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National: Election tech vendors say they’re securing their systems. Does anyone believe them? | CyberScoop

The last few years have been an awakening for Election Systems & Software. Before 2016, very few people were publicly pressing the company to change the way it handled its cybersecurity practices. Now, the nation’s leading manufacturer of election technology has become a lightning rod for critics. Security experts say the small number of companies that dominate the nation’s election technology market, including ES&S, have failed to acknowledge and remedy vulnerabilities that lie in systems used to hold elections across the country. Once left to obscurity, the entire ecosystem has been called into question since the Russian government was found to have interfered with the 2016 presidential campaign. While there has never been any evidence to suggest that any voting machines were compromised, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI recently issued a memo that all 50 states were at least targeted by Russian intelligence. The peak of the criticism came after the Voting Village exhibition at the 2018 DEF CON security conference, where amateur hackers unearthed a bevy of flaws in the company’s tech. In a number of publications — including CyberScoop — ES&S disputed the notion that it didn’t take cybersecurity seriously, arguing its own due diligence was enough to satisfy any security worries. It didn’t help the Omaha, Nebraska-based company’s case when the Voting Village committee issued a report in September that found decades-old vulnerabilities in an ES&S ballot tabulator that has been used in elections in more than half of the states. In light of these issues, some of the election tech manufacturers are trying to change course, and ES&S is the most public about its efforts. With the country gearing up for the 2020 presidential election, the company has revamped its security testing procedures, putting together a plan to let penetration testers from both the public and private sector evaluate the safety of its systems. Furthermore, ES&S and its competitors are communicating in an unprecedented way about committing to a certain level of standards that can lift the entire industry to a better security baseline.

Full Article: Election tech vendors say they're securing their systems. Does anyone believe them?.

National: ‘They think they are above the law’: the firms that own America’s voting system | The Guardian

Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin is a newcomer to the cause of reforming America’s vote-counting machines, welcomed through baptism by fire. In 2015, Maryland’s main election system vendor was bought by a parent company with ties to a Russian oligarch. The state’s election officials did not know about the purchase until July 2018, when the FBI notified them of the potential conflict. The FBI investigated and did not find any evidence of tampering or sharing of voter data. But the incident was a giant red flag as to the potential vulnerabilities of American democracy – especially as many states have outsourced vote-counting to the private sector. After all, the purchase happened while Russian agents were mounting multiple disinformation and cybersecurity campaigns to interfere with America’s 2016 general election. “To say that they don’t have any evidence of any wrongdoing is not to say that nothing untoward happened,” Raskin said. “It’s simply to say that we don’t have the evidence of it.” The fact is that democracy in the United States is now largely a secretive and privately-run affair conducted out of the public eye with little oversight. The corporations that run every aspect of American elections, from voter registration to casting and counting votes by machine, are subject to limited state and federal regulation. The companies are privately-owned and closely held, making information about ownership and financial stability difficult to obtain. The software source code and hardware design of their systems are kept as trade secrets and therefore difficult to study or investigate.

Full Article: 'They think they are above the law': the firms that own America's voting system | US news | The Guardian.

National: US election integrity depends on security-challenged firms | Associated Press

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.

National: Election Equipment Vendors Play a Key, and Underexamined, Role in U.S. Democracy | Take Care

Every vote in the United States — for city council, state representative, or president — is cast using materials and equipment manufactured by third party vendors. There are vendors large and small, but the American election equipment industry is dominated by three vendors: ES&S, Hart, and Dominion. These vendors manufacture the machines that approximately 92% of eligible voters use on election day — and they wield extraordinary power with significant implications for our democracy. Because of this, it’s critical that elected officials and advocates pay attention to the role vendors play in the security and transparency of American election systems. Perhaps most concerning are vendor efforts to keep secret the technology upon which American elections rely while at the same time feteing state and local election officials with expensive trips and meals. Vendors have actively and increasingly pushed back on efforts to study and analyze the equipment that forms the basic foundation of our democratic processes.

Full Article: Election Equipment Vendors Play a Key, and Underexamined, Role in U.S. Democracy | Take Care.

