election administration

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Texas: Missing Midland County ballot box could throw bond election into question | Stacy Fernández/The Texas Tribune

A proposal for a $569 million bond to build two new high school buildings in Midland failed by 25 votes in the November election, a margin slim enough it set off calls for a recount. The ballots were recounted manually, and to the delight of Midland ISD officials, the results flipped and the proposal passed by a margin of 11 votes. But last week, a Midland elections staffer found a box on the bottom of a shelf in the office containing 836 ballots that weren’t tallied in the recount. Those votes threaten to again reverse the election results, which school officials are counting on to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for school construction. The elections office obtained a court order to open the ballot box on Monday morning, when staffers began to count up the missing votes. The first and unofficial vote tally on Nov. 5, which used the electronic ballots, took the missing ballots into account. The paper ballots are a physical copy of how constituents voted on the electronic system. The paper ballots came into play during the manual recount, which was missing the more than 800 ballots, making the recount number inaccurate.

Full Article: Missing Midland, Texas ballot box could throw bond election into question | The Texas Tribune.

National: Election Security Push Ahead Of 2020 Could Be Blunted By Wave Of Retirements | Pam Fessler/NPR

Between possible foreign interference, potentially record-high turnout, new voting equipment in many parts of the country and what could be a razor-close outcome, the 2020 election was already shaping up to be one of the most challenging elections to administer in U.S. history. On top of those challenges, a number of top election officials who oversaw voting in 2016 won’t be around next year. Some are retiring after long careers, but others are feeling the strain of an increasingly demanding and politicized job. Among those who’ve left are former Virginia Election Commissioner, Edgardo Cortes, now an election security adviser with the Brennan Center for Justice. He decided to move on last year when the governor he worked for was heading out of office. Cortes also had a new baby on the way and a three hour commute, and says he needed a break from his 24/7 job. “In Virginia in particular, there are elections going on every year, multiple times a year, so it was definitely a huge time commitment,” says Cortes. Running elections can be difficult work, with long hours, low pay and an electorate that isn’t always appreciative. Most officials say they love the work and believe they’re performing a key democratic function, but several high-profile election officials have recently announced that they’re leaving, in part to give their replacements time to prepare for 2020.

Full Article: Election Security Push Ahead Of 2020 Could Be Blunted By Wave Of Retirements : NPR.

California: It May Take a Month to Name California’s Winner on Super Tuesday | Emily Glazer/Wall Street Journal

California’s decision to move up its 2020 primary to Super Tuesday in early March from June will make the nation’s most populous state one of the most important in deciding the Democratic presidential candidate. But changes to the voting process could mean the final results won’t be known for weeks. If the allocation of California’s 494 Democratic delegates—by far the most of any state—isn’t finalized until early April, that could affect the candidates’ viability, campaigning and fundraising momentum in the meantime. It also could influence voter support in other states. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla earlier this year decertified most voting systems in the state’s 58 counties, giving them until February 2020 to install more advanced and secure technology. Many counties are still testing the new or updated devices, while also preparing for state-mandated election changes, including allowing in-person voting 10 days before Election Day and broadening the number of people who can vote by mail, a procedure that now will be available to about half the state’s population. The changes also allow same-day voter registration at every polling location. They also add, for the first time for a presidential election, the ability for voters to submit missing signatures on vote-by-mail ballots no later than two days prior to the certification of the election, which could vary by county. County elections officials will still have up to 30 days after Election Day to complete vote counting, auditing and certification. “I’m telling people it’s no longer Election Day, it’s election month,” said Neal Kelley, the registrar of voters in Orange County.

Full Article: It May Take a Month to Name California’s Winner on Super Tuesday - WSJ.

National: State, local elections officials agree no ‘one-size-fits-all-approach’ exists for cybersecurity | Jory Heckman/Federal News Network

Less than a year out from the 2020 election, state and local election security personnel are gearing up to defend against cyber threats. But while these officials work directly with the Department of Homeland Security to protect this critical infrastructure, in many cases they face limited resources on a scale not seen in the federal government. More than 40 states have a secretary of state that serves as the chief election official, but in Wisconsin, an administrator is appointed by a bipartisan commission to serve in that role. Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said Wisconsin is the most decentralized election administration system in the country. The state runs elections at the municipal level, whereas most other states run elections at the county level. However, resources for these offices can run thin and two-thirds of Wisconsin’s election officials work part-time. “A lot of them don’t have any type of IT support at the local level, which is very different than some of the county-based systems. The clerk might be the sole employee of that jurisdiction,” Wolfe said at the Cybersecurity Coalition’s CyberNext D.C. conference.

