National: After 2016 Election Hacks, Some States Return to Paper Ballots | Governing

Citing security concerns, the Virginia Board of Elections announced last Friday that it will stop using electronic voting machines in the state. The board’s action is the latest sign that state and local election agencies are trying to address growing concerns that the nation’s election infrastructure is vulnerable to hacking. During the 2016 presidential election, Russia targeted voting systems in 21 states, according to U.S. officials. Though U.S. security officials say the cyberbreach did not impact vote-counting, they have warned of future, and more intrusive, attacks. Some states — including Virginia and Georgia, which recently announced a pilot program to use paper ballots — hope eliminating the use of electronic ballots will reduce the threat of cyberattacks.

Virginia: Ahead of November Election, Virginia Scraps Use of ‘Hackable’ Voting Machines | WVTF

With only two months until election day, officials in Virginia have decided fully-electronic voting machines aren’t safe. Amid growing cyber-security threats, the Board of Elections is forcing localities to stop using the of the touch screen machines that leave no paper trail. … Alex Blakemore with Virginia Verified Voting has long advocated for the machines to be decertified. While he hasn’t seen what the latest testing shows, he does remember the results of a similar security review back in 2015. “The machines were unbelievably vulnerable. They had wifi on them which, why would you want wifi on a voting machine?” Blakemore asked. “You could hack in remotely, the password was abcde.”

Norway: Votes to be counted manually in fear of election hacking | The Independent Barents Observer

People goes to the polls for Parliament elections on Monday, but results are likely not ready before Tuesday. Computer counting alone is not enough. The Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) and the Police Security Service (PST) have together with the Directorate of Elections made risk and vulnerability assessments. The government says there are no indications that anyone has attempted to affect the conduct of the elections in any way. However, the government says in a statement, «there are increasing activity and attention, both domestically and internationally, around some of the technical solutions in place. This is in and of itself a source of elevated risk.»

Ohio: More counties switching to paper ballots amid election hacking fears | News 5 Cleveland

Tuesday is Cleveland’s Mayoral primary. If you go to vote, you’ll notice, as it has been for years, you’ll be filling out a paper ballot. This though, is not the norm. In most Ohio counties, a touch screen computer system is used. But it turns out, when it comes to voting, old school is better than new technology. “In my opinion, old school is better,” said Pat McDonald, the Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Technology is rapidly evolving, but one thing that’s stayed the same though is the fact, a paper trail doesn’t lie. “It’s great as well for audit trails. So during recounts and auditing purposes, you have that actual, physical piece of paper which is the ballot to compare a hand-count to the actual tabulation system,” said McDonald. In Cuyahoga County it’s been only paper ballots since 2008.

Virginia: State moves to eliminate voting machines considered top hacking target | Politico

Virginia’s election office on Friday urged the state’s election supervisors to prohibit touch-screen voting machines before November’s elections, saying the devices posed unacceptable digital risks. If approved, the move would represent one of the most dramatic actions taken to help secure elections since a 2016 presidential race rife with concerns about digital meddling and vote tampering. Election security experts have long warned that such machines are a top target for hackers. The decision would force Virginia counties to swiftly replace any touch-screen devices with machines that produce a paper trail, ensuring the state could audit its closely watched gubernatorial race this November between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie. The state election board will vote Friday afternoon on the recommendation.

National: Proposed legislation discourages Russia-U.S. cyber pact, while prioritizing election security | SC Magazine

A U.S. intelligence bill that recently passed committee in the Senate contains key provisions designed to defend the electoral process from Russian meddling and other foreign interference, as well as curtail any possible White House effort to form a joint cybersecurity unit with the Kremlin. Passed in the Senate Intelligence Committee by a 14-1 margin this past July and made public just days ago, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2018 explicitly forbids the U.S. government from using federal resources to form a cyber partnership with Russia, unless the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) first submits a report that congressional intelligence committee members can review 30 days in advance of such an agreement. This key clause is a blatant rebuke of President Donald Trump, who fleetingly announced a U.S.-Russian cyber unit in July before backing off the idea amidst backlash.

National: Senate bill bans joint cyber initiative with Russia | FCW

An authorization bill introduced Aug. 18 by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) pushes back against a proposal floated by the Trump administration to set up a joint cyber initiative with Russia. The bill also establishes a strategy to protect U.S. election systems and pushes for increased pay rates for federal cyber professionals. It is not the first bill to call for a prohibition on potential U.S.-Russia cyber cooperation. Following President Donald Trump’s tweet on July 9 stating that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit” in the future to guard against election hacking, a bipartisan group of legislators expressed alarm at the idea. Although Trump later backtracked, Senate Democrats introduced a standalone bill three days later to deny funding for any such plan.

