Louisiana has resumed efforts to replace thousands of decades-old voting machines, with the state’s elections chief issuing a new solicitation for bidders Wednesday amid a political climate where such contracts are getting intensified scrutiny. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin already was going to face strong interest in his search for a contractor to update Louisiana’s voting system because allegations of improper bid handling derailed a previous effort to replace the machines in 2018. But the Republican elected official’s vendor search is expected to draw heightened monitoring because of the national debate over the presidential election and baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Ardoin understands the timing isn’t optimal, but he said the bid solicitation has safeguards he hopes will reassure people. Louisiana’s “voting equipment has been around for almost 30 years now, and I just don’t know how much longer they can last without us having major issues. It’s time to do this,” Ardoin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The timing may not be perfect, but it certainly gives the Louisiana people the assurance that I’m looking at it from the perspective of a secure, safe and transparent process and election system.” Louisiana’s current voting machine contractor, Dominion Voting Systems, has specifically been targeted by conservatives who claimed without evidence that its machines were easily manipulated and somehow to blame for Trump’s loss in other states. Trump won Louisiana’s electoral votes. Dominion has sued Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for spreading the unsubstantiated claims.
New York lawmakers join advocates in calling on Board of Elections to reject troubled ExpressVote XL touchscreen voting machines | Michael Gartland and Denis Slattery/New York Daily News
The State Board of Elections is slated to vote Thursday on new touchscreen voting machines that advocates and lawmakers say are known for undercounting and can’t handle the city’s soon-to-be-implemented ranked-choice voting system. A coalition of legislators is calling on the board to vote against using the Express Vote XL from Election Software & Systems, arguing that they’re too expensive and prone to trouble. “New York should stick with the gold standard — voter marked paper ballots which voters themselves place in a scanner,” the lawmakers wrote to the board Wednesday. “As lawmakers, we have worked tirelessly to reform New York’s election laws — this would be a huge step backwards.” … Susan Greenhalgh, senior advisor on election security with advocacy group Free Speech For People, said there are major concerns regarding safety since ES&S still uses Windows 7 as its operating software despite vowing to upgrade the machines. “A year and a half later, they are still hawking Windows 7 systems, which demonstrates a blatant disregard for the most rudimentary cybersecurity principles. This should be disqualifying in itself,” Greenhalgh said.
For over 15 years, election security experts and election integrity advocates have been communicating to their state and local election officials the dangers of touch-screen voting machines. The danger is simple: if fraudulent software is installed in the voting machine, it can steal votes in a way that a recount wouldn’t be able to detect or correct. That was true of the paperless touchscreens of the 2000s, and it’s still true of the ballot-marking devices (BMDs) and “all-in-one” machines such as the ES&S ExpressVote XL voting machine (see section 8 of this paper*). This analysis is based on the characteristics of the technology itself, and doesn’t require any conspiracy theories about who owns the voting-machine company. In contrast, if an optical-scan voting machine was suspected to be hacked, the recount can assure an election outcome reflects the will of the voters, because the recount examines the very sheets of paper that the voters marked with a pen. In late 2020, many states were glad they used optical-scan voting machines with paper ballots: the recounts could demonstrate conclusively that the election results were legitimate, regardless of what software might have been installed in the voting machines or who owned the voting-machine companies. In fact, the vast majority of the states use optical-scan voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots, and in 2020 we saw clearly why that’s a good thing. In November and December 2020, certain conspiracy theorists made unsupportable claims about the ownership of Dominion Voting Systems, which manufactured the voting machines used in Georgia. Dominion has sued for defamation. Dominion is the manufacturer of voting machines used in many states. Its rival, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), has an even bigger share of the market. Apparently, ES&S must think that amongst all that confusion, the time is right to send threatening Cease & Desist letters to the legitimate critics of their ExpressVote XL voting machine. Their lawyers sent this letter to the leaders of SMART Elections, a journalism+advocacy organization in New York State who have been communicating to the New York State Board of Elections, explaining to the Board why it’s a bad idea to use the ExpressVote XL in New York (or in any state). ES&S’s lawyers claim that certain facts (which they call “accusations”) are “false, defamatory, and disparaging”, namely: that the “ExpressVote XL can add, delete, or change the votes on individual ballots”, that the ExpressVote XL will “deteriorate our security and our ability to have confidence in our elections,” and that it is a “bad voting machine.”
