National: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market | Chris Cumming/Wall Street Journal

Leveraged-buyout firms are playing a key role in the 2020 elections: Companies they own are counting the flood of mail-in ballots, and that isn’t sitting well with some lawmakers. Two private-equity-owned companies dominate the market for high-speed ballot scanners and other voting equipment. Lawmakers have raised questions about the lack of transparency and competition in the industry, and more broadly over the role of private-equity firms in elections. Election Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Corp. together produce the technology used by over three-quarters of U.S. voters, according to a coming report by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The third-largest player, Hart InterCivic, was owned by private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital from 2011 to this April, when it was quietly sold, according to H.I.G. Private-equity firms “have taken over nearly all of the nation’s election technology—and how they do business is clouded in secrecy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in an email. Lawmakers including Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) in December wrote that the private-equity-backed voting companies’ lack of transparency threatens the integrity of elections. Under private-equity ownership, the voting-machine market has consolidated through mergers. In a little over a decade, at least eight major vendors have consolidated to three, which control about 92% of the market, Wharton researchers said in 2017.

Full Article: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market – WSJ

Texas: Wichita County buys additional voting equipment in case of increased mail-in ballots | Claire Kowalick/Wichita Falls Times Record News

Wichita County is planning to have additional equipment in place in case there are any changes to elections due to the COVID-19 situation. The Commissioners Court approved Monday the purchase of a Hart Intercivic Ballot Now Printer and a Kodak i660 Central Scanner with software and monitor for $62,675. The expenditure will come of the of the general contingency fund, but the purchase could be fully or partially reimbursed through the Helping America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA was passed by the United States Congress in 2002 to improve the voting process and voter access after issues came up in the 2000 election. The program aims to update and upgrade voting equipment, have statewide voter registration databases, provide voter identification and administrative complaint procedures, and provide provisional voting. While elections offices have been working for years to make these changes, the upcoming election has the additional challenge of the coronavirus. There has been discussion at the national and state levels to expand mail-in voting to lessen the chance of exposure to COVID-19, especially for the elderly or other vulnerable populations.

National: Voting machine manufacturers pushed to provide ways to sanitize products | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The top U.S. voting machine manufacturers are being pushed to produce videos and information on how their products can be sanitized to enable Americans to safely vote in-person during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Six leading voting equipment manufacturers were sent a letter Thursday by nonprofit group Free Speech for People, which raised concerns that voting machines could become a “major disease vector” for spreading the coronavirus during upcoming primaries and the general election. As a result, the group asked the manufacturers to produce videos detailing how to properly clean voting equipment and post them online, along with allowing third-party groups to examine whether the steps to clean the equipment were effective and safe. “We make these requests because we are deeply concerned about the health risk that electronic voting machines pose to voters,” Free Speech for People wrote.

Idaho: Canyon County working to determine how many voters affected by Hart InterCivic voting machine errors | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

The Middleton School District’s supplement levy request fell short Tuesday, while three other school districts in Canyon County successfully passed levies. Some Middleton district voters, however, contacted the school district Tuesday morning to say they weren’t given a chance to vote on the levy because of issues with the county’s new election equipment. The issue was resolved early in the day, school district spokeswoman Vickie Holbrook told the Idaho Press Wednesday. “I think there were a few (affected voters), but do I think it affected the outcome? No,” she said. Nampa voters also experienced issues with the equipment, and some were told to come back later in the day to vote. County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said Wednesday the county is compiling information and talking to the poll workers to try to get an estimate on the number of affected voters. Estimates are expected by Thursday, county spokesman Joe Decker said. The Idaho Press emailed county commissioners Wednesday morning requesting comment on the scope of the issue and what the county would do next. Commissioner Leslie Van Beek responded, saying she needed more time to talk with the clerk and learn more before commenting.

