National: Election Assistance Commission Needs More Authority In Face of 2020 Threats, Report Finds | Courtney Bublé/Government Executive

With less than a year until the 2020 presidential election, a new report calls on Congress to bolster the authority of the agency that serves as the nation’s elections clearinghouse and devote more funding and resources to it. The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and public policy institute, released a report on Tuesday that proposes a new framework for protecting election systems. Its recommendations focus on the oversight and internal operations of the Election Assistance Commission, the understaffed and underfunded federal agency responsible for promoting election administration best practices and voting machine security standards. “The federal government regulates colored pencils, which are subject to mandatory standards promulgated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more strictly than it does America’s election infrastructure,” said the report. Although the Homeland Security Department designated election systems as critical infrastructure in 2017 following revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, election systems don’t receive the same type of oversight as other sectors with the critical infrastructure classification.  “While voting systems are subject to some functional requirements under a voluntary federal testing and certification regime, the vendors themselves are largely free from federal oversight,” the report said. “Under our proposal, the EAC would extend its existing certification regime from voting systems to include all vendors that manufacture or service key parts of the nation’s election infrastructure.”

National: Study Examines Modernizing Voter Registration | WAMC

There has been plenty of talk in recent weeks, much of it emanating from the White House, about voter fraud. Now, a new study released by the Brennan Center For Justice, entitled “Election Integrity: A Pro-Voter Agenda,” confirms in-person voter fraud is a rarity. The paper argues that the integrity of elections can be strengthened without discouraging eligible voters. On January 25th, President Donald Trump Tweeted “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD…” Trump claimed millions voted illegally in the election: “You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in New York and New Jersey, they vote twice.” Without any evidence, the president has also claimed “3-5 million illegal votes” cost him a popular vote victory. This all comes after years of battles in the states over voting laws that some say make it harder for many citizens to participate in elections. Most people expect American elections are secure and free of misconduct, but some are doubtful. “I will say this. Of those votes cast, none of ’em come to me. None of ’em come to me,” moaned Trump.

Editorials: Protect Our Voting Machines From Hackers | Lawrence Norden/NBC News

In the last two weeks, there have been credible reports that Russia is attempting to influence our elections by hacking into the Democratic Party’s email server and other campaign files. These reports are troubling. But an attack on our country’s voting machines, once deemed far-fetched, is even more disturbing. In response, the Obama administration is considering designating America’s electronic voting system as “critical infrastructure,” which would likely bring more federal resources to protecting these systems from attack. But with just three months before the presidential election, what can be done? In truth, making big changes to election machinery before this November isn’t realistic. There isn’t enough time. Fortunately, security experts and activists have worked for several years to shore up election integrity, and there is much we can do to secure the technology currently in place. In the short term, election jurisdictions must review their security measures with experts in the next three months. One of the great victories of security specialists and advocates in the last few years was convincing jurisdictions to move from paperless computerized voting machines to machines that have some kind of voter verified paper trail. This November, 80 percent of citizens will vote on paper ballots that are read by electronic scanners, or touch screen machines that produce a paper trail that can be reviewed by the voter before she casts her vote. This should deter would-be hackers looking to alter the result of an election: the paper record can be used to check the totals provided by the machine and catch incorrect results.

National: Law expert examines battles over voting rights | Miami Herald

Taking a long view on the state of American democracy is hard amid the dung-flinging reality TV circus that has dominated the 2016 presidential primary season. The rise of Donald Trump and his disruptive effect on the mainstream Republican Party — and the nation at large — has overwhelmed comparatively mundane public-policy fights over such critical issues as voting rights. But as anyone who lived through the 2000 Florida presidential recount debacle will recall, the debate over who should be eligible to vote and how those votes are counted will become increasingly relevant come November. In his timely new book, constitutional law expert Michael Waldman argues that universal voting rights — the doctrine of “one person, one vote’’ — have been in steady retreat since that dangling-chad dead heat when “partisans realized anew that razor-thin margins can be turned by manipulation of voting rules.’’

