Earlier this year, Georgia’s Secure, Accessible, and Fair Elections Commission held a public meeting at the state capitol to answer a pressing question: What should Georgia do to replace its aging, touchscreen voting machines, as well as other parts of its election system? In the preceding years, security vulnerabilities in the state’s election system had been repeatedly exposed: by Russian operatives, friendly hackers, and even a Georgia voter who, just days ahead of the 2018 midterms, revealed that anyone could go online and gain access to the state’s voter registration database. Computer scientists and elections experts from around the country had weighed in during the seven months of the commission’s deliberations on the issue. They submitted letters and provided testimony, sharing the latest research and clarifying technical concepts tied to holding safe, reliable elections. Their contributions were underscored by commission member Wenke Lee, co-director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Information Security and Privacy, and the group’s only computer scientist. Despite this, the commission ultimately did not recommend measures backed by Lee and his colleaguesat places like Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT, and Google — including the recommendation that the state return to a system of paper ballots filled out by hand, combined with what scientists call risk-limiting audits. Instead, the commission recommended buying a system that included another, more expensivetouchscreen voting machine that prints a paper ballot. Months later, Lee was at a loss to explain: “I don’t understand why they still don’t understand,” he said.Full Article: In Georgia, New Election Technology and Old Security Concerns.
New voting machines for North Dakota are set up in a room at the Capitol. “We’re putting them through the paces, said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum. “We want to make sure they can handle our open primary, and any election we would throw at it.” It is the Secretary of State’s job to certify the new devices, and de-certify the devices that are no longer used. Silrum said the contract to finalize the purchase of the new devices will likely be finished by the end of the week, and the plan is to have all the devices in Bismarck by the end of July. After that, county election officials will be trained on them.Full Article: New voting machines being 'put through the paces' | Prairie Public Broadcasting.
Georgia: New voting machines will come before Georgia sets primary date | Mark Niesse and Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia election officials won’t set the state’s presidential primary election date until new voting machines are in place. The delay raised concerns from some county election directors who said they might have to move polling places if churches and other facilities get booked before an election date is announced.The uncertain timing also creates the possibility that the presidential primary won’t take place until after many other states have already weighed in, potentially diminishing Georgia’s relevance in deciding each party’s candidate. The Georgia primary was held on Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday in March — in each of the past two presidential election years.Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is holding off on deciding a date for the 2020 primary until the government completes its $150 million purchase of new statewide voting equipment, likely in July. At least four companies are bidding for the state’s $150 million contract to provide touchscreen voting machines that print out paper ballots, replacing Georgia’s 17-year-old electronic voting system.Full Article: New voting machines will come before Georgia sets primary date.
North Carolina: Election hacking: North Carolina officials won’t approve new voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer
North Carolina election officials were supposed to certify new voting machines on Thursday for millions of voters to start using in 2020. But they declined to make any decisions, citing uncertainty over who owns the three companies that were seeking approval to sell voting machines here. The state gave them until next week to divulge everyone who owns at least 5 percent of their companies or any parent or subsidiary company. “I believe this follows along with the cyber security concerns we have found in the Mueller report and other documentation that has been furnished to our board,” Robert Cordle, the chairman of the State Board of Elections, said Thursday when the board announced its surprise decision. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report indicated that a company that provides voting software in some North Carolina counties may have been compromised by Russian hackers in 2016. That company’s software can’t be used to change or record votes; it only deals with checking voters in to the polls.Full Article: Election hacking: NC officials won’t approve new voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer.
Local election officials say a new paper ballot-based system will give voters more control over their choices by introducing a layer of redundancy not available in more than a decade. On Monday, the state Election Commission said Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software was granted a $51 million contract to swap out 13,000 touchscreen machines, in circulation since 2004, with units that include a BMD, or “ballot-marking device” to verify selections on a paper ballot after using the electronic interface to initially pick a candidate. “Our job was to find the best system out there for the voters of South Carolina,” commission chairman John Wells said in a release. “We were looking for a system that is secure, accurate, accessible, auditable, transparent, reliable and easy for poll managers and voters to use.”Full Article: State preparing for switch to paper ballot voting | News | indexjournal.com.
