Clear Ballot

Tag Archive

Florida: Is Faster Ballot Counting Worth Risking Election Security? Legislature cuts a corner to get faster vote recount | Mary Ellen Klas/Miami Herald

In the interest of speeding the process of recounting votes in a close election, the Florida House passed legislation Monday to allow county supervisors of elections to purchase special equipment to conduct both machine and manual recounts. But there’s only one vendor — ClearAudit digital imaging system from Clear Ballot Group of Boston — and the prospect that the state could be dependent on a single proprietary software tool has supporters worried that security could be undermined. “Technology is a tool not a process. This recount concept is not ready for prime time,” said Liza McClenaghan, Common Cause Florida state board chair. Both Common Cause and the League of Women Voters say the technology offers promise as a way to give supervisors of elections another tool to store and track paper ballots, but they say the state’s rush to encourage counties to start using digital images of ballots for recounts is a mistake. If the measure passes both chambers, they will urge Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto it.

Full Article: FL Legislature cuts a corner to get faster vote recount | Miami Herald.

Florida: State Could Allow Counties To Use A Different System When Recounting Voter Ballots In Elections | Robert Gaffney/WFSU

When elections are close, voter ballots are recounted. First by machine and if the results are still slim, by hand. It’s a process Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) remembers during the 2018 election. Byrd says he saw that election’s recount in Duval County. “We’re in a room, and you’ve got dozens of people and tables spread around and tens of thousands of ballots out, and all it takes is one stray mark to spoil a paper ballot,” Byrd says. Now, Byrd is backing a bill that would allow election staff to use a system, currently used for auditing,  for machine and manual recounts too. Right now, for manual recounts, election staff have to sort through ballots by hand. Byrd says the technology he’s proposing is already approved by the state. Currently, voting systems can make digital copies of paper ballots. Still, Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says those copies are hard to access and don’t have any sorting capability. The auditing system Byrd wants the state to use keeps an inventory of all paper ballots and makes them easier to find so staff can cross-check them with digital copies. Earley says he’s been working with the technology for 11 years.

Full Article: Florida Could Allow Counties To Use A Different System When Recounting Voter Ballots In Elections | WFSU.

Pennsylvania: Counties make year-end deadline for picking new voting systems, but still have to contend with changes to state election code | Emily Previti/PA Post

Dauphin County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to buy new voting machines – the last jurisdiction to comply with the state mandate that counties update to paper-based, auditable voting systems before the end of 2019. After publicly resisting the state’s directive, Dauphin officials reversed course, averting a potential legal fight with the state and ensuring the county is eligible for election security funding. Costs for the new system – one where voters primarily fill out ballots by hand – won’t be final until sometime in January, but are expected to be about $2 million, according to commissioners chief of staff Chad Saylor. Commissioner Jeff Haste cast the vote against moving forward in contract negotiations with Clear Ballot. “It’s a disastrous solution in search of a problem,” Haste said of the state mandate. Haste and other county officials have said the county’s current touchscreen direct recording electronic machines (DREs) work fine, despite being 30 years old. Haste also said county leaders didn’t like the fact that the state didn’t keep counties apprised of efforts to settle a lawsuit brought by 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in the wake of President Trump’s victory. That settlement, which effectively created the voting machine replacement mandate, was reached without local leaders having input. 

Full Article: Pennsylvania counties make year-end deadline for picking new voting systems, but still have to contend with changes to state election code | PA Post.

North Carolina: Clear Ballot giving up on North Carolina for now | Gary D. Robertson/Associated Press

A Massachusetts-based election equipment manufacturer is giving up for now on selling its machines to North Carolina counties. Clear Ballot’s chief executive told the State Board of Elections it was withdrawing its request to certify its recent product upgrades. CEO Jordan Esten’s letter last week blamed the board’s slow pace for its troubles, saying the company was unable to communicate with the state’s counties during the two-year wait for the original certification. Esten said that gave current dominant equipment manufacturer Election Systems & Software “a marketing monopoly in the state.” “We still want to work with North Carolina,” Esten wrote. “However, the environment and rules continue to stifle competition, which is regretfully causing us to withdraw our certification request at this time.”

Full Article: Voting equipment manufacturer giving up on NC for now.

