Some key swing states have declined an offer from the Homeland Security Department to scan voting systems for hackers ahead of the presidential elections. As suspected Russian-sponsored attackers compromise Democratic Party and other U.S. political data allegedly to sway voter opinion, some security experts say it wouldn’t even take the resources of a foreign nation to manipulate actual votes using this country’s antiquated tallying systems. Against this backdrop, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson during an Aug. 15 call with state election officials, offered states DHS services that can inspect voting systems for bugs and other hacker entryways. Earlier in the month, he also suggested the federal government label election systems as official U.S. critical infrastructure, like the power grid. But some battleground states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, say they will rely on in-house security crews to maintain the integrity of voter data.
… At a campaign rally in Altoona, Pa., on Aug. 12 [Trump] alleged that a poor showing could only mean one thing: “The only way we can lose, in my opinion — I really mean this, Pennsylvania — is if cheating goes on. I really believe it.” Trump said, alluding to political subterfuge from the Clinton campaign. Since that rally, Trump has held to these assertions of foul play while his critics have cast them as highly dangerous for the democratic process. However, for those close to the matter — voting officials and voters’ rights groups — the conspiracy theory is a bit bewildering. Pamela Smith, the president of VerifiedVoting.org, is among these. Her organization — a nonpartisan voting advocacy, accountability and research group — has gained notoriety since it was founded in 2003 for its work tracking election tech, legislation and voting procedures. In this time, Smith said incidents of voter fraud and rigged elections have been nearly nonexistent. “It’s frustrating because I think a lot of people may get the mistaken impression that there are some major areas of vulnerability,“ Smith said. “But they may not be aware of things election officials do already, or the true scope of the issue.” A look at current and historical data, said Smith, indicates that the potential for cheating is uniquely limited. Voter ID fraud is nearly nonexistent; purchasing votes is too tricky to cover up, at least at a national or county level; and hacking voting machines and software is ineffectual since usage of the systems is low and controlled. “Because our elections are really decentralized, it’s also not like there’s a single point of vulnerability out of 9,000 jurisdictions we have in the U.S.,” Smith said.
After reports of alleged Russian hacking into Democratic Party computer networks, some commentators have suggested that the Russians could hack the results of the U.S. elections. Other analysts have, well before this year’s campaign, suggested that election results in the U.S. could be electronically manipulated, including by our fellow Americans. So could an American election’s outcome be altered by a malicious actor on a computer keyboard? I have had three jobs that, together, taught me at least one thing: If it’s a computer, it can be hacked. For Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, I served as the White House senior cybersecurity policy adviser. For President Barack Obama, I served on his five-person post–Edward Snowden investigative group on the National Security Agency, intelligence and technology. And for over a decade I have advised American corporations on cybersecurity. Those experiences confirm my belief that if sophisticated hackers want to get into any computer or electronic device, even one that is not connected to the internet, they can do so. The U.S., according to media reports, hacked in to the Iranian nuclear centrifuge control system even though the entire system was air-gapped from the internet. The Russians, according to authoritative accounts, hacked into the Pentagon’s SIPRNet, a secret-level system separate from the internet. North Koreans, computer forensics experts have told me, penetrated SWIFT, the international banking exchange system. Iranians allegedly wiped clean all software on over 30,000 devices in the Aramco oil company. The White House, the State Department and your local fast food joint have all been hacked. Need I go on?
A legal battle to gain equal voting rights for residents of the U.S. territories was dealt a setback after a federal judge in Illinois this week ruled that former Illinois residents who live in the territories, including Guam, do not have the right to cast absentee ballots in Illinois. Six U.S. citizens, who all are former Illinois residents now living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, jointly filed a lawsuit in Illinois’ northern district court last November with the nonprofit groups Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific and the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands. Under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and Illinois’ Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment law, former Illinois residents have the right to vote for president and Illinois’ Congressional representation, provided that they live in the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa or a foreign country. The group argued that the statutes allowing them to vote in particular areas but not certain U.S. territories are a violation of their equal protection rights, according to court documents.
Illinois: Sharply divided Illinois Supreme Court keeps redistricting question off fall ballot | Chicago Tribune
Sharply divided along party lines, the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday blocked from the fall ballot a proposal that would have asked voters whether to change the state constitution to take much of the politics out of the redrawing of state legislative boundaries. A 4-3 Democratic majority agreed with a Cook County judge’s ruling last month that the petition-driven Independent Map amendment proposal did not fit the narrow legal window for citizen initiatives to change the 1970 Illinois Constitution. The ruling was a win for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who opposed the referendum, suggesting it would hurt protections on ensuring minority representation in the General Assembly. The speaker has maintained his hold at the Capitol for more than three decades in part because he’s had the power to draw the maps. Additionally, a longtime Madigan ally was the lead attorney for the People’s Map, a group of prominent racial and ethnic minority businessmen that challenged the proposal.
