election costs

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Illinois: Christian County Official Highlights Election Integrity Problems, Solutions | Mike Smith/NPR

A central-Illinois election official told a Congressional panel Thursday some of the voting machines Illinoisans used in the last election are still susceptible to tampering. But he said efforts are underway to prevent it from happening again. In 2016, Russian military hackers targeted Illinois’ statewide voter database. The State Board of Elections addressed the vulnerability by using more than $13 million in federal money to promote cybersecurity among smaller election authorities. But there are still significant needs among small communities. Election administration is decentralized in Illinois. The 108 separate jurisdictions range in size from the city of Chicago to counties of just a few thousand people. Christian County Clerk Michael Gianasi told members of Congress voting hardware in his jurisdiction is outdated. That county has just over 21,000 registered voters. “Those machines, although doing well up through and including the most recent elections, have seen better days,” Gianasi said. He said he’s leasing new machines, which have yet to be delivered, at a significant cost for his small county — $322,000 over six years. State officials have said replacing outdated equipment across Illinois would cost $175 million.

Full Article: Illinois Official Highlights Election Integrity Problems, Solutions | NPR Illinois.

Arkansas: Election gear on Pulaski County’s to-do list | Kat Stromquist/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

As an election year begins, Pulaski County has yet to complete its planned purchase of new voting equipment to replace an inventory of aging machines. Some ambiguity around funding has slowed the process for the state’s largest county by population, tightening timelines in advance of November’s general election that includes the vote for the presidency. Officials learned last fall that they won’t need to provide a match to access about $1.56 million in state funding to replace dated voting equipment, but election commissioners said in December that they’re not expecting a buy until at least February. Commission chairwoman Evelyn Gomez said the board prefers to first ask the Quorum Court — likely next month, though an appearance is not scheduled — if the county can dedicate any carryover funds to the purchase. “We can’t move forward until we have a budget,” Gomez, who is a Republican appointee, said at a Dec. 20 commission meeting. “We cannot contract with money we don’t have.” Pulaski County is among 21 counties set to receive a total of $8.2 million in state funds to replace voting equipment that’s past its prime. Allocated through Act 808 of 2019, the money came from a property tax relief trust fund surplus.

Full Article: Election gear on county's to-do list.

Indiana: New Money For Needed Voting Machines Unlikely In 2020 | Brandon Smith/WVIK

It’s unlikely the General Assembly will give counties more money in the 2020 session for new voting machines. More than half the machines in Indiana don’t have a paper backup – something election security experts insist is critical. The legislature appropriated enough money in the 2019 budget to provide backups to 10 percent of the machines that need them. Lawmakers do plan in the 2020 session to use excess surplus dollars on cash payments for some pre-approved projects – like a swine barn at the State Fairgrounds. But money for more voting machines doesn’t make the list. Gov. Eric Holcomb says that’s because Secretary of State Connie Lawson has assured him Indiana’s voting systems are secure.

Full Article: New Money For Needed Voting Machines Unlikely In 2020 | WVIK.

Georgia: Groups Claim New Voting Machines Will Cost Counties Millions Extra, Georgia Secretary Of State’s Office Disagrees | Emil Moffat and Emma Hurt/WABE

A new study warns that Georgia’s new voting system could cost counties more than $80 million over the next ten years. The study was compiled by three groups: Fair Fight Action, a group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams; The National Election Defense Coalition, which declares itself bi-partisan; and Freedom Works, a conservative group. That cost estimate, for some counties, includes the purchase of additional voting machines for this coming election to meet requirements under a new law that passed this year. The law, House Bill 316, mandates that each precinct has one voting station for every 250 registered voters. The estimates for the additional machines gathered in the study varied from hundreds, such as in Fulton County, to no additional machines, such as in DeKalb County. The state of Georgia agreed to a $107 million contract with Dominion Voting Systems in July. The groups who compiled the election cost study argue that the terms of the contract don’t cover warranty and licensing costs in the future, as well as printing costs like paper and toner, leaving the counties to foot the bill.

Full Article: Groups Claim New Voting Machines Will Cost Counties Millions Extra, Georgia Secretary Of State's Office Disagrees | 90.1 FM WABE.

