The Voting News

Verified Voting Blog: Andrew W. Appel: My testimony before the House Subcommittee on IT

This article appeared originally at Freedom to Tinker on September 30, 2016. I was invited to testify yesterday before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Information Technology, at a hearing entitled “Cybersecurity: Ensuring the Integrity of the Ballot Box.”  My written testimony is available here.  My 5-minute opening statement went as follows:

My name is Andrew Appel.  I am Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University.   In this testimony I do not represent my employer. I’m here to give my own professional opinions as a scientist, but also as an American citizen who cares deeply about protecting our democracy. My research is in software verification, computer security, technology policy, and election machinery.  As I will explain, I strongly recommend that, at a minimum, the Congress seek to ensure the elimination of Direct-Recording Electronic voting machines (sometimes called “touchscreen” machines), immediately after this November’s election; and that it require that all elections be subject to sensible auditing after every election to ensure that systems are functioning properly and to prove to the American people that their votes are counted as cast. There are cybersecurity issues in all parts of our election system:  before the election, voter-registration databases; during the election, voting machines; after the election, vote-tabulation / canvassing / precinct-aggregation computers.  In my opening statement I’ll focus on voting machines.  The other topics are addressed in a recent report I have co-authored entitled “Ten Things Election Officials Can Do to Help Secure and Inspire Confidence in This Fall’s Elections.” Read More

National: Hackers Target Election Systems in 20 States | NBC

There have been hacking attempts on election systems in more than 20 states — far more than had been previously acknowledged — a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News on Thursday. The “attempted intrusions” targeted online systems like registration databases, and not the actual voting or tabulation machines that will be used on Election Day and are not tied to the Internet. The DHS official described much of the activity as “people poking at the systems to see if they are vulnerable.” “We are absolutely concerned,” the DHS official said. “The concern is the ability to cause confusion and chaos.” Only two successful breaches have been disclosed, both of online voter registration databases, in Illinois and Arizona over the summer. Read More

National: State officials warn Congress: don’t damage public confidence in election systems | SC Magazine

An association of state officials has published an open letter that seeks to strengthen public confidence in the electoral process, in light of research that has raised questions about the security of voting machines. The National Association of Secretaries of State’s (NASS) letter calls on Congress to avoid using political rhetoric or proposing legislation that may damage confidence in the election systems. State officials are “working overtime to help the public understand the components of our election process and some of the built-in safeguards that exist,” the letter stated. “Voting systems are spread out in a highly-decentralized structure covering more than 9,000 election jurisdictions and hundreds of thousands of polling locations.” Despite NASS’s argument that the decentralized structure of election systems creates added security, a series of reports on voting machine infrastructure suggests another view. In an email to SCMagazine.com, James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), noted that the lack of a centralized system creates added risks. “The lack of a National system just means that some states manage secure election systems while others lack the resources or expertise to do so,” he wrote. “An attacker only needs to compromise the results of one or two pivotal states in order to alter the results of the election.” Read More

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National: A Brief History Of Early Voting | Michael P. McDonald/Huffington Post

In recent years American voters are rediscovering a way of voting used during the country’s first half-century of existence. I’m talking about early voting. Since the early 1990s, the number voters who cast their ballots prior to Election Day has steadily risen from less than a tenth to about a third. The rise is fueled by two phenomenon. More states are offering early voting options, and once a state adopts early voting more people vote early a part of their election regimen. As voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day, they may be surprised to learn they are walking in the shoes of the nation’s founders. At the founding, voting was held over several days so that rural voters could have ample time to travel to town and county courthouses to cast their ballots. An extended voting period could not be disrupted greatly by unexpected weather that made rural river crossings impassable. In other words, early voting was matter of convenience. Two centuries later, convenience continues to be the rallying cry of early voting advocates. Just as an argument for early voting echoes through time, so does an argument against. In 1845, the federal government set a uniform, single day for voting for president: the familiar first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Among the arguments for a single day was that it would prevent people from crossing state lines to vote more than once. Today, politicians speak of early voting as one way by which elections can be “rigged.” Read More

National: Democrats Seek Reversal on Voter Registration Hurdle | NBC

High-ranking congressional Democrats are raising more serious concerns about a move by the director of a federal voting agency that made it easier for several red states to require documentary proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Robert A. Brady and Rep. James E. Clyburn urged the Election Assistance Commission in a letter sent Wednesday to formally rescind a change made in January to the instructions on the federal voter registration form for Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, which allowed those states to require citizenship proof. A federal court found this month that the move, which was carried out unilaterally by the agency’s executive director, Brian Newby, could disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters. Ruling that the move may violate federal voting law, the court blocked it from being enforced pending a resolution of the case. The letter outlines what the lawmakers called “troubling findings” from their probe into the issue — among them, that Newby conducted no written analysis of the impact of the change, and that he himself may no longer be certain that it was legal. Read More

