Midterm elections are just a few days away and the security of the country’s voting systems and machines will be a top priority. 10 News talked with Randy Marchany, Virginia Tech’s information technology security officer, about the possible threats on Election Day. “There’s nothing more critical in a democracy than to vote and have that vote counted accurately,” Marchany said. He said one security concern is the age of the equipment and software currently in use. “A lot of localities across the country are using voting machines that have been around for 10 years, and in computer terms, that is geologic,” Marchany said. “That is in the dinosaur age in terms of what the technology was in 2008, 2006, and this is the type of machines that are being used.”
Wyoming voting officials have started looking into replacing aging election equipment across the state. A panel of state officials has been convened to determine whether new machines are needed and how much replacement would cost, as well as where to seek funding. “The State of Wyoming is responsible for providing citizens with an election process that can be trusted. Wyoming is leading the charge with this Task Force to ensure that no county is left with voting equipment at risk of deteriorating,” State Election Director Kai Schon said in a statement.
Verified Voting in the News: Stars not aligned for new Travis County, Texas voting system | electionlineWeekly
The best laid plans of mice, men and elections officials often go awry and that’s exactly what happened to 12 years of studying and planning for Travis County, Texas Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Long before anyone ever thought to mention Russians and elections in the same breath, Travis County began looking for a way to improve the security of the county’s voting system and provide a verifiable paper trail. DeBeauvoir was upset that activists were attacking elections administrators for the design of voting systems and the purchase of DRE voting systems that did not have a paper trail.
As Americans celebrate Independence Day, it’s worth remembering that the right to vote in free and fair elections stands at the heart of that independence — and that this cherished right is under attack by a hostile foreign power. New revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election arrive regularly. Last month came news that Russian hackers had probed the voting networks in 21 states and had executed a cyberattack on a contractor that supplies voting software to states. “They will be back,” former FBI director James Comey warned in congressional testimony. In the face of this threat, the nation’s leaders, at the federal and state levels, have done little to harden defenses against future attacks. For the most part, President Trump has been in denial about Russian meddling, as if acknowledging the problem threatens the legitimacy of his election, and has focused instead on unproven allegations of extensive voter fraud.
What would it cost to protect the nation’s voting systems from attack? About $400 million would go a long way, say cybersecurity experts. It’s not a lot of money when it comes to national defense — the Pentagon spent more than that last year on military bands alone — but getting funds for election systems is always a struggle. At a Senate intelligence committee hearing last week about Russian hacking during last year’s election, Jeanette Manfra , the acting deputy under secretary for cybersecurity at the Department Homeland Security recommended that election officials have a paper-based audit process to identify anomalies after an election. While that’s the advice most cybersecurity experts give, right now more than a dozen states use electronic voting machines that have no paper backup. Replacing those machines would go a long way toward protecting one of the core functions of democracy, says Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York. “I don’t think that would cost a huge amount of money. I think it would probably cost between $200 million and $300 million to replace that equipment,” adding that $400 million is his top estimate.
Minnesota: Secretary’s push to replace aging election equipment signed into law | Faribault Daily News
Secretary of State Steve Simon is praising a new law that will help replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment, calling it a “critical and necessary investment” to ensure voting equipment works properly and consistently in precincts all around the state. Replacing aging equipment has been a major priority of Secretary Simon’s since taking office and was signed into law May 30. The bill creates a $7 million grant fund to replace Minnesota’s aging election equipment by 2018. It provides up to a 50 percent match between the state and counties for mandatory equipment and up to a 75 percent match for electronic poll books.
California: Here’s why California officials want $450 million to upgrade elections technology | Press Enterprise
Imagine using a dial-up modem for Internet and VHS for entertainment in 2017. California elections officials say they face a similar situation with the technology used for a bedrock function of democracy. It’s why Secretary of State Alex Padilla supports a bill to raise $450 million through bonds to upgrade elections technology in California’s 58 counties. The bill, AB 668, passed the Assembly 56-19 on Wednesday, May 31. If it passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California voters will decide whether to authorize the bonds in June 2018. Republicans argue the bill, known as the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018, is a costly and wrong-headed approach to upgrading elections systems. “The right to vote is our most important right,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego. “But local election officials have to rely on equipment that is rapidly becoming outdated or obsolete.”
