Texas: Judge denies Harris County request to allow email voting for those infected with COVID-19 | Zach Despart/Houston Chronicle

A state district judge on Friday denied a request by Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins to allow thousands of voters who recently tested positive for coronavirus, and now are quarantined, to vote online in the primary runoff election. The novel voting method never has been used in Harris County, but was permitted for the small-scale North Texas Ebola outbreak in 2014. Judge Larry Weiman, however, said he shared concerns raised by the Harris County Republican Party that online voting was not secure. Weiman, a Democrat, also said at the emergency telephone hearing that the county clerk had not produced an example of a voter being disenfranchised by exposure to coronavirus. “The plaintiff hasn’t shown any injured party,” Weiman said. Hollins sought to allow the estimated 10,000 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 after the July 2 deadline to apply for a mail ballot. Forcing infected residents to vote in person would put “thousands of other voters at risk,” County Attorney Vince Ryan wrote in the clerk’s court filing.

Maryland: Some of Baltimore ballots left to be counted could be time-consuming as workers create forms to scan | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

Of the approximately 12,000 ballots left to be counted as of 10 a.m. Monday, about 5,000 were ballots sent to voters by email, according to Armstead Jones, director of Baltimore’s Board of Elections. That means the votes must be manually copied onto ballots that can run through ballot scanners. The work of duplication is tedious. Elections staffers work in teams, the first person calling out the votes on the original ballot as a second person fills in bubbles on a fresh copy. The teams then swap roles, with the second person reading aloud from the new ballot, while the first person checks the original responses. Days ago, staff started using the same process to correct a ballot error that affected voters in City Council District 1. While ballots cast by those voters were the right size for the scanner, they were missing a line of type. That caused the information to be out of alignment with what the scanner was reading. Employees manually copied the information from the problem ballots to new ones to create ballots the scanner would read correctly. Last week, that process took a pair of workers 2½ minutes per ballot. About 15 teams started the process Monday of recreating the emailed ballots, Jones told the Baltimore Board of Elections members during a special meeting.

District of Columbia: Some D.C. Residents Were Allowed To Vote By Email. Was That A Good Idea? | Martin Austermuhle/DCist

By Monday, Ward 6 resident Alex Dickson was running out of options. She had requested an absentee ballot for the following day’s primary election, but even after repeated promises from the D.C. Board of Elections that one had been sent, she had yet to receive it. By late that day, election officials offered her another option: She could vote by email. “What? OMG that’s crazy,” wrote Dickson in a Twitter exchange with an election official. But on Tuesday morning, that’s what she did. Faced with what is reported to have been hundreds of complaints from D.C. residents who said they never got requested absentee ballots in the mail, early this week the elections board decided to offer the chance to cast their ballots via email, using an existing service that had been used in the past — but only for a small group of voters with disabilities, and also for those in the military living overseas. The move came in the last-minute scramble to accommodate voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary, which was being conducted largely through the mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the sudden shift in how the election was to be run — announced in late March, two months ahead of the primary — wasn’t without its challenges, leaving the elections board struggling to keep up with a huge number of requests for absentee ballots: more than 90,000 all told, roughly tenfold most normal election cycles.

District of Columbia: D.C.’s use of email voting shows what could go wrong in November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The District of Columbia’s last-minute decision to allow voting by email in this week’s primary is sounding warning bells for election security hawks. The practice puts election results at higher risk of hacking because there’s no way for voters to verify their votes were recorded accurately, they say. And the scramble is a disturbing preview of how election officials beset by challenges may bargain away security if they’re not better prepared by November. “Between now and November, the D.C. board and any other jurisdiction that’s paying attention to what happened [Tuesday] needs to be absolutely focusing their energies on ramping up voting by mail capacities,” Edward Perez, global director of technology development at OSET Institute, a nonprofit election technology organization, told me. “And they need to do it now, now, now. Not in July or August, and definitely not in September.”

Florida: Bay County allowed some hurricane victims to vote by fax or email. That’s not allowed. | Miami Herald

As counties recount ballots in three statewide races and lawyers battle over the complex vote tallying in court, the top elections official in Bay County said he allowed some displaced voters to cast ballots by email or fax after Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle, even though there is no provision for it in state law. Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen said Monday that 11 ballots were accepted by email and 147 ballots were domestically faxed in, though state statute does not allow emailed ballots and faxing in ballots is only permitted for military and voters overseas. But Andersen defended his decision to accept those ballots by email and fax vigorously, noting the mass devastation that rocked the coastal county one month ago. “You did not go through what we went through,” he said, describing areas that were shut off by law enforcement and people barred from returning to their homes. “If some are unhappy we did so well up here, I don’t know what to tell them. We sure had an opportunity to not do well, I can tell you that much.”