Florida: Palm Beach County elections chief ’interested’ in high-speed ballot systems for recounts | Jeffrey Schweers and Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post

Rather than hiring hundreds of people to perform the sometimes messy and always time-consuming job of recounting votes, several county supervisors, including officials in Palm Beach County, of elections want to use their high-speed ballot auditing systems instead. Legislation now has been filed to allow them to do just that. The measure’s co-sponsors this year are state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee (SB 1032) and state Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach (HB 1005). It’s been endorsed by the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association. “There are so many issues and challenges with a recount that it just makes sense,” Montford said. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said her office is considering testing out the technology during the presidential preference primary in March. If the elections office agrees to a trial run with the company, one type of ballot, like vote-by-mail, would be counted with this system. “We’ll be able to test how it works and whether or not we think it’s a useful program for us or not,” Link said. “It also gives us the opportunity to wait and see what the Legislature will do.” If the measure passes in Tallahassee, Link said she would “be even more interested in it.”

Full Article: PBC elections chief ’interested’ in high-speed ballot systems for recounts - News - The Palm Beach Post - West Palm Beach, FL.

North Carolina: Clear Ballot leaving North Carolina, seeks probe of ES&S’s practices | Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press

Clear Ballot, one of three companies certified to provide election systems to North Carolina counties for 2020, formally withdrew from the state on Thursday, citing certification and marketing rules that Clear Ballot said perpetuate a virtual monopoly by competitor Election Systems & Software. Jordan Esten, chief executive officer of Boston-based Clear Ballot, told Carolina Public Press on Thursday that he has asked the N.C. Board of Elections to look into whether ES&S improperly capitalized on its presence in North Carolina with older generations of election equipment, marketing its elections systems to counties before the state certified it this summer. Separately, N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, issued a letter to the state Board of Elections calling for the board to “to delay this use of (ES&S’ systems) until after the 2020 election.” She pointed to many questions that have been raised about ES&S and its newly certified ballot-marking devices. North Carolina and Indiana are the only states that prevent elections systems makers from marketing systems prior to certification. Clear Ballot CEO Esten said he thinks this is a foolish law, but his company has followed the rule. Esten said he remains suspicious about ES&S’ compliance because many counties rapidly adopted its new electronic voting system almost immediately after it was certified. N.C. Board of Elections member Stella Anderson told CPP Thursday that she also had concerns about ES&S having an uncompetitive advantage. She observed that many counties have chosen to go with ES&S systems even though she felt its product wasn’t strong. “I haven’t met a person yet who thinks the ES&S Express Vote is good technology,” she said.

Full Article: Voting systems maker leaving NC, seeks probe of competitor's practices.

Pennsylvania: Monroe County Voters Voice Concern Over Elections Tech | Brian Myszkowski/Pocono Record

The ballots are in, the votes are counted, and the consensus is…there are still a few kinks to iron out before the next election. Last week’s municipal election saw the premier of the new ClearCast scanners, paper ballots and other changes in voting technology in Monroe County, Pa., and other areas across the state and nation. Gone are the electronic screens of the past, replaced with paper ballots and scanning devices meant to ensure the safety and security of citizens’ votes. Voters could simply fill in bubble next to the name of the candidate they wished to vote for, and once they completed the ballot, they fed it into the scanners, which checked for errors, asked for final approval and deposited the slip into a secure box. At least that was the idea. According to a Pocono Record poll, about 70% of voters were able to vote on Election Day without any issues. But when it came to the rest, several concerns tended to pop up rather frequently.

Full Article: Monroe County, Pa., Voters Voice Concern Over Elections Tech.

North Carolina: Voting equipment approval didn’t follow law | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

North Carolina’s recent decision to certify new voting systems for use next year did not follow state law, according to a letter that a group of experts on election security and administration sent to the N.C. Board of Elections late Wednesday night. North Carolina has been in the process of reviewing new voting systems for certification for over two years. The system that is currently in use across the state was certified in 2005. The law requires a security review of the source code of all voting systems before they are certified for use in the state. The letter states that there is no indication that the state, either through its own contractors or through required federal testing, reviewed the source code for the computers in the voting systems it recently certified. The experts in question, including Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, reviewed testing documentation from the state and from the federal government. “You read all of that, and it’s clear,” Buell said. “There was no source code review conducted. That would certainly seem to suggest that things are not in accordance with North Carolina law.”

Full Article: Letter to NC Election Board: Voting equipment approval didn't follow law.