Editorials: Russia will be back. Here’s how to hack-proof the next election. | Tom Donilon/The Washington Post

We now know that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a comprehensive effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. This mission involved the cybertheft and strategic publication of politically sensitive emails, the placement and amplification of misinformation on social media, overt propaganda and efforts to penetrate the systems of dozens of state election authorities. … First, President Trump must unequivocally acknowledgeRussia’s attack on the 2016 election and clearly state that any future attack on our democratic institutions will not be tolerated. One of the oddest aspects of the president’s foreign policy to date is his refusal to criticize — let alone condemn — Russian hostility, be it directed at our elections or Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan. The president continued to make inconsistent statements in Warsaw, claiming that “nobody really knows” whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election. No president should accept the representations of a foreign adversary over the considered conclusions of his own intelligence services. In all events, the president should demand a plan from his national security team to deter and prevent election attacks.

National: Safer Elections Mean Newer Equipment, No Networks | StateTech Magazine

Among the many contentious arguments of the 2016 presidential election was the question of the security of the vote itself. Accusations flew, with claims that the election would be rigged or hacked in some way. In part, those accusations were lent credence by the state of voting equipment in the United States. In many localities, equipment is approaching the end of its useful life; many states and counties last upgraded with the help of federal funding provided through the Help America Vote Act of 2002. “As the 2000 election demonstrated, and now again, elections in general and voting technology in particular is a highly under-resourced and underappreciated part of our democratic infrastructure,” says Professor Charles Stewart III of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab.

Editorials: We should all be voting on paper | Avi Green/Daily Record

Here is a frightening prospect: with four weeks to go before Election Day, some of America’s voting machines are not as secure as they could be. For years, the idea that hackers might mess with a U.S. election seemed more like the plot of a novel than a real possibility. As a result, election administrators have tried to save taxpayer money by using the same machines year after year, even after vulnerabilities with some voting machines were exposed. This year is different. Cyber attackers in Russia have targeted U.S. election systems, taking aim at the Democratic National Committee and voter registration databases of more than 20 states. The risk is small, but real. Let’s start with good news: you can trust the national outcome. Most Americans vote on paper ballots. Those ballots are mainly counted by efficient, accurate optical scan voting machines, and, in most states, they are also audited — hand-counted in public in a small number of randomly selected precincts — to make sure that the optical scan machines are working right. If the election is close enough to merit a recount, or if a random audit shows an anomaly, more precincts can be counted by hand.

Pakistan: Voting machine: ‘Conventional’ ballot papers likely to be used in 2018 polls | The Express Tribune

In a sign that it has virtually abandoned the proposal of using electronic voting machines, the Election Commission of Pakistan has begun preparations for ballot paper procurement well ahead of the 2018 general election. On Monday, the poll supervisory body convened a meeting of all stakeholders to review arrangements for printing ballot papers. Following the 2013 general elections, the ECP had proposed the use of EVMs in the next general elections. However, the proposal is still at a nascent stage and unlikely to be enforced by 2018 due to technical and legal hitches.

Editorials: Voting technology should go back to the future | John Phillips/The Orange County Register

The internet and smartphones have revolutionized the way we live our lives in fundamental, and, in my opinion, fantastic ways. It’s now possible to do your banking, buy airline tickets and pick your seats at the movies all while you wait in the lobby at the dentist’s office. There’s virtually nothing you can’t do on your favorite electronic device – except vote. And it should stay that way. Give me Scantrons and hanging chads any day of the week over online, or even electronic, voting, where domestic hackers and foreign agents potentially have the ability to alter the result of a U.S. election. Think about the chaos that swept through the state of Florida after the 2000 presidential election in response to an extremely close election – and then think about what would be in store for us if the losing candidate pins their loss on foreign espionage. We’d be at each other’s throats faster than you could say “banana republic.”

Editorials: Tighten ballot security | USA Today

Fears that the Russians could hack the voting system on Nov. 8 and wreak havoc in the presidential election are running high amid suspicions that Russians hacked into computers at the Democratic National Committee and after foreign intruders managed to get into voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. While computer scientists and election experts will never say never, hacking the actual voting systems is highly implausible. But if the worst happened — hackers seeking to manipulate the outcome — you’d want a foolproof backup system. Yet voting systems in nearly a third of the states lack a key safeguard: a paper record of individual votes. Five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — use paperless electronic voting machines as their primary equipment statewide. Nine others, including swing states Pennsylvania and Virginia, use them in some counties, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Pennsylvania: Aging voting machines prompt concern about election security | CNHI

Decade-old voting machines in much of the state are creating concern as they age, with lawmakers now urging a review of the systems. This comes as Pennsylvania’s widespread use of touch-screen voting is viewed with suspicion by supporters of Donald Trump. Many already feel the Republican presidential nominee is campaigning up-stream, and Trump has suggested that if he loses, it will be because voting systems in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are rigged. “I think paper ballots that the voter fills in circles with ink that are read by optical scanners would be a good way to go,” said Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County, a member of the House State Government Committee. Roae attended Trump’s Erie rally on Friday and has said he supports the nominee.

