “Some of (the board members) have brought it up to me,” he said.
More than 80 voting machines in Detroit malfunctioned on Election Day, officials say, resulting in ballot discrepancies in 59% of precincts that raise questions about the reliability of future election results in a city dominated by Democratic and minority voters. “This is not the first time,” adds Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city. “We’ve had this problem in nearly every election that we administer in the city of Detroit.” Baxter says that the machines were tested for accuracy before election day in accordance with state and federal guidelines, but that sometimes the machines “hit up against each other and malfunction” as they’re being transported to the precincts. The machines were optical scanners, meaning they registered and counted the votes marked on paper ballots. Many of the machines jammed over the course of election day, perhaps because Michigan had a two-page ballot this year, which meant that paper ballots were collected but inconsistently recorded by the machines.
Pennsylvania: Green Party seeks to overhaul procedures for future elections | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pennsylvania certified its 2016 election results Monday, officially anointing Donald J. Trump as its choice for president. But the campaign of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein isn’t giving up its bid to change the way the state counts, and recounts, the ballots. “In Pennsylvania, we are planning to proceed in federal court with an examination and a challenge to what we think is a byzantine and unworkable recount regime,” said campaign attorney Jonathan Abady in a phone call with reporters. Unlike a federal lawsuit filed last week, which was rejected Monday by U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphioa, future litigation won’t seek to contest the 2016 vote tallies. Instead, the Stein campaign said it will focus on future elections, by seeking to overhaul recount procedures and its use of paperless voting machines.
Nebraska’s voting equipment is becoming outdated and needs to be replaced to ensure elections run smoothly, county officials and advocates said Monday. Election commissioners from Douglas, Sarpy, Lancaster and Hall counties raised the concern in a legislative hearing but told lawmakers they’re waiting until Nebraska officials decide whether to switch to statewide mail-in voting. Nebraska’s election system faces challenges because many of the state’s smallest counties can’t afford the technology upgrades. Some county voting machines rely on antiquated technology, such as 1990s-era Zip drives, to help tabulate votes. Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse said one of the machines in his office stopped working on election night 2016, and others experienced problems. Kruse said his county’s commissioners generally support a switch to statewide mail-in voting, which would reduce costs and save storage space that’s required for precinct voting machines.
Voting Blogs: Election Administration Woes and Not Just “Hoping for the Best” | More Soft Money Hard Law
For all the talk about weaknesses in the electoral systems–about voter fraud or hacking or machine failure, or all of the above–experience with these types of claims or concerns suggests that, as matters of general public debate, they will soon fade. The rhetoric may linger, but little of use, such as practical reforms, is likely to follow. This does not have to be the way the story ends. Six years ago, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration suggested at least two potentially helpful measures, one very concrete and urgent, and the other pressing but more politically complicated and so harder to execute. These reforms won’t satisfy everyone: they offer only so much to those with the darkest suspicions. But they would make a major difference in preventing a calamitous breakdown in the voting process and an even greater collapse of public confidence.
Editorials: Back to the future: Paper ballots still the best fraud prevention | Theresa Payton/The Hill
It’s hard to believe the moment we all learned the presidential election would be recounted in Wisconsin. Thank goodness Wisconsin has paper ballots that can be physically counted again. Did you know that many of the voting machines in New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina produce a report of how the voting machines recorded the votes but there is no paper trail to allow you to count the ballots again if needed. The same is true for key counties in Pennsylvania, a consistent battleground state that uses the same system in the majority of its counties, and that is true for other states as well. Today, there are entire countries totally relying on electronic voting: Brazil, since 2000, has employed electronic voting machines and, in 2010, had 135 million electronic voters. India had 380 million electronic voters, for its Parliament election in 2004.
As allegations of vote rigging and manipulation continue to plague the 2016 election, one developer is heading straight to the source to investigate—the source code, that is.Regardless of what state you live in, one common denominator is direct recording electronic (DRE) machines. While some states use paper ballots and only five states (Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, South…
This year’s election faced an unprecedented kink: hacking. Wikileaks published hacked emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, for example, and Russian hackers were accused of compromising state election systems. Now some wonder whether hackers targeted the actual Nov. 8 vote results, shifting them in favor of Donald Trump in swing states where the vote was expected to be close. New York Magazine reported Tuesday that experts were urging the Clinton campaign to challenge the results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The report, which cited an unnamed source, said a group including a computer scientist and a voting rights attorney had raised questions as to whether the election results in these states could have been hacked. Group members reportedly discussed their findings in a conference call with Clinton campaign staff last Thursday. Clinton’s camp has until this Friday to call for a Wisconsin recount, until Monday in Pennsylvania, and until next Wednesday in Michigan, the report notes. It also says that Clinton would only be able to claim a victory should all three of these states overturn their results, which would take Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes and Wisconsin’s 10 away from Donald Trump’s 290. Clinton would also have to tack on Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, which have unofficially been assigned to Trump but have yet to be finalized, to clinch the victory. After the Nov. 8 tallies, Clinton lags Trump by 58 electoral votes. But a number of experts contend that the New York Magazine piece contains some incorrect numbers.
