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Editorials: North Carolina elections board made elections less secure | David Levine/The Fayetteville Observer

Using a barcode ballot system makes it harder to audit election results — an essential election security feature for confirming the outcomes of the election. This past August, the N.C. State Board of Elections made a decision to enable large numbers of North Carolina voters to vote on Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), which could have made the state’s elections less secure and more vulnerable to malicious foreign actors heading into the 2020 presidential elections. Last month, the vendor for these Ballot Marking Devices told a Board of Elections attorney that they had only one-sixth of the equipment needed to match demand for the 2020 elections under the current certification. To remedy the shortage, the vendor requested that the state certify an updated version of its voting systems through an administrative process that only applies to equipment that do not “substantially alter the voting system,” rather than go through an entire certification process which might not conclude before the 2020 election cycle.

Full Article: David Levine: NC elections board made elections less secure - Opinion - The Fayetteville Observer - Fayetteville, NC.

Texas: We won. No, you won. Wait! We won! Confusion in a Texas school bond election isn’t going away. | Dave Lieber/Dallas Morning News

Jim Wells County had the infamous Ballot Box 13. It was 1948, and supporters of Lyndon B. Johnson held the box back, and then, miraculously, came up with just enough votes for LBJ to win his first U.S. Senate race. History would be quite different if the future president’s South Texas supporters hadn’t cheated. The fragility of our voting system should not be taken for granted. This can happen anywhere in any election. Midland County currently faces its own threat to the sanctity of its election system. Nobody is officially accusing anyone of cheating, but there are problems galore. Much of the problems stem from the first-time use of new voter machines that are supposed to protect ballot security. Called hybrids, they record a vote both electronically and through a backup paper ballot. Most Dallas/Fort Worth area counties have switched to them or are working on a switch. But, so far, that promised measure of security hasn’t worked in that part of West Texas.

Full Article: We won. No, you won. Wait! We won! Confusion in a Texas school bond election isn’t going away..

North Carolina: Bait and switch by ES&S in North Carolina? | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

A voting system certified and tested earlier this year for use in North Carolina’s March 2020 primaries won’t be available, according to manufacturer Elections Systems and Software, so the company’s lobbyists have suggested the state quickly approve one of its other systems instead. While the N.C. Board of Elections director has recommended going along with the vendor on the substitution, others see the move as a deceptive bait and switch. One Board of Elections member, Stella Anderson, has objected to the situation, thereby forcing the board to convene a special meeting on the issue. She and others have questioned the integrity of the company and suggested both ES&S and board staff have used language that understates the significance of the difference between the two systems and misrepresents federal government requirements for approving such modifications to voting systems. ES&S has been trying to get its EVS voting system certified in North Carolina since 2017. Litigation between the Republican legislature and the Democratic governor, the 9th Congressional District ballot fraud scandal in 2018, and the resignation of the former Board of Elections chairman delayed certification of the new system until the 11th hour.

Full Article: Bait and switch by maker of voting system for NC?.

Texas: District Judge approved petition to open Midland County ballot boxes | Brandi Addison/Midland Reporter-Telegram

Midland County Attorney Russell Malm filed a petition Friday morning for permission to open ballot boxes from this election season. The petition was approved by Judge David Lindemood of the 318th District Court, and ballot boxes are set to be opened at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Commissioners’ Court located at the Midland County Annex on “A” Street. The request comes after a manual paper-ballot recount, on Midland ISD’s $569 million bond on Nov. 22, showed an 820-vote discrepancy from what the electronic machines tabulated on Nov. 5 and 12. The opening of ballot boxes is just part of an ongoing process of investigation, Malm said. Under the guidance of the Secretary of State, this was the suggested step that should help determine whether the large gap was due to incorrect tallying during the recount or if the electronic voting machines duplicated votes. The Elections Office will open the boxes to see if there was anything misplaced – specifically a tally sheet – and if so, Elections Administrator Deborah Land will make a copy and place it in an original sealed envelope. From there, all ballots will be run through the electronic machines to count the number of votes cast. This will not tabulate how many votes were “for” or “against,” but rather if the numbers match the tallies from the recount or match the votes tabulated on the electronic machines.

Full Article: District Judge approved petition to open ballot boxes - Midland Reporter-Telegram.

