National: Recent Breaches Raise Fears of Voting System Hacks | Roll Call

In an already topsy-turvy presidential campaign, the recent breaches of Democratic Party computer networks have fueled fears about potential foreign meddling and raised questions about how secure the electronic systems that record and tally votes across the country are from sophisticated hackers. For years, computer security experts have warned that electronic voting is vulnerable to hacking that could alter vote tallies and theoretically swing an election. The intrusions that compromised the Democratic National Committee and the House Democrats’ fundraising campaigns’ systems — both of which cybersecurity experts have blamed on groups linked to Russian intelligence agencies — have only heightened those concerns. Even a minor breach could wreak havoc by undermining the public’s faith in the integrity of the balloting, particularly in a campaign as contentious as this year’s presidential race. “We cannot function without the leadership that is elected via the democratic process, and attacks on our election system could undermine all of the confidence that voters have in the legitimacy of our leadership,” said J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who has studied security in electronic and internet voting.

National: These States Are At the Greatest Risk of Having Their Voting Process Hacked | MIT Technology Review

The recent cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee has raised the specter of an Internet-based assault on the democratic process in the U.S., and has led computer security experts to call on the federal government to do more to protect the voting process from hackers.Since national elections involve some 9,000 separate jurisdictions, and they use a variety of technologies, the problem at first appears to be hopelessly complex. But there is a simple way to manage the risk of cybercrime: keep voting off the Internet. … Congress passed a law in 2009 that made it mandatory for states to electronically deliver blank ballots to voters in the military and overseas. But it said nothing about the electronic return of completed ballots. The authors of the legislation “knew there were unsolved security issues,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a group that advocates for the accuracy and transparency of elections. But if the law had gone so far as to issue a blanket restriction on online voting, it may not have passed. Instead, the door remained open for more states to begin offering voters the option to return their completed ballots using the Internet.

Editorials: Protect Our Voting Machines From Hackers | Lawrence Norden/NBC News

In the last two weeks, there have been credible reports that Russia is attempting to influence our elections by hacking into the Democratic Party’s email server and other campaign files. These reports are troubling. But an attack on our country’s voting machines, once deemed far-fetched, is even more disturbing. In response, the Obama administration is considering designating America’s electronic voting system as “critical infrastructure,” which would likely bring more federal resources to protecting these systems from attack. But with just three months before the presidential election, what can be done? In truth, making big changes to election machinery before this November isn’t realistic. There isn’t enough time. Fortunately, security experts and activists have worked for several years to shore up election integrity, and there is much we can do to secure the technology currently in place. In the short term, election jurisdictions must review their security measures with experts in the next three months. One of the great victories of security specialists and advocates in the last few years was convincing jurisdictions to move from paperless computerized voting machines to machines that have some kind of voter verified paper trail. This November, 80 percent of citizens will vote on paper ballots that are read by electronic scanners, or touch screen machines that produce a paper trail that can be reviewed by the voter before she casts her vote. This should deter would-be hackers looking to alter the result of an election: the paper record can be used to check the totals provided by the machine and catch incorrect results.

Illinois: Governor vetoes automatic voter registration bill | Chicago Tribune

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill aimed at making voter registration automatic in Illinois, citing concerns about potential voting fraud and conflicts with federal law. The first-term Republican governor said he wanted to continue negotiations with supporters to work out those issues, but groups backing the measure accused him of playing politics with his veto and said they would seek an override. The legislation, approved on the final day of the spring session in May, received overwhelming support, 86-30 in the House and 50-7 in the Senate. If those totals held, the governor’s move could be easily overturned, but pressure dynamics could come into play as Rauner tries to make his veto stick. Under the legislation, starting in January 2018 people seeking a new or updated driver’s license — or other state services — would automatically be registered to vote or have their registration updated unless they opted out. Currently in Illinois, motorists seeking services at secretary of state driver’s facilities are asked if they want to register to vote or update their registration — an opt-in form of voter registration. Five other states have adopted what’s known as “automatic voter registration” policies in the past 18 months, supporters of the Illinois measure said.

Michigan: Attorney General seeks to reinstate ban on straight-ticket voting for fall election | Reuters

Michigan’s attorney general has asked a federal appeals court to reinstate a law banning straight-ticket voting – the practice of using one mark to vote for all candidates from one party – in time for the November general election. The law, passed by Michigan’s majority Republican legislature and signed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, was temporarily suspended in federal district court last month. A coalition of civil rights and labor groups had argued that it would keep African-Americans from voting. On Wednesday, Attorney General William Schuette, also a Republican, filed two emergency motions with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, saying the law would not place a burden on voters or violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act, as the coalition had alleged in a lawsuit aimed at overturning the legislation.

