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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.

Full Article: Mecklenburg County OKs Buying New Voting Equipment | WFAE.

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.

Full Article: Concerns over new voting machines in Mobile & Baldwin counties | WPMI.

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.

Full Article: Election gear on county's to-do list.

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.

Full Article: Ignoring Warning Signs: Officials Approve Vulnerable Voting Machines - WhoWhatWhy.

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.

Full Article: Some N.C. elections officials anxious over software upgrade - Carolina Journal - Carolina Journal.

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 5.2.4.0 as a replacement for EVS 5.2.2.0 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.”

Full Article: Divided NC elections board approves untested upgrade to voting system.

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.

Full Article: N Carolina elections board chastises voting equipment vendor.

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.

Full Article: New touchscreen voting machines approved in North Carolina | Raleigh News & Observer.

North Carolina: Despite ‘disappointment’ in manufacturer, election board skips certification to approve new voting systems | Benjamin Schachtman/Port City Daily

The state’s election board has resolved the potential for a major shortage of voting machines — including around $1 million worth that New Hanover County plans to order. The move was not without controversy, as some state officials said the manufacturer held back information about the shortage to force the state’s hand in approving a new model. On Friday afternoon, the North Carolina Board of Elections (NCSBE) voted 3-2 to approve the use of a newer model voting system manufactured by Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) without putting it through a state certification process. Board Chair Damon Circosta cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the approval, but expressed disappointment in ES&S behavior. “I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed with ES&S, who in their zeal to sell their product lacked candor and were not forthcoming with this agency,” Circosta said. Circosta ultimately cast the vote in favor of fast-tracking ES&S’s new system, saying “my disappointment does not dissuade me from my obligation to North Carolina voters” and noting that the system itself was in line with the board’s commitment to providing election security and transparency, despite its manufacturer’s actions. The issue stems from a 2018 North Carolina law (SL 2018-13) that decertified direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems because they did not create a physical record that could be checked in the event of election challenges, evidence of hacking, or other irregularities. New Hanover County’s Board of Elections has over 100 DRE units.

Full Article: Despite ‘disappointment’ in manufacturer, NC election board skips certification to approve new voting systems | Port City Daily.

Texas: Alarming Discrepancies Found in Midland County Election | Matt Stringer |/Texas Scorecard

An investigation into a West Texas school district’s bond election found even more ballots unaccounted for and a locked ballot box that officials cannot explain, leaving the community still looking for answers. The election was held last month on a proposed $569 million school bond for the Midland Independent School District. Unofficial results from election night showed 11,560 votes for the bond and 11,548 votes against, with military and absentee votes still pending. But the unofficial results were flipped going into final tabulation, with the bond failing by 30 votes due to an incorrect reading of the unofficial results from election night that stood uncorrected by the elections administrator for some time. Final results showed 23,631 votes cast in the bond election: 11,803 votes for and 11,828 against the measure. A recount of the results conducted on November 23 found that 11,400 people had voted against the bond, while 11,411 voted for it, giving a grand total of 22,811 voters having participated in the election.

Full Article: Alarming Discrepancies Found in Midland Election - Texas Scorecard.

Verified Voting Blog: Letter to North Carolina Board of Elections Regarding Certification Waiver for ES&S EVS 5.2.4.0

Download the Letter (pdf)

Dear Members of the North Carolina Board of Elections,

I am writing to you in my capacity as President of Verified Voting. Please forgive the lateness of the communication as I only recently learned of your meeting today. I am writing to urge the State Board of Elections to proceed with caution and decline to waive certification requirements for the ES&S EVS 5.2.4.0 to allow Mecklenburg County to purchase uncertified ExpressVote HW2.1 ballot marking devices (“BMDs”) for all voters. Not only would such a decision run contrary to North Carolina statutory law, but the failure to carefully examine the differences between this system and the certified system could needlessly expose Mecklenburg County to increased security risks in the upcoming election. Because Mecklenburg County insists on buying computerized ballot marking devices for all voters, the increased risk to North Carolina voters is grave indeed.

As we discuss more fully below, the differences between the two systems in both software and hardware are substantial. We believe elevating the security risk is needless because Mecklenburg County has other options in two certified systems by two other vendors. Additionally, in our view, there is time for Mecklenburg to institute a more secure system in which voters primarily mark paper ballots with a pen and the county also supplies sufficient operable ballot marking devices for voters who need or wish to use them. According to the Board, a prerequisite to use of the certified ES&S system in Mecklenburg County is the use of the system in at least one precinct in the November 2019 election. That has apparently already occurred with ExpressVote HW1.0 ballot marking device. To avoid waiving any legislative requirements, Mecklenburg could institute hand-marked paper ballots that are scanned by the DS 200 and BMDs with the vendor’s existing supply of BMDs. If the vendor represents that it does not have enough systems to even supply a small number of BMDs for each precinct, the State Board of Elections should consider the vendor’s presentation of the system for certification as offered in bad faith, especially if the vendor knew it would no longer manufacture that version of its equipment and would be unable to adequately supply counties that chose it.

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.