Full Article: ESS voting machine company sends threats
South Carolina: Horry County election officials rescan thousands of absentee ballots after USB device malfunction | Jennifer Roberts/WMBF
The South Carolina Election Commission instructed the Horry County Registration & Elections office to rescan absentee ballots following a “data transfer issue,” officials said. “ES&S, the scanning equipment manufacturer, assisted the elections office throughout the day with the procedure which began this morning [Thursday] around 10 a.m.,” Horry County Government said in a press release. South Carolina Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said all legally filed ballots must be counted. He added the only way to report those is to rescan them. Officials say the rescanning will not impact voters’ absentee ballots in any way. The move comes after Horry County Director of Elections Sandy Martin said on Wednesday afternoon, there were anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000 votes from mail-in absentee ballots that had yet to be counted in Horry County. On Thursday, her team focused on ensuring thousands of those ballots were rescanned. Martin attributed the delay to a “technical issue.” She said after scanning all of the ballots Tuesday night, including mail-in ballots, they ran into a problem around 2 a.m. Wednesday.
South Carolina: Lancaster County ‘mislabeled’ thumb drive causes 20,000 ballot recount | Morgan Newell/WBTV
Absentee ballots in one South Carolina county had to be recounted after a mislabeled thumb drive could not be connected with a voting machine. The 20,000 ballot recount took so long the results did not come in until 6:30 Wednesday morning. Every single absentee in-person vote got counted because this was human error rather than a computer’s mistake. Mary Ann Hudson, Elections Director in Lancaster County, has been running the election process in Lancaster County for years. So when she made a mistake on election night, she knew exactly what needed to be done. “It was just something that I had to make right,” says Hudson. “It was my job, it’s my responsibility, it was my human error.” The error? Hudson mislabeled a thumb drive for one of the absentee ballot voting machines. It means the results could have been off by hundreds if not thousands. “We could have tried to decide that maybe these ballots went to this thumb drive and these ballots went to this thumb drive but it was an all-or-none situation,” she says.
South Carolina: Dorchester Coounty counting 14,600 absentee ballots by hand due to ballot printing error | Zak Koeske/The State
Dorchester County, which was unable to count about 14,600 mail-in absentee ballots Tuesday night due to a printing error, has a phalanx of people hand counting the ballots Wednesday, officials said. State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said about 40 people were working to hand count the ballots early Wednesday afternoon and that more would be joining them throughout the day. There is currently no estimate of when they will be finished, he said. Dorchester County elections director Todd Billman said Tuesday that officials discovered the ballot printing error Tuesday morning, after beginning to open the ballot envelopes and realizing they could not be read by ballot scanning machines due to incorrect timing marks. Despite the delay, Billman and the Election Commission have reassured voters that all votes will eventually be counted. “We want everyone to know that this will be an open process, we’ll keep you guys notified along the whole way of how we’re doing,” Billman said Tuesday. “I’m very thankful that we have a lot of workers here ready to make sure that your vote counts and that your vote is counted accurately.”
It’s difficult to talk for long about voting technology and election security in South Carolina before hearing the name of Dr. Duncan Buell. Since the state invested in its first electronic voting computers in 2004, Buell, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina, has studied the performance of the technology in the region. He is one of only a couple of South Carolinians who belong to the Election Verification Network, a group of interdisciplinary voting experts from around the country, and serves on the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections. So when he discovered that a panel of five people with limited technical expertise had been entrusted to choose the new technology that S.C. voters would use for many elections to come, Buell asked to present his knowledge at one of the group’s meetings in 2019, which were coordinated in part by the State Election Commission (SEC). He was added, then mysteriously taken off the agenda, he says. “That’s not in the citizens’ best interest, but he’s the sharpest critic (the SEC) had,” said Frank Heindel, a retired businessman from Charleston and self-described citizen activist who has requested hundreds of pages of documents from the government about S.C. elections. “I don’t think they wanted to hear it.” The decision is just one example of how for years, choices about voting technology in South Carolina have been made behind closed doors, say lawmakers, citizens and voting scholars. Scientists believe the technology products S.C. officials ultimately selected, including the voting machines now being used in the 2020 presidential election, have not always met the “gold standard” for safety.
