election costs

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Arkansas: Funds pose vote-gear hurdle for Arkansas counties | Kat Stromquist and Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Pulaski County officials are reviewing a roughly $1.56 million contribution needed to buy new voting equipment, funds they say aren’t in the budget. The payment — which would be in addition to state funds set to be distributed to 21 counties through Secretary of State John Thurston’s office — has caught officials off guard, according to Barry Hyde, county judge of Pulaski County. The state has asked the largest county by population to put up a dollar-for-dollar match, which is intended to split the purchase price of about $3.1 million in new voting equipment. That’s an issue for the county, its circuit clerk and its election commission, who say the expense isn’t feasible at this time.

Full Article: Funds pose vote-gear hurdle for Arkansas counties.

Montana: State puts $1.3M toward updating county voting machines | Holly K. Michaels/Helena Independent Record

The Montana Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday more than $1.3 million in money for counties to update their voting equipment. The money comes from a federal Help American Vote Act and is matched with county funds. Counties will be able to purchase new Express Vote voting equipment with the funding. “This is a big step in the right direction for counties to upgrade election technology that strengthens Montana’s election security ahead of 2020,” Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said in a press release announcing the funding. The new equipment is meant to ease voting access for people with disabilities. However, at a meeting of the State Administrative and Veterans Affairs hearing Tuesday, Beth Brenneman, attorney for Disability Rights Montana, said that because of how the Express Vote machines function, they may present some issues for voters who are blind. Joel Peden, advocacy coordinator with the Montana Independent Living Project, voiced more concerns to the interim committee about access to voting for those with disabilities. He said some machines, either new or old, don’t provide enough privacy for voters to feel comfortable their vote is secret.

Full Article: Montana puts $1.3M toward updating county voting machines | 406 Politics | helenair.com.

Editorials: Guess which ballot costs less and is more secure– paper or electronic? | Kevin Skoglund and Christopher Deluzio/PennLive

Pennsylvania’s counties are choosing new voting systems, with implications for the security, reliability, and auditability of elections across the commonwealth and beyond. Our organizations’ analysis of county selections reveals that several have decided to purchase expensive electronic machines with security challenges over the better option: hand-marked paper ballots. Pennsylvania—where vulnerable paperless machines have been the norm—needs new paper-based voting systems. But not all systems are the same. The main choice counties face is the style of voting and polling place configuration. They can have most voters mark a paper ballot with a pen and offer a touchscreen computer to assist some voters (a ballot-marking device or “BMD”). Or they can have all voters use touchscreen computers to generate a ballot (an all-BMD configuration). The hardware in each configuration is often the same, but this fundamental choice creates significant differences. In fact, our analysis shows that many counties have chosen the all-BMD configuration and are paying a hefty sum for it—twice as much per voter as counties that selected systems that rely principally on voters hand-marking their ballots. Pricier electronic systems also carry greater security risks and make it harder for voters to verify their ballots before casting.

Full Article: Guess which ballot costs less and is more secure-- paper or electronic? | Opinion - pennlive.com.

National: Election Security in 2020 Comes Down to Money, and States Aren’t Ready | Kartikay Mehrotra and Alyza Sebenius/Bloomberg

The front line to protect the integrity of the U.S. presidential election is in a Springfield strip mall, next to a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. There, inside the Illinois Board of Elections headquarters, a couple dozen bureaucrats, programmers, and security experts are furiously working to prevent a replay of 2016, when Russian hackers breached the state’s voter registration rolls. For 2020, Illinois is deploying new U.S. government software to detect malicious intrusions and dispatching technology experts to help local election officials. Even the National Guard, which started its own cyber unit several years ago, is on speed dial for election night if technicians needed to be rushed to a faraway county. Still, Illinois officials are nervous. The cash-strapped state remains far short of the resources needed to combat an increasing number of nations committing geopolitical breaches. “We’re in an unusual time, and yes, there is concern about whether we have enough to go into 2020 totally prepared for what the Chinese, Russians, or North Koreans or any enemy of the United States may do to influence our elections,” says Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat. “We’re securing our elections with state resources, but there is a federal need. This is a national crisis.”

Full Article: Election Security in 2020 Comes Down to Money, and States Aren't Ready - Bloomberg.

