ballot marking devices

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California: State OKs highly questioned Los Angeles County voting system | Frank Bajak/Associate Press

California’s secretary of state on Friday approved Los Angeles County’s new publicly owned computerized voting system — a first of its kind for the nation — but is requiring modifications to address serious security and technical problems identified in testing. Secretary of State Alex Padilla is also requiring that all polling stations offer voters the option of using hand-marked paper ballots in the March 3 presidential primary in the nation’s most populous county. His office also notes in a statement on its conditional certification that an estimated 63% of county voters will be voting by mail using hand-marked paper ballots during the primary. Election security experts says all U.S. voters, unless hindered by disabilities, should use hand-marked paper ballots that are available for audits and recounts. Instead, only about 70% do, and elections in the U.S. are dominated by t hree voting equipment and services companies that control nearly 90 percent of the market. Their black-box touchscreen systems have been widely criticized by computer scientists as highly vulnerable to tampering. A subsidiary of one of those companies, Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Nebraska, was blamed by an outside audit for sloppy system integration that left 118,000 names off printed voter roles in Los Angeles County during the 2018 primary.

Full Article: California OKs highly questioned LA County voting system.

California: Lawsuit claims new Los Angeles County voting machines could favor some candidates | Jason Ruiz/Long Beach Post News

A lawsuit filed Thursday by the City of Beverly Hills alleges that the machines to tabulate votes that are being deployed by Los Angeles County for the upcoming March 3 elections could give some candidates an unfair advantage. In a statement the city said that the issue is that only four candidates can be displayed at one time on the screens and that the confusion between the “More” and “Next” buttons could lead to those not listed on the first page being overlooked by voters. Potential for the city’s suit was first reported by LAist, which earlier this month reported the Beverly Hills City Council was considering the action after it received a preview of the machines and noticed the potential for confusion. One of its incumbent members is listed fifth on the ballot, which means he would appear on the second screen and potentially be skipped over by voters. The county is using VSAP (Voting Solutions for All People) machines for the first time during the March elections, but have rolled them out for demonstrations in the past few months including at November’s California Democratic Party Endorsing Convention hosted in Long Beach. Voters can use the machines to electronically mark selections, with the machine printing out a paper version of their votes to be turned into county officials. The machines have yet to be certified by state election officials.

Full Article: Lawsuit claims new voting machines could favor some candidates • Long Beach Post News.

Tennessee: New Shelby County election machinery debate heightens fraud claims on all sides | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley may have framed the debate on a new voting system that is about to land at the county building. “It’s easy to probably find studies on either side of this,” he said Wednesday, Jan. 22, as commissioners prepared to debate a resolution coming up at the Monday, Jan. 27, commission meeting endorsing hand-marked paper ballots. They would replace the touchscreen machines used in Shelby County elections. The resolution by Commissioner Van Turner is part of a new push by critics of computer-based voting machines. Turner said his goal is to “build integrity into the system.” The committee discussion on a day when committee sessions ran long showed there are disagreements on the matter within the Shelby County Election Commission, the organization that has a request for proposal out now for a new voting system to be used at some point during the current election year.

Full Article: New Shelby election machinery debate heightens fraud claims on all sides - The Daily Memphian.

California: Cities worried about new Los Angeles County voting system | Ian Bradley/The Acorn

In the March election Los Angeles County will launch a new method of computerized voting to replace the system that citizens have used for more than 50 years, but some officials are saying the new method has shortcomings and isn’t fair to all candidates on the ballot. The Los Angeles County registrar began rolling out the new program, Voting Solutions for All People, last year. The program replaces paper-and-pen ballots with a new digital interface that voters will use to make their selections. County officials say the change will make voting easy, accurate and fast. But critics say the system gives unfair advantage to certain candidates because only four names are displayed on the first page of a given race unless a “MORE” button is hit and a second screen loads up with the remaining candidates. Several cities are concerned about the on-screen layout issue including Beverly Hills and Calabasas. Both sent letters to the county voicing their objections. Calabasas City Councilmember James Bozajian said the problem is that in local races where victory can be decided by a handful of votes, a litigious candidate could argue that not being on the first screen kept them from winning.

