In 2016, I bought two voting machines online for less than $100 apiece. I didn’t even have to search the dark web. I found them on eBay. Surely, I thought, these machines would have strict guidelines for lifecycle control like other sensitive equipment, like medical devices. I was wrong. I was able to purchase a pair of direct-recording electronic voting machines and have them delivered to my home in just a few days. I did this again just a few months ago. Alarmingly, they are still available to buy online. If getting voting machines delivered to my door was shockingly easy, getting inside them proved to be simpler still. The tamper-proof screws didn’t work, all the computing equipment was still intact, and the hard drives had not been wiped. The information I found on the drives, including candidates, precincts, and the number of votes cast on the machine, were not encrypted. Worse, the “Property Of” government labels were still attached, meaning someone had sold government property filled with voter information and location data online, at a low cost, with no consequences. It would be the equivalent of buying a surplus police car with the logos still on it.
North Dakota: Aging voting machines could pose a challenge for counties | Prairie Public Broadcasting
In 2017, the North Dakota Legislature was asked to fund new voting machines. The Legislature declined. And that means North Dakota is using the same voting system it purchased back in 2004. “That’s a long life span for technology,” said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum. Silrum said the current machines use the Windows 7 operating system. Windows no longer supports that system, and Silrum said the counties have had to cannibalize their existing machines to have some that still work. “You can’t any longer find chips or motherboards that run slow enough, because modern technology has advanced,” Silrum said. “They just say, ‘Why would we want to build something so slow?'”
There is a certain buzz in the air on election nights that gives voters a sense of involvement in a larger process and state elections officials knots in their stomachs. Will state reporting systems keep up with the deluge of access attempts so common in our technology-driven society? As media outlets and the public at large pound on the digital front door for the latest poll numbers, results portals across the country face the strain of hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of hits. Some falter and are overwhelmed by the attention and come crashing down; others come to the game prepared, having learned from past follies. Though 2014 wasn’t exactly what you’d call a big-ticket election — with no presidential candidates on the ballot — states across the country experienced issues with their election reporting websites. Whether the problems were due to overwhelmingly high Web traffic or just technical difficulties, several states had to step back and rethink their online reporting strategies.
There is now a trial date set to get voting results tested in Sedgwick County. Local Certified Quality Engineer Beth Clarkson is suing Sedgwick County Elections Commissioner, Tabitha Lehman. Clarkson wants to find out if there could be election fraud in Sedgwick County. Or, possible problems with the electronic voting machines. “I’m really concerned that our voting system has been undermined by these voting machines,” says Clarkson. “And I think we’ve got to do something about it if that’s the case.” Clarkson wants an anonymous sample of the paper tapes that tabulate elections results. She says there are statistical anomalies with the electronic voting machines. Secretary of State Kris Kobach was part of the lawsuit. But at a hearing before a judge on Monday, Kobach was dropped from the lawsuit.
Recently a report was released discussing the current state of voting technology across the United States as we head in to the 2016 Election Cycle, which covers elections for many offices, from President to statewide offices to school boards. Pam Fessler of NPR (a reporter who has spent years reporting on election administration issues and talking to state and local election officials) summed up the report, “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.”
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.”
It won’t be available during this election, but Secretary of State Tom Schedler wants to bring iPad voting to Louisiana in the next two or three years. If reelected this fall, Schedler said he would look to transition Louisiana from its traditional voting machines to iPads. The shift would cost a fair amount of money – a rough estimate puts it somewhere between $45 million and $60 million. So Schedler might first look to lease the equipment to bring the cost down initially. iPad voting would also run as a pilot program in select locations before consideration was given to launching it statewide, according to Schedler’s office.
Philadelphia’s budget plan calls for purchasing new voting machines, but some City Council members are balking at the $22 million expense. The request for new voting machines is based on the age of the current machines, now about a decade old, said Greg Irving of the City Commissioners. “The current voting technology is now 13 years old, it has seen an increase in the number of power failures and printer problems,” Irving said. “We also have issues in election board and committeeperson races with missing write in tapes because our machines only produce one copy of write in votes.”
