ES&S

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North Carolina: Bait and switch by ES&S in North Carolina? | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

A voting system certified and tested earlier this year for use in North Carolina’s March 2020 primaries won’t be available, according to manufacturer Elections Systems and Software, so the company’s lobbyists have suggested the state quickly approve one of its other systems instead. While the N.C. Board of Elections director has recommended going along with the vendor on the substitution, others see the move as a deceptive bait and switch. One Board of Elections member, Stella Anderson, has objected to the situation, thereby forcing the board to convene a special meeting on the issue. She and others have questioned the integrity of the company and suggested both ES&S and board staff have used language that understates the significance of the difference between the two systems and misrepresents federal government requirements for approving such modifications to voting systems. ES&S has been trying to get its EVS voting system certified in North Carolina since 2017. Litigation between the Republican legislature and the Democratic governor, the 9th Congressional District ballot fraud scandal in 2018, and the resignation of the former Board of Elections chairman delayed certification of the new system until the 11th hour.

Full Article: Bait and switch by maker of voting system for NC?.

Pennsylvania: ES&S to report on Northampton County voting machine problems | Jeff Ward/WFMZ

Northampton County’s voting-machine vendor will report next week on what went wrong during the November election and how it can be fixed. The ExpressVote XL machines used Nov. 5 led to long lines and frustration at the polls because the touchscreens were too sensitive and the backup paper ballots were hard to read. Election Systems & Software (ES&S), maker of the machines, will be at Northampton County Council’s next meeting. “ES&S was in Northampton County today reviewing our voting systems,” County Executive Lamont McClure told the council at its Thursday meeting. “They will come next Thursday and tell you what they found and the fixes.” The next council meeting will be Dec. 12 at 4:30 p.m. at the government center. McClure and Council President Ronald Heckman have insisted that ES&S identify and fix what went wrong before the next election. The county paid $2.88 million for the machines after Gov. Tom Wolf required systems across Pennsylvania that would thwart hacking and provide a backup paper trail. Despite the problems, McClure has said the election was fair and accurate because the backup worked.

Full Article: Northampton County voting machine vendor to report on problems | Lehigh Valley Regional News | wfmz.com.

Pennsylvania: Misplaced votes mean new rules for Erie County poll workers, officials | Matthew Rink/GoErie

After the polls closed on Nov. 5, poll workers at Kury Hall in Millcreek Township suspected that something was amiss. Like all poll workers at the county’s 149 precincts, they were responsible for inserting a device called a PEB that records the votes from a flash drive on each machine and “closes out” the machine so that no additional votes can be recorded. When the PEB generated the results at Millcreek’s 4th Precinct, though, poll workers suspected that it had shown too few votes. “They had some sense that their number of total votes wasn’t correct,” Erie County Clerk Doug Smith said. “But they thought it would all come out in the wash. They didn’t think it was a serious thing and that we would catch it when we did the audit.” What followed was a perfect storm, Smith said, of poor communication between poll workers themselves and between poll workers and elections officials stationed at the Erie County Courthouse. It would result in roughly 400 votes not being tabulated on either Election Night or during the final audit, or count, conducted by elections officials days later. In fact, were it not for the razor-thin margin between Erie County Controller Mary Schaaf and her challenger, Erie County Councilman Kyle Foust, the controller-elect, the missing votes might never have been counted.

Full Article: Misplaced votes mean new rules for Erie County poll workers, officials - News - GoErie.com - Erie, PA.

Pennsylvania: A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

It was a few minutes after the polls closed here on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices. Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Abe Kassis, a Democrat, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Something had gone quite wrong. Lee Snover, the chairwoman of the county Republicans, said her anxiety began to pick up at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. She had trouble getting someone from the election office on the phone. When she eventually got through, she said: “I’m coming down there and you better let me in.” With clearly faulty results in at least the judge’s election, officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Mr. Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio. “People were questioning, and even I questioned, that if some of the numbers are wrong, how do we know that there aren’t mistakes with anything else?” said Matthew Munsey, the chairman of the Northampton County Democrats, who, along with Ms. Snover, was among the observers as county officials worked through the night to count the paper ballots by hand. The snafu in Northampton County did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest, given how faith in American elections has never been more fragile. The problematic machines were also used in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs — areas of Pennsylvania that could prove decisive next year in one of the most critical presidential swing states in the country.