Editorials: There’s no excuse for failing to secure election systems from Russian meddling | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

More than a dozen states are still using electronic ballot systems that leave no paper trail — an invitation to Russia and anyone else who wants to hack into and disrupt America’s next national election. This gaping security hole is being blamed on lack of money in state and local budgets, and a lack of urgency among some Republican officials. Both reasons are unacceptable. Americans may be divided about the veracity of some aspects of the report and testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, but those who think that renders debatable his conclusions about Russian election interference are simply not paying attention. Mueller’s unambiguous warning that Russia hacked into the election systems of all 50 states in 2016 and is planning to do so again next year has been confirmed on both sides of the aisle. U.S. intelligence agencies have long insisted it happened and will happen again. Even the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached the same conclusion in a recent report. “Russian activities demand renewed attention to vulnerabilities in U.S. voting infrastructure,” the report found. “In 2016, cybersecurity for electoral infrastructure at the state and local level was sorely lacking. … Aging voting equipment, particularly voting machines that had no paper record of votes, were vulnerable to exploitation by a committed adversary.”

Full Article: Editorial: There's no excuse for failing to secure election systems from Russian meddling | Editorial | stltoday.com.

Pennsylvania: Most Pennsylvania counties pick paper ballots | John Finnerty/CHNI

Counties buying voting machines that allow voters to fill out paper ballots are paying half what counties buying tablet-based voting technology are paying, according to an analysis released Thursday by the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers examined the costs paid by 31 counties for voting machines, as counties across the state move to replace their election equipment before the 2020 presidential election. In total, the counties are calculated to spend $69 million on those systems. The state has told the counties to replace their voting machines with new equipment that provide a paper record of votes cast before the 2020 presidential election. That move was prompted by a settlement to a lawsuit filed by former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein after the 2016 election.

Full Article: Most Pa. counties pick paper ballots | News | sharonherald.com.

United Kingdom: Subcontractor’s track record under spotlight as London Mayoral e-counting costs spiral | Kat Hall/The Register

Concerns have been raised over a key supplier of an e-counting system for the London Mayoral elections in 2020. The contract, split between Canadaian integrator CGI and Venezuelan-owned Smartmatic, will cost nearly £9m – more than double the procurement cost of £4.1m for the system at the last election in 2016. During a July hearing about the 2020 elections at the London Assembly Oversight Committee, members heard that Smartmatic, which builds and sells electronic voting tech, had worked on the Scottish elections. However, the London Assembly has since confirmed to The Register that Smartmatic was not involved. The company was also recently blamed for a number of technical glitches in the Philippine elections. The London Assembly was told costs had increased because the new vote-counting system offered better functionality than the previous procurement.

Full Article: Subcontractor's track record under spotlight as London Mayoral e-counting costs spiral • The Register.

National: States Struggle to Update Election Systems Ahead of 2020 | Alyza Sebenius and Kartikay Mehrotra/Bloomberg

U.S. states operating outdated and insecure voting machines face major hurdles in protecting them in time for the 2020 presidential election, officials said at a meeting of elections experts. Budgets are strained, decision-making authority is diffuse and standards put in place years ago haven’t kept up with today’s cyberthreats, according to testimony Thursday to the Election Assistance Commission in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Senate Intelligence Committee reported last month that Russia engaged in “extensive” efforts to manipulate elections systems throughout the U.S. from 2014 through “at least 2017.” The Brennan Center for Justice reported Thursday that states will have to spend more than $2 billion to protect their election systems in the next five years, including replacing outdated machines or purchasing the software improvements necessary to help harden existing equipment against hackers. Updating software is a “regular and important part” of cybersecurity, the Center for Democracy & Technology warned in a statement. But even when a software patch is available, states can’t compel “severely under-resourced” local elections officials to buy and implement the improvement, said Jared Dearing, executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections. On top of those hurdles, Dearing said, the process of certifying elections equipment to federal standards leaves machines in “a time capsule of when that system was developed.”

Full Article: States Struggle to Update Election Systems Ahead of 2020 - Bloomberg.

National: Election Assistance Commission Urged to Finalize 2020 Security Standards | Jack Rodgers/Courthouse News

During a forum on election security Thursday, Connecticut’s secretary of state urged a federal agency in charge of the process to act quickly in issuing new security standards for voting systems so states can update software in time for the 2020 election. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission hosted three panels of witnesses, all of whom testified on ways to improve the security of the nation’s election systems during a three-hour forum in Washington, D.C. Last year, Congress appropriated $380 million under the Help America Vote Act, which makes funds available for states to update election security measures and voter registration methods. However, the federal funds, coupled with a state-required match, were not enough to completely update voting equipment across the country. During Thursday’s first panel, the secretaries of state for Connecticut and Louisiana, Denise Merrill and Kyle Ardoin, respectively, both spoke to the benefits of this funding. Merrill said that with the $5 million in HAVA funds appropriated to her state last year, Connecticut had implemented a virtual system that allows those in election advisory roles to view every desktop used for counting and reporting votes in the state. In most of the state’s 169 towns, methods of recording votes differ depending on the area, Merrill said, also noting that some towns don’t use computers.

