Since elections were declared critical infrastructure nearly 17 months ago, state and local officials have been working to protect the integrity of the 2018 elections, but security holes in elections systems and voting equipment still exist. As part of the omnibus spending bill passed in March, Congress authorized $380 million in new Help America Vote Act funds to the states to help them secure elections systems in their counties and local jurisdictions. On April 17, the Elections Assistance Commission distributed the award packets to states along with instructions on how to apply for funding. States have 90 days to respond, and the funds must be used within five years. However, the new funding did not stop elections officials from asking for more support ahead of the 2018 elections at an April 18 EAC public forum.
Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres has set an aggressive timeline for the improving the security of the state’s voting machines and processes. By the end of December 2019, all Pennsylvania counties must have voter-verifiable, paper-record voting systems in place. Pennsylvania’s ability to invest in elections infrastructure comes from its $13.5 million share of $380 million in funds included in the omnibus spending law passed in March to help states secure elections infrastructure. The funding is an extension of the 2002 Help America Vote Act. To take advantage of the funds, each state is also required to contribute a 5 percent match to the HAVA funds, which brings the total amount to be distributed to Pennsylvania counties to $14.2 million.
Pennsylvania: State will receive funding to upgrade voting machines, but will it be enough? | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Federal funding slated for an upgrade of Pennsylvania’s voting machines might fall far short of what’s needed, forcing counties to take on the financial burden. The state is expected to get $13.5 million to upgrade machines in time for the 2020 presidential election. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, that would only be enough to cover 17 to 27 percent of the cost to replace Pennsylvania’s machines with optical scan voting systems, which leave paper trails. The commonwealth requested last week that each county have these machines — which cybersecurity experts say are an important step in preventing election meddling — by 2020, and preferably in time for the November 2019 election.
Pennsylvania: Questions hang over order to change voting systems as county leaders angst about the $125M cost | PennLive
Election directors in mid-state counties were asked Friday about the effect of a new state edict requiring them to have new voting systems with detailed paper trails in place by the 2020 presidential primary. Their answers can be summed up in a single sentence: We don’t know yet. It’s not that the election directors didn’t see this coming, what with all the fuss over supposed Russian hacking and fears about voter fraud. Their uncertainty, they said, is because the state hasn’t yet told them what new voting systems it will allow their counties to consider. Only one system has been certified by the state to date. The Pennsylvania Department of State has promised to expand that list this summer and fall.
Georgia: Secretary of State Brian Kemp starts voting system study group | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is moving forward with efforts to replace the state’s electronic voting machines after legislation to do so failed. Kemp announced Friday he’s forming a bipartisan commission of lawmakers, political party leaders, election officials and voters to recommend a new voting system for the state. The group will review options for the state’s voting system, including all hand-marked paper ballots and electronic machines with a voter-verified paper trail. The commission will evaluate costs, solicit comments from the public and hold meetings across the state before making suggestions for the Georgia General Assembly to consider next year.
Ohio counties are one step closer to getting nearly $115 million for new voting machines. Senate Bill 135, introduced by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, would provide $114.5 million for the replacement of voting machines across the state. The bill was passed by a 32-1 vote on Wednesday; the dissenter was Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander. Most Ohio voting machines date from 2005 or 2006, paid for mostly with about $115 million in federal money through the Help America Vote Act. Around half of Ohio’s counties use paper ballots that are optically scanned, and half use touch-screen voting. Ohio’s voting machines are not permitted to be connected to the internet, and the state’s touch-screen ballots are required to have a traceable paper trail that can be audited. “It’s very good for Ohio voters,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. “It’s going to modernize our election systems.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration told Pennsylvania’s counties Thursday that he wants them to replace their electronic voting systems with machines that leave a verifiable paper trail by the end of 2019, although counties warned that the price tag is a major problem. Counties estimate the cost will be $125 million and said the greatest single impediment to buying new voting machines is the lack of a funding source. Wolf’s administration said it believes it is possible for counties to update their machines by the November 2019 election and that it is working with counties to make it affordable.
Last summer, with an important Illinois election season months away, Shelby County officials in central Illinois feared that their outdated voting equipment wouldn’t be approved for use by the State Board of Elections. Most of it dates to 2004, and it’s becoming harder to find replacement parts. Often, it’s difficult to read the machinery’s paper record, which is needed to verify votes. It passed inspection, but County Clerk Jessica Fox said the county, which is running a budget deficit, faces an upgrade of as much as $300,000. “Sooner or later we must have new equipment, regardless of the costs,” Fox said. Shelby County isn’t alone. Machine malfunction during the March 20 primary election was among the top reported issues to a hotline set up by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, a national nonpartisan voter-protection group.
Despite months of lobbying by voting reform activists, local and county officials and good government groups, lawmakers in Albany failed to include funding for early voting in the final version of the 2018-2019 budget. The completed spending plan, which was finalized early Saturday morning ahead of the start of a new fiscal year, does not include Gov. Cuomo’s proposed early voting plan. The proposal, which was outlined in the 2018 State of the State address in January, would have implemented up to 12 days of early voting ahead of election day. New York is currently one of 13 states that does not have early voting beyond absentee ballots.
The Trump administration has told states exactly how much of a $380 million fund they will get to make their voting systems more cyber-secure ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The funding, made available through a $1.3 trillion omnibus package passed last week, is one of Congress’s first major steps to prevent a repeat of Russian hackers’ meddling in U.S. elections. The money can be used to upgrade state computer systems and offer cybersecurity training to election officials, among other things. California, Florida, New York and Texas together will get a quarter of the cash, with California leading the pack with about $35 million. A full breakdown of the funding can be found here. The money is a “breakthrough for election security and the health of our country’s democracy,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.