Full Article: Cities worried about new voting system | The Acorn.

California: Beverly Hills City Council Might Sue Over Los Angeles County’s New Voting Machine Design | Libby Denkman/LAist

The Beverly Hills City Council has voted to move ahead with a possible lawsuit against election officials responsible for the new Los Angeles County voting equipment which will debut in the March 3 primary. The new machines are digital, and there are concerns that voters will vote without seeing all the candidates. Already there are huge changes in store for Angelenos voting in-person when vote centers start opening Feb. 22 — from where and when to vote to a new, high-tech way to cast a ballot. Electronic ballot marking devices developed by Los Angeles County will be the default option in all 1,000 new vote centers, replacing the familiar old InkaVote System. The new devices include touch screens to mark voter selections, which are then printed onto a paper ballot that will be collected and tallied by election officials. Now, with voting fast approaching, local governments and campaigns are familiarizing themselves with the new system. And many don’t like what they see.

Full Article: Beverly Hills Might Sue Over LA County's New Voting Machine Design: LAist.

North Carolina: Mecklenburg County OKs Buying New Voting Equipment | Steve Harrison/WFAE

Mecklenburg Commissioners voted 8-1 Tuesday night to buy new electronic voting equipment that it will be in place for the March 3 primary. The county is buying new machines to comply with a North Carolina law that requires paper ballots to improve election security. Many North Carolina counties are switching to paper ballots in which voters will use a pencil to fill in ovals next to their choices.Elections experts have said that such an all-paper system would provide more security. But Mecklenburg Elections director Michael Dickerson said the elections board believes that will lead to problems. “If you are filling in an oval, and you partly fill in the oval, will it count? Will it not count?” Dickerson said. “What if you fill in two ovals and circle one meaning that’s the one you want? That’s what the board did not want to do. They did not want to have to be responsible for interpreting votes for the voters.” So, the county is going with a hybrid system.

Full Article: Mecklenburg County OKs Buying New Voting Equipment | WFAE.

National: Voting machines touted as secure option are actually vulnerable to hacking, study finds | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

New voting machines that hundreds of districts will use for the first time in 2020 don’t have enough safeguards against hacking by Russia and other U.S. adversaries, according to a study out this morning from researchers at the University of Michigan. The study marks the first major independent review of the machines called ballot-marking devices, or BMDs, which at least 18 percent of the country’s districts will use as their default voting machines in November. The results are a major blow for voting machine companies and election officials, who have touted BMDs as a secure option in the wake of Russia’s 2016 efforts to compromise U.S. election infrastructure. “The implication of our study is that it’s extremely unsafe [to use BMDs], especially in close elections,” Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and one of seven authors of the study, said in an interview. People who use BMDs cast their votes using a computer touch screen, but the machine spits out a paper record of those votes. That is usually used to tally the results and can be saved for audits that ensure votes were tallied correctly. The machines were touted by election officials as a compromise between paperless voting machines, which experts uniformly agree are far too vulnerable to hacking, and hand-marked paper ballots, which serious cybersecurity hawks favor but which can be tougher to tally and are inaccessible for many people with disabilities. But only a handful of people who vote on BMDs are likely to check that their votes were recorded accurately, the researchers found – meaning that if hackers succeed in altering even a small percentage of electronic votes, they might be able to change the outcome of a close election without being detected.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Voting machines touted as secure option are actually vulnerable to hacking, study finds - The Washington Post.

