National: Online voting could be really convenient. But it’s still probably a terrible idea. | The Washington Post

Election Day can sometimes feel like more of a headache than a patriotic celebration. Long lines and scheduling conflicts may leave voters wondering why there isn’t an easier way to cast their ballots. Some say there already is: online voting. Why head to the polls if you can vote from anywhere using your laptop or smartphone? But even as online voting is on the rise in the United States and elsewhere, experts warn its convenience isn’t worth its costs. Casting your vote online could mean sacrificing the right to a secret ballot and leaving elections more vulnerable to fraud, according to a report released Thursday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Verified Voting Foundation and the Common Cause Education Fund. Security researchers also warn that online voting could be vulnerable to hackers who could digitally hijack elections. “The Internet is already as messed up as we can imagine, and adding critical electoral systems is just a bad idea,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

National: Voting Machines Are a Mess—But the Feds Have a (Kinda) Plan | WIRED

America’s voting machines are a patchwork of systems spread across thousands of districts, with widely varying degrees of accountability. It’s a mess. One that the Department of Homeland Security has finally committed to helping clean up. This week, DHS chief Jeh Johnson held a call with state election officials to outline, very roughly, the kind of assistance that DHS will provide to help prevent cyber attacks in this fall’s elections. For now, details are vague, and whatever DHS plans to do will need to happen quickly; election day may be November 8, but in some states, early voting starts in just six weeks. That’s not enough time to solve all of America’s voting machine issues. Fortunately, there’s still plenty DHS can accomplish—assuming the districts that need the most help realize it. The problems with America’s electronic voting machines are extensive, but also easily summarized: Many of them are old computers, and old computers are more vulnerable to disruptions both purposeful (malware) and benign (bugs).

National: Donald Trump claims the election might be ‘rigged.’ Here’s how voting really works | Los Angeles Times

Of all the controversies that have cropped up during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, his assertion that the general election could be “rigged” inspired one of the swiftest rebuttals. A fundamental part of any election is widespread acceptance of the validity of the results, and if Trump were to lose and claim fraud without evidence, political scientists and others argued, he would undermine the electoral process. Trump, increasingly losing ground in polls, told supporters at a rally this month that he’s afraid the election results won’t reflect voters’ intent. He threw his support behind voter ID rules while campaigning in Wilmington, N.C., this week, saying they help protect against fraud. But an appeals court ruled last month that the state’s voter ID law was enacted “with discriminatory intent” against black voters. Some state legislatures have promoted voter ID laws as a way to prevent election fraud, while critics contend that the regulations target and disenfranchise minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats. Some of Trump’s supporters share his concern. According to a poll released by Public Policy Polling this week, 69% of Trump backers in North Carolina think a Hillary Clinton win would be the result of a rigged election. But an examination of how votes are cast and tallied in the U.S. shows that it would be extremely difficult for anyone to commit voter fraud at a scale that would tip an election or for election officials to rig balloting. This is how the voting process works: There is no national system or code that dictates how election votes should be tabulated.

Michigan: Appeals Court: Michigan Must Allow Straight-Ticket Voting in November | Wall Street Journal

A federal appeals court rejected efforts by Michigan officials to preserve a ban on straight-party voting through the coming elections. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined on Wednesday to stand in the way of a July ruling by a federal trial judge, who pronounced the Republican-backed ban, passed in 2015, an unconstitutional burden on voting rights, particularly those of African-Americans. The ruling means that straight-party voting — which allows people to vote for candidates of their desired political party by making a single mark rather than voting for each candidate individually — almost certainly will be an option on ballots come November.

New Jersey: Christie rejects bill to automatically register voters | NorthJersey.com

Governor Christie on Thursday vetoed a pair of bills that sponsors said would make it easier to register to vote — for years a Democratic mission that has been rejected by the Republican governor over and over again. But this time Christie’s rejection of one of those bills featured a denouncement that echoes pronouncements by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Christie’s personal friend. Rather than sign a bill that would automatically register voters as part of the driver’s license application and renewal process, Christie conditionally vetoed it and said it should be renamed “The Voter Fraud Enhancement and Permission Act.” He vetoed a similar measure last November, when it was included in a package of proposals dubbed the “Democracy Act.” At that time, Christie was running for president and wrote that the state “must ensure that every eligible citizen’s vote counts and is not stolen by fraud.” And in 2013, Christie vetoed a Democratic bill to expand early voting.

