As state leaders look for ways to slash their budgets in the wake of the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger finds one line item in his budget particularly troubling. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, they currently pay $36,000 per month, which adds up to $432,000 per year, to warehouse the state’s now retired electronic voting machines. “I’m tired of it and I’m fed up and I think taxpayers should be fed up,” Sec. Raffensperger said Friday. The old hardware lies at the center of an ongoing legal battle between the state and several voting and election transparency groups, who sued claiming the machines, and thus Georgians’ votes, were not secure. In an order last November, a United States District Court judge directed the state to “preserve all GEMS servers, DREs, memory cards, AccuVote scanners, and Express Poll books until further order of the Court in the event a forensic examination is deemed necessary at some point for purposes of this litigation.”
New Hampshire: Ballot machines clog due to increased use of hand sanitizer | Erin Nolan/Eagle Tribune
Locals’ coronavirus concerns appear to have prompted some difficulties during Tuesday’s municipal elections in New Hampshire, according to Atkinson Town Clerk Julianna Hale. Hale said that both of Atkinson’s ballot scanners were temporarily clogged by ballots that were wet with disinfectant or hand sanitizer. “It is definitely the year of coronavirus,” she said, referencing the highly contagious, flu-like illness commonly called COVID-19 that has prompted multiple states, including Massachusetts, to declare a state of emergency. She said that some voters brought their own alcohol-based disinfectant to clean both their hands and the voting booths. When ballots came into contact with the disinfectant, she said, they began to break down and clog the machine. “The disinfectant is weakening the paper structure,” Hale said. “That’s what I’m seeing, anyway. I am not an expert, but that is what I am seeing.” The issue was only able to be remedied by calling LHS Associates, the company that distributes the machines.
New Hampshire: Why did the primary go smoothly with record turnout? Low tech is good tech | Geoff Forester and David Brooks/Concord Monitor
A nationally known computer hacker, a term he wears proudly, helped keep an eye on New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday but says you didn’t need computer smarts to see that it went well. “One big thing is no lines. When you go around the United States, usually the first thing you see if there are problems are long lines of people who can’t get to vote,” said Harri Hursti, a cybersecurity analyst who founded DefCon, the nation’s best-known gathering of people interested in computer security. Hursti has worked with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office since about 2005, when he met Secretary of State Bill Gardner at a conference. His presence here for Tuesday’s primary was of particular importance because of the meltdown of the Iowa caucuses caused largely by the use of an untested app. During a discussion Wednesday morning as election officials completed counting votes from around the state he was almost effusive about how things went.
New Hampshire: Ballot-counting machines are two decades old, with no replacement in sight | David Brooks/Concord Monitor
Experienced New Hampshire voters will see something quite familiar when they cast their primary ballots Tuesday: A vote-counting machine that hasn’t changed in more than two decades. The AccuVote optical reader has been part of Granite State elections since the early 1990s, when it was first accepted by the Secretary of State’s office. It’s a 14-pound box that looks like an oversized laptop computer sitting on top of a collection bin. As each voter leaves the polling place, poll workers slip their ballot into the AccuVote slot and the machine bounces light off the paper. Sensors tally filled-in circles next to candidates’ names and then the ballot falls into the bin below the reader. After polls close, the reader prints out the results, with all the paper ballots available for a recount. Other technologies have come and gone over the years but AccuVote has remained, and today is still the state’s only legal ballot-counting technology. On primary day it will be used in 118 towns and 73 city wards, leaving the other 100 or so towns in the state, including several in the Concord area, to count ballots on election night by hand.
Vermont: Ethical Hackers Breach Vermont Voting Machines, But Officials Say No Need To Panic | Peter Hirschfeld/Vermont Public Radio
Elections security experts have discovered new ways to manipulate the type of voting machine used in Vermont, but local elections officials say it’s unlikely that bad actors could exploit those vulnerabilities to change the results of an election. At a recent technology conference in Las Vegas, ethical hackers from across the country tried to infiltrate some of the voting machines used in U.S. elections. Probing for vulnerabilities in ballot tabulators is an annual tradition at the DEF CON Hacking Conference. This year, however, hackers tried to gain access to the same type of voting machine used by 135 towns in Vermont. Montpelier City Clerk John Odum retrieved one of the machines from a vault last week and placed it on a desk in his office. It’s a pretty ancient-looking piece of technology — like something you might have seen in a middle school computer room in the early 1990s. “As I understand it, the memory cards that we use, the technology was originally developed for the original Tandy laptops,” Odum said, “so this is some old stuff.” The machine is called an AccuVote, and its name is clearly meant to inspire confidence in the results it spits out. But when white-hat hackers set to work on this tabulator at DEF CON earlier this month, they quickly found all kinds of ways to manipulate results.