Full Article: Election Agency Urged to Finalize 2020 Security Standards.

Connecticut: Chief elections official says Connecticut’s electronic voting machines are ‘coming to the end of their useful life’ | Mark Pazniokas/CT Mirror

Connecticut’s current system of casting and counting votes has its roots in the chaotic presidential election of 2000. With the winner unclear for a month, it was a frightening moment in U.S. politics that led to a bipartisan consensus about the need to maintain confidence in the integrity of elections. Passage of the federal Help Americans Vote Act in 2002 established broad standards for the conduct of elections and provided funding for new hardware, leading Connecticut in 2006 to abandon its old mechanical lever voting machines for a mix of the old and new — paper ballots counted by computer-driven tabulators. “We fortunately made the right choice,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Wednesday. A proposed Voter Empowerment Act now before Congress would make hybrid systems like Connecticut’s the new federal standard: Using computers to quickly count votes, while maintaining paper ballots as a check on computer hacking and other forms of cyber fraud. President Trump recently endorsed paper ballots on Twitter. But as Merrill and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal made clear Wednesday at a press conference on elections security, the technical and political challenges in protecting U.S. elections are far more complex today than in the aftermath of the Florida recount in the Bush-Gore campaign of 2000. Blumenthal arrived at Merrill’s state Capitol office with his right arm in a sling. He had surgery last week for a torn rotator cuff.

Full Article: Chief elections official says Connecticut’s electronic voting machines are ‘coming to the end of their useful life’ - Hartford Courant.

Kentucky: Election official says counties can’t upgrade cybersecurity because they’re ‘severely under resourced’ | Kevin Collier/CNN

A top Kentucky election official said Thursday that counties there are “severely under resourced,” affecting their abilities to provide adequate cybersecurity. “Most of us cannot compel our local election jurisdictions to update their equipment,” said Jared Dearing, executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, before an Elections Assistance Commission panel in Silver Spring. The comments came a week after the annual Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, where the three lawmakers who attended — all Democrats — blamed Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, for the Congress’ stagnation on any election security bill. At Def Con, a group of election security researchers host a Voting Village, now in its third year, where independent hackers try to break into decommissioned voting equipment. While no system can be guaranteed safe from hackers, election security experts — including ones consulted for the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the subject — resoundingly say that machines need to be routinely updated and use paper ballots so results can be audited.

Full Article: Kentucky official says counties can't upgrade cybersecurity because they're 'severely under resourced' - CNNPolitics.

Pennsylvania: More-secure hand-marked ballots are also cheaper for Pennsylvania counties | Christopher Huffaker/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Election security experts told the Allegheny County Board of Elections in June that the best choice for secure elections is a voting system where most voters make their selections with a pen on paper — while those who need them have access to ballot-marking devices. A new analysis shows that for Pennsylvania counties that have already selected new systems, that is also the cheaper option. The analysis, from Citizens for Better Elections and the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, looks at voting systems selected by 31 Pennsylvania counties, as required by a post-2016 election state lawsuit settlement. The remaining 36 counties, including Allegheny County, had yet to make the decision by Aug. 5, when the analysis was done. A voting machine search committee, composed of county employees, is expected to make a recommendation to the Allegheny County Board of Elections by the end of the summer. “Counties that selected exclusively ballot marking device configurations are spending more than two times as much as counties selecting primarily hand-marked paper ballot,” said the University of Pittsburgh’s Chris Deluzio, one of the study’s authors and also one of the experts who appeared before the Board of Elections in June.

Full Article: More-secure hand-marked ballots are also cheaper for Pa. counties | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania: Under orders to replace voting machines, Pennsylvania counties wonder when they’ll see state money | Jonathan Lai/The Morning Call

As Pennsylvania county election officials replace the state’s voting machines in advance of the 2020 election — at an estimated cost of $150 million — they’re anxious for an end to a dispute between Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers that has tied up state funding and forced counties to shoulder most of the financial burden. Wolf announced last month that he would seek $90 million for the machines. However, that prompted the threat of a lawsuit by Republicans in the Legislature, and the fate of the funding has become tied to partisan fights over the governor’s authority and significant changes to the electoral system. So 16 months after Wolf ordered the counties to replace the machines, the only funding available is $14.1 million in mostly federal dollars. No new funding has been secured. While Harrisburg bickers, county officials say they’re forced to move forward anyway, hoping for reimbursement later.

