Pennsylvania: Groups challenging voting machine switch gears, counties remain in limbo | Emily Previti/PA Post

More than 2 million voters in three counties will remain in limbo a bit longer after a voting machine lawsuit changed course late Friday. Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson had scheduled a hearing Tuesday over whether the ExpressVote XL should be shelved for Pennsylvania’s nominating contest April 28, while the court fully considered the case. But late Friday afternoon, the plaintiffs withdrew their motion for a preliminary injunction. They say they’ll instead ask the court to fast-track the lawsuit – but not when that might happen. The change follows a hearing Thursday where the Pa. Department of State’s lawyers said a court action intended to be temporary could have permanent effects in this case. If counties buy and implement new voting machines to comply, they wouldn’t be in a position to switch back to the XL if the final decision later upholds the machine’s certification, attorney Michele Hangley said.

Pennsylvania: Federal judge delays voting machine case against Department of State | Emily Previti/PA Post

A federal judge on Friday ordered a month-long delay in a case that seeks to bar the use of a specific voting machine in the upcoming presidential primary. Hearings were to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to determine whether the ExpressVote XL touchscreen tabulator violates a legal settlement that set higher standards for election security in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Northampton and Cumberland counties selected the XL as part of an election system update required of all Pa. counties by the end of 2019. The delay ordered by the judge leaves the counties in limbo. Officials from the counties and the Pa. Department of State say shelving the XL and shifting to different voting systems so close to the election would create chaos for voters. They say plaintiffs could and should have acted sooner — and U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond agreed with that point in the order issued Friday.  A key issue in Diamond’s decision to delay the next hearing until Feb. 18 is the potential that one of the plaintiffs attorneys, Ilann Maazel, could be called as a witness by the DoS. If the state insists on calling Maazel, Diamond said he would remove the lawyer from the case. The delay, the judge said, is intended to give the plaintiffs time to prepare new counsel.

Pennsylvania: Cumberland County receives ExpressVote XLs as two courts continue to litigate their eligibility | Zack Hoopes/The Sentinel

Cumberland County received some of its new voting machines this week, the same machines that are the subject of state and federal lawsuits and that experienced mistabulations in Northampton County in the last election. Cumberland and Northampton counties, along with Philadelphia, are in limbo regarding the current or future use of the ExpressVote XL, a product of Election Systems and Software. Cumberland County received the first shipments of its 400-machine order this week, according to Bethany Salzarulo, director of the county’s elections bureau. Salzarulo said she and her staff were aware of the Northampton issues, which officials there blamed on ES&S not adequately communicating the necessary testing procedures to elections staff. Proper testing would have caught the errors well before election day, Salzarulo said, something Cumberland County staff is prepared to do regardless of ES&S.

National: Security vulnerabilities in voting machines show America still isn’t ready for the 2020 election | Alexandra Ossola/Quartz

Though researchers discovered a fundamental security flaw in voting machines months ago, the company behind the machines may still be advertising them to states in a way that allows the vulnerability to persist, according to a letter sent to the US Election Assistance Commission and reported by NBC News. In Aug 2019, a team of independent security experts found that, contrary to popular belief, many digital voting machines were connected to the internet, sometimes for months on end, Motherboard reported. This, the experts feared, could give hackers a window through which to manipulate votes. The company that makes the machines that the researchers found to be flawed is called Election Systems & Software (ES&S) (company officials disputed this characterization of its systems). About 70 million Americans’ votes are counted using one of ES&S’ machines, which make up about half of the election equipment market, according to ProPublica. ES&S markets its machines to include an optional modem, which can connect them to the internet. Modems allow election officials to get quick preliminary results, and also help ES&S maintain the machines.

New York: Advocates, lawmakers warn against ExpressVote XL voting machines | Annie McDonough/CSNY

One of the first items on state legislators’ agendas at the start of session last year was approving election reforms, like allowing early voting. But as session kicks off in Albany this year, some lawmakers – along with good government group Common Cause New York – rallied against a different kind of election modernization: new touch-screen voting machines. The ExpressVote XL machines, made by the voting machine company ES&S, were demonstrated on Tuesday in Albany as part of the Board of Elections’ certification process, but advocates and lawmakers – including Assemblyman Ron Kim and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams – asked the BOE to think twice before certifying them, saying the touch-screen machines are prone to malfunctioning. In Pennsylvania, where the machines are in use, there have been problems with flawed screens and, in one instance, votes for a particular candidate were undercounted by tens of thousands. Advocates added that the machines are prone to cyberattacks as well.

