National: Courts rule election money from Facebook founder will stay despite conservative attempts to reverse it | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Federal judges have so far declined to halt $400 million in grants to city and county election administrators from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, despite a conservative law firm’s efforts to overturn them. The grants from the Facebook founder and his wife, delivered by the nonprofit Center for Technology and Civic Life, are aimed at helping cash-strapped counties hire more poll workers, provide personal protective equipment and manage a surge in mail voting during the pandemic. Lawyers for the Thomas More Society don’t object to those goals, but they argued the grants were strategically awarded to boost voter turnout in urban centers and Democratic strongholds and to disadvantage Republicans. But federal judges have declined to halt the funding to counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa and South Carolina, saying they see no partisan tilt in the grants, which were also given to many rural and Republican counties. CTCL delivered the grants to more than 2,300 election departments using a formula that links funding to the district’s voting population. “The truth is that plaintiffs — like all residents of the counties — stand to benefit from the additional resources for safe and efficient voting provided by CTCL grants,” Judge Amos L. Mazzant III noted in denying an injunction on grants to counties that include the cities of Houston and Dallas.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Courts rule election money from Facebook founder will stay despite conservative attempts to reverse it – The Washington Post

Louisiana: Judge rules against Jeff Landry in suit against Zuckerberg-backed nonprofit over free election money | Sam Karlin/The New Orleans Advocate

A judge has sided against Attorney General Jeff Landry in his lawsuit seeking to block millions of dollars in free grants to local election officials, which were offered up by a nonprofit backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with the stated goal of helping local leaders run elections in a pandemic. Judge Lewis Pitman, of the 16th Judicial District in St. Martin Parish, ruled against Landry in the lawsuit last week. Landry said in an interview he would appeal the ruling. Landry spokesman Cory Dennis added the attorney general expects there to be a hearing in the 16th Judicial District Court in the lawsuit against one of the plaintiffs, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, regardless of the appeal. Local election officials across the state last month applied for the grant money, offered by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, after Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin told the clerks and registrars about the opportunity. Zuckerberg had funded the grants with a $300 million donation to the nonprofit, and followed it up with another $100 million earlier this month after receiving a “far greater response” than anticipated, Zuckerberg said on Facebook.

National: Revealed: US spends millions of taxpayer dollars on ineffective voting restrictions | Spenser Mestel/The Guardian

Restrictive “voter identification” laws pushed by Republicans, and widely regarded to be ineffective and discriminatory, have cost taxpayers at least $36m in just a few states, the Guardian can reveal. It’s well documented that restrictive voter ID laws are ineffective and discriminatory. The type of voter fraud they claim to prevent is a myth, and the burden of showing an ID disproportionately lands on students, low-income voters and African Americans. However, these laws are also extraordinarily expensive to implement and defend. Based on information obtained through open records requests, the Guardian has found that the partial costs of litigation, free identification cards, public education and other fees amount to tens of millions across the country. However, even with many states having to slash their budgets due to the economic crisis, one state, Kentucky, has decided to spend millions implementing a new ID law.

National: As Trump and Biden battle, election officials are running out of time, money for November | Pat Beall, Catharina Felke and Elizabeth Mulvey/USA Today

Heading into Georgia’s primary June 9, McDuffie County Elections Director Phyllis Brooks had no choice but to assemble a last-minute crew to count votes. Two of her three staffers were out with COVID-19. She had more than 2,500 absentee ballots to tally by hand. Brooks brought in a handful of county employees and hired teenagers to do the counting. There’s no money left in her election office budget. Not for poll workers. Not for extra hands to count what is likely to be a record number of mail-in ballots. Not even for stamps to send out the absentee ballots they expect to need. Sixteen weeks before the presidential election, Brooks and hundreds of other cash-strapped elections supervisors across the nation are waiting to see how much state and federal money will come their way. Experts said the coronavirus pandemic tacked on hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected costs to this year’s election, and there are clear signs that an emergency federal infusion of $400 million made in March will fall far short of what’s needed.

Indiana: Virus stings county election budgets | Dave Gong/The Journal Gazette

Voting in a pandemic presents unique challenges for county election officials who anticipate cost increases, especially in postage expenses, as many voters turn to mailed-in absentee ballots for Indiana’s June 2 primary. The Allen County Election Board estimates it received about 38,000 applications for absentee ballots, Beth Dlug, the county’s director of elections, said Friday. About 2,800 people requested ballots during the 2016 presidential primary, Dlug said. The deadline to request an absentee ballot was 11:59 p.m. Thursday. More than 20,000 ballots have been returned to the Election Board; the deadline for their return to local election boards is noon on Election Day. That has meant a drastic increase in the cost to run the election in Allen County, Dlug said. “We have already gone through our year’s budget for postage and so we’re moving funds around from one line-item to the other,” she said. “This election will be overall much more expensive than an election that would be mainly electronic.”

