While the midterm elections appear to have avoided any major problems with foreign interference, voters and poll monitoring groups across the country reported hours-long lines, unexpected delays in opening polling places, and technical issues with voting machines. “We received reports quite quickly on election day of a number of polling sites in Harris County, which is the home of Houston, of polling sites not only not being open at 7 a.m. but of significant delays,” says James Slattery, senior staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, which won a court order keeping polls open late at locations with delayed openings. … Experts say it’s not surprising that technical problems popped up at polling places—after all, many states and local jurisdictions are still running systems purchased under the federal Help America Vote Act, a law passed by Congress in 2002 in wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
State election officials plan to spend about two thirds of election security money allocated by Congress earlier this year on new voting equipment and cybersecurity efforts, though not all the improvements will be completed before the November elections. New data gathered by the federal agency that distributes the funds detail how states plan to spend $380 million appropriated by Congress in March to upgrade election security. States plan to spend roughly $134.2 million on cybersecurity upgrades over five years, and $102.6 million on voting equipment, according to the data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. States plan to spend the rest of the federal funding on measures that include upgrading voter-registration databases, bolstering postelection auditing and communications capabilities.
National: Majority of election security grants going toward cybersecurity, equipment upgrades | CyberScoop
About a third of federal funding meant to improve election technology will be spent on cybersecurity-related improvements, while another third will be used to upgrade old equipment, according to plans released Tuesday by states and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In March, Congress appropriated $380 million for states to use for upgrades to election infrastructure, under the Help America Vote Act. It’s the first time the federal distributes HAVA funding since 2010. “The 380 [million] is something new in terms of additional funding, but it’s in that same realm of ensuring that our voting process remain secure and that vote of confidence remains high,” Tom Hicks, chairman of the EAC, told CyberScoop.
The state of Nevada is spending nearly $4.3 million in federal grants to shore up its election systems, with the bulk of the money targeted for safeguarding voter registration rolls and lesser amounts to tighten cybersecurity and improve communication between county and state election officers. The money is included in a report the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released Tuesday showing how states plan to spend $380 million allocated by Congress last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others under the Help America Vote Act. The largest chunk nationally — roughly 36 percent — is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories.
States across the country are in the process of receiving grants from the federal government to secure their voting systems. Earlier this year Congress approved $380 million in grants for states to improve election technology and “make certain election security improvements.” But how states use that money is up to them. In Texas, officials say they want to use the bulk of their grant to secure the state’s voter registration database. According to federal officials, Russians tried to hack a Texas election website in 2016. Dana Debeauvoir, who runs elections in Austin, Texas, as the Travis County clerk, says running elections has become increasingly more expensive and technologically complicated. She says she cast her first ballot on a lever machine — a big metal box with a bunch of tiny metal handles voters crank to select the candidate of their choice. These machines, and others, were banned by Congress when lawmakers passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. “So they are now no longer used — also right along with punch card voting,” Debeauvoir says.
New Jersey: State sought more money to protect voting machines from hackers. Republicans in Congress said no. | NJ.com
New Jersey’s voting machines are among the nation’s most vulnerable to hacking, and state officials asked Congress for more money to protect their equipment. Republicans who run the show in Washington said no. Both the House and Senate declined to allocate millions of dollars in grants to states when they passed spending bills funding the Election Assistance Commission for the 12-month period beginning Oct. 1. “This is going to be an ongoing need and election officials are going to need a regular stream of funds to combat the threats and defend their systems,” said David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a Washington research group. … State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sought more federal help. “I strongly believe that the federal government should be doing more, not less, to ensure our democratic institutions are free from foreign intrusion, and I’m disappointed that Congress disagrees,” he said.
National: States using election security grants for new voting machines that won’t be ready for 2018 | McClatchy
In three Southern states with some of the nation’s most vulnerable election systems, federal grants designed to help thwart cyberattacks may not provide much protection in time for the mid-term elections as Congress intended. The $380 million in grant funding was supposed to help all states bolster their elections security infrastructure ahead of the 2018 elections after the intelligence community had warned that state voting systems could again be targeted by foreign hackers as they were in 2016. States have until 2023 to spend the grant money, said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, which distributes the grants. But the long procurement process for voting machines makes it hard for states to buy new machines with their grants and get them into service by the 2018 mid-terms, even though “Congress looked at getting this money out quickly to have an effect on the 2018 election,” Hicks said. … With just over four months remaining until the mid-term elections, at least 40 states and the District of Columbia have requested more than $266 million of the $380 million pot, according to the EAC.
For the first time in a dozen years, states are looking at replacing their aging voting machines and related computer systems. But a survey of the early legislative debates surrounding this prospect suggests that some states are not heeding advice from federal officials, academics and other experts saying that ink-marked paper-ballot systems are the wisest foundation for the most secure and verifiable elections. This apparent dichotomy comes as states and the federal government have made an unprecedented effort to ramp up cyber-security precautions and training before 2018’s fall midterms, and as the voting machine industry is offering products that offer striking new options to make vote-counting more transparent and trustable. The open question is whether legislators and election officials are looking to embrace newer technology and verification protocols, or whether they are drawn to more opaque systems that they have grown familiar with—and which are commercially available. As always is the case with 3,069 counties running America’s elections, there is a range of inclinations on voting modernization.
When Congress approved giving $380 million to states to bolster the security of their elections, state officials were caught off guard but extremely grateful. Elections are notoriously underfunded and haven’t seen a windfall like this from the federal government in more than a decade. But getting that money out to all the states, and then into the hands of localities that run the elections, with enough time to have a meaningful effect on the 2018 midterm elections is a difficult proposition. Three months after receiving congressional approval, and now less than five months from November’s midterm elections, 33 states have filed the necessary paperwork to begin receiving money. That number may seem “disconcertingly low” to some, especially when it was just 11 in mid-May, but there is mixed consensus on what it actually says about the country’s seriousness when it comes to handling threats leading up to the 2018 election.
Voting Blogs: States are applying for 2018 HAVA funds, how are they spending them? | electionlineWeekly
Earlier this year, the president signed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 into law, the law includes $380 million in grants for states to improve their cybersecurity. To-date 32 states, America Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands have applied for their HAVA funds. Although states are allowed to draw down on their available funds in phases, most states seem to be applying for—and receiving—all their funds at one time. Once states have applied for their funds they have 90-days to provide a narrative on what they will be spending the money on. Part of the requirement for receiving the federal funds is a 5 percent match from states. How elections officials are getting those matches varies. Some states are relying on their Legislatures to allocate the funding and others are using existing funds allocated in state budgets.