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States are finding new ways to track absentee ballots

The number of states and counties offering voters the ability to track absentee ballots as they’re on their way to be processed and counted has grown substantially this year as more states expand their use of mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most states now offer at least websites where people can look up the status of their ballots, while some have even introduced automated emails and text messages telling voters when their ballots have been mailed, returned and counted, akin to updates one might get on a package ordered from Amazon. “It gives voters accountability to see where their ballot is,” said Amber McReynolds, who now runs the National Vote at Home Institute, which promotes the expansion of mail-in voting. “There’s been a significant enhancement this year. We’ve really been pushing states to do this.” Benjamin Freed reports.

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North Dakota covers fees for cyber competition

The North Dakota Information Technology Department announced Wednesday it will cover the registration fees for up to 25 schools participating in CyberPatriot, a national cybersecurity competition run by the Air Force to generate interest in technology careers. The competition, which challenges and middle school and high school students to find and patch vulnerabilities in a virtual operating system, is held annually to help fill a global cybersecurity workforce gap. “Especially in the current environment, with e-learning, with virtual learning being so prevalent, this just gives kids a great opportunity to explore their affinity for these topics and to do it in a fun way as a competition,” NDIT spokesperson Kelly Ivahnenko told StateScoop. “NDIT believes that our ability to help offset the cost just eliminates a potential barrier and makes it easier for teachers and classes to get involved.” Colin Wood has the story.

How consolidated IT aided states’ pandemic responses

On the latest episode of StateScoop's Priorities podcast, Minnesota Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes and Tennessee CIO Stephanie Dedmon share how their organizations' structures, which have become increasingly consolidated in recent years, aided their pandemic response efforts. And in Minnesota, Tomes said, stronger strategic alignment across agencies made defending against a cyberattack earlier this year a bit easier, as well. “Our ability to have cloud-based denial-of-service support that really protected a large range of resources really came to bear," he said. Listen to the latest episode.

Voatz v. ethical hackers

So far this year, the mobile-voting firm Voatz has been fired by its bug-bounty partner, been criticized by the benefactors of mobile-voting initiatives and been replaced with a different vendor in states testing online voting. And now it’s trying to block legal protections for ethical hackers, CyberScoop's Jeff Stone reports. The company, which has clashed with independent researchers who found its software to have numerous vulnerabilities, filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case in which justices will reconsider the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 1986 federal law that prohibits access to computers without the owner’s consent. In its brief, Voatz wrote that "no narrowing of the CFAA is necessary." Read more on CyberScoop.

TSA tests biometric 'self-service' scanners at Reagan National Airport

A biometric security program announced earlier this week by the Transportation Security Administration could allow travelers to move through security lines without the need to interact with a person, potentially reducing the spread of the coronavirus and speeding up airport security. Security gates at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport have been outfitted with equipment that allows travelers to be photographed by tablet computer that automatically matches it to the photo on their chosen form of identification. Instead of handing their passport or state ID to a TSA agent directly, travelers will insert the document into a scanner under the tablet, thus reducing the amount of physical contact. Ryan Johnston reports.

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