National: New voting machines’ top security challenge? The voters, researchers say | Bill Theobald/The Fulcrum

Let’s get something straight about the security and reliability of elections: No matter how a voting system is designed, something could go wrong — either accidentally or on purpose. That is important to keep in mind in considering a report, released Wednesday, criticizing a type of voting machine that’s been purchased by jurisdictions all across the country in the past few years in the name of improved security. The study, led by computer science graduate students at the University of Michigan, found that most people who participated in a mock election using ballot-marking devices, known as BMDs, failed to notice errors that had been introduced on the paper ballots that were generated and then used for casting votes. The problem, in other words, was with the attentiveness of the citizens but not the reliability of the hardware. Nonetheless, the Michigan researchers are touting their findings as evidence that BMDs don’t provide sufficient safeguards against hacking by the Russians or other adversaries out to disrupt democracy in the November presidential election.

Full Article: Michigan study: new voting machines may secure elections - The Fulcrum.

National: New “secure” voting machines are still vulnerable—because of voters | Patrick Howell O’Neill/MIT Technology Review

A new study of voting machines is spotlighting the “serious risk” that election results can be manipulated because most voters do not check that their ballot is correct, according to new researchBallot-marking devices, or BMDs, combine physical and digital voting methods in a single machine. A voter selects a candidate on a computer screen, and the machine then prints out a paper ballot for review. The goal is to provide both ease of voting and a physical audit trail that hackers can’t readily change, and the Washington Post reports that ballot-marking devices are used by at least 18% of the country’s electoral districts. But the new study from the University of Michigan suggests that if a voting machine is compromised, people are not likely to realize it, because so few of them check that their printout is correct. And even the rare voters who do check the paper version almost never catch errors when they’ve been made. The research raises questions about hackable computers and post-election audits—two major issues in election cybersecurity—just weeks before the first US primary votes are cast in Iowa on February 3. “Inserting a hackable computer in between the voter and the recording of intent poses big issues,” says Eddie Perez, a former election industry executive with Hart InterCivic for 16 years. “If we don’t know if voters actually look at the the paper and accurately confirm their intent, the strength of audit is weakened.”

Full Article: New “secure” voting machines are still vulnerable—because of voters - MIT Technology Review.

National: Why over 130,000 new voting machines could lead to more distrust in U.S. elections | Steven Rosenfeld/Salon

cross America, counties and states have acquired at least 130,000 new precinct voting machines that will debut in 2020’s primaries — including areas that can sway national elections. But the machines are controversial, splitting independent experts and election activists on issues that will likely affect public trust and confidence. Those key issues concern the transparency of voting and counting votes, whether reported election results can be double-checked and what role local election boards should play after Election Day to judge voter intent on ballots during challenges and recounts. The boosters of these new voting machines, called ballot-marking devices (BMDs), say that these touch-screen computers printing completed ballots will make voting simpler and more trustworthy. They say that is especially true for infrequent voters and voters with disabilities. They also say that automating ballots will end vote-counting fights — because printing completed ballots will eliminate that jury-like process, which BMD salesmen tout.

Full Article: Why over 130,000 new voting machines could lead to more distrust in U.S. elections |

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting’s Policy on DREs and BMDs

Download VerifiedVoting’s Policy on Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines and Ballot Marking Devices

On November 21, 2019 we revised Verified Voting’s Policy on Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines and Ballot Marking Devices to remove a reference to parallel testing on page 8 of the original document.

Although the concept of parallel testing has been discussed for more than a decade, we recognize that few if any jurisdictions have actually used it and its utility for detecting any problems with elections has not been demonstrated. Consequently, we are removing the reference.

To see the originally published version, click here.

Today, Verified Voting published its policy statement on Direct Recording Electronic voting systems and Ballot Marking Devices. We published this statement because many jurisdictions either have replaced or are in the process of replacing older vulnerable systems.  In striking contrast to the last time states replaced voting systems after the passage of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, this time the consensus is that voting systems must have a paper record.

But it’s not enough for a voting system to “check the box” on paper – to print paper records that voters may not even notice or examine. To be trustworthy, elections need to be based on voter-marked paper ballots. Whether these ballots are marked by hand or by device, for them to be considered voter-marked, voters should know what they say!