National: Russia fears have election vendors feeling the heat | Politico

The furor over fake news and Russian bots is overshadowing another weak link in the security of U.S. elections — the computer equipment and software that do everything from store voters’ data to record the votes themselves. Now the voting vendor industry is receiving increased attention from Congress and facing the prospect of new regulations, after more than a decade of warnings from cybersecurity researchers and recent revelations about the extent of Russian intrusions in 2016. … In 2006, a team of security researchers published a report saying that touchscreen voting machines made by the notably litigious vendor Diebold were vulnerable to “extremely serious attacks.” The researchers were so afraid of being sued by Diebold — now a subsidiary of the voting technology behemoth Dominion — that they broke with longstanding practice and didn’t tell the company about their findings before publishing. The team was “afraid that [Diebold] would try to stop us from speaking publicly about the problems,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor who was one of the report’s authors.

Full Article: Russia fears have election vendors feeling the heat - POLITICO.

Kentucky: Greene County Election Commission Weighs Paper Ballots | Greeneville Sun

Paper ballots could be in the future for Greene County residents, should the county not have the money to afford new, electronic equipment. It was a matter members of the Greene County Election Commission had to consider when listening to a sales pitch made by HARP Enterprises/HART Intercivic election equipment during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday. HART manufactures election equipment while HARP is the service provider once a sale is completed. The election commission is exploring the possibility of replacing the county’s voting machines. New voting equipment was last purchased in 2006. Commissioners heard from the company MicroVote last month.

Full Article: Election Commission Weighs Paper Ballots | Local News | greenevillesun.com.

National: Senator calls on voting machine makers to detail how they’ll prevent hacks | TechCrunch

One of the Senate’s main cybersecurity proponents wants assurances that voting systems in the U.S. are ready for their next major threat and he’s going straight to the hardware makers to get it. In a letter, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden — an outspoken member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — called on six of the main voting machine manufacturers in the U.S. to provide details about their cybersecurity efforts to date. The request comes on the heels of emerging details around Russia’s successful attempts to hack election systems in many states. Wyden’s line of inquiry is grounded in the pursuit of details, like if a company has been breached previously without reporting the incident and how often it has conducted penetration testing in cooperation with an external security firm. … Wyden’s appeal to voting machine manufacturers is the latest piece in the ongoing conversation around election system and voting machine security following revelations from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Because states handle elections in a variety of ways, implementing different styles of machine and overseeing their own voter rolls, just how airtight these systems are is difficult to assess.

Full Article: Senator calls on voting machine makers to detail how they’ll prevent hacks | TechCrunch.

Indiana: Law change impacts Hoosiers looking to vote ‘straight ticket’ in November | 21Alive

As we approach the November election, we know some people like to choose the straight party option to vote for all Republicans or all Democrats. This time around in Indiana, there’s a small change voters need to take note of. When you step up to your voting machine in just over a couple of months, right there on page one is the “Straight Party Ticket” function. Let’s say you push the button for the Democratic Party, the machine automatically puts an “X” next to the Democrat for President, U.S.Senate, Governor and on down the line for all the partisan races. Under a state law that took effect in July, there’s one exception, where you need to guard against being tripped up.

Full Article: Law change impacts Hoosiers looking to vote 'straight ticket' in November | 21Alive: News, Sports, Weather, Fort Wayne WPTA-TV, WISE-TV, and CW | NBC33.

Tennessee: Montgomery County must store Amendment 1 election data | The Leaf-Chronicle

The Montgomery County Election Commission will extract and store the November 2014 election results because of a pending legal challenge to the passage of Amendment 1. The State Election Commission has ordered Montgomery County – as well as all of Tennessee’s county election commissions – to extract all of the November 2014 election data, and store it that on external devices, according to a notice from the local Election Commission. The lawsuit, challenging how the state calculated the votes for Amendment 1 – a constitutional amendment giving the the Tennessee General Assembly more leeway in enacting abortion restrictions – has not yet been resolved. Thus the 2014 election data will need to be extracted and preserved to be used in the lawsuit, said Vickie Koelman, the administrator of elections.

Full Article: County must store Amendment 1 election data.

Tennessee: Voting machines sealed by state | The Leaf-Chronicle

Tennessee voters may have voted “Yes on 1” in the November 2014 state election, but opponents of the amendment to the state Constitution that allows the state Legislature to make laws regulating abortion have filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that the votes were tabulated incorrectly. The upshot of the lawsuit is that all voting machines used in that election are sealed until the matter is decided, or until other arrangements can be made. Anderson informed the Election Commission of this at the July 13 meeting.

Full Article: Voting machines sealed by state.

