ary Scott can tell you a lot about the internet. Or rather, how little of it his machines are connected to. “There’s always some barrier between these machines and any online systems,” said Scott, the general registrar and director of elections for Fairfax County, Virginia. Standing next to one of several DS200 voting machines set up for training purposes in the Office of Elections in Fairfax County, he emphasized that none of the fleet of voting machines he oversees have ever been connected to the internet. Neither have any of the computers used to program them, nor the machines that will receive the final vote count. The most surprising piece of technology involved in Fairfax’s voting approach might well be the oldest one: paper. “We got a lot of resistance from the public because they wanted to know why we were going ‘backwards’ to paper, but it’s a much more secure method of doing it,” Scott said. Fairfax County initiated a move toward paper ballots years before Virginia decertified paperless voting machines across the state, aligning with the latest shifts in thinking about election security—both in the U.S. and abroad. The embrace of paper by districts like Fairfax marks a change in the nationwide trend toward electronic voting infrastructure that can be traced back to the Help America Vote Act of 2002.Full Article: In a bid for better security, elections are going analog - Marketplace.
National: Pennsylvania voting debacle gives ammunition to paper ballot push | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post
Massive voting machine failures in a Pennsylvania county in November are giving election security advocates fresh ammunition to call for nationwide paper ballots. The problems, which may have been caused by a software glitch, resulted in some Northampton County residents who tried to vote straight-ticket Democrat initially registering as straight-ticket Republican. It also incorrectly showed a Republican judicial candidate winning by a nearly statistically impossible margin, the New York Times’ Nick Corasaniti reports. In this case, voters got lucky. The county had paper backups for all the votes the machine counted incorrectly. They showed the Democrat judicial candidate Abe Kassis — who the computer tally said got just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots — actually narrowly won the race. But about 16 million Americans spread across eight states won’t have a paper backup for their votes in 2020. That means a similar software glitch or a malicious hack by Russia or another U.S. adversary could cause mass uncertainty about an election’s outcome or even result in the wrong candidate taking office. Even in Pennsylvania, it could have been different. The machines that malfunctioned in November were just purchased this year in response to a statewide mandate to upgrade to new voting machines with paper records.Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Pennsylvania voting debacle gives ammunition to paper ballot push - The Washington Post.
Amid ongoing anxiety about election hacking and foreign interference, Lee County continues to use what many experts deem the most secure voting system: the paper ballot. In Mississippi, the bulk of the state’s 82 counties use fully electronic voting systems. But about a dozen or so counties use paper ballots. And that number is increasing. “The shift is we’re going back,” said Lee County Circuit Clerk Camille Roberts Dulaney. A Republican about to begin her second term, Dulaney said hand-marked ballots build voter confidence and ensure the integrity of the election. “It just feels safer to me,” Dulaney said. In North Mississippi, Choctaw County is among those exploring a return to a system that incorporates paper ballots. With touch-screen machines nearing the end of their life, the county tested new machines this year that produced a paper ballot. “We wanted to know if there was something new,” said Deputy Circuit Clerk Linda Miles. The county used machines built by VotingWorks, which provided them free of charge to test in this year’s statewide primary and general elections.Full Article: Paper ballots offer extra election security | Local News | djournal.com.
Editorials: Hand-marked Paper Ballots: How this Tried-and-True Method Makes Us More Secure | Bennie J. Smith/Memphis Commercial Appeal
In 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo on Instagram (owned by Facebook) to celebrate Instagram’s historic milestone of reaching 500 million users. Though Zuckerberg was excited to share his company’s success, headlines instead focused on the unintended revelation that his laptop’s webcam and mic were covered with tape. As one of the greatest high-tech inventors, he knows the dangers of modern technology and reveals his simple low-tech method of protection from hackers. One thing is clear, he doesn’t blindly trust technology, and neither should you.We’ve blindly trusted voting technology until it recently came under intense scrutiny. Many technologists, concerned citizens and others now want to replace voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots to record our votes. Combined with post-election audits, these low-tech methods provide evidence that voters’ choices were counted correctly when tabulated. If you think about it, paper marked by a human is immune to any virus since no computer is involved. It’s your starting line in an election, with its most important fact (true voter intent) undeniably created by you. Your available choices and who you chose are both verifiable and documented. Voters unable to mark a ballot by hand will need ballot-marking device choices.Full Article: Shelby County voting machines elections computers errors.