Idaho: Precincts experience problems with new Hart InterCivic voting equipment | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

Some Canyon County voters were unable to vote on school levies Tuesday because of issues with the county’s new election equipment. Others experienced problems with their entire ballot and were instructed to come back later in the day to vote. Problems started soon after polls opened, according to Middleton School District spokeswoman Vickie Holbrook, when a Middleton voter was unable to vote on the district’s supplemental levy at their polling place, the Notus Community Center. Holbrook told the Idaho Press in an email that Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto went to the precinct and explained how poll workers could work around the ballot issue, so that people could vote on the correct ballot. Yamamoto told the Idaho Press on Tuesday evening he’s unsure how many voters were affected, but he believes the number is low based on the precincts he visited Tuesday. “I have no way of knowing how many people didn’t vote this morning but we have a good idea in certain places,” he said. The county is gathering information to see how many voters were impacted by the ballot problems, Yamamoto said.

Texas: Parker County Commissioner on Hart InterCivic voting machines: ‘We’re not going to tolerate this type of failure again’ | Autumn Owens/Weatherford Democrat

Parker County officials discussed voting machine failures that occurred at five locations on Election Day last week, saying what took place cannot happen again. The discussion took place during Monday’s meeting of the commissioners court and included comments from the elections administrator, county judge, party chairs, commissioners and a representative from Hart InterCivic, the vendor that owns the voting machines. “We had about 14,454 people vote in early voting and that went very smooth — we had seven sites and no major issues whatsoever, so early voting went very well. The problems occurred during Election Day,” Elections Administrator Don Markum said. “We had 13,401 people vote on Election Day at 37 poll sites. The issue we had was the scanners would not read some of the ballots. It was basically five whole sites that had this issue with a lot of the ballots not being able to be read — Santa Fe Baptist Church, ESD 6, Rock Baptist Church, Willow Park and Aledo ISD. Those five sites had major issues.”

Idaho: Canyon County rolls out new Hart Ballot Marking Devices for all voters equipment ahead of March election | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

Thursday morning the Canyon County Elections Office was bustling with county and poll workers unpacking the county’s new voting equipment to prepare for Election Day on March 10. Canyon County voters this election are using the new $3 million system for the first time, a system that will use both an electronic and paper ballot system. Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said the new system isn’t really “electronic voting,” because the machines print out a completed paper ballot once votes are cast. “What the machines are doing is it is running the pencil for you, it prints out a paper ballot that we store. We have it on digital, but we also have a paper ballot,” Yamamoto said. Voters who have participated in early voting have already used the system under the guidance of trained poll workers.

Texas: Harris County Democrats waited for hours to vote. Two-thirds of polling sites were in GOP areas. | Zach Despart and Mike Morris/Houston Chronicle

Many of the 322,000 Harris County Democratic primary voters who surged to the polls Tuesday faced long lines that forced several balloting sites to stay open late into the evening. Though Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2 to 1 on Election Day, almost two-thirds of the county’s voting centers were in county commissioner precincts in west Harris County held by Republicans. And, in a decision that worsened delays, the Harris County Clerk’s Office placed an equal number of voting machines for each party at every voting center. That meant that in Democratic strongholds like Kashmere Gardens, where Republicans were outnumbered 30 to 1 during early balloting, Democratic voters languished in line while GOP machines sat unused. Adding to the frustration was a County Clerk website that is supposed to show wait times at poll locations. Numerous voters on Tuesday complained the website led them to a polling place showing a minimal wait only to stand for hours because poll workers failed to update the site. Housing advocate Chrishelle Palay said she saw two or three Republican voters while she waited two hours to cast her ballot in Kashmere. “People were confused and infuriated,” Palay said. “They were definitely upset at the approach and how the machines were set up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idaho: Canyon County approves purchasing $3 million election equipment from Hart Intercivic | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

The Canyon County Board of Commissioners has approved a roughly $3 million contract for new voting equipment. After two separate meetings Monday, the commission in a 2-1 vote approved the contract between the Canyon County Elections Office and Texas-based Hart InterCivic. Commissioners Pam White and Tom Dale voted in favor of approving the contract, and Commissioner Leslie Van Beek voted against it. The contract includes the purchase of an entirely new voting system, including polling pads, ballot distribution machines and precinct counters. The system would eliminate most of the human error that comes with having election poll workers distribute ballots, said Haley Hicks, elections supervisor for Canyon County. The equipment and contract with Hart will cost the county just over $3 million. Canyon County has historically had multiple problems during elections, including late nights of ballot counting — the county finished counting ballots after 3 a.m. one election night in 2018 and at 7 a.m. the next morning in 2017. In 2018, the elections office forgot to count 39 ballots from overseas citizens and active members of the military on election night.

