Georgia’s election certification avoided an even worse nightmare that’s just waiting to happen next time | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

Voters in Georgia polling places, 2020, used Ballot-Marking Devices (BMDs), touchscreen computers that print out paper ballots; then voters fed those ballots into Precinct-Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting machines for tabulation. There were many allegations about hacking of Georgia’s Presidential election. Based on the statewide audit, we can know that the PCOS machines were not cheating (in any way that changed the outcome). But can we know that the touchscreen BMDs were not cheating? And what about next time? There’s a nightmare scenario waiting to happen if Georgia (or other states) continue to use touchscreen BMDs on a large scale. There were many allegations about hacking of Georgia’s voting-machine computers in the November 2020 election—accusations about who owned the company that made the voting machines, accusations about who might have hacked into the computers. An important principle of election integrity is “software independence,” which I’ll paraphrase as saying that we should be able to verify the outcome of the election without having to know who wrote the software in the voting machines.

Indeed, the State of Georgia did a manual audit of all the paper ballots in the November 2020 Presidential election. The audit agreed with the outcome claimed by the optical-scan voting machines. This means,

  • The software in Georgia’s PCOS scanners is now irrelevant to the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election in Georgia, which has been confirmed by the audit.
  • Georgia’s PCOS scanners were not cheating in the 2020 Presidential election (certainly not by enough to change the outcome), which we know because the hand-count audits closely agreed with the PCOS counts.
  • The audit gave election officials the opportunity to notice that several batches of ballots hadn’t even been counted the first time; properly counting those ballots changed the vote totals but not the outcome. I’ll discuss that in a future post.

Suppose the polling-place optical scanners had been hacked (enough to change the outcome). Then this would have been detected in the audit, and (in principle) Georgia would have been able to recover by doing a full recount. That’s what we mean when we say optical-scan voting machines have “strong software independence”—you can obtain a trustworthy result even if you’re not sure about the software in the machine on election day.

Full Article: Georgia’s election certification avoided an even worse nightmare that’s just waiting to happen next time

North Carolina: NAACP asks judge to stop touch-screen voting | Associated Press

The North Carolina NAACP has asked a judge to bar the use of a touch-screen voting machine in several counties due to what it says are heightened risks associated with using them during the coronavirus pandemic. The request made to a Wake County judge Wednesday says the ExpressVote machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because they will be touched by many people, The Charlotte Observer quotes the request as saying. The request comes more than three months after the group filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and county election boards seeking to stop the use of the machines. The state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss that lawsuit, the Observer reported.

North Carolina: NAACP asks judge to ban the kind of voting machines used in Mecklenburg County | Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer

Citing health and security concerns, North Carolina’s NAACP asked a Wake County judge Wednesday to block the use of touch screen voting machines in Mecklenburg and other counties. The move came three months after the group filed suit against the State Board of Elections and several county boards. Earlier this month the state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss the suit. The NAACP argues that new, touch screen voting machines risk exposing voters to COVID-19. It also said the ExpressVote machines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable” and threaten “the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.” Wednesday’s request for an injunction said the machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because each screen will be touched frequently. The two dozen or so counties using the machines, it said, “are forcing voters to choose between their right to vote, their health and potentially their lives.”

Pennsylvania: Coalition says paper ballots key to preventing voter disenfranchisement in Pennsylvania | Christen Smith/The Center Square

A coalition of unlikely allies said Tuesday that paper ballots will protect voters from disenfranchisement in the upcoming November election. The bipartisan group – including Americans for Tax Reform, R Street, Public Citizen and National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC), among others – penned a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar urging the leaders to spend federal dollars on security upgrades for November that would discourage the use of touch screen voting machines and ensure that the majority print out “voter-verified paper ballots” as a defense against computer malfunctions. “This should not be a partisan fight,” said Ben Ptashnik, president of NEDC. “Insecure voting equipment and lack of preparedness only serves to disenfranchise voters of both parties.” The letter recommends polling places keep enough paper ballots on hand in case the voting system falls victim to a cyberattack or malfunction. It also suggests 24/7 video monitoring and limits on internet connectivity to reduce avenues for hackers to tamper with machines.

