Voting Blogs: Shocked, shocked to find “non-cyber” attacks on voting systems | Educated Guesswork

Argonne Labs’s demonstration attack on a Diebold voting machine is getting a lot of press. The article above has the details, but briefly, what the Argonne team did was to insert some malicious “alien” electronics between the CPU and the touch screen. Unsurprisingly, that device can modify input from the touch screen and/or output to the touch screen, allowing the attacker to tamper with the election. To read the press coverage and the quotes given by the authors, you might get the impression that this was something new. For instance:


“This is a fundamentally very powerful attack and we believe that voting officials should become aware of this and stop focusing strictly on cyber [attacks],” says Vulnerability Assessment Team member John Warner. “There’s a very large physical protection component of the voting machine that needs to be addressed.”

These comments aside, there’s not really any new information here; rather, it was completely obvious that this sort of thing was possible to anyone who knew how the devices were constructed. It’s well-known that the only defenses against this were physical security of the machines itself (tamper seals, locks, custody, etc.) and that they were extremely weak. Indeed, Alex Halderman and his team demonstrated some not-dissimilar attacks a while back on the Indian Electronic Voting Machines. The EVEREST report described a man-in-the-middle attack on the iVotronic interface to the VVPAT vote printer. Indeed, the same team from Argonne demonstrated a similar attack on a Sequoia system im 2009.

There are a number of reasons why voting researchers have historically focused on informational attacks (as I’ve saidbefore, “cyber” isn’t the word that computer scientists would typically use). First, they’re easier to do wholesale. While it’s moderately expensive—though not that expensive—to reverse engineer the software and develop an exploit and/or replacement software, once you’ve done that you can make as many copies as you want. Moreover, if you have a good exploit (like many of the ones described in the TTBR), you may be able to easily install it with very brief physical access, without opening the case, and perhaps without even violating any security seals. For obvious reasons, attacks which can be mounted by voters seem a lot more interesting than attacks which involve semi long-term access to the machine. It’s not exactly likely that your average voter is going to be allowed to open the machine in the middle of the election.

Moreover, in some cases, informational attacks (i.e., viruses) have been demonstrated that only require contact with a small number of voting machines. The idea here is that you have temporary access to a given machine, infect it with the virus, and then this somehow spreads to every machine in the county. By contrast, a physical attack like this requires tampering with every voting machine.

Editorials: The Myth of Voter Fraud |

It has been a record year for new legislation designed to make it harder for Democrats to vote — 19 laws and two executive actions in 14 states dominated by Republicans, according to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice. As a result, more than five million eligible voters will have a harder time participating in the 2012 election.

Of course the Republicans passing these laws never acknowledge their real purpose, which is to turn away from the polls people who are more likely to vote Democratic, particularly the young, the poor, the elderly and minorities. They insist that laws requiring government identification cards to vote are only to protect the sanctity of the ballot from unscrupulous voters. Cutting back on early voting, which has been popular among working people who often cannot afford to take off from their jobs on Election Day, will save money, they claim.

None of these explanations are true. There is almost no voting fraud in America. And none of the lawmakers who claim there is have ever been able to document any but the most isolated cases. The only reason Republicans are passing these laws is to give themselves a political edge by suppressing Democratic votes.

Arizona: Judge Finds Manipulation in Recall Vote in Arizona |

At first glance, it had the makings of a spirited election: the leader of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration facing off at the polls with an immigrant from Mexico who believed that the state had gone too far. But the immigrant, Olivia Cortes, a retiree who filed papers in July to challenge the State Senate president, Russell Pearce, disappeared from the political scene last week just as quickly as she had appeared. Ms. Cortes’s candidacy for a legislative district in this working-class community east of Phoenix, it now appears, had been a dirty trick.

Critics of Mr. Pearce’s hard-line approach to illegal immigration collected enough signatures to force him into a recall election in November. But allies of Mr. Pearce, who is one of the state’s most powerful politicians, did not take that humiliation lightly. They recruited Ms. Cortes in what was an effort to split the anti-Pearce vote, particularly among Latinos, a judge later found.

Maine: Same-day voter registration at issue in Maine | The Herald Dispatch

A growing trend by states to restrict voters’ rights has brought a backlash in Maine, where an upcoming “people’s veto” referendum seeks to restore same-day voter registration. On Nov. 8, Maine voters will decide a very straightforward proposal: whether to repeal a new state law that requires voters to register at least two days before an election. Repeal would effectively restore same-day registration, a policy that’s been in effect in Maine for nearly four decades.