Missouri: No more touch-screen ballots in St. Louis County after $6.9 million voting equipment upgrade | Josh Renaud/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Touch screens are out and paper ballots are in after St. Louis County upgraded its voting equipment ahead of the 2020 elections. The county election board signed a $6.9 million contract with Hart InterCivic in September to replace its legacy voting equipment. The new system prints paper ballots on demand at polling places, said Eric Fey, the board’s Democratic elections director. The price tag was $3 million lower than competing touch-screen-based systems, he said. Polling places also will be equipped with assistive devices for use by voters with disabilities. The new system got its first workout in the special election on Nov. 5. “The equipment worked almost flawlessly at the 30 polling locations we utilized,” said Rick Stream, the board’s Republican elections director. He said there were minor printer toner issues, but election staff fixed those immediately. With its old system — and the county’s many municipalities, school districts and taxing districts — St. Louis County had to preprint hundreds of unique ballot styles, estimate how many would be needed at each polling place, then deliver them to the correct polling places. Sometimes this process went wrong, as in April 2016, when delivery mistakes prevented residents in more than 60 precincts from voting. Fey said that printing ballots as voters walk in will eliminate this problem.

National: Election vendors should be vetted for security risks, says watchdog group | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The federal government should start vetting companies that sell election systems as seriously as it does defense contractors and energy firms, a top election security group argues in a proposal out this morning. Under the proposal from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, government auditors would verify election companies and their suppliers are following a raft of cybersecurity best practices. They would also have to run background checks to ensure employees aren’t likely to sabotage machines to help Russia or other U.S. adversaries. The suggestion comes as Congress continues to fight over whether to tighten election security as candidates ramp up for the 2020 election. Senate Republicans, especially, have stalled further security measures, even as observers warn that the next election is ripe for hacking by foreign adversaries such as Russia, which interfered in the 2016 contest. Vendors of voting machines, however, have traditionally been exempt from close review by federal regulators. “These vendors are a critical part of securing our elections, but we haven’t really focused on them at all,” Lawrence Norden, director of Brennan’s election reform program and one of the authors, told me. “We need to understand that they’re critically important but also represent a vulnerability that there needs to be oversight for.”

Kentucky: A Bevin-Beshear recount? Here’s what could happen in the Kentucky governor’s race | Joe Sonka/Louisville Courier Journal

To cap off one of the wildest finishes to a gubernatorial election in Kentucky history, Democratic candidate Andy Beshear declared victory to supporters Tuesday night, moments after Republican incumbent Matt Bevin told supporters that he will not concede the race. “This is a close, close race,” said Bevin, who trailed Beshear by 5,189 votes with 100% of precincts reporting across the state. “We are not conceding this race by any stretch.” Later that night, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told CNN her office had called the race for Beshear, as they do not believe the difference in the vote can be made up by Bevin. As if matters couldn’t get more complicated, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers then told reporters that a joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly may eventually decide the winner, citing a provision in the state constitution that hasn’t been used in 120 years. So … what now?

National: What Battleground States Need to Do to Prevent Voting Machine Hacking in 2020 | Hadley Hitson/Fortune

Three companies control the fate of United States elections. Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems, and Hart InterCivic dominate 92% of the voting machine market, standing to make bank as states rush to update their systems before the looming 2020 election.  In 2016, counties in 16 states used paperless equipment without backup records. The Department of Homeland Security later notified six of those states that hackers targeted their systems. There’s now widespread recognition that paperless machines are the least secure. Some state governments control voting methods, others delegate the decision to local authority, but in most of those states, officials are moving to purchase new machines. “The transition is still happening, but I’m hopeful every battleground state will have a paper backup of every vote,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the NYU Brennan Center For Justice. Norden predicts 90% of votes will have paper backups in 2020.

