Category Archives: voting technology

“N.J. county will seek court-ordered recount after voting machines produced erroneous election results”

David Wildstein:

The Monmouth County Board of Elections are expected to ask a judge to order a recount of an Ocean Township school board race after their voting machine vendor, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), acknowledged on Tuesday that a human programming error caused some votes to be double counted, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

Frustration among election officials in Monmouth County from both parties has caused the election board to move forward despite the advice of the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and not recanvass and recertify the November 8 general election, two sources with direct knowledge of the board’s actions have confirmed.

Steve Clayton took office this month after Monmouth County certified his 20-vote victory over Jeffrey Weinstein.  A new unofficial count on Tuesday puts Weinstein ahead by one vote.

“I’m excited abou the opportunity to keep serving the community,” Weinstein said.  “I’m glad the problem was identifed and that they’re taking steps to recitify it.”

Local election officials are blaming Deputy Attorney General Susan Scott for a lack of transparency, saying her guidance was that there be no public statements the vote tabulation errors.  The attorney general’s office, which acts as the legal counsel the county election board, became aware of the issue last week; so did New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way.

It’s not clear if the Board of Elections has the statutory authority to revoke a certificate of election.

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“Advocates seek federal investigation of multistate effort to copy voting software”

WaPo:

An effort by supporters of former president Donald Trump to copy sensitive voting software in multiple states after the 2020 election deserves attention from the federal government, including a criminal investigation and assessment of the risk posed to election security, according to election-security advocates.

As new information about the multistate effort continues to emerge, the national election and campaign-finance reform group Free Speech for People, along with several former elections officials and computer scientists, sent a letter Monday urging the Justice and Homeland Security departments to investigate. They wrote that by copying voting software and circulating it “in the wild,” partisan election deniers have created a digital road map that could helphackers alter results or disrupt voting.

Evidence of the multistate effort was unearthed by plaintiffs in a long-running civil lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s voting system. They found that as Trump falsely blamed his 2020 defeat on hacked voting machines, sympathetic officials in rural Coffee County allowed computer-forensics experts, paid by a nonprofit run by Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, to copy voting software in January 2021. That software was then uploaded to a website, where it was downloaded by election deniers across the country.

You can find a copy of the letter, signed by some leading computer scientists and others, at this link.

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“Why the voting machines failed in Mercer County”

Andrew Appel:

On Election Day, November 8, 2022, every voting machine in every polling place in Mercer County, New Jersey failed to work.  Voters in each precinct filled in the ovals in their preprinted optical-scan paper ballots, but the voting machines couldn’t read them.  So voters were instructed to put their ballots into “slot 3” of the voting machines, that is, directly into the ballot box.  The Mercer County Board of Elections collected the ballots at the close of the polls on election night, using their usual chain-of-custody procedures.  Then they counted those ballots using the county’s central-count optical-scan voting machines, which are normally used for mail-in ballots.  This took two or three days.  All the votes got counted – but it’s still an embarrassing screw-up that deserves scrutiny.

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“Some Republicans Want to Count Votes by Hand. Bad Idea, Experts Say.”

NYT:

Over the past two years, Republicans have pursued an array of changes to how Americans vote. The past few weeks have drawn attention to a particularly drastic idea: counting all ballots by hand.

Officials in Cochise County, Ariz., recently pushed to do that in next month’s election, and whether or not they go through with it, the efforts may spread. Republicans in at least six states introduced bills this year that would have banned machine tabulation, and several candidates for statewide offices have expressed support, including Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, the party’s nominees for Arizona’s governor and secretary of state, and Jim Marchant, its nominee for Nevada’s secretary of state.

The New York Times spoke with six experts in election administration, and all said the same thing: While hand counting is an important tool for recounts and audits, tallying entire elections by hand in any but the smallest jurisdictions would cause chaos and make results less accurate, not more.

“People who think they would have greater confidence in this process think so because they haven’t seen it,” said Mark Lindeman, the policy and strategy director at Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization focused on election technology. “The process in real life would not inspire confidence at all on this scale.”

The proposals often stem from false claims by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies that voting technology was somehow to blame for Mr. Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election. Most of those claims center on electronic voting machines, but some extend to scanners and tabulators that count paper ballots.

