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Texas: Election security bill passes in Senate | News-Journal

East Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes’ signature bill on election security won passage Monday in the Texas Senate and moves to the House of Representatives for debate. Senate Bill 9 creates a paper trail for electronic voting. It also takes aim at voter fraud that can occur when people who help disabled voters try to influence how they vote. It enhances the penalty for making a false statement on a mail ballot application from a misdemeanor to state jail felony and requires those who help voters who are not family members to sign a form documenting their role. The bill also would require people who help disabled voters cast a mail-in ballot officially certify that the voter they help is physically unable to enter a poll without risk to harm. In addition, it allows poll watchers to accompany both the voter and helper into the voting area. “The heart of the bill is that paper ballot, that paper backup,” Hughes, R-Mineola, said as he urged passage of the measure. “This is not a partisan issue. … It says if you’re going to bring someone to the polls and help them cast their ballot … then, yes. We want to know your names.” Hughes chaired a Select Committee on Election Security last summer in preparation for the legislative session that opened in January. Many of the provisions in his Senate Bill 9, he told senators, came from sworn testimony from Democrats and Republicans. The bill passed on a 19-12 vote along party lines. “For whatever reason, the national Democrats made this a lightning rod,” he said. “Election integrity is important to all of us.”

Full Article: Hughes' election security bill passes in Senate | Elections |

Missouri: Lawmakers discuss return to paper ballots | Columbia Missourian

Voters could get the chance to check their electronic ballot for accuracy before turning it in under a proposed bill. HB 543, sponsored by Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, would require electronic voting machines to print out a paper ballot that could be reviewed by the voter. That paper ballot would also be available to those checking ballots during recounts. The bill also works to phase out electronic voting machines that directly record results without producing some sort of physical copy. As the machines die out due to age or malfunction, the bill states that they would not be replaced. The bill would make paper ballots the “official ballot” except for those submitted by electronic machines that have not yet been replaced.

Full Article: Lawmakers discuss return to paper ballots | State News |

Editorials: Fixing US Elections Is Easier—and Harder—Than You’d Think | Max Eddy/PCMag

When I flew out to San Francisco for the RSA Convention (RSAC) in early March, I planned to attend all the election security talks I could fit into my schedule. It’s an obvious choice. While the 2018 midterms concluded without much controversy, we’re still fighting over the 2016 presidential election, and we’re halfway to the next one. That’s in addition to the US system of casting and counting votes being, at best, a barely functional shambles. I expected the usual doom-and-gloom about election security, with researchers bemoaning the sorry state of voting machines in the US. I was even looking forward to it, because you have to be a little masochistic to be in this industry. There was a bit of the usual misery, but I wasn’t prepared for a double whammy of optimism and despair. I left convinced that we’ve actually sorted out the most pressing of the technological problems with voting. What has us stumped is the other stuff. And that’s a lot of stuff.

Full Article: SecurityWatch: Fixing US Elections Is Easier—and Harder—Than You'd Think - PCMag UK.

Editorials: Texas Bill promises better election security. Let’s be sure to get it right. | Dan Wallach/Austin American-Statesman

Election security experts in Texas and nationwide have been pushing for the use of paper ballots in elections to defend against cyber attacks and bolster public confidence in election results. The Texas Legislature has finally taken notice. This week, the Senate heard testimony on Sen. Bryan Hughes’s election security bill, which would require a paper record of every vote and implement post-election audits of every election. This change is long overdue—but the details matter. As a cybersecurity and elections security expert, I know those details well. In fact, my colleagues from across Texas are joining me in pushing for an even stronger bill. Legislators must recognize that paper ballots are the means to a much more important end: ensuring the final results are correct, even when sophisticated adversaries try to interfere. This requires implementing “risk limiting” post-election audits, where auditors randomly sample paper ballots to make sure they match up with the digital records. Discussion about “paper trails” and “voter-verified paper audit trails” can seem complicated. Unfortunately, not all paper trails are created equal. When it comes to elections, “paper” can mean three things: paper ballots filled out (“marked”) by hand, paper ballots marked by a machine (a “ballot-marking device”), or a paper receipt of some kind printed by an electronic voting machine. What makes a good paper ballot? It must be human-readable (not a bar code or other non-English symbols) and auditable (by human auditors, not just machine scanners). Voters must be able detect errors on machine-marked paper ballots and have opportunity to correct them (e.g., “spoil” the ballot and start over), as they can with hand-marked ballots.