National: Voting machine companies may throw their doors open to ethical hackers | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Voting machine companies, which for years have been loath to acknowledge any security weaknesses, are finally saying they will consider allowing ethical hackers to search for them. But hackers are skeptical of the election industry’s recent commitment to security and transparency. The olive branch to hackers marks a huge about-face for the industry, which last week asked for feedback from researchers and companies about the best ways to let outsiders vet their security. They’ve long argued that researchers, by exposing security flaws, could give a roadmap to foreign hackers intent on compromising the 2020 contest. Now they’re saying the threat of Russian hacking and disinformation is too severe for the security of election systems to be treated as a private matter to be managed behind closed doors. “For many years the industry…preferred to work quietly behind scenes. [But] 2016 brought cybersecurity to the front burner and folks in this industry who were uncomfortable talking about vulnerabilities have warmed up to it,” Chris Wlaschin, the top cybersecurity official for Election Systems and Software, told me. But some ethical hackers worry the industry, which has historically prioritized making their machines easier for election administrators to use rather than making them as secure as possible, isn’t ready to make big changes. They fear the companies won’t work quickly enough to fix the bugs they discover and could use non-disclosure agreements to enforce silence about dangerous bugs that could compromise an election.

North Carolina: Voting equipment approval didn’t follow law | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

North Carolina’s recent decision to certify new voting systems for use next year did not follow state law, according to a letter that a group of experts on election security and administration sent to the N.C. Board of Elections late Wednesday night. North Carolina has been in the process of reviewing new voting systems for certification for over two years. The system that is currently in use across the state was certified in 2005. The law requires a security review of the source code of all voting systems before they are certified for use in the state. The letter states that there is no indication that the state, either through its own contractors or through required federal testing, reviewed the source code for the computers in the voting systems it recently certified. The experts in question, including Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, reviewed testing documentation from the state and from the federal government. “You read all of that, and it’s clear,” Buell said. “There was no source code review conducted. That would certainly seem to suggest that things are not in accordance with North Carolina law.”

Missouri: St. Louis County Voters To Mostly Use Paper Ballots | KBIA

The St. Louis County Board of Elections unanimously voted Tuesday to shift toward using paper ballots and away from touch-screen voting machines. The elections board is moving forward with a $6.9 million contract with Hart Intercivic eSlate to provide new voting machines and software that primarily run a paper ballot system. The new apparatus is expected to be in place for the Nov. 5 election. A small number of touch-screen machines — one per polling station — will continue to be available for people with disabilities, said election board chair Sharon Buchanan-McClure. It’s unclear how many machines were purchased or other details, since the contract was not immediately provided Tuesday. The board held a closed-door meeting to discuss its voting machine options. Then, it opened the meeting to take the vote on the contract without any public discussion about its decision. 

Pennsylvania: Election security, transparency and millions of dollars: Questions answered as Allegheny County looks to buy new voting machines. | J. Dale Shoemaker/PublicSource

If you’ve tuned into the news at any point over the past three years, chances are you’ve heard that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Russian interference, “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” was a key — and much publicized — finding of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to the U.S. Attorney General earlier this year. But a less prominent finding was that Russia’s meddling also targeted state and county officials in an attempt to access voter rolls and voting systems. According to Mueller, Russia successfully accessed voter rolls in Illinois and even hacked one of the companies that sells election equipment to states and counties. The potential for future attacks, particularly during the 2020 presidential election, has worried some elections experts and advocates in Allegheny County and beyond. But now, as Allegheny County and many other Pennsylvania counties are in the process of buying new voting machines, there is an opportunity to select equipment that will maintain integrity at the polls. The state government, as part of a lawsuit settlement, has directed all counties to implement a voting system with a paper trail by the 2020 primaries. By 2022, counties must have a system in place to automatically audit election results to ensure they’re accurate. At present, a search committee comprised of 10 Allegheny County employees has issued a report assessing the cost and security protocols of nine different voting systems from four companies. Some are paper based, some are computer based.

North Carolina: Vote security on the line in Board of Elections meeting | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

When the NC Board of Elections meets Friday, it will make decisions about voting equipment for 2020 elections that could determine the security of the state’s election process and how much confidence voters can have that the system records and tabulates their votes as they intended. Security experts, federal research agencies and the US Senate agree on best practices for secure election equipment. They recommend that most voters use hand-marked paper ballots, count the ballots using digital scanners and audit the paper ballots for correctness before election results are made official. Most North Carolinians already vote this way. However, 23 of the state’s 100 counties use touch screens to cast their ballots, a system that experts consider insecure and outdated because it cannot be effectively audited. For that reason, North Carolina is set to decertify those systems by Dec. 1. This week, the state board of elections will consider certifying replacement systems. The decisions the board makes will have a domino effect of consequences for the security, privacy and accessibility of elections across the state.