National: Outdated Voting Machine Technology Poses Security and Election Risks | StateTech

Votes being registered for the wrong candidate. Voting machines running out of memory. Election officials searching eBay for outdated notebook computers. These are just a few of the nightmarish scenarios state and local officials face as the country’s voting machines age and break down. A recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that the expected lifespan of core components in electronic voting machines purchased since 2000 is between 10 and 20 years, and for most systems it is probably closer to 10 than 20. Experts surveyed by the Brennan Center agree that the majority of machines in use today are either “perilously close to or exceed these estimates.”

Arizona: Counties Look to Replace Outdated Voting Machines | Arizona Public Radio

Most voting machines are only designed to last about a decade. A new study shows many of the machines in use across the U.S. are close to that age, and that could increase the chances of voting irregularities for the 2016 election cycle. Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports. The Brennan Center for Justice says the outdated machines are more susceptible to hacking and other security problems. Replacement parts for the older machines are also hard to find, and their internal computers crash more often, which could slow down the voting process.

National: Old Voting Tech Puts 2016 Election at Risk | Security Intelligence

In just under a year, Americans will head to the polls to cast their ballots: Democrat or Republican? Carson or Clinton, perhaps Sanders or Trump? But even 12 months out, political and tech experts are starting to worry that current voting technology won’t be able to keep up with citizen demand. Worst case? A repeat of the 2000 election debacle in Florida, which is still under investigation today. Best case? The country gets on board with at least some electoral advancements to help safeguard the process. What options are available to current voters looking to cast their ballot in the upcoming election?’s “Voting and Registering to Vote” page provides the basics: Citizens can turn up in person at their local polling station with applicable ID, or if they’re away from home, they may vote using a mail-in absentee ballot. Making the process more complicated is the fact that citizens must register to vote in federal elections at the state level, and all states have their own registration methods in place. For example, 23 states allow voters to register online, while others only accept a hard copy of the National Mail Voter Registration Form. But there’s a twist: Certain states like North Dakota and Wyoming, along with territories such as American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, don’t accept the National Mail Voter Registration Form, meaning citizens must register in person at specific government offices.

Florida: Some Florida voting machines not replaced since Gore/Bush in 2000 | WTSP

A recent report identifies Florida, home of the 2000 Bush-Gore election fiasco, as one of the states at-risk of future voting problems due to the age of its voting equipment. According to theBrennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, 30 out of Florida’s 67 counties have not updated their voting machines in more than a decade, increasing the possibilities of technology breakdowns and glitches on Election Day. At least a dozen of the 30 counties mentioned will have new equipment in-place in time for the 2016 presidential primaries, including Manatee County, which just received new equipment this week. That leaves Polk County as the only county in Greater Tampa Bay that has not replaced its equipment in more than a decade. In fact, its optical scan machines are the same machines the county used for the 2000 presidential election.

National: Why is Voter Registration in America So Sad? | Government Technology

The United States takes great pride in being one of the largest and longest running modern democracies in the world. Yet when it comes to having a good voter registration system, we have a long way to go. Today’s voter registration systems vary widely in terms of quality and effectiveness from state to state, according to a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice. A dozen states still use paper forms to register voters, making their systems costly to run and prone to errors. The states that do use technology differ in how they use computers to register voters, often making the system less effective than it could be. Until Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, citizens had to seek out the necessary forms to register. The “Motor Voter” law, as it came to be called, made the process easier by putting the forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and requiring agency personnel to ask drivers if they wanted to register. But many countries — including Australia, Chile, France, Germany and Sweden — make it easier than that to sign up with automatic voter registration.