Virginia: Roanoke County, Botetourt County, Montgomery County to replace banned voting machines by June | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The decision by the State Board of Elections to scrap thousands of touchscreen voting machines used in 20 percent of the state’s precincts sent shock waves through Virginia’s community of voter registrars, forcing them to scramble and replace the faulty equipment less than two months ahead of the June 9 primaries. The board on Tuesday imposed a ban on all touchscreen direct recording electronic voting machines of the WinVote model, because the continuing use of the aging devices “creates an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the election process in the commonwealth,” said Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the state Department of Elections. A review by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency after the Nov. 4 elections had confirmed what computer experts had feared for years — that the WinVote machines may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Virginia is the only state where WinVote devices are still in use.
On April 14, the Virginia State Board of Elections voted to immediately decertify use of the AVS WinVote touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic voting machine. That means that the machine, which the Washington Post says was used by “dozens of local governments” in Virginia, can’t be used any more, though the commonwealth is holding primaries in just two months. The move comes in light of a report that shows just how shoddy and insecure voting machines can be. As one of my colleagues taught me, BLUF—bottom line up front: If an election was held using the AVS WinVote, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. A hacker wouldn’t have needed to be in the polling place—he could have been within a few hundred feet (say, in the parking lot) and or within a half-mile if he used a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.
Addressing the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler sent out an S-O-S on the condition of the state’s stock of voting machines. “I just will tell you that it’s getting a little scary out there,” Schedler said, reminding lawmakers, “Voting machine equipment is all 15-20 years, plus.” Sulphur Rep. Mike Danahay, part of a contingent that’s been investigating new voting technology with Schedler, noted, “They’re having to scavenge parts off old machines to keep the current machines running.”
Virginia election officials were gathering information Wednesday about a glitch that affected 32 voting machines in the southeastern part of the state, a Department of Elections spokeswoman said. Rose Mansfield said that once all the information is received, the head of the department will conduct a complete review and will likely present a report on Tuesday’s troubles to the State Board of Elections. “Our voting technology specialists are working on it,” Mansfield said, adding that the priority is to get the right answers about what went wrong on Election Day. The faulty machines are a fraction of the 820 touchscreen devices that were used in the affected precincts, most of them in Virginia Beach. They were taken out of service after voters complained that they tried to vote for one candidate, but the machine attempted to record the vote for another. Mansfield said all the machines were calibrated and tested before the election.
Scientists at a US university say they have developed a technique to hack into Indian electronic voting machines. After connecting a home-made device to a machine, University of Michigan researchers were able to change results by sending text messages from a mobile. Indian election officials say their machines are foolproof, and that it would be very difficult even to get hold of a machine to tamper with it. India uses about 1.4m electronic voting machines in each general election. A video posted on the internet by the researchers at the University of Michigan purportedly shows them connecting a home-made electronic device to one of the voting machines used in India. Professor J Alex Halderman, who led the project, said the device allowed them to change the results on the machine by sending it messages from a mobile phone.
Thanks to a device that is the size and shape of a mini piano keyboard, India can boast that the country’s voters, all 814.5 million of them in 543 constituencies, can cast their ballot electronically, even in areas that have just one person. The 1.8 million electronic voting machines being used in this year’s elections, manufactured by Bharat Electronics and Electronic Corporation of India, both government companies, have been designed to adapt to the logistical challenges in India, where roads can be nonexistent and the electricity supply erratic. The machines are small enough to carry by hand and require only a six-volt alkaline battery. With one-third of India’s adult population illiterate, the voting machines feature both a list of candidates’ names and their party symbol. “The introduction of electronic voting machine was India’s biggest electoral reform,” said Manohar Singh Gill, India’s former chief election commissioner who supervised the 1999 election, the last one that used paper ballots. “The biggest disputes in paper ballots used to be on which vote is invalid and which is not. Recounting used to take days, and more disputes would emerge.”
