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Governments Vote in Favor of More Secure, Trustworthy Balloting Technologies

by | Jul 30, 2019 | BidPrime News

Governments Vote in Favor of More Secure, Trustworthy Balloting Technologies

by | Jul 30, 2019 | BidPrime News

Elections officials across the U.S. are gearing up for 2020, planning or already making significant investments in voting booths, ballot technologies, security systems, and more to ensure the integrity of the franchise.

The reason for these investments—larger than normal—is that growing numbers of local, state, and federal elections officials are worried about vote interference. Depending on who’s doing the talking (and there’s an enormous amount of it on television, in social media, and all around the blogosphere just now), it’s entirely too easy for fraudsters, foreign powers and practically anyone else with evil intent to compromise our elections by hacking into an electronic voting machine and transferring the “x” placed adjacent to one candidate’s name to the space next to that of another.

And that’s just for starters.

BidPrime has long kept a watchful eye on the elections industry and told you about important trends in vote-casting and vote-tabulating services and solutions. For example, you might remember our October 2018 analysis (“How Are Governments Influencing How You Vote”) and our November 2016 video looking at election-related purchasing activity (“Elections: Government Procurement Analysis”). We continue that tradition by now giving you the following heads-up concerning the elections just around the corner.

Countdown to 2020

In the coming year there will be primary elections, party caucuses, general elections, special elections, recall elections, runoff elections, and —as sure as the sun rises in the east—election recounts and other methods of challenging the results.

2020 is a presidential election year, which typically means lots of people will be drawn to the polls—certainly more than show up for contests not involving the choosing of the nation’s chief executive.

The first votes for president will be cast in New Hampshire on Feb. 11, when the Democrats, Republicans, and other political parties hold their nominating primaries. This will be preceded by party caucuses in Iowa on Feb. 3.

Although these contests remain months away, officials who oversee voting have their work cut out for them in the run-up to the general election, set for Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Estimates are that spending on elections services and solutions will be higher in 2020 than in 2018 (that year, the combined cost of conducting just the district-by-district elections to fill the seats in Congress was roughly $5.7 billion, up $1.6 billion from 2016, according to Open Secrets.

Elections Technology

Certainly among the most inspiring images representative of our democracy is that of ordinary people entering the voting booth to have their say in how things are run.

Up to 20 million such individuals in California alone will do exactly that in 2020, industry experts forecast. Meanwhile, voter turnout in Delaware, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania is likewise expected to be huge.

The voting systems that will be used in these states and all the rest come in various forms. Some states prefer mechanical-lever machines, while others opt for direct-recording electronic (DRE) systems. In 2020, there will be touchscreen voting, scanned voting, punchcard voting, and even good old-fashioned voting by paper ballot.

But regardless of the system employed, the expectation among voters and candidates is that it will work as promised, deliver an accurate tally, and be secure.

Since its debut in 2003, the nonprofit Verified Voting Foundation has sought to convince elections officials far and wide to embrace changes that will ensure every vote cast at the local, state, and federal level is counted accurately. Toward this end, the organization—created by Stanford computer science professor David L. Dill—has enumerated principles it believes designers and builders of new voting systems should follow.

Do you agree or disagree with these principles? Here they are:

1. A voting system should render human-readable marks on paper, which be the would official medium upon which votes are stored and which would serve as the official record of voter preferences;

2. All voters—including those who speak certain languages other than English and who have disabilities—should be able to access and utilize the voting system;

3. Before a ballot is officially cast, each voter should be afforded the opportunity and the means to verify that the human-readable marks they have rendered correctly represent their intended selections;

4. No voter should be able to prove how he or she voted, meaning the system used appropriately won’t link the voter by name or other personal indentifying information with the selections made—and it should be difficult or impossible for voter anonymity to be accidentally
or deliberately compromised or waived;

5. In order to be easily and transparently auditable, a paper-ballot voting system should export a cast-vote record (CVR) in a standard, open, machine-readable format that permits quick, unambiguous identification of each paper ballot cast;

6. Proprietary hardware and software should be avoided, using instead commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware components and open-source software (OSS)—especially when doing so will reduce costs, facilitate maintenance and customization, promote replacement of failed or obsolete equipment, improve security or reliability, or facilitate fast, affordable adoption of technological improvements;

7. CVRs should be designed from ballots designed for currently deployed systems, and any new system should be readily configurable to create CVRs for new ballot designs;

8. A sufficiently open voting-system is one that allows a competitive support-market to flourish (support should include system configuration, maintenance, integration, and customization);

9. Election officials should be able to readily configure, operate, and maintain the system, create ballots, tabulate votes, and audit the accuracy of the results without reliance on external expertise or labor, even in small jurisdictions with limited staff.

Security

Elections security is a paramount concern these days to everyone (hackers and the opponents of democracy excepted). But go back in American history to the Founding, if you’d like, and you’ll see that there have always been clouds over voter registration, voter eligibility, and
election final results.

Among the many entities now working to ensure the validity of election results are the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Election Assistance Commission. And Congress recently authorized spending in the neighborhood of $400 million for state and local government efforts to ensure election security.

Taylor Armstrong, writing this month in Forbes (“Multiple Bills Seek to Secure Elections: Will They Do It?”) assembled from cybersecurity experts a list of recommendations for engendering a higher degree of confidence in the polls. The experts offered these ideas (several of which mirror the principles outlined by the Verified Voting Foundation):

  • Prohibit use of wireless modems in voting machines;
  • Require individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots
  • Make a voter’s marked ballot available for inspection and verification by the voter
    before the vote is formally cast;
  • Establish cybersecurity standards for voting-system vendors;
  • Require voting systems be manufactured in the U.S.;
  • Require voting systems be tested nine months before an election;
  • Require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) award grants to states to replace certain voting systems, carry out voting-system security improvements, and implement and model best-practices for ballot design, ballot instructions, and the testing of ballots;
  • Further require the EAC to conduct risk-limiting audits.

The Bid Data

In our BidPrime database, we have over time identified many requests for solutions and services covering everything from security carts to electronic voting security—but also system testing and certification.

We have also identified March as the biggest month for elections-related bid requests. Indeed, in March 2018 and again this past March, the total requests in this category from state and local entities have far outdistanced those issued in other months.

Notably, state and local requests almost completely eclipse those at the federal level. Our analysis of the last three years reveals that a robust 98.5 percent of all elections-related bids came from state and local entities.                                                                                 

Also notable: when the feds request elections-type services or solutions, they want them in a hurry. On the federal side, turnaround from bid-issue to end-date averages 12 days—on the state and local side, it averages 22.6 days.

If you’re in the elections industry, we think you ought to pay particularly close attention to these five states because they have led the way over the past 36 months in terms of solicitations volume:

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey

We listed California first because the number of relevant bids it submitted was roughly 41 percent greater than the number coming from second-place New York.

Top regions over past twelve months:

* Data from BidPrime dbase. Market Analysis on “Elections”. Aug ’18 – Jul ’19 

ACTIVE RELATED BIDS/RFPs

Elections

The question on everyone’s mind is this: are governments doing enough to ensure efficient and secure elections? Well, millions of dollars have been invested and there certainly has been plenty of vigorous debate, so we’ll soon find out whether their measures are or aren’t adequate.

Meanwhile, get out and vote!

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

To see detailed information on the bids / RFPs, and the applicable bid documents, call us at 888.808.5356 or visit BidPrime.

Industry

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