Full Article: A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns - The New York Times.

North Carolina: Voting machine reliability brought up as concern after issues with similar machines in other state | Paige Pauroso/WBTV

The North Carolina State Board of Elections is taking a closer look at voting machines they plan on purchasing after the same company’s machines were part of an election nightmare in a county in Pennsylvania. The company ES&S makes the Express Vote XL, which was used in Pennsylvania on Election Day in November, but due to what is said to be a programming error, the votes were counted incorrectly. Now, Mecklenburg County said they will do everything they can to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen here if the county gets state approval to purchase similar voting machines made by the same company. The two voting machines are different models and work differently when a voter goes to cast a final ballot, but operate similarly when you’re marking the ballot. Mecklenburg County plans to purchase the Express Vote model instead of the Express Vote XL model. The problems voters faced in Pennsylvania are bringing up some concerns of will North Carolina have enough time to properly test the machines before they’re supposed to make their debut in 2020.

Full Article: NC voting machine reliability brought up as concern after issues with similar machines in other state.

Texas: Midland County officials share update on investigation into ballot discrepancy

The Midland County Elections Office has shared the latest on their investigation into how hundreds of votes went missing during the Midland ISD bond recount. The following comes from Midland County: This is an update on the steps we have and are continuing to undertake to find where the discrepancy has occurred. A telephone conference was held on November 25, 2019 between Keith Ingram and Christina Adkins of the Legal Department of the Texas Office of Secretary of State, and including Terry Johnson, County Judge, Russell Malm, County Attorney, and myself. We were given steps to go through to compare voter check-ins with totals tapes from each vote center, both early voting and election day. We are completing that task at this time.

Full Article: Midland County officials share update on investigation into ballot discrepancy.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s Voting Machines Challenged In Federal Court Ahead Of 2020 Presidential Election | Associated Press

A federal court was asked Tuesday to force Pennsylvania to rescind its certification of a voting machine newly purchased by Philadelphia and at least two other counties in the state ahead of 2020’s presidential election. The filing casts doubt onto how 17% of Pennsylvania’s registered voters will cast ballots in the April 28 primary election, as well as next November, when the state is expected to be one of the nation’s premier presidential battlegrounds. Court papers filed by former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and several supporters accuse Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration of violating their year-old agreement in Philadelphia’s federal court by certifying the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system made by Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. The plaintiffs say certifying the system violates their agreement, in part because the machine does not meet the agreement’s requirements “that every Pennsylvania voter in 2020 uses a voter-verifiable paper ballot.” For one, the ExpressVote XL counts votes by counting machine-printed bar codes on paper, a format that is neither readable nor verifiable by an individual voter, they wrote in court papers.

Full Article: Philadelphia’s Voting Machines Challenged In Federal Court Ahead Of 2020 Presidential Election – CBS Philly.

Texas: Midland ISD canvassing bond election | Victor Blanco, Tatum Guinn, Rachel Ripp/KWES

It’s officially in the books: the Midland school board finalized the bond election recount results Tuesday. Everything from here forward will be dealt with by Midland County. This despite a more than 800 ballot discrepancy. People at today’s meeting asked the board to hold off on canvassing the recount until the county gets to the bottom of what happened. “It’s disappointing in that there’s so many questions left unanswered. That’s the part that really I’m having trouble with,” Matt Galindo said. “To know that there’s a discrepancy in the amount of votes. I’m disappointed, worried and now have a lack of trust.” Midland ISD school board president Rick Davis took the opportunity to explain in detail how the recount process worked Friday. The process included nine teams of three – one representative from each side of the issue and an at-large member were on each team.

Full Article: Midland ISD canvassing bond election | newswest9.com.

