Russian involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee computer network in an apparent attempt to influence the American election has heightened concerns about vulnerabilities in voting technology. The Illinois’ Voter Registration System, IVRS, is still down after officials discovered a security breach earlier this month. A Shawnee County judge has ruled that 17,500 voters can have their votes counted in state and local races as well as federal ones in Tuesday’s Kansas primary election. Federal appellate judges on Friday struck down North Carolina’s law limiting voting options and requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, declaring in an unsparing opinion that the restrictions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and a federal judge struck down parts of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, limits on early voting and prohibitions on allowing people to vote early at multiple sites. After a similar ruling last week that Texas’ voter ID law was unconstitutional and that the state must develop new rules before the November election, election officials are unclear on what the replacement rules will look like. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vowed to sign about 206,000 individual executive orders restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences and are no longer on probation after the state Supreme Court struck down a sweeping executive order he signed in April. And Venezuela’s opposition has demanded authorities move forward on a referendum to force Nicolás Maduro from office, amid complaints that the government is digging in its heels to delay the process.
Did Republican nominee Donald Trump just ask Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to cast the deciding vote in the US presidential election? On Wednesday morning, Trump said he hoped Russia would find and publish 30,000 e-mail messages deleted by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, from the personal server she used as secretary of state. It was a startling spectacle: a presidential candidate urging a foreign government to play a role in America’s game of thrones. But there’s a chance Putin is already a player. The trove of embarrassing e-mails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, which were leaked to the press just in time for this week’s party convention in Philadelphia, were probably swiped by Russian hackers, according to US intelligence officials and independent cybersecurity companies. Russia’s apparent election tampering — and Trump’s call for the Russians to expose Clinton’s deleted e-mails — shows that the insecurity of America’s data networks could undermine our ability to hold free and fair elections. But if the Russian president would go this far to pick our next president, why not take the direct approach? Why not tamper with the computers that manage the nation’s voting systems? Maybe that has already happened. Those voting systems are certainly vulnerable.
Editorials: By November, Russian hackers could target voting machines | Bruce Schneier/The Washington Post
Russia was behind the hacks into the Democratic National Committee’s computer network that led to the release of thousands of internal emails just before the party’s convention began, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded. The FBI is investigating. WikiLeaks promises there is more data to come. The political nature of this cyberattack means that Democrats and Republicans are trying to spin this as much as possible. Even so, we have to accept that someone is attacking our nation’s computer systems in an apparent attempt to influence a presidential election. This kind of cyberattack targets the very core of our democratic process. And it points to the possibility of an even worse problem in November — that our election systems and our voting machines could be vulnerable to a similar attack. If the intelligence community has indeed ascertained that Russia is to blame, our government needs to decide what to do in response. This is difficult because the attacks are politically partisan, but it is essential. If foreign governments learn that they can influence our elections with impunity, this opens the door for future manipulations, both document thefts and dumps like this one that we see and more subtle manipulations that we don’t see.
Voting rights activists scored legal victories in key presidential election states Friday, the most important being a federal appeals court ruling that North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature enacted new voting restrictions in 2013 to intentionally blunt the growing clout of African American voters. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was an overwhelming victory for the Justice Department and civil rights groups. Election law experts consider North Carolina’s voter law one of the nation’s most far-reaching. In Wisconsin, where one federal judge already had eased restrictions on voter-ID requirements, a second judge found that additional elements of the law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) were unconstitutional.
The Illinois’ Voter Registration System, IVRS, is still down after officials discovered a security breach on July 12. The system was shut down the day after the breach was discovered, according to Kyle Thomas, the state board of elections’ director of voting and registration systems. “Once the severity of the attack was realized, as a precautionary measure, the entire IVRS system was shut down, including online voter registration,” Thomas wrote in a memo to the election authority that was posted to McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael’s Facebook page. A look-up field on IVRS that allowed voters to find out if they were already registered to vote, and at which address, could have allowed hackers access to the system, Ken Menzel, general counsel for the State Board of Elections, told StateScoop.