Arizona: State looking to upgrade voting machines | Cronkite News

It’s a new age of machines. Voting machines. Arizona and 42 other states have election equipment that has exceeded or is close to passing its expected life span of 10 years, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy institute at New York University School of Law. “The equipment for the most part has been fairly durable,” said Eric Mariscal, election director of Gila County. Mariscal said that Gila County Dept. of Elections has used the Accuvote paper ballot scanner units since 2004. “We’ve had very few problems,” he added

Ohio: Are Ohio voters about to fix politics? | Cincinnati Enquirer

Hate when politicians from the far left and far right fight over extreme proposals with little incentive to compromise? Then, Issue 1 is for you, a long list of proponents say. If voters approve the ballot initiative this November, Ohio could become a nationwide leader on how to draw lines for state lawmakers’ districts, said Michael Li, an elections expert at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. The much-maligned process of allowing lawmakers draw Rorschach test-like districts to ensure a win for their party could end — or at least become less egregious — with this first-of-its-kind proposal, he said. “People are really watching Ohio very closely,” Li said.

National: Voting Machines Are Aging, But Don’t Expect Congress To Pay To Replace Them | NPR

Don’t expect Congress to shell out any money when it comes to replacing aging voting equipment. That’s what Christy McCormick, chairwoman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), says her agency is telling state and local election officials, even though a bipartisan presidential commission warned last year of an “impending crisis.” “We’re telling them that, from what we understand, there won’t be any more federal funding coming to help them,” McCormick said in an interview with NPR. And that’s a problem because election officials around the country are worried about breakdowns as voting machines purchased after the 2000 presidential election near the end of their useful lives. Much of the equipment is already outdated. Some officials have even had to resort to sites such as eBay to find spare parts. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that it will cost about $1 billion to buy replacement machines. But state and local budgets are tight. And Congress has shown no sign that it’s willing to foot the bill as it did more than a decade ago, when punch-card voting equipment was replaced nationwide.

Editorials: America’s Aging Voting Machines | The New York Times

In his victory speech after his re-election in 2012, President Obama offered special thanks to those Americans who had stood in long lines to vote — some of whom were still waiting even as he spoke — and then offhandedly added, “by the way, we have to fix that.” The line got big applause, but now, three years later, much of the country is still far from fixing one major cause of the long lines: outdated voting machines and technologies. With the 2016 presidential election just a year away, the vast majority of states are still getting by with old machines that are increasingly likely to fail, crash or produce unreliable results. The software in them, mostly from the 1990s, doesn’t have the capabilities or security measures available today. A study released last month by the Brennan Center for Justice found that nearly every state uses some machines that are no longer manufactured. And 43 states are using machines that will be at least 10 years old next year, close to the end of their useful lives. A member of the federal Election Assistance Commission told the report’s authors, “We’re getting by with Band-Aids.” The central problem is a lack of money. The report estimates that it will cost at least $1 billion, and probably a good deal more, to upgrade voting systems nationwide. Election officials in 22 states say they need new machines but don’t know where the money will come from. Those states alone represent more than 120 million registered voters, and account for a majority — 324 — of the nation’s 538 electoral votes.

Colorado: In move to upgrade all machines statewide, new voting machines will be tested next month | Associated Press

Amid national anxiety about aging voting machines, Colorado elections officials are testing four types of new machines in elections next month as they move toward upgrades statewide. The Secretary of State plans to certify one new voting machine next year, putting the state on track to move away from a patchwork of voting machines to a single system. “Much of our equipment in Colorado is old,” Wayne Williams said Monday. “A lot of our systems are so old that they’re based on Microsoft systems that Microsoft no longer supports.” Next month’s off-year election is being used a test run for four different types of machines. Each will be used in a large Front Range county and a smaller rural county. The test counties are Adams, Denver, Douglas, Garfield, Gilpin, Jefferson, Mesa and Teller. The upgrades to newer machines will cost about $10 million to $15 million, with counties picking up the tab. A voting machine will be chosen by 2016, with counties free to upgrade whenever they’re ready.