Texas: Bill to expand email voting for soldiers in hostile zones | The Killeen Daily Herald

A program allowing soldiers in hostile fire zones to vote via email soon may come to Bell County, if a bill can make its way through the Texas Legislature. A pilot version of the program was held last year in Bexar County, which includes Fort Sam Houston and other military bases. The secretary of state reported 365 ballots were sent to soldiers overseas for the November election. Of those ballots, eight soldiers from Bexar County cast ballots in Texas’ general election in 2014. Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said the eight emailed back represent “a huge success.” Now, a bill that expands the program is winding its way through the Texas Senate. The bill would allow the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, to extend the program to other counties, including Bell County for Fort Hood and El Paso County, home to Fort Bliss. … But voting via email and through the Internet can be a big red flag for cybersecurity experts.

Editorials: Online voting still faces security issues | Mark Pomerleau/GCN

For those interested in expanding voting access by allowing voters to cast their ballots over the Internet, one government expert/activist has bad news – the security and privacy risks associated with Internet voting won’t be resolved anytime soon. David Jefferson, computer scientist in the Lawrence Livermore’s Center for Applied Scientific Computing, has studied electronic voting and security for more than 15 years. He believes “security, privacy, reliability, availability and authentication requirements for Internet voting are very different from, and far more demanding than, those required for e-commerce.” In short, voting is more susceptible to attacks, manipulation and vulnerabilities. Some champions of Internet balloting believe the safeguards that protect online shoppers from hackers can also protect the sensitive information and meet the legal regulations associated with voting online. Advocates further believe that Internet voting will increase turnout, cut costs and improve accuracy. Jefferson refuted these claims by asserting that there currently is no strong authentication or verification solution for online shopping. Also, while proxy shopping is a common occurrence and is not against the law, proxy voting is not allowed.

Washington: Bills would allow voters to vote through email, fax, and without postage | News Tribune

Two bills in the Legislature aim to simplify the process of voting: One through providing prepaid postage on ballots, and the other by allowing voters to return ballots by email and fax. … The state would reimburse counties for the cost of postage. Critics say they support the intent of the bill, but are concerned about where to find the money. The bill would require $2.7 million in the next two-year budget, according to the Office of the Secretary of State. Counties would have to pay for the postage initially until they get reimbursed by the state. … Another proposal to allow ballots and signed declarations to be faxed or emailed also is prompting concern. House Bill 1143 would allow voters to do so by election night, without having to turn in a hard copy of their ballots to the county auditor. Armed forces members and overseas voters vote this way.

National: Simple hack could alter Internet ballots | The Hill

Basic cyberattacks could tamper with electronically submitted ballots, leaving no trace behind, according to research from computer science firm Galois. On the heels of election watchdog groups criticizing Alaska’s use of ballots submitted online, Galois demonstrated that electronic ballots could be modified through simply hacking into home routers, which often have minimal security measures. “An off-the-shelf home Internet router can be easily modified to silently alter election ballots,” said the researchers, Daniel Zimmerman and Joseph Kiniry. A few states now allow voters to receive and return a ballot electronically. Election officials argue it is a way to increase voter participation, while technologists insist heightened turnout isn’t worth the high risk of fraud.

Oregon: Portland security firm has a warning for email voting | Portland Business Journal

It only took a couple days and tweaks to about 50 lines of code for a pair of security researchers from Portland-based Galois to demonstrate how hackers could change an election if email voting were to move beyond the pilot phase. Researchers Joseph Kiniry and Dan Zimmerman were able to show how files could be intercepted between the voter and election office through a relatively easy hack of standard router software. The duo looked at routers that are commonly used by household Internet Service Providers. “We did experiments on how it could be deployed if we were a bad guy,” Kiniry said. “Unfortunately, the state of security on these devices on the Internet is so poor.” Plus, he noted detecting that something was wrong was difficult and would take security experts to figure out the router was not working properly.