Connecticut: Chief elections official says Connecticut’s electronic voting machines are ‘coming to the end of their useful life’ | Mark Pazniokas/CT Mirror
Connecticut’s current system of casting and counting votes has its roots in the chaotic presidential election of 2000. With the winner unclear for a month, it was a frightening moment in U.S. politics that led to a bipartisan consensus about the need to maintain confidence in the integrity of elections. Passage of the federal Help Americans Vote Act in 2002 established broad standards for the conduct of elections and provided funding for new hardware, leading Connecticut in 2006 to abandon its old mechanical lever voting machines for a mix of the old and new — paper ballots counted by computer-driven tabulators. “We fortunately made the right choice,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday. A proposed Voter Empowerment Act now before Congress would make hybrid systems like Connecticut’s the new federal standard: Using computers to quickly count votes, while maintaining paper ballots as a check on computer hacking and other forms of cyber fraud. President Trump recently endorsed paper ballots on Twitter. But as Merrill and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal made clear Wednesday at a press conference on elections security, the technical and political challenges in protecting U.S. elections are far more complex today than in the aftermath of the Florida recount in the Bush-Gore campaign of 2000. Blumenthal arrived at Merrill’s state Capitol office with his right arm in a sling. He had surgery last week for a torn rotator cuff.
The Alaska Division of Elections is in the middle of preparations for this fall’s statewide primary and general elections, but in a meeting Wednesday, the division showed it also has its eyes on 2020. In a meeting of the statewide election policy task force, division officials said they are preparing to acquire new voting equipment even as they consider whether the state should change the way it conducts elections. “It’s kind of two separate projects. It’s equipment replacement and it’s expanding options for ballot access in the future,” Josie Bahnke, the division’s director, said by phone after the meeting. Nothing will change before this year’s Aug. 21 primary or the Nov. 6 general election. Voters will still go to polling stations across the state, they’ll still pick up pens, and they’ll still fill in ovals on paper ballots, then feed those ballots into 20-year-old scanners.
While this year’s elections have seen some interesting twists, one of the most problematic could be the printed stickers used by those voting for Provo mayoral write-in candidate, Odell Miner. In a generous move, Miner had transparent stickers printed with his name and a filled-in voting oval or bubble to affix to the mail-in ballot in the hopes of making things easier for those voting for him. Bryan Thompson, Utah County clerk/auditor, was uneasy about Miner using the stickers in case a reading machine got jammed or had some other problem. However, Thompson said he couldn’t stop Miner from doing it either. “I told Odell you may not see all of your count,” Thompson said.
Vermont election officials reported a mostly smooth election on Tuesday, but acknowledged at least a dozen complaints from city and town clerks regarding vote counting machines. “The latest I heard I think we had 12 (complaints),” Will Senning, Vermont’s director of elections, told Vermont Watchdog Tuesday afternoon. AccuVote-OS machines have been the digital ballot counters of choice for more than a decade in New England states. About 135 towns in Vermont use the machines to tally election results from paper ballots. While the standalone units are generally considered safe because they don’t connect to the Internet, computer security experts say they are vulnerable to hackers through the machines’ detachable memory cards. Those cards are managed by a single private company, LHS Associates, of Salem, N.H.
New Hampshire: In a connected world, New Hampshire voting machines are isolated – by choice | Concord Monitor
With concerns being raised across the country about the possibility that hackers could interfere with electronic voting machines, it’s timely to note that in a world of smart devices, New Hampshire’s ballot-counting machines are deliberately dumb. Say what you will about rigged elections and the chance of election officials missing cases of voter fraud: When it comes to the mechanical end of the state’s voting system, it’s a tight process. Security cameras, thermostats and even some automobiles might interact online these days, but not the hundreds of ballot-counting machines stored in town halls across New Hampshire. “They cut the pins off, so you can’t put the modems back in, even if you wanted to,” said Ben Bynum, town clerk in Canterbury, as he showed the town’s single AccuVote machine, locked away in a vault until pre-election testing begins. The only way to change these machines is to insert a memory card programmed by LHS Associates in Salem, and you can’t do that unless you first cut off a metal tamper-proof seal. And if you don’t record the proper identification numbers in the proper place in the proper book with a the signature of a witness, that will raise suspicions from people like Bynum and Deputy Town Clerk Lisa Carlson.
Alaska: Mallott switches out election chief as lawsuit, other voting issues loom | Alaska Dispatch News
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly removed Alaska’s longtime elections chief from office on Friday, saying through an aide that he appreciated her work but also wanted a change in the department, which has been embroiled in a lawsuit over Native voting. Claire Richardson, a special assistant to Mallott, confirmed Monday that he sought the resignation of Gail Fenumiai, who had been with the Division of Elections for 15 of the last 20 years and the department’s director since January 2008. Her last day was Friday, the same day she was asked for her resignation by administrative director Guy Bell, Richardson said. “The lieutenant governor is certainly wishing her well in her future endeavors. This was nothing personal,” she said. Fenumiai was a professional elections official with a long history of service, she said.
King William County’s first district polling center at the West Point Armory experienced technical difficulties on Election Day when one of the optical scan voting systems stopped working. The system, an AccuVote-OS central scanner and tabulator used to read paper ballots, reportedly stopped working when its scanner malfunctioned. A technician was able to repair the machine before polls closed at 7 p.m. Had a technician failed to repair the scanner on election night, all paper ballots would have had to be counted by manual hand-count. King William County General Registrar Susan Mickens said all eight of the county’s scanners are aging and need to soon be replaced.