Illinois: Will Illinois switch to all vote-by-mail in November? It could cost counties millions | Kelsey Landis/Belleville News-Democrat

They don’t have enough money and the clock is winding down, but election officials are preparing for three times as many voters to cast ballots by mail in November. The threat of coronavirus could compel unprecedented numbers of Illinoisans to vote from home rather than risk a trip to the polls on November 6, said St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook. “Anyone with an ounce of sense knows it makes more sense to vote by mail,” Holbrook said. “But the presidential general election is going to be overwhelming and it’s going to stretch our budget and capacity to the limit.” With already strapped budgets, clerks worry about the price tag: each packet costs at least a dollar to print, not to mention postage and labor to process applications, said Vicky Albers, Clinton County clerk. “That’s over a dollar a piece that you don’t have in your budget,” Albers said. In 2016, St. Clair County saw a 66% voter turnout, and 11,400 people applied to vote by mail. That number could double or triple this year as voters decide to avoid the polls, Holbrook said. Statewide in 2016, just 6.5% of voters cast their ballots by mail, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. That number is almost certain to increase this year.

North Carolina: The pandemic will drive up election costs, and so far North Carolina isn’t ready | WRAL

The first coronavirus response legislation that the N.C. General Assembly passed functions like a tourniquet — it aimed to stop the immediate economic hemorrhage from the pandemic and shore up health care across the state. But with legislators set to return to Raleigh on May 18, budgetary patients will still be in the waiting room needing attention. For North Carolina’s state and county elections agencies, and the voters relying on them to run a safe, fair and secure election, the clock is ticking. Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell has sent three letters to the legislature asking for changes to state voting laws and roughly $2 million in funding to match federal money made available by the CARES Act. Brinson Bell said the $11 million in federal money is needed to help counties pay for what elections officials expect will be a dramatic increase in absentee-by-mail voting and equipment to run in-person voting safely. As it will for the upcoming second primary in western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District and a new primary for a county commission seat in Columbus County, Brinson Bell said the state plans to purchase masks for every poll worker as well as every voter. They will also buy enough pens that each voter gets his or her own, plexiglass shields for check-in stations and heavy-duty sanitizing kits for every polling place.

National: Pandemic-time elections expected to be much more expensive | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

The $400 million in election assistance funds that Congress authorized in the March pandemic relief package would not even cover the costs of switching to predominately mail-in balloting in five states, much less all 50, according to a report published Thursday. The report, which was led by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, comes as state election officials resolve how to safely conduct elections during the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has prompted several states where absentee ballots are rare to try converting to all-mail voting, an expensive project that typically takes states multiple election cycles to complete.  According to the report, the election funds received by the five states it examined — Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania — would not even amount to 20 percent of the funds needed by those states to expand mail-in and absentee ballots to all their voters this November. But with state and local budgets plunging as public-health measures wipe out tax revenue, a shortage of federal assistance could lead to more situations like the recent Wisconsin presidential primary, in which hundreds of polling places closed and turnout plunged after state lawmakers and courts refused to postpone in-person voting. At least 52 people who went to polling places during the April 7 primary have tested positive for COVID-19.

Pennsylvania: Pitt report says Congress needs to step up funding to Pennsylvania for election costs amid pandemic | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Congress has provided less than a fifth of the funding that Pennsylvania needs to prepare its 2020 elections for the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report co-authored by the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security. The collaborative report, based on cost analysis and interviews with state and local elections officials in five states, estimated that Pennsylvania will need between $79.1 million and $90.1 million to hold safe, secure and fair elections this year, warning that that the $14.2 million allocated so far by the federal government is nowhere near enough to “ensure a system that is sufficiently resilient against pandemics or other emergencies.” Estimates showed that the cost to prepare for elections in the five states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio — already exceeds the $400 million Congress allocated across the entire country in its third stimulus package in March. “What’s clear to me and what’s clear to others is that state and local officials really need more money, and Congress ought to be the one stepping in to do that,” said Christopher Deluzio, policy director for Pitt’s institute.

National: Stimulus Money to Protect Elections Falls Short, Critics Say | Michael Wines/The New York Times

The $2 trillion stimulus package that appeared likely to be approved by the Senate on Wednesday contains $400 million to address one of the most uncertain impacts of the coronavirus outbreak — its potential to wreak havoc with voting, including the presidential election in November. The figure falls far short of what state officials and voting rights experts have said is needed to ensure a safe and accurate count if the virus keeps millions of people away from polling places in primary elections and on Election Day. The $400 million in the stimulus package is one-fifth of the $2 billion that voting experts said was needed and that some Democrats had sought. The money could only be used to help states create and staff new polling places to reduce crowding, or to increase opportunities to register online and vote by mail, according to a Senate official who declined to be named because he was not authorized to talk about specifics of the legislation. Voting-rights advocates said the money was a shadow of the amount needed to ensure that the November general election goes smoothly if the pandemic has not ebbed. “It’s a start, but inadequate to the crisis,” Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said of the proposal. “If Congress doesn’t provide full funding, we could have a fiasco in November.”

