National: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market | Chris Cumming/Wall Street Journal

Leveraged-buyout firms are playing a key role in the 2020 elections: Companies they own are counting the flood of mail-in ballots, and that isn’t sitting well with some lawmakers. Two private-equity-owned companies dominate the market for high-speed ballot scanners and other voting equipment. Lawmakers have raised questions about the lack of transparency and competition in the industry, and more broadly over the role of private-equity firms in elections. Election Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Corp. together produce the technology used by over three-quarters of U.S. voters, according to a coming report by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The third-largest player, Hart InterCivic, was owned by private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital from 2011 to this April, when it was quietly sold, according to H.I.G. Private-equity firms “have taken over nearly all of the nation’s election technology—and how they do business is clouded in secrecy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in an email. Lawmakers including Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) in December wrote that the private-equity-backed voting companies’ lack of transparency threatens the integrity of elections. Under private-equity ownership, the voting-machine market has consolidated through mergers. In a little over a decade, at least eight major vendors have consolidated to three, which control about 92% of the market, Wharton researchers said in 2017.

Full Article: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market – WSJ

National: Who Owns Our Voting Machines? | Sue Halpern/The New York Review of Books

Buried in a dense government report from 1975 is an observation that has come to haunt the American system of voting. “Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying,” a hundred-page compendium of all that can go wrong when digital technology is used to register and count votes, was written by Roy Saltman, a computer scientist, at the behest of the National Bureau of Standards. At the time, computerized election technology was a shiny new thing, primed to replace time-honored manual ways of voting. But as Saltman observed, because this technology was beyond the comprehension of most election officials, they had little choice but to put their trust in, and cede authority to, equipment manufacturers. As a consequence, he wrote, “when vendors assume more responsibility than they should, due to the jurisdictions’ lack of in-house capability, situations may be created in which conflict of interest is a serious concern.” This is still true. The ever-increasing sophistication of digital election technology has left election officials ever more reliant on the vendors (and under the sway of their lobbyists), who play an outsized and largely hidden part in both the administration of elections and the ways we exercise our most fundamental right as citizens in a democracy.

Full Article: Who Owns Our Voting Machines? | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

National: There Is Shockingly Little Oversight of Private Companies That Create Voting Technologies | Alan Beard and Lawrence Norden/Slate

The Iowa caucuses debacle was a reminder of some of the most important principles in election security, among them that transparency in elections is important, paper ballot backups are crucial to ensuring an accurate count, voting should not take place on smartphone apps, and running elections should be left to professionals. But missing from the round-the-clock media coverage was another valuable lesson from Iowa: Private tech companies are central to our elections, and our failure to engage in real oversight of their practices leaves our elections vulnerable to breakdown and attack. The reporting in the aftermath of Iowa identified a 6-month-old private tech company called Shadow as the supplier of the failed app at the root of the mess. In an attempt to help precinct captains report out three separate sets of results, the Iowa Democratic Party had paid Shadow $60,000 to develop an app to convey the vote totals. Precincts would take and upload pictures of results, which would go to party headquarters. But on caucus day, the app failed, as did backup phone lines. This prompted many to ask how something as important as reporting vote totals in a presidential election could be left in the hands of a shoestring tech company. The follow-up question should have been: What are the controls on private vendors that sell the equipment and technology that run our elections?

National: As states warm to online voting, experts warn of trouble ahead | McClatchy DC

A Pentagon official sat before a committee of the Washington State Legislature in January and declared that the U.S. military supported a bill that would allow voters in the state to cast election ballots via email or fax without having to certify their identities. Military liaison Mark San Souci’s brief testimony was stunning because it directly contradicted the Pentagon’s previously stated position on online voting: It’s against it. Along with Congress, the Defense Department has heeded warnings over the past decade from cybersecurity experts that no Internet voting system can effectively block hackers from tampering with election results. And email and fax transmissions are the most vulnerable of all, according to experts, including officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the Commerce Department. San Souci declined to comment. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, said the Defense Department “does not advocate for the electronic transmission of any voted ballot, whether it be by fax, email or via the Internet.”

National: ES&S and Scytl Announce Strategic Alliance to Provide a Military and Overseas Electronic Voting Solution (ES&S Press Release) | MarketWatch

Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) and Scytl today announced a strategic alliance that will provide for BALLOTsafe, a fully integrated online ballot delivery and marking system that will afford military, overseas, absentee and disabled voters the opportunity to cast ballots in a timely, secure and reliable manner. By combining the market proven election leadership…

Maryland: $3.41M Settlement with Premier Election Solutions Over Voting Machine Security Issues | Southern Maryland Headline News

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday announced the settlement of a claim against Premier Elections Solutions, formerly known as Diebold. The settlement, negotiated by the Office of Attorney General, will be worth more than $3 million to the State. In 2008, the Attorney General, on behalf of the State Board of Elections, brought a…

West Virginia: Voting machine contract frustrates Kenawha County West Virginia commissioner | Daily Mail

A Kanawha County commissioner is upset with the prospect of the state awarding a no-bid contract for maintenance of electronic voting machines. But the Kanawha County clerk believes the maintenance contract, if approved by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office, would be a good deal for taxpayers. Commission President Kent Carper believes the state giving…

West Virginia: West Virginia negotiating maintenance contract for voting machines | West Virginia Gazette

West Virginia election officials are negotiating a maintenance contract for the state’s electronic voting machines. In 2005, under the direction of Secretary of State Betty Ireland, election officials entered a single-source contract with Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software to provide touch-screen and optical-scan voting machines. The deal gave ES&S a virtual monopoly on voting…