The law allowing people in Maine to register at the polls up to and including Election Day is strongly favored by Democrats, who say it encourages voter participation. But it’s opposed by Republicans who contend that same-day registration opens the door to fraud and abuse. Randy Spencer, a Maine guide who divides his time between rural Grand Lake Stream and Holden, near Bangor, says same-day voting saved him on more than one occasion.

Oklahoma: Counting Begins in Cherokee Chief Election |

The Cherokee Nation Election Commission has adjourned for the evening and will reconvene Monday tomorrow at 8 a.m. to continue verifying absentee ballots. On Sunday morning the Cherokee Nation Election Commission began counting ballots cast during the special election for Principal Chief.

“We know this has been a long process and that our citizens are eager to know who will serve as the next Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation,” said Susan Plumb, chairperson of the commission. “The Commission has developed a plan and timeline to decrease the chances of human error and provide the Cherokee people with an election in which they can have faith.”

Oklahoma: Cherokees begin counting principal chief ballots on Sunday | Tulsa World

Ballot counting in the special election for principal chief is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Sunday, more than two weeks after the original election day. The Cherokee Nation Election Commission announced on Thursday that the counting will not be a one-day affair.

“Because of the circumstances surrounding the special election for principal chief, the commission has established a three-day process for counting the election results,” said Election Commission Chairman Susan Plumb. “We know that this has been a long process and people are eager to know who will serve as the next principal chief, but the commission must remain focused on its responsibility of providing the Cherokee people with an accurate, fair and impartial election.” The commission will start Sunday with ballots cast in-person at the 38 precincts and during walk-in voting days.

New York: Port Chester faces new legal bill in failed voting rights case | The Journal News

The village’s short-lived bid to appeal its voting rights case — undertaken despite a taxpayer outcry — has added $75,000 in legal bills to the million-dollar cost of fighting the Justice Department’s 2006 lawsuit.

The village also owes $125,000 in legal expenses for plaintiff Cesar Ruiz and an undetermined amount for his legal expenses during the appellate phase.

A divided village Board of Trustees hired the law firm Jones Day in February to appeal the 2008 decision that deemed Port Chester’s former trustee election system in violation of the Voting Rights Act. A judge had found the old system — at-large voting for two trustees per year — prevented the Hispanic minority from electing their preferred candidates to the board.

Afghanistan: Afghan lawmaker’s hunger strike extends vote fraud dispute |

It was the eighth day of ousted Afghan parliamentarian Simeen Barakzai’s hunger strike. Through chapped lips and in a rough voice, she said Sunday she would not drink or eat anything until President Hamid Karzai opened an investigation into vote fraud by the woman who has taken over her seat.

Her protest is the latest turn in a seemingly interminable dispute over who belongs in the Afghan parliament — still going on, more than a year after elections that were marred by fraud.

Fraud monitors discarded 1.3 million ballots from the poll — nearly a quarter of the total — and disqualified 19 winning candidates before results were finalized last fall. But many of the losers had argued that voters had been disenfranchised and pressured Karzai to revisit the results. Karzai eventually took the case to the courts, which ruled that 62 sitting parliamentarians should be removed, even though the court had no legal standing to change the results.

Angola: Electoral registration to reach prisoners | Angola Press

The electoral registration updating process, being carried out until December, will cover prisoners, assured this Friday, in Luanda, Angolan Home Affairs minister, Sebastião Martins.

He made this statement after updating his electoral registration, being carried out at the Home Affairs Ministry, where is functioning a registration office for the workers.

Bulgaria: Bulgarian NGO: Electoral Commission Info Reminds of X Files |

The protocols and the short-hand notes of Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission, CEK, are as secret as the X Files, according to the Bulgarian NGO Institute for Public Environment Development (IRPS). The Chair of IRPS, Antoaneta Tsoneva, says the analogy with the popular US TV series is more than obvious, pointing out the NGO, under the Access to Public Information Act, had requested from CEK the said protocols and notes because it wanted to use them to access the effect of the new Election Code.

CEK, however, sent a letter refusing to provide the documents, which, according to Tsoneva, is a mockery of IRPS and their work.

Nigeria: Tribunal orders recount of ballot papers in Kaduna Nigeria senatorial race | Vanguard

The National and State Assemblies Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Kaduna weekend ordered the re-count of the ballot papers used during the last April 28 poll in the Kaduna North Senatorial District. The re-counting of the ballot papers followed a request by the petitioner and former Governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, PDP.

Makarfi who alleged that the election was rigged in favour of his opponent, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, CPC, prayed the tribunal to order the recount to enable it discover the actual winner of senatorial seat in the district.