The extremely slow Macomb County election returns on Tuesday night are blamed, in part, by county officials on outdated technology. Despite mediocre voter turnout typical of a midterm election, many Macomb County voters went to bed on Election Night with no idea who had won the races in their community. Three of the county’s largest towns — Warren, Sterling Heights and Shelby Township –- kept voters in the dark until well after midnight. The lack of results also delayed an outcome in numerous races for the state Legislature and county Board of Commissioners that extend beyond the borders of those three municipalities. The county’s cities and townships rely upon election tabulators – the polling place machines that swallow up each voter’s ballot – which run on technology from 10 to 15 years ago. In addition, each voting precinct’s computerized results are transported by an analog line – a modem – to the county Clerk’s Office. The final step involves putting the election updates on the county’s heavily traveled election returns website.
Pima County will no longer make use of precinct scanners at polling locations after the Pima County Board of Supervisors rejected a measure to spend $1.8 million to replace them. The board’s decision came despite a recommendation by Pima County Election Integrity Commission (PCEIC) to keep the scanners in place since they allow for an electronic count at polling locations, serving as a way to double check ballots when they are tallied in the central count system. Bill Beard, District 1 PCEIC representative called the board’s decision frustrating, particularly since he says Pima County has a poor track record with handling elections in the past. “If the board is truly concerned about the matter, perhaps actually listening to the advisers they appointed to advise them on thing elections-related might be a good place to start,” he said, also noting that District 1’s Ally Miller was the only supervisor to vote in favor of the PCEIC’s recommendation to keep scanners in place.
Fairfax County election officials said Friday that they think that nearly 2,000 votes went uncounted after Tuesday’s election, a technical error that could affect the outcome of the still unresolved race for Virginia attorney general. The error stemmed from problems with a broken machine at the county’s Mason district voting center, officials said. The machine, known as an optical scanner, recorded 723 votes on election night before it broke down, elections officials said. Its memory card was then placed inside another, working machine, which recorded a total of 2,688 votes. But that tally was not included in the statement of election results delivered by the individual voting center to the county board of elections. Instead, officials received the statement that reported the 723 votes from the broken machine. The county’s board of elections believes that the larger total includes the original 723 votes, which could mean adding an extra 1,951 to the total outcome, said Seth T. Stark, chairman of the three-member electoral board.
Arizona: Elections catching up with technology: Changes piloted in November in Pima County | Tucson Citizen
Goodbye, unwieldy manual signature roster books. Hello, tablets. Under a pilot project being implemented by Pima County in the Nov. 5 Vail incorporation election, voters who go to the polls will be able to use a mobile computer that’s smaller than a laptop to sign for their ballots. … The polling places also will no longer use precinct-based scanning equipment. Instead, voters will drop their ballots into a secure box that is under observation at all times by poll workers and then securely transported to a central tabulating facility at the Elections Office located at 6550 S. Country Club Road. Independent observers will continue to oversee the process and results will be audited.
Want to see every ballot cast in the last election with your own two eyes? The Humboldt County Registrar makes that possible in her home near the Oregon border. Humboldt Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich responded to controversy and an outcry from residents by creating a system for anyone to request a scanned version of the vote through the Humboldt County Elections Transparency Project. In 2008, to the dismay of Humboldt County voters, 197 votes (or 0.3 percent of the total vote) disappeared due to a software malfunction. Apparently, it wasn’t the first time for this software to simply delete ballots and Crnich was rightly approached by constituents who had grave concerns regarding the voting system soon after the election results. The software is made by Diebold, a name which may conjure up memories of hanging chads in Florida in 2000 and other issues in 2004. Crnich and that same group of constituents did an audit after connecting the dots on Diebold’s spotty history and found the missing ballots. Locals thought the software was too closed off from the public and wanted a better auditing process. After pinpointing the problem, the Secretary of State’s office swiftly initiated an investigation and decertified the faulty software.
Voters in a West Anchorage assembly race might be facing some bubble trouble. Starting Saturday, city officials will begin hand counting more than 7,000 votes cast in last Tuesday’s municipal election after concerns that some ovals marked correctly, according to municipal code, might not have been counted. At least that’s what the campaign of Nick Moe, the 26-year-old write-in candidate, is saying. Moe challenged incumbent Anchorage Assembly chairman Ernie Hall after Hall cut off testimony on a controversial ordinance designed to limit the power labor unions that do work for the city. On Monday, Moe’s campaign requested that Anchorage conduct a hand count of ballots in Assembly District 3, Seat D. That came after the city released a statement saying it would not perform a hand count unless the total number of write-in votes cast were equal to or more than the amount of votes for the leading candidate. The same release noted that there may be “other circumstances” where the votes would be hand-counted.
After a chaotic election experience that led to cries of incompetence, St. Lucie County’s longtime elections supervisor talked about what went wrong in November, and what she plans to do to make things right in the future. Gertrude Walker says this past election was full of new experiences. “We never had a multi-ballot election, that was another twist,” Walker said Monday. But it was old equipment Walker claimed was at the heart of many of the problems her office faced on Election Day.