The St. Louis County Board of Elections is upgrading its voting equipment for the upcoming 2020 elections. The county has roughly 1,800 touch voting machines and 500 optical scan paper ballot tabulators that have had their fair share of wear and tear, and the software is now out of date. Eric Fey, the Democratic director of elections for the St. Louis County Board, said the last time county voters had new voting equipment was in 2005. “Although the equipment is 100% accurate, we have to replace components more often,” Fey said. “It’s very hard to get replacement parts. And then with the software, the programming of the ballot, the tabulation of the ballots is very labor intensive.” Currently, the board of elections is holding public demonstrations with three contenders including Dominion, Hart InterCivic and the county’s current vendor Election Systems & Software.Full Article: St. Louis County Board Of Elections Gearing Up For Upgrades | St. Louis Public Radio.
National: Election machine vendors back legislation requiring post-election audits, vulnerability disclosure | InsideCyberSecurity
Two major election machine vendors stated their support for requiring post-election audits to ensure the validity of election results in the case of a cyber attack or other tampering, in response to questions recently posed by senior Senate Democrats. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent letters last month to the three largest election machine vendors asking whether the companies would support legislation around post-election audits and what cyber controls are in place to secure the vote. In its response submitted on Tuesday, Hart InterCivic wrote that “robust post-election audits are the most compelling response” to threats posed by outdated technology. “Auditing is the most transparent and effective means to demonstrate that election outcomes accurately reflect the intention of voters,” Hart wrote. “Hart unequivocally supports state efforts to strengthen auditing procedures.” Tom Burt, the president and CEO of Election Systems and Software, also supported the idea of legislation around post-election audits, writing that the company “strongly supports legislation that would expand the use of routine post-election audits. ES&S believes that successful post-election audits, including risk-limiting audits such as those which have recently occurred in several jurisdictions, will increase confidence in our country’s election process.”Full Article: Election machine vendors back legislation requiring post-election audits, vulnerability disclosure | InsideCyberSecurity.com.
Democratic senators sent a letter to three of the country’s top election system vendors on Tuesday, pressing them on what they will do to help secure the 2020 election from foreign attacks. The letter, sent to the heads of voting vendors Election Systems & Software LLC, Hart InterCivic Inc. and Dominion Voting Systems, requested that the companies inform Democratic leaders of efforts to improve their systems to guard against cyber vulnerabilities. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, was joined on the letter by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), Senate Homeland Security Committee ranking member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.). “Despite the progress that has been made, election security experts and federal and state government officials continue to warn that more must be done to fortify our election systems,” the senators wrote. “Of particular concern is the fact that many of the machines that Americans use to vote have not been meaningfully updated in nearly two decades.”Full Article: Top Dems press voting vendors over election security concerns | TheHill.
While the security of the 2020 election remains a prominent topic in Washington, a group of Democratic senators is raising alarms about longer-term issues that will resonate after voters are done choosing a president about 20 months from now. The three companies that make most of the voting technology used in the U.S. must be more transparent about their plans to improve their products to meet current expectations about security and performance, says a letter Wednesday by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and three other top Democrats. In particular, the senators say every machine should reliably produce paper records, and the companies should do far more to upgrade their products. “The integrity of our elections is directly tied to the machines we vote on — the products that you make,” says the letter from Klobuchar, Mark Warner of Virginia, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Gary Peters of Michigan. “Despite shouldering such a massive responsibility, there has been a lack of meaningful innovation in the election vendor industry and our democracy is paying the price.”Full Article: Voting-machine vendors have some serious questions to answer, senators say.