Colorado: County clerks ask federal, state officials for cash | Charles Ashby/Grand Junction Sentinel

Colorado’s county clerks are asking state and federal lawmakers to send money, lots of it. In a letter Wednesday to the state’s two U.S. senators — Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner — the Colorado County Clerks Association asked them to ask U.S. Senate leaders to make sure they include funding to ensure the state’s and nation’s election systems are protected from cyber attacks, among other things. “Despite extraordinary progress by state and local election officials to improve election security, upgrade equipment and implement audit procedures, critical vulnerabilities remain,” wrote Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk and current association president. “Although Colorado leads the nation in secure election practices — for example, Colorado is the first U.S. state to require risk-limiting audits after each election — there is much more Colorado can do with additional federal money,” she added. “This funding needs to be earmarked specifically to harden local government systems in a comprehensive way.”

Full Article: Colorado clerks ask federal, state officials for cash | Western Colorado | gjsentinel.com.

National: Every State Was Given Funding to Increase Election Security. Here’s How They Spent It | Nicole Goodkind/Fortune

The U.S. is less than a year out from one of the most consequential elections of the century, which President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security has called “the big game” for foreign adversaries looking to attack and undermine the Democratic process. Congress, meanwhile, is locked in a stalemate about how to secure systems in the country’s 8,000 largely disjointed voting jurisdictions. Tuesday marks the last test of security preparedness before the 2020 elections, as certain statewide polls take place around the country. The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up “war rooms” to monitor for potential interference and test voting infrastructure, but with sluggish movement at a federal level there is little they’ll be able to do to correct any issues within the next 12 months. There is, however, one beacon of hope: 2002’s Help America Vote Act (HAVA)—a block grant issued to states to bolster election security following the Bush v. Gore hanging chad debacle some 19 years ago. In 2018, Congress used the Omnibus Appropriations Act to pad HAVA with an extra $380 million to be divided up amongst the states in proportion to their voting age population. The idea was that they spend it to prepare for the 2020 elections, and Democrats and Republicans are likely to approve at least another $250 million through the act this year.

Full Article: Election Security Funding: How States Are Spending to Protect Votes | Fortune.

Pennsylvania: $90M for Voting Machines, Mail-In Ballots Signed Into Law | Associated Press

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Thursday that advocates say makes the most significant changes to modernize Pennsylvania election laws in 80 years and authorizes the state to borrow of up to $90 million to help counties buy new voting machines ahead of next year’s presidential election. Wolf, a Democrat, said the legislation takes the nation’s least voter-friendly election laws and puts them in line with states that have the highest voter turnout. The bill was negotiated privately by Wolf and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature. A draft first appeared last week . It passed the House and Senate on Tuesday and had the support of good-government groups.

Full Article: $90M for Voting Machines, Mail-In Ballots Signed Into Law | Pennsylvania News | US News.

Pennsylvania: Cost, Security Questions Arise After Westmoreland County Voting Machine Approval | Deb Erdley/Tribune-Review

Chuck Anderson, the outgoing Westmoreland County commissioner, said he wanted to ensure county residents had the best voting system available before he leaves office in December. The $7.1 million touch screen/scanner system he and fellow Commissioners Ted Kopas and Gina Cerilli approved this month will cost $30 per voter — or nearly triple the $11 per voter Allegheny County paid for a new paper ballot/scanner voting system. Total cost for that system was $10.5 million. The price per voter is based on the number of registered voters. In Allegheny County, there are 952,685 registered voters. In Westmoreland, there are 235,970 voters. “The people from Westmore­land County expect to have the very best, and this is the best solution to the problem,” Anderson said. Experts who follow elections and cybersecurity say that’s not true. They maintain touch screen/scanner systems, such as the ES&S product Westmoreland County officials bought, are both more costly and less secure than systems that rely on paper ballots and scanners. Christopher Deluzio, policy director for the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law and Security, has studied the issue for the past two years. An ongoing study that looked at what counties paid for voting systems found the average cost in places that bought touch screen/scanner systems was just more than $24 per voter, compared to about $12 per voter for those who bought paper ballot/scanner systems.

Full Article: Cost, Security Questions Arise After Voting Machine Approval.

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