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National: Hackers have attempted more intrusions into voter databases, FBI director says | The Washington Post

Hackers have attempted more intrusions into voter registration databases since those reported this summer, the FBI director said Wednesday, and federal officials are urging state authorities to gird their systems against possible other attacks. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director James B. Comey said that the bureau had detected scanning activities — essentially hackers scoping out a potential attack — as well as some actual attempted intrusions into voter registration databases. He said those attempts were beyond what had been made public in July and August, likely referring to hacking efforts in Illinois and Arizona, though he offered no other specifics. “We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on, and to get the best information they can from” the Department of Homeland Security, he said.

Full Article: Hackers have attempted more intrusions into voter databases, FBI director says - The Washington Post.

National: The Computer Voting Revolution Is Already Crappy, Buggy, and Obsolete | Bloomberg

Six days after Memphis voters went to the polls last October to elect a mayor and other city officials, a local computer programmer named Bennie Smith sat on his couch after work to catch up on e-mail. The vote had gone off about as well as elections usually do in Memphis, which means not well at all. The proceedings were full of the technical mishaps that have plagued Shelby County, where Memphis is the seat, since officials switched to electronic voting machines in 2006. Servers froze, and the results were hours late. But experts at the county election commission assured both candidates and voters that the problems were minor and the final tabulation wasn’t affected. …  Shelby County uses a GEMS tabulator—for Global Election Management System—which is a personal computer installed with Diebold software that sits in a windowless room in the county’s election headquarters. The tabulator is the brains of the system. It monitors the voting machines, sorts out which machines have delivered data and which haven’t, and tallies the results. As voting machines check in and their votes are included in the official count, each machine’s status turns green on the GEMS master panel. A red light means the upload has failed. At the end of Memphis’s election night in October 2015, there was no indication from the technician running Shelby County’s GEMS tabulator that any voting machine hadn’t checked in or that any votes had gone missing, according to election commission e-mails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek. Yet as county technicians followed up on the evidence from Smith’s poll-tape photo, they discovered more votes that never made it into the election night count, all from precincts with large concentrations of black voters.

Full Article: The Computer Voting Revolution Is Already Crappy, Buggy, and Obsolete.

National: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel | The Washington Post

A U.S. appeals court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a federal voter registration form wrote Monday that federal law leaves it to a federal elections agency — not the states — to determine whether such a change is ­necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. ­Circuit. The panel wrote that although the document requirement “unquestionably” hinders voter registration groups ahead of the November elections, there was “precious little” evidence of voter fraud by noncitizens, the problem the states said the measure is intended to fight. The Kansas secretary of state had told the court that “between 2003 and 2015 eighteen noncitizens had tried to or successfully registered to vote. Only one of them attempted to use the Federal Form,” the judges wrote.

Full Article: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel - The Washington Post.

Alabama: Suit Accuses Alabama of Bias in Law That Bars Some Felons From Voting | The New York Times

Constance Todd, 70 years old and a diligent voter in elections local and national, did not know what to make of the letter she got from the local registrar this month. “You have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude,” it read, apparently referring to a conviction for a series of bad checks from 20 years ago, “which disqualifies you from voting under Amendment 579 of the Constitution of Alabama.” A puzzled Ms. Todd gathered the official documents she keeps on hand, including the photo ID she had been required to obtain for voting in Alabama, and called her son, Timothy Lanier. He knew exactly what this was about. He knew, from a similar letter he had received himself. He also knew from his long days at the prison library learning about state laws by poring over the State Constitution. And, as it just so happened, Mr. Lanier is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed on Monday in federal court in Alabama, claiming that the state law stripping the vote from any person “convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude” — a law that has left more than 250,000 adults in the state ineligible to vote — is racially discriminatory, indefensibly vague and flagrantly unconstitutional.

Georgia: Judge hears arguments in Georgia voter registration lawsuit | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia has agreed to temporarily suspend a requirement that has prevented tens of thousands of residents from registering to vote as it works toward a possible settlement in a federal lawsuit that accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of disenfranchising minorities ahead of the presidential election. As a result, thousands of voters whose applications have been rejected since Oct. 1, 2014, may be allowed to cast a ballot on Nov. 8. The state has also agreed to stop the automatic rejection of applications that don’t exactly match information in state and federal databases as part of the agreement, which was finalized late Monday. In a letter to U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley, the state Attorney General’s Office said Kemp was voluntarily taking the actions to avoid any unexpected emergency measures imposed by the court as the lawsuit moved forward.

Full Article: Judge hears arguments in Georgia voter registration lawsuit | www.myajc.com.

Kansas: Appeals court rules against Kobach in voting rights case | Associated Press

Thousands of prospective voters in Kansas who did not provide citizenship documents will be able to vote in the November election under a federal appeals court ruling late Friday that upheld a judge’s order. The decision from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms lower court’s May order forcing Kansas to register more than 20,000 voters, a number that is expected to swell to 50,000 by the time of the November elections. It noted that the preliminary injunction serves the public interest. The 10th Circuit ruled “no constitutional doubt arises” that federal law prohibits Kansas from requiring citizenship documents from people who register to vote at motor vehicle office. It added that its reasoning would be more fully explained in a forthcoming order.

Full Article: Appeals court rules against Kansas in voting rights case | The Charlotte Observer.