Ohio: Expert Says Ohio’s Redistricting Proposal Could Serve As Model For Other States | Ohio Public Radio

A national political expert visited Columbus to talk about the push to change the way state lawmakers’ districts are drawn, and it’s an opportunity to achieve something rare in this country. “That is not a natural community in any sense of the word,” says Michael Li, the redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. He’s pointing to a district map drawn in California. One particular district is just a sliver of land that snakes up the west side of the state. “It stretches almost 200 miles up the coast of California, here it’s barely there—in fact—there’s a point in which it disappears at high tide,” said Li. Li’s notes drew laughter but also point out the odd realities of gerrymandering. This is when one party can draw legislative districts to benefit one party over another.

Editorials: What Alabama Can Learn From California on Voting Rights | Ari Berman/The Nation

In recent weeks Alabama has been in the news for passing a strict voter-ID law and then closing 31 DMV locations, particularly in majority-black counties where civil rights activists like Jimmie Lee Jackson and Jonathan Daniels died fighting for voting rights. This from the state that was the birthplace of the Voting Rights Act and currently ranks last in the nation in voter access. Over the weekend California moved in a dramatically different direction, becoming the second state–following Oregon–to automatically register citizens who request a driver’s license or state ID from the DMV unless they opt out. The law could add 6 million unregistered voters to the rolls, which would be the largest voter-registration drive in state history. Unlike Alabama, California is using the power of the government to bring millions of new voters into the political process– treating the vote as a fundamental right, rather than a special privilege.

Editorials: America’s voting machines are in need of a serious upgrade | The Washington Post

Americans tend to replace their smartphones every two or three years. By contrast, most Americans use voting machines that are at least a decade old and based on engineering and designs from the 1990s. The perils of ignoring the latter may not be apparent until the electoral system is suddenly wracked by mishaps — think of Florida, circa 2000. Unfortunately, the likelihood of major dysfunction grows as voting machines age. It’s fair to blame Washington for a portion of the mess and assume it won’t play a critical role in the solution. Determined to avoid a reprise of the Florida mishap, Congress allocated funds and mandated the purchase of new equipment in 2002. Then, with the mandates still in place, lawmakers turned off the funding spigot, leaving state and local governments to take up the slack. In next year’s presidential election, some voting machines in 43 states will be at least a decade old and dangerously close to the end of their expected lifespan, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. In 14 states, some voters will encounter machines that are 15 or more years old, meaning they pre-date Facebook and the widespread use of flat-screen televisions.

South Carolina: Old voting machines could slow voting | WBTW

A new study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that 43 states, including South Carolina, have voting machines that are at least 10 years old, past their life expectancy, and that’s likely to lengthen voting lines on Election Day. South Carolina has been using its current voting machines since 2004. “How many people out there are using 11-, 12-year-old laptops? Probably not too many, and that’s because they reach the end of life cycle and become obsolete,” says Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the South Carolina Election Commission. He says the state’s voting machines are not obsolete, though, even though they are old.

South Carolina: Age isn’t a virtue when it comes to voting machines | Post and Courier

South Carolina is just beginning to shop for new voting machines — and a new report found many other states should do the same. New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice released a report last week saying when Americans head to the polls for next year’s presidential election, 43 states, including South Carolina, will be using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old. The cost of updating them could exceed $1 billion. Many of the increasingly outdated machines were bought with federal money not long after the infamous “hanging chad” controversy in Florida helped determine the 2000 presidential election. “No one expects a laptop to last for 10 years. How can we expect these machines, many of which were designed and engineered in the 1990s, to keep running without increased failures?” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Center’s Democracy Program and co-author of the study.