The presidential election is over, but the multiple threats to the trustworthiness of our election system and thus our entire democracy exposed during the recent, contentious presidential campaign must be addressed for democracy to survive. The threat is real and it is multifaceted. Disinformation was rampant throughout social media and even, in some instances, through more conventional media sources, such as the false reporting by Fox News Channel of the likelihood of an indictment of Hillary Clinton by the FBI on charges related to misconduct tied to the Clinton Foundation. Social media was a sewer of misinformation during the campaign. According to the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation, more than 40% of people turn to social media for their news. Twitter was particularly active on Election Day. It is a simple thing for someone or some country trying to influence an election to set up phony Twitter accounts to sow deliberate misinformation. Fake stories, such as Pope Francis’ endorsement of Donald Trump and reports that Clinton adviser John Podesta was a Satanist, spread through phony news links on Facebook and other social media.
Editorials: Now is the time to fix our old voting machines. | Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti/Slate
Athough more than half the country may be unhappy with the results, America dodged a bullet on Election Day. That is, our voting machines generally held up. The tabulations they produced were not so close as to throw the election results in doubt, and there’s no legitimate indication that any were hacked. In the next presidential election, we may not be so lucky. With antiquated voting devices at the end of their projected lifespans still in widespread use across the country, the U.S. is facing an impending crisis in which our most basic election infrastructure is unacceptably vulnerable to breakdown, malfunction, and hacking. It’s not just an inconvenience. If the machinery of democracy is called into question, so are its foundations. Those of us who can recall the presidential election of 2000 know exactly what can happen when faulty technology meets a razor-close election. The Bush-Gore contest came down to just a few hundred votes in Florida, and butterfly ballots and faulty punch card machines left us arguing about hanging, dimpled, and pregnant chads. It left wounds that still afflict the country. In today’s hyperpartisan environment, such a scenario—or even unfounded accusations of a “rigged” election that gained postelection traction—would be far more contentious. Just imagine what it might be like in 2020.
Last week, we were highly critical of Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz and his elections staff, blaming the significant delays in vote counting on poor preparation, specifically a poor decision to purchase software inadequate to the task of counting Pueblo’s numerous ballot styles. It appears we were a bit premature. As it turns out, there were all sorts of factors leading up to the election vote count problems. As reported in Wednesday’s Chieftain, state election officials essentially said Ortiz and his team had no way of knowing that the computer system would bog down on the morning of Election Day. They said they had approved the number of ballots, the way issues were presented on them, and the purchase of the Dominion Express System by the county. Significant tests — more than actually required — were conducted prior to the election, and there were no indications that a disaster lie ahead.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said Thursday that there were limitations to an election system used in Pueblo County Tuesday that officials were not aware of at the time they purchased the equipment. Counting of all mail in-ballots was expected to be completed at about 10:30 p.m. on Election Day, but a computer server hit its capacity early that day, forcing Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz to call the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which provided a larger server. During a Thursday press conference in Colorado Springs, Williams repeated what Ortiz has been saying since the problem began. He told reporters that the size of Pueblo County’s four page ballot caused large scan files to clog the server. Williams said the server software (Microsoft SQL Express) was insufficient to handle the size. “The new (Pueblo County) system uses a scan of the entire ballot so judges quickly can adjudicate (ballots in) any race that might be in question,” Williams said.
