Category Archives: voting technology

“U.S. Election Assistance Commission Sued for Improperly Loosening Voting System Standards After Private Meetings With Voting Machine Manufacturers”

Free Speech for People press release.

Update – AP reports: “Key elements of the first federal technology standards for voting equipment in 15 years should be scrapped because language that would have banned the devices from connecting to the internet was dropped after private meetings held with manufacturers, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.”

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“The stampede away from Trump’s voting-machine claims continues apace, as legal liability looms for allies”

WaPo:

Among the many wild conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, few rank as high when it comes to both baselessness and reach as those involving voting machines. The theory that voting machines were programmed to steal the election from incumbent President Donald Trump had the benefit, while being utterly without merit, of at least being simple and easy for people to grasp.

Unfortunately for their proponents, these theories carry one very significant drawback: legal liability. …

The result: Many if not most of the high-profile purveyors of such claims have since backed off.

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“New Hampshire Election Audit, part 2”

Andrew Appel:

In my previous post I explained the preliminary conclusions from the three experts engaged by New Hampshire to examine an election anomaly in the town of Windham, November 2020. Improperly folded ballots (which shouldn’t have happened) had folds that were interpreted as votes (which also shouldn’t have happened) and this wasn’t noticed by any routine procedures (where either overvote rejection or RLAs would have caught and corrected the problem)–except that one candidate happened to ask for a recount. At least in New Hampshire it’s easy to ask for a recount and the Secretary of State’s office has lots of experience doing recounts.

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“Last-Minute Tweaks to Voting Machine Standards Raise Cyber Fears”

USLW:

Last-minute changes to proposed federal standards for new voting machines could expose the equipment to cyberattacks, according to some members of Congress and security professionals.

The Election Assistance Commission, slated to authorize new voting system guidelines on Feb. 10, amended key sections of a 328-page document less than two weeks before the decision. The amended language of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 would allow next generation voting machines to include components capable of wireless communications, as long as they’re disabled. The changes were made even though the EAC’s technical advisory committee recommended an outright wireless ban.

Cybersecurity experts, some of the EAC’s own advisers and members of Congress are calling for the agency’s four commissioners to vote on a version of the document finalized in July 2020 which included the prohibition on wireless capability. In a letter reviewed by Bloomberg, a bipartisan coalition of more than 20 members of Congress led by Representative Bill Foster told the EAC’s Chairman Ben Hovland that the current version would “diminish confidence in both the federal voting system certification program and the security of our election systems.”

“We cannot sanction the use of online networking capabilities when they carry the very real and increased risk of cyber-attacks, at scale, on our voting machines,” reads the letter….

Meanwhile, others are asking the EAC to explain why changes to a document 15 years in the making were made less than two weeks before the scheduled vote.

“The issue here is the EAC made changes to some of the most commented-on sections of the standard without clearly explaining who made the change, why the change was made and that’s inviting a lot of questions,” said Matt Masterson a former EAC commissioner, referring to some of the 50,000 public comments submitted to the EAC in 2020.

Masterson said there’s no reason to believe the late amendments were born out of malfeasance. “There is an opportunity here for further transparency by the commission which I hope they provide,” said Masterson, former election security lead at the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

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“Chinese parts, hidden ownership, growing scrutiny: Inside America’s biggest maker of voting machines”

NBC News:

 Just off a bustling interstate near the border between Nebraska and Iowa, a 2,800-square-foot American flag flies over the squat office park that is home to Election Systems & Software LLC.

The nondescript name and building match the relative anonymity of the company, more commonly known as ES&S, which has operated in obscurity for years despite its central role in U.S. elections. Nearly half of all Americans who vote in the 2020 election will use one of its devices.

That’s starting to change. A new level of scrutiny of the election system, spurred by Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has put ES&S in the political spotlight. The source of the nation’s voting machines has become an urgent issue because of real fears that hackers, whether foreign or domestic, might tamper with the mechanics of the voting system.