National: The Dismal State of America’s Decade-Old Voting Machines | Kim Zetter/Wired

As the US presidential election season heats up, the public has focused on the candidates vying for the nation’s top office. But whether Donald Trump will secure the Republican nomination is secondary to a more serious quandary: whether the nation’s voting machines will hold up when Americans head to the polls in 2016. Nearly every state is using electronic touchscreen and optical-scan voting systems that are at least a decade old, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law (.pdf). Beyond the fact the machines are technologically antiquated, after years of wear and tear, states are reporting increasing problems with degrading touchscreens, worn-out modems for transmitting election results, and failing motherboards and memory cards. States using machines that are at least 15 years old include Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, which means they are far behind even a casual tech user in keeping pace with technological advancements. The average lifespan of a laptop computer is three to five years, after which most consumers and businesses replace their machines. Computer users also generally upgrade their operating systems every other year or so as Microsoft and Apple release major software overhauls—including security upgrades. But US voting machines, which are responsible for overseeing the most important election in the country, have failed to keep up. “No one expects a laptop to last for 10 years. How can we expect these machines, many of which were designed and engineered in the 1990s, to keep running?,” write Larry Norden and Christopher Famighetti, authors of the Brennan Center report. “[T]he majority of systems in use today are either perilously close to or past their expected lifespans.”

Ohio: Voting Machines Reaching the End of the Line | Public News Service

The end of the line is nearing for Ohio’s electronic voting machines, which a new report indicates could cause trouble during the 2016 election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, 90 percent of Ohio counties are using machines that are 10 years old. Report co-author Christopher Famighetti says that’s much longer than the machines are designed to last. “Most of us don’t keep our laptops, desktops, over a decade, and that’s the type of technology that most of the machines in use today are using,” he explains.

Texas: Travis County to Update Aging Voting Technology With New Tablet-Based System | KUT

Yesterday morning, we heard a story about the nation’s aging voting machines and the problems they could present in the future. But that same report, which warns of trouble ahead for some municipalities, also details how Travis County has developed a new voting system, set to premiere in time for 2018 elections. To anyone over 18, the following scene might sound familiar. “It looks like you’re standing in front of an ATM machine with kind of a pad-like device in front of you, and you click through and make selections for the candidates or the propositions that you’re choosing, and then you cast your vote,” says Ronald Morgan, Travis County’s Chief Deputy Clerk.

National: Electronic voting machines in 43 states are out of date, study shows | Politico

When Americans head to the polls for next year’s presidential election, 43 states will be using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to a new study from New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice released Tuesday. And the price tag for replacement machines could top $1 billion. Fifteen years after the term “hanging chad” entered the American political lexicon, and Congress appropriated $2 billion to move to electronic voting systems to avoid a future conundrum, those same electronic systems are still in use in many jurisdictions. “No one expects a laptop to last for 10 years. How can we expect these machines, many of which were designed and engineered in the 1990s, to keep running without increased failures?” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Center’s Democracy Program, and co-author of the study, in a statement. “Old equipment can have serious security flaws, and the longer we delay purchasing new machines, the higher the risk. To avoid a new technology crisis every decade, we must plan for and invest in voting technology for the 21st century.”

Texas: Appellate Panel Says Texas ID Law Violated Voting Rights Act | The New York Times

A federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a decision that election experts called an important step toward defining the reach of the landmark law. The case is one of a few across the country that are being closely watched in legal circles after a 2013 Supreme Court decision that blocked the voting act’s most potent enforcement tool, federal oversight of election laws in numerous states, including Texas, with histories of racial discrimination. While the federal act still bans laws that suppress minority voting, exactly what kinds of measures cross the legal line has been uncertain since that Supreme Court ruling.

Texas: Voting Rights Bill Would Address, Not Invalidate Texas Law | The Texas Tribune

A voting rights bill introduced in Congress last week would subject Texas elections to new levels of federal scrutiny, but it would not invalidate the state’s controversial 2011 voter photo ID law that helped inspire it. The federal measure is designed to restore and improve protections to minority voters granted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, provisions that were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013. The ruling found that key sections of the act unfairly targeted southern states and did not reflect current conditions. Since the court’s decision, several states — notably Texas — have begun enforcing laws that voting rights activists have called discriminatory against African-Americans, Hispanics, the elderly and the poor.