A federal appeals court will decide whether Kansas has the right to ask people who register to vote when they get their driver’s licenses for proof that they’re citizens. The decision could affect whether thousands of Kansas residents have their ballots counted in November’s election. Three judges from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case Tuesday from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the American Civil Liberties Union but didn’t indicate how soon they could rule. Kansas wants the court to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in May that temporarily blocked the state from disenfranchising people who registered at motor vehicle offices but didn’t provide documents such as birth certificates or naturalization papers. That was about 18,000 people at the time. If the order is allowed to stand, the state says up to an estimated 50,000 people who haven’t proven they’re citizens could have their votes counted in the fall.
A lawsuit challenging Maryland’s contorted congressional district map on First Amendment grounds has merit and should go forward, a three-judge federal panel ruled Wednesday. The map, drawn by Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers following the 2010 Census, essentially ensured that seven of the state’s eight congressional seats would be under their party’s control. According to the lawsuit, the redistricting specifically targeted western Maryland’s 6th District, where lines were altered to help unseat 10-term incumbent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R). Bartlett was defeated by John Delaney (D) in 2012. The suit, brought by Steve Shapiro, an American University law student, presents a novel argument: that the gerrymandered map violated the rights of 6th District Republican voters to political association and expression. It asks that the state be barred from using the map in any future elections.
Golden Week is gone again in Ohio. For the time being, at least. The controversial period in which Ohioans can both register to vote and cast an early ballot was struck down Tuesday by a federal appellate pane, overturning a lower-court ruling re-establishing Golden Week. “Proper deference to state legislative authority requires that Ohio’s election process be allowed to proceed unhindered by the federal courts,” said a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that split 2-1. Thus continues the ritual witnessed every presidential election year in bellwether Ohio: Bitter court battles over voting. Now Ohio Democrats who brought the lawsuit must decide whether to ask the full appeals court to consider Tuesday’s decision. That’s the most likely route to reversing the ruling, said nationally known elections expert Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine.
A federal appeals court on Friday declined to soften Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law. The court’s decision likely means that, barring intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, the strict ID measure will be in place in a key presidential swing state, where it could make voting much harder, especially for racial minorities and students. In July, a district court ruled that Wisconsin must soften its law by allowing voters who were unable to get ID to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit blocked that ruling from going into effect for the November election. On Friday afternoon, the full appeals court unanimously upheld the panel’s decision, after an appeal from voting rights groups. The appeals court noted that in a separate challenge to the voter ID law, a court had required Wisconsin to make IDs as easy as possible to obtain, including by giving out temporary IDs at DMV offices. As a result, the appeals court found, the affidavit option is unnecessary to ensure that voters aren’t disenfranchised.
Give Justin Trudeau and the Liberals high marks for creative fundraising. On the prime minister’s Facebook page he has reached out to Canadians living abroad, inviting them to donate to his party and support “Canada’s most open and progressive movement.” But give them a failing grade for consistency. Even as the Liberals woo expatriates for money, they have failed to deliver on promises to restore voting rights to Canadians who have been out of the country for more than five years. More than a million Canadians living abroad were denied the right to vote in the last federal election. Rules prohibiting those who have been away for more than five years were adopted back in 1993, but they were only enforced by the Harper government starting in 2011. The rule needlessly excludes Canadians from remaining engaged with their country’s politics and is patently unfair. In the 21st century it’s easier than ever for people living abroad to keep up with events here, and many have a long-term commitment to the country even if they have been away for years.
Estonia’s opposition Center Party has long argued for closer ties with Moscow, but presidential candidate Mailis Reps has broken with that tradition, declaring herself “no friend of Russia.” In the shadow of Moscow’s aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the largely symbolic Estonian presidency has gained weight partly thanks to incumbent Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ strong arguments for the European Union and NATO to stand by Estonia and its Baltic neighbors. On August 29, the 101 members of Estonia’s parliament gather to vote for a new president. As it is unlikely to produce a clear two-thirds majority for any of the three declared candidates, a 335-strong electoral college of MPs and local leaders will likely be summoned in September to make the choice. According to a poll of MPs for the daily Postimees, the two leading contenders would be former prime minister and European commissioner Siim Kallas and Reps of the Center Party — and relations with Russia would be at the center of the debate.
