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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.

Full Article: No more touch-screen ballots in St. Louis County after $6.9 million voting equipment upgrade | Political Fix | stltoday.com.

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.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Election vendors should be vetted for security risks, says watchdog group - The Washington Post.

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?

Full Article: Bevin-Beshear recount: What happens next in Kentucky governor race.

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.

Full Article: What Battleground States Need to Do to Prevent Voting Machine Hacking in 2020 | Fortune.

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.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Voting machine companies may throw their doors open to ethical hackers - The Washington Post.

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.”

Full Article: Letter to NC Election Board: Voting equipment approval didn't follow 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. 

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

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.

Full Article: Election security, transparency and millions of dollars: Questions answered as Allegheny County looks to buy new voting machines. - PublicSource | News for a better Pittsburgh.

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.