Tennessee: Connection between Shelby County Elections administrator and ES&S under scrutiny | April Thompson/WREG

WREG has learned there is a lot of controversy surrounding the company providing new voting machines for the county and the Shelby County Elections administrator. WREG has confirmed with an election commissioner the company is ES & S, the same company that commission and election administrator Linda Phillips recommended. Phillips says the new machines are desperately needed. “Our current scanners are very, very old,” Phillips said. “Our new election system has new modern updated scanners. But I am becoming increasingly concerned we will not get those in time to do the August election. The hold up, the Letter of Intent for the new equipment hadn’t been approved by the County Mayor.” A group of concerned citizens have raised the issue about the purchase and about Phillips. Erika Sugarmon among them. “It’s an appearance of conflict of interest. Because once these contracts are executed then one or two of her children has appointment with these companies,” Sugarmon said. “And the company ‘Everyone Counts’ for example, she worked there prior to coming to the Shelby County Election Commission.”

California: Long Beach group sues Los Angeles County Registrar over Measure A recount | Anita W. Harris/The Signal Tribune

Local activists the Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC) hired Los Angeles election-law specialists Strumwasser & Woocher to file suit in the LA County Superior Court against LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean Logan on Monday, May 11. “Our litigation seeks a writ of mandate and injunctive relief to force Mr. Logan to restart the recount of Long Beach Measure A as a traditional, paper-ballot recount at a reasonable cost,” LBRC said in a May 11 statement. Measure A had passed by a thin margin of 16 votes in the March 3 election, according to results certified by Logan’s office on March 27, with 49,676 voting in favor and 49,660 against. The measure’s passing extends an extra 1% Long Beach sales tax imposed in 2017 beyond its previous sunset date of 2027. The additional revenue bolsters public safety and improve infrastructure, including fire stations, libraries and parks, the City says. Given Measure A’s very narrow approval margin, LBRC requested a recount of the ballots beginning April 8, raising $26,000 from community supporters, according to its website.

Tennessee: Welcome to the Machine: Fight Over Shelby County Voting System Raises Issues of Integrity and Nepotism | Jackson Baker/Memphis Flyer

Are the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County — troubled with decades of problematic and even botched election results — really about to acquire a new, improved means of expressing their will in the forthcoming August and November election rounds? That question may be answered this week, as the Shelby County Commission decides whether to accept or overrule the judgment last week of Election Administrator Linda Phillips and the Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC) — apparently in favor of ballot-marking devices marketed by the ES&S Company, a monolith of the election-machine industry. The name of the chosen manufacturer was not explicitly revealed last week — “Company 1,” was how it was called in discussion — but several references by Phillips to the “thermal paper” uniquely employed by ES&S for production of machine receipts, were something of a giveaway. The Shelby County Commission, which has the responsibility of paying for the machines (or not), had voted twice previously in favor of hand-marked ballots instead, on several grounds, including cost, transparency, and invulnerability to ballot-hacking. And an aroused contingent of local activists, abetted by a network of nationally known election adepts, is prepared to insist on that choice.

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission approves new voting system | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

Shelby County election commissioners approved a new voting system for Shelby County Thursday night, May 7, that will include machines with a paper audit trail. The 4-1 vote came at the end of a 4.5-hour special meeting that all five election commissioners attended in person at their operations center at Shelby County, along with staff, as an online audience watched and commented. On the advice of its attorneys, the election commission did not disclose the name of the vendor or the cost of their proposal. The attorneys and county purchasing officials said the commission couldn’t disclose any of the information until after it made its decision and a formal letter of intent was issued. It was one of three proposals made in the formal “request for proposal” process and the one that county elections administrator Linda Phillips recommended. The decision goes next to the Shelby County Commission, which will vote on appropriating the funding necessary to buy the machines. That is when the details of the proposal, including the name of the company and the price as well as the offers of competitors, are to become public. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has questioned whether the secrecy surrounding what the election commission voted on is a violation of the state’s open meetings law.

