The 2020 election is expected to once again be razor-close and, in light of Russian attempts to hack the vote in 2016, making it secure is of paramount importance. That is why North Carolina’s recent decision to open the door for unverifiable barcode election technology is raising eyebrows in the election integrity community. At the end of a 30-month process, the North Carolina State Board of Elections recently approved three new voting systems to replace decades-old technology in the state. However, state election officials also did something else: With their selection, they approved the use of barcode voting technology. Election integrity advocates, cybersecurity experts, and even two members of the five-member state board have strongly objected to the use of this technology. With the 2020 presidential election on the horizon — and North Carolina expected to be in play — the decision of state officials to choose voting systems that do not leave behind a verifiable paper trail creates major concerns for election transparency advocates.Full Article: Toss-up State to Use Vulnerable Tech in 2020 - WhoWhatWhy.
Pennsylvania: Allegheny County Elections board approves vendor for new voting machines | Paula Reed Ward/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Allegheny County Board of Elections voted Wednesday to approve Election Systems and Security as the vendor to provide a hand-marked paper balloting system to be used beginning next year. The vote means the county will enter negotiations with ES&S to fulfill a contract to provide enough scanners to count the ballots. The bid proposed by ES&S was $10.5 million. The 3-0 decision came after additional public comment in which advocates expressed concerns about how the ES&S system handles ballots for people with disabilities, including the use of bar codes. The concern is that ballots completed on the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ballot-marking device cannot be reviewed for accuracy. “There’s not a perfect decision to be made,” said Tom Baker, a county councilman and chair of the elections board. Elections board member Kathryn Hens-Greco, a Common Pleas Court judge, agreed that the decision to choose ES&S was not optimal, but it is necessary. “Right now, we’re at a point where a decision needs to be made, and it needs to be a confident decision.”Full Article: Elections board approves vendor for new voting machines | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Grand Forks County has received most of its new election equipment, which replaces voting machines that are about 15 years old. The Legislature authorized $8.2 million for the new machines to add to the $3 million in federal funds doled out to assist in the purchase. According to County Auditor Debbie Nelson, the equipment arrived two weeks ago and includes 40 new optical scanners, 40 new ExpressVote machines, which are unassisted voting machines, and a new central count machine was received as well. Electronic poll books have yet to arrive. The optical scanners are part of the vote counting process, according to Nelson. m“When people mark their ballot, they bring it over to the scanner to be counted,” she said. The voting machines, which are used to mark ballots, can be used by anyone. However, if any voters have difficulty seeing a ballot, they have the option of having it read to them. The central count machine is a faster ballot counting machine.Full Article: New voting equipment replaces 15-year-old machines | Grand Forks Herald.
Pennsylvania: Elections board appears likely to pick ES&S voting machines for use beginning in 2020 | Christopher Huffaker/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Allegheny County Board of Elections at a meeting Friday appeared to be on the verge of selecting a hand-marked paper ballot-based system from Election Systems and Security for use beginning next year. The board, composed of Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Hens-Greco, county Councilman Tom Baker and County Council President John DeFazio, had some clear reservations about ES&S regarding both the specific system they are leaning toward and the company on the whole. However, only ES&S is certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission to handle elections with as many different ballots and candidates as an Allegheny County municipal election may have. The board unanimously passed a motion by Judge Hens-Greco asking the voting machine search committee to go back to the four vendors under consideration and ask them to stress-test real past Allegheny County elections, to help evaluate their ability to handle the complexity. After the meeting, however, Judge Hens-Greco said that, even if one of the other vendors passed the test, “I think [I’d] probably not” be able to select them in good conscience. “I don’t understand why they applied if they couldn’t meet our requirements,” she added.Full Article: Elections board appears likely to pick ES&S voting machines for use beginning in 2020 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Montana Secretary of State’s office plans to sign-off on a new touchscreen voting system designed for voters with disabilities that could be used at county polling sites as early as this November. The ExpressVote system resembles a touchscreen desktop computer or ATM. Voters insert a ballot, scroll through pages of candidates or initiatives and make their picks, and then hit print. The system includes audio, visual, and other aids designed to help individuals with disabilities vote. A separate machine does the vote counting. The Secretary of State’s Office and system developer ES&S ran demonstrations of the device Monday in the state Capitol ahead of an official certification event scheduled Tuesday. Staff with the Secretary’s office say the ExpressVote system is replacing an outdated device from the early 2000s that was also designed for people with disabilities. The state is using $750,000 of a $3 million federal grant to buy the equipment, with counties chipping in matching funds if they want to take part in the upgrade.Full Article: Touchscreen Voting Machines Could Debut In Montana This November | MTPR.