Voting Blogs: Candidates & Super PACs: The New Model in 2016 | Brennan Center for Justice

As voters begin to assess presidential candidates ahead of the 2016 election, they’ll face a new world in which ostensibly outside groups — which often have extremely close ties to the candidates, but are theoretically separate from them because they aren’t “controlled” by the candidate and don’t give their money directly to her campaign — could dominate political spending. That’s because super PACs and other groups conceived after the 2010 Citizens United decision may raise money without limits, while candidates cannot. While many have understood that super PACs would make a significant impact on American elections, few could have predicted the speed with which they have evolved and moved to the center of our political system. Download the Report

National: With boost from Clinton, efforts to expand voting access advance | MSNBC

States from Rhode Island to Louisiana took steps this week toward making voting easier. In Washington, a new bill that would automatically register citizens to vote when they turn 18 is gaining traction among Democrats. And Ohio’s top voting official blocked a Democratic lawmaker on Twitter amid a spat over efforts to increase access to the ballot in the nation’s most pivotal swing state. It’s more evidence that Hillary Clinton’s major speech on voting last Thursday helped move along a conversation – already underway, to be sure – about how to to expand access to the ballot, especially by modernizing voter registration systems. It’s a conversation that threatens to put Republicans on the defensive after years of playing offense on the issue with a wave of restrictive voting laws.

National: Attempts To Limit Voting Rights Stunted As Efforts To Enhance Voting Access Prevail | Huffington Post

A number of state legislatures are adjourning, and supporters of expanded access to the ballot box may be sighing in relief as they see some of the major efforts to restrict voting access were stymied during this legislative session. Then again, they may be disappointed that bills to restore voting rights to felons were squashed, or that courts haven’t yet shut down strict new voter identification requirements in Arizona, North Carolina and Texas. At the federal level, congressional Republicans haven’t been rushing to update the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court gutted in 2013, even as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama, civil rights march that helped bring about the landmark law.

Editorials: Big Dangers for the Next Election | Elizabeth Drew/The New York Review of Books

While people are wasting their time speculating about who will win the presidency more than a year from now—Can Hillary beat Jeb? Can anybody beat Hillary? Is the GOP nominee going to be Jeb or Walker?—growing dangers to a democratic election, ones that could decide the outcome, are being essentially overlooked. The three dangers are voting restrictions, redistricting, and loose rules on large amounts of money being spent to influence voters. In recent years, we’ve been moving further and further away from a truly democratic election system. The considerable outrage in 2012 over the systematic effort in Republican-dominated states to prevent blacks, Hispanics, students, and the elderly from being able to vote—mainly aimed at limiting the votes of blacks and Hispanics—might have been expected to lead to a serious effort to fix the voting system. But quite the reverse occurred. In fact, in some of the major races in 2014, according to the highly respected Brennan Center for Justice, the difference in the number of votes between the victor and the loser closely mirrored the estimated number of people who had been deprived of the right to vote. And in the North Carolina Senate race, the number of people prevented from voting exceeded the margin between the loser and the winner.

Texas: Right to vote at stake in Texas voter ID appeal | MSNBC

By any measure, Mario Rubio went to great lengths to vote last fall. Though he was in a rehab center after developing an infection during surgery, Rubio, a 60-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, asked the facility’s director whether a trip to the polls could be arranged. But he had given his wallet with his driver’s license to his brother for safe-keeping when he went to the rehab center, meaning he didn’t have an acceptable photo identification under the state’s strict voter ID law. As a result, after waiting in a van for over an hour and a half, Rubio was forced to cast a provisional ballot, even though he had plenty of other identification. A day later, Rubio was transferred to a different facility. But the papers he’d been given telling him where to send a copy of his ID in order to make his provisional ballot count weren’t transferred with him. That left him unable to validate his provisional ballot within the 6-day time frame provided by the law. Rubio later got a letter telling him his vote was thrown out.