Full Article: Commentary: Bill promises better election security. Let’s be sure to get it right. - Opinion - Austin American-Statesman - Austin, TX.

Tennessee: Counties eye vote paper trail; state stays neutral | Associated Press

Amid growing national concerns about election security, Tennessee’s three largest counties plan to begin using voting machines that produce a verifiable paper trail in time for the presidential primaries in March 2020, whether the Republican-led state requires it or not. Tennessee is one of only 14 states without a statutory requirement of a paper record of all ballots — regarded by most election security experts as crucial to ensuring accurate vote-counting. But election officials in the three Tennessee counties switching to paper-trail machines say they aren’t worried about the paperless technology. bRather, they just want to be sure voters trust the process. “Now, you’ve got an issue of voter confidence and public perception, factors which cannot be ignored, at least by election commissions,” said Elections Administrator Clifford Rodgers in Knox County, one of the Tennessee local governments looking to switch. He said he’s doing so “reluctantly” and predicted problems with printers and scanners. The others are Shelby County, anchored by Memphis, and Davidson County, encompassed by Nashville. Knox, Shelby and Davidson account for 1.3 million of Tennessee’s 4.16 million registered voters.

Full Article: Tennessee counties eye vote paper trail; state stays neutral -

Georgia: US appeals court ruling allows paper ballots lawsuit to move ahead | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a judge’s ruling that said Georgia’s electronic voting system poses a “concrete risk” to secure elections. The decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows the voting system lawsuit to move forward. The plaintiffs, who are election integrity advocates and concerned voters, want U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to switch Georgia’s statewide voting system to hand-marked paper ballots. Totenberg ruled in September that the plaintiffs will likely succeed in the lawsuit, but she denied their request to immediately switch to paper ballots so close to November’s midterm elections. “Now we can get past the defendants’ delays and move forward with the case on the merits and get the relief Judge Totenberg already ruled we’re entitled to,” said David Cross, an attorney for Georgia voters who sued. “This appeal was meritless from the start.”

Full Article: US appeals court ruling allows paper ballots lawsuit to move ahead.

Georgia: Appeals Court: Georgia ‘Paper Ballot’ Lawsuit Can Continue | NPR

A federal appeals court says a lawsuit over the state’s outdated election system can continue. The 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a ruling Thursday that said that it did not have the jurisdiciton to hear the state’s assertion the two groups of plaintiffs had standing to file suit, and that the state was not immune from being sued in this particular case. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg denied a preliminary injunction that would have moved the state’s 159 counties to hand-marked paper ballots ahead of the Nov. 6 general election, and also denied the state’s request to dismiss the suit. In October, Totenberg issued a stay in the proceedings pending the appeal to the 11th Circuit.

Pennsylvania: Paper chase: Fearing hacked election, officials scramble ahead of 2020 to bolster security | WHYY

A bitter cold snap in Erie last week didn’t keep away scores of people from visiting the city’s lakeside library last week, checking out the next generation in voting machines as county officials from across the state scramble with a new voting security mandate. Many, like Joe Gallagher, were poll workers who could be using the machines a little more than a year from now. Gallagher said he came out of “curiosity about the integrity of systems we’re putting into place. There are always some windows open for error.” Pennsylvania plans to close at least one of those windows, replacing every voting machine used in the state with machines that retain a paper record.

Full Article: Paper chase: Fearing hacked election, Pa. officials scramble ahead of 2020 to bolster security : Keystone Crossroads : Politics & Policy : WHYY.

Editorials: Georgia: To Prevent Election Meddling, Use Paper Ballots | The Emory Wheel

Georgia Republicans are taking actions that will undermine the state’s voting system — and in a gerrymandered state government, they might just get away with it. When U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg upheld Georgia’s current voting system in October, she criticized the state’s machines for their vulnerability to “malicious intrusion.” Her decision was limited by the fact that the midterm elections were too close for the government to completely overhaul its existing system. After, lawmakers of both parties expressed interest in a new method of voting. This presented Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger an opportunity to restore voters’ confidence in their voting systems by investing in paper ballots, but his response has been lackluster.

Full Article: Georgia: To Prevent Election Meddling, Use Paper Ballots | The Emory Wheel.