National: Pentagon watchdogs scrutinize states’ push toward online voting | McClatchy

Nevada’s election chief says the state’s much-ballyhooed new system for electronically delivering absentee ballots to troops and other citizens overseas isn’t an “online” voting system, even if it offers those abroad the option of emailing marked ballots to county clerks. But his boss, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, described the system differently in testimony to Congress last year, boasting that it would allow voters abroad “to request, mark and deliver a ballot to their county without the need of a printer or a scanner.” The office of Pentagon Inspector General John Rymer is taking a hard look at systems like Nevada’s to see whether they’re violating a prohibition on the use of Defense Department grant dollars to create online voting systems, a spokeswoman for Rymer told McClatchy. The prohibition was spurred by concerns that those systems are vulnerable to hackers. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, California Rep. Susan Davis, wrote Rymer last June requesting “a full and thorough investigation” to determine whether they’re designed to return votes electronically. So far, the inspector general’s office said, Rymer has ordered only an “assessment” of whether grant recipients are skirting the rules – a review not previously disclosed. At Wilson’s and Davis’ request, the inspector general’s office also is examining how an obscure Pentagon unit, whose task is to facilitate absentee voting overseas, spent $85 million in research funding from 2009 to 2013, Rymer’s office said.

Editorials: Internet voting: A really bad idea whose time has come | Larry Seltzer/ZDNet

The area on the Jersey shore where I grew up was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It was many weeks before some of the people could even go home. Life was a mess. And then, a little over a week later, was the 2012 election day. The state made it clear that they would make whatever accommodations it could to help people vote if they were displaced by the storm. So far, so good, but my ears perked up when I heard about “email voting.” Yes, the state announced that voters could email in a vote. This was part of an effort to make all non-traditional forms of voting, including mail-in and fax, easier. In fact, voters were instructed to ignore the part of the relevant web page where it says “The County Clerk cannot accept faxed or emailed copies of a Application for Vote by Mail Ballot, unless you are a Military or Overseas Voter, since an original signature is required.” But certainly such circumstances were sui generis, and no sane state authority would contemplate Internet voting in the normal course of things, right? Wrong.

Virginia: Legislation would allow deployed troops to email vote | The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia’s General Assembly – especially the Republican-controlled House of Delegates – has been slow to embrace the idea of electronic voting. But it appears a small window may be opening up for one class of citizens to vote by email: military service members who are deployed overseas. Under current law, they must follow the same procedure as anyone else who is absent on Election Day: Obtain an absentee ballot, fill it out and send it in by snail mail. That can be difficult, if not impossible, for service members in active combat zones.

Editorials: Colorado Secretray of State Gessler repeals controversial email/internet voting rules | Marilyn Marks/Colorado Statesman

On Thursday, Secretary of State Scott Gessler repealed the controversial email/internet voting rules that had been promulgated for the two recall elections for use by absentee voters. The rules were the subject of much controversy and were challenged in the Libertarian Party’s lawsuit concerning a variety of recall election procedures. While the Denver District Court found some of the recall rules in violation of statutes, Judge McGahey seemed willing to allow the use of email ballots, “for this election.” He ordered that absentee ballots must be made available to everyone without requiring an “excuse.” That ruling was anticipated, as Colorado has been a “no-excuse” state for many years. The use of email rather than mail or hand delivery for absentee ballots would proliferate, and the Secretary quickly decided that this was unworkable and repealed the rule. We applaud his quick decision to provide more security to the recall election processes. The Libertarians (and Citizen Center) had fought the introduction of email ballots for any use other than military overseas with no safer option (that is current law), and true medical emergencies. The original SOS rules issued August 16 allowed email transmission and return of all absentee ballots. After considerable public input, revised rules were issued to decrease the return of ballots by email, but still allow the email delivery of ballots to voters to be returned by U.S. Mail.

Kentucky: Many clerks oppose email and fax voting | Daily Independent

When Secretary of State Alison Grimes proposed ways to allow military personnel stationed outside of Kentucky to cast absentee ballots more easily and quickly, nearly everyone said it was a good idea. But concerns about the integrity of emailed absentee ballots and allowing such ballots to be counted, even if they arrived a couple of days late, have led to different bills in the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House. Richard Beliles of Common Cause of Kentucky believes it would be relatively easy to hack into those emails and change votes and many county clerks – just how many is in dispute – raised similar concerns. So Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, sponsored the bill but altered Grimes’ proposal by removing the email and extra time provisions. The bill passed easily in that chamber.

Kentucky: Senate Approves Electronic Voting Bill That Requires Snail Mail Returns | WFPL

The state Senate has passed a bill that allows Kentucky military personnel to register to vote and receive ballots electronically—but they’ll have to use snail mail to send the ballots back. Senate President Robert Stivers would allow deployed citizens to register to vote and receive their ballots electronically. Initially, a floor amendment to the bill would have allowed the military members to return the ballots electronically, but the amendment was withdrawn by sponsor Sen. Kathy Stein, a Lexington Democrat.