This November, Texas voters may be less surprised by what’s on their ballots than by what their ballots look like. Dozens of counties across the state—including Collin, Dallas, and Tarrant—are rolling out brand-new, “hybrid” voting systems that combine paper-based and electronic balloting. With hybrid systems, voters use an electronic touch screen to mark paper ballots, which are then counted using a separate tabulating machine. Voters can confirm their selections on paper before scanning their ballots for electronic counting, and election officials have a paper record to use for audits and recounts. Electronic ballot-marking eliminates stray marks and over-votes (marking more than one choice in a race) that can make it difficult or impossible to interpret a voter’s intent. The systems include multiple security features and are not connected to the internet. “Russia cannot tie into this voting equipment,” Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet said at a training class for election workers last week, adding that the rollout has been very smooth during early voting.Full Article: Paper-Based Voting Takes Hold in Texas - Texas Scorecard.
When asked at a congressional hearing if Russia would attack U.S. election systems again in 2020, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was unequivocal: “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he said. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” Presidential campaigns are now underway, and election systems are still vulnerable. From voter registration databases to result-reporting websites to the voting machines themselves, researchers have identified soft spots across the system for hackers to exploit, meaning cybersecurity is now a front line of defense for American democracy. There are many parties working on this problem — secretaries of state, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), EI-ISAC (Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center), various nonprofits and private companies — and a few common refrains between them. They’re all pushing for paper ballots, vulnerability screenings, staff training, contingency plans, audits and, above all, more consistent funding. And they all have the same basic message for state and local officials: The security of our elections is riding on you.Full Article: Cybersecurity and Democracy Collide: Locking Down Elections.
Editorials: A bipartisan idea to secure elections: paper backup of electronic votes | Dallas Morning News
Our elections must be secure. And just as important as the integrity of our ballot boxes is voter trust in that integrity. In an age of political division, this is something we agree on across political lines here in Texas. We know that’s true because the Texas Lyceum’s annual poll, just released, showed that 84% of respondents said it is important to ensure ineligible voters are prevented from voting, and 92% said it’s important to ensure that all eligible voters are permitted to vote. We would like to see both of those numbers at 100%, but this is an imperfect world, and we accept these powerful majorities as a statement that Texans understand the importance of the ballot box. A troubling element did emerge from the poll. Just 62% of respondents say they are confident that the voting system in Texas is secure from hacking and other technological threats. Here again, Texans get it right. Few of us are naive enough now to think that electronic ballots are not vulnerable.Full Article: Electronic voting isn't enough. We need a paper trail.
Editorials: Paper ballots are essential to securing our elections and our democracy | Lee C. Bollinger and Michael A. McRobbie/The Hill
Public confidence in the integrity and security of our elections is essential for democracy to be a trusted means of governing, and that very confidence is now under unprecedented attack by foreign adversaries. A newly released report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as recent congressional testimony by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, indicated that in 2016 Russia attempted intrusions into the election infrastructure of all 50 states. In one of the most dramatic moments of his testimony, Mueller said that Russia is at it again “as we sit here.” With just 15 months until the next round of major state and federal elections, and as Congress continues to debate the sources of and steps to combat the cyberattacks, it is sobering to consider the effect that a deep erosion of public confidence in the election process could have. It would be devastating to Americans’ faith in our democracy and the legitimacy of our elected government. For these reasons, state and federal leaders must act with urgency to secure our elections. As co-chairs of the committee convened in 2016 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to address voting security, we concluded that the nation should immediately take three actions to strengthen the safeguards for election systems against the mounting cyberthreats.Full Article: Paper ballots are essential to securing our elections and our democracy | TheHill.
Georgia: State gets new election machines, but paper ballots abound | Mark Niesse and Arielle Kass/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The 2,271 people eligible to vote in Chattahoochee Hills may feel like they’re stepping back in time whenever they cast a ballot for the City Council or mayor. In much of the rest of the state, electronic voting machines are standard for each and every election. But in Chattahoochee Hills and about 70 other cities, residents vote using paper ballots. In many of those cities, the votes are even tallied by hand.On election night in Chattahoochee Hills, residents can pile into City Hall to watch City Clerk Dana Wicher and a handful of poll workers open a locked metal ballot box and call out the names on each ballot. Like keeping score at a baseball game, they can even tally along.As the debate rages over whether Georgia’s new touchscreen-and-printed-ballot voting system is secure, voters in cities across the state will continue to fill out their ballots with pens this November. They won’t use any modern technology during their municipal elections. State law exempts cities from having to use the uniform voting system mandated for county, state and federal elections.“Folks like coming in and doing the paper ballots. It’s that old-town community feeling,” Wicher said. “There is some suspense. There’s probably more transparency with the paper system.”Full Article: Georgia gets new election machines, but paper ballots abound.
