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Rhode Island: Voting machines had modems in 2016 and 2018. Now the state is assessing its hackability. | Patrick Anderson/Providence Journal

Before the 2016 election, the state bought voting machines equipped with Verizon modems that transmit preliminary election results to the state Board of Elections — speeding the state’s ability to declare winners on election night, but also exposing the system to potential meddling. The Providence Journal delivers accurate, timely news about the moments that matter most. To receive stories like this one in your inbox, sign up here. Election hacking fears rekindled by the federal Russia probe have prompted Rhode Island election officials to take a closer look into whether the state’s voting systems are vulnerable to attack. The new concerns relate to the state’s decision to buy voting machines before the 2016 election equipped with their own Verizon modems that transmit preliminary election results to the state Board of Elections after the polls close. The modems have helped shorten the time it takes the state to declare winners on election night. But because any internet connection exposes a system to potential cyberattack, the federal government never certified the modem-equipped machines for states to use. And this summer the U.S. Senate committee investigating Russian efforts to breach the 2016 election urged states to tighten their election security, use only federally approved voting machines and “remove (or render inert) any wireless networking capability” such as a modem.

Full Article: R.I. voting machines had modems in 2016 and 2018. Now the state is assessing its hackability. - News - providencejournal.com - Providence, RI.

National: Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Exposed Online Despite Official Denials | Kim Zetter/Motherboard

For years, U.S. election officials and voting machine vendors have insisted that critical election systems are never connected to the internet and therefore can’t be hacked. But a group of election security experts have found what they believe to be nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including some in critical swing states. These include systems in nine Wisconsin counties, in four Michigan counties, and in seven Florida counties—all states that are perennial battlegrounds in presidential elections. Some of the systems have been online for a year and possibly longer. Some of them disappeared from the internet after the researchers notified an information-sharing group for election officials last year. But at least 19 of the systems, including one in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, were still connected to the internet this week, the researchers told Motherboard. The researchers and Motherboard have been able to verify that at least some of the systems in Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and Florida are in fact election systems. The rest are still unconfirmed, but the fact that some of them appeared to quickly drop offline after the researchers reported them suggests their findings are on the mark.

Full Article: Exclusive: Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Exposed Online Despite Official Denials - VICE.

Florida: Counties’ elections systems were connected to the internet, report says | Steven Lemongello/Orlando Sentinel

Seven Florida counties have elections systems that have been connected to the internet for months, if not years, according to a report by Vice Motherboard – and one was still connected as of this week. The counties – Bradford, Charlotte, Flagler, Wakulla, Miami-Dade, Pasco and one other county researchers were unable to identify – were among 35 in 10 states in which elections systems were potentially exposed to risk of hacking, Motherboard reported. At least 19 of the systems, including one in Miami-Dade, were still connected to the internet as of August. Elections supervisors in Central Florida said although they use the equipment being cited, none of them believed their systems were exposed. The systems are made by Election Systems & Software, one of the country’s top voting machine companies. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said 49 of the state’s 67 counties, including Orange, use ES&S equipment. The systems are used to transmit unofficial vote totals via a wireless modem from ES&S voting machines on election night, Motherboard reported. The server that receives these votes is connected to the internet behind a Cisco firewall, both of which are only supposed to be connected to the internet for only a few seconds.

Full Article: Florida counties’ elections systems were connected to the internet, report says - Orlando Sentinel.

Rhode Island: Report prompts elections officials to examine security of voting systems | Patrick Anderson/Providence Journal

The Providence Journal delivers accurate, timely news about the moments that matter most. To receive stories like this one in your inbox, sign up here. Election hacking fears rekindled by the federal Russia probe have prompted Rhode Island elections officials to take a closer look into whether the state’s voting systems are vulnerable to attack. The new concerns relate to the state’s decision to buy voting machines before the 2016 election equipped with their own Verizon modems that transmit preliminary election results to the state Board of Elections after the polls close. The modems have helped shorten the time it takes the state to declare winners on election night. But because any internet connection exposes a system to potential cyber attack, the federal government never certified the modem-equipped machines for states to use and this summer the U.S. Senate committee investigating Russian efforts to breach the 2016 elections urged states to tighten their election security, use only federally-approved voting machines and “remove (or render inert) any wireless networking capability,” such as a modem.