California: San Jose recount drama tests faith in system | San Jose Mercury News

Nearly two months after the June election, the scene at the Santa Clara County registrar’s office calls to mind a high-stakes blackjack game without the bright felt table or the waitresses hawking drinks. The registrar’s official behind the table, Jason Mazzone, counts out the ballots from each precinct and then produces the questioned ballots, spreading them out like a dealer showing the house’s hand. A team of political operatives from the San Jose District 4 council race moves forward to photograph the results. This isn’t just an unprecedented second recount of votes in a stunningly close election. It’s also an extraordinary clash of generations and a test of faith in the political process in a district where both the incumbent and challenger are Vietnamese-American.

National: How the U.S. Ended Up With Today’s Paper Ballots | TIME

We send emails instead of hand-written letters, we buy Kindles instead of books, we use iPads instead of pen and paper—and yet, voting is still mostly left to good old-fashioned paper. Voting technology has essentially remained at a standstill for decades. Still, some things have stayed the same even longer: the same concerns for security and secrecy that have kept paper dominant were also the driving forces behind voting policy in the early years of the United States. … Most states use a combination of electronic and paper technology. Only five states (Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina) have paper-free voting and some states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) send all constituents a paper ballot in the mail. Even more states use a combination of electronic and paper at polling places. Given how much technology has advanced in recent years, it’s fair to wonder why we continue to vote with paper. However, there are good reasons why the U.S. is hanging on to paper ballots.

Maryland: New voting machines debut with few reported glitches | The Washington Post

Despite fears of a botched debut of Maryland’s new voting machines, state election officials say they received few reports of glitches and voter confusion in Tuesday’s primary. The election marked Maryland’s long-awaited switch to paper ballots tallied by scanner, nearly a decade after lawmakers decided to ditch electronic machines that leave no paper trail. Late last year, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his administration raised concerns about election officials’ rushing the new machines into service. They relented when the machine vendor, Election Systems and Software, offered to devote additional staff and resources on a successful rollout.

National: Why We Still Use Paper Ballots on Election Day | MeriTalk

The vast majority of tech-savvy voters heading to the polls today across Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, are in for the shock of their lives: paper ballots. They’re not the kind of paper ballot that you fold in half and slip through a hole in a ballot box, but a semi-high-tech optical scan ballot that is first marked by the voter and then processed by the optical scanner to tabulate the votes. All of the states holding primaries Tuesday, with the exception of Delaware, use paper ballots or a combination of paper and electronic systems. This is the new reality facing elections in the United States. The most connected country in the world has connected so many devices that securing all of them—including the once highly touted electronic voting machine—is a near impossibility. Add to the security concerns real questions about transparency, reliability, and the ability to conduct fair and accurate recounts, and you have the makings for a mass move back to paper ballots. “Based on what I’m seeing and how slowly technology evolves in the elections world, we will still be on paper over the next five to 10 years,” said Matthew Davis, the chief information officer for the Virginia Department of Elections. Davis spoke to MeriTalk at the 2016 Akamai Government Forum in Washington, D.C.

Maryland: State goes back to paper ballots for primary election | Associated Press

Maryland is going back to basics — an ink pen and paper ballot — for this month’s presidential primary. Like every new voting system, this one has some quirks that likely will become more apparent when the November general election brings more than 2 million Maryland voters to the polls. The system requires most voters to mark their ballots by filling in ovals, similar to those on standardized tests, with pens provided by election judges. Voters feed their marked ballots into scanning machines that tabulate the results. The new system largely replaces touch-screen terminals, which eliminated the “hanging chads” and other difficulties in discerning voter intent on paper punch-card ballots highlighted by the 2000 presidential election. Maryland implemented electronic voting in 2002 but glitches and security concerns prompted the General Assembly to vote in 2007 for a return to paper balloting.

