Verified Voting Public Commentary: Developing a Framework to Improve Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Under Executive Order 13636 [2] (“Executive Order”), the Secretary of Commerce is tasked to direct the Director of NIST to develop a framework for reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure (the “Cybersecurity Framework” or “Framework”). The Framework will consist of standards, methodologies, procedures and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks. The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with sector-specific agencies, will then establish a voluntary program to support the adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework by owners and operators of critical infrastructure and any other interested entities.

NIST has issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register. It is to this RFI that our response pertains. The undersigned persons and organizations include experts on matters relating to election technology, election practices, encryption, Internet security, and/or privacy. We appreciate the opportunity to provide input on this RFI entitled “Developing a Framework to Improve Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity”.

Our response focuses on the discussion of specific practices as they pertain to elections practices and systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. (Download the Full Response as a PDF)

National: GAO asked to investigate why voters waited hours to cast ballots | WTOP

Two members of Congress have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate why voters in Virginia and Florida had to wait hours in line to cast their ballots on Election Day 2012. Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, both Democrats, made the request in a letter to the government’s investigative arm.

“… we request that GAO conduct a study of the underlying causes contributing to long lines on Election Day, including evaluating laws that impact voting rights and election administration. This study will help inform both federal and state policymakers about the types of reforms that will most effectively reduce long waiting times and ensure that all Americans obtain equal access to the ballot box.”

Editorials: Should the U.S. Switch to a Parliamentary System? | Pacific Standard

Rick Hasen has a really interesting paper up discussing partisan polarization and the possibility of changing the Constitution to deal with it. (And you should really read Jonathan Bernstein’s response, too.) Hasen starts off by asking whether we should be considering moving toward a more parliamentary style of government. It’s a fair question. We have what looks like a serious mismatch between our parties and our governing institutions. We live in an era of sharply distinct, internally disciplined, programmatic parties with very different visions of how the nation should be run. That’s fine—we have some time-honored institutions, such as elections and majority-rule legislatures, for settling disagreements, even when the disagreements are sharp. But that’s not all we have. Under our constitutional system, we have many rules designed to thwart majority rule and slow down lawmaking.  A bicameral legislature and separation of powers, for example, are built into the system, with the explicit purpose of making it harder to pass laws—and over the years we’ve added things like the filibuster and debt ceiling votes that slow things down further. At times when parties are weak, as they were in the mid-20th century, it’s possible for legislators to come together across party lines and work out agreements despite these impediments. But when parties are strong, the minority party has a lot of tools to keep the majority from accomplishing much of anything.

Voting Blogs: The Voting Rights Act Becomes More Vital By the Day | Andrew Cohen/Brennan Center for Justice

The law may sometimes lie in suspended animation — like it is now, today over voting rights — but politics always moves relentlessly ahead. So while the justices of the United States Supreme Court contemplate the fate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval of election law changes in certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, and the nation awaits the Court’s judgment in Shelby County v. Holder, lawmakers in dozens of states around the country have been moving forward with related legislation that would restrict the right to vote for millions of Americans. The results of a new Brennan Center survey released last week would be remarkable in any year — so much legislative effort designed to make it harder for citizens to vote! — but the statistics are particularly compelling this year because of the pendency of the strong constitutional challenge to the preclearance provision of the 1965 federal voting law. State lawmakers aren’t waiting to see how Shelby County turns out. And they aren’t chastened by their losses in federal court in 2012.

Alaska: Voter ID bill passes final House committee | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

A bill that would require Alaska’s voters to present photo identification at the polls has been moved out of its final committee of referral in the House of Representatives. HB3, by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, was advanced from the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The measure now moves to the House Rules Committee, which could schedule it for a vote. It would then go to the Senate if it passes. The bill would stipulate that voters present a form of photo ID or two forms of non-photo identification to election officials. If two officials know the voter, the identification requirement can be waived. Voters who do not meet any of those requirements could still submit a questioned ballot and prove their identity later.

California: Los Angeles County Remakes How Its Citizens Will Vote | The California Report

Los Angeles County is re-inventing the nation’s largest voting system, which serves nearly 4 million registered voters. The goal is to build a more flexible, user-friendly system that could be licensed for use in other cities and counties around California. … The architect of all this is Dean Logan, registrar-recorder for Los Angeles County. He oversees a system that dates from the 1960s. The county uses ink-marked ballots and old IBM card-counting machines. The  50-year-old system is nearing the end of its useful life. After the presidential election in 2000, when voters complained they mismarked the controversial butterfly ballots used in a Florida county, Congress and state governments gave counties millions of dollars to replace old punch-card ballot systems with digital voting machines. Across California, counties adopted those systems, some of which now need updating. Los Angeles County resisted buying the machines, and still has $60 million of federal and state money to spend on a new system. Only five brands of voting machines are certified for use in California. Logan said the county doesn’t want them. They are too expensive and bulky to put in some 5,000 polling places. “There really is no existing voting system out on the market,” he said. “It’s a very limited market in the first place.”