New York: Lawmakers call on Board of Elections to vote ‘no’ on new machines | Denis Slattery/New York Daily News

A coalition of advocates and lawmakers are calling on the state Board of Elections to reject controversial new touchscreen voting machines they say aren’t compatible with the city’s soon-to-take-effect ranked choice system. Opponents say the problem-plagued ES&S ExpressVote XL voting machines, which the state will be testing on Tuesday as part of its certification process, pose too many problems and could present major issues as the city prepares for ranked voting in 2021. “What we’re hoping is that the Board will realize that there are significant issues with this machine and require the vendor to answer questions particularly regarding its capability to run a ranked choice voting election,” Susan Lerner, the executive director of good government group Common Cause, told the Daily News. City voters approved a ballot initiative last November giving the green light to ranked choice in upcoming elections, allowing voters to literally rank their top picks for a given position in order of preference.

Pennsylvania: Some voting security groups want Northampton County voting machines gone after November malfunction | Bo Koltnow/WFMZ

“They are insecure and administration panels are easily opened and tampered with.” Attorney Leslie Grossberg is talking about the ExpressVoteXL voting machines. The machines used in Northampton County malfunctioned last November causing a paper ballot recount. Grossberg’s clients, voting security groups, recently filed an injunction with the Court of Common Pleas to block the XL in 2020. The groups cite immediate and irreparable harm to the election. “Decertification of the ExpressXL is the goal,” Grossberg said. In December the machines, also used in Philadelphia, received a vote of no-confidence from the Northampton County Election Commission Board.  A state hearing is set that could decide to keep or toss the XL.

New York: State Contemplates Voting Machines with Troubled Track Record | Brigid Bergin/WNYC

The New York State Board of Elections may approve a voting machine with a troubled track record. The State is testing the Express Vote XL from Election Software & Systems. The machine uses a touchscreen and marks the ballot FOR the voter. But the machines were used in a Pennsylvania judicial election last year where thousands of votes weren’t counted due to mechanical error. Advocates say New York needs a higher standard. “To be sure [the machines] are minimally hackable and that the vote will reflect the intent of the voter so that they can be cast and accurately counted is to have hand-marked paper ballot,” said Susan Lerner, head of Common Cause New York. A spokeswoman for ES&S said the machines use layers of security and have been approved by the federal government.

Pennsylvania: Voting security advocates seek to block use of Northampton County’s machines | Peter Hall/The Morning Call

Warning of immediate and irreparable harm to the election system, voting security advocates asked a Pennsylvania court to block the use of troubled voting machines in Northampton County and elsewhere in the 2020 elections. Leading a group of Northampton County and Philadelphia voters in a lawsuit over the machines, the National Election Defense Coalition and Citizens for Better Elections filed a motion Friday in Commonwealth Court seeking a preliminary injunction requiring the state to decertify the ExpressVote XL electronic voting system for the April primary and November general election. Citing new information from voters who encountered difficulty using the machines last year and a vote of “no confidence” in the ExpressVote XL by Northampton County election commissioners, the advocates said there is “no way to repair voters’ trust in the machines.” “If voters do not trust the machines, they cannot trust the outcome of the election,” the advocates said. “If that is to happen, the entire state of democracy starts to crumble under the weight of suspicion, distrust and frustration.”