North Carolina: State Republican Party seeks ‘party line changes’ to limit early voting hours | News & Observer

The N.C. Republican Party encouraged GOP appointees to county elections boards to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting the number of hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays. NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse emailed the request to Republican county board members and other party members on Sunday. The News & Observer obtained copies of the emails through a public records request. County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting. The voter ID law limited early voting to a 10-day period, but counties were required to offer at least the same number of voting hours as they did during the 2012 election. The court ruling eliminates that floor on hours – meaning that counties can legally provide fewer hours and fewer early voting sites than they did in the last presidential election. Early voting schedules must be approved by the three-member Board of Elections in each county. Because the state has a Republican governor, two of three members on each board are Republicans, while one is a Democrat – generally appointees recommended by their party’s leadership. “Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote in his email to board members. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Oklahoma: Judge dismisses challenge to Oklahoma’s voter ID law | Tulsa World

A more than four-year legal challenge to overturn Oklahoma’s voter identification law was rejected this week by a state district court judge, who upheld the constitutionality of the measure. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons dismissed the case Monday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the Oklahoma State Election Board and Tulsa resident Delilah Christine Gentges. Gentges’ attorney said he plans to appeal the decision. Gentges sued after 74 percent of voters approved a state question in 2010 that requires every voter, before casting a ballot, to show proof of identity issued by the U.S. government, Oklahoma state government or an Oklahoma tribal government. Like in many other states that have passed similar laws, voter-rights advocates here argued the requirement is unconstitutional because it interferes with residents’ right to vote.

Russia: Parliamentary elections being rigged, says Russian opposition | Reuters

Russian opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov said on Thursday parliamentary elections next month were being rigged against his party, meaning it would have to win up to three times more votes than legally necessary to get into parliament. Starved of air time, vilified by Kremlin-backed media, and physically attacked on the stump, Kasyanov and his allies in the People’s Freedom party or PARNAS face an uphill struggle to break into the 450-seat lower house of parliament on Sept. 18. Despite an economic crisis, the main pro-Kremlin United Russia party is expected to comfortably win the elections, which are seen as a dry run for Vladimir Putin’s presidential re-election campaign in 2018. The crisis means United Russia’s margin of victory may be slimmer than recent years however, giving PARNAS, which currently has no seats in parliament, a glimmer of hope.

Zambia: Opposition Goes to Court to Overturn Results of Presidential Election | Wall Street Journal

Zambia’s opposition leader, the declared loser of last week’s disputed presidential elections, waged a last-ditch effort in the country’s constitutional court to have the vote results overturned, citing widespread irregularities, officials said Saturday. Hakainde Hichilema, head of the opposition United Party for National Development, said a “deliberate collusion” between Zambia’s Electoral Commission and the ruling Patriotic Front party to steal his votes during the counting process cost him victory. The Electoral Commission of Zambia said Monday that President Edgar Lungu narrowly won the election with 50.3% of the vote against the 48% garnered by Mr. Hichilema—a 54-year-old wealthy businessman—which was sufficient to avoid a runoff. More than 150 people have since been arrested in protests against the results, which has threatened to unsettle one of Africa’s most stable democracies. But the suit could take the dispute into a courtroom and off the streets, allaying fears of widespread violence.

National: Internet Voting Leaves Out a Cornerstone of Democracy: The Secret Ballot | MIT Technology Review

If the risk of hackers meddling with election results is not enough, here’s another reason voting shouldn’t happen on the Internet: the ballots can’t be kept secret. That’s according to a new report from Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparency and accuracy in elections. A cornerstone of democracy, the secret ballot guards against voter coercion. But “because of current technical challenges and the unique challenge of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain the separation of voters’ identities from their votes when Internet voting is used,” concludes the report, which was written in collaboration with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the anticorruption advocacy group Common Cause. When votes are returned via the Internet, it’s technically difficult to separate the voter’s identity from the vote, says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, since the server has to know that identity in order to authenticate the voter and record the vote. In the systems that states are using now, “the authentication typically happens at the same time as the voting process,” she says. That’s problematic. A previous experiment tested giving voters PIN codes, but hackers working with the researchers were able to find those numbers and associate them with voters, says Smith.