Indiana: Vanderburgh County will counter voters who refuse to use machines | Thomas B. Langhorne/Evansville Courier & Press

Suspicious voters who refuse to use voting machines at polling places will have no other option if Vanderburgh County’s chief elections officer has her way. County Clerk Carla Hayden said she will seek changes to Indiana law in the wake of a city election that saw three voters at Plaza Park School request — and receive — paper provisional ballots simply because they refused to use machines. The ballots ultimately were counted by election board members who said the voters were eligible. In at least one case, poll worker Don Gibbs said, a voter at Plaza Park explained he is suspicious about voting machines. “He said he just didn’t trust the machines. I didn’t ask why,” said Gibbs, the highest-ranking poll worker at Plaza Park. After calling the Vanderburgh County Election Office for guidance, Gibbs gave the three voters — he said they weren’t together — paper provisional ballots. By law, provisional ballots are sealed in security envelopes, kept apart from other ballots and acted upon later. Provisional ballots are the only paper ballots available at polling places in Vanderburgh County. Machines, not paper, are the county’s method of voting on election day.

Full Article: Vanderburgh will counter voters who refuse to use machines.

Texas: Cause of 820-vote discrepancy in Midland County not yet known | Midland Reporter-Telegram

Midland County Elections Administrator Deborah Land told the Reporter-Telegram it has not been determined what caused an 820-vote discrepancy between Election Day and the recount on the Midland ISD $569 million bond. Land said she has reached out to the legal department of the Secretary of State’s Office and is awaiting response. She has also reached out to representatives from ES&S, the voting machine vendor. “Until I have more information as to how we will be making any determination as to the difference in numbers, I have nothing further to tell you at this time,” Land wrote in an email. The electronic machines counted 23,631 ballots were cast on Nov. 5. When the ballots were counted by hand, the nine three-person teams counted 22,811 ballots total. The recount began sometime after 8 a.m. Friday and ended about 4 a.m. Saturday. Midland County Elections Administrator Deborah Land told the Reporter-Telegram it has not been determined what caused an 820-vote discrepancy between Election Day and the recount on the Midland ISD $569 million bond. Land said she has reached out to the legal department of the Secretary of State’s Office and is awaiting response. She has also reached out to representatives from ES&S, the voting machine vendor.

Full Article: Cause of 820-vote discrepancy not yet known - Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Editorials: Averting a voting-machine disaster: New York must stay far away from election devices with a proven record of failure | Ritchie Torres/New York Daily News

Imagine spending millions of taxpayer dollars for brand-new voting technology. Then imagine the first time the machines are used in an election, they fail catastrophically. That’s what happened this month across the state line in one Pennsylvania county. How bad was it? Widespread and alarming were failures of this machine, an Election Systems & Software (ES&S) product called ExpressVote XL. Hypersensitive touchscreens picked candidates without voters actually touching the screens. Tick-marks next to selected candidates randomly disappeared. Some machines were unable to tabulate “yes/no” questions at all. In some races, there were “severe undercounts,” including one judicial candidate who received an implausible zero votes, according to the machine’s false reporting. Another candidate won by roughly 1,000 votes, but the ExpressVote XL machine reported 15 votes cast total. Amid the chaos that ensued in this low-turnout election, poll workers were forced to physically pry open the machines, pull out ballot papers and wait for scanners to arrive from outside the state to recount the votes. Weeks later, ES&S has still “has not determined root cause” of the malfunctions, and now reports indicate that lawsuits are likely to be filed against the company and the county. If this sounds like a nightmarish but distant scenario with no practical relevance to us, think again. In fact, if New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Mike Ryan gets his way, the voting technology that catastrophically failed in Pennsylvania will be heading to polling places in the five boroughs for next year’s presidential elections, when turnout will be through the roof.

Full Article: Averting a voting-machine disaster: NY must stay far away from election devices with a proven record of failure - New York Daily News.

Pennsylvania: Northampton County voters want refund for ExpressVote XL voting machines | Jeff Ward/WFMZ

Northampton County should get back the $2.88 million it spent on voting machines, residents told County Council on Thursday night. The ExpressVote XL machines used for the Nov. 5 election had touch screens that were too sensitive, did not record all votes electronically, and the backup paper ballots that were displayed to voters to confirm their choices were hard to read. The county bought machines from Election Systems & Software after Pennsylvania required voting machines that would thwart hacking and provide a paper backup to electronic tallies. “We really need to get our money back,” Gail Preuninger of Bethlehem Township said. Deborah Hunter, who served on the county’s election commission and opposed selection of Election Systems & Software’s machines, said the vendor broke its contract. “I will not use this machine,” said Roger Dreisbach-Williams of Williams Township. He said he will vote via a paper ballot next time, perhaps as an absentee voter.