Kentucky: Senate panel halts proposal for overseas military to vote electronically | Kentucky.com

A Senate committee applied the brakes Thursday to a proposal by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to let overseas military members vote electronically, citing concerns about the potential for hackers to alter ballots. At the urging of Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, the committee voted along party lines to amend the bill to require ballots to be returned by mail, instead of fax or electronic transmission. The amendment also set up a study of electronic voting, to be completed by Nov. 27. After the committee unanimously approved the amended version of Senate Bill 1, Stivers acknowledged that he had consulted with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell about the measure. McConnell, a Republican, is seeking re-election next year. Many Democrats are urging Grimes to run against him. “We asked Sen. McConnell’s office to look at it because he has been involved in it,” said Stivers, adding that McConnell’s office is aware of voting procedures prescribed by the U.S. Department of Defense. Stivers said McConnell did not recommend changes to the bill. “No, these were from the county clerks association,” he told a reporter after the meeting.

Connecticut: His Vote Didn’t Count Last Year | CT News Junkie

In 2012, Sgt. Kevin Townley’s vote didn’t count. He mailed it from the United Arab Emirates, but it never got to hometown of Trumbull to be counted. Townley said that while some people would rather get medals, “I’d just like my vote to be counted.” Townley, who serves in the Connecticut National Guard, is not alone. The Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office found that 40 percent of the absentee ballots transmitted to members of the military overseas were never received and never counted. That’s why Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, and Rep Russ Morin, D-Wethersfield, are proposing legislation that would allow overseas military men and women return their ballots by fax or email. Currently, military men and women serving overseas can receive their ballot by fax or email, but they have to return it through the postal service. … However, there is opposition to the measure. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill last year which included the same provision.

New Jersey: Battered by Sandy, New Jersey Tries Email Voting with Mixed Results | Governing.com

When Superstorm Sandy wiped out a good chunk of the New Jersey shore just prior to the presidential elections last November, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration issued a directive allowing displaced citizens and first responders to vote electronically. Casting an email or fax vote may seem easy enough, but for some citizens and county election offices, the process wasn’t a walk in the park. Technology wasn’t a problem — procedures for voting electronically were already established so that military members and other overseas personnel could receive their ballots and vote by email. But preparing to receive votes from the general populace took around-the-clock efforts from county election staff already battered by the effects of Sandy. While the top of the ballots that contained federal election choices was already completed because of overseas voters, New Jersey counties had to extend those ballots to include the local races for each voter, which took time. But once that was done, sending out ballots and then qualifying people to vote electronically was a big challenge.

Kentucky: Military voting bill’s key backers disagree over email provision | The Courier-Journal

A dispute over emailing completed ballots has fractured the bipartisan support behind a bill designed to simplify voting for Kentucky military personnel overseas. Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers joined forces to push Senate Bill 1 — designed to make it easier for Kentuckians serving abroad to vote. Grimes got the idea after visiting Kentucky soldiers serving in the Middle East last year. But their alliance has splintered because of concerns over the security of emailed votes. The bill, which Stivers filed Friday, includes a phrase that says such votes can be cast “by facsimile” or by “electronic transmission.” But Lourdes Baez-Schrader, a spokeswoman for Stivers’ office, said the phrase was included by mistake, adding that it conflicts with other parts of the bill that do not authorize electronic transmission of ballots.

New Jersey: Electronic voting after Sandy “A Complete Mess,” says senate president Sweeney | newjerseynewsroom.com

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney said New Jersey’s county clerks were not properly prepared to handle the state’s requests for election ballots after Hurricane Sandy. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno allowed state residents affected by the storm to vote through e-mail or fax. Sweeney says county clerks told him they received thousands of requests for ballots in days leading up to the election. “There was no communication with local elections officials,” Sweeney told the Huffington Post. “It was a complete mess.” A spokesman for Guadagno said the decision was necessary because of the devastation of the storm.

National: If the Internet is magic, why can’t we vote on it? | Computerworld

Regular as clockwork — just after an election which generated far too many stories of people waiting far too long to vote (and far too many local election officials saying that everything went fine and that there were no problems) — come the calls for voting via the Internet. The press wonders if we are a third-world country, politicians posture and most securityexperts say “don’t go there.” Some examples: A headline in The Washington Post was “Estonia gets to vote online. Why can’t America?” New Jersey tells people they can vote via email. A famed Russian computer security expert is quoted by the BBC saying that “the lack of well-established online voting systems is a real threat to the democratic nations of the Western world” (because kids will not vote if they can’t do it online).

Anyone who has not been comatose these past few years already knows why we don’t vote over the Internet. Most vendors of electronic systems are generically incapable of producing secure ones. Just Google “voting machine security” for many examples, and if that is not enough try “SCADA security.”