Georgia: Cobb County trialing backup paper ballot voting system in Nov. 5 elections | Rosie Manins/Marietta Daily Journal
The majority of voters in Cobb County will be using hand-marked paper ballots to vote in the Nov. 5 municipal elections, the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration says. The Cobb board is piloting the paper ballot method for the elections it is managing in November for the cities of Smyrna, Kennesaw, Powder Springs and Austell. Acworth is managing its own municipal elections this year, using its existing paper ballot system, and Marietta is not holding elections in November because none of its elected members are up for re-election. In the four Cobb cities where the board manages elections, the hand-marked paper ballot trial will be conducted on Nov. 5 and in any subsequent runoffs as an extra safeguard to address concerns and any surprise problems associated with the statewide switch to new electronic voting machines in 2020, the board says. This kind of paper ballot system has to be used by Georgia if its new electronic voting machine system is not fully implemented and operational by the March 24, 2020, presidential primaries, according to a federal judge’s order. The Cobb trial is aimed at testing and refining if necessary a voting method which could be used in case of a problem with the new voting machines, which are supposed to be in place across the state for the March elections.Full Article: Cobb trialing backup voting system in Nov. 5 elections | News | mdjonline.com.
Editorials: The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking | Lulu Friesdat/The Hill
The key takeaway of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election was that “There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election … and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.” But with so much attention on what happened in 2016, we have lost much of the time available to protect the 2020 election. This was immediately apparent recently at DEF CON, one of the largest hacker conventions on the planet. The conference, where tens of thousands of hackers descend on the pseudo-glamourous “pleasure pit” that is Las Vegas, includes the Voting Village, a pop-up research lab with an array of U.S. voting equipment available for security researchers to compromise. They were terrifyingly successful. High school hackers and security professionals united to take control of almost every voting system in the room, most of it currently in use around the U.S. They found systems with no passwords, no encryption, and operating systems so old that young hackers often had no previous experience with them. That did not prevent them from completely dominating the machines. They accessed USB, compact flash and ethernet ports that were glaringly unprotected, and then proceeded to play video games and run pink cat graphics across the screens of ballot-marking devices and voter registration database systems.Full Article: The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking | TheHill.
Editorials: Guess which ballot costs less and is more secure– paper or electronic? | Kevin Skoglund and Christopher Deluzio/PennLive
Pennsylvania’s counties are choosing new voting systems, with implications for the security, reliability, and auditability of elections across the commonwealth and beyond. Our organizations’ analysis of county selections reveals that several have decided to purchase expensive electronic machines with security challenges over the better option: hand-marked paper ballots. Pennsylvania—where vulnerable paperless machines have been the norm—needs new paper-based voting systems. But not all systems are the same. The main choice counties face is the style of voting and polling place configuration. They can have most voters mark a paper ballot with a pen and offer a touchscreen computer to assist some voters (a ballot-marking device or “BMD”). Or they can have all voters use touchscreen computers to generate a ballot (an all-BMD configuration). The hardware in each configuration is often the same, but this fundamental choice creates significant differences. In fact, our analysis shows that many counties have chosen the all-BMD configuration and are paying a hefty sum for it—twice as much per voter as counties that selected systems that rely principally on voters hand-marking their ballots. Pricier electronic systems also carry greater security risks and make it harder for voters to verify their ballots before casting.Full Article: Guess which ballot costs less and is more secure-- paper or electronic? | Opinion - pennlive.com.
Counties buying voting machines that allow voters to fill out paper ballots are paying half what counties buying tablet-based voting technology are paying, according to an analysis released Thursday by the University of Pittsburgh. Researchers examined the costs paid by 31 counties for voting machines, as counties across the state move to replace their election equipment before the 2020 presidential election. In total, the counties are calculated to spend $69 million on those systems. The state has told the counties to replace their voting machines with new equipment that provide a paper record of votes cast before the 2020 presidential election. That move was prompted by a settlement to a lawsuit filed by former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein after the 2016 election.Full Article: Most Pa. counties pick paper ballots | News | sharonherald.com.