Pennsylvania: Allegheny County to ‘stress test’ prospective voting systems | Jamie Martines /Tribune-Review

The Allegheny County Board of Elections committee in charge of searching for a new voting system decided Friday to spend the next month working with vendors to test prospective systems, seeking confirmation that they can handle the high volume of complex contests in the county. A report submitted Aug. 19 by the Voting System Search Committee and discussed Friday indicates that only one of four vendors under consideration has the state and federal certification guaranteeing it can meet the county’s needs. The committee is comprised of officials from the county elections, law, purchasing, computer services, budget and finance, human resources, county manager and administrative services departments. “I was surprised too,” said board chair and Allegheny County Councilman Thomas Baker, R-Ross. “I thought we would have a couple options that were viable that we would be able to pick from. I’m learning at the same pace that you’re all learning. I had no sense, as chairman, what would be in the report.” The voting system’s software must be robust enough to handle up to 4,000 separate ballot styles during a municipal primary election, according to the report. That means a system must be able to support an election involving as many as 10,000 candidate positions and 7,000 contests across the county’s 130 municipalities and 43 school districts.

Full Article: Allegheny County to ‘stress test’ prospective voting systems | TribLIVE.com.

Pennsylvania: Election security, transparency and millions of dollars: Questions answered as Allegheny County looks to buy new voting machines. | J. Dale Shoemaker/PublicSource

If you’ve tuned into the news at any point over the past three years, chances are you’ve heard that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Russian interference, “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” was a key — and much publicized — finding of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to the U.S. Attorney General earlier this year. But a less prominent finding was that Russia’s meddling also targeted state and county officials in an attempt to access voter rolls and voting systems. According to Mueller, Russia successfully accessed voter rolls in Illinois and even hacked one of the companies that sells election equipment to states and counties. The potential for future attacks, particularly during the 2020 presidential election, has worried some elections experts and advocates in Allegheny County and beyond. But now, as Allegheny County and many other Pennsylvania counties are in the process of buying new voting machines, there is an opportunity to select equipment that will maintain integrity at the polls. The state government, as part of a lawsuit settlement, has directed all counties to implement a voting system with a paper trail by the 2020 primaries. By 2022, counties must have a system in place to automatically audit election results to ensure they’re accurate. At present, a search committee comprised of 10 Allegheny County employees has issued a report assessing the cost and security protocols of nine different voting systems from four companies. Some are paper based, some are computer based.

Full Article: Election security, transparency and millions of dollars: Questions answered as Allegheny County looks to buy new voting machines. - PublicSource | News for a better Pittsburgh.

North Carolina: Vote security on the line in Board of Elections meeting | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

When the NC Board of Elections meets Friday, it will make decisions about voting equipment for 2020 elections that could determine the security of the state’s election process and how much confidence voters can have that the system records and tabulates their votes as they intended. Security experts, federal research agencies and the US Senate agree on best practices for secure election equipment. They recommend that most voters use hand-marked paper ballots, count the ballots using digital scanners and audit the paper ballots for correctness before election results are made official. Most North Carolinians already vote this way. However, 23 of the state’s 100 counties use touch screens to cast their ballots, a system that experts consider insecure and outdated because it cannot be effectively audited. For that reason, North Carolina is set to decertify those systems by Dec. 1. This week, the state board of elections will consider certifying replacement systems. The decisions the board makes will have a domino effect of consequences for the security, privacy and accessibility of elections across the state.

Full Article: Vote security on the line in NC Board of Elections meeting.

North Carolina: Another delay on voting machines, and a move toward hand-marked ballots | Travis Fain/WRAL

North Carolina moved toward a new requirement for hand-marked ballots Monday night when a divided, but bipartisan, State Board of Elections voted to rework the rules that govern what voting machines are allowed here. The board will have to gather again in about two weeks to make the change official, and Monday’s decision delayed for the third time in two months a long-awaited decision to certify new voting equipment. But activists hailed the vote as a move toward more secure elections. The time to approve new machines ahead of the 2020 elections grows short. State law requires small test runs in actual elections before new machines can be fully deployed, meaning equipment would need to be in place for the November municipal elections to be ready for the March 2020 presidential primaries. The state legislature may change that law, allowing for simulated election tests instead. It may also delay the coming decertification of touchscreen voting systems that roughly a third of North Carolina counties use now.