North Carolina: Voting machine reliability brought up as concern after issues with similar machines in other state | Paige Pauroso/WBTV

The North Carolina State Board of Elections is taking a closer look at voting machines they plan on purchasing after the same company’s machines were part of an election nightmare in a county in Pennsylvania. The company ES&S makes the Express Vote XL, which was used in Pennsylvania on Election Day in November, but due to what is said to be a programming error, the votes were counted incorrectly. Now, Mecklenburg County said they will do everything they can to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen here if the county gets state approval to purchase similar voting machines made by the same company. The two voting machines are different models and work differently when a voter goes to cast a final ballot, but operate similarly when you’re marking the ballot. Mecklenburg County plans to purchase the Express Vote model instead of the Express Vote XL model. The problems voters faced in Pennsylvania are bringing up some concerns of will North Carolina have enough time to properly test the machines before they’re supposed to make their debut in 2020.

Full Article: NC voting machine reliability brought up as concern after issues with similar machines in other state.

Texas: Midland County officials share update on investigation into ballot discrepancy

The Midland County Elections Office has shared the latest on their investigation into how hundreds of votes went missing during the Midland ISD bond recount. The following comes from Midland County: This is an update on the steps we have and are continuing to undertake to find where the discrepancy has occurred. A telephone conference was held on November 25, 2019 between Keith Ingram and Christina Adkins of the Legal Department of the Texas Office of Secretary of State, and including Terry Johnson, County Judge, Russell Malm, County Attorney, and myself. We were given steps to go through to compare voter check-ins with totals tapes from each vote center, both early voting and election day. We are completing that task at this time.

Full Article: Midland County officials share update on investigation into ballot discrepancy.

Texas: Midland ISD canvassing bond election | Victor Blanco, Tatum Guinn, Rachel Ripp/KWES

It’s officially in the books: the Midland school board finalized the bond election recount results Tuesday. Everything from here forward will be dealt with by Midland County. This despite a more than 800 ballot discrepancy. People at today’s meeting asked the board to hold off on canvassing the recount until the county gets to the bottom of what happened. “It’s disappointing in that there’s so many questions left unanswered. That’s the part that really I’m having trouble with,” Matt Galindo said. “To know that there’s a discrepancy in the amount of votes. I’m disappointed, worried and now have a lack of trust.” Midland ISD school board president Rick Davis took the opportunity to explain in detail how the recount process worked Friday. The process included nine teams of three – one representative from each side of the issue and an at-large member were on each team.

Full Article: Midland ISD canvassing bond election | newswest9.com.

Texas: Cause of 820-vote discrepancy in Midland County not yet known | Midland Reporter-Telegram

Midland County Elections Administrator Deborah Land told the Reporter-Telegram it has not been determined what caused an 820-vote discrepancy between Election Day and the recount on the Midland ISD $569 million bond. Land said she has reached out to the legal department of the Secretary of State’s Office and is awaiting response. She has also reached out to representatives from ES&S, the voting machine vendor. “Until I have more information as to how we will be making any determination as to the difference in numbers, I have nothing further to tell you at this time,” Land wrote in an email. The electronic machines counted 23,631 ballots were cast on Nov. 5. When the ballots were counted by hand, the nine three-person teams counted 22,811 ballots total. The recount began sometime after 8 a.m. Friday and ended about 4 a.m. Saturday. Midland County Elections Administrator Deborah Land told the Reporter-Telegram it has not been determined what caused an 820-vote discrepancy between Election Day and the recount on the Midland ISD $569 million bond. Land said she has reached out to the legal department of the Secretary of State’s Office and is awaiting response. She has also reached out to representatives from ES&S, the voting machine vendor.