Full Article: Under orders to replace voting machines, Pennsylvania counties wonder when they’ll see state money - The Morning Call.

Arkansas: Official doubtful on state election aid | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

The announcement of money from the state for counties to purchase new voting equipment has left a Jefferson County election commissioner less than enthusiastic. Jefferson County Election Commissioner Stu Soffer says the county has no money to meet the matching requirement. “We do not see a light at the end of the tunnel on new voting equipment,” Soffer said. On Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that $8.24 million had been provided to the secretary of state’s office to allow counties to improve voting equipment, programming and maintenance. A day earlier, during a meeting at the Arkansas Association of Counties, Kurt Naumann, director of administration and legislative affairs in the secretary of state’s office, told several dozen county officials that the office expected to receive these funds in mid-August from the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Full Article: Official doubtful on state election aid.

Arkansas: Voting upgrade money granted, Hutchinson says | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

Gov. Asa Hutchison said Thursday that $8.24 million in state funds was provided to the secretary of state’s office this week to allow counties to improve voting equipment, programming and maintenance. The Republican governor’s announcement in a news release came a day after Kurt Naumann, director of administration and legislative affairs in the secretary of state’s office, told several dozen county officials that the office expected to receive these funds in mid-August from the state Department of Finance and Administration.. The transfer was allowed under Act 808 of 2019. Hutchinson said the money was transferred out of excess revenues in the property tax relief trust fund, financed by a half-cent sales tax to pay for the homestead property tax credit, to the secretary of state’s office. The money will be awarded to counties through the county voting system grant fund. Act 808 also increases the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375 per homestead and allows other excess revenues in the property tax relief fund to be shifted to the state’s Long-Term Reserve Fund.

Full Article: Voting upgrade money granted, Hutchinson says.

Arkansas: Some vote upgrades unsure – 21 counties lack new machines; some say cash too short | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

Officials in the secretary of state’s office said Wednesday that they would like to install new voting equipment by the March 3 primary election in the 21 counties that don’t have it. But the office’s elections director, Leslie Bellamy, told officials from these counties that they won’t have new equipment for next year’s election cycle if Republican Secretary of State John Thurston decides to rebid the purchase, as had been suggested. In 2015, Thurston’s predecessor, Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, decided to purchase a statewide integrated voting system, including new voting equipment, through Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software rather than California-based Unisyn Voting Solutions or Texas-based Hart Inter-Civic. Officials from some counties disagreed on whether Thurston should seek new bids. Officials from other counties said their counties are so cash-strapped that they won’t be able to match state funds for new equipment.

Full Article: Some vote upgrades unsure.

National: Election Security Needs Increased Federal Investment | Lucas Ropek/Government Technology

Foreign interference is still an ongoing threat to state and local election security and can only be guarded against through increased federal assistance, warns a recently published report.

Defending Elections, published by the Brennan Center for Justice, claims that state and local governments are on the “front line” of a “cyberwar” with foreign actors and hackers.

Ever since the 2016 Russian intrusion into the U.S. presidential election, concern over voting system integrity has been a top priority for officials at all levels of government as well as the American public. With recent news that Russia’s efforts were far more extensive than initially believed, it isn’t hard to see why states are looking to bolster their cybersecurity.

For years, one of the biggest programs to increase election security has been the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a George W. Bush-era federal law which last year provided $380 million in federal grant funding to assist with election security for state and local governments.

States spent only around 8 percent of this funding during the 2018 elections, but are on track to spend the vast majority of it during 2020, according to The Washington Post

HAVA, which has been providing assistance since 2002, still does not do enough to satisfy the actual security needs of most states, according to the new report.

Many state and local governments have “substantial election security needs that likely will not be met absent additional federal support,” according to the report. It further concludes that these governments are “ill equipped to defend themselves against the sophisticated, well-resourced intelligence agencies of foreign governments.”

Those foreign governments may include Russia, China and Iran, according to Trump officials, who feel that a whole host of countries may attempt to inject their influence into the 2020 presidential election.

The Brennan report looks at the needs of a representative sample of states, including Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma, Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania; detailing the federal allocations they received last year, and the areas that will still need further investment.

Arizona, for example, received over $7 million in funds from the federal grant in 2018, the bulk of which went toward investing in cybersecurity, including an IT infrastructure security assessment and increased inter-agency information sharing. The funds were also used to help replace the state’s voter registration database.

However, the state ultimately needs further investment to replace its legacy voting systems, which many experts consider to be a liability due to their use of outdated software that may not receive consistent security patches.