Makarfi had also tendered about 158 exhibits which included forms EC8 A, B and E and ballot boxes for 53 wards in seven out of the eight local government areas of the zone. Earlier, tempers had risen among the members of the tribunal when counsel to the Baba- Ahmed, Abbas Ibrahim accused the tribunal of trying to stop him from talking.

Philippines: Online absentee voting pushed in Philippines |

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Filipino immigrants may soon be allowed to participate in electoral exercises in the country via the Internet. The proposal was raised during a hearing of the joint House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Suffrage and Electoral Reforms on the proposed amendments to the Overseas Absentee Voting law or Republic Act 9189.

Appearing before the House bodies, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Armando Velasco said Internet voting will be a convenient system for OFWs and other migrants Filipinos.

Velasco said like the majority of the congressmen, he also favors Internet voting as a remedial solution but “it should be studied further particularly the security aspect.”

The Voting News Weekly: TVN Weekly October 3-9 2011

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="260" caption="Dorothy Cooper can't get a Voter ID"][/caption]

A District Court in Colorado ruled that Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may send ballots to inactive voters. The Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers sent a letter to 200 students suggesting that they need to register their vehicles in the State in order to vote. Republican legislatures in Pennsylvania and Nebraska are considering opposite changes to how’s electoral votes are allocated. The forensic exam of Vennango County Pennsylvania’s ES&S iVotronic voting machines. Though she has voted in every election but one since Roosevelt was President, 96 year old Dorothy Cooper was denied a voter ID by the DMV in Tennessee. The Supreme Court has thrown out a ruling that could have halted the use of RS&S iVotronic.

The Voting News Daily: Republicans Eye Electoral Vote Changes, Student Voting: An Opportunity, Not a Problem

National: Republicans Eye Electoral Vote Changes | Time Magazine Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nebraska want to change the way their states award Electoral College votes, moves that could hinder President Barack Obama’s re-election chances. Lawmakers in the Democratic-leaning battleground of Pennsylvania are weighing whether to give the presidential nominees one electoral vote for each congressional…

National: Republicans Eye Electoral Vote Changes | Time Magazine

Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nebraska want to change the way their states award Electoral College votes, moves that could hinder President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-leaning battleground of Pennsylvania are weighing whether to give the presidential nominees one electoral vote for each congressional district they win, rather than giving all its votes to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote, like Obama did in 2008. In GOP-tilting Nebraska, lawmakers want to go to a winner-take-all system four years after Obama won the 2nd Congressional District and its single electoral college vote.

It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency out of 538 up for grabs. Every vote matters in a close election and every sign points to a competitive 2012 race as an incumbent Democratic president who most people still personally like tries to win a second term in tough economic times.

Voting Blogs: Student Voting: An Opportunity, Not a Problem | Doug Chapin/PEEA

As the 2012 election approaches, voting by students is once again a source of controversy and concern – especially in Maine, where students have found themselves caught in the middle of the dispute over repealing the state’s Election Day registration law.

To be sure, it’s partly a political battle. Students can play a pivotal role in elections, and so where they vote matters. As state legislatures debate voter identification, residency requirements, same-day registration and even voting by mail, students are a popular target.

The real focus, however, should be the impact of America’s growing population mobility on the nation’s election system. The Census Bureau estimates that one in six Americans–including but not limited to students–moves each year. The average American moves eleven times in a lifetime.

Editorials: Five myths about voter fraud | The Washington Post

In “The Breakfast Club,” a geeky high school student played by Anthony Michael Hall says he procured a fake ID not to buy beer, but to vote. But are new photo ID laws in Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin really necessary to stop widespread fraud like that perpetrated by a John Hughes character? Or are photo ID laws just another conservative scheme to oppress young people and minorities and limit Democratic turnout? Let’s put aside what we think we know about the ballot box and find out.

1. We need state voter ID laws to prevent fraud.

Prosecutable cases of voter fraud are rare. For example, a 2005 statewide study in Ohio found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004, out of 9 million votes cast. An investigation of fraud allegations in Wisconsin in 2004 led to the prosecution of 0.0007 percent of voters. From 2002 to 2005, the Justice Department found, only five people were convicted for voting multiple times. In that same period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for improper voting.

According to Barnard political scientist Lorraine Minnite, most instances of improper voting involve registration and eligibility, such as voters filling out registration forms incorrectly or a person with felony convictions attempting to register. Neither of those issues would be prevented by a state photo ID requirement. According to George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton, a former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1,000 legitimate votes (perhaps over 10,000 legitimate votes) for every single improper vote prevented.”