National: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market | Chris Cumming/Wall Street Journal
Leveraged-buyout firms are playing a key role in the 2020 elections: Companies they own are counting the flood of mail-in ballots, and that isn’t sitting well with some lawmakers. Two private-equity-owned companies dominate the market for high-speed ballot scanners and other voting equipment. Lawmakers have raised questions about the lack of transparency and competition in the industry, and more broadly over the role of private-equity firms in elections. Election Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Corp. together produce the technology used by over three-quarters of U.S. voters, according to a coming report by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The third-largest player, Hart InterCivic, was owned by private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital from 2011 to this April, when it was quietly sold, according to H.I.G. Private-equity firms “have taken over nearly all of the nation’s election technology—and how they do business is clouded in secrecy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in an email. Lawmakers including Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) in December wrote that the private-equity-backed voting companies’ lack of transparency threatens the integrity of elections. Under private-equity ownership, the voting-machine market has consolidated through mergers. In a little over a decade, at least eight major vendors have consolidated to three, which control about 92% of the market, Wharton researchers said in 2017.
Tennessee: Shelby County election officials get eight new ballot scanners for absentee vote count | Bill Dries/Daily Memphian
The Shelby County Election Commission is getting eight new ballot scanners to assist in counting the large number of absentee ballots being cast locally in the presidential general election. The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is providing a share of its federal CARES Act funding for the election hardware and technology, aimed at shortening what could be a long vote count election night following what could be a record overall turnout. Secretary of State Tre Hargett Tuesday, Oct. 27, confirmed to The Daily Memphian the arrangement worked out with the local election commission using federal CARES Act funding. “Shelby County had expressed the need for scanners to handle the larger-than-normal absentee ballot turnout,” Hargett said. “We have gone back to counties and said, ‘Look, if there is a need that you have at this time, there is CARES Act funding remaining.’ ” The Secretary of State’s office approved $47,800 specifically for elections to allow the Shelby County Election Commission to buy the scanners.
Pennsylvania: A year ago, voting machines malfunctioned in Northhampton county. Have the problems been fixed? | Marie Albiges/Spotlight PA
On Election Day a year ago, Matthew Munsey was getting some alarming reports.Voters in Northampton County were casting their ballots for the first time on the county’s new voting machines, and things weren’t going well: The screens were responding erratically to voters’ touches, and the official ballots the machines printed out were hard to read.At the end of the night, a Democratic candidate for Court of Common Pleas judge was showing zero recorded votes at some precincts, even though the candidate knew at least three people — his campaign manager and the manager’s parents — had voted for him.“I felt like this was the worst-case scenario that I had dreaded,” said Munsey, the chairperson for the county Democrats.One year later, those same voting machines will face their most consequential test yet: a highly scrutinized presidential election in a Pennsylvania county widely viewed as a national political bellwether for the race overall.In 2020, many elections experts believe as Northampton County goes, so goes the nation.
Bad actors working for the likes of Russia and other nation-states are lurking on the internet, waiting for their chance to infiltrate the American voting system. Florida may be ripe for the picking, computer scientists say, because numerous counties rely on voting machines that are drawing fire for their vulnerability to a cyberattack. These computer scientists along with election integrity groups familiar with the model that Palm Beach and 48 other counties use, say there are potentially numerous ways for a foreign entity to alter results. They say that state election officials have accepted wholesale the spin from the manufacturer that these machines — which voters at polling places feed ballots into after marking candidates of their choice — are secure. “It has been asserted that voting machines are not vulnerable to remote hacking because they are never connected to the Internet, but both the premise and the conclusion are false,” states a Sept. 15 letter sent to Florida’s Division of Elections by nearly 30 of the country’s top computer scientists and election integrity groups.
A $5.8 million contract for a new voting system in Shelby County fell one vote short of the seven needed from the Shelby County County Commission Monday, Oct. 12, in a move that critics say could delay the local vote count in the upcoming presidential election. While the election system wouldn’t have been used until the 2022 elections, the Election Commission sought approval to buy the system in order to have ballot scanners to process an expected increase in absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election in less than a month. Ultimately, however, county commissioners had too many problems with a call by the Election Commission to approve the entire contract or nothing at all. Commissioners, therefore, voted down the system 6-5.Commissioners also expressed reservations about changes in the bid terms for the number of scanners before the Election Commission approved the contract with ES&S LLC of Omaha, Nebraska, and sent it to the County Commission. Election Commission administrators increased the number of ballot scanners, upping the dollar amount of the contract by $1.1 million after realizing none of the firms bidding for the contract realized that by state law, such scanners can only process a maximum of 9,999 ballots each in an election night count.