Full Article: Report prompts R.I. elections officials to examine security of voting systems - News - providencejournal.com - Providence, RI.

Editorials: Election security in North Caroliba | Wilkes Journal Patriot

Well before most people seriously imagined the Russians might attempt to interfere with U.S. elections, the N.C. General Assembly passed a law requiring that all voting machines used in the 2020 election and beyond generate a paper record showing how votes were cast. The legislature took this action in 2013 because it recognized security weaknesses in touchscreen voting machines, which provide no paper record of how ballots were cast. This makes the touchscreen systems more vulnerable to outside interference than voting systems with paper ballots. Now, here we are in the summer of 2019 and about one-third of North Carolina’s counties still have these touchscreen-only voting systems that don’t meet the paper ballot requirement enacted in 2013. Mecklenburg and Guilford, two of the state’s most heavily populated counties, are among those still using the touchscreen systems that don’t meet requirements of the law.

Full Article: Election security | Opinion | journalpatriot.com.

National: 5 big takeaways from Politico’s national survey of election offices | Eric Geller/Politico

Paperless voting machines are a glaring weakness in U.S. election infrastructure. They are dangerous, experts say, because they lack paper voting records, making them vulnerable to malfunctions or intrusions that could undetectably change votes. With top U.S. intelligence officials predicting the return of Russian hackers in 2020, cybersecurity experts have urged state and local governments to replace their paperless machines as soon as possible. Since March, POLITICO has been tracking their progress. The nationwide picture is mixed: Some states and counties are moving quickly to buy paper-based machines and others are doing nothing at all. Here are the five big takeaways from POLITICO’s nationwide survey:

1) Many counties don’t have enough money to upgrade

In hundreds of small counties, election officials can’t afford to buy new voting machines, however insecure their current systems are. Between schools, infrastructure, police, environmental protection and emergency services, counties have enough on their plate without having to worry about their voting machines.

The fact that these machines are used so infrequently is another reason they often slip down the list of counties’ spending priorities. It’s hard to justify buying new voting machines when there are overcrowded schools or crumbling hospitals. “It is a huge expense for small rural counties,” said Cheri Hawkins, the clerk in Shackelford, Texas. “I would love to be able to update!”

Full Article: 5 big takeaways from POLITICO’s national survey of election offices - POLITICO.

National: EAC plans Windows 7 confab | Tim Starks/Politico

The EAC will convene state and local election supervisors, federal officials and cyber experts to discuss the ramifications of Microsoft sunsetting support for Windows 7, which is still used in many voting systems. “It is essential that the election community and the EAC have a full appreciation not only for the scope of this specific software issue, but also the issues of patching and internet connectivity more broadly,” EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a July 26 letter. Wyden had asked how the EAC was handling the issue, including whether it would decertify machines running Windows 7 before the Jan. 15, 2020, sunset. McCormick didn’t answer that question but noted that decertification “has wide-reaching consequences” and that the EAC has an established policy for when to initiate it. Election Systems & Software, one of the companies still selling Windows 7-based voting systems, has submitted new technology for certification that runs on Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, McCormick told Wyden. “The test plan has been approved by the EAC,” she wrote, “and testing is underway.” Based on the EAC’s conversations with vendors, she said, “we are confident that they are working to address” the Windows 7 issue. The vendors “are in direct contact with Microsoft,” she added, and “have received commitments from Microsoft regarding software support.” She did not say whether Microsoft had promised free updates for these products; the company plans to charge everyone else for continued Windows 7 support.

Full Article: Exclusive: EAC plans Windows 7 confab - POLITICO.

Arkansas: Official doubtful on state election aid | Dale Ellis/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

The announcement of money from the state for counties to purchase new voting equipment has left a Jefferson County election commissioner less than enthusiastic. Jefferson County Election Commissioner Stu Soffer says the county has no money to meet the matching requirement. “We do not see a light at the end of the tunnel on new voting equipment,” Soffer said. On Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that $8.24 million had been provided to the secretary of state’s office to allow counties to improve voting equipment, programming and maintenance. A day earlier, during a meeting at the Arkansas Association of Counties, Kurt Naumann, director of administration and legislative affairs in the secretary of state’s office, told several dozen county officials that the office expected to receive these funds in mid-August from the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Full Article: Official doubtful on state election aid.