Full Article: Another delay on voting machines, and a move toward hand-marked ballots :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Board of Elections to decide on new voting machines | Rad Berky/WCNC

In an unusual weekend session, the North Carolina State Board of Elections will meet Sunday to certify the companies who want to sell new voting machines for use in elections next year. This follows the decision to return the state from electronic voting to equipment that uses paper ballots. Mecklenburg County’s Elections Director Michael Dickerson said the county is one of a few that already keeps a paper record, but whichever new system is chosen will go a step farther. “We have a paper record of what you voted but they want to give each voter a paper ballot before you finalize your vote,” said Dickerson. South Carolina this week took the wraps off the new equipment voters there will be using. After finalizing choices on a touchscreen, the machines will print a paper ballot with a barcode. Voters will then check their paper ballot and place it in a scanner. The scanner takes an image of the ballot, counts it and keeps the original in a locked ballot box.

Full Article: North Carolina Board of Elections to decide on new voting machines | wcnc.com.

North Carolina: Elections board may pick new voting machine options Sunday | Travis Fain/WRAL

The State Board of Elections will meet Sunday evening for a certification vote on what new voting machines will be allowed in North Carolina. The long-delayed decision will follow a demonstration of the various options from companies hoping to do business, or more business, in the state. Local boards of election decide what systems to buy, but the state board has to decide first whether various options meet state requirements. “If they meet the statutory requirements, they’re to be certified,” Board Chairman Robert Cordle said Tuesday. The board plans to meet at 5 p.m. in the Triangle Ballroom at the Cary Embassy Suites on Harrison Oaks Boulevard in Cary, not in the usual meeting room at the board offices.

Full Article: NC elections board may pick new voting machine options Sunday :: WRAL.com.

Pennsylvania: Here’s who makes money from the voting machine requirement for Pennsylvania counties — and how those decisions are being made | Emily Previti & Ed Mahon|PA Post

As Jeff Frank strode out of his polling place on a recent Tuesday morning, poll watchers thanked him for voting. “Have a great day – enjoy the complaints as they come out the door,” Frank responded. Municipal elections tend to be relatively quiet – even in Montgomery, which consistently turns out a higher number of voters than any other county in the state but more-populous Philadelphia and Allegheny counties  But this year, several counties debuted new voting machines – and two, including Montgomery, went to an entirely different way of voting. “When I came and discovered what the process was, I said, okay, but it is ridiculous, a waste of time and will cause lines so long that people will not be here when the presidential election comes up,” Frank said. Other voters exiting the Temple Brith Achim Synagogue polling location in Upper Merion weren’t quite as animated over the switch from push-button machines to scannable paper ballots filled out by hand. “It’s even it’s better now that you actually get a confirmation ticket that your vote was cast. We never got that before,” said Tykia Turner.

Full Article: Here’s who makes money from the voting machine requirement for Pa. counties — and how those decisions are being made | PA Post.

National: Election tech vendors say they’re securing their systems. Does anyone believe them? | CyberScoop

The last few years have been an awakening for Election Systems & Software. Before 2016, very few people were publicly pressing the company to change the way it handled its cybersecurity practices. Now, the nation’s leading manufacturer of election technology has become a lightning rod for critics. Security experts say the small number of companies that dominate the nation’s election technology market, including ES&S, have failed to acknowledge and remedy vulnerabilities that lie in systems used to hold elections across the country. Once left to obscurity, the entire ecosystem has been called into question since the Russian government was found to have interfered with the 2016 presidential campaign. While there has never been any evidence to suggest that any voting machines were compromised, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI recently issued a memo that all 50 states were at least targeted by Russian intelligence. The peak of the criticism came after the Voting Village exhibition at the 2018 DEF CON security conference, where amateur hackers unearthed a bevy of flaws in the company’s tech. In a number of publications — including CyberScoop — ES&S disputed the notion that it didn’t take cybersecurity seriously, arguing its own due diligence was enough to satisfy any security worries. It didn’t help the Omaha, Nebraska-based company’s case when the Voting Village committee issued a report in September that found decades-old vulnerabilities in an ES&S ballot tabulator that has been used in elections in more than half of the states. In light of these issues, some of the election tech manufacturers are trying to change course, and ES&S is the most public about its efforts. With the country gearing up for the 2020 presidential election, the company has revamped its security testing procedures, putting together a plan to let penetration testers from both the public and private sector evaluate the safety of its systems. Furthermore, ES&S and its competitors are communicating in an unprecedented way about committing to a certain level of standards that can lift the entire industry to a better security baseline.

