National: US election integrity depends on security-challenged firms | Associated Press

It was the kind of security lapse that gives election officials nightmares. In 2017, a private contractor left data on Chicago’s 1.8 million registered voters — including addresses, birth dates and partial Social Security numbers — publicly exposed for months on an Amazon cloud server. Later, at a tense hearing , Chicago’s Board of Elections dressed down the top three executives of Election Systems & Software, the nation’s dominant supplier of election equipment and services. The three shifted uneasily on folding chairs as board members grilled them about what went wrong. ES&S CEO Tom Burt apologized and repeatedly stressed that there was no evidence hackers downloaded the data. The Chicago lapse provided a rare moment of public accountability for the closely held businesses that have come to serve as front-line guardians of U.S. election security. A trio of companies — ES&S of Omaha, Nebraska; Dominion Voting Systems of Denver and Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas — sell and service more than 90 percent of the machinery on which votes are cast and results tabulated. Experts say they have long skimped on security in favor of convenience, making it more difficult to detect intrusions such as occurred in Russia’s 2016 election meddling. The businesses also face no significant federal oversight and operate under a shroud of financial and operational secrecy despite their pivotal role underpinning American democracy.

North Carolina: Election Directors Urge Voters To Check Their Ballots After Touchscreen Mistakes | WFAE

County elections directors are urging voters to double-check their ballots after some early voters complained of mistakes. Some voters in Guilford County have found errors when reviewing their ballots before submitting them — namely that they meant to vote for a candidate of one party, but the machine marked their ballot for the other candidate. Elections Director Charlie Collicut said the problem comes from the election machines’ touch screens. As some voters touched the screen, it would select the name above or below the candidate they actually wanted. “It’s a machine that we have to calibrate — that a human being has to calibrate,” Collicut said, pointing out that the process isn’t perfect.

South Carolina: Richland County says election running smoothly after equipment malfunction | WLTX

The Director of Richland County elections is telling voters not to worry after an electronic malfunction caused headaches earlier this month. As absentee votes are cast this month, they’re being cast on new personal electronic ballot (PEB) cards after a technical issue required all the cards to be replaced. Richland County Elections Director Rokey Suleman explained the problem. “We noticed a situation where we were putting our personal electronic ballots into the machines to activate the machines and the machines were shutting down,” Suleman explained on Monday. The cards tell the machines what elections to pull up for voters. Suleman said they are programed ahead of time and then inserted into the machines before elections. After discovering the issue, Richland County staff worked with the vendors for a few days to try and find a solution to the software issue.

South Carolina: “Voting Machine Virus” Plagues Richland County | FITSNews

Richland County, South Carolina’s much-maligned election commission is dealing with yet another problem as the upcoming 2018 midterms approach.  And given this particular jurisdiction’s history of, um,”issues” – you will forgive us for expressing a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to both the origin of the problem and the county’s ability to effectively address it. As much as we wish it were otherwise, we simply do not trust the integrity of elections in Richland County.  Hopefully, our faith will be restored under the leadership of new election administrators, but after the notorious “rigged election” of 2012 we remain less than optimistic. Six years ago, illegal shortages of voting machines disproportionately targeted precincts which opposed a so-called “penny” tax hike in the previous (2010) election.  These illegal shortages led to abnormally long wait times in these precincts and the mass disenfranchisement of anti-tax voters.

Kansas: Certified voting machines? | The Hutchison News

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office failed to produce records this summer showing it had certified the voting equipment used by hundreds of thousands of Kansans. Kansas statute requires the Secretary of State to certify equipment before counties purchase it and to keep such certification on file. But the office, responding to a Kansas Open Records Act request in June, could provide only two letters of equipment certification that Kobach issued in the past five years. Yet some counties – including Reno and Finney, as well as Sedgwick, Wyandotte, and Shawnee – have purchased systems since October 2013 that were not the systems mentioned in the two certification letters in Topeka. Why were they omitted?

Kansas: With 3.5 weeks until election, Johnson County gets certification for update to voting machine software that caused reporting delays in August | Shawnee Mission Post

Officials have signed off on a patched version of the software program that will power Johnson County’s voting system next month. The question is, will it work? A month and a half after the company announced it had rewritten the portion of its software program that led to massive reporting delays in the August primary elections, Election Systems & Software has received federal and state certification for the software’s use in the Nov. 6 general election, Johnson County announced today. ES&S submitted the corrected software program to the Election Assistance Commission for review on Sept. 5 and received notice of certification on Oct. 4. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office announced today that it was granting state certification to the system as well.