National: States and localities are on the front lines of fighting cyber-crimes in elections | Elaine Kamarck/Brookings
When it comes to fighting illegal intrusions into American elections, the states and localities are where the rubber meets the road—that is where American elections are administered. This authority is grounded in more than tradition; it derives from Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution. That section notes that while Congress has the authority to intervene in the setting of elections, election administration is largely a function of state and local government. Given this situation, election law and practice vary considerably from state to state, which leads to a number of ramifications. On the one hand, this decentralization makes it hard for a single cyberattack to take down the entire American election system. But having a fragmented system poses some disadvantages as well. Some states and localities are simply better equipped to protect against cyber intrusions than others, and an adversary seeking to sow doubt and confusion about the integrity of an election needs to compromise only a few parts of the entire system in order to undermine public confidence. The vulnerabilities in election administration exist at every step of the process, from the registration of voters, to the recruitment of poll workers for election day, to the books of registered voters at polling places, to the devices that capture and tally the vote, to the transmission of that data to a central place on election night and to the ability to execute an accurate recount. Every state and locality wants to run a fair election but they are limited by inadequate funding, the absence of trained personnel, and outdated technology.Full Article: States and localities are on the front lines of fighting cyber-crimes in elections.
Georgia: Judge denies paper ballots in Georgia this year but requires them in 2020 | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Georgia voters can cast ballots on the state’s “unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated” electronic voting machines one last time, deciding it would be too disruptive to switch to paper ballots before this fall’s elections. But starting with next year’s presidential primary election, paper ballots will be required, according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg. Her order barred the state from using its current electronic voting machines after this year’s elections.Election officials are already planning to upgrade the state’s voting system by buying $107 million in new equipment that will use a combination of touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots to check the accuracy of election results.If the state’s new voting system isn’t completely rolled out to all 159 counties in time for the March 24 presidential primary, Totenberg ruled that voters must use paper ballots filled out by hand. “Georgia’s current voting equipment, software, election and voter databases are antiquated, seriously flawed and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination and attack,” Totenberg wrote. Totenberg wrote it would be “unwise” to immediately discard the state’s 17-year-old voting machines, which lack paper ballots that could be used to check the accuracy of election results. She wrote that it could be “a recipe for disaster” to force resistant election officials to switch to hand-marked paper ballots this year while they’re also transitioning to the state’s new voting system. Her 153-page ruling clears the way for 386 local elections to move forward as planned this fall, including votes for the Atlanta school board, the Fulton County Commission and city councils across the state.Full Article: Judge rules against immediate switch to paper ballots in Georgia.
Editorials: Security improvements for South Carolina elections are welcome news | Charleston| Post and Courier
South Carolina’s new voting machines that leave a paper trail for audits and cannot be hacked remotely get their first workout Oct. 1 in a special election in Aiken County, and will be operable in all precincts around the state by November. But that’s not the only welcome improvement in the state’s election security. Others address training in cybersecurity for election workers and include frequent tests of the vulnerability of state systems to intrusion. These upgrades, a response to the ongoing threat posed by Russia and other foreign adversaries, are the product of a fruitful collaboration between the federal government and the states. The federal Election Assistance Commission provides an information clearinghouse for best practices and also certifies voting machines and associated hardware and software. The Department of Homeland Security keeps states up to date on the latest security threats. The states receive federal grants to help defray the added costs of enhanced security.Full Article: Editorial: Security improvements for South Carolina elections are welcome news | Editorials | postandcourier.com.
National: Why paper is considered state-of-the-art voting technology | Karan Gambhir and Jack Karsten/Brookings
On June 27, the House passed a bill that would bolster America’s high-tech voting infrastructure with a low-tech fix: paper. Introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), the SAFE Act requires that all voting machines involve “the use of an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot of the voter’s vote.” While the inclusion of paper ballots may seem like a technological step backward, the SAFE Act’s affinity for paper is not a quirk. Election security experts from Harvard, Stanford and the Brennan Center for Justice all recommend the phasing out of paperless voting, and twelve of the thirteen Democratic candidates who have declared a position on election security support mandating the use of paper ballots. Yet despite expert consensus, political activism, and availability of funding, opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate makes it unlikely that the SAFE Act or any paper ballot standard will be implemented by 2020. With no method to verify votes in the case of software or hardware failure, paperless voting machines represent a large vulnerability. Failure to act on election security risks not only a loss of trust in the next election, but in the democratic process as a whole.Full Article: Why paper is considered state-of-the-art voting technology.
