A crucial test for the future of Georgia elections begins Monday when early voting opens across the state ahead of the Nov. 7 local and special elections. Voters in Conyers will begin casting paper ballots along with new voting and tabulating machines as they decide on a new mayor and two City Council seats. The pilot program comes as advocates have sued to force the state to dump its aging all-electronic system amid fears of hacking and security breaches. And it could pave the way for the first elections system reboot in Georgia since 2002. “Everything is still on track and we are ready to go,” said Cynthia Welch, the elections supervisor for Rockdale County, which is running the Conyers election. Welch and her team have spent the past several weeks demonstrating the system, including to other local elections officials as well as lawmakers.
Want better security of election voting results? Use paper. With the US almost halfway between the last national election and the 2018 mid-terms, not nearly enough has been done yet to improve the demonstrated insecurity of current electronic voting systems. Multiple experts say one obvious, fundamental move should be to ensure there is a paper trail for every vote. That was a major recommendation at a panel discussion this past week that included representatives of the hacker conference DefCon and the Atlantic Council think tank, which concluded that while there is progress, it is slow.
More than a dozen voters have used new paper-ballot voting machines in Conyers with no reported problems, the first step of a new pilot program to test the machines in Georgia. “It’s fair to say we’re excited to get the ball rolling and partner with a good elections office and give voters a preview of what the future of voting may look like,” said Chris Harvey, Georgia’s elections director. “This kind of technology seems to be what a lot of states are going toward,” Harvey added. “This is becoming the new normal.”
Faced with increasingly convincing evidence that electronic voting systems can be hacked to alter election results, a majority of states are wisely moving to adopt voting methods that enhance security, in part by producing a paper ballot record that can be used to audit results. South Carolina should do the same. In fact, that’s the goal of the state Election Commission, if the Legislature will come up with $40 million to purchase the 13,000 new machines needed to serve every precinct in the state. The commission has attempted to get the Legislature’s attention for five years about the need to build up a fund to replace the existing machines. So far, legislators have demurred, awaiting the completion of new state standards for voting machine security. Those standards are expected to be completed in time for legislative review next year. Timely action will be needed if there is to be any chance to replace the 13-year-old touch-screen machines before the next general election in 2020.
Nearly a year after the 2016 presidential election, many Americans have been forced, some for the very first time, to look critically at their voting protections, and recognize that US balloting systems are not nearly as impregnable as they once thought. Clearly, the US intelligence reports about Russia hacks provided a long-overdue wake up call for this issue. The good news: some progress has been made in some jurisdictions in the last year. The bad news: that progress hasn’t been as widespread or comprehensive as the problem would seem to demand. “I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Larry Norden, of NYU’s nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. “I’m heartened by the fact that, for instance, we’re seeing, in both House and Congress, bipartisan proposals to invest in increased election system security.” … Election consultant Pam Smith agreed that there has “definitely [been] a pattern towards more secure elections” across the country. Some states appear to be ahead of the game. Virginia, for example, recently earned praise for decertifying all its touchscreen, paperless Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting machines ahead of the termination date required by its own legislation.
Numerous electronic voting machines used in United States elections have critical exposures that could make them vulnerable to hacking. Security experts have known that for a decade. But it wasn’t until Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential campaigns and began probing digital voting systems that the topic took on pressing urgency. Now hackers, researchers, diplomats, and national security experts are pushing to effect real change in Washington. The latest update? It’s working, but maybe not fast enough. On Tuesday, representatives from the hacking conference DefCon and partners at the Atlantic Council think tank shared findings from a report about DefCon’s Voting Village, where hundreds of hackers got to physically interact with—and compromise—actual US voting machines for the first time ever at the conference in July. Work over three days at the Village underscored the fundamental vulnerability of the devices, and raised questions about important issues, like the trustworthiness of hardware parts manufactured in other countries, including China. But most importantly, the report highlights the dire urgency of securing US voting systems before the 2018 midterm elections.
State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers. One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Another is to spot and defuse attempts to depress turnout and sway election results by targeting voters with false news reports and social media posts.
The return of paper ballots for all Virginia voters, a process begun a decade ago and accelerated by the threat of hacks of computerized voting machines, has kicked into high gear a month before the next state election. Edgardo Cortés, Virginia’s commissioner of elections, said last week all of the commonwealth’s cities, towns and counties will use paper ballots and electronic scanners on Nov. 7, ensuring voting and tabulation are secure. “The issue here is not whether it’s hackable or not,” Cortés said in an interview. “The issue is if you end up with some kind of question, you have those paper ballots you can go back to.” The danger is not theoretical.
Virginia: Warner Cautions Russian ‘Active Measures’ May Impact Virginia Elections Next Month | Falls Church News-Press
Virginia’s U.S. Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s role interfering in U.S. elections, confirmed at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday that the Russians’ efforts remain active and could impact the Virginia gubernatorial and other state races on the ballot next month. Warner, and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, criticized the Department of Homeland Security for delaying until just last week the release of its findings that the Russians attempted to penetrate the electoral processes in 21 U.S. states, including Virginia. Warner praised the Virginia Department of Elections for acting proactively to decertify voting machines that failed to have “paper trails” in jurisdictions throughout the state, including in the City of Falls Church. The decertification order came just in time to allow for the substitution of new voting machines with such “paper trails” in advance of the beginning of absentee balloting last month.
The Gambia: Electoral Commission mulls switch from marbles to ballot papers in future elections | Journal du Cameroun
Gambia’s election chief, Alieu Momar Njai has said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is considering swapping marbles in favour of ballot papers for voters in future national elections.Since elections began in The Gambia under British colonial rule in the early 20th century, glass marbles instead of ballot papers are used in successive voting exercises, including the latest poll cycle which began last December. Speaking to the online Fatu Network on Wednesday, Mr Njai said the introduction of ballot papers which are the standard voting materials for much of the rest of the world, could be as early as the local government elections scheduled for 12 April 2018.