On Apr 14 2015, the Virginia State Board of Elections immediately decertified use of the AVS WinVote touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine. This seems pretty minor, but it received a tremendous amount of pushback from some local election officials. In this post, I’ll explain how we got to that point, and what the problems were. As one of my colleagues taught me, BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front. If an election was held using the AVS WinVote, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. They didn’t need to be in the polling place – within a few hundred feet (e.g., in the parking lot) is easy, and within a half mile with a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.
If Hillary Clinton is to succeed in her second quest for the presidency, she’ll need to at least come close to matching President Obama’s performance with the groups that made up his most enthusiastic base: minorities and young voters. So over the next year and a half, expect to see Clinton continue to denounce the wave of restrictive voting rules that has often targeted non-whites and students. Already, the former secretary of state—sometimes criticized by progressives as overly cautious—has been relatively outspoken on the subject of voting rights. In a forceful 2013 speech to the American Bar Association (ABA), Clinton slammed the Supreme Court’s Shelby County ruling that year weakening the Voting Rights Act (VRA), called on Congress to fix the landmark law and urged the Obama administration to step up enforcement of voting rights cases.
In his speech last month commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, President Obama described the right to vote as the “foundation stone of our democracy.” For Americans living in the U.S. territories, these stirring words ring hollow. Nearly 4 million Americans call Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa home – a combined population greater than 22 states. We represent those Americans in the U.S. House, but cannot vote for their interests on the House floor. Our constituents are denied representation in the U.S. Senate. And they are barred from the general election for president and vice president. Thus, when the presidential vote is tabulated in 2016, it will be as if the 4 million Americans we represent do not exist.
The 2016 campaign is just beginning, but we already know that hundreds of millions of secret dollars will be spent over the next 18 months. A few years ago, this tide of “dark money” would have been unimaginable. Today, it represents one of the biggest threats to our democracy. President Obama has spoken out against the rise of dark money, but has done little else to combat it. With a hostile Supreme Court and Congress, many have assumed this is the best he can do – but that’s just not true. In fact, the president has the power to strike a major blow against dark money in our elections now, without congressional approval, and without running afoul of Supreme Court precedent. He can issue an executive order to expose secret political spending by federal contractors. The only question is whether he will follow through.
The Florida House is expected to take up a voter registration bill, which has the blessing of Florida’s 67 County Supervisors of Elections. Online registration is already in 20 states, with another four getting ready to implement it. Under the bill, HB 7143, the state Division of Elections would be required to develop a secure website that could be used to register first-time voters and update existing voter registrations. A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Democrat Jeff Clemens from Lake Worth. “It works, and not only is it more secure, but it saves us money, and I think that’s a big thing when we’re talking about having to spend money on voting machines and trying to make our process better,” said Clemens.
Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock’s legal problems expanded Wednesday as a contributor sued to force the repayment of millions of campaign dollars, saying he was tricked into believing the young lawmaker who has since resigned amid questions about his spending was “a breath of fresh air” in a corruption-riddled state. The unusual lawsuit filed by Howard Foster, a Chicago lawyer who pitched in just $500 to Schock, cites Illinois’ long history of political and financial shenanigans — from a pre-Civil War governor to former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s recent prison term for misusing campaign funds — and plants Schock among them in claiming his fundraising arm was a corrupt racket. One election-law expert said he’s never seen such a lawsuit and predicted legal obstacles.
Do you like tracking packages when you buy things online? Try it with a ballot for May’s special election. Multnomah County will offer a service that tracks ballots and notifies voters whether they were accepted or rejected. Voters can visit a county website to receive text, email and phone messages. The pilot program will be offered by i3ballot at no cost to voters or the county. Participants will be surveyed after the election, said Tim Scott, Multnomah County’s director of elections. The pilot will track delivery from the county to the participant and the ballot’s return trip through the Postal Service. People who take ballots to drop boxes or specified locations, such as a library, will be notified after processing, Scott said.
Rhode Islanders would be able to register to vote online and vote early in person under new legislation promoted by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. The new legislative package, dubbed Voting and Elections Modernization Act of 2015, would, among other things, make early voting available up to 28 days prior to an election using the emergency mail-balloting process. Under the proposal, voting would be available on the weekend before Election Day in 2016. By 2018, in-person early voting would be available on two weekends prior to Election Day.
Verified Voting in the News: Voting machine password hacks as easy as ‘abcde’, details Virginia state report | Guardian
Touchscreen voting machines used in numerous elections between 2002 and 2014 used “abcde” and “admin” as passwords and could easily have been hacked from the parking lot outside the polling place, according to a state report. The AVS WinVote machines, used in three presidential elections in Virginia, “would get an F-minus” in security, according to a computer scientist at tech research group SRI International who had pushed for a formal inquiry by the state of Virginia for close to a decade. In a damning study published Tuesday, the Virginia Information Technology Agency and outside contractor Pro V&V found numerous flaws in the system, which had also been used in Mississippi and Pennsylvania. Jeremy Epstein, of the Menlo Park, California, nonprofit SRI International, served on a Virginia state legislative commission investigating the voting machines in 2008. He has been trying to get them decertified ever since.