Arizona: Olivia Cortes withdraws from Pearce recall race | Arizona Republic

Candidate Olivia Cortes on Thursday withdrew from the Legislative District 18 recall election of Senate President Russell Pearce amid ongoing allegations that her campaign was a sham set up by Pearce supporters to pull votes away from opponent Jerry Lewis.

Pearce will now face only fellow Republican Lewis in the first recall election of a sitting legislator in state history.

document Cortes’ voluntary withdrawal | Recall coverage | Watch Pearce debate live today

Cortes said in a statement that the “constant intimidation and harassment” led to her withdrawal. And her attorney said that the move was the condition of a deal to stop a court hearing scheduled for today.

Colorado: Judge: Denver may send ballots to inactive voters | The Denver Post

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may send ballots to inactive voters, District Court Judge Brian Whitney ruled this afternoon. Secretary of State Scott Gessler asked Whitney last month to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Johnson’s office from sending mail ballots to voters classified as “inactive failed to vote.”

Those voters — about 54,357 in Denver county, or about 12 percent of all registered voters — are voters who didn’t vote in the 2010 general election or any subsequent election. They also failed to respond to postcards from their clerk and recorder asking whether they want a ballot for the Nov. 1 election.

Gessler, a Republican, said he wanted to ensure the statewide uniformity of the election. Although the judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction, Gessler’s suit may continue. The Secretary of State’s attorney also said Gessler may issue a rule on the issue.

Voting Blogs: The Latest Battle in the War on Voting | Brennan Center for Justice

A Denver judge ruled on October 7 that the Denver Clerk and Recorder can mail ballots to “inactive” voters who missed one election, as she had planned. There will be a later legal proceeding to fully consider the issues. All across the country legislators and political operatives seem to be determined to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote.

Since January, more than a dozen states passed a variety of different laws and executive actions that will make it far more difficult for millions to vote. Seven states, including Texas and South Carolina, will now require voters to present certain government-issued photo IDs to vote. Florida has gone after organizations like the League of Women Voters, threatening them with huge fines if they try to help register citizens to vote unless they comply with a new set of byzantine state rules. Georgia and Arizona are trying to knock down the Voting Rights Act, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation, in a court challenge. And Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made headlines with the false claim that thousands of non-citizens were voting in Colorado. Now Secretary Gessler is at it again, in a move that — if it stands — could essentially freeze the electorate to those who voted in 2010.

Colorado gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by “mail ballot.” In those elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by the state. Colorado is holding such an election this November, and the Denver County Clerk and Recorder had planned to take the unremarkable step of sending ballots to all registered voters in the County, as she has for the last five election cycles. Secretary Gessler is suing the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to make her stop, arguing that she may only send ballots to voters who voted in the last election. This move, if it prevails, will keep thousands of eligible and registered Colorado citizens from participating in this November’s elections, for no good reason.

Indiana: Election officials work out details of ballot ruling | Journal and Courier

Absentee voters in Tippecanoe County will not be sent new ballots with names of all candidates running in November’s municipal election. Instead, the 69 absentee ballots sent between Sept. 23 and noon Wednesday will be reviewed and entered by hand using a bipartisan team, Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said Thursday.

It’s the latest development to come out of a civil lawsuit filed by Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, West Lafayette Clerk-Treasurer Judy Rhodes and others challenging a new Indiana law that said names of unopposed municipal candidates may not be placed on ballots.

Both Roswarski, a Democrat, and Rhodes, a Republican, are running unopposed in November. Tippecanoe Circuit Court Judge Don Daniel on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction keeping an election law passed earlier this year from taking effect in Tippecanoe County.

New York: Ballot fraud case testimony continues | Times Union

A city councilman and the leader of the Rensselaer County Working Families Party were among a parade of witnesses who testified Thursday before a special county grand jury investigating absentee-ballot fraud.

Councilman Kevin McGrath and WFP County Chairman Jim Welch testified about allegations that voters’ signatures were forged on absentee ballots and ballot applications for the 2009 WFP primary. “It’s inappropriate for me to comment,” McGrath said as he strode in. Welch declined to comment after testifying.

For both, it was the second appearance before a grand jury probing the allegations of ballot fraud. They testified before an initial grand jury in December 2010. That panel indicted two Democratic officials.

North Carolina: State Board of Elections cuts could inconvenience voters | The Daily Tar Heel

Cuts to the State Board of Elections could cause inconveniences for voters in the upcoming 2012 election. Many political officials have expressed concern about potential problems voters might face at the polls due to a $1 million cut to the State Board of Election’s budget.

The cut, enacted this summer, coupled with a freeze in federal Help America Vote Act funds means local boards of elections have to make do with less — including the elimination of 14 election officials statewide.

Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said eight of the election officials are technicians, which train county elections workers to improve accuracy, audit voting equipment and provide emergency technical support during elections. The technicians also served as liaisons between the state offices and local boards, he said.

Pennsylvania: Marseglia proposes ‘full disclosure’ policy with Bucks County voting machines |

A Bucks County commissioner this week recommended “a full disclosure policy” for vendors who bid on voting machine delivery and handling contracts. Commissioner Diane Marseglia’s proposal for the policy comes a week after two independent candidates in the Lower Makefield supervisors’ race filed an ethics complaint with the county Board of Elections.

The candidates, Ron Smith and Kristin Tyler, accused Republican supervisor candidates Dobby Dobson and Jeffrey Benedetto of violating “every electoral standard of ethics” because they did not disclose that Dobson’s company hauls voting machines to polling places throughout the county. Dobson is a general manager with Graebel Eastern Movers Inc.

In late 2009, the commissioners signed the Moorestown, N.J., company to a two-year contract for just less than $105,000 to haul the machines. Dobson signed the bid form for the contract. The longtime township resident announced eight months ago that he was running for one of two supervisor seats up for election this year. He did not notify election officials of his role in the election process.

Voting Blogs: Thorny Issue – or Briar Patch? South Carolina Counties Drive a Hard Bargain on Presidential Primary | Doug Chapin/PEEA

This week, has been running a series looking at the relationship between states and localities in the current fiscal environment. Monday’s story paints a fairly bleak picture, noting that localities are going to have to learn “to do less with less” as funds traditionally available from the state begin to disappear.

A subsequent story looked at ways to rethink the state-local partnership – including efforts in Indiana and New York to reduce or eliminate local government functions entirely. Such changes would have a tremendous impact on election administration, which is still predominantly controlled by officials at the smallest levels of government. Consequently, you might expect local officials to fight any effort to relieve them of their traditional responsibilities.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board fails faster recall rules, evaluates Voter ID stickers | The Badger Herald

On Thursday, state election officials retracted changes which could have circulated recall petitions for the possible upcoming recall efforts more efficiently, including the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. At a meeting Thursday, the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules oversaw several of the Government Accountability Board’s retracted plans to recall election operations, including the distribution of online petitions.

At the meeting, Kevin Kennedy, head of the GAB, said the rule changes previously sought would allow an individual to open a “petition for recall” online with both their name and address on the form, increasing the speed of the petition’s circulation. This petition would also be considered valid even if this individual was the only one to sign the petition, he said.

Kennedy said this proposition would have allowed for a faster process because groups would not have to gather the signatures face-to-face and the petition signers would not have to fill in their addresses.

Poland: Arab Spring activists observing Poland’s election | The Associated Press

A group of Arab Spring activists observing Polish parliamentary elections are championing the spirit of civil society, and say such ballots back home will be milestones in turning hard-won freedoms into lasting democracy.

Fifteen activists and election officials — five from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — met Friday with deputy foreign ministers Krzysztof Stanowski and Jerzy Pomianowski. They also held a meeting with the members and judges of the State Electoral Commission. Poland is to hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform party presently leading in opinion polls.

Following this year’s wave of Arab Spring revolutions, the first free elections in decades are to be held in Tunisia on Oct. 23 and in Egypt at the end of November. No elections are yet scheduled for Libya, where dictator Moammar Gadhafi remains in hiding.

Switzerland: OSCE monitors to observe Swiss elections | swissinfo

Experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are coming to Switzerland to monitor this month’s federal elections.
Their two main focuses of attention will be electronic voting for voters living abroad, and campaign financing, according to a joint statement issued on Friday by the federal chancellery and the foreign ministry.

The experts are hoping to learn from the Swiss e-voting experience so as to be able to apply the lessons in younger democracies and to help develop new election technologies. However, the OSCE monitors determine their programme themselves and will only give the Swiss authorities operational details at short notice.

Arizona: Cortes drops out of recall election | Mohave Daily News

A Mesa woman running in Senate President Russell Pearce’s recall election has dropped out of the race, halting a legal challenge that claims she was a fraudulent candidate meant to siphon votes from the contest’s other contender.

Olivia Cortes filed a voluntary withdrawal with the Arizona secretary of state’s office Thursday. She later issued a statement saying she dropped out of the race because of what she called “constant intimidation and harassment” of herself, her family, friends and neighbors.

“So for me, the dream of having a voice has died,” Cortes’ statement said, adding that she wanted to address economic, education and immigration concerns. Cortes lawyer Anthony Tsontakis said earlier that his client accepted an offer by attorneys for a Pearce critic to cancel a court hearing Friday if she stepped out of the race.