The chairman of the Sevier County Democratic Party, who serves on the Sevier County Election Commission, said he believes no candidates from his party are running in upcoming county elections in part because they don’t trust the machines being used in the election. Michael Fitzgibbons said he has no issue with any of the personnel working for the election commission, and isn’t accusing any of them of tampering with the machines. He isn’t saying he has evidence of a specific instance of tampering. But he said his research has indicated it’s possible to tamper remotely or on site with the Election Systems & Software Ivotronic voting machines used in Sevier County, and he doesn’t believe the possibility can be ruled out until different machines are used.
Responding to frustratingly long lines in the last national election, a presidential commission on Wednesday encouraged expansion of early voting and said no American should have to wait more than half an hour to cast a ballot. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration was presenting President Barack Obama with a list of recommendations to reduce the wait and make voting more efficient. The commission warned of an “impending crisis in voting technology” as machines across the country purchased after the 2000 election recount wear out with no federal funds on the horizon to replace them. “We could have even more problems in the future if we don’t act now,” Obama said after receiving their 112-page report in the White House’s Roosevelt Room. But fixing the problems will be easier said than done, since no federal commission can force changes to balloting run by about 8,000 different jurisdictions. Funds for upgrades are scarce. Not only that, there have been sharp differences in recent years between the parties on what approach to employ. Fights over voting process can — and sometimes have — been as partisan and bitter as those associated with the redrawing of political boundary lines.
The court-ordered recount of Nov. 5 election results in Comal County, set for Thursday, might not resolve concerns about balloting irregularities in the four affected entities. Accurate results could be impossible if the electronic voting machines were encoded with the wrong ballots, as suspected in one Schertz contest, said County Clerk Joy Streater, the recount supervisor. “It seems that people were given ballots who were not eligible to vote in that particular race,” said Streater, who was appointed Tuesday by state District Judge Gary Steel to oversee the recount prompted by a county petition. She’s unsure if technicians from Electronic Systems & Software, the vendor of the “direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines,” can weed out the improper ballots. Despite discussions about hand-tabulating individual “vote image logs” of each ballot recorded by the machines, Streater instead plans to print out vote tallies from each of the 179 machines. “If we hand count 16,000 ballots, we’ll be here ’til Christmas and we’ll just get the same results that are now in the machines,” she said, noting the recount may not conclude until Friday.
Comal County wants to recount Tuesday’s ballots by hand to resolve problems with both the initial election results from electronic voting machines and the revised tallies those machines produced Wednesday. The revised numbers didn’t change the outcome of any race. Confidence in them, though, plummeted this week because they indicate 649 ballots were cast in the contest for Place 3 on the Schertz City Council, despite only 540 voters being registered in the part of the town that’s in Comal County, officials said. County Judge Sherman Krause conferred with the machine vendor, Election Systems & Software, and the secretary of state’s office. The balloting included three at-large council races in Schertz, a Comal Independent School District bond election and a contested seat on the Cibolo Municipal Authority board. An audit of all 179 voting machines Wednesday showed 16,101 votes were cast countywide, not the 13,686 reported Tuesday night. The Schertz numbers didn’t shrink, they grew.
How will voters cast ballots in the future? “That is the million-dollar question when I meet with other election officers and directors,” said Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), making available billions of dollars in funding for states to purchase electronic voting machines — then new and controversial technology aimed at eliminating a repeat of the hanging-chad debacle of the 2000 presidential election. “The manufacturer is no longer building them,” Thomas said of the 7,500 electronic machines the state purchased with its $28 million. “The parts will get scarce, and the technology will become obsolete. We’ll work through that as best and as long as we can, but at some point we’ll have to do something different.” That “something different” has yet to be clearly defined — but as current machines age out of use, counties and states will be on the hook to devise and fund their own changes. “Money is a big driver,” Thomas said. “We had HAVA money a decade ago, but that has since dried up. “We wish we had a crystal ball,” he added.