California: Has Los Angeles County just reinvented voting? | NBC

The biggest voting district in the United States came up with an audacious answer to the growing national problem of aging, malfunctioning and hackable voting machines. It decided to build its own. Los Angeles County, which has more registered voters than 42 states, gave NBC News an exclusive national broadcast look at what may be the future of voting systems. The county’s 5.2 million registered voters will give the new system a test run in real time during California’s presidential primary next March. Built with open-source technology over 10 years for $100 million, and combined with a rethink of the voting process that lets locals cast ballots over 11 days instead of 13 hours, L.A. County officials believe their new machines will cut down on mechanical breakdowns and crowding and provide sophisticated protections against hacking. “We thought, ‘We can’t wait any longer,'” said the man in charge of the new system, L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan.

Full Article: Has Los Angeles County just reinvented voting?.

Editorials: Georgia’s voting system must be secure, accessible, auditable | David Becker and Michelle Bishop/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Russia attacked our election infrastructure and spread disinformation in the 2016 election, and continues to interfere in our elections. While there remains zero evidence that any votes in any election have been changed, Russia achieved its goal of dividing this country and reducing Americans’ confidence in their democracy. Russia’s efforts are likely to continue through 2020, and it is critical now more than ever that we come together to secure our democratic systems, upgrade outdated voting technology, and improve auditing ballots post-election, to ensure that every eligible American is able to cast their ballots accurately and with confidence. There is a consensus among the intelligence community and cybersecurity experts that human-readable paper ballots, which can be audited by comparing them to the official tally of votes, are necessary to secure our elections. As a result, states such as Georgia are responding — moving toward paper-based voting systems for 2020 and planning for more robust audits to ensure the count is accurate, regardless of foreign interference.There are basically two types of voting systems that accommodate paper ballots. The most common are hand-marked ballots, where the voter fills in a bubble or connects an arrow. These ballots are then fed into a scanner that is programmed to read those handmade marks as votes in particular races, and those votes are tabulated to determine the winner. These systems have some advantages – they are considered cheaper by some (at first, though the costs of printing ballots adds up over time, and the cost benefits, if any, shrink), and voters are familiar with them.

Full Article: Opinion: Voting system must be secure, accessible, auditable.

Georgia: Bill seeks switch to ballot-marking devices for Georgia elections | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A broad elections bill introduced Thursday would replace Georgia’s electronic voting system with touchscreens that print ballots before they’re counted. The printed ballots would create a paper trail to check the accuracy of election results. Georgia’s current direct-recording electronic voting machines lack a paper backup. The legislation, House Bill 316, follows the recommendations of a voting commission created by Gov. Brian Kemp last year when he was secretary of state. The commission favored the touchscreens, called ballot-marking devices, over paper ballots filled out with a pen or pencil. Election integrity advocates say paper ballots filled out by hand are more secure, but supporters of ballot-marking devices say they’re easier to use and more likely to accurately record votes. Ballot-marking devices print ballots that are then counted by optical scanning machines.

Voting Blogs: Latest Threat to Democracy: Barcodes, Ballot Marking Devices (a.k.a. ‘Electronic Pencils’) | Brad Blog

A Ballot Marking Device (“BMD”) is a touchscreen computer that generates a computer-marked paper ballot or printout, which is then tallied on a computerized optical scanner. (Those computer-marked ballots can also, in theory, be counted by hand, but generally are not, as most election officials rely on optical scanners instead.) BMDs were initially designed for people who are unable to hand-mark paper ballots due to disability, old age, etc. But the state of Georgia and Los Angeles County, California are now at the forefront of an unfortunate new trend, which is to consider buying these expensive hackable “electronic pencils” for use by all voters at the polls, regardless of need.

Full Article: Latest Threat to Democracy: Barcodes, Ballot Marking Devices (a.k.a. 'Electronic Pencils') | The BRAD BLOG.