Hart Intercivic

Tag Archive

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23 of the state’s 100 counties use touch screens to cast their ballots, a system that experts consider insecure and outdated because it cannot be effectively audited.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.

Full Article: Vote security on the line in NC Board of Elections meeting.

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.

Full Article: Voting machine companies balk at taking part in hacking event - KTVZ.

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!”

Full Article: 5 big takeaways from POLITICO’s national survey of election offices - POLITICO.

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.

Full Article: How an election security push is running aground in Texas - POLITICO.

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.

Full Article: Elections Board Awaiting New Member To Break Tie On Voting Machines | WUNC.

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.

Full Article: Some vote upgrades unsure.

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.

Full Article: State Elections Board's Sudden Vacancy Could Affect Debate Over Certification Of New Voting Machines | WUNC.

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.”

Full Article: Board of Elections does a 180 on decision to delay certifying voting machines | NC Policy Watch.

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.

Full Article: Another delay on voting machines, and a move toward hand-marked ballots :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Board of Elections delays election machine vote | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina election officials cited lingering concerns over election hacking in explaining why they again delayed certifying new voting machines for the 2020 elections Monday. “Trust and confidence in the security of any voting system that we put in place in North Carolina is absolutely vital,” said Stella Anderson, the board member who proposed the delay Monday night. The five-member board has a majority of Democrats, but the vote was bipartisan — and not without controversy. Anderson and fellow Democrat Jeff Carmon voted with Republican member David Black to delay the decision. The board’s chairman, Democrat Bob Cordle, opposed the delay, as did Republican member Ken Raymond. Cordle and Raymond say the delay has them concerned about a time crunch. With Monday’s vote, a decision wouldn’t be made until at least mid-August, in order to provide the public ample notice of a new meeting. The voting machines used in about a third of North Carolina’s counties will be certified at the end of this year. Cordle and Raymond said any further delays will harm the counties that need to figure out which new machines they want to use in 2020.

Full Article: NC Board of Elections delays election machine vote | Raleigh News & Observer.

North Carolina: Board of Elections to decide on new voting machines | Rad Berky/WCNC

In an unusual weekend session, the North Carolina State Board of Elections will meet Sunday to certify the companies who want to sell new voting machines for use in elections next year. This follows the decision to return the state from electronic voting to equipment that uses paper ballots. Mecklenburg County’s Elections Director Michael Dickerson said the county is one of a few that already keeps a paper record, but whichever new system is chosen will go a step farther. “We have a paper record of what you voted but they want to give each voter a paper ballot before you finalize your vote,” said Dickerson. South Carolina this week took the wraps off the new equipment voters there will be using. After finalizing choices on a touchscreen, the machines will print a paper ballot with a barcode. Voters will then check their paper ballot and place it in a scanner. The scanner takes an image of the ballot, counts it and keeps the original in a locked ballot box.

Full Article: North Carolina Board of Elections to decide on new voting machines | wcnc.com.

North Carolina: Elections board may pick new voting machine options Sunday | Travis Fain/WRAL

The State Board of Elections will meet Sunday evening for a certification vote on what new voting machines will be allowed in North Carolina. The long-delayed decision will follow a demonstration of the various options from companies hoping to do business, or more business, in the state. Local boards of election decide what systems to buy, but the state board has to decide first whether various options meet state requirements. “If they meet the statutory requirements, they’re to be certified,” Board Chairman Robert Cordle said Tuesday. The board plans to meet at 5 p.m. in the Triangle Ballroom at the Cary Embassy Suites on Harrison Oaks Boulevard in Cary, not in the usual meeting room at the board offices.

Full Article: NC elections board may pick new voting machine options Sunday :: WRAL.com.

National: Multiple Bills Seek To Secure Elections: Will They Do It? | Taylor Armerding/Forbes

If the security of voting systems in the next election will be a function of the amount of legislation on the topic now pending in Congress, we’ve got nothing to worry about in November 2020. There is a growing pile of bills in both the House and Senate, most featuring several to dozens of cosponsors—sometimes even from both parties—accompanied by press releases with made-to-order endorsements from congressional leaders, advocacy groups and cybersecurity experts. They all call for securing U.S. elections and “protecting our democracy.” But, of course, the number of bills doesn’t matter. It’s about quality, not quantity. The things that do matter are what gets enacted into law and whether its mandates get done or get watered down. And that, as the predictable cliché goes, remains to be seen.