Editorials: Are U.S. elections ‘rigged?’ Here’s how to help voters believe that they’re not. | R. Michael Alvarez, Lonna Rae Atkeson and Thad E. Hall/The Washington Post

This August, the U.S. election system was cast into doubt. Donald Trump suggested that it might be rigged – presumably to help Hillary Clinton win. Russians allegedly hacked voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, although, according to the FBI, they didn’t succeed in tampering with voter rolls. Such comments and events have the potential to undermine Americans’ confidence that U.S. elections are run fairly — concerns usually brought up by those whose candidate lost the election, as Paul Gronke, Michael W. Sances and Charles Stewart III wrote here last month. Part of the reason that U.S. democracy is so stable — and that citizens accept election results instead of, say, rioting and setting the Capitol on fire — is that most American voters are confident that their ballots are counted accurately in our elections. That’s what we’ve found in our research over the past decade. And that confidence can be improved or harmed by how state and local election officials manage elections — whether their favored candidates win or lose. Read More

Editorials: If Trump Disputes the Election, We Have No Good Way Out | Edward B. Foley/Politico

Will this year’s presidential election be rigged, as Donald Trump has predicted? It’s highly unlikely, and that’s true whether we’re talking about scary new threats, like cyber-hacking by the Russians, or old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing of the sort that ostensibly has led Trump to recruit his own poll watchers. We’re much more likely to see the kind of unintentional ineptitude that plagued the 2000 presidential race. As an old adage, often invoked by election scholars, goes: “Never attribute to malevolence what is explicable by incompetence.” But this is not to say that American democracy is immune to allegations of ill-willed vote rigging. Even if Trump said in Monday’s debate that he would support Hillary Clinton “if she wins,” he and his supporters could very well be convinced in their own minds that she did not. Then what happens? Consider Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state and the one I worry most about this year, since it uses electronic voting machines without paper backup. Suppose that on Election Night, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state announces that Clinton has won the state, and with it the presidency, but Trump says, “Prove it.” The secretary of state responds, “That’s what the machines tell us.” Trump responds, “Well, how do I know that the machines weren’t hacked?” What is the secretary of state supposed to say then? Read More

Editorials: Why Won’t Trump Blame the DNC Hack on Russia? | Kaveh Waddell/The Atlantic

After FBI Director Jim Comey warned a congressional panel on Wednesday that hackers are “poking around” voter-registration systems in various states, law-enforcement officials told CNN that the U.S. suspects Russian involvement. ABC News reported that nearly half of U.S. states have come under cyberattack from hackers affiliated with Russia, which helps explain Comey’s comment during Wednesday’s hearing that the FBI is looking into “just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.”  … So why did Donald Trump stand on a debate stage this week and equivocate on the DNC hack? … It’s not like Trump waffled onstage because he truly didn’t have the information that Clinton had. A U.S. intelligence officials told Time that the government’s confidence in Russia’s involvement in the DNC hack was covered in one of Trump’s intelligence briefings. Read More

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Voting Blogs: Voter registration numbers soar: Social media helps break registration records | electionlineWeekly

With the 2016 general election about a month way and the first voter registration deadlines just around the corner, it’s been a record-breaking voter registration week for states and counties across the country. Not only did we celebrate National Voter Registration Day this week, but many elections officials are thanking Google, Facebook and other social media outlets for the push. On September 23 Washington State saw a record one-day registration spike of 14,824 new registrants with nearly 13,000 of those via the state’s online portal MyVote — which was the second most for a single day since the portal launched. The spike follows a prompt from Facebook which urged Washington residents aged 18 and older to register to vote and included a link to connect people to the state’s online voter registration system. Read More

Indiana: State Police investigating local voter registration forms | Herald Bulletin

More than 250 Madison County voter registration forms have been secured by the Indiana State Police as part of a statewide investigation that some registrations may be fraudulent. ISP detectives visited the Madison County Voter Registration Office on Wednesday after being contacted by Joe Spencer, the Democratic Party representative of the office. The ISP investigation was initiated when the Hendricks County Clerk’s Office raised concerns about 10 voter registration forms received through the Indiana Voter Registration Project through Patriot Majority. Spencer said the Madison County office received 13 voter registration forms that were questioned. Some of them had Indianapolis ZIP codes and at least one with a Pendleton address on a numbered street. “There are no numbered streets in Pendleton,” he said. As directed by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the Madison County office contacted the state police about the registrations. Read More