The right-wing arguments against tabulators rely not on evidence that they have been compromised — because there is none — but on the possibility that they could be. In a lawsuit filed in April, Ms. Lake and Mr. Finchem asked a federal court to mandate hand counting in Arizona, arguing that the state’s ballot scanners were “potentially unsecure” and denied voters “the right to have their votes counted and reported in an accurate, auditable, legal and transparent process.” The court dismissed the case, and Ms. Lake and Mr. Finchem are appealing.

Research indicates that hand counting increases errors.

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“Election equipment to be replaced in Coffee County after outsiders gain access”

AJC:

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday that he will replace voting equipment in Coffee County after supporters of then-President Donald Trump and their computer analysts copied confidential data following the 2020 election.

The decision comes after tech experts hired by Trump attorney Sidney Powell visited restricted areas of the county’s elections office to copy information from an election server, voter check-in tablets, ballot scanners and other voting equipment on Jan. 7, 2021.

Replacing the equipment could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Raffensperger said it’s necessary to avoid “distraction and misinformation” before this year’s elections.

Election security experts who oppose Georgia’s voting system say the copying of election software increased the risk of hacks or malware that could attempt to manipulate election results, though there’s no evidence that has happened in an election so far.

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“Videos Show Trump Allies Handling Georgia Voting Equipment”

NYT:

Newly released videos show allies of former President Donald J. Trump and contractors who were working on his behalf handling sensitive voting equipment in a rural Georgia county weeks after the 2020 election.

The footage, which was made public as part of long-running litigation over Georgia’s voting system, raises new questions about efforts by Trump affiliates in a number of swing states to gain access to and copy sensitive election software, with the help of friendly local election administrators. One such incident took place on Jan. 7 of last year, the day after supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol, when a small team traveled to rural Coffee County, Ga.

The group included members of an Atlanta-based firm called SullivanStrickler, which had been hired by Sidney Powell, a lawyer advising Mr. Trump who is also a conspiracy theorist….

The new videos show members of the team inside an office handling the county’s poll pads, which contain sensitive voter data. (The cases holding the equipment in the footage are labeled with the words “POLL PAD.”) In a court hearing on Sept. 9, David D. Cross, a lawyer for a nonprofit group that is suing over perceived security vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voting system — and that released the new videos after obtaining them in its litigation — told a judge that his group suspected that the “personally identifiable information” of roughly seven million Georgia voters may have been copied.

Charles Tonnie Adams, the elections supervisor of Heard County, Ga., said in an email that “poll pads contain every registered voter on the state list.” It was not immediately clear what specific personal information about voters was on the poll pads, or what, if anything, was done with the data.

Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, said a poll pad “does have voter information but it’s not accessible because it’s scrambled behind security protocols.” He added that there were no driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers on poll pads at the time.

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“How a rural Colorado county became an epicenter of Donald Trump’s Big Lie”

Steven Rosenfeld:

What happened next in Mesa County gets complex. It also reveals how a rare but recurring trend among a handful of local election officials—mistakes with setting up or using their system’s computers—can be exploited by partisans who claim that invisible forces are secretly stealing votes if their candidates lose.

In every cycle, there are some election officials who do not properly set up or use these computers—errors that usually are caught and corrected, but initially produce incorrect election results. This trend has been overlooked in the press coverage of the interstate plot by Trump’s IT gurus to steal election software and 2020 data.

The operational problems, however, are among the findings by the Independent Media Institute’s Voting Booth project, which has co-written a forthcoming guide about how election systems work. The co-author is Duncan Buell, a computer scientist who has studied voting systems, software, and data for more than a decade, and was an election official in Richland County, South Carolina, home to the state’s capital, Columbia. These errors recurred in each cycle that he studied.

In 2020’s general election, the programming, and operational mistakes were few and far between. Nonetheless, the errors that Trump’s IT squads seized upon—errors that were corroborated by post-election inquiries by other government bodies—helped fuel the lie that the presidential election was stolen.

Moreover, some of the election workers who made these mistakes—such as Mesa County’s Brown—and their elected superior—such as Peters—then fell under the spell of Trump’s conspiratorial IT squad—producing fodder for more false claims.

These trends—mistakes with programming or using election computers and rogue officials who abuse the public trust by making unfounded claims—offer warnings before 2022’s general election. Many 2020 election-deniers are candidates seeking state and federal office this fall. A few already have shown in their primaries that they will attack the process and technology if they fear they may lo

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“How vote count mistakes by two rural counties fed Trump’s big lie”

Steven Rosenfeld:

Since 2020’s presidential election, two rural counties in Michigan and Colorado that initially reported incorrect results have had outsized roles in spreading Donald Trump’s big lie that his second term was stolen by Democrats colluding with one of the country’s biggest computerized voting systems makers.