Pennsylvania: Montgomery County exploring new voting machines | The Intelligencer

Montgomery County officials are exploring the possibility of purchasing new voting machines. “We just want to be proactive,” said Commissioner Leslie Richards, who is chairman of the county’s election board. “We are always looking to make our voter experience better.” Richards pointed out that only two counties in the state, Montgomery and Northampton, use Sequoia Pacific electronic voting machines. Chief Financial Officer Uri Z. Monson said that, while there are no problems with the current machines, “many are reaching the end of their useful life” and the county does not want to have to scramble if many of them start failing at the same time. The county, which has 425 voting precincts, purchased 1,050 Sequoia machines in 1996 at an approximate cost of some $4 million. Today, the county has 1,133 Sequoia machines, with 10 used as “demos” and another 15 considered out of service while they undergo repairs.

Full Article: Montgomery County exploring new voting machines - The Intelligencer: Bucks County | Montgomery County | Local news | Breaking News | Sports | Entertainment | Opinion.

Tennessee: MicroVote executive assumes blame for election gaffe | Johnson City Press

The person responsible for a human foible that turned the 6th Commission District results upside down during Tuesday’s Republican primary has claimed full responsibility and absolved the Washington County Election Commission from any wrongdoing. Indianapolis-based MicroVote General Corp. President Jim Ries confirmed in a news release Thursday that an employee error resulted in an inaccurate vote total posted on the Washington County Election Commission website. “Official voting tallies were unaffected by this website posting error, which was unrelated to the official counting of ballots,” Ries said. “We have identified the reason that the website posting error occurred and are putting into place steps to insure that such an error does not occur in the future.” The person directly responsible for the gaffe is Bill Whitehead, MicroVote’s Tennessee project manager. Whitehead emailed Washington County Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart on Wednesday night to say an exact explanation of what happened was forthcoming. “Not to imply that your local media would misinterpret any information, but we are always cautiously guarded about what the press will receive, as in many cases they are spin doctors and we want to protect you and everyone involved in this process from a misinterpretation,” Whitehead told Stewart.

Full Article: MicroVote exec assumes blame for election gaffe | Johnson City Press.

Indiana: Missed votes prompt new tallying system in Warrick County | Associated Press

A southwest Indiana county is developing a new accountability system using “archaic” methods after a discovery that thousands of votes weren’t counted in the 2012 general election. Nearly 3,800 early votes cast in Warrick County during the 2012 general election went uncounted because of an error by an electronic voting machine technician. The lost ballots included that of county Clerk Sarah Redman, who said her top priority this year is having every vote count – even if it means using an old-fashioned system of checks and balances. “When I say archaic, I mean old pen and paper that I want (them) to jot down. I don’t want to go by any reports that shoot out of a computer,” Redman told the Evansville Courier & Press.

Full Article: Missed votes prompt new system | The Journal Gazette.

Indiana: 3,700 Warrick County votes not counted in 2012 due to technical error | Evansville Courier & Press

More than 3,700 absentee ballots cast in-person in Warrick County for the November 2012 general election weren’t counted due to an error made by an electronic voting machine technician, county officials confirmed Monday. According to the Warrick County Clerk Sarah Redman’s office, Indianapolis-based MicroVote, which services the county’s electronic voting machines, found that one of its electronic technicians inadvertently incorrectly uploaded votes cast early at the Warrick County Election Office. The technician reportedly used a microchip card-reader that didn’t have the storage capacity to hold the total amount of early votes cast. The error resulted in only 10 percent of in-person, early votes being tallied by the county for the 2012 general election — leaving 3,791 Warrick County votes behind. “And nobody ever caught the error until Pat (King) went looking,” said Kevin Derr, chairman of the Warrick County Democrats Central Committee.

Full Article: UPDATE: 3,700 Warrick County votes not counted in 2012 due to technical error | PDF » Evansville Courier & Press.

Indiana: Lake County: No repeat of 2008 election results this year | Post-Tribune

“We have made a substantial change since the primary in 2008 when we had that vote count hold up,” said Steve Shamo, with MicroVote Indiana, the company that provides the county’s election technology. Shamo Tuesday told the Lake County Board of Elections during the test of the 2012 voting machines that the problem in 2008 arose when it came to entering the 15,000 absentee ballots into the computerized system election day. Once workers began entering the absentee ballots for a precinct, they could not access the polling place results for that precinct, even though those results were available, until all the absentee ballots were manually entered causing the delay in reporting.

Full Article: Lake County: No repeat of 2008 election results this year - Post-Tribune.