National: Senate Democrats investigate cybersecurity of election machines, introduce version of H.R. 1 | InsideCyberSecurity.com
A group of senior Senate Democrats is seeking information on what the three largest manufacturers of U.S. voting machines are doing to secure the systems ahead of the 2020 elections, while the entire Democratic Caucus on Wednesday signed on to sponsor the Senate version of House-passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which includes language on securing election machines. A letter — signed by Senate Rules ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Intelligence ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA), Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Gary Peters (D-MI), and Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed (D-RI) — was sent Tuesday to voting machine vendors Hart InterCivic, Dominion Voting Systems, and Election Systems and Software, or ES&S. “Despite the progress that has been made, election security experts and federal and state government officials continue to warn that more must be done to fortify our election systems,” the senators wrote. “Of particular concern is the fact that many of the machines that Americans use to vote have not been meaningfully updated in nearly two decades. Although each of your companies has a combination of older legacy machines and newer systems, vulnerabilities in each present a problem for the security of our democracy and they must be addressed.” The senators posed questions on steps the companies are taking to secure their machines ahead of 2020, and how Congress can assist in these efforts; what the plans are for updating “legacy” voting machines; whether the companies would support legislation requiring “expanded use of post-election audits”; if the companies have vulnerability disclosure programs; and if they employ full-time cybersecurity experts.Full Article: Senate Democrats investigate cybersecurity of election machines, introduce version of H.R. 1 | InsideCyberSecurity.com.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Thursday attacked the small but powerful group of companies that controls the production of most voting equipment used in the U.S. “The maintenance of our constitutional rights should not depend on the sketchy ethics of these well-connected corporations that stonewall the Congress, lie to public officials, and have repeatedly gouged taxpayers, in my view, selling all of this stuff,” Wyden said during the Election Verification Network conference, a gathering of voting integrity advocates and election security experts in Washington. Wyden has been a leading voice among lawmakers who have criticized the voting machine industry as too opaque and not subject to enough oversight from Washington, especially as concerns grow among U.S. intelligence officials that elections will once again be a prime hacking target in 2020. “We’re up against some really entrenched, powerful interests, who have really just figured out a way to be above the law,” he said. “There is no other way to characterize it.” Furthermore, Wyden said, voting machine vendors have “been able to hotwire the political system in certain parts of the country.” He noted that newly elected Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp picked the top lobbyist for the voting giant Election Systems & Software as his deputy chief of staff. The companies, he said, “are accountable to nobody.”Full Article: Wyden lambastes voting machine makers as ‘accountable to nobody’ - POLITICO.
In the past decade, Election Systems & Software (E.S. & S.), the largest manufacturer of voting machines in the country, has routinely wined and dined a select group of state-election brass, which the company called an “advisory board,” offering them airfare on trips to places like Las Vegas and New York, upscale-hotel accommodations, and tickets to live events. Among the recipients of this largesse, according to an investigation by McClatchy published last year, was David Dove, the chief of staff to Georgia’s then secretary of state, Brian Kemp. Kemp, the new governor of Georgia, made news in the midterm elections for his efforts to keep people of color from voting and for overseeing his own election. In March of 2017, when Dove attended an E.S. & S. junket in Las Vegas, Kemp’s office was in the market to replace the state’s entire inventory of voting machines. “It’s highly inappropriate for any election official to be accepting anything of value from a primary contractor,” Virginia Canter, the chief ethics officer at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told McClatchy. “It shocks the conscience.” (Kathy Rogers, E.S. & S.’s senior vice-president for governmental affairs, told McClatchy that there was nothing untoward about the advisory board, which she said has been “immensely valuable in providing customer feedback.”)Full Article: How Voting-Machine Lobbyists Undermine the Democratic Process | The New Yorker.
Fayette County’ Clerk Don Blevins Jr. told the Lexington council Tuesday he will request up to $2 million in coming months to replace decade-old voting machines that were partly to blame for long lines at precincts in November. “Our machines stink,” said Blevins, who oversees elections in Fayette County. “It’s time. We need to replace these machines.” Lexington has about 1,000 Hart eSlate machines, which use a wheel that voters turn to highlight their choice on the ballot. Voters then push a button to make the highlighted choice. Most precincts only have a couple machines, which creates long lines when the ballot is lengthy. The machines can be attached to another machine that prints the completed paper ballot, but Lexington does not use those. That means there is no printed record of an individual’s vote.Full Article: Blevins seeking millions for new voting machines in Lexington | Lexington Herald Leader.