National: Voting vendors, security pros still far apart on protecting 2020 election | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Voting machine companies and cybersecurity advocates are still miles apart on what it will take to secure 2020 against Russian hackers. During a nearly three-hour congressional hearing yesterday, security advocates sounded alarm bells about possible election hacks, warning machines in use today can be easily compromised. Companies, meanwhile, mostly defended the status quo. At one point, the chief executive of Hart InterCivic, one of three major companies that control more than 80 percent of the voting machine market, even defended selling paperless voting machines that can’t be audited and that top security experts and the Department of Homeland Security have warned are far too vulnerable in an era when elections are being targeted by sophisticated Russian hackers. “We actually believe our [machines] are secure,” said Hart CEO Julie Mathis, describing a number of internal defensive measures and security reviews they passed – primarily before 2016. The divisions highlighted how, despite three years of surging congressional attention to election security since Russia’s 2016 hacking efforts, there has been almost no government oversight of voting machine makers themselves. … Mathis’s comments were panned by security advocates. “It’s very simple. No matter how secure that device is, there’s no way to know whether the choice that’s recorded matches what the voter intended. It’s rightly called a black box,” Edward Perez, a former Hart executive who’s now global director of technology development at OSET Institute, a nonprofit election technology organization, said in an interview. 

National: Voting machine makers face questions from House lawmakers — but more remain | Ben Popken/NBC

For decades, the companies that dominated the U.S. voting machine industry operated in relative anonymity. Now, lawmakers want answers and transparency. The CEOs of the three companies that make more than 80 percent of the country’s voting machines testified before Congress Thursday for the first time, marking a new and bipartisan effort to ensure the security of the 2020 election. The three companies, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic, are almost entirely unregulated. But in recent years, policymakers and election advocates have begun to question who owns the companies, how they make their machines and whether they could be susceptible to remote hacking. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the congressional subcommittee that oversees federal elections, said in her opening remarks that they need more information from the companies. “Despite their outsized role in the mechanics of our democracy, some have accused these companies with obfuscating, and in some cases misleading election administrators and the American public,” said. “There is much work to do, and much for Congress to learn about this industry.”

National: Voting equipment companies throw weight behind enhanced disclosures | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The CEOs of the three largest U.S. voting equipment companies on Thursday supported more disclosure requirements, marking a major step for an industry that has come under close scrutiny in recent years due to election security concerns. The leaders of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic testified before the House Administration Committee during a House hearing, marking the first time leaders from the three major voting equipment manufacturers testified together before Congress. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) kicked off the hearing by asking whether the CEOs of these companies, which are estimated to control at least 80 percent of the market for voting equipment in the U.S., would support legislation mandating more disclosures.  Specifically, Lofgren asked if they would support requirements to disclose company cybersecurity practices, cyberattacks experienced by the companies, background checks done on employees, foreign investments in the companies, as well as information on the supply chain involved in building the voting equipment. Tom Burt, the president and CEO of ES&S, which has the largest individual share of the voting equipment market, answered that he “would support a requirement for all five of those requirements.” Julie Mathis, the CEO and president of Hart InterCivic, and John Poulos, the CEO and president of Dominion, both also agreed with Lofgren’s listed disclosure requirements.

North Carolina: Mecklenburg County OKs Buying New Voting Equipment | Steve Harrison/WFAE

Mecklenburg Commissioners voted 8-1 Tuesday night to buy new electronic voting equipment that it will be in place for the March 3 primary. The county is buying new machines to comply with a North Carolina law that requires paper ballots to improve election security. Many North Carolina counties are switching to paper ballots in which voters will use a pencil to fill in ovals next to their choices.Elections experts have said that such an all-paper system would provide more security. But Mecklenburg Elections director Michael Dickerson said the elections board believes that will lead to problems. “If you are filling in an oval, and you partly fill in the oval, will it count? Will it not count?” Dickerson said. “What if you fill in two ovals and circle one meaning that’s the one you want? That’s what the board did not want to do. They did not want to have to be responsible for interpreting votes for the voters.” So, the county is going with a hybrid system.

National: Voting machine vendors to testify on election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The CEOs of the three biggest U.S. voting equipment manufacturers will testify before the House Administration Committee on Thursday, marking the first election security hearing of 2020. The hearing, which is to be focused on the status of election security, will represent the first time that top executives from the three companies have testified together before Congress. The presidents and CEOs of Dominion Voting Systems, Hart InterCivic and Election Systems and Software (ES&S) are all scheduled to appear. These three companies are estimated to control more  90 percent of the voting equipment market in the U.S., according to a report put out by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Public Policy Initiative. All three have come under scrutiny from Washington in the wake of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race. The Senate Intelligence Committee in volume one of its investigation into Russia’s actions expressed concerns for the security of voting machines. It voiced particular concerns with “direct-recording electronic” machines, which do not print out a paper copy of a voter’s vote.

