Voting can be as easy as a click of the mouse – but is it secure? Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now allow some form of online voting, from casting your vote online to sending an email. But after high-profile hacks like those at the Democratic National Committee, the Obama administration is looking at ways to protect online voting amid growing concerns about whether these systems are vulnerable. “There’s a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others critical infrastructure,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the National Security Agency’s elite group of hackers have been revealed in recent days, a development that could pose severe consequences for the spy agency’s operations and the security of government and corporate computers. A cache of hacking tools with code names such as Epicbanana, Buzzdirection and Egregiousblunder appeared mysteriously online over the weekend, setting the security world abuzz with speculation over whether the material was legitimate. The file appeared to be real, according to former NSA personnel who worked in the agency’s hacking division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO). “Without a doubt, they’re the keys to the kingdom,” said one former TAO employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal operations. “The stuff you’re talking about would undermine the security of a lot of major government and corporate networks both here and abroad.” Said a second former TAO hacker who saw the file: “From what I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that it was legitimate.”
Google is pulling another lever on its influential search engine in an effort to boost voter turnout in November’s U.S. presidential election. Beginning Tuesday, Google will provide a summary box detailing state voting laws at the top of the search results whenever a user appears to be looking for that information. The breakdown will focus on the rules particular to the state where the search request originates unless a user asks for another location. Google is introducing the how-to-vote instructions a month after it unveiled a similar feature that explains how to register to vote in states across the U.S.
The search giant said its campaign is driven by rabid public interest in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As of last week, it said, the volume of search requests tied to the election, the candidates and key campaign issues had more than quadrupled compared to a similar point in the 2012 presidential race.
This oped was posted by Reuters on August 17, 2016.
Every American has the right to have their vote counted. The Department of Homeland Security is weighing steps to help safeguard that right. The agency is considering actions to secure the voting process against cyber-threats by designating voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” In a democracy, our voting systems are critical infrastructure like our power grids, hospital systems and nuclear power plants. The U.S. government maintains its authority based on the consent of the governed.
The revelation that hackers, possibly sponsored by Russia, illegally entered the computer system of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as that of the Democratic National Committee, and monitored email activity for more than one year shows the vulnerability of the U.S. political infrastructure. Emails of members of Congress were also hacked.
There have been other serious hacking episodes. Arizona’s statewide voter registration database, for example, was recentlytaken down for more than a week so that the FBI and the state could investigate a potential breach. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan called the breach an“extremely serious issue.” The FBI described the threat as “8 out of 10” on its severity scale.
The question remains: If a nation wants to influence U.S. elections, would the hackers go directly after ballots and voting systems? If that’s the case, shouldn’t protecting these systems receive the highest priority?
Editorials: If you’re worried about rigged elections, look at Trump’s tactics first | Rick Hasen/ LA Times
Donald Trump has begun claiming that the only way he can lose the 2016 presidential election is if the voting is rigged. But if there’s a threat to the integrity of the election, it’s coming from Trump himself, and the best response may be for Democrats and voting rights activists to take him to court to protect the franchise. Let’s start with a fair definition of “rigging”: An election is rigged when eligible voters are prevented from voting, when some voters can vote multiple times, when ineligible voters are allowed to vote, or when vote totals are changed, all with an intent to affect an election outcome.
A bill restoring the voting rights of convicted felons serving time in county jails is headed to California Gov. Jerry Brown. Democrats in the Senate approved the measure in a 23-13 party-line vote Tuesday. AB2466 stems from California’s criminal justice realignment, which led to some people convicted of low-level felonies serving time in county jails. Supporters say civic participation can be a critical component of reducing recidivism when people return to the community.
Michigan’s high-stakes battle over straight-ticket voting echoes a national fight over new laws critics argue could disenfranchise minorities and affect the outcome of the 2016 elections. Much of the national debate centers on strict voter identification laws backed by Republicans as a means to curb election fraud. Federal courts recently struck down strict ID and other voting rules in North Carolina and Texas. An appeals court last week reinstated a Wisconsin version. The North Carolina law “required in-person voters to show certain photo IDs, beginning in 2016, which African-Americans disproportionately lacked, and eliminated or reduced registration and voting access tools that African Americans disproportionately used,” a three-judge appeals court panel of all Democratic appointees ruled in July. Democrats and allies have pushed legal challenges to new voting rules in several states they say could limit participation by minority voters more likely to support presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than Republican businessman Donald Trump.
New Jersey: How this bit of nasty New Jersey history may foil Trump’s vow to stop ‘rigged election’ | NJ.com
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s call for election observers to prevent the Democrats from “rigging this election” could run afoul of a 30-year-old restriction on GOP activities targeting minority voters that stems from a New Jersey election. The Republican National Committee and “its agents” have been under court-imposed limits since the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election, narrowly won by Tom Kean, in which the state party reportedly targeted heavily minority communities that tend to support Democratic candidates. The question is whether Trump, who is raising money jointly with the RNC, could be considered an “agent” of the party. “I think there’s a good argument for that, but it is far from certain a court would agree,” said election law expert Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine. Hasen first raised the issue in his blog.