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission meets Thursday on new voting system | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

Shelby County Election Commissioners will meet Thursday, May 7, online to discuss and possibly select a new voting system for the county. The 5 p.m. meeting will be via Webinar despite calls by several election commissioners at their last meeting, April 23, to have an in-person meeting with social distancing precautions instead of online. The election commission has fielded several proposals from vendors in a request for proposal — or RFP — process. But the election commission has not disclosed those proposals or the proposed costs of the systems, saying they cannot until they make a selection. Commissioners reviewed the proposals at a closed April 23 meeting before a public session. The plan is for commissioners to discuss in public the different proposals without identifying the vendors or discussing the price and then voting in public.

Pennsylvania: Luzerne County manager proposes hand marked paper ballots for in-person voting June 2 | April 28, 2020 Jennifer Andes/Times Leader

Non-disabled Luzerne County voters casting their ballots in person on June 2 would use paper ballots instead of the new electronic touchscreen ballot marking devices under a preliminary coronavirus plan presented Tuesday. Each voter would receive a pen to make their selections on paper so no pens would be shared and then feed the paper into a scanner to be tabulated, plan drafter county Manager C. David Pedri told council in its virtual meeting. Each polling place would still be equipped with an electronic machine for voters with visual impairments or other disabilities that prevent them from using paper ballots, with cleaning after each use, he said. Paper is a better option for this primary because it alleviates coronavirus concerns about touchscreens, Pedri said. A day of repeated screen wiping and drying also could slow up voting and damage the equipment, election workers have said.

Tennessee: Path to new voting machines for Shelby County still complex, secretive | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

The route to choosing new voting machines in Shelby County remains complex and secretive. The latest scenario would obscure key details of the bids from the companies that want the contract with county government before the Shelby County Election Commission makes its decision. That includes the price the county would pay. County purchasing officials have said the proposals the commission will consider cannot be made public until the commission decides and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris signs a letter of intent with that company. In other words, the details of the proposal and the cost in taxpayer dollars cannot be made public until after the decision is made by the advice of attorneys to the five-member board. Election Commissioner Brent Taylor says attorneys for the election commission agree that state law forbids making the details public. But Taylor says the panel may be able to discuss details in public short of the prices by not naming the companies. “I don’t particularly like that, but I’ve become convinced that state law does not allow the release of that information prior to the mayor signing that letter,” Taylor said on The Daily Memphian Politics podcast.

Georgia: Athens-Clarke County elections board ran up $40K legal bill in failed paper ballot move | Lee Shearer/Athens Banner-Herald

Athens-Clarke County commissioners have voted to pay $41,633 in legal fees for the county’s runaway Board of Elections, but most were not happy about it in a Tuesday commission meeting. In early March, the elections board voted 3-2 to switch to paper ballots in the now-delayed March 24 presidential primary, even though Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake warned them that the state would likely challenge the local board’s action, and that the local board would lose that challenge. After a day-long hearing in Athens, the state Board of Elections, which includes both Democratic and Republican party members, voted 5-0 to overturn the Athens-Clarke Board of Elections move to use paper ballots instead of the state’s new electronic voting system. Drake authorized hiring government law specialist Thomas Mitchell to defend the local board in the hearing, but the board in addition hired another lawyer, Bryan Sells, who submitted a bill for $23,617.72.

Tennessee: Public concern over Shelby County election commission’s vote for new equipment | April Thompson/WREG

There is growing concern over how much input the public will have on the Shelby County Election Commission’s decision to buy new equipment to process paper ballots faster. Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips says the county needs to be ahead of the curve and they need to be ready as the state is looking to expand paper ballot voting. “It’s very crucial that we replace our voting equipment. We have a very tight time deadline,” Phillips said. “We have to start mailing out absentee ballots for the August election in June.” However, some people fear public input on the matter will be hampered if the commission comes to a vote at its virtual meeting Wednesday. Grassroots advocate Steve Mulroy said the Shelby County Election Commission will choose from a list of proposals but the public has not had a chance to see any of them. “…They are offering us a chance to do public comments before they do their decision,” Mulroy said. “But, it won’t be informed public comment because we will be blind and won’t have any information on what they are choosing from.”