The mistaken 2020 election results occurred in two out of the more than 8,000 election jurisdictions across America. They were caused by county officials who did not properly set up the election system computers in Michigan and properly use them in Colorado. The errors, which notably were caught and corrected, received scant attention compared to the sensation they sparked in Trump circles where a cadre of self-proclaimed IT experts — and, later, some of the same officials who erred — asserted that the computers had been sabotaged.

What unfolded inside the election departments in Antrim County, Mich., and Mesa County, Colo., in pro-Trump circles that misunderstood but exploited the counties’ errors — and then fueled conspiratorial and likely illegal evidence-stealing gambits in other battleground states (such as Georgia) — is a cautionary tale before 2022’s state and federal elections.

The procedural lapses that led to initially wrong vote counts are among the findings in research by the Independent Media Institute’s Voting Booth project. It has co-authored a forthcoming guide about how vote-counting systems work. Duncan Buell, a lifelong computer scientist who has spent the past dozen years analyzing election systems, software, and data, and served as an election official, co-authored the guide. The lapses have recurred in every election cycle Buell has studied.

The revelation that complications surrounding using the newest voting system computers by local officials helped launch false but widely believed stolen-election narratives comes as scores of Trump-mimicking election deniers are running for state and federal office in 2022’s general election, and as Trump is still falsely claiming that he was re-elected in 2020.

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“Is Internet Voting Trustworthy? The Science and the Policy Battles”

Andrew Appel has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, University of New Hampshire Law Review). Here is the abstract:

No known technology can make internet voting secure, according to the clear scientific consensus. In some applications—such as e-pollbooks (voter sign-in), voter registration, and absentee ballot request—it is appropriate to use the internet, as the inherent insecurity can be mitigated by other means. But the insecurity of paperless transmission of a voted ballot through the internet, cannot be mitigated.

The law recognizes this in several ways. Courts have enjoined the use of certain paperless or internet-connected voting systems. Federal law requires states to allow voters to use the internet to request absentee ballots, but carefully stops short of internet ballot return (i.e., voting).

But many U.S. states and a few countries go beyond what is safe: they have adopted internet voting, for citizens living abroad and (in some cases) for voters with disabilities.

Most internet voting systems have an essentially common architecture, and they are insecure at least at the same key point, after the voter has reviewed the ballot but before it is transmitted. I review six internet voting systems deployed 2006-2021 that were insecure in practice, just as predicted by theory—and some were also insecure in surprising new ways, “unforced errors”.

We can’t get along without the assistance of computers. U.S. ballots are too long to count entirely by hand unless the special circumstances of a recount require it. So computer-counted paper ballots play a critical role in the security and auditability of our elections. But audits cannot be used to secure internet voting systems, which have no paper ballots that form an auditable paper trail.

So there are policy controversies: trustworthiness versus convenience, security versus accessibility. In 2019-22 there were lawsuits in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, and North Carolina; legislation enacted in Rhode Island and withdrawn in California. There is a common pattern to these disputes, which have mostly resolved in a way that provides remote accessible vote by mail (RAVBM) but stops short of permitting electronic ballot return (internet voting).

What would it take to thoroughly review a proposed internet voting system to be assured whether it delivers the security it promises? Switzerland provides a case study. In Switzerland, after a few years of internet voting pilot projects, the Federal Chancellery commissioned several extremely thorough expert studies of their deployed system. These reports teach us not only about their internet voting system itself but about how to study those systems before making policy decisions.

Accessibility of election systems to voters with disabilities is a genuine problem. Disability-rights groups have been among those lobbying for internet voting (which is not securable) and other forms of remote accessible vote by mail (which can be adequately securable). I review statistics showing that internet voting is probably not the most effective way to serve voters with disabilities.

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“‘Absolutely terrifying prospect’: How the midterms could weaken U.S. election security”

Eric Geller for Politico:

Republicans who support former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election would gain the power to open up access to their states’ voting machines if they win in November — a prospect that security experts call potentially catastrophic for American democracy.