National: Senate Intelligence Committee report shows how electronic voting systems are inherently vulnerable to hackers. Fred Kaplan/Slate
Just hours after Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill to make elections less vulnerable to cyberattacks, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 67-page report, concluding that, leading up to the 2016 election, Russians hacked voting machines and registration rolls in all 50 states, and they are likely still doing so. The heavily redacted document, based on a two-year investigation, found no evidence that the hackers altered votes or vote tallies, though it says they could have if they’d wanted to. However, three former senior U.S. intelligence officials with backgrounds in cybersecurity told me that the absence of evidence isn’t the same as the evidence of an absence. One of them said, “I doubt very much that any changes would be detectable. Certainly, the hackers would be able to cover any tracks. The Russians aren’t stupid.” Hacking individual voting machines would be an inefficient way to throw an election. But J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist who has tested vulnerabilities for more than a decade, testified to the Senate committee that he and his team “created attacks that can spread from machine to machine, like a computer virus, and silently change election outcomes.” They studied touch-screen and optical-scan systems, and “in every single case,” he said, “we found ways for attackers to sabotage machines and steal votes.” Another way to throw an election might be to attack systems that manage voter-registration lists, which the hackers also did in some states. Remove people from the lists—focusing on areas dominated by members of the party that the hacker wants to lose—and they won’t be able to vote.Full Article: Senate Intelligence Committee report shows how electronic voting systems are inherently vulnerable to hackers..
National: You can easily secure America’s e-voting systems tomorrow. Use paper – Bruce Schneier | The Register
While various high-tech solutions to secure electronic voting systems are being touted this week to election officials across the United States, according to infosec guru Bruce Schneier there is only one tried-and-tested approach that should be considered: pen and paper. It’s the only way to be sure hackers and spies haven’t delved in from across the web to screw with your vote. “Paper ballots are almost 100 per cent reliable and provide a voter-verifiable paper trail,” he told your humble Reg vulture and other hacks at Black Hat in Las Vegas on Thursday. “This isn’t hard or controversial. We use then all the time in Minnesota, and you make your vote and it’s easily tabulated.” The integrity of the election process depends on three key areas: the security of the voter databases that list who can vote; the electronic ballot boxes themselves, which Schneier opined were the hardest things to hack successfully; and the computers that tabulate votes and distribute this information.Full Article: You can easily secure America's e-voting systems tomorrow. Use paper – Bruce Schneier • The Register.
Editorials: Scientific evidence and securing the vote: Verdict is in, now we need the funds | Michael D. Fernandez/The Hill
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently released its much-anticipated report on election security and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Alongside the alarming insights regarding Russian interference, there are critical recommendations based on scientific evidence regarding the security of our voting process, including the replacement of “outdated and vulnerable voting systems.” In too many counties across the country, ballots are being cast on insecure electronic systems. These direct recording electronic systems record a voter’s selection directly to the machine’s memory and automatically tabulate votes. Many leave no physical record of the vote cast. Within the scientific community, there has been consistent alarm regarding the security vulnerabilities of these direct recording electronic systems. Just last year, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine issued a report finding that paperless direct recording electronic machines are not secure and should be removed from service as soon as possible. The committee of computer science and cybersecurity experts, legal and election scholars, social scientists, and election officials concluded that local, state, and federal elections should be conducted using human-readable paper ballots, either marked by hand or machine. Every effort should be taken to ensure that direct recording electronic machines are removed from service prior to the 2020 election. Regardless of the vendor or configuration, direct recording electronic systems are fundamentally unverifiable. While hacking is the most discussed concern, these systems are also vulnerable to everyday coding mistakes or errors that could lead to the same inaccurate results as malicious hacking. To effectively safeguard public confidence in our elections and democracy, we must ensure that every vote is counted accurately.Full Article: Scientific evidence and securing the vote: Verdict is in, now we need the funds | TheHill.