Maryland: National Federation of the Blind sues State Board of Elections over ballot privacy | Danielle E. Gaines/WTOP

A group of Maryland voters is suing the state of Maryland, alleging that state policies require them to cast a segregated ballot. The National Federation of the Blind, its Maryland affiliate and three blind registered Maryland voters — Marie Cobb, Ruth Sager and Joel Zimba — filed a lawsuit against the Maryland State Board of Elections in U.S. District Court on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges the elections board is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws by maintaining a segregated system of voting that denies blind voters their right to a secret ballot and an equal voting experience. At issue are the state’s policies for using ExpressVote ballot-marking devices – which can allow voters who are blind or have motor disabilities to use headphones, magnification, touchscreens and other features to independently cast ballots. The machines do not record votes directly but mark a paper ballot that is printed and scanned. ExpressVote paper ballots are a different size and shape than paper ballots filled out by hand, making those votes cast by Marylanders with disabilities immediately identifiable, advocates say.

Full Article: National Federation of the Blind sues Md. State Board of Elections over ballot privacy | WTOP.

Texas: How an election security push is running aground in Texas | Eric Geller/Politico

Election officials across the country are spending millions of dollars to replace their insecure voting machines ahead of the 2020 election. But America’s patchwork voting system is a long way from being secure. To understand why, take a look at Texas. More than a quarter of the state’s 254 counties are sticking with paperless voting machines that cybersecurity experts and intelligence officials have condemned as vulnerable to hacking, according to an extensive, first-of-its-kind POLITICO survey of state and local election offices. At least 14 of them are even buying new paperless machines as they replace devices that nearing 20 years old. In the nation’s second-largest state, the forces impeding the effort to secure the machinery of democracy are the same ones stalling this push for paper ballots nationwide. They include a lack of money, an absence of leadership from above, and a shortage of basic cybersecurity knowledge among the local election officials who make the technology decisions in much of the country.

Full Article: How an election security push is running aground in Texas - POLITICO.

Arkansas: Voting upgrade money granted, Hutchinson says | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

Gov. Asa Hutchison said Thursday that $8.24 million in state funds was provided to the secretary of state’s office this week to allow counties to improve voting equipment, programming and maintenance. The Republican governor’s announcement in a news release came a day after Kurt Naumann, director of administration and legislative affairs in the secretary of state’s office, told several dozen county officials that the office expected to receive these funds in mid-August from the state Department of Finance and Administration.. The transfer was allowed under Act 808 of 2019. Hutchinson said the money was transferred out of excess revenues in the property tax relief trust fund, financed by a half-cent sales tax to pay for the homestead property tax credit, to the secretary of state’s office. The money will be awarded to counties through the county voting system grant fund. Act 808 also increases the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375 per homestead and allows other excess revenues in the property tax relief fund to be shifted to the state’s Long-Term Reserve Fund.

Full Article: Voting upgrade money granted, Hutchinson says.

North Carolina: Elections Board Awaiting New Member To Break Tie On Voting Machines | Rusty Jacobs/WUNC

North Carolina’s elections board is deadlocked over whether to require that voting machines produce a paper printout that lets voters read and confirm their ballot. The state’s Board of Elections on Thursday decided to debate the issue again in three weeks. By then, it’s likely a fifth member will be appointed to replace former chairman Bob Cordle who resigned this week. Cordle stepped down under fire Tuesday after telling an inappropriate joke at a conference for county elections officials on Monday. His resignation is significant because Cordle would have been a third vote on the five-member, bi-partisan board backing certification. Three companies are seeking certification of their equipment, including one system that doesn’t use hand-marked paper ballots and emits a ticket with a bar code that is then scanned to tabulate voters’ choices. Once a company’s system is certified by the state, the vendor may contract with individual counties. Twenty-two counties use touch-screen equipment that is due to be de-certified December 1.