Louisiana: State’s lucrative voting machine contract award canceled | Associated Press

Louisiana is voiding a multimillion-dollar contract award to replace thousands of voting machines after a key official in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration found flaws in the vendor selection. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office will have to redo the bid process for the lucrative work if the decision by Louisiana’s chief procurement officer Paula Tregre stands. “I hereby determine that it is in the best interest of the state to rescind the award made to Dominion Voting Systems,” Tregre said in a 17-page decision released Wednesday night. The decision comes at an unfortunate time for Ardoin, a Republican in office since May who is running in a November special election to remain in the job. Running on his experience, Ardoin has defended the bid evaluators’ pick of Dominion and suggested criticism was “baloney” while opponents have panned his handling of the voting machine replacement.

National: Widely Used Election Systems Are Vulnerable to Attack, Report Finds | Wall Street Journal

Election machines used in more than half of U.S. states carry a flaw disclosed more than a decade ago that makes them vulnerable to a cyberattack, according to a report to be delivered Thursday on Capitol Hill. The issue was found in the widely used Model 650 high-speed ballot-counting machine made by Election Systems & Software LLC, the nation’s leading manufacturer of election equipment. It is one of about seven security problems in several models of voting equipment described in the report, which is based on research conducted last month at the Def Con hacker conference. The flaw in the ES&S machine stood out because it was detailed in a security report commissioned by Ohio’s secretary of state in 2007, said Harri Hursti, an election-security researcher who co-wrote both the Ohio and Def Con reports. “There has been more than plenty of time to fix it,” he said.

Illinois: Cook County Board approves new election equipment contract, despite rival firm’s lawsuit | Chicago Sun Times

Residents in suburban Cook County could be the first voters to use new election equipment next year. The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday awarded a 10-year contract for nearly $31 million to Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., which would mean an update for the county’s equipment, some of which is at least a decade old. The older technology could open the county up to threats to election security. The contract first came before the County Board in March, but two bid protests by Election Systems & Software, which has provided election equipment for the county in the past, delayed the vote. The roll out of the new equipment is still in question. Cook County Clerk David Orr said it’s too late to begin testing the equipment and training poll workers for the November election, but he hopes that testing can begin in suburban Cook during the February and April elections. Orr called the unanimous vote “a plus for many, but especially for voters.”

Illinois: ES&S Takes Aim at Cook County Contract | Courthouse News

A supplier of election equipment brought a federal complaint in protest of the more than $30 million contract that Cook County, Illinois, is set to iron out Wednesday with another vendor. One of the voting machines offered by Election Systems & Software, which brought a federal complaint against Cook County, Illinois, on Sept. 25, 2018. As alleged by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, the state should not even have allowed Dominion Voting Systems to bid on the contract because the Illinois Board of Elections has not certified the latter’s system. Represented by the firm Vedder Price, Election Systems & Software filed its suit Tuesday in Chicago. ESS, as the plaintiff abbreviates its name in the complaint, notes that Cook County put out the request for proposals early last year with an eye toward purchasing or leasing a blended voting system that would feature both pen-marking and touch-screen ballot technology.

South Carolina: Court ruling could change how South Carolina votes. Will it stop elections from being hacked? | The State

Duncan Buell paints a nightmare scenario of how South Carolina’s elections could be hacked. Someone armed with a smartphone, a palm pilot — even a personal electronic ballot purchased online, like the ones used by S.C. poll workers — could sign in to vote at a polling site and load a bit of malicious code onto one of the state’s touchscreen voting machines without anyone noticing. A voter carrying their own personal electronic ballot might stand out in the line to cast a ballot, said Buell, a computer science professor at Clemson University who consults on election technology. But, he added, “If it’s a day when it would not be unusual to be wearing a trench coat, someone could get it in, slot it and insert malware into the machine.” Buell is not the only one worried that South Carolina’s aging voting machines are vulnerable to outside interference in an election. Last week, a federal court in Georgia ruled against an effort to force the Peach State to switch to paper ballots in time for the Nov. 6 election.