Kentucky: ‘I can’t stand these machines.’ Record turnout wasn’t why you waited in line to vote | Lexington Herald Leader
Long lines and long waits to vote in Fayette County on Tuesday led many to expect record turnout in the midterm election. But, in the end, turnout was only at 52 percent in Lexington. Higher than usual, but not a record. So the blame turned back to Fayette County’s electronic voting machines, which take a long time to use, especially with a long and complicated ballot. That means some people who didn’t have an hour or more to wait in line may have left before voting. “I certainly heard my fair share of people saying the line was too long and they had to leave,” said Debra Hensley, a former Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council member. “A person who cannot vote is an error on our part.” It’s a complaint that County Clerk Don Blevins Jr., the county’s chief elections officer, has heard before. And he agrees. “I can’t stand these machines,” Blevins said Wednesday. “They’re awkward to use, older citizens really struggle with the wheel, the user interface is just about as bad as it could be.”Full Article: Electronic voting machines created long waits in Lexington, KY | Lexington Herald Leader.
Editorials: Voting Machines: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? | Jennifer Cohn/NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
Since the 2016 election, there has been a good deal of commentary and reporting about the threats to American democracy from, on the one hand, Russian interference by Facebook and Twitterbot-distributed propaganda, and on the other, voter ID laws and other partisan voter suppression measures such as electoral roll purges. Both of these concerns are real and urgent, but there is a third, yet more sinister threat to the integrity of the November 6 elections: the vulnerability of the voting machines themselves. This potential weakness is critical because the entire system of our democracy depends on public trust—the belief that, however divided the country is and fiercely contested elections are, the result has integrity. Nothing is more insidious and corrosive than the idea that the tally of votes itself could be unreliable and exposed to fraud.Full Article: Voting Machines: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? | by Jennifer Cohn | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books.
National: Complaints Allege Cruz, Kemp Benefitting from Faulty Voting Machines That Change Dem Ballots to GOP | Law & Crime
Early voters submitting ballots for hotly contested races in Texas and Georgia claim that their states’ paperless voting machines are changing their votes for Democratic candidates to Republican, or deleting them altogether. According to Politico, individuals, as well as civil rights groups, have filed complaints alleging that glitches are resulting in votes for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) instead of his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. There have also been complaints that votes have gone to Georgia’s Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp, instead of his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams. Voting technology experts have said that this is not the result of foul play, but outdated, faulty systems that don’t even leave a paper trail of what happened. Kemp, who is currently the Georgia Secretary of State, has resisted past calls for the state to change voting systems. His state has used the same system since 2002. Texas only uses electronic machines in some counties, but there have been reports of ballots that were intended to be “straight ticket” votes for one party were changed to the other party.Full Article: Voters Complain Democrat Ballots Changed to GOP | Law & Crime.
Millions of Americans will cast votes in Tuesday’s midterm elections, some on machines that experts say use outdated software or are vulnerable to hacking. If there are glitches or some races are too close to call — or evidence emerges of more meddling attempts by Russia — voters may wake up on Wednesday and wonder: Can we trust the outcome? Meet, then, the gatekeepers of American democracy: Three obscure, private equity-backed companies control an estimated $300 million U.S. voting-machine industry. Though most of their revenue comes from taxpayers, and they play an indispensable role in determining the balance of power in America, the companies largely function in secret. Devices made by Election Systems & Software LLC, Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic Inc. will process about nine of every ten ballots next week. Each of the companies is privately held and at least partially controlled by private equity firms. Beyond that, little is known about how they operate or to whom they answer. They don’t disclose financial results and aren’t subject to federal regulation. While the companies say their technology is secure and up-to-date, security experts for years have raised concerns that older, sometimes poorly engineered, equipment can jeopardize the integrity of elections and, more importantly, erode public trust.Full Article: Private Equity Controls the Gatekeepers of American Democracy - Bloomberg.