Full Article: State, local elections officials agree no ‘one-size-fits-all-approach’ exists for cybersecurity.

North Carolina: Elections board to pick chair, key decision looms | Associated Press

The North Carolina elections board has a new leader ahead of a decision on what kind of voting machines are secure against efforts to alter ballots.
The state Board of Elections voted Tuesday to make nonprofit executive Damon Circosta of Raleigh its new chairman. Gov. Roy Cooper last week picked Circosta as the Democrat to replace former chairman Bob Cordle, who resigned after telling a crude joke. Circosta was politically unaffiliated last year when he was named chairman of a different version of the elections board. He now joins two other Democrats and two Republicans. The elections board later this month is expected to decide whether the next generation of voting machines should be required to furnish a paper printout so voters can read and confirm their ballots.

Full Article: N Carolina elections board to pick chair, key decision looms | WSOC-TV.

Georgia: ‘The selling of an election’: dangerous level of private control revealed in 2018 Georgia midterms | Jordan Wilkie/The Guardian

Private companies had near-complete control over Georgia’s elections for the 2018 midterms and posed a serious security risk, according to testimony and documents revealed during a federal court case challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s elections. The most maligned components of Georgia’s election systems – voting machines and online voter registration – were almost entirely managed by private companies, prompting concerns from election security experts. Voting machine company Elections Systems and Software (ES&S), which has close connections with the Georgia secretary of state’s office and Governor Brian Kemp’s staff, had three staff in Georgia building electronic ballots out of their homes through the 2018 midterms. This introduced significant security concerns about both foreign actors attacking the election system with malware or about a “political insider” potentially introducing their own coding that could alter the results of an election without detection, according to the plaintiffs. “It’s a shock to everyone that the vendor is actually building ballots for state elections,” said David Cross, lead attorney for one of the two groups suing the state. “That should not be happening. That should be at the state level, because the state does not have any means of ensuring the necessary security protocols of the vendor.”

Full Article: 'The selling of an election': dangerous level of private control revealed in 2018 Georgia midterms | US news | The Guardian.

India: Roads, boats and elephants: How India mobilised a million polling stations | Simon Scarr, Manas Sharma and Marco Hernandez/Reuters

The final day of voting in India’s mammoth general election was on Sunday. Over 900 million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the staggered seven-phase polling. The world’s biggest election involved around 1 million polling stations spread across the country, from remote corners of the Himalayas to crocodile-infested mangrove swamps of the Andaman Islands. Each polling station served about 900 voters on average but some catered for over 3,000 people. Each voting location used electronic voting machines (EVMs) which were first introduced in 1982. Instead of issuing a ballot paper, electors cast their votes by pressing a button next to a candidate’s name and party symbol. The Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system is attached to the EVM to confirm the vote. It prints a small slip of paper carrying the symbol and name of the candidate voted for. This is visible to the voter for a short period, and can be later used by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to verify the votes. After voting, people receive a mark of purple ink on their index finger as an indication that they have cast their ballot.

Full Article: How India mobilised a million polling stations.

Texas: Embattled elections chief on brink of losing job | Paul J. Weber & Jim Vertuno/Houston Chronicle

Texas’ embattled elections chief who wrongly questioned the U.S. citizenship of tens of thousands of voters was on the brink of losing his job Sunday, while Republican lawmakers prepared to head home hoping to save their own in 2020. Secretary of State David Whitley appeared set to go down without a public fight in the final hours of an unusually quiet session of the Texas Legislature, where a weakened GOP majority this year showed little appetite for partisan battles over signs their grip on the Capitol is slipping. Whitley, a former top aide of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, can’t stay in office unless the state Senate confirms his nomination before the session ends Monday. But his prospects were dimming by the minute as Democrats continued blocking a vote on his confirmation, as they have done since February. That was after Whitley’s office rolled out a bungled scouring of voter rolls that flagged nearly 100,000 voters as potential noncitizens. President Donald Trump seized on the news out of Texas to renew his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, but within days, it became clear the data used was deeply flawed.

Full Article: Texas' embattled elections chief on brink of losing job - HoustonChronicle.com.

North Carolina: Karen Brinson Bell new North Carolina elections director, replaces Kim Strach | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

Kim Strach, who has led the North Carolina Board of Elections since 2013, was dismissed by the board Monday. She will be replaced by Karen Brinson Bell. The vote was split along party lines, with the five-member elections board voting 3-2 in favor of replacing Strach with Brinson Bell. The board’s Democrats voted for Brinson Bell, while the board’s Republicans voted against her. “Our top priorities will be promoting voter confidence in elections and assisting the 100 county boards, the boots on the ground in every election,” Brinson Bell said in a written statement after the vote Monday. “I plan to roll up my sleeves and work with State Board staff to prepare for the important elections ahead.” She will start June 1.