During this year’s voting, the vast majority of states used outdated voting machines perilously close to the end of their projected lifespan. Back in April, we warned that 42 states use machines that are at least a decade old. Given that a high percentage of these machines have projected lifespans of between 10 and 15 years, we argued something needs to be done soon to prevent a real crisis. We also pointed out, though, that the fact that the machines are aging does not mean they will all break down at once. Fortunately, on Election Day, most Americans were able to vote on machines that functioned properly, though in a few areas like Detroit, problems were widespread. In addition, election officials were well-prepared. Keenly aware of the potential problems associated with using antiquated equipment during a high-turnout election, they were generally able to keep voting going smoothly when problems did arise. Still, the failures that we did see serve as a warning of how bad things could get if we don’t replace our aging voting equipment soon. In a 2010 report, one state’s Department of Legislative Services found that the “nature and frequency of equipment failure beyond the manufacturer’s life expectancy cannot be predicted.” As machines approach the 15-year mark, we are likely to see progressively worse and more frequent problems.
National security experts say hackers backed by foreign governments are trying to influence the U.S. election, and the nation’s voting infrastructure is dangerously vulnerable. Time for an overhaul, they say. But when county officials in Austin, the capital of Texas, wanted to replace their voting equipment in 2012, they didn’t like what they saw. Electronic machines on the market had security problems. Voter-marked paper ballots can leave room for interpretation. So County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called Rice University computer science professor Dan Wallach, who has been poking holes in voting-machine security for years. He’s testified before Congress on the subject. Now DeBeauvoir wanted him to design a new one. “Wow,” he says. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee was hacked, and some of its private emails were released to the public. Last week, the FBI confirmed that hackers targeted voter registration systems in 20 states. But most voting systems are not connected to the internet, which means they’re less prone to hacking. In fact, a 2014 report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, says the biggest threat on Election Day is not hackers — it’s outdated equipment. This November, 42 states will use machines that are more than a decade old, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Machines in 14 states, including Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Texas and Virginia are in some cases more than 15 years old. States are increasingly reporting vulnerabilities, such as worn-out modems used to transmit election results, failing central processing units and unsupported memory cards, the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported.
The recent hacking of Democratic Party databases — and strong suspicions that the Russian government is involved — have led to new fears that America’s voting systems are vulnerable to attack and that an outsider could try to disrupt the upcoming elections. A cyberattack on U.S. elections isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. Just a week and a half ago, Illinois election officials shut down that state’s voter registration database after discovering it had been hacked. In June, Arizona took its voter registration system offline after the FBI warned it too might have been hacked, although no evidence of that was found. In May, security analyst David Levin was arrested after he gained access to the Lee County, Fla., elections website. Levin said in a YouTube video he was only trying to show how vulnerable the system was: “Yeah, you could be in Siberia and still perform the attack that I performed on the local supervisor of election website. So this is very important.” The county says the problems were later fixed.
District of Columbia: Old machines and missing dollars. Is D.C. ready for an election? | The Washington Post
Elections in the District have been handicapped by faulty voting machines, inadequate polling staff, inaccessible polling stations and delays in vote tallying. And yet it is unclear whether any of those problems will have been remedied by the time the District holds its next major election in six months. These are the concerns held by D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie and a handful of other close observers of the city’s election process who say the D.C. Board of Elections appears to have made no clear progress toward fixing its long-standing problems ahead of the June primary contests or addressed how the board has managed millions of dollars in federal funds. As of last week, a full month after board members testified before the D.C. Council that they were unaware of how much new voting machines would cost, the board still had not determined whether it can afford to purchase new ones or whether it will lease them. The potential lengthiness of the city’s procurement process also raises the question of whether the board will have enough time to test the machines and train election workers, if it does acquire new ones.
It’s been more than a decade since the Help America Vote Act, which pumped federal dollars into states to upgrade their voting equipment to avoid a repeat of the disastrous problems of the 2000 election. Now, that equipment is starting to show signs of age. Local governments are starting to think about replacing it in the next few years — this time, without federal help. Sherburne County is the first area county to do so. On Tuesday, the county board voted to accept a bid from Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems for about $490,000 for a countywide upgrade of election equipment in time for the 2016 election.
Nevada is set to figure big in the 2016 election. Not only might we be the deciding state in the presidential election, but who we elect in the Senate race to replace Sen. Harry Reid may determine the balance of power in Congress. And two ballot measures – on legalized marijuana and firearms background checks – will bring people to the polls in droves. Are we ready for this? Is our election system set to handle the influx of voters? On machines that were built more than 15 years ago? Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria is certain he can keep the voting machines healthy through the 2016 election, but he’s not sure how much magic he and his staff can work after this. “We definitely need to start that conversation and the time to plan is now,” Gloria told KNPR’s State of Nevada, “Nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan.”