Indiana: Madison County voting machine purchase dispute likely headed to court | Ken de la Bastide/The Herald Bulletin

The dispute between two governmental bodies in Madison County over the purchase of additional voting machines is likely to be settled in court. Last week the Madison County Election Board approved a contract with Election Systems & Software (ES&S) to purchase an additional 170 voting machines and 15 tabulators at cost of $766,376. The election board approved a four year lease/purchase agreement with ES&S and directed Madison County Auditor Rick Gardner to pay the claim. Last Tuesday County Attorney Jonathan Hughes with Bose McKinney & Evans sent a letter to ES&S attorney that since the contract to purchase the additional voting machines was not approved by the commissioners, the company might not be paid. In his letter Hughes said state law requires all contracts and all payments to be approved by the commissioners and that the election board acted outside the scope of its authority. Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt, a member of the election board, said Friday the additional voting equipment has been ordered and is ready to be shipped. “ES&S wants to be confident that they will be paid,” she said.

Arkansas: Panel weighs vote machine financial aid | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

State Rep. Doug House on Monday floated the idea of the state treasury loaning funds to counties that can’t afford their share of the cost of purchasing new voting equipment for the Nov. 3 general election. House, a Republican from North Little Rock, tossed out this proposal during a meeting of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee that also heard a pitch from Anna Claire Tilley, an 11th-grade student at Southside High School in Fort Smith, for Arkansas to implement online voter registration. Sixty-four of the state’s 75 counties had updated voting equipment for the March 3 primary election. These 64 counties included 10 that Secretary of State John Thurston’s office purchased new voting equipment for last year through Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software with the help of state funding made available under Act 808 of 2019 plus funding from most of those counties. Act 808 diverted $8.24 million in excess funds from the property tax relief trust fund to the county voting systems grant fund. The $8.4 million in state funds included about $2 million to reimburse Ashley, Benton and White counties for half of what they paid for their new equipment. (Act 808 also increased the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375 per parcel.)

Arkansas: Aging ES&S iVotronic vote machines seen as issue | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Jefferson County election officials, with the March 3 primary behind them, are looking toward what lies ahead as they continue struggling with old touchscreen voting machines that have become balky and prone to failure. Last week, on Super Tuesday, those shortcomings became apparent as technicians struggled to power the machines up and as poll workers struggled to keep them operating. According to Election Commissioner Stuart “Stu” Soffer, a number of poll judges said they won’t be back until the machines are replaced. The voting machines that Jefferson County uses are iVotronic touchscreen voting machines that were purchased from Election Systems & Software more than 15 years ago and were donated to the county from other counties that had upgraded to the new ExpressVote equipment after Jefferson County lost most of its iVotronic machines to water damage in 2018. The total cost of the 140 machines Soffer said the county needs, according to an estimate supplied by the Jefferson County Election Commission, is nearly $940,000. According to a formula worked out by the secretary of state’s office, to purchase the machines, the state would put in $618,434 from federal grant funds, leaving Jefferson County to come up with the remaining $321,367 — money that both Soffer and County Judge Gerald Robinson have said the county does not have.

Arkansas: Soffer: State aid needed to cover vote machines | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Jefferson County Election Commissioner Stuart “Stu” Soffer is calling on elected officials in Jefferson County to put pressure on the state to pay for new voting machines for the November general election. He said cash-strapped Jefferson County cannot come up with the more than $300,000 the Arkansas secretary of state’s office says the county will have to pay to acquire 140 of the new ExpressVote voting machines from Election Systems & Software, the state’s approved vendor of election systems. The total cost of the 140 machines, according to an estimate supplied by the Jefferson County Election Commission, is nearly $940,000. To purchase the machines, the state would put in $618,434 from federal grant funds, leaving Jefferson County to come up with the remaining $321,367, money that Soffer said the county does not have. In an email sent Tuesday morning to state Reps. Ken Bragg, R-Sheridan, Ken Ferguson, D-Pine Bluff, Mike Holcomb, R-Pine Bluff, Roger Lynch, R-Lonoke, and Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, and to Sens. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, and Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, Soffer told the legislators that he would be asking their assistance in obtaining a third-party review of the state’s formula that determines funding.