National: Voting Online Means You’re Giving Up Privacy, Researchers Warn | Vocativ

Online voting—currently a limited option in 32 states and Washington, D.C.—usually forces voters to give up their legal right to a guaranteed private ballot, a new study shows. The study, a joint effort by nonprofit advocacy groups including the Verified Voting Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, notes that a right to a guaranteed private ballot is the law in every state in the U.S., and that in all but six, it’s protected by a state constitution—specifically because the integrity of a vote is predicated on the voter’s trust that they’re making their decision in private. Alabama’s Constitution reads, for instance, that “The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental.”

Editorials: Could hackers cause election day havoc? | Robert J. Samuelson/Deseret News

Someone — the Russian military, say many cyber experts — broke into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, releasing emails and sensitive documents. Sounds bad, and is. But a worse danger looms: the possibility that hackers (whether Russians or others) will manipulate our voting machines, casting doubt on the election’s outcome. Imagine. It’s the day after the election. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has “won.” But the victor’s triumph rests on close results in five or six states, where the winner had a few thousand more votes. Assume also that each of these states used — at least partially — electronic voting. Assume then that the loser alleges that cyber tampering stole the election. The resulting furor would be unavoidable. It would raise partisan anger still further. It would subvert faith in our basic democratic institutions and, probably, excite all manner of conspiracy theories. It would make the combat of the Bush-Gore election in 2000 — the disputes over which of Florida’s “hanging chads” should be counted — look like child’s play. It would be a disaster.

Verified Voting Blog: Security against Election Hacking – Part 2: Cyberoffense is not the best cyberdefense!

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on August 18, 2016.

State and county election officials across the country employ thousands of computers in election administration, most of them are connected (from time to time) to the internet (or exchange data cartridges with machines that are connected).  In my previous post I explained how we must audit elections independently of the computers, so we can trust the results even if the computers are hacked.

Still, if state and county election computers were hacked, it would be an enormous headache and it would certainly cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the election.  So, should the DHS designate election computers as “critical cyber infrastructure?”

This question betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how computer security really works.  You as an individual buy your computers and operating systems from reputable vendors (Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Google/Samsung, HP, Dell, etc.).  Businesses and banks (and the Democratic National Committee, and the Republican National Committee) buy their computers and software from the same vendors.  Your security, and the security of all the businesses you deal with, is improved when these hardware and software vendors build products without security bugs in them.   Election administrators use computers that run Windows (or MacOS, or Linux) bought from the same vendors.

Voting Blogs: Want a role on Election Day? Go work — or watch — the polls | Wendy Underhill/electionlineWeekly

What’s all this we hear now about partisan poll watchers? Amid the heat of this election, candidates have already begun encouraging more partisan poll watchers to participate on Election Day. If this worries you, it shouldn’t. Poll watchers aren’t watching anyone actually cast a ballot. Most likely, they’re watching people check in to vote, and reporting back to their local political party headquarters about who has voted, and who still needs a rousing “get out the vote” call. Sometimes, in some states, poll watchers are authorized to question, or “challenge,” a person’s ability to vote at that location, based on information that indicates he or she doesn’t live in the jurisdiction or for some other concern. What they aren’t authorized to do is to campaign, to interfere with the voting process, or to talk directly to the voters. Instead, they can observe and report to the administrators if they see a procedural hitch. Traditionally, allowing representatives from major parties observe elections was intended as an integrity check. They still serve this function.