Voting Blogs: California Election Bills to Watch | Kim Alexander

With spring well underway, the California Legislature is also in full swing, with policy committees now hearing newly introduced bills for the 2013-2014 session. Many bills have been introduced that, if enacted, could significantly impact California voting and elections. Below is a rundown of those that have come to our attention, organized by the following topics:  Voting Technology; Voter Registration; Disclosure; Vote by Mail; Disaster Preparedness; Youth Voting; Initiative Process; and Civic Education. Please note that many of these bills are in the process of being amended and the descriptions provided are subject to change.

Minnesota: Ritchie Discusses Proposed Voting Legislation | KEYC

Proposed legislation in St. Paul could change how you vote. Proposed legislation going through the state talks about expanding voting options in the hopes of making the process more flexible. “Last year of course we had the state’s largest election ever.  We were again first in the nation, it was very great, very smooth election, but also lots of ideas came forth and so people met around the state, down in Mankato, everywhere, and talking about some things that can make it even better and also cut some of the costs,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. The ‘No Excuse Absentee Balloting’ bill proposes that Minnesotans could cast an absentee ballot without providing one of the five excuses currently allowed.  Those reasons are: absence from your precinct, illness or disability, serving as an election judge in another precinct, religious discipline or observance of religious holiday, and any emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by the federal or state government.

North Carolina: Bill would do away with touchscreen voting machines | WRAL

A bill filed by Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, and Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, could force roughly 25 counties to do away with their voting machines.  House Bill 607 would require that all ballots cast in North Carolina be paper ballots. That would not change voting procedures in Wake County, where voters fill out bubble-sheet ballots with pen on paper. But counties like Guilford and Cumberland use touch-screen devices that record votes electronically. Those touch-screen machines would be outlawed by the bill.  “Paper ballots give an accurate record of the vote,” Jones said Monday night as he left the House chamber. “There were some concerns during the last election.”

North Carolina: Bills aim to change voting in North Carolina, both parties fired up | WNCT

Early voting cut short, no more same-day registration, and an ID requirement to vote – It’s just a sampling of the changes laid out in several new bills making their way through our state legislature. And not everyone is happy about them. “What these bills should really be called are the longer lines to vote bill,” says Gerrick Brenner, the executive director of the left-leaning group, Progress North Carolina. “These bills are really about making it harder for voters to vote.” Brenner’s group held a press conference in Pitt County Tuesday to denounce the proposals. They echoed democratic arguments that these measures will suppress voter turnout and result in long lines at the polls.

Editorials: In Oregon, the right to vote should be automatic |

Every time Oregon holds an election, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh gets a vote. Probably, he gets thousands of votes — or at least keeps other people from casting them. In 1986, following the Rajneeshees’ comical but vicious attempt to take over Wasco County by busing in homeless people to vote, Oregon voters enacted a registration cutoff 20 days before an election. The bhagwan is long gone, but every election thousands of Oregon voters who get interested in a contest too late are kept out of the election process. Now Secretary of State Kate Brown has a proposal, based on what Oregon has learned over two decades’ experience with the mail ballot: Getting to vote should be easy, not hard.

Tennessee: Voter ID bill passes Senate | The Murfreesboro Post

With a near party line vote of 23-7 in the Senate Thursday, all that remains to block state-funded college IDs as valid identification for voting in Tennessee is the governor’s signature. With no explanation, Senate Bill 125 sponsor Bill Ketron rose and simply said he would “move to concur” with House Bill 229 as amended. The Republican senator from Murfreesboro noted that one of the amendments from the House “retains the present law prohibition on the use of student identification card to veria person’s identity.” The other corrected a typographical error. This was in stark contrast to a statement Ketron issued the previous week: “We will continue to push to allow state-issued student identification to remain in the bill as passed by the Senate, even if we have to go to a conference committee.”

Texas: Bill That Cuts Early-Voting Period Likely to Be Pulled | Permian Basin 360

A bill that would slash the number of days allowed for early voting is likely to be pulled after scathing testimony Monday from opponents who said the bill was discriminatory and retrogressive. House Bill 2093, by state Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, would limit the early-voting period in Texas to seven days before general and primary elections. Current law mandates 12 days. Harless initially said the measure was necessary to help elections administrators hire workers and volunteers, saying that a 12-day early-voting period as a possible deterrent. But after testimony at Monday’s House Elections Committee hearing, where critics slammed its intent as little more than an effort to make casting a ballot harder for everyone, Harless said she would not ask the committee for a vote.