Tennessee: Nashville elections: New voting machines to be used for August races | Andrew Wigdor/Nashville Tennessean
Nashville will get new voting machines for the upcoming Aug. 1 election in order to cut down on unintentional mistakes by voters. The most notable change with the new machines is a two-step paper ballot system. Voters are provided with a blank “ballot card” by an polling official that voters then insert into a new “ballot marking device.” Once the card is inserted, the voter selects their choices, and the machine prints out the ballot, now marked with the voter’s choices. The voter then inserts the ballot into a second machine, where the votes are scanned. If voters make a mistake, they are able to look at their ballot before inserting it into the second machine and decide whether they need to make a change. Once the ballot is inserted and scanned into the second machine, a vote is final.Full Article: Nashville elections: New voting machines to be used for August races.
South Carolina: Company that courted South Carolina elections chief wins $51M bid for new voting machines | Tom Barton/The State
South Carolina voters will get a paper printout of their completed ballots starting next year, when the state puts in place some 13,500 new voting machines. State officials on Monday announced that a $51 million contract had been awarded to Election Systems and Software, the nation’s largest voting equipment vendor, to provide the new voting machines which promise more security in producing a paper ballot. ES&S has a lengthy history with South Carolina. The company provided the state’s existing voting system, in place since 2004. The paperless system has drawn increasing scrutiny, raising questions about accuracy of counting votes and whether the system is vulnerable to hacking. The company also has ties to elections officials in South Carolina and other states, an investigation by McClatchy and The State revealed. Marci Andino, executive director for the S.C. State Election Commission, formerly served on an advisory panel to the company, which treated her and elections officials from other states to trips to Las Vegas and elsewhere. Andino said she ran her trips by state ethics officials and has stepped down from the advisory role with ES&S prior to the state’s efforts to procure a new voting system.Full Article: South Carolina unveils new paper-based voting system | The State.
South Carolina: State chooses new voting machines that will print paper ballots but some fear it’s not safe | Mike Fitts/Post and Courier
Beginning with the presidential primary next year, South Carolina voters will mark their choices on paper ballots by touching digital screens under a new $51 million voting system announced Monday by the state Election Commission — a choice criticized by a civic group that advocates for safe balloting. Under the system made by Election Systems & Software, voters will put their paper ballot into a touchscreen system and choose their candidates. They print out a completed ballot to review their selections and then put the ballot into a scanner to formally record their votes. The paper ballots will be kept in a locked box where can be used to verify results. Using this system of more than 13,000 new machines should produce a verifiable paper trail while also avoiding the issues of stray or misleading ballot marks from written ballots, said John Wells, chairman of the State Election Commission. “There can be no question as to the accuracy of the election,” he said. The League of Women Voters of South Carolina, however, was disappointed in the choice. The group sees this system as overly elaborate and possibly vulnerable to hacking or other mischief, especially when compared with a simple paper ballot.Full Article: SC chooses new voting machines that will print paper ballots but some fear it's not safe | News | postandcourier.com.
Georgia: Potential vulnerabilities of new Georgia voting machines evaluated | Atlanta Journal Constitution
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is gauging potential vulnerabilities of the type of voting machines that will soon be used in Georgia. The federal government will work with election officials to better understand the security and auditability of voting systems, said Scott McConnell, a spokesman for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security.“This includes helping to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities for deployed systems as well as informing the development of future systems,” McConnell said. Georgia is preparing to buy a $150 million statewide election system with voting machines called ballot-marking devices. Like the state’s current electronic voting machines, voters using the new ballot-marking devices will choose their candidates on touchscreens. Then printers will create paper ballots for voters to review and insert into scanning computers for tabulation.Federal scrutiny of voting technology comes after a study published last week pointed out weaknesses in ballot-marking devices.If ballot-marking devices are hacked or tampered with, they could print out falsified ballots, according to the study by three cybersecurity experts.Full Article: Potential vulnerabilities of new Georgia voting machines evaluated.