A bill that would pay to replace all of Nevada’s electronic voting machines was introduced in the Assembly on Thursday. Assembly Bill 519 would provide a total of $8 million to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. County elections officials have repeatedly told lawmakers the Sequoia machines are now so old they’re failing, causing numerous problems for poll workers in early voting as well as on election day. Those machines are now more than a decade old and were the state’s first electronic voting system, replacing the old punch card voting machines.
Last week Secretary of State Steve Simon undertook a tour of all 87 counties. He wanted to learn about the local government’s experiences during the 2016 election. His goal was to get the State to give some kind of grant or match to help with the cost of replacing aging voting machines. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which was a one time federal fund to help purchase equipment. Minnesota purchased most of its equipment between 2004-2007. According to the vendors, the machines are good for 10 years, and can be pushed to 15 years max. In 2017, the max is getting dangerously close. It costs roughly $10,000 per polling location to upgrade. Simon’s case for State funding is that upgrading the machines is a mandatory cost that can’t be deferred. The previous generation of machines was purchased with help from federal funding for all 50 states. 43 states are in need of upgrades.
Lawmakers need to look seriously at replacing Nebraska’s election equipment even though it could cost the state $20 million to $30 million, a leading senator said Wednesday. Sen. John Murante of Gretna said the current equipment is on pace to fail and create major headaches for counties, which are responsible for administering elections. “We simply cannot do nothing,” said Murante, the chairman of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. “That is not an option.” His comments during a legislative hearing drew support from Secretary of State John Gale, who said the state should continue covering the cost rather than counties.
Minnesota’s local government officials say searching the eBay online auction site for voting machine parts is not the best way to keep the foundation of democracy running smoothly. The company that made much of Minnesota’s voting equipment, especially for disabled voters, has moved on to newer technologies and parts for machines used in most Minnesota polling places are hard to find. “The best answer to that is eBay,” Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson of Crow Wing County told a Minnesota House committee Wednesday, March 1, before the panel approved a bill providing counties $14 million next year.
India: Election Commission plans to replace all pre-2006 EVMs with advanced M3 machines | The Economic Times
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi having advocated simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly polls in several of his public speeches and President Pranab Mukherjee lending him support, sufficient background is being created for the roll out of this major election makeover. While the Election Commission of India waits for the government to take more concrete legal action, it is alongside readying the new age EVM to take on the challenge. The latest avatar of the Electronic Voting Machine is called ‘M3’ and the Election Commission is looking to ramp up its production ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The plans are to replace all pre 2006 EVMs with the M3- a more sophisticated machine with built in self diagnostics, minimal chances of machine failure and the ability to clamp shut the moment any tampering effort is made.
North Dakota: Jaeger hopes to restore funding for voting machines, electronic poll books | Prairie Public Broadcasting
Secretary of State Al Jaeger is hoping the state Senate will restore funding for new voting machines and new electronic poll books. Jaeger proposed a $6 million expenditure to replace the voting machines, as well as another $4 million to have electronic poll books in all the counties. But the House nixed both items. Jaeger said the current voting machines were purchased in 2004 as part of the federal Help America Vote Act. He said the counties have had to cannibalize existing machines for parts to keep some of the machines running.
Michigan limped through the last election on machines that were more than a decade old, but clerks across the state will soon purchase new ones under contracts approved by the State Administrative Board on Tuesday. “Every election currently, we’re always dealing with different types of mechanical breakdowns … just because the equipment is old and it’s time to upgrade to new technology,” said City of Walker Clerk Sarah Bydalek, who is president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said the old machines her precincts use come with humidity issues, and jam if ballots absorb too much moisture. But clerks are expecting those issues to decrease with a statewide rollout of new voting machines by Aug. 2018. The State Administrative Board approved 10-year contracts with three different vendors: Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software and Hart InterCivic. Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said each county clerk would choose a system to go with, and local clerks in that county would purchase that system.