Full Article: Multiple Bills Seek To Secure Elections: Will They Do It?.

National: New election systems use vulnerable software | Tami Abdollah/Associated Press

Pennsylvania’s message was clear: The state was taking a big step to keep its elections from being hacked in 2020. Last April, its top election official told counties they had to update their systems. So far, nearly 60% have taken action, with $14.15 million of mostly federal funds helping counties buy brand-new electoral systems. But there’s a problem: Many of these new systems still run on old software that will soon be outdated and more vulnerable to hackers. An Associated Press analysis has found that like many counties in Pennsylvania, the vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts. That’s significant because Windows 7 reaches its “end of life” on Jan. 14, meaning Microsoft stops providing technical support and producing “patches” to fix software vulnerabilities, which hackers can exploit. In a statement to the AP, Microsoft said Friday it would offer continued Windows 7 security updates for a fee through 2023. Critics say the situation is an example of what happens when private companies ultimately determine the security level of election systems with a lack of federal requirements or oversight. Vendors say they have been making consistent improvements in election systems. And many state officials say they are wary of federal involvement in state and local elections.

Full Article: AP Exclusive: New election systems use vulnerable software.

National: Who’s behind voting-machine makers? Money of unclear origins | Emery P. Dalesio/Associated Press

The voting-machine makers that aim to sell their systems in North Carolina are largely owned by private equity firms that don’t disclose their investors. The companies didn’t want the public to know even that much. North Carolina’s statewide elections board demanded the machine-makers’ ownership information last month after special counsel Robert Mueller’s April report into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election. Their concerns about potential foreign interference have grown since Maryland officials learned last year that a company maintaining that state’s election infrastructure did not disclose its financing by a venture fund whose largest investor is a Russian oligarch. The private-equity backers of the three voting systems vendors seeking approval to sell to county elections boards in North Carolina told The Associated Press they’re controlled by U.S. citizens. They claimed they have no ties to foreign oligarchs or other nefarious persons facing financial sanctions by Washington. But they didn’t provide information about the sources of the money they invest. And they asked the board not to share what they did disclose with the public. The elections board released the companies’ responses — as required by law — under a public records request from The AP. Election security watchdogs remain frustrated.

Full Article: Who's behind voting-machine makers? Money of unclear origins - News - Gaston Gazette - Gastonia, NC.

National: Thousands of election systems running software that will soon be outdated: report | Tal Axelrod/The Hill

The vast majority of the nation’s 10,000 election jurisdictions are using an operating system that will soon be outdated, according to an Associated Press analysis. Those jurisdictions using Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts will reach its “end of life” on Jan. 14 — meaning Microsoft will no longer provide technical support or produce “patches” to deal with vulnerabilities that hackers could possibly exploit. Microsoft told the AP in a statement Friday that it would offer continued Windows 7 security updates for a fee through 2023. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. Critics told the AP that the obsolescence was an example of what happens when private companies determine the security level of election systems without federal guidelines. Vendors defended themselves, saying they’ve been making consistent improvements on security, but state officials said they were wary of federal involvement in state and local races.

Full Article: Thousands of election systems running software that will soon be outdated: report | TheHill.

National: Voting Machine Makers Claim The Names Of The Entities That Own Them Are Trade Secrets | Tim Cushing/Techdirt

Recently, the North Carolina State Board of Elections asked suppliers of electronic voting machines a simple question: who owns you? (h/t Annemarie Bridy) On June 14, 2019, the State Board of Elections requested that your companies disclose any owners or shareholders with a 5% or greater interest or share in each of the vendor’s company, any subsidiary company, of the vendor, and the vendor’s parent company. This seems like very basic information — information the Board should know and should be able to pass on to the general public. After all, these are the makers of devices used by the public while electing their representatives. They should know who’s running these companies and who their majority stakeholders are. If something goes wrong (and something always does), they should know who’s ultimately responsible for the latest debacle. It’s not like the state was asking the manufacturers to cough up code and machine schematics. All it wanted to know is the people behind the company nameplates. But the responses the board received indicate voting system manufacturers believe releasing any info about their companies’ compositions will somehow compromise their market advantage. Hart Intercivic said letting the public know that the company is owned by H.I.G. Hart, LLC and Gregg L. Burt is a fact that would devalue the company if it were made public. Hart InterCivic, a corporation that derives independent actual value from this information not being generally known or readily ascertainable and makes reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of this information, requests that it be designated as a trade secret pursuant to G.S. § 132-1.2(1)d. and G.S. § 66-152(3).