A Shawnee County judge has ruled that 17,500 voters can have their votes counted in state and local races as well as federal ones in Tuesday’s Kansas primary election. “Losing one’s vote is an irreparable harm in my opinion,” Judge Larry Hendricks said in his bench ruling Friday. A state board approved a rule earlier this month to allow people to vote only in federal elections – not state and local ones – if they registered at DMV offices but failed to provide proof of citizenship as required by Kansas law. The rule, crafted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was meant to put the state in compliance with a recent ruling by a federal judge to let these voters vote under the federal “motor-voter” law. Kobach contended that the federal ruling applied only to federal elections and that the state’s proof of citizenship requirement still barred these voters from casting votes in state and local races. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the rule under the equal protection clause in the Kansas Constitution. “You’re either registered or you’re not,” ACLU attorney Sophia Lakin told the judge. “There’s no such thing as half registration.”
Federal appellate judges on Friday struck down a 2013 law limiting voting options and requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, declaring in an unsparing opinion that the restrictions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law was adopted with “discriminatory intent” despite lawmakers’ claims that the ID provision and other changes were designed to prevent voter fraud. The ruling – which could have implications for voting laws in other states and possibly for the outcome of close races in the swing state of North Carolina – sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who in April issued a 485-page decision dismissing all claims in the legal challenge.
Texas: What’s the Fix for Texas’ Voter ID Law? “Time is short” to implement a replacement | The Austin Chronicle
Voter ID in Texas violates the Voting Rights Act, and the state must develop new rules before the November election. That was the definitive statement in a majority opinion, nine to six, issued by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. But don’t put your driver’s license away quite yet. While the court has ruled that the current state rules are in the wrong, no one knows what the replacement rules will look like. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said, “We don’t know very much. The takeaway is that we don’t know what to do.” The core issue was the strict photo ID requirements passed in 2011’s Senate Bill 14, which have been facing legal challenges for half a decade. In 2012, the Justice Department blocked implementation of the rules, and then the state lost its first major defense in 2014, when U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the law did indeed suppress minority voters. The majority opinion of the 5th Circuit’s 15-member appeals bench upheld the core ruling of the lower court, and instructed it to create interim rules in time for the November 8 general election.
Virginia: ‘Why don’t they want us to vote?’ Felons cope with losing voting rights twice in Virginia | The Washington Post
Louise Benjamin, 48, looked forward to casting her first ever ballot in Virginia this November, after Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored her voting rights and those of more than 200,000 other convicted felons who had also completed their sentences. She saw voting as a chance for redemption after serving time for assault charges. Then, last week, the state Supreme Court decided she couldn’t vote after all. “I was so hurt. I couldn’t even believe it,” said Benjamin, after the state’s highest court ruled that McAuliffe had overstepped his authority by restoring voting rights en masse instead of on a case by case basis. “Why they don’t want us to vote?” Across the state, more than 13,000 ex-offenders who had registered to vote after McAuliffe signed his wholesale clemency order in April have been thrust into a kind of voting limbo. “They have felt like they just had their rights restored and before they could even savor that for long, here comes the court just swooping in and taking it all away again,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive of New Virginia Majority which has been registering ex-offenders including Benjamin. “A lot of them are hearing the message that they don’t belong, they don’t deserve a voice.” The court directed the state elections commissioner, Edgardo Cortés, to cancel the registrations by Aug. 25 of the 13,000 felons and add their names to a list of prohibited voters.
Finding that Republican lawmakers had discriminated against minorities, a federal judge Friday struck down parts of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, limits on early voting and prohibitions on allowing people to vote early at multiple sites. With the presidential election less than four months away, GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel said he plans to appeal the sweeping decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson. Peterson also turned back other election laws Republicans have put in place in recent years. “The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities,” U.S. District Judge James Peterson wrote. “To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease.”