The man who taxpayers are paying more than $70,000 to investigate what caused Richland County’s election meltdown eight months ago explained his final findings to a nearly empty room last week. Attorney Steve Hamm presented his completed report to the county board of elections June 26. There were hardly any bombshells, nor members of the public there to hear them had they dropped. Perhaps the biggest news was that Hamm confirmed he’d alerted law enforcement to the actions of a male part-time elections agency employee he said had “sabotaged” the number of voting machines deployed to precincts, causing long lines and some voters to leave before casting ballots. The Nov. 6 county election was plagued by snarled lines, broken machines — too few of them — and ballots that were never even counted. Much of that can be attributed to the actions of one unnamed person, Hamm said, although he wagged a finger at the elections board and agency management for not catching the problems early. That one elections worker, Hamm found in his investigation, had coaxed another employee into writing down wrong numbers on a spreadsheet, drastically reducing the number of voting machines that would be allocated to Election Day precincts. Hamm said he doesn’t know why the unnamed man might have wanted to choke off the number of voting machines on Election Day. He said he wondered if law enforcement might be able to find out.
New Jersey: Losing challenger in Passaic mayoral race says machines rigged, wants recount | NorthJersey.com
A day after Mayor Alex D. Blanco and his ticket of four City Council incumbents cruised to victory, challenger Jose Sandoval contends the electronic voting machines were rigged against him and he’s demanding a recount. Sandoval said he had 500 get-out-the-vote volunteers Tuesday and had expected to get at least 3,000 votes. But he polled just 1,880 and was crushed by Blanco, who received 4,377 votes and carried all 30 polling districts. “I had 3,000 votes in the bank,” Sandoval said Wednesday. “They stole this election from me. The machines must have been tampered with.” Sandoval wants to hire his own expert to check the electronic Sequoia brand voting machines used on Tuesday. And he plans to go to Superior Court this week to ask for a recount.
When the gubernatorial election rolls around next year, most of Maryland’s touch-screen voting machines will be past their prime. The state is already facing a shortage of voting machines, with only four jurisdictions in the last presidential election providing enough to meet state regulations. In 2014, voting machines in 23 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions will be at least 10 years old, reaching the limit of the manufacturer’s guarantee. Roughly a third of these machines will have exceeded their useful life as determined by the manufacturer. State voters will have to wait three years before they can use upgraded voting machines with a verifiable paper trail, a delay which is angering election reformers. “If we had the money put into the 2013 budget, we’d have had a shot,” said Linda Lamone, administrator of the State Board of Elections, during her testimony Friday before the Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee.
An attorney investigating problems at Richland County polling sites on election day confirmed Thursday election officials did not deploy enough voting machines. After a hearing with the Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Board Thursday, Hamm said the county had 627 machines, plus possibly one more, that were sent to the county’s 124 precincts on November 6th.
Technology and process upgrades implemented since the controversial 2000 presidential election have made electronic voting machines more secure and reliable to use, the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project said in a report last week. Even so, the only way to ensure the integrity of votes cast with the systems is to have mandatory auditing of the results and of all voting technologies used in an election, the 85-page report cautioned. Rather than setting security standards for election equipment, the better approach for safeguarding ballot integrity is to hand-count a sufficiently large and random sample of the paper records of votes cast electronically, it said. “The 2000 United States presidential election put a spotlight on the fragility and vulnerability of voting technology,” the report said. “It became clear that providing robust, accurate, and secure voting systems remained an important open technical problem” for the United States. The Voting Technology Project is a joint initiative between MIT and Caltech and was launched originally to investigate the causes of the voting problems in Florida in 2000 and to make recommendations based on the findings.