Texas: Electronic pollbook problems cost Dallas County taxpayers an additional $6 million | Lori Brown/KDFW

FOX 4 has discovered Dallas County spent millions of dollars on polling equipment that doesn’t work securely with its voting machines. Millions more will need to be shelled out to fix the problem by the March primary election. Dallas County bought the new equipment in order to have new voting centers so voters can vote anywhere in the county on Election Day. But it turns out $6 million were wasted on poll books made by one company that can’t securely function with voting machines made by a different company. It turns out Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch says new equipment unveiled in the November 2019 election could have been vulnerable to hackers. “We purchased something entirely too quickly, and it ended up costing taxpayers now additional millions of dollars,” he said. “Largely because of security features. In fact, we had an unsecure election.”

Alabama: Concerns over new voting machines in Mobile & Baldwin counties | James Gordon/WPMI

Alabama voters head back to the polls in less than two months for the primary elections. NBC 15 News investigated whether hackers can get into the new touch screen machines you’ll use in Mobile and Baldwin county. Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill answered some of our questions as to the security of the machines in the next election. Both Mobile and Baldwin County voting machines that were more than a decade old have been replaced with Express Vote machines and the state has established what’s called a “cyber navigator program.” “We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help all 67 counties in the state, ” said Merrill.

Arkansas: Election gear on Pulaski County’s to-do list | Kat Stromquist/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

As an election year begins, Pulaski County has yet to complete its planned purchase of new voting equipment to replace an inventory of aging machines. Some ambiguity around funding has slowed the process for the state’s largest county by population, tightening timelines in advance of November’s general election that includes the vote for the presidency. Officials learned last fall that they won’t need to provide a match to access about $1.56 million in state funding to replace dated voting equipment, but election commissioners said in December that they’re not expecting a buy until at least February. Commission chairwoman Evelyn Gomez said the board prefers to first ask the Quorum Court — likely next month, though an appearance is not scheduled — if the county can dedicate any carryover funds to the purchase. “We can’t move forward until we have a budget,” Gomez, who is a Republican appointee, said at a Dec. 20 commission meeting. “We cannot contract with money we don’t have.” Pulaski County is among 21 counties set to receive a total of $8.2 million in state funds to replace voting equipment that’s past its prime. Allocated through Act 808 of 2019, the money came from a property tax relief trust fund surplus.

North Carolina: Ignoring Warning Signs: Officials Approve Vulnerable Voting Machines | Gabriella Novello/WhoWhatWhy

Election officials know very well that using outdated and costly touchscreen voting machines — which are susceptible to hacking and other foul play — will likely lead to programming issues and cause long lines during the 2020 election that will ultimately drive voters away from the polls. Though more states are moving toward hand-marked paper ballots, most of those ballots will still be counted by machines. In other states — some of which could play a crucial role this year — election officials have ignored calls by election security experts to steer clear of problematic touchscreen machines altogether, and are rushing to approve even more. In North Carolina, despite overwhelming opposition from voters and election security experts, the State Board of Elections (NCSBE) bypassed a certification process to approve new touchscreen voting machines by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). At the same time, it  expressed “disappointment” in the company for misleading the board about whether it could provide enough of the voting machines that were certified in August. Critics of the decision argue that election officials rushed to approve the modification request after the board was forced to consider a more expensive voting machine just one month after the initial certification in August because ES&S said that it could not supply North Carolina with all the machines the state needed.

Pennsylvania: Four questions Pennsylvania needs to answer to avert election chaos in 2020 | Emily Previti/PA Post

Pick an issue, any issue. Environmental health? Fiscal conservatism? Probation reform? You’re limited in your ability to influence how elected officials handle “your issue” — or anything else – if our voting systems aren’t secure and reliable. That’s why I’ve spent the past four months or so covering election security in Pennsylvania. Closely. So far, my attention has largely been on the replacement of voting machines throughout the state. That’s meant plenty of travel to observe and document different voting machine configurations at voter demonstrations in more than half a dozen counties. I’ve read, at this point, more than hundreds, maybe thousands, of pages of voting machine contracts and technical documents — not to mention filing the Right-to-Know requests required, in most cases, to obtain them. I’ve also sat through poll worker trainings and covered everything from local controversies to the first test-run of new election auditing procedures that ultimately will be in place statewide. And there will be more to come in 2020.