Verified Voting in the News: Hacked Touchscreen Voting Machine Raises Questions About Election Security | NPR
Computer security experts have warned for years that some voting machines are vulnerable to attack. And this week, in Virginia, the state Board of Elections decided to impose an immediate ban on touchscreen voting machines used in 20 percent of the state’s precincts, because of newly discovered security concerns. The problems emerged on Election Day last November in Spotsylvania County. The AVS WINVote touchscreen machines used in precinct 302 began to shut down. “One machine would go and crash. They’d bring it back up. Another one would crash,” said Edgardo Cortes, the state’s elections commissioner. “Starting in the early afternoon, they brought in a piece of replacement equipment that experienced the same issues when they set it up in the precinct.” Cortes added that elections workers had a theory about what had caused the problem. “There was some interference,” he said, “potentially from a wireless signal from an election officer [who] was streaming music on their phone.”
Verified Voting in the News: Meet the e-voting machine so easy to hack, it will take your breath away | Ars Technica
Virginia election officials have decertified an electronic voting system after determining that it was possible for even unskilled people to surreptitiously hack into it and tamper with vote counts. The AVS WINVote, made by Advanced Voting Solutions, passed necessary voting systems standards and has been used in Virginia and, until recently, in Pennsylvania and Mississippi. It used the easy-to-crack passwords of “admin,” “abcde,” and “shoup” to lock down its Windows administrator account, Wi-Fi network, and voting results database respectively, according to a scathing security review published Tuesday by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The agency conducted the audit after one Virginia precinct reported that some of the devices displayed errors that interfered with vote counting during last November’s elections.
Yakima will appeal a federal court ruling in a voting rights case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, but elections under a new system ordered by the court will proceed later this year. Citing the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court may hear a Texas case addressing the same issues raised in Yakima, the City Council on Wednesday voted 5-2 in favor of an appeal, with council members Kathy Coffey and Rick Ensey in the minority. But because the council didn’t seek a stay of the federal judge’s order, all seven council seats will be up for election later this year, as ordered by U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice.
The federal government could look to bring voter identification in across the nation, just as Queensland seeks to strike it from its books. The state Labor government hopes to remove the requirement for identification at polling booths as one of its first acts, as well as lower the donation declaration threshold back to $1000, from the federal indexed rate of $12,800. While most submissions to the parliamentary committee reviewing the state government’s legislation agree on lowering the declaration threshold, support for removing the need for voter ID has been mixed.
The nearly 1,400 Senate ballot slips that disappeared in Western Australia during the last federal election may have literally fallen off the back of a truck, says a federal parliamentary committee. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters lambasted the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in its final report into the 2013 federal election, describing the incident as “disastrous”. The inquiry handed down 24 recommendations, including that voters be required to show identification and — for the first time in almost a century — vote using a pen.
From closer NATO ties to rumors of Kremlin-backed land deals on its border, Finland’s diplomatic balancing act with Russia has come under the spotlight before Sunday’s parliamentary election as politicians debate how far to challenge the Kremlin. The vote sees centrist opposition front-runner Juha Sipila, who favors military non-alignment along with two other major parties, battling center-right incumbent Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who advocates joining NATO. The debate was mirrored regionally after an unprecedented hawkish joint statement last week by Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – that directly cited the Russian “challenge” as grounds to increase defense cooperation.
A senior parliamentary figure in Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) resigned on Wednesday in protest over his proposed new electoral law, underlining unrest among government backbenchers. Roberto Speranza, the PD’s lower house parliamentary floor leader, told a meeting of the party late on Wednesday that he was stepping down because he disagreed with government policy. “I will be loyal to my group and to my party but I want to be just as loyal to my deep convictions,” he was quoted as saying by Italian media.
Two independent candidates withdrew from Sudan’s presidential election on Wednesday, citing irregularities in the polling process after the election commission extended voting by a day. Most of the main opposition parties had already boycotted the election, which started on Monday and had been due to end on Wednesday, saying they had been denied the opportunity to compete fairly against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power since 1989. With little effective opposition, Bashir appears certain to be re-elected. A parliamentary election is also being held.
It’s official: Tsai Ing-wen, the chair of Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be her party’s candidate for next year’s presidential race. Tsai was uncontested for the nomination. She previously served as the DPP candidate in 2012, when she was defeated by incumbent Ma Ying-jeou 51 percent to 45 percent. Tsai’s chances look better this time around, with the DPP riding high on sweeping victories in last November’s local elections. More seriously, the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is facing something of an identity crisis as it tries to rebrand itself. The KMT does not even have a consensus candidate for next year’s election, and might not decide on one until July or August, according to Want China Times. The most likely contender, KMT Chairman and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, previously vowed not to run.