That has led to calls for ES&S and its competitors, Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems and Austin, Texas-based Hart Intercivic, to reveal details about their ownership and the origins of the parts, some of which come from China, that make up their machines.

But ES&S still faces questions about the company’s supply chain and the identities of its investors, although it has said it is entirely owned by Americans. And the results of its government penetration tests, in which authorized hackers try to break in so vulnerabilities can be identified and fixed, have yet to be revealed.

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“ESS voting machine company sends threats”

Andrew Appel:

For over 15 years, election security experts and election integrity advocates have been communicating to their state and local election officials the dangers of touch-screen voting machines. The danger is simple: if fraudulent software is installed in the voting machine, it can steal votes in a way that a recount wouldn’t be able to detect or correct. That was true of the paperless touchscreens of the 2000s, and it’s still true of the ballot-marking devices (BMDs) and “all-in-one” machines such as the ES&S ExpressVote XL voting machine (see section 8 of this paper*). This analysis is based on the characteristics of the technology itself, and doesn’t require any conspiracy theories about who owns the voting-machine company.

In contrast, if an optical-scan voting machine was suspected to be hacked, the recount can assure an election outcome reflects the will of the voters, because the recount examines the very sheets of paper that the voters marked with a pen. In late 2020, many states were glad they used optical-scan voting machines with paper ballots: the recounts could demonstrate conclusively that the election results were legitimate, regardless of what software might have been installed in the voting machines or who owned the voting-machine companies. In fact, the vast majority of the states use optical-scan voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots, and in 2020 we saw clearly why that’s a good thing.

In November and December 2020, certain conspiracy theorists made unsupportable claims about the ownership of Dominion Voting Systems, which manufactured the voting machines used in Georgia. Dominion has sued for defamation.

Dominion is the manufacturer of voting machines used in many states. Its rival, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), has an even bigger share of the market.

Apparently, ES&S must think that amongst all that confusion, the time is right to send threatening Cease & Desist letters to the legitimate critics of their ExpressVote XL voting machine. Their lawyers sent this letter to the leaders of SMART Elections, a journalism+advocacy organization in New York State who have been communicating to the New York State Board of Elections, explaining to the Board why it’s a bad idea to use the ExpressVote XL in New York (or in any state).

ES&S’s lawyers claim that certain facts (which they call “accusations”) are “false, defamatory, and disparaging”, namely: that the “ExpressVote XL can add, delete, or change the votes on individual ballots”, that the ExpressVote XL will “deteriorate our security and our ability to have confidence in our elections,” and that it is a “bad voting machine.”

Well, let me explain it for you. The ExpressVote XL, if hacked, can add, delete, or change votes on individual ballots — and no voting machine is immune from hacking. That’s why optical-scan voting machines are the way to go, because they can’t change what’s printed on the ballot. And let me explain some more: The ExpressVote XL, if adopted, will deteriorate our security and our ability to have confidence in our elections, and indeed it is a bad voting machine. And expensive, too!

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“Forget the conspiracy theories — here are the real election security lessons of 2020”

Politico:

The foreign cyberattacks that so many intelligence officials feared didn’t upend the 2020 elections — but this year’s contests nonetheless showed how much the nation still needs to do to fix its security weaknesses.

Paper trails protected the integrity of the votes in closely watched states, thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, but many counties still lack that protection. States mostly rejected the riskiest voting technology — internet balloting — but a few embraced it. And a pandemic-ravaged nation managed to vote safely and reliably, but election offices are still woefully short of money and staff.

Perhaps most of all, this year also exposed the United States’ vulnerability to election threats from within, as President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans promoted discredited conspiracy theories to try to nullify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“The big picture lesson from 2020 is that ensuring an accurate result isn’t enough,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor and leading election security expert. “Elections also have to be able to prove to a skeptical public that the result really was accurate.”

Restoring that trust starts — but doesn’t end — with improving the election technology, policy specialists say.

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