Full Article: Election tech vendors say they're securing their systems. Does anyone believe them?.

National: ‘They think they are above the law’: the firms that own America’s voting system | The Guardian

Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin is a newcomer to the cause of reforming America’s vote-counting machines, welcomed through baptism by fire. In 2015, Maryland’s main election system vendor was bought by a parent company with ties to a Russian oligarch. The state’s election officials did not know about the purchase until July 2018, when the FBI notified them of the potential conflict. The FBI investigated and did not find any evidence of tampering or sharing of voter data. But the incident was a giant red flag as to the potential vulnerabilities of American democracy – especially as many states have outsourced vote-counting to the private sector. After all, the purchase happened while Russian agents were mounting multiple disinformation and cybersecurity campaigns to interfere with America’s 2016 general election. “To say that they don’t have any evidence of any wrongdoing is not to say that nothing untoward happened,” Raskin said. “It’s simply to say that we don’t have the evidence of it.” The fact is that democracy in the United States is now largely a secretive and privately-run affair conducted out of the public eye with little oversight. The corporations that run every aspect of American elections, from voter registration to casting and counting votes by machine, are subject to limited state and federal regulation. The companies are privately-owned and closely held, making information about ownership and financial stability difficult to obtain. The software source code and hardware design of their systems are kept as trade secrets and therefore difficult to study or investigate.

Full Article: 'They think they are above the law': the firms that own America's voting system | US news | The Guardian.

Utah: Security on mind as state auditions new voting machines, software | Deseret News

Just last weekend, a long-running hackers convention in Las Vegas lined up a dozen U.S. electronic voting machines, many of which were obtained from government auctions and second-hand sources like eBay, and unleashed attendees on them. By the end of the weekend, all of the machines had been breached in one form or another. And while most of the equipment was somewhat out of date in terms of technology, a few of the models are still in use. DefCon 25 organizers said the exercise was about illustrating and helping address security vulnerabilities in the U.S. election system, a popular national conversation topic following allegations that are still under investigation of outside meddling in the 2016 election cycle. On Wednesday, another lineup of voting machines popped up at the Utah Capitol. This time, however, the event was aimed at giving members of the public an opportunity to audition some of the latest in voting technology as part of a state process to choose a new provider of voting equipment for county officials who operate Utah elections.

Full Article: Security on mind as state auditions new voting machines, software | Deseret News.

Editorials: Maryland voting audit falls short | Philip B. Stark & Poorvi L. Vora/Baltimore Sun

At the Board of Public Works Oct. 19th meeting, members passed without discussion a proposal by the State Board of Elections to pay Clear Ballot Group Inc. $275,000 for an “independent and automated solution to verify [the] accuracy” of the state’s election results. Seems reasonable, right? Especially now that the term “rigged” frequently precedes “election” in this year’s campaign rhetoric. The only problem is it won’t work. We have some experience to back this judgment: Between us, we have helped audit about 20 contests in several states and designed auditable voting systems. Methods developed by one of us are in laws in two states. It’s great that Maryland voters get to vote on paper ballots this year; paper ballots that voters can check are the best evidence of “the will of the people.” Maryland’s ballots will be scanned and then counted electronically. As required by hard-won state legislation passed in 2007, the paper ballots will be stored securely as durable evidence of what voters wanted.

Full Article: Maryland voting audit falls short - Baltimore Sun.

Canada: Voting-machine salesman barred from contacting city hall over lobbying infringement | Ottawa Citizen

An American voting-machine salesman has been barred from contacting anyone at Ottawa City Hall for a month, the city’s integrity commissioner announced Tuesday, imposing his first discipline ever under Ottawa’s lobbying rules. Bill Murphy is the director of sales for Boston-based Clear Ballot, which sells equipment for running elections. Integrity commissioner Robert Marleau has forbidden Ottawa’s city government from having anything to do with him until mid-March, on the grounds that Murphy lobbied the city to buy Clear Ballot’s machines and software without registering as a lobbyist as the city’s bylaws require. The city’s lobbying registry has been in effect since September 2012. If you’re trying to get the city to make a decision that’s to your financial benefit, generally speaking, you need to record any contacts with city officials using a website Marleau oversees.

Full Article: Voting-machine salesman barred from contacting city hall over lobbying infringement | Ottawa Citizen.