Full Article: Voting Machine Makers Claim The Names Of The Entities That Own Them Are Trade Secrets | Techdirt.

North Carolina: Is North Carolina rushing into major election changes? Some officials warn of confusion in 2020 | Will Doran/Charlotte Observer

Roughly a third of North Carolina voters use electronic machines with no paper ballots. But that might all change next year for the 2020 presidential election. Supporters of the change say it will help ensure election security, especially given reports from the FBI and other sources that the Russian government attempted to influence America’s 2016 elections and may have hacked into some U.S. voting software. But the switch has been held up for years, despite first being ordered in a 2013 law. Now, some officials — including the new state elections director — worry that there’s not enough time left to get new voting systems in place for the 2020 elections. The state’s biggest county, Mecklenburg, is one of the counties that will have to make the switch away from touchscreen voting machines. But officials there still don’t know what machines they might be allowed to buy as replacements, or how much they’ll cost. Meanwhile, the deadline to get new machines in place is coming up at the end of this year.

Full Article: Election hacking concerns spur NC changes, but is it too fast? | Charlotte Observer.

National: Microsoft offers software tools to secure elections | Associated Press

Microsoft has announced an ambitious effort to make voting secure, verifiable and subject to reliable audits by registering ballots in encrypted form so they can be accurately and independently tracked long after they are cast. Two of the three top U.S elections vendors have expressed interest in potentially incorporating the open-source software into their voting systems. The software is being developed with Galois, an Oregon-based company separately creating a secure voting system prototype under contract with the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, DARPA. Dubbed “ElectionGuard,” it will be available this summer, Microsoft says, with early prototypes ready to pilot for next year’s U.S. general elections. CEO Satya Nadella announced the initiative Monday at a developer’s conference in Seattle, saying the software development kit would help “modernize all of the election infrastructure everywhere in the world.” Three little-known U.S. companies control about 90 percent of the market for election equipment, but have long faced criticism for poor security, antiquated technology and insufficient transparency around their proprietary, black-box voting systems. Open-source software is inherently more secure because the underlying code is easily scrutinized by outside experts but has been shunned by the dominant vendors whose customers — the nation’s 10,000 election jurisdictions — are mostly strapped for cash. None offered bids when Travis County, Texas, home to Austin, sought to build a system with the “end-to-end” verification attributes that ElectionGuard promises to deliver. Two of the leading vendors, Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Nebraska, and Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas, both expressed interest in partnering with Microsoft for ElectionGuard. A spokeswoman for a third vendor, Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, said the company looks forward to “learning more” about the initiative.

Full Article: Microsoft offers software tools to secure elections.

National: Trips To Vegas And Chocolate-Covered Pretzels: Election Vendors Come Under Scrutiny | NPR

It is likely to be a banner year for the voting equipment industry with state and local election offices planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new machines ahead of the 2020 election. This year’s purchases will probably amount to the biggest buying wave since right after the 2000 presidential election, when officials rushed to replace discredited punch card machines with touchscreen voting equipment. Those machines are rapidly aging and are being replaced with machines that leave a paper backup as a result of security concerns about purely electronic voting. The voting equipment purchases come at a time of increased scrutiny over the security and integrity of elections following Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Some states, such as Georgia, South Carolina and Delaware, are replacing all of their voting machines, while several other states, including California, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are replacing much of their equipment. About one quarter of voters live in the states doing most of the buying. The buying spree has also put a focus on the close ties between vendors and the government officials who buy their equipment. Advocacy groups and some politicians allege that vendors have unduly influenced the procurement process in many places, something the companies and election officials deny.

Full Article: With Major Contracts Ahead of 2020, Voting Machine Industry Comes Under Scrutiny : NPR.