National: Hackers Get Green Light to Test Election Voting Systems | Robert McMillan and Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal
Election Systems & Software LLC, the top U.S. seller of voting-machine technology, is calling a truce in its feud with computer-security researchers over the ways they probe for vulnerabilities of the company’s systems. With the U.S. presidential election less than three months away, ES&S Chief Information Security Officer Chris Wlaschin on Wednesday will unveil the company’s outreach effort to security researchers at the annual Black Hat hacker convention that is taking place virtually this year, according to ES&S. Mr. Wlaschin will detail a new vulnerability disclosure policy, which spells out, for example, the “safe harbor” protections that ES&S will provide legitimate researchers if they identify and notify the company of bugs in its systems, ES&S said. Those provisions are standard across many industries, from computer equipment to cars to medical devices, as manufacturers seek outside help to ensure their systems are secure. But the makers of election equipment, ES&S in particular, have been reluctant to allow outside security experts to test their systems, researchers have said. The company’s move follows the Department of Homeland Security last week urging increased cooperation between security researchers, election officials and vendors as it released guidance for election administrators on coordinating to address security vulnerabilities.
The North Carolina NAACP has asked a judge to bar the use of a touch-screen voting machine in several counties due to what it says are heightened risks associated with using them during the coronavirus pandemic. The request made to a Wake County judge Wednesday says the ExpressVote machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because they will be touched by many people, The Charlotte Observer quotes the request as saying. The request comes more than three months after the group filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and county election boards seeking to stop the use of the machines. The state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss that lawsuit, the Observer reported.
North Carolina: NAACP asks judge to ban the kind of voting machines used in Mecklenburg County | Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer
Citing health and security concerns, North Carolina’s NAACP asked a Wake County judge Wednesday to block the use of touch screen voting machines in Mecklenburg and other counties. The move came three months after the group filed suit against the State Board of Elections and several county boards. Earlier this month the state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss the suit. The NAACP argues that new, touch screen voting machines risk exposing voters to COVID-19. It also said the ExpressVote machines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable” and threaten “the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.” Wednesday’s request for an injunction said the machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because each screen will be touched frequently. The two dozen or so counties using the machines, it said, “are forcing voters to choose between their right to vote, their health and potentially their lives.”
New Jersey: That’s a fold, not a vote! 1,200 Atlantic County ballots misread by scanner | Michelle Brunetti/Press of Atlantic City
About 1,200 Democratic ballots have been incorrectly read by a scanning machine, the Atlantic County Board of Elections reported Thursday afternoon, and were expected to be recounted by Friday morning. The problem is not likely to affect results in a primary election in which an estimated 45,000 ballots have been received and about 28,000 have been counted as of 2 p.m. Thursday, according to the board. “Board staff discovered a great many overvotes, which means that someone voted for two people for the same office, in situations where they were only allowed to vote for one,” Board Chair Lynn Caterson said. An investigation found that folds on some ballots hit voting bubbles on the “write-in” line in such a way that it caused the scanning machine to inaccurately read them as filled in by the voter.
Citing “extreme wait times and confusion at polling places” in some precincts in and around South Carolina’s capital city during Tuesday’s primary, state election officials said they are sending help before upcoming runoffs, including poll manager training and equipment testing. “The South Carolina State Election Commission is disappointed with the conduct of yesterday’s primaries in Richland County,” the Commission said in a release Wednesday. “We know election officials and poll managers were faced with the extraordinarily difficult task of conducting an election in a pandemic. But yet again, voters were unnecessarily subjected to extreme wait times and confusion at polling places.” The COVID-19 outbreak – which has infected more than 15,000 in South Carolina, killing more than 560 – created some questions as to how Tuesday’s elections would be carried out. In an effort both to alleviate numbers at the polls and assuage voters’ concerns about contagion, lawmakers recently passed a law allowing universal absentee voting because of the pandemic. A federal judge also temporarily removed a policy requiring that a witness sign an absentee voter’s ballot. But the relatively low-key state primaries in South Carolina still saw long lines at a few precincts, especially in Richland County, as polling places were combined because many longtime workers at sites didn’t take an assignment this year because of concerns of contracting the coronavirus.