Editorials: Georgia Needs Paper Ballots, Not More Touch-Screen Voting Machines | Regina Smith/Flagpole Magazine

Not all Georgians know what has happened since 2018, when the entire nation learned about our old voting-system vulnerabilities. The news from Atlanta is that Gov. Brian Kemp and his replacement as secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, have requested $150 million from the legislature to purchase a new system for Georgia’s 7 million registered voters. Why are both pushing hard for an expensive touch-screen, ballot-marking device (BMD) system that cybersecurity experts say will not prevent hacking and malicious election mischief?  Both are aware that a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed a majority of Georgians prefer a hand-marked paper ballot system costing an estimated $50 million. All voters in the state should be aware of two pieces of this voting machine puzzle. An aware electorate can better inform Georgia legislators what is expected of them insofar as a new system is concerned.  

Full Article: Comment: Georgia Needs Paper Ballots, Not More Touch-Screen Voting Machines | Flagpole Magazine | Athens, GA News, Music, Arts, Restaurants.

Editorials: Pennsylvania needs paper ballots to secure our elections | Charlie Dent/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania’s elections — like many other states’ — are vulnerable to cyber attack, leaving our democracy in a precarious state. As a former Pennsylvania legislator and member of Congress representing the Keystone State, I know how important free, fair, and secure elections are to governing. A lack of public trust in the vote imperils our great American experiment in popular sovereignty. Despite these serious threats to our election architecture, there are known solutions that we can, and must, implement. The report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security provides this blueprint to secure our elections.

Full Article: Pennsylvania needs paper ballots to secure our elections | Opinion.

Georgia: Stacey Abrams to Take to Georgia Airwaves During Super Bowl Calling for Hand-Marked Paper Ballots | Associated Press

Before Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams delivers her party’s rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, she’ll take her voting rights campaign to the airwaves during the Super Bowl. Abrams’ political group, Fair Fight, has bought airtime on Georgia affiliates during Sunday’s NFL broadcast so the Atlanta Democrat can push for election law changes. Abrams narrowly lost her November bid to become the first black woman to be elected governor, in a contest marred by disputes over ballot access and integrity. But she is still a rising star among national Democrats and is their top choice to run for a Georgia Senate seat in 2020. In the Super Bowl ad, Abrams appears alongside a white Republican county commissioner from north Georgia. They call for hand-marked paper ballots to replace Georgia’s touch-screen voting system. “We don’t agree on everything,” says the Republican, Natalie Crawford. “But we love Georgia,” Abrams says, later adding, “Every vote should be counted, from every corner of our state.”

Full Article: Stacey Abrams to Take to Georgia Airwaves During Super Bowl - The New York Times.

Pennsylvania: State’s voting machines pose ‘clear and present danger,’ warns election security commission | StateScoop

A 21-member panel of elected officials, former U.S. Justice department officers and nonprofit leaders convened last year by a University of Pittsburgh research institute to review Pennsylvania’s election systems released its final report Tuesday, recommending the state move as quickly as possible to replace its touchscreen voting machines and implement stronger cybersecurity procedures to protect the statewide voter registration database. Pennsylvania and the federal government, the report reads, should help the state’s 67 counties purchase new voting systems before the 2020 presidential election, if not before elections for local offices later this year. “Given the clear and present danger that these paperless machines pose, replacing the systems with those that employ voter-marked paper ballots should be the most pressing priority for Pennsylvania officials to secure the Commonwealth’s elections,” the report reads.

Full Article: State's voting machines pose 'clear and present danger,' warns Pennsylvania election security commission.

Editorials: A call for action: Now is the time to secure Pennsylvania’s elections | David Hickton and Paul McNulty/Penn Live

Pennsylvania’s democracy is at a critical juncture. Weaknesses in the security of our elections present a threat both to our electoral outcomes and to public faith and trust in government of, by, and for the people. We have been fortunate thus far to avoid such an assault on our democracy. Recognizing the gravity of what is at stake, The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security (which we co-chair) endeavored to research and analyze the security of the Commonwealth’s election architecture. The commission’s just-released report, which documents those efforts and offers actionable and achievable solutions, provides a blueprint for how Pennsylvania’s leaders can do what is needed to protect our elections.

