There likely isn’t a quick fix for complex U.S. election integrity challenges such as social-engineering interference on Facebook. Experts say there is a straightforward response, however, to vulnerable voting-machine software. The problem is that it involves cooperation in Congress. When the Senate failed to move the Secure Elections Act forward in August because of White House concerns over states’ rights, coupled with funding concerns, the United States lost its best chance this year of taking steps toward patching voting machines. The most recent federal dollars devoted to improving elections came from the Help Americans Vote Act of 2002, which was itself flawed because its authors failed to predict cybersecurity standards for voting machines. The idea of hackers infiltrating computerized voting machines at the time was “completely ridiculous,” says Margaret MacAlpine, a voting-machine security researcher and a founding partner of cybersecurity consultancy Nordic Innovation Labs. “The cybersecurity threat was more than science fiction at that point,” she says. And even now, as knowledge that the machines are vulnerable to hackers spreads, there is still a lack of political will to allocate the funds needed to replace them and ensure that new machines are secured against attacks, she says.
An 11-county council in central Pennsylvania has gone on record opposing the state mandate that counties to replace their voting machines. SEDA-Council of Governments, a public development organization, on Wednesday became the latest body to criticize the state requirement that by Dec. 31, 2019, all voting systems must create a verifiable paper trail. SEDA-COG’s resolution also calls on the state to provide full funding to any county that is required to replace its voting equipment. The estimated cost of replacing all voting machines in the state is $125 million.
The midterm elections are here. Early voting is already happening in some places. We’re spending the rest of the week on election security and technology, starting with voting machines. Candice Hoke, founding co-director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, believes insecure voting machines are the biggest security threat to the midterm elections. And they’re definitely insecure. Last summer at the DefCon hacking conference, security experts hacked and whacked at a variety of voting machines and came away saying the machines were hopelessly vulnerable to even the most basic hacking, like the kind where the default password is still “password.” And lots of them don’t even create paper receipts to ensure the votes were counted correctly. “We have not required voting systems vendors to operate under the same kinds of rules as, say, pharmaceuticals as to the safe and effectiveness of their products,” Hoke said. “So safety, privacy, auditability, transparency, whatever word you want to use, these are all marketing terms in the voting systems arena rather than reflective of some kind of standards that are actually being enforced.”
Pennsylvania: ‘A Relative Bargain’: Election Security Group Urges Funding for $125M Upgrade to Pennsylvania Voting Machines | NBC
A group examining election security in Pennsylvania urged Congress and state lawmakers Tuesday to speed up the funding required to replace voting machines, noting most lack a paper record needed to check for fraud and errors. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security released interim recommendations and said the estimated $125 million to replace all machines statewide was “a relative bargain.” “Pennsylvania’s elections are at risk,” the interim report said. “And one of the biggest risks is one that we can control — properly funding our election security, including by procuring voting machines that use voter-marked paper ballots.”
As Georgia leaders debate how to replace the state’s maligned voting system, local government officials have a simple request: Pick up the tab. In its list of legislative priorities released earlier this month, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said the state government should fully fund any new voting technology. It also said the state should pay to train county employees to use the new system — whatever it turns out to be. State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said during a June meeting that a new voting system will cost “realistically” $30-$60 million. Todd Edwards, the association’s deputy legislative director, pointed out Friday that a Georgia law on the books requires the state to pay for voting equipment in all 159 counties. That doesn’t guarantee the law will be the same when the Legislature wraps up at end of March.
Cost is the biggest roadblock Valley election officials are having in meeting Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate that all voting machines provide a paper trail before the 2020 presidential election. The mandate covers the entire state, including counties with optical scan machines that count votes marked on paper ballots, said Wanda Murren, a Department of State spokeswoman. Union County’s director of elections and voter registration Greg Katherman on Friday afternoon, said the county’s current voting machines are functioning, but worn and approaching the time in which they should be replaced. “There is some money coming from the Federal omnibus spending package, but it’s not enough to cover the costs,” he said.
Kemp, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, co-chairs the SAFE Commission with Harlem state Rep. Barry Fleming. The bipartisan committee includes two Democratic state legislators, six county elections officials, attorneys for the state Democratic and Republican parties and others. They won’t be put to use in Georgia anytime soon, but vendors interested in providing the state’s new voting system will present their wares Thursday in Grovetown. At the second meeting of the Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission, vendors who responded to the state’s recent request for information on options for replacing Georgia’s voting system are invited to present their products to the statewide panel.
Indiana’s top elections official is planning to use more than $7.5 million in federal funding on improving the state’s election security but won’t upgrade its voting machines. Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson has announced plans for using the federal assistance to strengthen voting systems ahead of the November election. Indiana was among the states and territories to receive money from the $380 million approved by Congress amid ongoing threats from Russia and others. Indiana will also spend an additional $659,000 on election security under the requirement to match 5 percent of grant funding with state money, The Indianapolis Star reported. The state money will go toward evaluating election infrastructure, conducting third-party testing, implementing email encryption and training state and county officials, according to Lawson.
Racing to shore up their election systems before November, states are using millions of dollars from the federal government to tighten cybersecurity, safeguard their voter registration rolls and improve communication between county and state election officers. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released a report Tuesday showing how states plan to spend $380 million allocated by Congress last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others. All but a fraction of the money has already been sent to the states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The largest chunk — roughly 36 percent — is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories. More than a quarter of the money will be used to replace voting equipment in 33 states and territories, although the bulk of this is unlikely to happen until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
National: Majority of election security grants going toward cybersecurity, equipment upgrades | CyberScoop
About a third of federal funding meant to improve election technology will be spent on cybersecurity-related improvements, while another third will be used to upgrade old equipment, according to plans released Tuesday by states and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In March, Congress appropriated $380 million for states to use for upgrades to election infrastructure, under the Help America Vote Act. It’s the first time the federal distributes HAVA funding since 2010. “The 380 [million] is something new in terms of additional funding, but it’s in that same realm of ensuring that our voting process remain secure and that vote of confidence remains high,” Tom Hicks, chairman of the EAC, told CyberScoop.