Full Article: Karen Brinson Bell new NC elections director, replaces Kim Strach | Raleigh News & Observer.

North Carolina: State Board of Elections to oust executive director | WRAL

The new Democrat-controlled State Board of Elections will move to oust its longtime executive director, a Republican appointee, next week. Kim Strach, originally hired by the board former Gov. Pat McCrory appointed in 2013, has technically been on borrowed time since the new board formed in January. Soon after the board’s first meeting, state law gave members the authority to reappoint Strach or appoint a new director to a two-year term expiring in May 2021. That legislation was the result of a protracted court battle between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican leaders in the General Assembly over appointments to the elections board. Democrats now outnumber Republicans on the board 3-2. It’s not yet clear whether the new executive director will replace Strach immediately or after some period of transition. Reached by phone Friday morning, State Board of Elections member David Black, a Republican, said the board planned to have a teleconference Monday to discuss Strach’s ouster. “The general move from the Democrats on the board is to replace her,” Black said.

Full Article: State Board of Elections to oust executive director :: WRAL.com.

Editorials: I counted votes. Here’s what I learned | Joel Carmek/Jerusalem Post

After years of active interest in politics – particularly the mechanics of political systems in Israel and other countries – I decided to see for myself what an election looks like from behind the scenes. Instead of campaigning for my preferred party (with which I’m constantly disappointed), I applied to the Central Elections Committee to become a mazkir va’adat kalpi, the secretary of a local election committee, the person who hands you your envelope. It’s actually more complex than it sounds. Trusted with the oversight of the entire election process for one polling station, the secretary ensures that everything is set up correctly, that the voting is carried out according to the rules, and that votes are properly counted and reported to the regional committee as soon as possible. It was an exhausting, but exhilarating experience. Here are some of my main takeaways. 1. There were many opportunities to cheat the system. Although the careful selection process is designed to weed out people who applied for the job in order to take advantage of their position, and while rules are in place to guarantee the integrity of the elections, the system is still far from watertight. There were several opportunities for me, or others, to stuff the ballot box with hundreds of ptakim (voting slips) of our own choice, and the system still relies heavily on trust. For example, even setting aside a scenario whereby one of the people involved in the counting process had bribed everyone else in the room (there were five of us) to turn a blind eye to misconduct, I could easily have changed the results on the vote tally on my way to the regional headquarters where I reported my station’s results.

Full Article: I counted votes. Here’s what I learned - Opinion - Jerusalem Post.

Indonesia: The mind-boggling challenge of Indonesia’s election logistics | The Interpreter

IndonesiaHow do you organise free and fair elections in a sprawling developing country beset by political corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and organisational inefficiency? For Indonesia – and its 193 million voters – the answer lies in the vast number of polling stations, the use of a metal nail (not a pen or a machine) for voting, 1.6 million bottles of halal certified ink and the practice of counting votes in public. On April 17, the world’s third most populous democracy is holding simultaneous presidential and legislative elections for the first time. It will be world’s biggest direct presidential elections (because the US uses an electoral college) and one of the most complicated single-day elections in global history. By contrast, India, which is the world’s biggest democracy, is conducting its parliamentary elections through a rolling regional process over six weeks in April and May. As the Lowy Institute’s new infographic highlights, the scale of Indonesia’s electoral process is mind-boggling, with five separate elections at once, for the president, both houses of parliament, provincial legislatures and district/city councils. Altogether, there are more than 245,000 candidates running for more than 20,000 national and local legislative seats across hundreds of islands, in addition to the headline contest between President Joko Widodo and challenger Prabowo Subianto.

Full Article: The mind-boggling challenge of Indonesia’s election logistics.

Kentucky: Bill would strip Grimes’ power over Kentucky elections board | Lexington Herald Leader

A top Republican lawmaker is proposing legislation that would strip embattled Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of her authority over the Kentucky State Board of Elections. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he will introduce a committee substitute Wednesday to Senate Bill 34 that would make the secretary of state a symbolic, non-voting member of the elections board, stripping her of any day-to-day authority over the group. It also would block Grimes and others in her office from accessing to the state’s voter registration database.

Full Article: Bill would strip Grimes’ power over Kentucky elections board | Lexington Herald Leader.

Florida: Key election officials have no previous election experience | Associated Press

Florida’s new secretary of state and two key election supervisors in some of the state’s most-populous counties have never run an election. The officials have taken over central roles for future elections, with no previous experience besides voting themselves. They include recently appointed Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Link. Broward and Palm Beach are the second- and third-largest counties in Florida by the number of registered voters, with a total of more than 2.1 million voters – and far more registered Democrats than Republicans. nGov. Ron DeSantis appointed Lee, 44, when former Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned after a photo surfaced of him wearing blackface.