Tennessee: More Voting Machines Controversy in Shelby County | Jackson Baker/Memphis Flyer

Among the potential local casualties of the coronavirus, there is an unexpected one — the democratic process itself. At this week’s scheduled virtual meeting of the Shelby County Election Commission, the five Commissioners —three Republicans and two Democrats, in conformity with state regulations regarding majority party/minority party ratios — are primed to vote on Election Administrator Linda Phillips’ recommendations for new voting machines. Phillips has declared that the members of the Election Commission must take a definitive up-or-down vote on the vendor, whom she will recommend from among those manufacturers who responded to an RFP (request for proposal) issued earlier by the SCEC. She has declared that the decision must come now so that the machines can be in use for August voting in the county. For years, and for the last several months in particular, controversy has raged between activists who insist on voting machines that permit voter-marked ballots and advocates of machine-marked ballots. Phillips herself has expressed a preference for the latter type, equipped with paper-trail capability. By a narrow, party-line vote, the majority-Democratic Shelby County Commission, which must approve funding for the purchase, has expressed its own preference for hand-marked ballots. Given the fact that Phillips’ choice of machine type is more or less predictable, and that the cost factor will be built into the selection of vendor, that will put the County Commissioners in an awkward position of having to rubber-stamp whatever choice the SCEC passes on to them.

Georgia: State Tells Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections Not to Use Paper Ballots | Flagpole

Earlier this month, the ACC Board of Elections ordered staff to switch from the new Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting machines to paper ballots. This was a controversial 3-2 vote, with Chair Jesse Evans, Willa Fambrough and new member Rocky Raffle voting in favor, and Charles Knapper and Patricia Till voting against. While some people strongly prefer paper ballots because of election security, the reasoning given by board members was instead about voters’ constitutional right to ballot privacy. Paper ballots make this easier to do; inexpensive manila folders suffice to shield voter’s choices from view, which were used in Athens over the past week. Nevertheless, the decision was controversial. The ACC GOP even circulated a petition to have Evans removed from his position. The board was advised against this action by County Attorney Judd Drake and by Director of Elections Charlotte Sosebee. In Drake’s opinion, it would be very difficult to prove that it was “impossible or impracticable” for Athens to use BMDs as required by state law. Elections in Georgia are done in a uniform manner—counties aren’t free to choose their voting method in this state.

Tennessee: ‘Complex’ process ahead for new Shelby County voting machines | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

The Shelby County Election Commission is working toward a debut of new voting machines when early voting begins in July for the Aug. 6 election, but the commission still must select a  specific system. “The process is winding its way through purchasing. It’s a pretty complex project. It has many moving parts,” Shelby County elections administrator Linda Phillips said on The Daily Memphian Politics Podcast. “We can’t get the new machines until we have a place to put the old machines and get rid of them,” she said. “In moving to paper, we then have to have secure storage. So there have to be modifications to our warehouse. There are a lot of moving parts to this project, and we are doing it as fast as we can.” Whatever system the commission picks will involve the use of paper ballots in some way – either paper ballots that are marked by the voter or a printout of choices a voter makes on updated touchscreen machines. In both cases, the paper ballots would be run through a digital scanner and go into a ballot box as an audit trail.

Georgia: State orders Athens-Clarke County to resume use of new voting machines | Tim Bryant/WGAU

The Secretary of State orders Athens to resume the use of electronic voting machines, overturning last week’s order from the Athens-Clarke County Elections Board. That means no more hand-marked paper ballots for the duration of the early voting period that extends through March 20. Voters in Athens and around the state have been casting ballots since March 2 for the March 24 presidential preference primaries. Georgia’s State Election Board voted on Wednesday to punish election officials in one county for their decision not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary, and it ordered them to immediately start using the machines again. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots, citing concerns over protecting ballot secrecy when using the machines with large, bright touchscreens that sit upright. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said it was “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. The State Election Board, chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, unanimously ordered the county to cease and desist and to pay a fine of $2,500 for investigative costs, plus $5,000 a day until the machines are back in place.