North Carolina: Federal panel strikes down North Carolina legislative districts | Associated Press

Federal judges on Thursday struck down nearly 30 North Carolina House and Senate districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, but will allow General Assembly elections to be held using them this fall. The decision by a three-judge panel comes six months after another set of judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts for similar reasons. Thursday’s ruling covering 19 House and nine Senate districts is yet another blow to the GOP lawmakers in North Carolina, which has seen several laws it enacted either partially or wholly overturned by the federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court announced in June that it would hear the appeals of Republican state leaders in that case, where two majority-black congressional districts were thrown out. The previous map drawn in 2011 and still being challenged helped give the state GOP more seats within the congressional delegation in the swing state. The legislative maps, also approved in 2011, also helped Republicans pad their majorities in the two chambers after they took control of the legislature for the first time in 140 years the year before.

Texas: Federal Judge Approves Plan to Weaken Texas Voter ID Law | The Texas Tribune

A federal judge on Wednesday approved a plan that says it won’t be mandatory for Texans to present an ID in order to vote in the November general election. The sweeping changes OK’d by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos come a month after a federal appeals court found the state’s voter ID law — which was passed by the Legislature in 2011 and went into effect in 2013 — to be racially discriminatory. Under the agreement reached by Texas officials and groups suing the state, anyone without an ID can sign a declaration stating they are a U.S. citizen and present proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck. “Certainly what happened today in court was a victory,” said Jennifer Clark, an attorney at the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice, who represented plaintiffs in the case. “This is the first time in three years voters will cast a regular ballot in November. It’s a huge victory.”

Wisconsin: Appeals court blocks voter ID changes | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

With the presidential election only three months away, a federal appeals panel Wednesday blocked a lower court ruling that would have allowed Wisconsin voters without photo IDs to sign an affidavit and cast a ballot. But part of the voter ID law remains blocked because of a separate ruling in another federal trial court in recent weeks. Voters should keep following the news — the rules could change again between now and the Nov. 8 presidential election. Last month, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee ruled that Wisconsin voters without photo identification can cast ballots by swearing at the polling place that they could not easily acquire an ID. The decision created a pathway for voters with difficulties getting IDs who have been unable to cast ballots under the state’s 2011 voter ID law.

Australia: Census hacked: Australian online voting ‘dead in the water’ |

Moves to introduce online voting in Australian elections has been dealt a “massive blow by the disastrous stuff-up” on Census night, with some commentators saying it is dead in the water. Software experts and e-voting supporters have lashed out at the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ “incompetence” and say it will cruel future government mass internet projects like online voting.
“In a single fell swoop the appalling incompetence of ABS statisticians has dealt an absolute blow … to the future of online voting,” David Glance told Dr Glance, who is director of the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Software Practice, said the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), had “not only damaged their own reputation and their ability to convince anyone to take seriously any of their technical claims. “They have brought into question the ability of any government agency to be able to run technology projects of this scale. “This has tipped back running elections online into the risks outweighing the benefits.” David Crowe, political correspondent for The Australian, went further, “Online voting, always a risky prospect, is certainly dead after this affair”.

Zambia: Incumbent President ahead in early vote count, opposition cries foul | Reuters

President Edgar Lungu was ahead of his main rival on Saturday in early counting from Zambia’s presidential election, but the main opposition said its count showed their candidate ahead and the vote may have been rigged. Lungu faces a stiff challenge from United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema, who accuses him of failing to steer the economy out of its slump after Africa’s second-largest copper producer was hit by weak commodity prices. He led with 262,149 votes against Hichilema’s 243,794 after 29 of the country’s 156 constituencies in Thursday’s voting had been collated, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) told a news conference also attended by political parties. Early results announced on Saturday from only eight constituencies had put Hichilema ahead. In a statement, the UPND said data from its own parallel counting system showed Hichilema beating Lungu “with a clear margin”, based on about 80 percent of votes counted.

National: Could the U.S. election be hacked? It’s not so unlikely | CBC

Recent attempts at campaign-directed cyber-attacks have raised red flags about just how vulnerable the upcoming U.S. election is to hackers. With the FBI currently investigating alleged Russian efforts to undermine the Democratic Party through hacking attempts, how concerned should elections officials – and voters — be about the security of electronic voting procedures? One of the most obvious ways for a hacker to tamper with the election is to interfere with the way people actually cast their votes. The most vulnerable aspect of the voting process is the individual ballot, and the collection and tallying of those votes. But in a digital world, far more is susceptible to tampering than the ballot itself. With digital tools integrated throughout the electoral process, from online voter registration, to information about when, where, and how to vote, to services for inquiries and complaints, potential weak spots show up long before anyone casts the first vote.