A sweeping lawsuit challenging the way Georgia elections are run is being put to an initial test as a federal judge considers a request by state election officials to toss it out. The lawsuit was filed weeks after Republican Brian Kemp narrowly beat Democrat Stacey Abrams in a governor’s race that focused national scrutiny on Georgia’s outdated voting machines and on allegations of voter suppression by Kemp, who was the state’s top election official during the race. Kemp has adamantly denied allegations of wrongdoing. He signed legislation earlier this month that includes specifications for a new voting system , which the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, says he’ll implement in time for the 2020 election cycle. The lawsuit accuses the secretary of state and election board members of mismanaging the 2018 election in ways that deprived some citizens, particularly low-income people and minorities, of their constitutional right to vote. It seeks substantial reforms and asks that Georgia be required to get a federal judge’s approval before changing voting rules.Full Article: Challenge to Georgia election system faces first court test :: WRAL.com.
When some Georgia voters showed up at the polls last fall, their registrations had mysteriously disappeared without a trace. They couldn’t vote except on provisional ballots. The unsolved case of the missing voter registrations and a federal lawsuit prompted state lawmakers to pass a bill requiring election officials to strengthen protections against hacking, tampering and computer errors.Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would be responsible for creating security protocols for voter registration information consistent with standards set by national cybersecurity and election organizations, according to House Bill 392.The bill is awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature or veto. Kemp’s office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.“If the governor signs it, this bill will represent a significant upgrade to the security of the system,” said Max Feldman, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice, a policy institute at New York University focused on democracy and criminal justice that is representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Ensuring that any sort of gaps in security that would expose voters’ registration information or allow third parties to change registration information on the voter registration list is what we’re hoping will be addressed here.”Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said the legislation puts the force of law behind the state’s existing security procedures.“Security of the voting system is Secretary Raffensperger’s top priority,” Fuchs said. “This law recognizes that priority and should help put an end to unfounded speculation and meritless claims that our election data is not secure.”Full Article: Bill calls for Georgia voter registration security protocols.
South Carolina: Tony Shaffer: New Report Highlights Urgent Need to Replace South Carolina Voting System | FITSNews
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have confirmed that Russian hackers targeted all 50 states during the 2016 elections – not just the 21 states previously reported. This new information highlights the urgent need to replace South Carolina’s old, vulnerable digital touchscreen “DRE” voting machines. As a cyber operations expert with nearly forty years of national security experience, I feel the need to speak up: It’s critical to deter and mitigate these threats before the 2020 elections. South Carolina is moving in the right direction. The legislature has appropriated $40 million for a new voting system and, to ensure a smooth procurement process, given responsibility for procuring the system to the S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA). As the department examines the available systems, it should carefully consider the efficiency, cost, and security of each system. It should also avoid the mistakes made in Georgia, where the legislature fast-tracked a bill requiring a $150 million voting system comprised of ballot-marking devices (BMDs) without considering a more secure, lower-cost system of hand-marked paper ballots. BMDs, which require voters to select their preferred candidates using a touchscreen, may be more high-tech than paper ballots but are by no means higher quality. BMDs contain vulnerable computer systems that can be hacked to change ballots after they are cast. Although BMDs print a paper record of votes cast, they often do so in barcode format, making it impossible for voters to ensure that their vote will ultimately be recorded accurately. And like any machine, BMDs are susceptible to technical glitches and power outages, increasing chances that voters will be forced to wait in long lines on election day.Full Article: Tony Shaffer: New Report Highlights Urgent Need to Replace SC Voting System – FITSNews.