California: Los Angeles County greenlights probe into Election Day voting-system failures | Ryan Carter/Los Angeles Daily News

L.A. County will investigate how an overhauled county vote system failed during the March 3 primary, leaving many voters confused and frustrated while waiting in long lines — and thousands of votes still uncounted a week after the election. The action — which would tap an independent, outside firm to analyze the voting system — came after a fiery Board of Supervisors meeting in which supervisors, voters and pollworkers laid into the county’s top voting official, Dean Logan, some calling for his dismissal. That election-day meltdown led to three-hour waits to vote and numerous bottlenecks amid the introduction of the $300 million system. “There were a lot of things that probably did go right, but to me that doesn’t mitigate everything that did go wrong,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, worried that the issues with the system need to be worked out before the general election in November. “A lot went wrong. I’ve got to tell you I was very, very, very disappointed.”

Georgia: State election board requires touchscreen voting in Athens-Clarke County | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The State Election Board on Wednesday unanimously ordered Athens-Clarke County to immediately switch back to Georgia’s touchscreen voting system, a rebuke of its decision to use paper ballots filled out by hand. The board, led by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, found that voters’ right to a secret ballot can be protected on the state’s new $104 million voting system, which combines touchscreens and printers to create paper ballots.“There are reasonable concerns about ballot secrecy in some limited number of precincts,” said David Worley, a member of the State Election Board. “The reasonable way to deal with that is not to make a wholesale change.” State election officials said voter privacy can be protected by turning large, bright touchscreens so they face walls instead of voters. The Athens-Clarke County Elections Board last week rejected the touchscreens, deciding on a 3-2 vote that they exposed voters choices to their neighbors. It was the only county in the state that had attempted to use hand-marked paper ballots. More than 100 supporters of hand-marked paper ballots packed the seven-hour emergency hearing Wednesday, wearing stickers saying “Protect the Secret Ballot.”

Georgia: Athens-Clarke County punished for ditching voting machines | Kate Brumback/Associated Press

Georgia’s State Election Board voted on Wednesday to punish election officials in one county for their decision not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary, and it ordered them to immediately start using the machines again. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots, citing concerns over protecting ballot secrecy when using the machines with large, bright touchscreens that sit upright. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said it was “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. The State Election Board, chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, unanimously ordered the county to cease and desist and to pay a fine of $2,500 for investigative costs, plus $5,000 a day until the machines are back in place. County elections director Charlotte Sosebee said she could have the machines back up by Thursday for a continuation of early voting. Evans said he was disappointed with the state board’s decision and that he would talk to the board and its attorneys to determine next steps.

California: Voting issues prompt a probe, grilling of Los Angeles County election chief | Matt Stiles/Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ordered an investigation into complaints about long waits and equipment malfunctions that hampered voting at many poll centers during last week’s primary election. At a hearing on Tuesday, the supervisors ordered the county’s chief elections official, Dean Logan, to explain what they called “serious problems” for voters — and to address them before the general election in November. They didn’t mince words in telling Logan that they were dissatisfied and concerned with the performance of a new $300 million electronic voting system that his office unveiled for the primary. “We made it less accessible for people on Election Day. We made it less convenient. We made it less desirable to vote,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose motion prompted the hearing. “I’m sorry to say I’ve lost confidence, and I know the public has lost confidence. We have to fix this.” Logan, who, in his more than decade on the job, has weathered controversies without such a public rebuke from the supervisors, apologized for the problems that voters experienced, but stood by his long-developed vision for a new voting system. “I hear you, and I hear the voices of our voters and of our poll workers. It was not the implementation we were hoping for. I regret that and I apologize,” Logan said. “I also accept and take seriously my responsibility for addressing these issues.”

Georgia: Hearing to be held after county ditched new voting machines | Kate Brumnack/Associated Press

Georgia’s state election board plans to hold an emergency hearing Wednesday to discuss whether election officials in one county violated state law or election rules when they decided not to use the state’s new voting machines for the presidential primary. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 last week to sideline the new machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said the board found it “impracticable” when using the new machines to protect ballot secrecy and allow sufficient monitoring to prevent tampering as required by state law. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who chairs the State Election Board, issued a notice two days later setting the Wednesday hearing in Athens. Athens, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) east of Atlanta, is home to the University of Georgia, and surrounding Clarke County represents about 1% of the state’s active voters, according to voter numbers on the secretary of state’s website.