National: Voting machine companies balk at taking part in hacking event | Kevin Collier/CNN

At the country’s biggest election security bonanza, the US government is happy to let hackers try to break into its equipment. The private companies that make the machines America votes on, not so much. The Def Con Voting Village, a now-annual event at the US’s largest hacking conference, gives hackers free rein to try to break into a wide variety of decommissioned election equipment, some of which is still in use today. As in the previous two years, they found a host of new flaws. The hunt for vulnerabilities in US election systems has underscored tensions between the Voting Village organizers, who argue that it’s a valuable exercise, and the manufacturers of voting equipment, who didn’t have a formal presence at the convention. Supporters of the Voting Village say it’s the best way draw attention to problems with an industry that otherwise doesn’t face much public accountability, even in the wake of Russia’s foreign interference in the 2016 election. Their work has attracted the notice of several lawmakers, who are calling for new legislation to strengthen the integrity of US elections.

National: 5 big takeaways from Politico’s national survey of election offices | Eric Geller/Politico

Paperless voting machines are a glaring weakness in U.S. election infrastructure. They are dangerous, experts say, because they lack paper voting records, making them vulnerable to malfunctions or intrusions that could undetectably change votes. With top U.S. intelligence officials predicting the return of Russian hackers in 2020, cybersecurity experts have urged state and local governments to replace their paperless machines as soon as possible. Since March, POLITICO has been tracking their progress. The nationwide picture is mixed: Some states and counties are moving quickly to buy paper-based machines and others are doing nothing at all. Here are the five big takeaways from POLITICO’s nationwide survey:

1) Many counties don’t have enough money to upgrade

In hundreds of small counties, election officials can’t afford to buy new voting machines, however insecure their current systems are. Between schools, infrastructure, police, environmental protection and emergency services, counties have enough on their plate without having to worry about their voting machines.

The fact that these machines are used so infrequently is another reason they often slip down the list of counties’ spending priorities. It’s hard to justify buying new voting machines when there are overcrowded schools or crumbling hospitals. “It is a huge expense for small rural counties,” said Cheri Hawkins, the clerk in Shackelford, Texas. “I would love to be able to update!”

Texas: How an election security push is running aground in Texas | Eric Geller/Politico

Election officials across the country are spending millions of dollars to replace their insecure voting machines ahead of the 2020 election. But America’s patchwork voting system is a long way from being secure. To understand why, take a look at Texas. More than a quarter of the state’s 254 counties are sticking with paperless voting machines that cybersecurity experts and intelligence officials have condemned as vulnerable to hacking, according to an extensive, first-of-its-kind POLITICO survey of state and local election offices. At least 14 of them are even buying new paperless machines as they replace devices that nearing 20 years old. In the nation’s second-largest state, the forces impeding the effort to secure the machinery of democracy are the same ones stalling this push for paper ballots nationwide. They include a lack of money, an absence of leadership from above, and a shortage of basic cybersecurity knowledge among the local election officials who make the technology decisions in much of the country.

North Carolina: Elections Board Awaiting New Member To Break Tie On Voting Machines | Rusty Jacobs/WUNC

North Carolina’s elections board is deadlocked over whether to require that voting machines produce a paper printout that lets voters read and confirm their ballot. The state’s Board of Elections on Thursday decided to debate the issue again in three weeks. By then, it’s likely a fifth member will be appointed to replace former chairman Bob Cordle who resigned this week. Cordle stepped down under fire Tuesday after telling an inappropriate joke at a conference for county elections officials on Monday. His resignation is significant because Cordle would have been a third vote on the five-member, bi-partisan board backing certification. Three companies are seeking certification of their equipment, including one system that doesn’t use hand-marked paper ballots and emits a ticket with a bar code that is then scanned to tabulate voters’ choices. Once a company’s system is certified by the state, the vendor may contract with individual counties. Twenty-two counties use touch-screen equipment that is due to be de-certified December 1.