National: How Hackers Could Cause a Presidential Election ‘Virtual Hanging Chad’ – But maybe not. | Fortune

The hanging chad from the 2000 Presidential election could be making a comeback—in virtual form. At the Black Hat USA 2016 hacking conference in Las Vegas that ended on Aug. 4, security firm Tripwire surveyed more than 220 information security professionals to determine whether they believed hackers could influence the outcome of the Presidential election. Nearly two-thirds of those respondents—63%, to be exact—answered with a simple “yes.” Nearly 20% of respondents, however, believe any state-sponsored attacks that could affect this year’s elections shouldn’t be considered acts of cyber war.

National: As voter rights cases churn through courts, rights are uncertain. But confusion is guaranteed. | Rick Hasen/The Washington Post

After a notable string of voting rights decisions in the past few weeks — throwing out or weakening voter identification and other restrictive voting laws in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and elsewhere — you might think that the rules are settled for November. But the rules are far from settled. Things are very much in flux, and the possibility of disenfranchisement through confusion or reversals of recent gains remains. Indeed, just Wednesday an appeals court put on hold a softening of Wisconsin’s voter ID law imposed a few weeks ago by a trial court. To recap, since the disputed 2000 presidential election, which convinced the Democratic and Republican parties that the rules of the game really matter, there’s been an uptick in the amount of legislation governing voting rules, such as the length of the early voting period, and the amount of litigation around those rules. Litigation rates have more than doubled in the post-2000 period. Mostly Republican legislatures passed laws making it harder to register and vote, citing the need to prevent voter fraud and instill voter confidence, even though there is little evidence of fraud or that the laws help instill voter confidence in the fairness of elections.

National: Russian Hackers of DNC Said to Nab Secrets From NATO, Soros | Bloomberg

Weeks before the Democratic convention was upended by 20,000 leaked e-mails released through WikiLeaks, another little-known website began posting the secrets of a top NATO general, billionaire George Soros’ philanthropy and a Chicago-based Clinton campaign volunteer. Security experts now say that site,, with its spiffy capitol-dome logo, shows the marks of the same Russian intelligence outfit that targeted the Democratic political organizations.
The e-mails and documents posted to the DCLeaks site in early June suggest that the hackers may have a broader agenda than influencing the U.S. presidential election, one that ranges from the Obama administration’s policy toward Russia to disclosures about the hidden levers of political power in Washington. It also means the hackers may have much left in their grab bag to distribute at will. The subjects of the DCLeaks site include a former ranking intelligence official who now works for a major defense contractor and a retired Army officer whose wife serves on the USS Nimitz, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Some of the e-mails go back years. Open Society Foundations, the Soros group, reported the breach to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in June, said spokeswoman Laura Silber, who added that an investigation by a security firm found the intrusion was limited to an intranet system used by board members, staff and foundation partners.

Editorials: The Fight Against Strict Voting Laws Pushes On | Zachary Roth/NBC News

Voting rights advocates celebrated last month after a string of court rulings against a group of restrictive voting laws seemed to knock out some major hurdles to the ballot this fall. But now they’re having to fight tooth and nail to keep those wins on the board. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court reinstated a strict version of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which in July had been significantly softened by a lower court. Also on Wednesday, an agreement was announced to soften Texas’s ID law, but lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case say they’ll need to closely monitor the state’s compliance. And in North Carolina, voting rights advocates worry that Republican-controlled local election boards could still restrict access to early voting. Courts are still weighing other states’ voting rules that could have a big impact this fall. Among them are both cuts to early voting and a controversial purge of voter rolls in Ohio, as well as Kansas’scontroversial proof of citizenship requirement for those registering to vote.

Voting Blogs: Assessing Elections with a Clear Eye: What the EPI Tells Us about Election Performance | electionlineWeekly

On Tuesday, The Pew Charitable Trusts released the latest version of the Elections Performance Index (EPI), its effort to take ideas proposed by Heather Gerken in The Democracy Index and turn them into flesh and blood (or at least electrons). The website captures what happened during the 2014 midterm election, adding to existing measures from 2008, 2010, and 2012, as well. Having data from a series of elections makes it possible to examine the process of change across time. Most importantly, now that the EPI has two midterm elections under its belt, it is possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of each state with how it performed in successive midterm elections. The headline for this release — that the administration of elections in the U.S. continues to improve, slowly but surely — will certainly strike a discordant tone with many in the public, who have been fed a steady diet of stories claiming that American elections are rigged or vulnerable to hacking. Yet, the EPI points to a set of deeper truths about American elections that, one hopes, will gain the attention of the public, lawmakers, and election administrators once this election season is over. The EPI is constructed by combining 17 measures of election administration, most of which are performance outputs, such as the percentage of absentee ballots rejected and the percentage of UOCAVA ballots unreturned. As explained in the methodology document that accompanies the EPI website, these 17 measures were chosen because they provide a comprehensive view of election administration at the state level, conceived along two dimensions. Along the first dimension are the functional requirements for potential voters to have their ballots successfully counted: they must be registered, successfully cast a ballot, and the ballot must be accurately counted. Along the second dimension are the two normative goals we wish to achieve through our electoral process: it should be convenient to vote and the electoral process should be secure.