Indiana counties will publicly test their voting machines this week to make sure they are tallying votes correctly. But some activists contend the test does not address a larger problem. A Stanford computer scientist created the Verified Voting Foundation in 2004 to lobby states to implement more safeguards against voting-machine tampering, starting with a paper trail to verify vote counts if necessary.
Registrars and moderators for the Oct. 26 special election for treasurer and the Nov. 6 general election tested the town’s four voting machines Friday afternoon at Samuel Staples Elementary School. Sample ballots marked for individual candidates were fed into the machines, which counted the ballots and tabulated vote totals and then were checked for accuracy. “We prepare test ballots and feed them all in to make sure the machines are accurately reading votes, there are different levels of security,” said Ron Kowalski, the Democratic registrar.
When voting system activists in the U.S. managed to get many paperless electronic voting machines replaced a few years ago with optical-scan machines that use paper ballots, some believed elections would become more transparent and verifiable. But a spate of problems with optical-scan machines used in elections across the country have shown that the systems are just as much at risk of dropping ballots and votes as touchscreen voting machines, either due to intentional manipulation or unintentional human error. A new election system promises to resolve that issue by giving election officials the ability to independently and swiftly audit the performance of their optical-scan machines.
Once again, political experts are predicting that the 2012 presidential election could be decided in the battleground state of Ohio, like it was in 2004. Remember what happened that year? George W. Bush won the state by a narrow 118,000 votes in an election marred by widespread electoral dysfunction. “The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters,” found a post-election report by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. According to one survey, 174,000 Ohioans, 3 percent of the electorate, left their polling place without voting because of massive lines in urban precincts and on college campuses. Ohio’s Secretary of State that year was Ken Blackwell, co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.
In this November’s presidential election, Virginia voters will cast ballots on machines that use wireless technology state lawmakers barred five years ago to protect voting machines from hackers. Continued reliability and security concerns over electronic voting are not unique to Virginia, or to machines that use wireless technology, but the case illustrates the credibility issues that have plagued electronic voting machines in use across the country in the aftermath of the messy 2000 presidential election, when the federal government mandated changes to election systems and processes. Virginia’s election workers in some precincts use the wireless technology to upload ballots and tally vote totals from multiple machines at a polling station. The wireless electronic tallying is an effort to avoid the human error possible in a manual count. Fears that wireless transmission capabilities could present an opening to hackers led Virginia lawmakers to ban the use of the technology in voting machines in 2007. “It makes it easier to hack systems when you have an open interface that can be accessed remotely from outside the polling place, like in a parking lot,” said Jeremy Epstein, a computer researcher who helped draft the state’s legislation to bar wireless from polling stations. “It magnifies any other vulnerability in the voting system.”
Florida: Florida falls flat when it comes to rules for tracking paper ballots after elections | TCPalm.com
As the white-hot presidential contest heats up in this battleground state, a newly released national voting equipment study gives Florida passing marks — except for one glaring exception. Aside from using paper ballots, the ability to recount those ballots is the single most important means to ensure a fair election, many experts say, and Florida falls flat. At stake are the ballots of 11.4 million Florida voters and 29 electoral votes, more than enough to decide a tight election. After all, the 326-page report written by nonprofit advocacy groups Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation, as well as Rutgers Law School’s Constitutional Litigation Clinic, points out that George W. Bush won Florida in 2000 by a mere 537 votes. Florida’s myriad voting systems are ranked “generally good” by the report — the rough equivalent of a “C” — in part because the state mandates the use of paper ballots for everyone except some disabled voters. Martin County’s touch screen equipment and St. Lucie and Indian River county’s optical scan machines all produce paper ballots, officials confirmed. But Florida’s rules for tracking those paper ballots after an election come up short, the report concluded, and that’s key, given the fact that virtually all elections systems have demonstrated some type of technological failure. “We all know computers crash,” said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s Voter Integrity Campaign. “Voting machines are no different.”