A national spotlight fell on Texas’ voting equipment last week after some voters complained that their votes on electronic voting machines had changed. State election officials chalked it up to user error. Critics alleged malfeasance or a software bug. The Austin-based company behind the machines says an important piece of context is missing from this debate: these machines are 16 years old. “It’s very much like someone calling Apple and asking for support on their iPhone 1,” said Steven Sockwell, vice president of marketing at Hart InterCivic. Most Texas counties last upgraded their electronic voting machines well over a decade ago, tapping billions in funds Congress approved to upgrade voting equipment around the country following election irregularities during the 2000 presidential election. Dozens of Texas counties purchased Hart’s eSlate machines. It’s those same machines that a number of voters attempted to cast straight-ticket ballots on last week only to hit a snag: when they reviewed their list of candidates on the summary screen, their choices were deselected or a candidate from an opposing party was selected.Full Article: Texas straight-ticket voting problems could be due to old machines | The Texas Tribune.
Texas voters experiencing issues with voting machines used in that state have been told by election officials that they are the problem, not the machines. The state says voters are inadvertently touching the machines in ways they shouldn’t, causing the machines to alter or delete their vote in the hotly contested senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. But Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University in Houston who has examined the systems extensively in the past, told Motherboard in a phone interview that the problem is a common type of software bug that the maker of the equipment could have fixed a decade ago and didn’t, despite previous voter complaints. What’s more, he says the same systems have much more serious security problems that the manufacturer has failed to fix that make them susceptible to hacking. The problem involves eSlate voting machines made by Hart InterCivic—direct-recording electronic machines that use a dial and button for voters to make their selections. Voters turn the dial in the lower right corner of the machine to scroll through each race and page of a digital ballot, and press the “enter” button, located just left of the dial, to make their selections.Full Article: An Expert Explains Why Texas Voting Machines Are Switching Votes From Beto O'Rourke to Ted Cruz.
National: How Electronic-Voting-Machine Errors Reflect a Wider Crisis for American Democracy | The New Yorker
When reports began circulating last week that voting machines in Texas were flipping ballots cast for Beto O’Rourke over to Ted Cruz, and machines in Georgia were changing votes for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to those for her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, it would not have been unreasonable to suppose that those machines had been hacked. After all, their vulnerabilities have been known for nearly two decades. In September, J. Alex Halderman, a computer-science professor at the University of Michigan, demonstrated to members of Congress precisely how easy it is to surreptitiously manipulate the AccuVote TS, a variant of the direct-recording electronic (D.R.E.) voting machines used in Georgia. In addition, Halderman noted, it is impossible to verify that the votes cast were not the votes intended, since the AccuVote does not provide a physical record of the transaction.Full Article: How Electronic-Voting-Machine Errors Reflect a Wider Crisis for American Democracy | The New Yorker.
A software flaw can be just as damaging to the voting process as a hacker. That much is clear in Texas, where some early voters have claimed that machines are changing their votes in the midterm election. Keith Ingram, the Texas Director of Elections, said in an advisory that the problem is happening because voters are jumping the gun. The issue crops up if a voter selects the “straight party ticket” option, and then keeps pressing buttons before the page finishes loading on the screen, he said. “As a reminder, voters should always carefully check their review screen before casting their ballots,” Ingram said. … Electronic voting machine experts should expand their focus beyond looking for the kinds of flaws a hacker could exploit, and start looking for flaws that just make machines malfunction, said voting machine security expert Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University. “I would say that a decade ago we put a lot of focus on security bugs” he said. “Glitches have never received the same degree of attention.”Full Article: Software bugs could compromise midterm votes in Texas - CNET.