Arizona: Maricopa County poll workers won’t enforce new ballot-harvesting law | The Arizona Republic

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell will not enforce a new election law in the Aug. 30 primary, disappointing Republicans who say it’s necessary to prevent voter fraud. The law prohibits anyone in Arizona — except family members, household members and caregivers — from delivering another person’s ballot to a polling place or election site. Community groups, largely Democratic but some GOP, have collected ballots from voters in the past and delivered them in bulk, often after it’s too late for voters to mail their ballots before Election Day or when voters cannot make it to the polls themselves. Opponents of the practice say it provides an opportunity for voter fraud, although there is no evidence it has occurred.

Editorials: Despite court ruling, North Carolina GOP lawmakers will benefit again from illegal voting maps | News & Observer

A panel of three federal judges delivered a welcome but frustrating ruling Thursday. The judges unanimously found that 28 of North Carolina’s 170 legislative districts were illegally drawn to concentrate black voters in a way that minimized their statewide political influence. U.S. Circuit Judge James Wynn wrote in the panel’s ruling that “… plaintiffs, and thousands of other North Carolina citizens, have suffered severe constitutional harms” from districts that were improperly drawn to bolster Republican control of the General Assembly. But the court also said the Nov. 8 election is too close to change the maps and that changes would have to be made afterward.

Australia: Australia Stops Online Collection of Census Data After Cyberattacks | The New York Times

Australia has halted online collection of national census data after a website where citizens could upload information was subjected to repeated cyberattacks. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said its website had experienced four denial-of-service attacks, in which a torrent of automated requests is sent to overwhelm a site. The last attack, just after 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, contributed to the overloading of a router, which led to the decision that night to close down online data gathering. The census, which occurs every five years, has been the subject of intense criticism and questions this year over whether the introduction of online data collection could leave Australians’ personal information at risk. Australian officials said on Wednesday that the census system had not been infiltrated and that no data had been compromised.

Editorials: A blow to Hong Kong’s clean and fair electoral process – dealt by its own election officials | Cliff Buddle/South China Morning Post

Democratic reform remains a highly contentious issue in Hong Kong. But, for all the controversy over the city’s lack of universal and equal suffrage, we can take some pride in the Legislative Council elections. The polls have become much more democratic over the years, despite the continued presence of small-circle functional constituencies. Most important of all, they are generally regarded as being clean and lawful, returning candidates from across the political spectrum. But the integrity of next month’s election could now be undermined by the government’s clumsy intervention in the nominating process, in an apparent bid to exclude pro-independence candidates. Prospective candidates were, for the first time, asked to sign an additional form when tendering their nomination.

Zambia: Zambians Await Presidential Vote Results After Frenzied Campaign | Bloomberg

Ballot counting in Zambia was under way Friday after voting ended in a hotly contested election that pitted President Edgar Lungu against his main challenger, Hakainde Hichilema, for the second times in 19 months. Less than 28,000 votes separated the two men when they contested a snap poll in January last year, after President Michael Sata died in office. While Lungu’s administration has improved the country’s road system and built new clinics and schools, a growth slump, soaring food prices and job losses on the nation’s copper mines have dented his chances of winning a full five-year term. The run-up to Thursday’s largely peaceful vote for the president as well as lawmakers, mayors and local councilors was marred by violence that claimed as many as six lives, threatening the country’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies. The ruling Patriotic Front and Hichilema’s United Party for National Development have blamed each other for the clashes.

Zambia: Polls close in Zambia after tight presidential race | The Washington Post

Zambians formed long lines at polling stations on Thursday in a tight election race for president and parliament that has been marred by violence between rival factions. There were no immediate reports of unrest during voting in a country whose peaceful transitions of power in the past have been held up as a democratic model in Africa. However, officials were anticipating tension after polls closed Thursday evening and after the final announcement of results, expected within 24 hours. A winner must get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election. The leader of the African Union observer mission and former Nigerian President Goodkuck Jonathan said he was happy with the process so far. “Zambians are known to be peaceful. We encourage to continue maintaining that standard,” he said.