Editorials: Good, bad and ambiguous in Georgia’s new voting system | Wenke Lee/Atlanta Journal Constitution
Although I’m pleased the Georgia General Assembly acted quickly this session to address flaws in our current voting equipment, I remain concerned that, overall, our state has chosen the less-secure, more-cumbersome, costly option and that too many details — essential for election security and voter confidence — are still undefined. First, let’s review what’s right about HB 316 and what Georgia gained. It requires: pre-certification election audits to validate initial outcomes; “voting in absolute secrecy;” that voting equipment produce a paper record in a format readable by humans, and that equipment will “mark correctly and accurately.” I’m also pleased that voter education is part of this bill, in the albeit very modest stipulation that poll workers post signs reminding voters to read, review, and verify paper printouts before casting their final votes. What’s bad about HB 316 is what it could have accomplished but did not: human-readable, hand-marked paper ballots — by far the most cost-effective and cybersecure method of voting. Instead, it establishes a system where electronic ballot markers (EBMs) are used to generate a paper receipt of voter selections — rather than a hand, holding a pen to paper. Overwhelmingly, citizens, computer scientists, cybersecurity experts, and nonpartisan groups recommended and requested hand-marked paper ballots in Georgia over any other method. I am baffled as to why state lawmakers repeatedly ignored such an overwhelming cry.
Editorials: Georgia’s voting system must be secure, accessible, auditable | David Becker and Michelle Bishop/Atlanta Journal Constitution
Russia attacked our election infrastructure and spread disinformation in the 2016 election, and continues to interfere in our elections. While there remains zero evidence that any votes in any election have been changed, Russia achieved its goal of dividing this country and reducing Americans’ confidence in their democracy. Russia’s efforts are likely to continue through 2020, and it is critical now more than ever that we come together to secure our democratic systems, upgrade outdated voting technology, and improve auditing ballots post-election, to ensure that every eligible American is able to cast their ballots accurately and with confidence. There is a consensus among the intelligence community and cybersecurity experts that human-readable paper ballots, which can be audited by comparing them to the official tally of votes, are necessary to secure our elections. As a result, states such as Georgia are responding — moving toward paper-based voting systems for 2020 and planning for more robust audits to ensure the count is accurate, regardless of foreign interference.There are basically two types of voting systems that accommodate paper ballots. The most common are hand-marked ballots, where the voter fills in a bubble or connects an arrow. These ballots are then fed into a scanner that is programmed to read those handmade marks as votes in particular races, and those votes are tabulated to determine the winner. These systems have some advantages – they are considered cheaper by some (at first, though the costs of printing ballots adds up over time, and the cost benefits, if any, shrink), and voters are familiar with them.Full Article: Opinion: Voting system must be secure, accessible, auditable.
The chair of the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee is calling for a halt to the Board of Elections’ plan to use machines supplied by a company with a spotty record for this fall’s early voting. “I’m against rigging the process in favor of a contractor with a dubious track record,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx). Election Systems & Software came under fire after its ballot scanners reportedly jammed at polling places across the city in November’s elections. “There needs to be an investigation of the performance and conflicts of interest involving ES&S. There should be a competitive bidding process,” Torres said. BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan is also on the hot seat after it was revealed last year that he failed to report several posh business trips paid for by ES&S. He subsequently stepped down from an unpaid gig on the contractor’s advisory board.Full Article: Ritchie Torres calls for removal of faulty voting machines.