National: Election Equipment Vendors Play a Key, and Underexamined, Role in U.S. Democracy | Take Care

Every vote in the United States — for city council, state representative, or president — is cast using materials and equipment manufactured by third party vendors. There are vendors large and small, but the American election equipment industry is dominated by three vendors: ES&S, Hart, and Dominion. These vendors manufacture the machines that approximately 92% of eligible voters use on election day — and they wield extraordinary power with significant implications for our democracy. Because of this, it’s critical that elected officials and advocates pay attention to the role vendors play in the security and transparency of American election systems. Perhaps most concerning are vendor efforts to keep secret the technology upon which American elections rely while at the same time feteing state and local election officials with expensive trips and meals. Vendors have actively and increasingly pushed back on efforts to study and analyze the equipment that forms the basic foundation of our democratic processes.

Delaware: First new voting machines in decades are on their way | Delaware News Journal

Delaware lawmakers on Monday approved a $13 million contract for Election Systems & Software to supply roughly 1,500 of its new ExpressVote XL voting machines, the state’s first new voting system in decades. But some watchdogs are questioning whether state officials chose the best equipment when they chose to purchase a new and largely unproven voting system. “They had it in their minds to choose this system regardless of the facts about it,” said Jennifer Hill, director of Common Cause Delaware. “This system is brand new so we don’t know what to expect.” Those claims did not dissuade lawmakers Monday from approving a $13 million contract to buy a fleet of new voting machines, along with new systems for registering voters, checking them in at their polling places and counting absentee ballots.

Verified Voting Blog: Serious design flaw in ESS ExpressVote touchscreen: “permission to cheat” | Andrew Appel

This article was originally posted at the Freedom to Tinker blog. Kansas, Delaware, and New Jersey are in the process of purchasing voting machines with a serious design flaw, and they should reconsider while there is still time! Over the past 15 years, almost all the states have moved away from paperless touchscreen voting systems…

Delaware: New $12 million voting machines will provide ‘paper trail’ | Delaware State News

Delaware is set to have new voting machines for the 2020 presidential election, with the goal of putting them in place by May’s school board elections. A task force given the responsibility of approving a contract with a vendor to replace the current machines unanimously approved the selection Tuesday, although the choice must still go before the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement. That committee will meet Monday, enabling lawmakers to review and vote on the selection of Election Systems & Software. If the contract is approved, the company will provide machines and other products, including a new database application, to the state. The cost has not been publicly released and will remain private unless the contract is finalized. Officials have up to $13 million to spend, with $3 million of that coming from the federal government and the rest coming from state funds allocated in the capital bond bill.

Delaware: Task force approves new voting system for Delaware amid criticism | Delaware First Media

A task force charged with finding new voting machines for Delaware made its decision Tuesday. The task force voted unanimously to award the contract to Election Systems and Software. Its voting machines creates a paper ballot that it marks and tabulates for the voter. But some advocates like Stan Merriman criticized the task force, saying its work lacked transparency and it failed to consult outside experts. “Instead the task force bill treated this historic event as just another routine purchase of machines, failing to imagine a different future,” he said. “Again, machines over methods.” Jennifer Hill with Common Cause Delaware says other states using ESS’s machines have experienced some issues. Some advocates were also upset the new system doesn’t include paper ballots that voters fill out themselves or a vote by mail system.

Pennsylvania: Paper’s back as government officials, advocates check out new voting machines | The Morning Call

For three hours Tuesday morning, sales representatives with Election Systems and Software made their pitch in the Lehigh County Government Center, fielding questions about security, services and usability of their latest generation of voting machines. The Omaha, Neb., company is an industry leader in the tools of democracy, making about 55 percent of the machines used in U.S. elections, according to Willie Wesley, an ES&S representative. As part of a demonstration, he fed a stack of ballots into the DS850, a machine that can scan and tabulate 350 paper ballots a minute. The paper whizzed through the chute before being sorted into separate stacks.

Guam: Election commission denies requests for another recount | Guam Daily Post

The Guam Election Commission will not be conducting another recount, and will therefore not be conducting a hand count of ballots. The commission was responding to multiple requests for a hand count, including one from the gubernatorial team of Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. and Alicia Limtiaco – the presumptive second place finishers in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Ken Leon-Guerrero and Andri Baynum also requested a hand count. The men are initiating a write-in campaign for Aguon-Limtiaco in the general election. Last Saturday’s recount was automatically initiated after a newly adopted formula showed there was a 2 percent difference between Aguon-Limtiaco and the Democratic gubernatorial team of Lou Leon Guerrero and Josh Tenorio.