West Virginia: The pandemic primary created challenges for election officials. Now, they’re preparing to repeat the process in November. | Politics | Lacie Pierson/Charleston Gazette Mail
Less than 24 hours after the polls closed for West Virginia’s 2020 primary election, Secretary of State Mac Warner said there were a lot of lessons learned and more work to do if officials are going to repeat the process in November amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Employees in county clerks’ offices throughout the state already had received approximately 217,885 absentee ballots as of Wednesday, and another 44,468 absentee ballots still were outstanding, according to the secretary of state’s website. County clerks and voter canvassing boards have plenty more work to do beyond waiting for the remaining absentee ballots to come back in, Warner said, but while that work is being completed, West Virginians and county clerks should be proud of their extra efforts to make this a “smooth and clean” election. “The election worked, but there are lessons to be learned from this,” Warner said. “I’m anxious to let the [county] clerks get through the canvassing process and talk to them about what worked, what didn’t work, what their recommendations are, should we get into this situation in November.”
South Carolina: Voters report races missing from ballots at Richland polls during primary | Greg Hadley/The State
On an unprecedented Election Day, reports of problems at polling stations across Richland County have been rolling in. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that led to increased requests for absentee ballots, there has been a shortage of poll workers at combined precinct locations and issues with ballots, as well. “We’re not off to the start I’m looking for,” Terry Graham, interim director for the Richland County Elections Board, told The State on Tuesday morning. Graham could not immediately be reached for comment in the afternoon. Graham also told the newspaper that he went into the day knowing there would a shortage of poll workers but didn’t expect so many to be unavailable. State Rep. Beth Bernstein, whose 78th district is based in Richland County, said the number of poll workers was significantly down. “When we normally have 900 to 1,000 poll workers for our election, a month out we were at like 300 and something,” she said. “I do believe it came up to maybe 500 or 600, I don’t have those exact numbers, but it was significantly less.”
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s new ExpressVote XL voting machines under scrutiny in Tuesday’s elections | Julia Harte/Reuters
When Pennsylvania holds primary elections on Tuesday, some election security advocates will be watching closely to see if more than 2,000 new voting machines acquired last year by Philadelphia and two other counties perform without glitches. Philadelphia and Northampton counties first used the new “ExpressVote XL” machines in last November’s local elections and will deploy them again in the presidential nominating contests and local races on Tuesday. A third county, Cumberland, will use the machines for the first time. Their first widespread use in 2019 in Pennsylvania was marred by miscounted vote tallies in Northampton, a politically divided county in eastern Pennsylvania. Some ExpressVote XL machines incorrectly recorded votes for several candidates in the November election, prompting the county to count backup paper receipts to identify the correct winners, according to Maudeania Hornik, chair of the Northampton Election Commission. The manufacturer of the ExpressVote XL equipment said in a December press conference that some of Northampton’s 320 machines “were configured improperly at our factory prior to delivery to Northampton County.” The manufacturer told the county as many as 30% of the machines were affected, Hornik said. Problems with at least 366 ExpressVote XL machines also arose in Philadelphia, according to public records exclusively obtained by Reuters. The city last year replaced its old voting equipment with a new fleet of 3,750 ExpressVote XL machines. Reuters could not ascertain how many of those machines were deployed in the November 2019 election there.
Arkansas: Voting machines arrive, but safe storage an issue | Dale Ellis/Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Two semitrailers were filled to capacity with 148 ballot markers, 148 stands, 80 poll tablets and printers, 41 vote tabulators, and assorted equipment intended to get the county up to the latest standard in voting hardware and software. The equipment, supplied by Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software, was part of a $2.7 million purchase made by the Arkansas secretary of state’s office using state and federal funds to provide new voting equipment to nine Arkansas counties that lacked adequate funding to share the cost with the state. By the March 3 primary, 64 Arkansas counties had upgraded to the new ExpressVote system, purchased through a mixture of local, state and federal funds. Pulaski and Scott counties signed contracts in February to receive new voting equipment. The nine remaining counties — Bradley, Conway, Fulton, Jefferson, Lee, Monroe, Newton, Searcy and Stone — were notified last month that they would receive the equipment without having to come up with matching funds after the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a sharp economic downturn.