Arkansas: Some vote upgrades unsure – 21 counties lack new machines; some say cash too short | Michael R. Wickline/Arkansas Democrat & Gazette

Officials in the secretary of state’s office said Wednesday that they would like to install new voting equipment by the March 3 primary election in the 21 counties that don’t have it. But the office’s elections director, Leslie Bellamy, told officials from these counties that they won’t have new equipment for next year’s election cycle if Republican Secretary of State John Thurston decides to rebid the purchase, as had been suggested. In 2015, Thurston’s predecessor, Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin, decided to purchase a statewide integrated voting system, including new voting equipment, through Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software rather than California-based Unisyn Voting Solutions or Texas-based Hart Inter-Civic. Officials from some counties disagreed on whether Thurston should seek new bids. Officials from other counties said their counties are so cash-strapped that they won’t be able to match state funds for new equipment.

North Carolina: State Elections Board’s Sudden Vacancy Could Affect Debate Over Certification Of New Voting Machines | Rusty Jacobs/WUNC

The sudden resignation of State Board of Elections Chairman Bob Cordle presents an opportunity for people who oppose the certification of new voting systems in future North Carolina elections. The board is scheduled to meet Thursday and had been expected to move towards certifying three new systems. Once certified by the state board, the vendors for those systems may seek contracts with individual counties. The board’s two Republicans, Ken Raymond and David Black, and Cordle, a Democrat, favored certification. But Cordle stepped down Tuesday, just a day after telling an inappropriate joke during remarks at the start of  a conference for state and county elections officials. Gov. Roy Cooper must now choose a replacement from a list of nominees submitted by the state Democratic Party. He could end up selecting someone who would join the board’s other two Democrats, Jeff Carmon III and Stella Anderson, in opposing certification. That would tip the five-member board towards not certifying. At a public meeting on Sunday, convened to allow the voting systems vendors to present their equipment to the state elections board members, advocacy groups and concerned citizens had urged the board to put off certification and continue using the hand-marked ballot and tabulator system employed by most counties across the state. They cited potential vulnerabilities in newer voting technologies.

North Carolina: Board of Elections does a 180 on decision to delay certifying voting machines | Melissa Boughton/NC Policy Watch

The North Carolina State Board of Elections plans to move forward with certifying new voting machines ahead of the 2020 elections after a member mistakenly voted Monday night to delay the process to create stricter requirements out of concern for cyber security.The reversal of course came as a surprise to voting rights advocates and citizens who had praised Board members last night for postponing certification in the name of voter integrity. Board members had voted 3-2 for the postponement in order to adopt more stringent requirements for digital voting systems at a later meeting in mid-August (a meeting for which they would have provided 15 days’ notice to the public). However, another meeting notice sent out Tuesday by the Board stated that the group planned to consider a motion this Thursday morning to “rescind [the] decision to notice meeting to amend NC Election Systems Certification Program.” “Board Member David Black said he misunderstood the motion of Board Secretary Stella Anderson and was not aware it would stop the present certification in its tracks,” said Board Chairman Bob Cordle in an email. “He did not realize that, so he wants to set that vote aside and move ahead with certification. Some board members believe it’s not fair to try to change the requirements at this late date — more than two and a half years after the process started.”

North Carolina: Another delay on voting machines, and a move toward hand-marked ballots | Travis Fain/WRAL

North Carolina moved toward a new requirement for hand-marked ballots Monday night when a divided, but bipartisan, State Board of Elections voted to rework the rules that govern what voting machines are allowed here. The board will have to gather again in about two weeks to make the change official, and Monday’s decision delayed for the third time in two months a long-awaited decision to certify new voting equipment. But activists hailed the vote as a move toward more secure elections. The time to approve new machines ahead of the 2020 elections grows short. State law requires small test runs in actual elections before new machines can be fully deployed, meaning equipment would need to be in place for the November municipal elections to be ready for the March 2020 presidential primaries. The state legislature may change that law, allowing for simulated election tests instead. It may also delay the coming decertification of touchscreen voting systems that roughly a third of North Carolina counties use now.