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted wants feds to butt out on running state elections | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Secretary of State Jon Husted said cyber attackers would have a hard time disrupting Ohio’s elections but expressed concern about what the federal government could do if it took over the state’s election computer systems. Husted, the state’s chief elections officer, wrote to congressional leaders Thursday asking that the House and Senate make clear that federal agencies cannot involve themselves in the election process. The letter was prompted by comments from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that his department would review whether state election systems should be considered as “critical infrastructure” under the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Such a designation would give the federal government ability to step in to protect those systems.
Before hundreds of thousands of S.C. Republican voters head to the polls Saturday for their party’s presidential primary, poll workers will be setting out roughly 13,000 voting machines that were purchased more than a decade ago — in 2004. Those machines have a life expectancy of about 15 years, meaning they should be OK Saturday. However, the S.C. Election Commission is asking lawmakers for $41.5 million for a new voting machines. “We’re still confident in our current voting system,” said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. But, Whitmire added, the voting machines are kind of like a family car — it’s not a good idea to wait until it breaks down to start the search for a replacement.
As jurisdictions across the country are preparing for 2016’s big election, many are already thinking of the next presidential election—2020 and beyond. This is especially true when it comes to the equipment used for casting and tabulating votes. Voting machines are aging. A September report by the Brennan Center found that 43 states are using some voting machines that will be at least 10 years old in 2016. Fourteen states are using equipment that is more than 15 years old. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration dubbed this an “impending crisis.” To purchase new equipment, jurisdictions require at least two years lead time before a big election. They need enough time to purchase a system, test new equipment and try it out first in a smaller election. No one wants to change equipment (or procedures) in a big presidential election, if they can help it. Even in so-called off-years, though, it’s tough to find time between elections to adequately prepare for a new voting system. As Merle King, executive director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, puts it, “Changing a voting system is like changing tires on a bus… without stopping.” So if election officials need new equipment by 2020, which is true in the majority of jurisdictions in the country, they must start planning now.
Next year’s elections in Brazil will be processed manually due to substantial cuts in public spending, it emerged yesterday. This is the first time elections will be carried out through paper-based means since 2000, when electronic voting machines were used to process all votes. E-voting in Brazil was first introduced in 1996 and rolled out gradually in the following years. Municipal elections will take place in October 2016. According to an official statement, more than R$428m ($109.6m) in resources will not be released to the Superior Electoral Court, which impacts the ability to buy the electronic voting devices and other required equipment. The pressure is on to expand it, even though a secure online voting system is impossible using today’s technology. “The biggest impact [of the budget cuts] is around the purchasing of electronic voting equipment, as bidding and essential contracting is already underway and [to be concluded] by end of December, with committed spending estimated at R$200m ($51.2m)” the statement added.
Most voting machines are only designed to last about a decade. A new study shows many of the machines in use across the U.S. are close to that age, and that could increase the chances of voting irregularities for the 2016 election cycle. Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports. The Brennan Center for Justice says the outdated machines are more susceptible to hacking and other security problems. Replacement parts for the older machines are also hard to find, and their internal computers crash more often, which could slow down the voting process.
A recent report identifies Florida, home of the 2000 Bush-Gore election fiasco, as one of the states at-risk of future voting problems due to the age of its voting equipment. According to theBrennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, 30 out of Florida’s 67 counties have not updated their voting machines in more than a decade, increasing the possibilities of technology breakdowns and glitches on Election Day. At least a dozen of the 30 counties mentioned will have new equipment in-place in time for the 2016 presidential primaries, including Manatee County, which just received new equipment this week. That leaves Polk County as the only county in Greater Tampa Bay that has not replaced its equipment in more than a decade. In fact, its optical scan machines are the same machines the county used for the 2000 presidential election.