Texas: Texans say glitchy voting machines are changing their ballots. The state blames user error. | The Washington Post
“Make sure to confirm that your summary page accurately reflects your choices BEFORE casting your ballot!” reads a flier distributed by the Texas secretary of state’s election division to state polling locations. The notice was the agency’s quick fix for a glitch in its widely used Hart eSlate voting machines. Texas native Peter Martin, 69, was one of many who missed the message. “I’ve always voted. It’s the only opportunity that I have to make any sort of difference in terms of politics,” he said. When the registered independent went to a recreational center in Grapevine, Tex., last week, he planned to vote for Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke. The Hart machine offered a fast-tracked option for straight-ticket voters. Martin selected it, expecting the machine to populate an all-Democrat ballot.Full Article: Texas voting machines: ballot errors as O'Rourke races Cruz - The Washington Post.
Voters from around the state have reported a curious thing happening at the polls this week: They meant to vote straight-ticket but when they reviewed their final list of selected candidates, someone from an opposing party was picked instead. Some people wondered if there was malfeasance. Others blamed malfunctioning voting machines. And both Democrats and Republicans have tried to warn voters in their respective parties. But according to the Texas secretary of state’s office, the voting machines are not at fault. Rather, the problems reported are the result of “voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” which de-selects the pre-filled candidate selection. “The issue is occurring primarily with the U.S. Senate race selections, because it is at the top of the ballot,” said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the secretary of state. On Saturday, that office said that it has only been notified of fewer than 20 related issues. “In each case, these voters were able to properly review and cast a ballot that accurately reflected the choices they made,” the office said in a statement.Full Article: No, Texas voting machines aren’t malfunctioning and changing votes | The Texas Tribune.
It was the kind of security lapse that gives election officials nightmares. In 2017, a private contractor left data on Chicago’s 1.8 million registered voters — including addresses, birth dates and partial Social Security numbers — publicly exposed for months on an Amazon cloud server. Later, at a tense hearing , Chicago’s Board of Elections dressed down the top three executives of Election Systems & Software, the nation’s dominant supplier of election equipment and services. The three shifted uneasily on folding chairs as board members grilled them about what went wrong. ES&S CEO Tom Burt apologized and repeatedly stressed that there was no evidence hackers downloaded the data. The Chicago lapse provided a rare moment of public accountability for the closely held businesses that have come to serve as front-line guardians of U.S. election security. A trio of companies — ES&S of Omaha, Nebraska; Dominion Voting Systems of Denver and Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas — sell and service more than 90 percent of the machinery on which votes are cast and results tabulated. Experts say they have long skimped on security in favor of convenience, making it more difficult to detect intrusions such as occurred in Russia’s 2016 election meddling. The businesses also face no significant federal oversight and operate under a shroud of financial and operational secrecy despite their pivotal role underpinning American democracy.Full Article: US election integrity depends on security-challenged firms.
Texas: Company blames Texas voters’ problems on user error, saying its machines don’t flip straight-ticket ballots | Dallas Morning News
Some voters have said their straight-ticket ballots have switched to candidates in the opposite party, but the company that makes the machines said they don’t do that and have been used in the last nine election cycles without any problems. Several voters have complained to Texas election officials that their votes for Rep. Beto O’Rourke switched to Sen. Ted Cruz, or vice versa, on Hart InterCivic’s eSlate machine. Houston resident Mickey Blake told KTRK-TV (Channel 13) that she voted straight-ticket Democrat, but on the final review screen, she noticed all Democratic candidates were selected except for O’Rourke. Cordell Hosea of Fort Bend County told the station that the same thing happened to him. But Hart, which is based in Austin, blamed the problems on user error.Full Article: Company blames Texas voters' problems on user error, saying its machines don't flip straight-ticket ballots | 2018 Elections | Dallas News.