Other states, like Oklahoma, spent millions in federal funding to upgrade their voter registration databases and security, as well as on new election system equipment and cybersecurity training. However, more funding is needed to ensure post-election audits, as well as upgrades to voting equipment and the state’s voter registration virtual private network.

For many states, like Pennsylvania, further investment is needed in basic cybersecurity assessments and trainings, which give elections staff the skills necessary to identify vulnerabilities and avoid spear-phishing campaigns.

“While the 2018 grant provides necessary funding for foundational election security projects, some of which will directly benefit local officials, it is simply not enough to also pay for projects that would provide or subsidize cyber services and more secure voting equipment to local election officials,” the report reads finally.

“States should not be expected to defend against such attacks alone,” the report concludes. “Our federal government should work to provide the states with the resources they need to harden their infrastructure against cybersecurity threats.”

Full Article: Election Security Needs Increased Federal Investment.

Full Article: Election Security Needs Increased Federal Investment.

United Kingdom: Cost of vote counting in London elections set to double | Jessie Mathewson/East London and West Essex Guardian

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has used e-counting since its first election in 2000. But critics have branded the new contract for the London Assembly and mayoral elections “the biggest waste of money at City Hall since the Garden Bridge”. GLA officials say the new contract will ensure better cyber-security and allow more testing ahead of the count, after a technical glitch delayed results in 2016. Speaking at a meeting of the GLA Oversight committee last week, Greater London’s deputy returning officer Alex Conway said the new contract was within budget. He said: “The money is sort of not the point – the point is to run a successful election.” But Pascal Crowe, democracy officer for scrutiny group Open Rights, said the GLA should release details of how it chose the winning bid. He said: “Given that the cost of the contract has more than doubled, taxpayers will want to know that their money is being spent wisely.” “This must be the biggest waste of money at City Hall since the Garden Bridge.”

Full Article: Cost of vote counting in London elections set to double | East London and West Essex Guardian Series.

Georgia: North Fulton County cities frustrated by high Fulton election costs | Arielle Kass/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A dispute between Fulton County and its cities about the cost to run elections has frustrated leaders and led the county to cut back on early voting this fall. Officials in several north Fulton cities said they were shocked by what they called excessive costs to run city elections and demanded the county look for ways to save money.That led to a decision by the county to reduce the number of polling places, hours and days for early voting.“This makes me even angrier,” Roswell Mayor Lori Henry said upon learning that the East Roswell library was one of the proposed polling locations that wouldn’t open for early voting in the fall. “I am so frustrated with this and I am so frustrated with Fulton County.”The county had originally proposed opening 16 early voting locations, but reduced the number to nine after Henry and others said they thought the costs were too high. Roswell elections were slated to cost nearly $535,000, more than $200,000 more than the cost had been in 2017.The city’s elections are now estimated to cost about $375,000, a figure that is still more than $60,000 higher that what Roswell budgeted. “Fulton doesn’t really have competition,” Henry said. “They have us over a barrel on elections.”While some Fulton County cities perform their own elections and one, Mountain Park, contracts with Cherokee County, the other cities are required to contract with Fulton if they don’t want to go it alone, Henry said. She’s asked Sen. John Albers, R-Alpharetta, to put forth legislation that would allow cities to contract with neighboring counties to perform elections. Albers confirmed that he plans to file that legislation, saying he supports “giving our cities options for running elections to reduce the cost and improve the experience.”

Full Article: North Fulton cities frustrated by high Fulton election costs.

Pennsylvania: State needs to commit to voting machines | Herald Standard

Gov. Tom Wolf is opting for “Plan B” to help counties pay 60 percent of their costs tied to acquiring new voting machines with voter-verifiable paper systems. It’s unfortunate that the General Assembly and governor haven’t been able to achieve an accord through the preferable legislative process, but the voting-machines funding situation is another example of progress stymied by too many issues being lumped into one bill. In this case, voting-machine funding was included in legislation that would have eliminated straight-party voting and extend the absentee ballot deadline. Wolf opposes ending straight-party voting and vetoed the bill, even though helping counties pay for new voting machines is a big priority for him. Presumably, extending the absentee ballot deadline is an issue upon which the Legislature and governor agree. Now, for better or worse, in the aftermath of the veto, Wolf has announced a plan to proceed with the voting-machines funding in question by borrowing up to $90 million — a move that will require approval from the board of a state economic development financing agency, the vehicle through which the governor is seeking to pursue the loan.

Full Article: State needs to commit to voting machines | Editorials | heraldstandard.com.