Pennsylvania: These Two Lawsuits Could Force Philadelphia to Purchase New Voting Machines | David Murrell/Philadelphia Tribune

Who knew something as seemingly mundane as voting machines could generate so much conflict? Then again, maybe we should know better — this is Philadelphia, where nothing related to politics is mundane. So of course the procurement process for the city’s 3,735 ExpressVote XL machines — which we wrote about here — was rife with allegations of impropriety, and an eventual City Controller audit concluded that the city had failed to ensure a transparent purchase without conflicts of interest. And that was before two lawsuits challenging the ExpressVote XL’s certification in the first place. The suits — one filed in state Commonwealth Court, one filed in federal court — share a central claim: that the machines, which were used by both Philadelphia and Northampton counties in November (not without some significant Election Day drama in the latter case), don’t satisfy the requirements of Pennsylvania’s byzantine 267-page election code. Needless to say, the stakes are high. If a judge agrees, Philadelphia could potentially have to return its machines — and after all that conflict! — for new ones that are compliant. We’ve broken down the details of the two suits. … “The ExpressVote XL elevates the risk to unacceptable levels, and some of those risks can’t be mitigated mainly because of the hardware design,” says Marian Schneider, a former Pennsylvania Department of State official and president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit that advocates for transparent elections.

North Carolina: Clear Ballot leaving North Carolina, seeks probe of ES&S’s practices | Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press

Clear Ballot, one of three companies certified to provide election systems to North Carolina counties for 2020, formally withdrew from the state on Thursday, citing certification and marketing rules that Clear Ballot said perpetuate a virtual monopoly by competitor Election Systems & Software. Jordan Esten, chief executive officer of Boston-based Clear Ballot, told Carolina Public Press on Thursday that he has asked the N.C. Board of Elections to look into whether ES&S improperly capitalized on its presence in North Carolina with older generations of election equipment, marketing its elections systems to counties before the state certified it this summer. Separately, N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, issued a letter to the state Board of Elections calling for the board to “to delay this use of (ES&S’ systems) until after the 2020 election.” She pointed to many questions that have been raised about ES&S and its newly certified ballot-marking devices. North Carolina and Indiana are the only states that prevent elections systems makers from marketing systems prior to certification. Clear Ballot CEO Esten said he thinks this is a foolish law, but his company has followed the rule. Esten said he remains suspicious about ES&S’ compliance because many counties rapidly adopted its new electronic voting system almost immediately after it was certified. N.C. Board of Elections member Stella Anderson told CPP Thursday that she also had concerns about ES&S having an uncompetitive advantage. She observed that many counties have chosen to go with ES&S systems even though she felt its product wasn’t strong. “I haven’t met a person yet who thinks the ES&S Express Vote is good technology,” she said.

Pennsylvania: Northampton County officials unanimously vote ‘no confidence’ in ExpressVote XL voting machine | Emily Previti/PA Post

Northampton County Election Commissioners unanimously supported a “vote of no confidence” in the county’s new voting machines after vendor Election Security & Software presented findings Thursday night from an investigation into tabulation errors and other problems when the system debuted. The incorrect tallies in last month’s election were linked to races with cross-filed candidates and straight-ticket ballots cast by voters. Cross-filed candidates are ones seeking an office on more than one party line, while the straight ticket option lets voters click one box to select every candidate on the ballot from one party. Voters also complained that the ExpressVote XL touchscreens registered votes they hadn’t cast. Commissioner Kathy Fox said it happened to her. “I didn’t even think I touched it,” Fox said at Thursday’s meeting. “And [the machine] recorded that vote. And so that made me a little nervous. Just because I don’t really think I was touching it.” According to ES&S, a selection on the XL can be triggered by an infrared sensor without the voter actually touching the machine. “It’s very thin, but you can make a selection just by getting just close enough,” said ES&S Vice-President of Product Development Adam Carbullido.