Election placards along the main highways of Libreville, capital of Gabon, praise President Ali Bongo and his Gabonese Democratic Party for building kilometers of tarmac roads, creating new jobs and attracting foreign investment. Bongo is seeking to convince voters that his plans for modernization and development can turn Gabon into an emerging economy. His critics accuse him of wanting to install a dictatorship. Bongo’s rival for the presidency is Jean Ping, a former chairman of the African Union Commission and leader of the Gabonese Progress Party. The popular 74-year-old is promising reforms and is critical of the current condition of the Gabonese judiciary. “One of the most important measures that we must carry out is to restore the independence and credibility of the justice system,” he said. In his campaign speeches, Ping says he wants more democracy. He is also promising improvements to infrastructure and health.
Gabon voted on Saturday amid discontent over its failure to raise living standards despite oil wealth, in a poll posing the biggest challenge yet to President Ali Bongo, whose family has run the central African nation for half a century. With state machinery and entrenched patronage networks behind him, Bongo, 57, is likely to be returned, seven years after winning his first election following the death of his father Omar, who ruled for 42 years. Polls closed at 7 p.m. (2.00 p.m ET), an hour late to allow people were still waiting to vote to do so. Voting was mostly calm, although witnesses said a few scuffles broke out in one area as tempers flared in long queues to cast ballots. Results are not expected until Monday or Tuesday, although partial results may start trickling out on Sunday. Land and sea borders were shut on Saturday until 8 p.m. (1900 GMT).
Political action committees aren’t the only entities attempting to influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Supposedly, Russia wants a say in who should lead the country. At least that’s the opinion you could form after reading the many news stories that allege Russia is behind the recent hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Attack attribution aside (I shared my thoughts on that topic in last month’s blog), these data breaches raise the question of whether attackers could actually impact an election’s outcome. Not to scare you, but hacking the vote is pretty easy. Some possible ways of carrying this out, like hacking electronic voting machines, have been discussed extensively, while others, such as targeting organizations that poll voters, probably haven’t been considered. I’m not trying to frighten people by bringing up these scenarios. As far as I know, none of the methods I’m going to discuss have been used to sway an election. To me, this is an opportunity to present these possible situations to the security community and, by freely talking about them, ensure that voting goes as smoothly as possible on November 8.
Republican and Democratic politicians across the country are deeply divided over restoring the right to vote to felons, a political fracture that affects millions of convicted criminals. In Iowa and Kentucky, Democratic governors issued executive orders to restore voting rights to many felons, only to have them rescinded by Republican governors who succeeded them. Democratic legislators in 29 states proposed more than 270 bills over the last six years that would have made it easier for some felons to vote, but very few passed, especially in legislatures controlled by Republicans, News21 found in an analysis of state legislative measures nationwide.
Military and overseas voting can be a complicated process. Service members can file a Federal Post Card Application, which allows them to both register to vote and request an absentee ballot from their home state or county. If the service member doesn’t receive their ballot in time, they can use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot as a backup. EAC Commissioner Thomas Hicks told News21 that some of the inconsistencies between ballots sent and ballots returned are likely the result of military voters printing out the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot and sending it back home. Since the ballots are not sent by local jurisdictions, they might be counted as ballots returned but not mailed out. The commissioner stressed that ensuring the accuracy of that data is up to states and not the EAC. “I’m confident in that it is the data coming from the states and I think that we put that data out and it’s accurate,” said Hicks.
The state Republican Party is training volunteers to look for and document illegal “ballot harvesting” after county election officials said they won’t enforce the new law. Party Chairman Robert Graham said the volunteers, who already are designated as poll watchers, will be the eyes and ears of the GOP to look for those who show up with multiple ballots. And he said they will be given a checklist — still being developed — of what to document. Graham acknowledged that other state laws limit what party-designated observers can actually do inside the polling places. Talking to voters is forbidden, as is photography. But Graham said they’re still free to follow voters out into the parking lot, ask them questions, take their pictures and photograph their vehicles and license plate. That information, he said, might give police and prosecutors the information they need to bring charges.
Local election officials welcome the financial boost they are getting to help pay for early voting prior to the presidential election in November. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin announced Wednesday his office is offering grants ranging from $250 to $1,500, depending on the electorate size of the municipality to help defray the cost of having weekend voting hours at the end of October. The 11-day early voting period includes one weekend, Oct. 29 and 30 which is optional, but several Berkshire city/town clerks plan to let registered voters cast ballots at least one of those days. “I think the grant will incentivize clerks to have voting on Saturday and I know it means I will be open [that] Saturday,” said Lenox Town Clerk Kerry Sullivan. “We are considering Saturday,” note Pittsfield City Clerk Jody Phillips. “Obviously we will be open during normal business hours.”