Tennessee: Connection between Shelby County Elections administrator and ES&S under scrutiny | April Thompson/WREG
WREG has learned there is a lot of controversy surrounding the company providing new voting machines for the county and the Shelby County Elections administrator. WREG has confirmed with an election commissioner the company is ES & S, the same company that commission and election administrator Linda Phillips recommended. Phillips says the new machines are desperately needed. “Our current scanners are very, very old,” Phillips said. “Our new election system has new modern updated scanners. But I am becoming increasingly concerned we will not get those in time to do the August election. The hold up, the Letter of Intent for the new equipment hadn’t been approved by the County Mayor.” A group of concerned citizens have raised the issue about the purchase and about Phillips. Erika Sugarmon among them. “It’s an appearance of conflict of interest. Because once these contracts are executed then one or two of her children has appointment with these companies,” Sugarmon said. “And the company ‘Everyone Counts’ for example, she worked there prior to coming to the Shelby County Election Commission.”
Kansas: Johnson County will consider spending $1 million to update voting machinery to address COVID-19 concerns | Roxie Hammill/Shawnee Mission Post
County election officials are getting set to spend $1 million soon to add tabulation devices to its two-year-old voting machinery – a move election officials say is necessary because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. But the change also renders redundant the built-in tabulation function that was the star feature of the $10.6 million purchase in 2018. That year the county was first in the country to use the voting machine/tabulation combo that had just been developed by vendor Election Systems and Software, of Omaha. The existing machines will now basically become ballot markers instead. Voters who use them to make their choices will then walk their marked ballots over to a separate tabulator to be counted, said Connie Schmidt, who is election commissioner through this year’s ballots, after which the Secretary of State’s appointee Fred Sherman will take over. The plan is to swap out 240 of the voting machines with brand-new DS 200 tabulators, Schmidt said. But because they aren’t equal in price, the county will need to spend another $1,020,500. And it has to be done before the end of May, because that’s when special pricing expires from a previous group deal with Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties. All but about $35,000 may be reimbursed from federal funds.
Pennsylvania: Judge rejects push from Green Party’s Jill Stein to decertify Philly voting machines as ‘daft,’ ‘ill-considered,’ and ‘pointless’ | Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer
Calling her theories “daft,” “ill-considered,” and “pointless,” a federal judge in Philadelphia on Wednesday rejected a push from former Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein to decertify Philadelphia’s new voting machines in advance of the June 2 primary over concerns they could be vulnerable to hacking. In an opinion, dripping with disdain for the “failed candidate’s” legal case, U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond found there was “no credible evidence” to support Stein’s concerns and that granting her request would effectively disenfranchise Philadelphia voters, as there would be no way to replace the machines with new ones in time for the election. “The Commonwealth and the city have expended considerable resources to demonstrate that Dr. Stein has based her motion on absolutely nothing,” he wrote.
National: Voting machine manufacturers pushed to provide ways to sanitize products | Maggie Miller/The Hill
The top U.S. voting machine manufacturers are being pushed to produce videos and information on how their products can be sanitized to enable Americans to safely vote in-person during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Six leading voting equipment manufacturers were sent a letter Thursday by nonprofit group Free Speech for People, which raised concerns that voting machines could become a “major disease vector” for spreading the coronavirus during upcoming primaries and the general election. As a result, the group asked the manufacturers to produce videos detailing how to properly clean voting equipment and post them online, along with allowing third-party groups to examine whether the steps to clean the equipment were effective and safe. “We make these requests because we are deeply concerned about the health risk that electronic voting machines pose to voters,” Free Speech for People wrote.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is leading a lawsuit against the South Carolina Election Commission to allow residents to vote by mail in elections through the end of the year amid fears that coronavirus-related social distancing mandates will still be in place in the coming months. The national party’s main fundraising apparatus for U.S. House candidates filed the suit Wednesday asking the state to expand absentee voting opportunities in advance of the scheduled June 9 primary and November general election. “Our leaders should be using every available tool to ensure South Carolina voters don’t have to choose between protecting their health and participating in our democracy,” DCCC chairwoman Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said in a statement announcing the suit. “We’ll keep fighting to ensure voters can safely and freely participate in our democracy during this time of uncertainty.” Under current South Carolina law, all voters can request and cast absentee ballots. They must, however, have a specific excuse that adheres to a set of more than a dozen, established reasons for not being able to vote in person on Election Day.