Already, unvetted outsiders have examined voting equipment or inspected the devices’ sensitive computer code in counties in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, bypassing longstanding security protections — in many cases with the support of Trump allies overseeing local elections. Now Republicans who embrace the former president’s conspiracy theories are running for governor or secretary of state, offices that would give them even broader authority to allow like-minded activists and consulting firms to conduct so-called “audits” of the entire voting systems in key states.

These kinds of examinations would make it easier for hackers intent on sowing chaos or changing the outcomes of future elections to learn how to conduct their attacks, according to voting security professionals, who note that some sensitive information about voting machines has already been leaked since Trump supporters began their push for audits.

It’s “an absolutely terrifying prospect,” said J. Alex Halderman, a computer security expert and professor at the University of Michigan who has repeatedly exposed flaws in voting systems but has also debunked Trump’s claims about 2020 fraud.

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“Newly obtained surveillance video shows fake Trump elector escorted operatives into Georgia county’s elections office before voting machine breach”

CNN:

A Republican county official in Georgia escorted two operatives working with an attorney for former President Donald Trump into the county’s election offices on the same day a voting system there was breached, newly obtained video shows.

The breach is now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is of interest to the Fulton County District Attorney, who is conducting a wider criminal probe of interference in the 2020 election.

The video sheds more light on how an effort spearheaded by lawyers and others around Trump to seek evidence of voter fraud was executed on the ground from Georgia to Michigan to Colorado, often with the assistance of sympathetic local officials.

In the surveillance video, which was obtained by CNN, Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County who is under criminal investigation for posing as a fake elector in 2020, escorts a team of pro-Trump operatives to the county’s elections office on January 7, 2021, the same day a voting system there is known to have been breached.

The two men seen in the video with Latham, Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, have acknowledged that they successfully gained access to a voting machine in Coffee County at the behest of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.

Text messages, emails and witness testimony filed as part of a long-running civil suit into the security of Georgia’s voting systems show Latham communicated directly with the then-Coffee County elections supervisor about getting access to the office, both before and after the breach. One text message, according to the court document, shows Latham coordinating the arrival and whereabouts of a team “led by Paul Maggio” that traveled to Coffee County at the direction of Powell.

Three days after the breach, Latham texted the Coffee County elections supervisor, “Did you all finish with the scanner?” According to court documents, Latham testified she did not know what Hall was doing in Coffee County. But when confronted with her texts about the scanner, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights.

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“Handling of Georgia election breach investigation questioned”

AJC:

A recording first surfaced six months ago claiming that a team copied “every piece of equipment” in Coffee County’s elections office after the 2020 election, but it wasn’t Georgia investigators who confirmed that confidential voting data had been taken.

Instead, it took a lawsuit by private citizens to find documents showing that allies of then-President Donald Trump and their computer experts gained access to sensitive files in the rural South Georgia county.

Critics of Georgia election officials say the secretary of state’s office has been slow-walking the breach investigation as it fights a court case alleging that equipment manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems is vulnerable to insider attacks and hacks. The investigation has been pending for months, and few witnesses have been questioned.

State election officials disagree, saying they’re still gathering evidence and there’s little threat to Georgia’s voting system after several people working for Sidney Powell, an attorney for Trump, copied election files on Jan. 7, 2021. They then distributed the data to conspiracy theorists who deny the results of the presidential election, which Trump lost….

Marilyn Marks, a plaintiff in the election security lawsuit against Georgia, said Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office failed to adequately investigate “the most massive voting system heist that I’ve ever heard of.”

Documents disclosed through subpoenas indicate that SullivanStrickler copied a trove of data from an election server, ballot scanners and memory cards that store votes. An attorney for SullivanStrickler has said the firm was preserving election records under Powell’s direction.

“They absolutely fell down on the job and covered up an enormous security breach,” said Marks, executive director for the Coalition for Good Governance. “They didn’t want to find out because they have been saying for years that this is a reliable, trustworthy system. They knew if they were to tell people what really happened, people’s faith in the system would be crushed.”

Gabriel Sterling, interim deputy secretary of state, said Marks is trying to undermine public confidence in Georgia’s voting system to support her lawsuit’s goal of holding elections using paper ballots filled out by hand rather than printed by computers.

“This isn’t about the machines. This is about individuals who did the wrong thing. They will be investigated, and they will be punished,” Sterling said. “We are taking the necessary methodical investigative steps. Unlike Marilyn Marks, we have a responsibility to give a good case to the State Election Board and potentially a local district attorney to prosecute.”

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