Louisiana: Second vendor wants Louisiana voting machine contract redo | Associated Press

Another losing bidder for Louisiana’s voting machine replacement work is calling for a new selection process and the cancellation of the current contract award. Hart InterCivic sent a letter to the Office of State Procurement supporting the protest filed by a second vendor spurned for the voting machine contract. Hart said the evaluation was “flawed and lacked the fundamental transparency that Louisiana voters deserve.” Contract negotiations with the winning bidder, Dominion Voting Systems, are stalled while the protest is under review. The secretary of state’s office described Dominion as the low bidder for the voting machine replacement, with the company estimating the work would cost between $89 million and $95 million. Bid evaluation and financial documents released by the Office of State Procurement also showed Dominion with the least-expensive proposals for either leasing or buying voting machines.

Florida: About 1,700 ballots were too big to be scanned at Duval County | WOKV

The Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office is using a new vendor for ballot printing this election, and some of those ballots are slightly larger than the specs that allow them to be read by machines at polling locations. WOKV first received reports from some voters, who said their ballots were not being read by the machines, and instead the ballots were being collected by poll workers. Duval Chief Elections Officer Robert Phillips confirms to WOKV that some ballots were printed with a very slight variance from the specs, meaning they are too wide for many of the machines at the polling locations to accept. By Tuesday night, Phillips told WOKV that around 1,700 ballots could not be scanned, across 45 precincts. It appears to be mostly non-partisan ballots having this problem, although there have been some partisan ballots that did not fit as well. 

Louisiana: State puts acquisition of new voting machines on hold after losing bidder protests | StateScoop

Louisiana’s negotiations to replace about 10,000 voting machines that are more than a decade old hit a snag this week when one of the firms that lost protested how the contract was awarded. The Associated Press reports that the state’s procurement office told Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to hold off finalizing a deal for new ballot equipment after Election Systems & Software, the largest manufacturer of voting equipment in the United States, filed an objection after losing the bidding process. Ardoin had announced Aug. 9 that his office had selected Dominion Voting Systems to replace Louisiana’s current crop of voting machines, which were purchased in 2005. According to the AP, ES&S complained that as part of the bid process, Ardoin’s office published standards that only Dominion’s hardware could meet. Those standards were revoked, and the secretary of state’s office has said they weren’t used in the evaluation process. Dominion has until Sept. 7 to respond to ES&S’s protest, but until the dispute is resolved, Louisiana cannot move forward on replacing its outdated voting equipment, which could cost the state as much as $95 million.

National: Lawmakers dismiss ES&S’s claim that spies benefit from election hacking demos | The Washington Post

The nation’s leading voting equipment vendor made the bombastic claim that foreign spies may be infiltrating events where ethical hackers test vulnerabilities in voting machines — such as the Def Con hacking conference that took place this month in Las Vegas — to glean intelligence on how to hack an election. “[F]orums open to anonymous hackers must be viewed with caution, as they may be a green light for foreign intelligence operatives who attend for purposes of corporate and international espionage,”  Election Systems and Software wrote in a letter made public Monday to a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee. ES&S was responding to bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee who inquired about the security of the company’s machines after researchers at Def Con discovered new vulnerabilities in voting equipment made by ES&S and other vendors. Yet the company’s response took issue with the idea of testing by independent hackers in the first place: “We believe that exposing technology in these kinds of environments makes hacking elections easier, not harder, and we suspect that our adversaries are paying very close attention.”

Florida: Duval County vote count could have ‘delay’ after ballot size snafu | Florida Politics

Voting machine issues are cropping up in Jacksonville precincts as Election Day continues. And “unscanned ballots,” some worry, may add drama to the count this evening. The problem: the width of some ballots, mostly but not exclusively NPA, is too broad for the tabulation machine. However, Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan expressed confidence, saying the size issue “might delay it somewhat but we plan on finishing it tonight.” We reported this morning about ballot tabulation issues at Mandarin’s Precinct 606, where a machine had rejected ballots, requiring a manual count.