Arkansas: State finds cash to buy 9 counties voting gear; cost of equipment estimated at $2.7M | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Secretary of State John Thurston’s office has decided to use state and federal funds to pay for new voting equipment in the nine Arkansas counties that don’t have updated equipment for the Nov. 3 general election. The counties, initially, were to share a portion of the costs for new equipment. “Given the impact the covid-19 pandemic has had across the state, the secretary of state’s office has had to reassess our plan in working with the remaining nine counties for new election equipment,” said Kevin Niehaus, public relations director for the Republican secretary of state. “With the counties needing to realign their fiscal priorities, it became apparent to us that fully funding the election equipment for these counties was the only viable option,” he said in a written statement. “With the integrity of our elections at stake, having all 75 counties working off the new equipment has always been a top priority.” The nine counties are Bradley, Conway, Fulton, Jefferson, Lee, Monroe, Newton, Searcy and Stone.
North Carolina: Suit claims ES&S ExpressVote could leave voters vulnerable to COVID-19 | Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer
North Carolina’s NAACP has filed suit against election boards in Mecklenburg County and elsewhere, charging in part that new, touch screen voting machines risk exposing voters to COVID-19. The suit also says the ExpressVotemachines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable” and threaten “the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.” The N.C. State Board of Elections, which was also sued, referred questions to the state Justice Department. Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Stein, said the department is reviewing the filing. Mecklenburg and several other counties adopted the machines in response to a 2013 state law requiring paper ballots in an effort to maintain elections security and stop potential hacking. The machines are similar to those used in the county since 2006. But after using a touch screen to make their choices, voters pull out a paper copy of their ballot and give it to a poll worker who inserts it into a tabulator. County and state officials have said the machines are secure. The suit alleges that the machines give voters a printed copy of their selections. But it includes a barcode of the selections that the suit says “may not necessarily match the human readable text.” The NAACP also alleges that the machines are susceptible to sabotage or hacking.
North Carolina: Lawsuit cites virus to stop touch-screen voting | Gary D. Robertson/Associated Press
The threat of hand-to-hand contamination from the new coronavirus while voting entered arguments in a lawsuit seeking to stop the use of touch-screen ballot-marking machines in North Carolina. Lawyers for four North Carolina voters and the state NAACP largely cited constitutional concerns in the lawsuit announced Wednesday in asking that the equipment from the nation’s largest voting machine manufacturer be barred from future elections. About 20 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have the machines, used first in one way of another during last month’s primary elections. But the plaintiffs also said using touch-screen machines are inherently hazardous to use during the COVID-19 crisis, because voters and poll workers are smudging screens with fingers and hands that could transmit the virus to unsuspecting people. Cleaning the ExpressVote machines — created by Election Systems & Software and targeted in the lawsuit — after every vote, would create long lines at voting sites, the lawsuit said. An ES&S memo last month recommended poll workers should use lint-free cloths with isopropyl alcohol or prepared alcohol wipes to clean screens for at least 30 seconds to disinfect them.
North Carolina: Voting rights advocates file lawsuit over allegedly insecure voting machines | Maggie Miller/The Hill
A group of voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that voting machines used in almost two dozen North Carolina counties are not secure and could lead to voter disenfranchisement in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit, filed by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and multiple North Carolina voters, alleges that the use of the ExpressVote XL voting machine violates the constitutional right of individuals in the state to free and fair elections, and has cyber vulnerabilities that could lead to election interference. The ExpressVote machines involve the voter inputting their choices digitally, with the machine then printing out a paper sheet with a barcode embedded with the voter’s choices. The voting rights advocates point to this system as making it impossible for the average voter to ensure their vote wasn’t changed and was accurate. “The ExpressVote is an insecure, unreliable, unverifiable, and unsafe machine that threatens the integrity of North Carolina’s elections,” Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP, told reporters on Wednesday. “The new electronic system converts voters’ votes and ballots into undecipherable barcodes, forcing voters to cast a vote they cannot read.” Spearman urged the North Carolina counties using the machines to immediately “move to hand-marked paper ballots to restore voters’ trust in the integrity of our elections.”