Full Article: A call for action: Now is the time to secure Pennsylvania’s elections | Opinion |

Georgia: Secretary of State seeks to replace criticized voting machines | Associated Press

Georgia’s new elections chief asked lawmakers Wednesday for $150 million to replace the state’s outdated electronic voting machines. In doing so, he all but closed the door on a hand-marked paper balloting system that experts say is cheapest and most secure. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Georgia legislators meeting for budget hearings that a new voting system is his top priority. Cybersecurity experts and voting integrity activists say the touch-screen machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and can’t be audited effectively because they produce no verifiable paper record. The current machines and Georgia’s registration practices became the subject of national criticism during last year’s governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Kemp served as secretary of state and refused calls to resign from overseeing his own election. He stepped down two days postelection after declaring himself the winner.

Full Article: Georgia SOS seeks to replace criticized voting machines.

Editorials: Philadelphia’s high-stakes voting machine decision deserves more scrutiny | Philadelphia Inquirer

By this November, Philadelphia’s big electronic voting machines will be just a memory, if Governor Wolf and the Department of State have their way. They have given the City Commissioners a directive to put a paper ballot voting system in place, preferably in time for use in 2019. That’s very good news. Because the old machines don’t record votes on paper, voters can’t tell if their votes were cast correctly, and the results can’t be recounted or checked for errors. But citizens’ groups such as Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, Citizens for Better Elections, and the League of Women Voters have become justifiably concerned that the process to choose a new system is taking place with too little public involvement or oversight. The city set a deadline of February 13 — less than a month from now — to choose a voting system from one of several vendors. Although this is a consequential and costly decision, the Commissioners invited the public to only two hearings, announced with little fanfare and only three days’ notice. What we learned at those hearings was not encouraging.

Full Article: High-stakes voting machine decision deserves more scrutiny | Opinion.

South Carolina: Activists want ‘unhackable’ paper-ballot voting system | The State

Activists are pushing for South Carolina to adopt a paper-ballot election system. Several called for the change at the S.C. State House Wednesday, a day after the state Election Commission requested $60 million from the Legislature to buy new voting machines. “Our central mission is to make government work,” said Holley Ulbrich, president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, “so we have to make sure we have a voting system with optically scanned paper ballots that is faster, easier and unhackable.” A paper system would replace the current touchscreen-only voting machines that South Carolina has used since 2004. Those machines have been criticized as error prone and vulnerable to hacking. “These machines are older than the iPhone,” said ACLU of S.C. director Shaundra Young Scott. “We want to show citizens can trust the system, and that South Carolina is a progressive state.”

Full Article: SC activists want ‘unhackable’ paper-ballot voting system | The State.

Editorials: Why computer scientists prefer paper ballots | Wenke Lee Ph.D

Today, Georgia’s “Secure, Accessible, and Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission” delivered to the state legislature a final recommendation for new, more reliable election equipment. I was honored to serve as a cybersecurity expert for the SAFE Commission to help improve a process at the very core of democracy – secure elections and the right to a private vote. However, I ultimately chose to vote against the Commission’s final report even though we agreed on many points. Below is a summary of everything I believe Georgia must consider going forward. The SAFE Commission was charged with studying options for Georgia’s next voting system, and our discussions focused heavily on which type of voting equipment to use at physical polling places, risks to election security and hacking methods, concerns for voter accessibility at physical polls, and intergovernmental coordination. State legislators next will review and ultimately determine which new election system to adopt, which new processes to enact or change, and how best to appropriate funds for purchase, maintenance, staffing, training, and voter education. 

Full Article: Why computer scientists prefer paper ballots.

Georgia: General Assembly will consider changes to election laws | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Along with a new Georgia election system, a government panel is also proposing changes to state laws intended to make voting easier and more accurate. The panel, appointed by Gov.-elect Brian Kemp last summer, voted Thursday to recommend that the General Assembly revise how the state handles recounts, absentee ballots and election audits.

Full Article: Georgia General Assembly will consider changes to election laws.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia officials look to make changes to county voting system | KYW

Philadelphia needs new voting machines, and they need them fast. But before officials settle on a new device, they are asking for the public’s input. Gov. Tom Wolf wants every county throughout the state to purchase a voting system with a verifiable paper trail, and officials in Philadelphia want their system to be in place by year’s end. “Security experts say that the best kind of machine is something that is air gapped from the Internet. They found that hand marked paper ballots are the best and that’s because there’s very little technology between the voter and the actual vote,” said Tim Brown, who joined a dozen other Philadelphians Thursday to give their suggestions on what they want from a new voting system at a Philadelphia City Commissioners’ comment session. 

Full Article: Philadelphia officials look to make changes to county voting system | KYW.