Missouri: New proposal would only allow paper ballots in Missouri | KMOV

A St. Charles County lawmaker is pushing for a proposal that would get rid of electronic voting machines in Missouri. State Senator Bob Onder-R, Lake St. Louis, is the sponsor of a bill that would make paper ballots the only type of ballots available in Missouri when voters go to the polls. Onder has previously expressed doubts about the accuracy of electronic voting machines during recounts. The proposal comes in midst of a probe into problems with paper ballots in St. Louis County. On April 5, many precincts ran out of ballots or had ballots meant for other towns or wards. As a result, lots of voters were turned away. Only paper ballots were used on April 5. County election officials believe the mess would have been avoided if touch screen voting was available. Only paper ballots were used because officials believed there was not enough time between the presidential primaries and the April elections to properly test the machines.

Missouri: St. Louis, St. Louis County voters can’t use touch-screen machines at Tuesday’s election | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis and St. Louis County residents who like to cast their votes on a touch-screen machine won’t find one when they go to polling places for Tuesday’s election. Election authorities say the unusually short three-week period since the March 15 presidential primary didn’t provide enough time to reprogram and test each of the touch-screen devices without major difficulty. So all voters in the city and county will have to use paper ballots and feed them into optical-scan machines. Normally both optical-scan and touch-screen methods are available across the city and county. “In theory it would have been possible to do a complete turnaround, but my staff would have been run so ragged,” said Eric Fey, Democratic director at the county Election Board. “The possibility of mistakes and the cost just begins to increase exponentially.”

Ireland: Pencils and rankings: It’s time for an Irish-style election | Associated Press

Ireland is voting for a new government Friday, but the country might not know the full official results until Monday — and the government won’t take shape until next month, if one can even be formed. The AP explains some of the peculiarities of Ireland’s democracy and its slow dance with election results. In Ireland’s system of proportional representation, voters get one ballot but can vote for as many listed candidates as they like in order of preference. You literally can vote for every single politician with a hand-written No. 1, 2, 3 and so on. The multi-numbered ballots mean they must be counted in multiple rounds. At first the total number of votes cast in a district is calculated. This is divided by the number of seats in that district, which produces a quota, which is the target needed to win a seat. If the winning candidate in the first count gets more votes than the quota, their surplus votes are redistributed to lower-ranking candidates, starting with the No. 2s registered on the winning candidate’s ballot. And if there is no winner in a round, they eliminate a losing candidate at the bottom of the list and the No. 2s on those ballots are transferred to other candidates.

California: Los Angeles County voting to shift from inkblots to open source | Ars Technica

Los Angeles County is home to a burgeoning technology industry. It boasts a roster of high-profile companies including Hulu, Snapchat, and Tinder. As of 2013, it offered more high-tech jobs than other major markets in the country, including Silicon Valley and New York City. Come election time, however, its residents cast their votes by marking inkblots on ballots that resemble Scantron forms. This discrepancy hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, thanks to recent efforts, it’s gradually narrowing. LA County is finally in the process of developing an open source voting system, purported to be a flexible, intuitive replacement of the incumbent method. Under the new system, slated for public use in 2020, voters will indicate their choices on a touchscreen-operated tablet, after which a machine at the voting booth will print and process their paper ballots to be tallied. This is a leap from the ink-based system, which has remained unchanged since its adoption in 2003. The project, which began in 2009, stems from a combination of misfortune and luck. After the 2000 presidential election, many jurisdictions adopted paperless voting systems in compliance with new federal legislation. LA County couldn’t make the shift; the electronic systems on the market lacked the capacity to process its high volume of votes, and the county was forced to develop its own software. Eventually, some of the other jurisdictions’ machines began to fail and lost their certification. Though spared, Los Angeles County recognized this volatility, and it started drafting plans for a more sustainable solution.

Virginia: Henrico to spend $1.2 million to replace outdated voting equipment | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Henrico County has agreed to pay $1.2 million to buy new voting equipment after state authorities decided hundreds of machines the county already owns are no longer fit for use. Registrar Mark J. Coakley announced the purchase to the county’s Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting. The State Board of Elections voted earlier this month to disallow the use of WinVote touch-screen voting machines due to security concerns. Henrico owned about 800 of the machines and only a handful of others. The county will replace the touch-screen machines with optical scan devices. To use the new machines, voters will fill out paper ballots, then feed them into the machines.

North Carolina: Cost to switch to paper ballots in Henderson County triples to $3 million | Times-News

Henderson County commissioners thought they were looking at roughly $1 million to comply with a state law requiring the Board of Elections to switch to paper ballots. The estimated cost of replacing its current touchscreen machines has now jumped to $3 million. During a discussion of the unfunded mandate earlier this month, a majority of commissioners said they nonetheless want to hold off on setting aside any money for new voting machines in the coming 2015-16 fiscal year. “I would just say to you that this is a moving target,” advised County Manager Steve Wyatt. “I have no confidence in these numbers; I had no confidence in the previous numbers. What I am confident is right now, the law says you’ve got to change the machines.”