National: Chinese parts, hidden ownership, growing scrutiny: Inside America’s biggest maker of voting machines | Ben Popken, Cynthia McFadden and Kevin Monahan/NBC

Just off a bustling interstate near the border between Nebraska and Iowa, a 2,800-square-foot American flag flies over the squat office park that is home to Election Systems & Software LLC. The nondescript name and building match the relative anonymity of the company, more commonly known as ES&S, which has operated in obscurity for years despite its central role in U.S. elections. Nearly half of all Americans who vote in the 2020 election will use one of its devices. That’s starting to change. A new level of scrutiny of the election system, spurred by Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has put ES&S in the political spotlight. The source of the nation’s voting machines has become an urgent issue because of real fears that hackers, whether foreign or domestic, might tamper with the mechanics of the voting system. That has led to calls for ES&S and its competitors, Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems and Austin, Texas-based Hart Intercivic, to reveal details about their ownership and the origins of the parts, some of which come from China, that make up their machines. But ES&S still faces questions about the company’s supply chain and the identities of its investors, although it has said it is entirely owned by Americans. And the results of its government penetration tests, in which authorized hackers try to break in so vulnerabilities can be identified and fixed, have yet to be revealed. The secrecy of ES&S and its competitors has pushed politicians to seek information on security, oversight, finances and ownership. This month, a group of Democratic politicians sent the private equity firms that own the major election vendors a letter asking them to disclose a range of such information, including ownership, finances and research investments.

North Carolina: Elections officials anxious over software upgrade | Brooke Conrad/Carolina Journal

A voting software company the N.C. State Board of Elections certified earlier this year wants approval for a last-minute technology update. But some board members are asking whether the company, Election Systems and Security, should have been certified in the first place. In September, ES&S asked the BOE to approve changes to equipment already certified by the state. The timing of the request would require the BOE to circumvent its normal, thorough certification process. Problem was, the company told the board it didn’t have enough of the originally certified equipment to meet the state’s needs, forcing a vote. On Dec. 13, the board, in a 3-2 vote, approved the upgrade, with Democratic Chairman Damon Circosta and Republicans Kenneth Raymond and David Black voting in favor of the update. Democrats Stella Anderson and Jeff Carmon opposed the move. State Board Secretary Stella Anderson, along with several election security advocates across the state, had raised concerns about ES&S during earlier discussions about certification.   “The vendor will have done exactly what it wanted to do: put our backs up against the wall,” Anderson said during the meeting.

Pennsylvania: No confidence: Northampton County election board calls for new voting machines for 2020 | Tom Shortell/The Morning Call

A month after widespread problems plagued the general election, the Northampton County Election Commission Board voted 4-0 to express no confidence in its new election machines. At the same meeting Thursday evening, representatives of the county’s Democratic and Republican committees called on the county to move away from the machines and perform an independent analysis of the results. “We believe the problems the machines exhibited this year will make it virtually impossible to restore voters’ confidence heading into 2020. We’d recommend avoiding that by not using them again,” said Democratic Chair Matthew Munsey. Despite the bipartisan condemnation of the machines, it’s unclear how county residents will cast their vote in the upcoming presidential elections. Richard Santee, the board’s solicitor, said the decision to reject these machines must be made in conjunction with Northampton County Council and Executive Lamont McClure. Some council members have demanded a refund on the machines, though McClure has continued to stand by them. Even if there was universal agreement, it would be logistically difficult to swap systems in time for the April 28 primary. The board, council and McClure’s administration would have to reach a consensus on getting rid of the machines, selecting a new system, purchasing it, training staff and delivering the machines to the polls in less than four months. “I can’t imagine what we are going to do between now and April,” said Council President Ron Heckman, who attended the meeting as a member of the public. “What’s the alternative?”

Pennsylvania: State officials break silence on controversial ExpressVote XL voting machine | Emily Previti/PA Post

After weeks of silence, state officials have shed some light on their stance that the ExpressVote XL voting machine should remain in use, despite a shaky debut in Pa. during the last election and legal challenges over its shortcomings. In their first public comments about the XL, they laid out their position in 418 pages filed last week in response to plaintiffs’ claims in a federal lawsuit over Pennsylvania’s election system. That case was settled more than a year ago, but plaintiffs led by ex-Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein recently asked a federal judge to enforce the settlement terms. They claim the Pa. Department of State hasn’t upheld the agreement’s parameters for upgrading voting systems statewide by the end of the year. And they’ve asked U.S District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond to order DoS to decertify the ExpressVote XL voting machine, the pick in three Pa. jurisdictions (Philadelphia, Northampton and Cumberland counties).