Georgia: New Voting Machines Come With The Promise Of Trust. But Can They Deliver? | Emil Moffatt/WABE

It was one year ago when Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming kicked off two hours of debate on the floor of the state House over how Georgians would cast their votes securely, in the age of computer hacking and international election interference. “Today, in passing House Bill 316, we can put our voters first in Georgia…” Fleming began. His bill set aside $150 million to replace the old machines with new electronic touchscreens. These devices would produce a paper copy of the ballot – something that had been missing in Georgia for nearly two decades. “The paper ballot enables voters to double-check their choices before casting their ballot and allows the counties to audit election results,” Fleming said. The new machines were meant to increase trust in the system, but there are still lingering questions as to whether they will accomplish that goal. House Bill 316 became law over the objection of dozens of Democrats, many of whom preferred hand-marked paper ballots, to cut down on the technology involved in the process. In late July, Georgia awarded the contract for the new voting machines to Dominion Voting System. Rolling out the new equipment for all 159 counties would be the largest undertaking of its kind in the country. A handful of elections were used to test the new system last fall and early this year, but for the rest Georgia voters, public demonstrations were how they learned introduced to the new machines.

Indiana: Tippecanoe County, companies shift to voting machines with printable paper ballots | Jordan Smith/Purdue Exponent

Four companies that manufacture voting equipment for Tippecanoe County presented new machines with printable paper ballots to a packed room of voters Monday night, seeking to instill trust in the updated technologies through public input. Each company had some variation of a similar technology. Candidates are selected on electronic machines — some use touchscreens while others use buttons — and a summary of choices displays when finished. The machines then print ballots, which can be reviewed by voters and then inserted into a scanner that counts them electronically and physically. The paper copies are then deposited into a locked bin connected to the scanner, while the machine’s memory drive stores the results separately. “There has been such a groundswell for paper ballots,” said Lawrence Leach of Hart InterCivic, Inc., a company offering a hybrid electronic-paper machine. “There’s a lot of focus on voting and everything around that process — you cannot get it wrong. It has to be done right, you have to be 100% correct, so we’re striving to make sure every vote gets counted correctly and audited.”

Georgia: Election board tries to stop Clarke County switch from touchscreens to hand marked paper ballots | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The State Election Board is challenging Athens-Clarke County’s decision to reject Georgia’s new statewide voting system. The state board called an emergency hearing for Wednesday on whether the Athens elections board broke several state laws when it voted 3-2 last week to switch to paper ballots filled out by hand instead of by machine. The State Election Board has the power under state law to order a $5,000 fine against Athens’ government for each violation of Georgia laws requiring a uniform statewide voting system. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is the chairman of the State Election Board. The Athens election board abandoned the state’s new voting touchscreens because of concerns that the large, brightly lit screens allow people to see voters’ choices from 30 feet away. The board cited state laws that allow for paper ballots when use of voting equipment is “impossible or impracticable.”

California: How Los Angeles County’s Election Innovation Fell Short | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

Local election officials spent one decade and $300 million to design an innovative voting system that many experts thought was the future of elections. But at vote centers throughout the sprawling city on Super Tuesday, some Angelenos waited for more than three hours to cast their ballots. The frustration was hard to ignore as more than 100 people stretched down South Broadway around noon, queueing in front of the opulent Ace Hotel in LA’s Theatre District. Inside, there were just four working voting machines and two check-in stations. One voting machine had been broken since Saturday, but the county had not yet sent anyone to fix it. Los Angeles County is the first jurisdiction to own and design its own voting system. Officials ditched paper ballots for hybrid paper-electronic machines built for accessibility, while also allowing voters to cast their ballots in any vote center, the county’s term for a location where people can vote or drop off a ballot. With more voters than 42 states, the county could provide a template for other jurisdictions looking to develop an accessible voting system that doesn’t skimp on security. This week’s botched rollout could complicate that prospect.