North Carolina: Justice Department Urges Supreme Court to Leave North Carolina Voter ID Ruling Intact | NBC
The Justice Department urged the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday to leave a lower court ruling in place that struck down one of the nation’s toughest voter ID laws. A federal appeals court ruled in July that North Carolina’s voter ID law and other changes to its election laws were aimed “with almost surgical precision” at making it harder for African Americans to vote. The ruling broadened the kind of ID’s allowed at the polls and increased the time period for early voting, restoring both to what they were before the tough new law was passed in 2013. The state then asked the Supreme Court “in order to avoid voter confusion” to let it enforce several parts of the law that had been declared invalid by the appeals court.
Last month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned the 2013 omnibus elections bill passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, which voting rights advocates referred to as a “monster” voter suppression law. The law contained dozens of provisions, some of which the court found intentionally discriminated against African Americans. It was passed shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively struck down the section of the Voting Rights Act requiring jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to get Justice Department preclearance for election law changes. North Carolina waited 17 days after the 4th Circuit’s ruling to file an “emergency” appeal with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, asking him to stay parts of the ruling, including those striking the photo ID requirement and expanding early voting from 10 to 17 days. The state also asked for a stay on reinstating a program approved in 2009 with bipartisan support that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote.
Editorials: Early-voting ruling eliminating Ohio’s ‘Golden Week’ is plain wrong | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Tuesday’s 2-1 ruling by a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, to uphold Ohio’s abolition of a “Golden Week” for voting, was ideological, narrow – and wrong. A federal appellate panel on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s decision and reinstated an Ohio law that shortened early voting in the state and eliminated the so-called “Golden Week” that allowed people to register and vote early at the same time. The decision, if it stands, lets Ohio cut what had been a 35-day early-voting period to 29 days. And reducing it to 29 days eliminates what had been a six-day Golden Week period during which Ohioans could both register to vote, then immediately vote early, in person or by returning an absentee ballot to their county’s Board of Elections. The Ohio Democratic Party has said it will appeal the ruling, and well it should.
Texas: Judge sets oral arguments to determine if Texas intended to discrminate with voter ID law | San Antonio Express-News
A federal judge has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 24 to determine if the Texas Legislature approved a voter ID law in 2011 with the intent to discriminate against minorities. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that Texas’ voter ID law had a discriminatory effect, but said a lower court judge overreached in finding that lawmakers had a discriminatory intent in passing the measure. However, the federal appeals court instructed U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to revisit the issue.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) kicked off its campaign for president on Wednesday with the slogan “Power needs control”, seeking to get its candidate Norbert Hofer elected on a promise of toughness after concerns over Europe’s migrant crisis. The FPO successfully challenged the result of a runoff vote in May that Hofer narrowly lost against former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen. The Constitutional Court ordered a re-run, which will take place on Oct 2. Hofer’s slogan is the same as that which in 1992 ensured victory for the current president’s predecessor, Thomas Klestil from the conservative People’s Party (OVP). Back then the OVP and the Social Democrats were mass parties, but Austrians’ anger about their shared politics built up. Since then the Austrians have become so upset with the two parties that both parties’ presidential candidates failed to make it the presidential run-off.
When Edward Leung closes his eyes and dreams of Hong Kong’s future he pictures a utopian metropolis of skyscrapers and social justice, “where people can do whatever they want as long as it isn’t harmful to others”. “It’s an international place. A cosmopolitan state,” says the fashionable 25-year-old politics and philosophy graduate. Is it part of China? “No,” Leung replies emphatically. “Not any more.” Leung is one of the leaders of a small but increasingly visible independence movement in the former British colony that is setting the agenda before key elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council parliament on 4 September. The movement was catapulted into the headlines in early August when the semi-autonomous city – which returned to Chinese rule almost two decades ago, in 1997 – saw the first pro-independence rally in its history.
he two most powerful Palestinian political movements in Gaza – Hamas and Fatah – are slugging it out in a social media war that is pitting video against video and hashtag against hashtag ahead of municipal elections in the Palestinian territories slated for October. The widespread use of social media for the first time in Palestinian elections has seen both sides locked in a conflict of narratives over conditions in the coastal strip ruled by Hamas since 2007, which has lived through three devastating conflicts with Israel in the last eight years. The battle of words and images was triggered by a series of slick videos posted on YouTube representing Hamas’s pitch for the municipal elections – not least in Gaza City, one of the three most important and populous Palestinian cities. The message, after years emphasising Israeli occupation, siege and resistance, is relentlessly upbeat, featuring two key phrases that have also been deployed as hashtags on Twitter and Facebook: “Thank you, Hamas” and “Gaza is more beautiful”.