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia controller subpoenas city elections officials over voting machine decision | Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart last week subpoenaed the city’s elections officials for documents related to the controversial selection of new voting machines. Rhynhart’s subpoena is the most-pointed official effort known to date to obtain information about a voting machine selection process that critics have decried as opaque, lacking true public input, and biased. The items requested in the subpoena, dated April 1, include copies of all proposals received, the names of all committee members who scored them, and copies of those evaluations. The information was originally due by Tuesday, but the City Commissioners’ Office was granted an extension. (The new deadline was unclear Thursday; the Controller’s Office declined to comment on the subpoena.) Nick Custodio, deputy commissioner under Chairwoman Lisa Deeley, said only that the city’s Law Department “is handling everything as it relates to the request” from Rhynhart. He declined to comment further.Full Article: Voting Machine Selection Prompts Subpoena in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia commissioner breaks silence to criticize voting machine decision and call for new selection | Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia City Commissioner Anthony Clark, who rarely says anything at board meetings and has a reputation for not showing up to work, suddenly spoke up Wednesday to say he favors invalidating the city’s choice of voting machines and restarting the selection process. His comments, which caught nearly everyone by surprise, were delivered almost casually during the commissioners’ weekly meeting, after City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart urged the elections officials to nullify the controversial selection of new systems. “Today I request that this body vacate the commissioners’ earlier decision and draft and reissue a new, fair” request for proposals, Rhynhart said after calling the selection process opaque and biased. “Please don’t deny Philadelphia’s voters a true voice in the selection of these machines.” Clark, who had not spoken publicly about the decision and did not cast a vote when the commissioners chose the system, responded: “Well, I’d just like to say that I do support your recommendation. That’s all I have to say at this time.” Advocates have for months implored Philadelphia election officials to select a hand-marked paper ballot system rather than the ES&S ExpressVoteXL system that was chosen Feb. 20 have accused the commissioners of illegally selecting that machine and called for that vote to be nullfied.Full Article: Philly commissioner breaks silence to criticize voting machine decision and call for new selection.
Critics of Georgia’s outdated voting system told a judge on Tuesday that a new system outlined by lawmakers has many of the same fundamental flaws and is unconstitutional. A law signed last week by Gov. Brian Kemp provides specifications for a new voting system. Bids are due later this month, and state officials say they plan to implement the new system in time for next year’s presidential election. Lawyers for the Coalition for Good Governance and for a group of voters, who had filed a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s election system, told U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg they plan to ask her initially to stop the state from using the current machines for special and municipal elections scheduled this year. Ultimately, they said, they want her to prohibit the state from using the current paperless machines, as well as the ballot-marking machines provided for in the new law. Lawyers for the state argued complaints about the current voting system have been made irrelevant by the new law and that complaints about ballot-marking machines can’t be considered yet because the state hasn’t even selected a new system.Full Article: Critics say new voting system planned for Georgia is flawed | WSB-TV.
How you vote in Georgia will be changing, according to a new law signed recently by Governor Brian Kemp. The law calls for scrapping the old, and now somewhat controversial, voting machines. Those will be replaced with a new system including what is termed “Electronic Ballot Marking Devices” as well as new types of digital scanners to actually record votes. Supporters, which include many state lawmakers as well as Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, say the new system will provide a verifiable paper trail. Opponents say just the opposite. “The state is going to spend $150 million to $200 million and not be one bit better off than they are today,” said Marilyn Marks from the Coalition for Good Governance. “They should just keep the un-auditable system.” Marks’ group is still embroiled in a lawsuit with the State of Georgia over issues from the 2018 election. Marks has a list of concerns starting with the Electronic Marking Devices, which it’s said will print out a paper ballot that can then be verified by a voter and ultimately scanned by the digital scanner to actually cast the ballot. She says two of the largest vendors that make these machines don’t really provide a paper ballot per se, but actually something more like a bar code. Marks asserts any new system will not truly have a verifiable paper trail and that she expects “many court challenges.”Full Article: Georgia moving forward with new type of voting system; some opponents react.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines with a touchscreen-and-paper ballot election system, after a polarizing debate over how to balance the integrity of the vote with ensuring accurate election results. The Republican was long expected to sign House Bill 316, which divided Republicans and Democrats over whether voters should use computer-printed ballots or paper ballots bubbled in with a pen.But the timing and quiet nature of the bill signing was peculiar: His office said in a notice posted on his website Wednesday that Kemp inked the bill, along with 20 lower-profile measures, on Tuesday during the last day of the legislative session.The overhaul was introduced with Kemp’s blessing after his narrow election victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams, who cast the Republican as an “architect of voter suppression” and accused him of creating barriers to ballot access.Full Article: Georgia governor inks law to replace voting machines .