California: Los Angeles County Urged to Improve Voter Experience by November Election | Nathan Solis/Courthouse News

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has asked Los Angeles County to mail out ballots to its 5.5 million voters after a disastrous rollout of the county’s $300 million voting system Tuesday in which some voters were greeted with downed computer terminals and wait times bordering on four hours. In addition to asking LA County to mail out ballots for the November election, Padilla offered other recommendations Thursday including increased equipment at vote centers as well as more staff that is better coordinated and trained. “With only eight months until the November General Election, it is critical that these issues are addressed in a timely and efficient manner,” Padilla said.The March 3 primary was the first election in which voters used LA County’s new $300 million electronic voting system. Voters should have been greeted by polling place staff with touchscreen tablets who would then direct citizens to a nearly paperless voting machine. Vote centers throughout LA County were open for 11 days before Super Tuesday and voters were not restricted to a center near their home. Unlike in previous years where more than 4,500 polling places were open throughout the county, this election saw about 1,000 open vote centers. Meanwhile, the county is one of just 14 counties participating in the Voter’s Choice Act which gives greater flexibility to local election offices for early voting, but the county does not mail every registered voter a ballot.

Georgia: Athens-Clarke County broke law by pulling machines, SOS says | Doug Richards/WXIA

The state election board is challenging a decision in Athens to set aside the state’s new voting system in favor of hand-marked paper ballots. The state board posted its intention to meet in Athens Wednesday, March 11 to get an explanation from local election board members who dumped the state’s new voting system and began allowing early voters to cast hand-marked paper ballots. The board withdrew the large, bright electronic ballot-marking devices Tuesday, following concerns about whether voters’ ballots were sufficiently concealed from people inside the precinct. The state election board, posting a meeting notice on the Secretary of State’s website, cited four Georgia laws that the local board may have violated by withdrawing the voting machines. The election board is chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who selected the Dominion voting system amid a flurry of sometimes-partisan controversy over whether the electronic system was susceptible to hacking. Critics of the selection contended hand-marked paper ballots were the only way to avoid electronic election hacking. The state bought 33,000 of the machines last year, at a cost of more than $100 million. The state delivered the last of them to Georgia’s 159 counties Feb. 14.

Georgia: Lawyer warned Georgia county on dumping new voting system | Kate Brumback and Russ Bynum/Associated Press

A Georgia county has opted to ditch the state’s new voting machines and switch to hand-marked paper ballots during early voting for the March presidential primary, despite a warning from the county’s attorney that the decision could result in litigation that’s tough to defend in court. The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted 3-2 on Tuesday to mothball the new machines after less than two days of using them in early voting ahead of Georgia’s presidential primaries. The board ordered poll workers to switch to paper ballots marked by hand starting Wednesday. Board Chairman Jesse Evans said concerns that bystanders at the polls could see the choices voters made on the new system’s touchscreens rendered it impossible to guarantee ballot secrecy. The March 24 presidential primaries mark the first statewide test for Georgia’s new $103 million voting system, which combines electronic touchscreens with printed ballots to provide a paper record of the vote. Some election integrity advocates have argued the bright touchscreens with their large fonts make it easy to see how other people are voting.

California: The Scramble To Fix Los Angeles Voting Before November (And What Went Wrong) | Libby Denkmann/ LAist

Los Angeles County’s new voting system is supposed to make elections more accessible. But on Tuesday, many voters found casting a ballot to be anything but easy. At L.A. County’s new in-person voting locations, many people faced long wait times — sometimes in excess of three hours — caused by technical problems that marred the system’s debut. Late Tuesday, the county’s top elections official apologized. On Wednesday, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn called for an investigation. “Some hiccups are to be expected with a new system,” said Hahn in a statement, “but there were widespread reports of problems.” “These issues,” Hahn added, “need to be fixed before this November.” The snafu prompted California’s Secretary of State to issue a stern statement Thursday: “In Los Angeles County, too many voters faced unacceptably long wait times,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Voters who waited patiently for hours deserve our praise for their commitment to democracy. Voters deserve better.” Padilla said Los Angeles County should mail a ballot to every registered voter, and address staffing, logistical, training and equipment issues that bogged down voting in the country’s largest jurisdiction on Super Tuesday.