The nation’s top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them. In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had “provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,” which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them. The statement contradicts what the company told me and fact checkers for a story I wrote for the New York Times in February. At that time, a spokesperson said ES&S had never installed pcAnywhere on any election system it sold. “None of the employees, … including long-tenured employees, has any knowledge that our voting systems have ever been sold with remote-access software,” the spokesperson said.
In February 2018, Election Systems and Software told the press that it had never installed remote-access software in any of the e-voting systems it has sold in the various US states or to local governments. In April, the company told Senator Ron Wyden’s office (D-OR), that it had sold pcAnywhere remote connection software “to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006.” The good news about this disclosure is that the systems in question have all been retired and are no longer in use across the United States. But the fact that this happened in the first place, combined with ongoing warnings about the generally poor state of e-voting security, speaks to the depth and breadth of the issues facing the United States’ e-voting system as the 2018 midterm election approaches. The fact that ES&S lied about its own previous behavior to the public until pressured by Senator Wyden’s office says little good about the civic responsibility these companies feel towards ensuring that voting is handled safely. It’s important — just not as important as minimizing any hint of corporate liability.
Early voting will be slightly later today than anticipated. V.I. Elections Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. said voting could not start until after noon today after testing the machines revealed an inconsistency in how the devices read the ballots. The machines were reading and reporting under-voting for the offices of governor and senator-at-large, but for the main legislative race, in which voters can choose up to seven senators, no under-voting was being reported. Under-voting is the process of selecting fewer candidates for some offices while selecting the maximum number in other races — for example, choosing three senators instead of seven, or voting for seven district senators and withholding a vote in the governor’s race.
The top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee wants more answers from voting machine vendors after two of the three largest companies skipped Wednesday’s election security hearing. Hart InterCivic sent a representative, but Election Systems & Software and Dominion did not. “I think we should try again, and I personally plan on sending them a number of written questions, since they wouldn’t come to the hearing,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told Eric. “They have a responsibility, when there’s only three of them, to answer our questions.” Klobuchar is the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan Secure Elections Act (S. 2593), Congress’ most significant attempt yet to protect U.S. election infrastructure from hackers. Klobuchar may get her wish to bring in Dominion and ES&S — a spokeswoman for Rules Chairman Roy Blunt told MC that the panel was planning additional hearings.
South Carolina voters are suing their state over its use of paperless voting machines amid worries that they are susceptible to hacking without detection. The complaint filed Tuesday seeks a declaration from the court that South Carolina has violated the plaintiffs’ fundamental right to have their votes counted and prevent the state from continuing to use the machines it currently has in place. The lawsuit largely resembles one that is ongoing in Georgia. With the midterm elections coming up in November, the lawsuit does not outline any short-term alternatives to using the state’s current machines. The plaintiffs in the Georgia lawsuit propose using provisional paper ballots that can be scanned with the machines the state uses for absentee ballots.
National: Nation’s top voting equipment vendors grilled by Senate on election security | Washington Times
The Senate’s leading election security advocates blasted the country’s top voting equipment vendors on Wednesday for potentially failing to shore up ballot boxes despite November’s midterm elections already being underway with primaries. Mark Warner, also the top Democrat in the Senate’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, scolded Texas-based Hart InterCivic for failing to cooperate with a security review in his home state of Virginia after that contest. “I am very concerned that there is a lot of chest thumping about how well we did in 2016,” Mr. Warner said during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee’s hearing on election safety — the second on the subject in less than a month. Peter Lichtenheld, vice president of operations for Hart InterCivic, had earlier told lawmakers of the firm’s “strong working relationships” with federal, state and local election officials.
South Carolina: State’s 13,000 voting machines unreliable, vulnerable to hackers, lawsuit alleges | The State
Your right to vote is threatened in South Carolina. That’s the message of a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Columbia against the S.C. Election Commission, its members and Marci Andino, the commission’s executive director. South Carolina’s thousands of digital voting machines are antiquated, break down, leave no paper trail of votes that can be audited, and have “deep security flaws” that make them vulnerable to hacking by Russians and others, the 45-page lawsuit alleges. “By failing to provide S.C. voters with a system that can record their votes reliably,” the Election Commission has deprived South Carolinians of their constitutional right to vote, the lawsuit says.
The goal of Unisyn’s voting machine systems is to keep human beings out of the process as much as possible, “You’re taking that human element out of the process,” said Todd Mullen of RBM Consulting, which is marketing and servicing electronic voting systems for Unisyn Voting Solutions, based in Vista, Calif. “The more you handle a ballot, the more opportunity you have to mishandle it.” Mullen presented Unisyn’s systems Thursday for the Mercer County commissioners and the county’s elections staff in the second of three scheduled demonstrations of voting machine systems. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania are under a mandate by Gov. Tom Wolf to adopt a voting system by January 2020 that provides paper documentation of individual votes, while protecting voters’ identities. Election Systems & Software, based in Omaha, Neb., demonstrated its devices June 14. ES&S company’s products include the iVotronic, which Mercer County residents have been using to cast their votes since 2006. The current system lacks the required paper trail. Dominion Voting Systems of Denver will stop in Mercer County July 12 to present its wares.
Citing too many unanswered questions, the Union County Quorum Court voted 8-2 Thursday to table a discussion about the possibility of receiving new voting machines from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office. The issue began earlier this year, when the state began to offer assistance to counties to purchase new voting machines. But in Union County, that offer has been rescinded more than once, leaving local officials unsure of how to proceed. Officials also voiced concerns with replacing equipment before the November election. Last month, Union County Judge Mike Loftin received a letter from Kelly Boyd, chief deputy Secretary of State, offering the county new voting machines for elections, for which the state would pay 50 percent of the costs. The letter stated that the total cost for the new machines for Union County would be around $440,000, using Election System & Software (ES&S).
National: Voting machine vendor ES&S treated election officials to trips to Vegas, elsewhere | McClatchy Washington Bureau
The nation’s largest voting equipment vendor has for at least nine years coaxed state and local elections officials to serve on an “advisory board” that gathers twice annually for company-sponsored conferences, including one last year at a ritzy Las Vegas resort hotel. The arrangement could compromise the integrity of the officials’ decisions — or at the very least, the optics of those decisions — at a time when they are faced with efforts by Russia and perhaps other nations to disrupt the upcoming mid-term elections, ethics and elections experts said. As many as a dozen election officials attended the March 2, 2017 Las Vegas meeting, with a number of them accepting airfare, lodging, meals and, according to one participant, a ticket to a show on the Strip from their voting systems vendor, Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software (ES&S). Two other panel members said their state election boards paid for their trips. The unusual practice, which has not previously been reported, offers a glimpse of one way in which a voting equipment manufacturer has sought to cement relationships with government officials, some of whom play roles in the award of millions of dollars in contracts.