Full Article: Northampton County voters want refund for voting machines | Lehigh Valley Regional News | wfmz.com.

National: Election vendors should be vetted for security risks, says watchdog group | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The federal government should start vetting companies that sell election systems as seriously as it does defense contractors and energy firms, a top election security group argues in a proposal out this morning. Under the proposal from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, government auditors would verify election companies and their suppliers are following a raft of cybersecurity best practices. They would also have to run background checks to ensure employees aren’t likely to sabotage machines to help Russia or other U.S. adversaries. The suggestion comes as Congress continues to fight over whether to tighten election security as candidates ramp up for the 2020 election. Senate Republicans, especially, have stalled further security measures, even as observers warn that the next election is ripe for hacking by foreign adversaries such as Russia, which interfered in the 2016 contest. Vendors of voting machines, however, have traditionally been exempt from close review by federal regulators. “These vendors are a critical part of securing our elections, but we haven’t really focused on them at all,” Lawrence Norden, director of Brennan’s election reform program and one of the authors, told me. “We need to understand that they’re critically important but also represent a vulnerability that there needs to be oversight for.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Election vendors should be vetted for security risks, says watchdog group - The Washington Post.

National: Expensive, Glitchy Voting Machines Expose 2020 Hacking Risks | Kartikay Mehrotra and Margaret Newkirk/Bloomberg

The first sign something was wrong with Northampton County, Pennsylvania’s state-of-the-art voting system came on Election Day when a voter called the local Democratic Party chairman to say a touchscreen in her precinct was acting “finicky.” As she scrolled down the ballot, the tick-marks next to candidates she’d selected kept disappearing. Her experience Nov. 5 was no isolated glitch. Over the course of the day, the new election machinery, bought over the objections of cybersecurity experts, continued to malfunction. Built by Election Systems & Software, the ExpressVote XL was designed to marry touchscreen technology with a paper-trail for post-election audits. Instead, it created such chaos that poll workers had to crack open the machines, remove the ballot records and use scanners summoned from across state lines to conduct a recount that lasted until 5 a.m. In one case, it turned out a candidate that the XL showed getting just 15 votes had won by about 1,000. Neither Northampton nor ES&S know what went wrong. Digital voting machines were promoted in the wake of a similarly chaotic scene 19 years ago: the infamous punch-card ballots and hanging chads of south Florida that tossed the presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore into uncertainty.

Full Article: Expensive, Glitchy Voting Machines Expose 2020 Hacking Risks - Bloomberg.

Pennsylvania: Northampton County voting machines record questionable results | Emily Opilo & Tom Shortell/The Morning Call

Northampton County officials are rescanning ballots cast countywide after questionable results were reported by newly implemented voting machines Tuesday, prompting the head of the county Republican party to demand a recount. Calling the situation “unfortunate,” Northampton County officials issued a statement shortly before midnight acknowledging a problem with counting votes in some county precincts. Voters reported irregularities throughout the day while voting on the machines, and state officials were contacted, the county officials said. The state instructed the county to use paper ballots, not the machine counts, to tabulate its votes. “ES&S has assured the county and the Pennsylvania Department of State that it is assessing and diagnosing what caused the issues with the machines,” the news release stated. Red flags with the results were apparent as even the earliest returns rolled in. Democrat Abe Kassis initially had zero recorded votes with multiple precincts reporting. Lee Snover, head of the Northampton County Republican Party, quickly called for a recount of the paper ballots in at least the judicial contest, saying “I need to win this race.” “We have a hanging chad moment here in Northampton County,” she said, referring to voting machine issues that caused the infamous recount of contested ballots in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

Full Article: Northampton County voting machines record questionable results - The Morning Call.