Kansas: ‘This makes no sense’: Johnson County knows election delay’s cause. Critics skeptical of fix | The Kansas City Star

Faulty software code was to blame for an overnight delay in Johnson County’s primary election night results, an embarrassing ordeal that kept people across the country waiting for the outcome to several high-profile Kansas races. “The slow reporting of results was unacceptable and we apologize,” Tom Burt, president and CEO of Election Systems & Software, said in a statement Monday. “We know the election office and other Johnson County government leaders put their faith in us and we let down our valued partners.” Burt went on to say that the Omaha-based company, the county’s elections vendor, has rewritten the portion of the code that caused the delay and initial tests of that new code were successful. He said testing will continue so the new software can be certified prior to the general election. … “The big issue apparently is that they didn’t test this system at scale,” said Duncan Buell, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina, who has studied that state’s election results extensively. “You need to test for all possible scenarios.”

Louisiana: State delays voting machine contract talks amid protest | Associated Press

Louisiana is delaying contract negotiations with the winning bidder for the state’s voting machine replacement work, while it considers a protest of the contract award. Paula Tregre, director of the Office of State Procurement, has told Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to refrain from conducting any contract talks until the outcome of the protest is settled, according to documents provided to The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The stay shall remain in effect until you are notified in writing that it has been lifted,” Tregre wrote in a Friday letter to Ardoin. She cited a state law that calls for stalling negotiations during the protest of a contract award unless the contract is deemed urgently needed “to protect the substantial interests of the state,” a threshold Tregre apparently didn’t believe was met.

Kansas: ES&S says it’s rewritten faulty code that caused big delays — but can’t guarantee new software will be approved for use by November | Shawnee Mission Post

Twenty days after company officials told Johnson County residents technicians were “working around the clock” to identify the issue, Election Systems & Software said this morning that it had rewritten a portion of the software code that led to a massive delay in reporting primary election results earlier this month. But it’s not a guarantee that the updated software will be approved for use in November’s elections. “The slow reporting of results was unacceptable, and we apologize,” said Tom Burt, president and CEO, ES&S. “We know the Election Office and other Johnson County Government leaders put their faith in us and we let down our valued partners. After exhaustive analysis to pinpoint the issue, we rewrote the portion of code that caused the issue, and initial tests of the optimized code were successful. We will continue testing, and we look forward to federal certification of the optimized software.”

South Carolina: Proposal to pay $50 million for better voting machines at South Carolina polls | wistv

There are millions of dollars of taxes collected that are unspent and lawmakers will decide what to do with them. Here’s a plan for the ballot box: to spend $50 million to replace old, outdated voting machines in South Carolina. There are 13,000 voting machines some call antiquated. One state representative goes as far to call them unreliable. But the commission says $50 million may not replace all 13,000 machines, but it could at least make a better backup system – a paper trail of votes. The right to vote is the backbone of democracy. Some feel the system in South Carolina needs adjustment – worth $50 million taxpayer dollars. “Ballots are the currency in which we purchase democracy,” said Rokey Suleman II with Richland County Voter Registration, and Elections. “So, we have to treat that ballot as secure as we do any sort of currency, and we have to treat it like a bank vault and a cash drawer at a store.”

Louisiana: ES&S protests Louisiana’s voting machine contact | Associated Press

One of the losing bidders for Louisiana’s voting machine replacement work wants a re-do, saying the bid process was “irresponsibly rushed and fundamentally flawed.” Election Systems and Software filed a formal protest late Thursday (Aug. 23) with the state’s procurement office, objecting to the choice of another vendor for the lucrative contract. The protesting company said the process used to choose Dominion Voting Systems to replace 10,000 early voting and Election Day machines was mishandled from the start by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, his office and the team that evaluated the bids.

National: ES&S to boost security following criticism | The Hill

A major election systems vendor on Thursday announced steps to boost the security of its products, just one day after lawmakers raised concerns that the company is not doing enough to safeguard itself from hackers. Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which is the third largest election system vendor in the U.S., announced it will work more closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISAC) in an effort to increase security of its systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The company in a press release said it has formed “new partnerships with multiple DHS offices that include its key cyber office known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) as well as the National Cybersecurity Assessment and Technical Services (NCATS). 

South Carolina: What is South Carolina doing to keep 2018 election from being hacked? | The State

If the Russians show up again this election season, South Carolina wants to be ready. Earlier this month, election officials from all 46 counties sat down with federal officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to plan possible responses to election hacking attempts in the run-up to November’s election. It was the first time federal law enforcement agencies have led such a statewide training exercise, playing out different scenarios on how malicious actors could try to break into South Carolina’s election system ahead of November. … A lawsuit filed last month says the machines are so dysfunctional that they violate the right to vote for citizens.