Indiana: House Republicans Reject More Money For Voting Machine Needs | Brandon Smith/Northeast Indiana Public Radio

House Republicans this week voted down Democrats’ attempts to help ensure Indiana’s voting machines are more secure in the 2020 election. More than half of Indiana’s 92 counties have voting machines without a paper backup. Election security experts say those backups are critical to electoral integrity. The General Assembly budgeted $10 million last year to help upgrade. But that amount only covers about 10 percent of the machines that need it. And they plan to get to the rest of them by 2030. House Democrats offered an amendment to force the Holcomb administration to find another $10 million to upgrade voting machines right away. House Republicans – like Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) – said no. “Frankly, $10 million’s not enough. It will take more than that over the course of the next nine years,” Wesco says. “We just need to stick with the plan that we adopted last year with the $10 million that was appropriated and look to the needs that we need in future budget years.”

Pennsylvania: $90M bond issue for voting machines clears state financing agency | Emily Previti/PA Post

State officials on Wednesday approved a proposed $90 million bond issuance to help cover costs for new voting machines across Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority’s unanimous vote moves the deal forward. The 10-year bonds haven’t been sold yet, though that’s expected to happen within the next few months, said Steve Drizos, director of PEDFA’s private financing center. Counties have until July 1 to submit applications for reimbursement for eligible costs. So far, counties have signaled they’ll seek reimbursement for about $136.5 million, combined, according to Deputy Secretary of State Jonathan Marks. That doesn’t include costs for additional machines, scanners or other equipment counties might have realized they need after they bought new election systems, or additional expenses made after the April 28 primary, when voting machines will debut in 22 counties. Some counties decided to buy more machines after experiencing long lines and other problems at the polls last November.

Tennessee: Shelby County Commission scrambling to move millions to purchase new voting machines | Kendall Downing/WMC

Shelby County Commissioners said Wednesday they’re being forced to move money to fund new voting machines in time for this fall’s presidential election. The last-minute effort comes after the initial plan to pay for the machines through capital improvement funds hit a major roadblock. Last week, county attorney Marcy Ingram revealed a 50-year-old provision would require a county-wide referendum vote for county officials to be able to purchase new voting machines with capital improvement dollars. “It’s really critical we get the funding in place by this Monday that will not require a referendum,” said Mark Billingsley, Shelby County Commission Chairman. Billingsley said commissioners are exploring their funding options quickly. The leading thought at this time includes moving roughly $7.2 mllion from an emergency fund to pay for the new voting machines. It’s expected the state of Tennessee will reimburse $2.4 million. If commissioners wanted to buy the machines with capital improvement funds, as initially planned, they’d have to put the issue to voters.The referendum would delay the purchase date, likely missing November’s election.

Kentucky: Despite Security Push, Kentucky Struggles To Update Voting Machines | Ryland Barton/WFPL

Despite worries from election security experts, Kentucky will be one of only a few states in 2020 that’s still using some voting machines that don’t produce a paper trail — an industry standard to verify election results. The reason is one that Kentuckians have heard often: there isn’t enough money, especially in a state that places much of the burden of election administration on local governments. And despite recent transfusions of cash from the federal government for states to improve election security, the amount allocated to Kentucky in the most recent disbursement only represents about 10 percent of the overall need. But state election officials say that voters have nothing to worry about. The outdated electronic-only voting machines used in the vast majority of Kentucky counties aren’t connected to the internet and there’s no evidence that they’ve been hacked before.

Georgia: The power to vote – literally – carries a cost in Georgia | Jessica Waters/Connect

For Stephens County, that cost just increased by $30,500, as county commissioners, at the Feb. 11 regular meeting, unanimously approved the expenditure in order to rewire the Stephens County Senior Center – the county’s sole polling location – so that it is able to handle the electrical draw of the state-mandated new voting machinery. “We have to rewire the Senior Center to handle the amps needed by the new voting equipment. This is a problem all over the State of Georgia, I know of another county that had to spend $68,000 on rewiring. Everyone is having the same problem, and we’ve been jumping through hoops to resolve it,” County Administrator Phyllis Ayers told ConnectLocal.News Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 11. A part of the reason the new voting system has a higher electrical draw than the old system is that there are now several components, instead of the single-machine system previously in use. “You’ve got more machines that need to be plugged in. You’ve got your voting machines, the printers, the scanners, and you’ve got the cyber-power battery packs,” Ayers said. “If my Buildings and Grounds Director had not been here, unloading the equipment, and could see what the amps were – and he was calculating it up in his head as he was going by and he come down here and said ‘where’s the power coming from?’” The $30,500 bid to complete the rewiring of the Senior Center, submitted by local electrical contractor Henry Hayes, will be paid out of contingency funds, along with funding for pouring a concrete pad to hold the generator used to power the equipment and a few other minor related expenditures. “There is a grant where the state will consider reimbursing you back those expenses,” she said. “So we’re trying to keep up with that, and will apply for the grant.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.