West Virginia: ES&S software upgrade allow judicial races to move higher up on ballots | Phil Kabler/Charleston Gazette-Mail

A software upgrade that will allow voting systems used in 33 West Virginia counties to rearrange the ballot order to comply with a new law moving nonpartisan judicial elections higher up on May primary election ballots was approved Tuesday by the State Election Commission. The updated version of the ExpressVote System, produced by Elections Systems and Software, will allow county clerks to customize ballots, necessary under legislation passed by the Legislature in March changing the ballot location for nonpartisan judicial elections. Under the new law, beginning with the May 2020 primary election, judicial elections will appear on the ballot after national, state and legislative races, and ahead of county offices and other nonpartisan races. The change was prompted by concern from some legislators that, on long primary ballots, some voters might be failing to vote in judicial elections, which, in 2016 and 2018, were at the foot of the ballot, and frequently were on the back of a two-sided ballot.

Full Article: Software allow judicial races to move higher up on ballots | Politics | wvgazettemail.com.

Arkansas: Seven counties sign on for new voting gear | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Seven counties are scheduled to have new voting equipment in time for the March 3 elections, reducing by a third the number of counties using old equipment, under recently signed contracts. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office signed contracts in the past several weeks with Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software for Lincoln, Madison, Mississippi, Phillips, Poinsett, Saline and Van Buren counties, according to records in the secretary of state’s office. It’s possible Drew County might soon sign a similar contract with Thurston’s office, said Kurt Naumann, administrative director in the secretary of state’s office. The records show the state’s share of the cost for new equipment in the seven counties will total $1.7 million, with the countries contributing $902,938. Among the seven, Saline County will get the largest state contribution, $496,005, to match its $482,588.

Full Article: Seven Arkansas counties sign on for new voting gear.

National: Voting Village brings equipment to lawmakers to boost urgency on election security | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

A year from the 2020 election and with a new round of election security funding stalled in Congress, the DEF CON Voting Village organizers have again taken to Capitol Hill to raise awareness about software vulnerabilities in voting equipment. This time, they brought the equipment with them to drive home their point. “If we’re going to meaningfully introduce funding or introduce new technologies for 2020, time is rapidly running out to be able to do that,” Matt Blaze, a professor at Georgetown University and co-organizer of the Voting Village, told CyberScoop. “We need to act pretty fast.” A handful of House Democrats and their staffers sauntered up to equipment on display, including a ballot-marking device and an electronic voting machine, to ask the researchers about the software bugs they found. “This is really helpful in understanding that these aren’t just abstract problems, that these are real things,” Blaze, an expert in cryptology, told CyberScoop. This is the second time in a month that the Voting Village has hosted an event on Capitol Hill. Last month, Blaze and Harri Hursti, another village organizer, unveiled the village’s annual report on flaws in voting gear that could be exploited by hackers.

Full Article: Voting Village brings equipment to lawmakers to boost urgency on election security.

National: The Market for Voting Machines Is Broken. This Company Has Thrived in It. | Jessica Huseman/ProPublica

In the glare of the hotly contested 2018 elections, things did not go ideally for ES&S, the nation’s largest manufacturer of voting technology. In Georgia, where the race for governor had drawn national interest amid concerns about election integrity, ES&S-owned technology was in use when more than 150,000 voters inexplicably did not cast a vote for lieutenant governor. In part because the aged ES&S-managed machines did not produce paper backups, it wasn’t clear whether mechanical or human errors were to blame. Litigation surrounding the vote endures to this day. In Indiana, ES&S’ systems were plagued by mishaps at the local level. In Johnson County, for instance, the company’s brand-new machines faltered in ways that made it difficult to know whether some people had voted more than once. “ES&S misjudged the need for appropriate resources to serve Johnson County on Election Day 2018,” a report issued by state election officials later concluded. Johnson County subsequently terminated its contract with ES&S and, this September, paid more than $1.5 million to purchase an entirely new set of equipment. The uneven performance by ES&S in 2018, however, did little to dent its position as one of the most popular and powerful voting technology companies in the U.S. Any number of prior controversies hadn’t either.

Full Article: The Market for Voting Machines Is Broken. This Company Has Thrived in It. — ProPublica.