Full Article: Key election officials have no previous election experience | Myrtle Beach Sun News.

Nevada: Republicans seek to tighten election rules | Las Vegas Review-Journal

A series of Republican-sponsored bills seek to tighten rules on elected officials running for another office and for minor-party office seekers who switch parties to run. A third item would make the registrar of voters in the state’s two largest counties, Washoe and Clark, an elected rather than appointed post. All three measures were heard Monday by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, which did not vote on them. A “resign-to-run” measure would require elected officeholders to resign their current office if they announce candidacy for a different elected office more than a year before their current term ends. They would be resigned automatically if they don’t resign on their own. Resulting vacancies would be filled under current procedures for vacant seats.

Full Article: Nevada Republicans seek to tighten election rules | Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Maryland: Hogan, Franchot grill elections director Lamone over delayed release of voting results | Baltimore Sun

Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot on Wednesday grilled the administrator of Maryland’s elections — after problems on Election Day in November caused polls to stay open late and postponed the release of results for hours. The Maryland State Board of Elections did not post election results online on Election Day until after 10 p.m. — two hours after polls were scheduled to close in the state. Hogan said he and many others were frustrated they had had to wait for hours for the results to be announced. “This was a black eye for Maryland around the country,” Franchot told Maryland elections administrator Linda H. Lamone, who appeared before the spending panel. “They were making fun of us on the national television about how bad the Maryland election was being administered,” Hogan said. “You are the Maryland state election administrator.” “Indeed, I am,” replied Lamone, who has served in the role since 1997.

Full Article: Hogan, Franchot grill Maryland elections director Lamone over delayed release of voting results - Baltimore Sun.

Kansas: Judge: Kansas’ Largest County Violated Law By Not Specifying Rejected Ballots | Associated Press

A judge has ruled that election officials in Kansas’ largest county violated open records law by refusing to provide names of hundreds of people whose provisional ballots were not counted in last August’s primary. Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of 898 people whose ballots were thrown out and for justification on why they didn’t count. Johnson County election commissioner Ronnie Metsker rejected Hammet’s request, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to join Hammet in a lawsuit. District Judge David Hauber ruled in Hammet’s favor on Thursday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Metzger didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.

Full Article: Judge: Kansas’ Largest County Violated Law By Not Specifying Rejected Ballots – Talking Points Memo.

North Carolina: With deadline looming, effort to name new state elections board hits a snag | Charlotte Observer

The effort to find members for a new North Carolina state elections board has hit a snag, just before a deadline for a new board to be named. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office on Tuesday found two of the four Democrats nominated to the board ineligible. A new board is scheduled to be appointed by Thursday. The new board will oversee the investigation into alleged election fraud in the 9th District, a probe that has put into question the results of last November’s election. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in unofficial results. But the old elections board twice declined to certify his victory because of alleged irregularities with absentee ballots in Bladen County. The old board was dissolved by court order Dec. 28 as part of a separate case.

Full Article: Nominees for NC board of elections found ineligible | Charlotte Observer.

Wisconsin: Review of Wisconsin voting machines could be made public | Associated Press

Election security experts are watching a Wisconsin court case stemming from the 2016 presidential recount that could result in the first public conclusions on whether closely guarded ballot-counting machines were hacked or failed to perform. The key question at the heart of the case is whether former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will be allowed to comment publicly on what her auditors find in a review of Wisconsin voting machines’ computer code. Stein’s request for a recount of the presidential election results in Wisconsin gives her the right to review the code under state law. All the parties involved must sign an agreement to keep propriety information confidential. The voting machines’ manufacturers argue that agreement should bar Stein’s group from making any conclusions or opinions about the machines’ performance public.

Full Article: Review of Wisconsin voting machines could be made public :: WRAL.com.

Georgia: Election officials asks judge to toss suit challenging election system | Associated Press

Georgia election officials on Monday asked a judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by an organization backed by unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams that challenges the way the state’s elections are run. Lawyers for recently sworn-in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is the state’s top elections official, and election board members said in a motion to dismiss that the lawsuit fails to bring valid claims. They also argue that state officials are not responsible for any of the harm alleged and are immune from such suits. The lawsuit was filed by Fair Fight Action, a group associated with Abrams and staffed by some of her former campaign workers. In a speech ending her bid for governor 10 days after the November midterm election, Abrams promised a lawsuit against the state “for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions.”

Full Article: Georgia asks judge to toss suit challenging election system | National | dailyjournalonline.com.