Full Article: Elections Board Awaiting New Member To Break Tie On Voting Machines | WUNC.

Georgia: ‘The selling of an election’: dangerous level of private control revealed in 2018 Georgia midterms | Jordan Wilkie/The Guardian

Private companies had near-complete control over Georgia’s elections for the 2018 midterms and posed a serious security risk, according to testimony and documents revealed during a federal court case challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s elections. The most maligned components of Georgia’s election systems – voting machines and online voter registration – were almost entirely managed by private companies, prompting concerns from election security experts. Voting machine company Elections Systems and Software (ES&S), which has close connections with the Georgia secretary of state’s office and Governor Brian Kemp’s staff, had three staff in Georgia building electronic ballots out of their homes through the 2018 midterms. This introduced significant security concerns about both foreign actors attacking the election system with malware or about a “political insider” potentially introducing their own coding that could alter the results of an election without detection, according to the plaintiffs. “It’s a shock to everyone that the vendor is actually building ballots for state elections,” said David Cross, lead attorney for one of the two groups suing the state. “That should not be happening. That should be at the state level, because the state does not have any means of ensuring the necessary security protocols of the vendor.”

Full Article: 'The selling of an election': dangerous level of private control revealed in 2018 Georgia midterms | US news | The Guardian.

Arkansas: Some vote upgrades unsure – 21 counties lack new machines; some say cash too short | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

Officials in the secretary of state’s office said Wednesday that they would like to install new voting equipment by the March 3 primary election in the 21 counties that don’t have it. But the office’s elections director, Leslie Bellamy, told officials from these counties that they won’t have new equipment for next year’s election cycle if Republican Secretary of State John Thurston decides to rebid the purchase, as had been suggested. In 2015, Thurston’s predecessor, Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, decided to purchase a statewide integrated voting system, including new voting equipment, through Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software rather than California-based Unisyn Voting Solutions or Texas-based Hart Inter-Civic. Officials from some counties disagreed on whether Thurston should seek new bids. Officials from other counties said their counties are so cash-strapped that they won’t be able to match state funds for new equipment.

Full Article: Some vote upgrades unsure.

North Carolina: State Elections Board’s Sudden Vacancy Could Affect Debate Over Certification Of New Voting Machines | Rusty Jacobs/WUNC

The sudden resignation of State Board of Elections Chairman Bob Cordle presents an opportunity for people who oppose the certification of new voting systems in future North Carolina elections. The board is scheduled to meet Thursday and had been expected to move towards certifying three new systems. Once certified by the state board, the vendors for those systems may seek contracts with individual counties. The board’s two Republicans, Ken Raymond and David Black, and Cordle, a Democrat, favored certification. But Cordle stepped down Tuesday, just a day after telling an inappropriate joke during remarks at the start of  a conference for state and county elections officials. Gov. Roy Cooper must now choose a replacement from a list of nominees submitted by the state Democratic Party. He could end up selecting someone who would join the board’s other two Democrats, Jeff Carmon III and Stella Anderson, in opposing certification. That would tip the five-member board towards not certifying. At a public meeting on Sunday, convened to allow the voting systems vendors to present their equipment to the state elections board members, advocacy groups and concerned citizens had urged the board to put off certification and continue using the hand-marked ballot and tabulator system employed by most counties across the state. They cited potential vulnerabilities in newer voting technologies.

Full Article: State Elections Board's Sudden Vacancy Could Affect Debate Over Certification Of New Voting Machines | WUNC.

North Carolina: Board of Elections does a 180 on decision to delay certifying voting machines | Melissa Boughton/NC Policy Watch

The North Carolina State Board of Elections plans to move forward with certifying new voting machines ahead of the 2020 elections after a member mistakenly voted Monday night to delay the process to create stricter requirements out of concern for cyber security.The reversal of course came as a surprise to voting rights advocates and citizens who had praised Board members last night for postponing certification in the name of voter integrity. Board members had voted 3-2 for the postponement in order to adopt more stringent requirements for digital voting systems at a later meeting in mid-August (a meeting for which they would have provided 15 days’ notice to the public). However, another meeting notice sent out Tuesday by the Board stated that the group planned to consider a motion this Thursday morning to “rescind [the] decision to notice meeting to amend NC Election Systems Certification Program.” “Board Member David Black said he misunderstood the motion of Board Secretary Stella Anderson and was not aware it would stop the present certification in its tracks,” said Board Chairman Bob Cordle in an email. “He did not realize that, so he wants to set that vote aside and move ahead with certification. Some board members believe it’s not fair to try to change the requirements at this late date — more than two and a half years after the process started.”