New Jersey: Sussex County election boards finally get ballots to add up | NJ.com

The election boards in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties have certified their election results with the state. Many elections officials, however, expect they’ll be adjusting the totals for some time as provisional and federal overseas ballots continue to trickle into their offices. There aren’t enough outstanding late provisional ballots to alter the results of the Robert Menendez/Joe Kyrillos Senate race or the Barack Obama/Mitt Romney Presidential election. But for local races, such as school board and council elections, incoming ballots could make a difference. In Cumberland County, some of the unofficial election results—from polling places—were overturned by the addition of mail-in and provisional ballot counts. Meanwhile, Gloucester County and Morris County results remained unchanged.

New Jersey: Morris County closes out election after getting bombarded with mail, email, fax, provisional ballots | NJ.com

The votes are in. Finally. Morris County has certified its election, putting to rest most lingering doubts about who won what in an unconventional, post-Sandy election that saw a record number of mail-in votes and, for the first time, ballots sent by email and fax. The county had until Tuesday to certify the election, under an extension given by the state. Nearly 70 percent of Morris County’s registered voters took part in the election — with nearly 6 percent casting mail-in ballots (which includes the emailed and faxed ballots, as well as any cast early at county offices). Most of the rest showed up at the polls, even though several polling stations were moved as communities and utility companies scrambled to restore power after the superstorm. “One way or another, it’s done,” said Tony DeSimone, IT administrator for the Morris County Board of Elections.

New Jersey: Rutgers–Newark Law Clinic Examines E-Voting in Wake of Superstorm Sandy | Rutgers News

The Rutgers School of Law–Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic has served Open Public Records (OPRA) requests to New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s office and to all 21 New Jersey counties for information about the processing of ballots of voters displaced by Superstorm Sandy. The clinic seeks to determine whether any voters were disenfranchised on Election Day because of Internet voting and the confusion caused by emergency voting directives. Candidates are concerned as well. At least 75 elections still hinge on votes cast by displaced voters. In the wake of the storm, Lt. Gov. Guadagno issued a directive allowing displaced voters to vote by fax, email, and through the Internet. “Although emergency action was warranted, Internet and email voting was not the solution,” said Clinical Professor Penny Venetis, co-director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic. “New Jersey law does not permit Internet voting.”

New Jersey: Group requests information on how fax, e-mail voters were processed | NJ.com

A group of constitutional experts at Rutgers University want to know how fax and e-mail ballots were processed after Hurricane Sandy, and if any voters were disenfranchised as a result of widespread confusion. The Rutgers School of Law-Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic said today it has sent public records requests to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s office and all 21 counties for information on how the ballots were handled. The clinic claims 75 elections in New Jersey still hinge on votes cast by displaced voters.

New Jersey: Email voting a casualty in Sandy’s wake | Politico.com

Storm-battered New Jersey’s first-in-the-nation decision to accept ballots by email is shaping up to be a model for how not to conduct Internet-based voting. The problems that arose — confusing rules, a laborious verification process and an ongoing tabulation headache — could invalidate many of the more than 10,000 ballots from people who believe they voted electronically. “My email began to run off the charts all day that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella said. “We were getting so many requests, we could not open them quickly enough, print out the applications and have our staff answer them all.”

New Jersey: E-ballot count a challenge for local election officials | NJ.com

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the state and 10 days after the election, county election officials are still counting ballots, hoping to make their election certification deadline next Wednesday. Thanks to high voter turnout and an unprecedented set of voting opportunities, election officials in New Jersey’s 21 counties are trying to certify thousands of ballots cast by email and fax. “We followed the requirement that was set forth by the Lieutenant Governor,” said Robert Pantina, the Bergen County Clerk Chief of Staff. “The only reason for a rejection would be if the signatures did not match or if we couldn’t find the voter in the state registration system.”

New Jersey: Ballot count continues two weeks after election | New Jersey Herald

The book on “Election Fortnight 2012” will be closed Wednesday as the Sussex County Board of Elections finishes counting paper ballots and the county clerk submits the certified vote to the secretary of state. Normally a quick and relatively easy process, even in a presidential election year, the 2012 vote was complicated and extended by Hurricane Sandy and the state’s efforts to ensure anyone who was eligible to vote, got a chance to vote.

New Jersey: Counties must approve e-mail ballot requests if voters can prove technical problems | NJ.com

A state Superior Court judge has ordered county clerks statewide to accept and process applications for fax and e-mail ballots if voters can prove they tried to ask for one Tuesday but were met with busy signals, error messages or no response at all. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey obtained the order Wednesday because applications for electronic ballots were due by 5 p.m. on Election Day, but many voters had technical problems submitting their request to county elections offices.