North Carolina: Divided elections board approves untested upgrade to voting system | Frank Taylor/Carolina Public Press

The NC Board of Elections narrowly voted Friday to allow an upgraded version of a previously approved voting system to be used in 2020 elections, following the recent revelation that the system’s manufacturer does not have an adequate supply of the version it encouraged the state to approve and test earlier this year. But the 3-2 decision did not come without criticism aimed at the company, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, by a bipartisan mix of board members, including from those voted both for and against allowing the Electronic Voting System as a replacement for EVS without requiring additional testing. “I’m disappointed,” said Board of Elections Chairman Damon Circosta, a Democrat who voted with the board’s two Republican members to allow the upgraded systems. “I’m disappointed with ES&S, who in their zeal to sell their product have lacked candor, and not been forthcoming with this agency.” Republican board member Kenneth Raymond expressed similar concerns. “During the certification process, many individuals expressed their concerns to this board about working with ES&S as a vendor, and the vendor is fully aware of that,” Raymond said. “But unfortunately, rather than take action that would mitigate those concerns, their behavior and events of the last month or so (has) only increased them.”

Pennsylvania: Another lawsuit targets Philadelphia’s voting machines | Associated Press

Pennsylvania is facing another lawsuit over its certification of a voting machine bought by Philadelphia and that was at the center of an undercount in one Pennsylvania county’s election last month. The lawsuit was filed late last week by a pair of election security advocacy organizations and 13 registered voters who live in Philadelphia or Northampton County, where the undercount occurred. The lawsuit asks the state Commonwealth Court to block Pennsylvania’s certification of the ExpressVote XL touchscreen system made by Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software. The plaintiffs say the voting system can’t ensure that each vote is properly recorded and counted, doesn’t allow voters to keep their choices secret, doesn’t offer equal access to disabled voters and uses ballot cards that don’t comply with state requirements. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration declined comment Monday. It will have 30 days to respond in court. In a separate case in Philadelphia’s federal court, Wolf’s administration is defending its certification of the ExpressVote XL.

North Carolina: Elections board chastises voting equipment vendor | Gary D. Robertson/Associated Press

North Carolina’s election supervisors chastised the nation’s largest voting machine manufacturer on Friday for late software and supply changes involving the planned rollout in coming weeks of voting systems that were recently approved for use in 2020 elections. Still, majorities on the State Board of Elections accepted vote the software alterations and equipment tweaks by the manufacturer, Election Systems & Software. In August, the board certified some of the company’s touch-screen ballot-marking devices and tally machines so they could be sold to counties beginning with next year’s elections. The voting systems digitize a person’s choices onto a ballot with both bar code data and by names. The ballot’s bar code is then read by the company’s counting machines. The certification came as the company’s touchscreen-only equipment — used for years by about one-third of state’s voting population of nearly 7 million in about 20 counties — could no longer be used starting this month.

North Carolina: A divided North Carolina Elections Board narrowly approves newly ‘tweaked’ voting machines | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina elections officials approved a new type of touchscreen voting machine Friday over the objection of outside advocates and two elections board members who said the machines haven’t been properly tested. Election security and hacking concerns are at the center of the debate, with the 2020 election just a few months away. Federal government agencies have said foreign countries tried to interfere in the 2016 elections — including potentially in North Carolina — and will likely try to do so again next year. There are two main types of voting methods approved for the 2020 elections in North Carolina. Most counties plan to use hand-marked paper ballots. But some counties, including Mecklenburg, the state’s largest, plan to use touchscreen voting machines. Some election security advocates say touchscreen voting is more susceptible to hackers. But the state’s professional election experts have vouched for those machines, saying they’re confident in their ability to stop hackers. And in August the political leadership of the Board of Elections voted 3-2 to approve voting machines made by three different companies — ES&S, Clear Ballot and Hart InterCivic.