Wyoming: Secretary of state race highlights counties’ differing election equipment | Billings Gazette

As primary election results poured in late Tuesday night, the seesaw battle in the secretary of state race became the main event. Ed Murray and Ed Buchanan hovered at 36 percent of the vote, trading the lead throughout the night. One cloud loomed over the race until the bitter end. Laramie County, Murray’s home turf, had yet to report the entirety of its results with more than 80 percent of the state’s precincts reporting. The time it took to get the results from Laramie County, while adding drama to the race, left many in the age of instant gratification wondering what took so long. Laramie County Clerk Debbye Balcaen Lathrop said there were no issues in reporting the vote. “If people had any kind of memory, they would know that we finished last night about the same time we did in the primary two years ago and four years ago,” she said. “The reason the focus was on Laramie County last night is people knew that our results would change the secretary of state’s race.”

Kansas: As counties look at new voting machines, paper ballots are returning | Great Bend Tribune

When it comes to elections, the pendulum just keeps swinging. With electronic voting equipment nearing the end of this life expectancy, Barton County Election Officer Donna Zimmerman is eyeing the future and sees a need for a change. This change could include a return to the old-school paper ballots. With such an evolution on the horizon, Zimmerman hosted a voting equipment demonstration in the Barton County Courthouse Thursday morning. Kansas county clerks and election officials joined her staff for the presentations. Participants witnessed demonstrations from multiple voting system manufacturers. ElectionSource of Grand Rapids, Mich., presented Dominion Voting Systems and Henry M. Adkins & Son of Clinton, Mo., presented Unisyn Voting Solutions. “It appears that the trend is to return to paper ballots with equipment only for used by those with disabilities,” Zimmerman said. “This is the yo-yo in elections. It seems really weird that we’re going back to paper ballots,” said Darin DeWitt, Barton County voter registration clerk. “It’s like two steps backward.” DeWitt and Zimmerman were among the handful of election officials huddled around the pricey new equipment in the Barton County Commission chambers to hear the sales pitch for from ElectionSource.

Illinois: Solution sought to voting machine issue in Madison County | The Edwardsville Intelligencer

Should a tornado or other catastrophic event cause a power outage during the Nov. 4 mid-term elections, Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza is fairly certain that early voting would proceed without much disruption. That’s not the case now, as the county continues to be in the precarious position of operating with two different hardware and two different software systems for its elections. But Ming-Mendoza is seeking federal Help America Vote Act funds to purchase early voting tabulators and Ballot on Demand printers and software that would bring both systems onto an even platform. The package costs $228,000 though the HAVA grant would cover the cost entirely. Ming-Mendoza said the purchase would also drop the county’s annual licensing and maintenance expenses from $98,000 to $41,000 since the it would be decreasing its election machine inventory from 162 to 17.

North Dakota: State first in election performance | Bismarck Tribune

An independent nonprofit organization has released its third analysis of how each state conducts its elections and for the third time North Dakota took the top spot on the list. The Pew Charitable Trusts released its elections performance index Tuesday, which it has released every two years since the 2008 election cycle. Pew based its results using 17 election indicators including voter turnout, the percentage of military and absentee ballots that aren’t returned, online registration to vote and the wait time for being able to vote. With North Dakota being the only state in the country that doesn’t have voter registration, it is exempt from several indicators used in the performance index. In the areas North Dakota was ranked in, it rated above the national average in every single category. “When you see Pew looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and North Dakota consistently ranks very high, that’s encouraging,” North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said.

Editorials: Tennessee’s Voting Machines | Memphis Flyer

On the political scene, growing numbers of observers have been worrying out loud about the vulnerability of our voting devices, especially those — like the ESS-manufactured machines in use in Shelby County — which depend so heavily on the computerized processing of results. Opponents, like local investigator Joe Weinberg, contend that both the hardware and software of these machines, and electronic devices like them, are inherently unreliable and subject to being hacked. Anybody who has looked into the fruits of Weinberg’s researches will realize, at the very least, how complicated these mechanisms are and how complex the potential problems they present. Rich Holden, the current administrator of the Shelby County Election Commission, has insisted that the margin for error of these election machines is infinitesimally small, and he contends that, as instruments for measuring the vote, they are far more efficient, less time-consuming, and more accurate by far than the old practice of voting via paper ballots. He sees that method as retrograde and believes that a return to it is the true goal of those who criticize the now-prevailing method.