Full Article: Cause of 820-vote discrepancy not yet known - Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Editorials: Hand-marked Paper Ballots: How this Tried-and-True Method Makes Us More Secure | Bennie J. Smith/Memphis Commercial Appeal

In 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo on Instagram (owned by Facebook) to celebrate Instagram’s historic milestone of reaching 500 million users. Though Zuckerberg was excited to share his company’s success, headlines instead focused on the unintended revelation that his laptop’s webcam and mic were covered with tape. As one of the greatest high-tech inventors, he knows the dangers of modern technology and reveals his simple low-tech method of protection from hackers. One thing is clear, he doesn’t blindly trust technology, and neither should you.We’ve blindly trusted voting technology until it recently came under intense scrutiny. Many technologists, concerned citizens and others now want to replace voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots to record our votes. Combined with post-election audits, these low-tech methods provide evidence that voters’ choices were counted correctly when tabulated. If you think about it, paper marked by a human is immune to any virus since no computer is involved. It’s your starting line in an election, with its most important fact (true voter intent) undeniably created by you. Your available choices and who you chose are both verifiable and documented. Voters unable to mark a ballot by hand will need ballot-marking device choices.

Full Article: Shelby County voting machines elections computers errors.

National: Expensive, Glitchy Voting Machines Expose 2020 Hacking Risks | Kartikay Mehrotra and Margaret Newkirk/Bloomberg

The first sign something was wrong with Northampton County, Pennsylvania’s state-of-the-art voting system came on Election Day when a voter called the local Democratic Party chairman to say a touchscreen in her precinct was acting “finicky.” As she scrolled down the ballot, the tick-marks next to candidates she’d selected kept disappearing. Her experience Nov. 5 was no isolated glitch. Over the course of the day, the new election machinery, bought over the objections of cybersecurity experts, continued to malfunction. Built by Election Systems & Software, the ExpressVote XL was designed to marry touchscreen technology with a paper-trail for post-election audits. Instead, it created such chaos that poll workers had to crack open the machines, remove the ballot records and use scanners summoned from across state lines to conduct a recount that lasted until 5 a.m. In one case, it turned out a candidate that the XL showed getting just 15 votes had won by about 1,000. Neither Northampton nor ES&S know what went wrong. Digital voting machines were promoted in the wake of a similarly chaotic scene 19 years ago: the infamous punch-card ballots and hanging chads of south Florida that tossed the presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore into uncertainty.

Full Article: Expensive, Glitchy Voting Machines Expose 2020 Hacking Risks - Bloomberg.

West Virginia: ES&S software upgrade allow judicial races to move higher up on ballots | Phil Kabler/Charleston Gazette-Mail

A software upgrade that will allow voting systems used in 33 West Virginia counties to rearrange the ballot order to comply with a new law moving nonpartisan judicial elections higher up on May primary election ballots was approved Tuesday by the State Election Commission. The updated version of the ExpressVote System, produced by Elections Systems and Software, will allow county clerks to customize ballots, necessary under legislation passed by the Legislature in March changing the ballot location for nonpartisan judicial elections. Under the new law, beginning with the May 2020 primary election, judicial elections will appear on the ballot after national, state and legislative races, and ahead of county offices and other nonpartisan races. The change was prompted by concern from some legislators that, on long primary ballots, some voters might be failing to vote in judicial elections, which, in 2016 and 2018, were at the foot of the ballot, and frequently were on the back of a two-sided ballot.

Full Article: Software allow judicial races to move higher up on ballots | Politics | wvgazettemail.com.

Arkansas: Seven counties sign on for new voting gear | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Seven counties are scheduled to have new voting equipment in time for the March 3 elections, reducing by a third the number of counties using old equipment, under recently signed contracts. Secretary of State John Thurston’s office signed contracts in the past several weeks with Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software for Lincoln, Madison, Mississippi, Phillips, Poinsett, Saline and Van Buren counties, according to records in the secretary of state’s office. It’s possible Drew County might soon sign a similar contract with Thurston’s office, said Kurt Naumann, administrative director in the secretary of state’s office. The records show the state’s share of the cost for new equipment in the seven counties will total $1.7 million, with the countries contributing $902,938. Among the seven, Saline County will get the largest state contribution, $496,005, to match its $482,588.

Full Article: Seven Arkansas counties sign on for new voting gear.

North Carolina: Toss-up State to Use Vulnerable Tech in 2020 | Jack Lowenstein/WhoWhatWhy

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.

North Dakota: New ES&S voting equipment replaces 15-year-old machines | Grand Forks Herald

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.

Montana: ExpressVote Voting Machines Could Debut In Montana This November | MTPR

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.

North Dakota: New election equipment going out to counties | Jack Dura/Bismarck Tribune

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.