Washington: Hurdle cleared in barcode case | San Juan Journal

Although the battle over the use of barcodes on San Juan County election ballots is now in its seventh year, and much has changed over that time, there is at least one thing that the parties on either side of this protracted legal debate can agree upon. And that is, that the ballot-tracking software used to monitor the flow of ballots in and out of the county Elections office, called Mail-in Ballot Tracker, has never been certified by the state agency that oversees elections in Washington, the Secretary of State. San Juan County Superior Court Judge Don Eaton notified the litigants in a March 27 “letter decision” — sort of a heads up of an official ruling to come — that MiBT should be certified because, as defined by state law, it functions as part of the “voting system” used by the county to conduct elections.

Canada: Liberals receive more than 1,000 calls from members, supporters who couldn’t vote online | The Hill Times

Liberal Party members and supporters had such difficulty with a complicated online voting system as the Liberal leadership election began over the past two days that the party had to beef up its telephone help lines to cope with a flood of calls, party members and a campaign officials say. Campaign phone banks with Liberal MP and candidate Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) campaign received more than 1,000 calls from supporters who could not complete the electronic balloting—in part caused by the sequence for entering day and month numbers for birth places by the company conducting the election for the Liberals—and as of Monday afternoon the Liberal website numbers for registered voters in each province did not match the total number of registered voters. The number of registered voters according to the site’s display of provincial totals—represented in a map of Canada on the page displaying the vote results—totalled 125,471. The number of votes cast showed at 37,856. But the aggregate total displayed in a separate line on the website cited a total of 127,122 registered voters.

Pakistan: Election Commission, ministry mull e-voting for overseas Pakistanis |

Top officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the law ministry held a meeting on Tuesday to review e-voting facility for overseas Pakistanis for May 11 polls for which the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has developed a software. A source told Dawn that those attending the meeting had already reached the conclusion that overseas Pakistanis should not be allowed to cast their vote this year due to what they called ‘incomplete’ arrangements and some legal and diplomatic constraints. The meeting was also attended by Attorney General Irfan Qadir. “It has been decided that another round of talks on the e-voting will be held on Wednesday. It will also be attended by representatives of Finance Ministry, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Foreign Office, Ministry of Information Technology and Nadra,” a senior official of the law ministry said.

Editorials: Collision course with Smartmatic | The Philippine Star

It is now only a month to May 10, 2013. Yet the issue of the Smartmatic-PCOS automated electoral system is unresolved. There is no solution in sight that intelligent Filipino voters can expect an honest to goodness election. But Comelec is pushing it through. We need only review the events that led to a renewal of Smartmatic-PCOS contract to see that Comelec would not have it any other way. It was Smartmatic-PCOS by hook or by crook — deadlines were ignored, unsatisfactory bidding for services pushed and most of all quibbling about a source code. And in a last minute to consolidate its determination it says it will have the source code of the Dominion automated electoral system. It was supposedly used in 2010 but no one has actually seen it up to this day except insiders. What seems inevitable is a collision course between Comelec as government and the Filipino citizenry as electorate.

Russia: Charges Brought Against Election Monitors | New York Times

The federal Justice Ministry opened a legal case on Tuesday against Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization, charging that the group, Golos, and its executive director had violated a controversial new law by failing to register as a “foreign agent.”
Related The ministry’s action came a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany publicly chastised Russia over its intimidating treatment of nongovernmental organizations, including a series of recent raids. Ms.Merkel was the first Western leader to challenge President Vladmir V. Putin of Russia on the issue. She made her comments at a news conference in Hanover, Germany where the leaders toured a trade fair. The new law, which requires nonprofit groups that receive financing from abroad to register as foreign agents, was among the most provocative in a passel of Kremlin-supported legislation in recent months that was aimed at tightening restrictions and limiting foreign influence on nonprofit groups.

Russia: Authorities pursue election watchdog Golos under anti-NGO law | BBC

Russian authorities have filed a legal case against an election watchdog, accusing it of failing to declare itself a “foreign agent”. The group, Golos, is the first non-governmental organisation targeted under a new law requiring such groups that receive financial aid from abroad to register as foreign agents. The law was passed after mass protests against President Vladimir Putin. Golos said it would fight to prove its innocence. In recent weeks, more than 100 civil society and human rights groups across Russia have been subjected to inspections by prosecutors and tax officials in connection with the law.