Report: Kansas Gets Failing Election Security Grade

The Center for American Progress says the state’s use of voting machines that do not produce an auditable trail leave it vulnerable to hacking. State officials disagree.

by Jonathan Shorman, The Wichita Eagle / February 13, 2018
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(TNS) — Kansas is vulnerable to undetected Election Day hacking, according to a new report that gives the state a failing grade on election security.

The report from the Center for American Progress, which is often critical of Republican policy, says the state allows the use of voting machines that do not produce a paper record and doesn’t mandate post-election audits.

"Going forward, Kansas should switch to a statewide paper-based voting system that can be audited through robust procedures that test the accuracy of election outcomes,” it says.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach rejects the report’s findings and says the organization is biased against him.

“It is false to assert that Kansas elections are open to hacking. We have taken great strides to ensure the security of our elections against hacking,” Kobach said. He called the Center for American Progress a “radical, left-wing organization.”

Kobach said 85 of Kansas’s 105 counties have voting machines that produce a paper trail. He said he is pushing counties to switch over to paper trail-producing machines and told counties they will not receive state subsidies for new voting machines unless they provide a paper trail.

He also said that Kansas has an added layer of security to prevent hacking of voter rolls; he would not discuss specifics.

The report says state officials did not respond to requests to speak with someone about Kansas’s cybersecurity standards for voter registration systems. The lead author of the report, Danielle Root, said the Center for American Progress made multiple attempts to reach out to the Kansas secretary of state’s office for information, beginning in early August.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told 21 states in September that their election systems were targeted by hackers in 2016. Kansas was not among the states notified.

Kobach said the extra security Kansas has may have discouraged a hacking attempt. He has also previously said vote tabulation systems in Kansas are very secure because officials typically call in or email results and there is no internet uploading of results.

The report dings Kansas for not allowing post-election audits. Beth Clarkson, a Wichita State University statistician, has sought unsuccessfully to review Sedgwick County voting machine tapes from the 2014 election.

Her requests were rebuffed by Kobach, who has said Kansas law prohibits such an audit. But he has previously proposed a measure that would require audits of voting equipment.

One bill to require audits is awaiting debate in the Senate.

The report also criticizes Kansas for allowing overseas voters to return ballots electronically, which it says is an insecure practice.

"Kansas is among the minority of states that allow military voters to return their voted ballots by e-mail, not just receive them by e-mail. In 2010 I promised I’d ensure that all military personnel could vote easily. I’ve made good on that promise," Kobach said in a 2014 op-ed in The Eagle.

On Monday, Kobach said voters send their ballot as a pdf, making it difficult to alter.

The Center for American Progress report comes weeks after disclosures that the partial Social Security numbers of nearly 1,000 Kansas voters were released publicly by Florida after Kobach’s office provided the data as part of a program called Crosscheck that looks for double voter registrations.

Florida released the data as part of a records request. Kobach’s office has emphasized that the information was not hacked.

"At no time ever has the interstate crosscheck database in its entirety existed anywhere other than on internal secretary of state networks," Bryan Caskey, Kansas’s director of elections, said in January.

The report gave no state an A, and gave 11 states a B. Twenty-three states received a C grade, and 12 states received a D. Five states got an F.

Among Kansas’s neighbors, Missouri received a D, Colorado received a B, Nebraska got a C, and Oklahoma got a C.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams released a statement touting the state’s grade. Williams is a Republican.

“We’re pleased that we received a high grade,” Williams said. "We're known as leaders in election security."

©2018 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.