Full Article: Board of Elections does a 180 on decision to delay certifying voting machines | NC Policy Watch.

North Carolina: Another delay on voting machines, and a move toward hand-marked ballots | Travis Fain/WRAL

North Carolina moved toward a new requirement for hand-marked ballots Monday night when a divided, but bipartisan, State Board of Elections voted to rework the rules that govern what voting machines are allowed here. The board will have to gather again in about two weeks to make the change official, and Monday’s decision delayed for the third time in two months a long-awaited decision to certify new voting equipment. But activists hailed the vote as a move toward more secure elections. The time to approve new machines ahead of the 2020 elections grows short. State law requires small test runs in actual elections before new machines can be fully deployed, meaning equipment would need to be in place for the November municipal elections to be ready for the March 2020 presidential primaries. The state legislature may change that law, allowing for simulated election tests instead. It may also delay the coming decertification of touchscreen voting systems that roughly a third of North Carolina counties use now.

Full Article: Another delay on voting machines, and a move toward hand-marked ballots :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Board of Elections delays election machine vote | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina election officials cited lingering concerns over election hacking in explaining why they again delayed certifying new voting machines for the 2020 elections Monday. “Trust and confidence in the security of any voting system that we put in place in North Carolina is absolutely vital,” said Stella Anderson, the board member who proposed the delay Monday night. The five-member board has a majority of Democrats, but the vote was bipartisan — and not without controversy. Anderson and fellow Democrat Jeff Carmon voted with Republican member David Black to delay the decision. The board’s chairman, Democrat Bob Cordle, opposed the delay, as did Republican member Ken Raymond. Cordle and Raymond say the delay has them concerned about a time crunch. With Monday’s vote, a decision wouldn’t be made until at least mid-August, in order to provide the public ample notice of a new meeting. The voting machines used in about a third of North Carolina’s counties will be certified at the end of this year. Cordle and Raymond said any further delays will harm the counties that need to figure out which new machines they want to use in 2020.

Full Article: NC Board of Elections delays election machine vote | Raleigh News & Observer.

National: Mitch McConnell Received Donations from Voting Machine Lobbyists Before Blocking Election Security Bills | Nicole Goodkind/Newsweek

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell squashed two bills intended to ensure voting security on Thursday, just one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russians were attempting to sabotage the 2020 presidential elections “as we sit here.” McConnell said he wouldn’t allow a vote on the bills because they were “so partisan,” but, as previously reported, earlier this year McConnell received a slew of donations from four of the top voting machine lobbyists in the country. “Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent,” said McConnell on the Senate floor. The plans would likely burden the two largest electronic voting machine vendors in the United States, Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Systems, with new regulations and financial burdens.

Full Article: Mitch McConnell Received Donations from Voting Machine Lobbyists Before Blocking Election Security Bills.

Georgia: Election officials accused of destroying evidence in voting machine lawsuit | CNN

In a federal court filing, lawyers representing election integrity advocates accuse Georgia election officials of destroying evidence that was “ground zero for establishing hacking, unauthorized access, and potential of manipulation of election results.” The brief, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, argues that state officials “almost immediately” began destroying evidence after a 2017 lawsuit alleged Georgia’s voting machines were outdated and vulnerable to hacking. “The evidence strongly suggests that the State’s amateurish protection of critical election infrastructure placed Georgia’s election system at risk, and the State Defendants now appear to be desperate to cover-up the effects of their misfeasance — to the point of destroying evidence,” the lawsuit reads. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed the accusations in a statement — pointing to a US Senate Intelligence Committee report, which concluded that no machines were manipulated and no votes were changed.

Full Article: Georgia election officials accused of destroying evidence in voting machine lawsuit | WTVR.com.