Gov. Pat McCrory wants the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law for the November election. The law, which requires voters to bring a photo ID to the polls, was thrown out by a federal appeals court ruling. Late Monday, McCrory announced that he has sent a formal request to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to stay the ruling while state leaders appeal the decision. “Allowing the 4th Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections,” the Republican governor said in a news release. “The 4th Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the 4th Circuit.” The McCrory administration hasn’t yet petitioned the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the ruling, but it said it will submit one soon. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the 2013 voter ID law was passed with “discriminatory intent” and would “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
North Carolina: U.S. Supreme Court stance on North Carolina law to send signal on voting limits | Reuters
The U.S. Supreme Court’s handling of North Carolina’s long-shot bid to reinstate its contentious voter identification law will set the tone for the court’s treatment of similar cases that could reach the justices before the Nov. 8 elections. Voter identification laws were adopted by several states in recent years, generally driven by Republicans who said the laws were meant to prevent election fraud. Democrats have argued that the laws were meant to keep minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats, away from the polls. Civil rights groups have challenged the laws in court. The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29 invalidated the North Carolina law, ruling that it intentionally discriminated against minority voters.
Texas: Judge asks for election-law changes to help voters with language barriers | Houston Chronicle
Voting rights advocates are poised to propose changes to help voters who face language barriers at the polls after a federal judge ruled recently that a provision of Texas law violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The case began when a Williamson County voter of Indian descent, Mallika Das, was barred from letting her son serve as an interpreter at the polls during the fall 2014 election because state law required interpreters be registered in the same county as the voter. Das’s son was registered in neighboring Travis County. District Court Judge Robert Pitman on Friday tossed out that requirement, writing in an order that those provisions of state law “restrict voter choice in a manner inconsistent with the Federal Voting Rights Act.” The law states that voters facing language barriers should largely be able to choose who helps them at the polls.
Texas will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its controversial voter identification law in place, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office said Tuesday. A federal appeals court ruled July 20 that the stringent law discriminates against black and Hispanic voters. The state will soon file an appeal to “protect the integrity of voting in the state,” said Paxton spokesman Marc Rylander. He declined to specify whether Paxton would file an emergency appeal or go through the standard process, which could make it less likely the stringent ID rules will be in place for November’s elections. In July, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Texas voter ID law violates the federal Voting Rights Act. Rather than strike down the law in its entirety, the judges ordered a lower court to find a temporary solution for disenfranchised voters as quickly as possible. “The primary concern of this court and the district court should be to ensure that SB 14’s discriminatory effect is ameliorated…in time for the November 2016 election,” Judge Catharina Haynes wrote.
Canada: Elections P.E.I. working on electoral reform education campaign | The Guardian Charlottetown
The plebiscite countdown is on. Prince Edward Islanders will be going to the polls in just three months to vote on whether they would like to change P.E.I.’s voting system, and Elections P.E.I. has been touring the province to educate Islanders about the upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform. After all, there will be many new elements in this vote that many Islanders may never have experienced, including online and telephone voting as well as a ranked ballot. Paul Allen, director of communications for Elections P.E.I., says some Islanders have told him they had no idea a vote on electoral reform was scheduled for this fall. That’s why Elections P.E.I. was tasked with mounting an education campaign – to try to help Islanders understand the five different options they will be asked to choose from on the plebiscite ballot.
Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) Chair Tamar Zhvania announced Tuesday that the controversial pro-Russian Centrist Party has been barred from taking part in the upcoming October Parliamentary Elections following the party’s release of a campaign ad promoting integration with Moscow. Zhvania said the party’s leadership had failed to legally register themselves and would be barred from running in the October polls. “The Centrists’ leadership is not legal, therefore I signed a decree cancelling the registration of the party,” said Tamar Zhvania at a special briefing.
Russia will elect a new parliament three months earlier than planned after a majority vote in mid-2015 to move the elections up from December 4 to September 18 of this year. The initiative from the Duma chairman Sergey Naryshkin was supported by President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, as well as Just Russia and the Liberal Democrats. Like the Communists, who are more or less loyal to the Kremlin, these parties are sure to remain in parliament. Meanwhile, a coalition between the two main opposition parties has fallen apart. The “Russian Democratic Party” (Yabloko) and the “People’s Party of Freedom” (RPR-PARNAS), co-founded by Boris Nemtsov, the opposition politician who was murdered in February 2015, will now go into the election independently from each other. Polls say that these “outlier” parties barely stand a chance of crossing the 5 percent threshold for representation.
The attention of South Africans have been drawn to a recent email making rounds in the country. According to the SA Independent Electoral Commission, “the emails are being distributed by the ‘Independent Elections Council’ under the email address elections@IEC.co.za and have ‘Electronic Voting Testing Phase’ in the subject field.” Speaking further, the SA Independent Electoral Commission says the fraudlents designed the whole process in a way that, unsuspecting users are automatically lodged in a site that has similar features with the Independent Electoral Commission of SA, once they click a link attached to the email.