North Carolina: Have Republicans Found a Way to Reinstate Discriminatory Voting Rules? | The Atlantic

Bill Brian Jr. already sounded weary, and the meeting hadn’t even started. It was 5 p.m. Wednesday at the county office-building, and a typically sleepy meeting of the county board of elections had turned into a marquee event. Around 100 people had shown up to hear the three-person commission decide how early voting would work, and the board had already been forced to move the meeting to a much larger space. Brian, the board’s chair, mentioned the “flood of emails” he’d received, and announced that he’d allow citizens to speak briefly. “Please try to be civil,” he said with a sigh. Over the next 40 minutes, a long line of county residents—including veteran activists, operatives, and assorted gadflies—stood up and delivered their thoughts on early voting. There were students who wanted polling locations on campus. One man wanted a location nearer to the bus terminal. Another railed against opponents of voter ID rules, describing them as “racist” for believing that blacks would be less able or willing to navigate them. The chair of the county Republican Party rose to say he didn’t care how much early voting there was, but pleaded for an end to Sunday voting, which he saw as an affront to God. Several others were just as insistent about the need for polls to be open on the Sabbath; others pointed out that some denominations kept different Sabbaths.

Editorials: McCrory should drop election-law appeal | Winston-Salem Journal

Gov. Pat McCrory has every right to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the legislature’s discriminatory election law, as he did Monday, But he should drop his unwise request. The Fourth Circuit has already spoken loudly and clearly on this. But McCrory wants provisions of the legislature’s rejected law to be reinstated for the coming November election as lawyers for him, legislative leaders and other state officials craft an appeal. The key provisions they want reinstated are requiring the legislature’s chosen forms of ID to vote and reducing early voting to 10 days rather than 17.

Texas: Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Law That Violates Voting Rights Act | NBC

In a move that some say affirms the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a Federal judge in Texas has agreed with Asian-American activists who claimed existing Texas election code unfairly kept voters with language needs from choosing the help they want. In a summary decision issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered Texas officials to refrain from engaging in practices that deny voting rights secured by the VRA and gave the plantiffs seven days to offer remedies to the situation. “The judge agreed with us that this Texas election law was an arbitrary restriction on voting rights,” Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) told NBC News. “If a voter walked into the poll site and asked for an ‘assistor,’ anyone (except an employer or union rep) could help. But if the voter didn’t say the magic word and asked for an ‘interpreter,’ that interpreter would have to be a registered voter in the same county where he or she was assisting the voter. It just doesn’t make sense, unless one is trying to disenfranchise a certain group of voters.”

Wisconsin: Early voting to start in September | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Voters in the state’s liberal strongholds will be able to start early voting a month before what would have been allowed under a law that was recently struck down. Voters in Milwaukee and Madison may also be able to participate in early voting at multiple sites — a practice that hasn’t been allowed in the past. That would give local officials a chance to set up voting stations on college campuses, rather than requiring people to come to clerks’ offices to cast ballots early. The early voting plans could change, however, because an appeals court is now reviewing a federal judge’s decision that struck down a host of election laws. Madison will begin early voting Sept. 26, the city clerk’s office announced Thursday. The presidential election and other races will be decided Nov. 8. Before the judge’s ruling, early voting was slated to begin around the state Oct. 24, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Cambodia: Cambodia Cranks Up Election Process Raising Fraud Concerns | RFA

As Cambodian officials rolled out a new voter registration system on Thursday, questions were raised about the nation’s ability to conduct free and fair elections. While Cambodian authorities announced a three-month registration process that will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 29, the U.N. ambassador to Cambodia expressed concern that the country’s current political situation could poison the process. “The European Union has expressed concerns over certain actions of the authorities in implementing legal procedures against the opposition party’s officials, civil society’s representatives, and the National Election Commission (NEC) deputy general secretary,” said Ambassador George Edgar. “Cambodia’s authorities must ensure an atmosphere that all political parties and nongovernmental agencies are able to do their jobs without obstacles,” he added during a ceremony announcing the launch of the registration system.

China: Hong Kong politicians seek independence from China in 2047 | The Economic Times

The run-up to the Sept. 4 election for Legislative Council is getting tense, and the governments of both Hong Kong and Beijing are watching with keen interest. For the first time, a crop of fresh-faced candidates who cut their political teeth during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 are hoping to bring to the lawmaking body their battle to emancipate Hong Kong from Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian control. The activists, most of whom are in their 20s, no longer believe in the promises of the “one country, two systems” principle set out in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution since Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997.