States Struggle To Update Election Systems Ahead of 2020

August 16, 2019by Alyza Sebenius and Kartikay Mehrotra

WASHINGTON — U.S. states operating outdated and insecure voting machines face major hurdles in protecting them in time for the 2020 presidential election, officials said at a meeting of elections experts.

Budgets are strained, decision-making authority is diffused and standards put in place years ago haven’t kept up with today’s cyberthreats, according to testimony Thursday to the Election Assistance Commission in Silver Spring, Md.

The Senate Intelligence Committee reported last month that Russia engaged in “extensive” efforts to manipulate elections systems throughout the U.S. from 2014 through “at least 2017.” The Brennan Center for Justice reported Thursday that states will have to spend more than $2 billion to protect their election systems in the next five years, including replacing outdated machines or purchasing the software improvements necessary to help harden existing equipment against hackers.

Updating software is a “regular and important part” of cybersecurity, the Center for Democracy & Technology warned in a statement. But even when a software patch is available, states can’t compel “severely under-resourced” local elections officials to buy and implement the improvement, said Jared Dearing, executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections.

On top of those hurdles, Dearing said, the process of certifying elections equipment to federal standards leaves machines in “a time capsule of when that system was developed.”

The commission was created in 2002 to establish voting machine standards for manufacturers and vendors in the aftermath of the irregularities exposed during the 2000 presidential election. Many voting machines across the U.S. haven’t been updated since the first generation of rules were approved in 2005. The commission has been debating new standards, with a vote scheduled Sept. 12.

Even if the new regulations were to be approved next month, it will take voting machine manufacturers as long as five years to build and roll out new machines, Commissioner Benjamin Hovland said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month.

“My biggest ask of this organization is to hustle up with certification and standards,” Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said. “People are out buying things right now and they need help.”

Elections pose other unique obstacles as well.

“If an important (software) patch comes out three to four weeks before an election, it causes us to wait to implement because we can’t interfere in the election process that is already in motion,” said Kyle Ardoin, Louisiana’s secretary of state.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security is offering election equipment vendors testing to detect vulnerabilities — a program gaining “increased interest,” said Geoffrey Hale, the director of the elections division of CISA.

Merrill said local elections officials are hard-pressed to ensure the safety of their equipment.

“My biggest fear is vulnerability at the local level, and so that’s exactly what we’re working on,” said Merrill.

———

©2019 Bloomberg News

Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Elections

Candidates Expound On Climate Change Fight at Georgetown/MSNBC Forum 2020 Elections
Candidates Expound On Climate Change Fight at Georgetown/MSNBC Forum
September 20, 2019
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Andrew Yang could hardly contain himself. A day after he surprised a group of Georgetown University students by joining their pick-up basketball game, Yang had taken just three steps onto the stage at the university's Healy Hall Thursday morning when he impulsively jumped into... Read More

Facing Pressure, McConnell Backs Money for Election Security Elections
Facing Pressure, McConnell Backs Money for Election Security

WASHINGTON — Under fire from the left and the right, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he’ll back a measure to give states another $250 million to upgrade their voting systems to fend off foreign intervention. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has maintained for months... Read More

States Try to Combat Election Interference as Washington Deadlocks Elections
States Try to Combat Election Interference as Washington Deadlocks

WASHINGTON — With the White House and Congress paralyzed over how — or even whether — to act on intelligence agency warnings about foreign interference in U.S. elections, Maryland opted to take matters into its own hands. The state adopted transparency rules for political advertising on... Read More

New Political Maps Pass NC Legislature, Judges Will Now Review State News
New Political Maps Pass NC Legislature, Judges Will Now Review

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s new political maps gained final approval from the N.C. House and Senate on Tuesday. Nearly all Republicans supported them, and Democrats were split. The maps can’t be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper — the state constitution specifically forbids it — but... Read More

Early Ballot Count Shows Israel’s Netanyahu Faltering in Closely Fought Race Israel
Early Ballot Count Shows Israel’s Netanyahu Faltering in Closely Fought Race

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting for his political life, appeared early Wednesday to falter in his quest for a new term in office, with exit polls and early ballot-counting giving an edge to his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz.... Read More

Murphy Tells Election Symposium More, Not Less Transparency Needed to Safeguard The Vote Elections
Murphy Tells Election Symposium More, Not Less Transparency Needed to Safeguard The Vote
September 17, 2019
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Representative Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. told attendees at an election security forum Tuesday that tech platforms have become "battlefields" in a "bloodless conflict" and that winning requires arming voters with in-depth knowledge of the threat they face. "We need to recognize that when it comes... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top