North Carolina: State certifies barcode ballot voting systems despite security concerns | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press
Amid threats of litigation from all sides, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted 3-2 Friday afternoon to certify a voting system that experts say is insecure, voting rights groups advocated against and many public comments opposed.Chairman Damon Circosta, a Democrat, in his first meeting after being appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper, voted against a motion to make voting system certification requirements more stringent. The board’s two Republican members, David Black and Kenneth Raymond, voted with Circosta.The new certification requirements, proposed by Dr. Stella Anderson and supported by fellow Democrat Jeff Carmon III, would have precluded one voting-machine vendor, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), from having its system certified.The room for Friday’s meeting was packed with voters and advocates from civil rights and voting rights organizations, such as Democracy NC, which seeks to improve voter turnout in elections.“This is disappointing,” Democracy NC executive director Tomas Lopez said. “But the decision on what ultimately gets purchased is with the counties, and with the county boards of elections in particular.” Two counties, Davie and Transylvania, submitted letters to the board asking that existing certification requirements not be changed. Both counties use voting-machine-for-all systems, using old technology that the state will decertify on Dec. 1.Full Article: NC certifies barcode ballot voting systems despite security concerns.
Burleigh County has received new election equipment being distributed to North Dakota counties over the next few weeks by state election officials. Auditor/Treasurer Kevin Glatt said the county on Monday received 50 ballot scanners, 50 accessibility devices for voters who may have difficulty marking ballots and one central scanner for tabulating absentee ballots. The equipment vendor is now testing the devices after delivery before formal training in September. “We’re excited that we have them,” Glatt said. Morton County Auditor Dawn Rhone said she expects the new machines, including 18 ballot scanners, this week, likely on Thursday after the old machines are taken away Wednesday from the courthouse in Mandan. The secretary of state’s office in 2015 pressed the Legislature for new election equipment, but funding priorities didn’t favor the request, especially during deep budget cuts in 2017.Full Article: New North Dakota election equipment going out to counties | Government, Politics and Elections | bismarcktribune.com.
North Carolina: Election officials closely watching state vote on voting systems Friday as 2019, 2020 races loom | Emily Featherston/WECT
Along with everything else it takes to prepare for the upcoming 2019 municipal elections, and the 2020 primaries close on their heels, election officials in southeastern North Carolina are also waiting to see what kind of equipment they will be able to use. On Friday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections is expected to finally make a decision that will dictate what machines voters use to cast a ballot. Most of the attention has been focused on the state’s move away from touchscreen equipment that only generates an electronic ballot, as counties across North Carolina wait to see what equipment will be approved for them to buy. New Hanover County is also waiting for the state’s stamp of approval for the replacement of its outdated voting equipment. New Hanover County last purchased ballot tabulators in 2006, explained county board of elections director Rae Hunter-Havens. Those machines typically have a lifespan of just 10 years — and they are starting to show their age. “We’ve exceeded that end-of-life projection,” Hunter-Havens said, and that means increasing mechanical issues.Full Article: Election officials closely watching state vote on voting systems Friday as 2019, 2020 races loom.
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.
“We had a 15-year-old system that was– had reached the end of its life. So, that’s exciting we have a dependable system that’s going to serve the voters for years to come,” said State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. Whitmire said South Carolina’s new voting equipment will combine a familiar touchscreen with the additional security of paper. However, the touchscreens are an updated model and have better sensitivity and brightness, according to Whitmire. “They’ll check in, they’ll show their ID, they’ll sign the poll list, the poll manager will take them over to the voting booth, and all of that will be very familiar. But when you get to the voting booth, you’ll have a paper ballot,” said Whitmire, discussing the biggest change from the last 15 years.Full Article: First look at South Carolina's new voting machines | wltx.com.
South Carolina: Does South Carolina’s new polling system get a vote of confidence? | Heath Ellison/The Daniel Island News
South Carolina will implement a new voting system starting January 1, 2020. The new method will be a mixture of the new and old by offering voters a touchscreen interface to make their choices, but will add “the security of a paper ballot,” according to the South Carolina State Election Commission. Voters will make their decision with the touchscreen and the new machine will print out a paper ballot. Individuals can review the ballot to assure their votes are correct, then they will enter them into the machine. Votes will be scanned and tallied when the paper is securely put in the ballot box. The paper ballots will be saved “for auditing and verification of results,” the Commission said. “I think there will be a learning curve,” said Berkeley County Voter Registration and Elections Director Adam Hammons. “I think it will continue to allow voters to access their ballot in the way that they’re used to.” Hammons added that he believes the new system will be a good change for the county.Full Article: Does South Carolina’s new polling system get a vote of confidence? | The Daniel Island News.
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.