Sarasota County commissioners, at their Nov. 17 meeting, unanimously approved the purchase of a new voting system without a sealed bid process, after becoming dissatisfied with one of the two certified vendors in Florida. The county will pay $1.65 million for the system, to be purchased from Election Systems & Software (ES&S). That purchase will be paid for initially by a loan from the Pooled Commercial Paper Loan Program of the Florida Local Government Finance Commission Program, and repaid over seven years from the general fund. Because there were only two vendors available, one of which had been deemed operationally unacceptable, the county elected not to use a sealed-bid procurement process.
Voting Blogs: Election Day 2015 had a little bit of everything: glitches, snafus, rats, successful pilots and unsuccessful pilots | electionlineWeekly
“There was no line at the polling place. The line was almost out the door at Starbucks.” — an email from a Kentucky voter to her daughter.
There was snow, there was rain, there were blue skies and warm temperatures. Poll workers overslept, stole voting equipment and didn’t know how to use new technology. Voting machines malfunctioned and ballot-counting machines chugged along. There were new voting systems that worked flawlessly and there were those that didn’t. Turnout out was historically low and turnout was relatively high. Oh and there were rats.
The race to the 2016 presidential primary is heating up, but on a state level, Colorado voters have a pressing political deadline. On Tuesday, an estimated 40 percent of Colorado’s registered voters will head to the polls, according to Jerome Lovato, voting systems specialist for the state of Colorado. But this year, voters will also have a hand in deciding the future of Colorado’s elections by helping test new voting machines. The upcoming elections are a trial period for four different vote-counting machines, each of which will be tested in both a large Front Range county, as well as a smaller rural county. The test counties include Adams, Denver, Douglas, Garfield, Gilpin, Jefferson, Mesa, and Teller. Secretary of State Wayne Williams plans to authorize one of these machines for use in future elections statewide, starting in 2016. The winning machine will be chosen for its security, usability, accuracy, and user feedback, among other criteria, according to Lovato. By streamlining Colorado votes on one system, the department hopes to start moving away from the current, outdated mix of direct-record electronic voting machines—a process that’s long overdue. So what do you need to know about our current (and upcoming) voting systems before heading to the polls? Read on to find out why Colorado’s antiquated voting system is in desperate need of an upgrade.
Don’t expect Congress to shell out any money when it comes to replacing aging voting equipment. That’s what Christy McCormick, chairwoman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), says her agency is telling state and local election officials, even though a bipartisan presidential commission warned last year of an “impending crisis.” “We’re telling them that, from what we understand, there won’t be any more federal funding coming to help them,” McCormick said in an interview with NPR. And that’s a problem because election officials around the country are worried about breakdowns as voting machines purchased after the 2000 presidential election near the end of their useful lives. Much of the equipment is already outdated. Some officials have even had to resort to sites such as eBay to find spare parts. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that it will cost about $1 billion to buy replacement machines. But state and local budgets are tight. And Congress has shown no sign that it’s willing to foot the bill as it did more than a decade ago, when punch-card voting equipment was replaced nationwide.
Colorado: In move to upgrade all machines statewide, new voting machines will be tested next month | Associated Press
Amid national anxiety about aging voting machines, Colorado elections officials are testing four types of new machines in elections next month as they move toward upgrades statewide. The Secretary of State plans to certify one new voting machine next year, putting the state on track to move away from a patchwork of voting machines to a single system. “Much of our equipment in Colorado is old,” Wayne Williams said Monday. “A lot of our systems are so old that they’re based on Microsoft systems that Microsoft no longer supports.” Next month’s off-year election is being used a test run for four different types of machines. Each will be used in a large Front Range county and a smaller rural county. The test counties are Adams, Denver, Douglas, Garfield, Gilpin, Jefferson, Mesa and Teller. The upgrades to newer machines will cost about $10 million to $15 million, with counties picking up the tab. A voting machine will be chosen by 2016, with counties free to upgrade whenever they’re ready.
Editorials: The Impending Crisis of Outdated Voting Technology | Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti/ The Atlantic
The 2016 campaign is already underway, with nearly two dozen candidates vying to be the next president. Americans may have no idea who they will vote for next year, but they are likely confident that when they show up at the polls, their votes will count. And for the vast majority, of course, they will. But with rapidly aging voting technology, the risk of machines failing is greater than it has been in many years. In a close election, the performance of that old equipment will come under a microscope. Fifteen years after a national election trauma in Florida that was caused in significant measure by obsolete voting equipment—including hanging chads and butterfly ballots—it may be hard for many Americans to believe that the U.S. could face such a crisis again. But unless the right precautions are taken today and in the coming months and years, there is a significant risk that the story on Election Day will be less about who won or lost, and more about how voting systems failed. The looming crisis in America’s voting technology was first brought to national attention last year by President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), which offered a stern warning about the “widespread wearing out of voting machines purchased a decade ago.” Over the past 10 months, the Brennan Center, where we work, surveyed more than 100 specialists familiar with voting technology, including machine vendors, independent technology experts, and election officials in all 50 states, to study how widespread this looming crisis really was.
Voting machines around the United States are coming to the end of their useful lives. Breakdowns are increasingly common. Spare parts are difficult, if not impossible, to find. That could be a serious problem for next year’s presidential elections. Allen County, Ohio, election director Ken Terry knows how bad things can get. In the last presidential election, he had to replace the Zip disks — a 1990s technology — in the main machine his county uses to count votes. The disks are no longer made. And when he finally got some from the voting machine manufacturer: “They actually had a coupon in them. They were sealed and everything. And the coupon had expired in … 1999,” he said. And, to make matters worse, Terry said his voting machines use memory cards that hold only 250 megabytes of data — a tiny fraction of what you can store today on a $6 thumb drive. “You know, by today’s standards that’s just absurd,” he said.
National: Hanging chad redux? Old voting devices could create new crisis, report finds | The Guardian
The United States is heading for another catastrophe in its voting system equivalent to the notorious “hanging chad” affair that shook the country in 2000 and propelled George W Bush into the White House, experts on electoral procedures are warning. The voting technology deployed by most states around the country is now so antiquated and unreliable that it is in danger of breaking down at any time, the experts say. Some states are having to go on eBay to buy spare parts for machines that are no longer manufactured. The extent of decay in America’s electoral infrastructure is laid bare in a new report from the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan institute at the New York University School of Law specializing in democracy and justice. Having consulted more than 100 voting specialists in all 50 states, the center concludes that the country is facing an impending crisis in the way it conducts elections. As Louisiana’s secretary of state Tom Schedler put it to an official hearing recently: “It’s getting a little scary out there.”
In America’s quintessential swing state, aging voting machines and partisan battles are casting doubt over the fairness of the 2016 election. Immediately after the 2004 election, when tens of thousands of Ohioans waited hours to vote, the state enacted a series of reforms that began to address the worst of that year’s nightmares. But now much of that progress is in danger of being undone. The Buckeye State is far from alone. Politicians and advocates are waging similar battles across the country, but the stakes may be highest here, in perhaps the most important of swing states on the national electoral map. With voting laws in flux and funding a for better voting technology a constant struggle nationwide, two central questions remain just 14 months before Election Day: who will be able to vote, and will all their votes be counted accurately? In 2005, Ohio passed a sweeping bill that expanded early and absentee voting, and a series of legal settlements in the following years helped put in place some of the nation’s best electoral practices. But over the past few years, Republicans have been chipping away at many of those changes. GOP leaders say they’re simply trying to guarantee uniformity and prevent voter fraud, but voting rights advocacy groups say the recent changes threaten to bring back problems from the past, and may be driven by an effort to suppress voter turnout.
Only four Arkansas counties will have the state’s new voting equipment in time for the primary elections, Rob Hammons, elections division director for the secretary of state’s office, told the Arkansas County Election Commissions Association on Tuesday. Hammons spoke as a part of the association’s meeting at the Holiday Inn in Little Rock near Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field. About 200 election officials from across the state attended. Although the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 151 of 2015, allowing the secretary of state’s office to replace election commission equipment for up to $30 million, no money was set aside to pay for the equipment. “So we had the funding as far as the appropriation, but we never got the check,” Hammons said, adding that unfunded acts are common and occur when lawmakers must prioritize the state budget. “And that’s fine,” he said. “That happens all the time.”