Maryland: Despite warnings from cyber-experts, Maryland moves forward with online voting | The Washington Post

Cybersecurity experts are warning that Maryland’s online absentee-ballot system is dangerously vulnerable to tampering and privacy invasions, both growing concerns in a year when hackers have breached the Democratic National Committee and attempted to access boards of elections in at least two states. The system allows voters who request an absentee ballot to receive the form by email and send back a printed hard copy, with their votes marked by hand or with a new online tool that allows users to mark the document with the click of a mouse or the touch of a keyboard, then print it for mail delivery. Until this year, in large part because of security concerns, the latter option was available only to people with disabilities. Critics say it is easy for impostors to use stolen credentials to request absentee ballots or for cyberthieves to hack in and retrieve data about who is requesting ballots or details of votes that were cast online. … A group of computer scientists and cybersecurity experts wrote to the board two days before its vote and urged it not to certify the system, saying the setup would “make Maryland one of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. for major election tampering.”

Full Article: Maryland moves forward with online voting despite warnings from cyber-experts - The Washington Post.

North Carolina: Plaintiffs in voting rights case target early voting restrictions | Politico

A group of plaintiffs in a voting rights case that rocked North Carolina politics earlier this year filed a further court motion on Saturday to peel back remaining restrictions on early voting times and locations in five counties, a person with knowledge of the move told POLITICO. Filed in the battleground state’s Middle District, the motion seeks to build on wide-reaching victories won by voting rights activists — and cheered by Democrats — earlier this summer when the Fourth Circuit court ruled that the 2013 rules adopted by North Carolina’s Republican-heavy legislature purposely sought to limit the influence of African-American voters there. The suit is led by Marc Elias, the Washington attorney who — in addition to working on high-profile voting rights cases across the country — is Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer.

Full Article: Plaintiffs in North Carolina voting rights case target early voting restrictions - POLITICO.

Ohio: Judges’ decision upholding Ohio absentee-ballot rules is appealed | The Columbus Dispatch

The battle over voting rights in Ohio rages on with a new federal appeal challenging state laws enacted by the GOP-dominated legislature in 2014 and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. A group that includes the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party wants the full 15-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a decision earlier this by month by a three-judge panel of the appellate court. The case “involves a question of exceptional importance that will impact the upcoming presidential election,” the group told the appeals court. The panel’s ruling also conflicts with other court rulings, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore that settled the 2000 presidential election. The three-judge panel that largely left the GOP laws intact divided along party and racial lines, with two whites appointed by Republican presidents in the majority and a black picked by a Democrat issuing a withering dissent.

Full Article: Judges’ decision upholding Ohio absentee-ballot rules is appealed | The Columbus Dispatch.

Wisconsin: Judge orders DMV to investigate voter ID incident | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A federal judge on Friday ordered the state to investigate an incident in which a voter received incorrect information on getting an ID from three Division of Motor Vehicle workers, saying the state may have violated an order he issued in July. U.S. District Judge James Peterson issued Friday’s ruling a day after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Nation published articles about what happened to Zack Moore, who was told he couldn’t get an ID or temporary voting credentials because he did not have a birth certificate. “These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s injunction order, which requires the state to ‘promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters the IDPP or who has a petition pending,’ ” he wrote, referring to the ID petition process the state uses for those who have the most trouble getting IDs. Moore tried to get an ID on Sept. 22, the same day Attorney General Brad Schimel filed court documents claiming DMV staff were trained to ensure people would get IDs or temporary voting credentials within six days, even if they didn’t have a birth certificate.

Full Article: Judge orders DMV to investigate voter ID incident.

Hungary: Refugee Vote May Boost Orban’s Power in Divided Europe | Bloomberg

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is asking Hungarians to reject quotas for the settlement of refugees in a referendum that may solidify his power at home and boost his leverage in an increasingly divided Europe. Polls show overwhelming support for a “no” vote backed by Orban, leaving turnout as the main hurdle for the premier, who needs at least 50 percent participation to make the referendum binding. The question on the ballot is “Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?” European leaders have sought to show unity this month after a tumultuous year for the region, with the biggest wave of refugees since World War II and the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU tearing at the seams of the bloc. Orban has been the staunchest opponent of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy and he may use the vote to showcase support for his zero-immigration approach. The Hungarian prime minister is also looking to harness political momentum before parliamentary elections in 2018, where he’ll seek a third consecutive term.

Full Article: Hungarian Refugee Vote May Boost Orban’s Power in Divided Europe - Bloomberg.

United Kingdom: May Promises To Lift Expat Vote Ban Before Next Election | Money International

British expats have at long last won the right to vote in the next general election regardless of how long since they have left the country. Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed she will change the law in time for the expected 2020 poll. Thousands of expats were stopped from voting in the Brexit referendum and the recent general election as current rules bar them from taking part if they have spent more than 15 years living outside the UK. The Electoral Commission estimates that 5.5 million Brits live overseas but only had 106,000 on voting lists for the 2015 general election – the highest number ever recorded. Alex Robertson, director of communications at the Electoral Commission said: “A lot of people aren’t aware that it’s possible to register as an overseas voter for certain UK polls – UK Parliamentary General Elections, European Parliamentary elections. Many people are eligible to vote and now it’s easier than ever to take the first step by going online.” 

Full Article: May Promises To Lift Expat Vote Ban Before Next Election - Money International.

National: Hackers Target Election Systems in 20 States | NBC

There have been hacking attempts on election systems in more than 20 states — far more than had been previously acknowledged — a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News on Thursday. The “attempted intrusions” targeted online systems like registration databases, and not the actual voting or tabulation machines that will be used on Election Day and are not tied to the Internet. The DHS official described much of the activity as “people poking at the systems to see if they are vulnerable.” “We are absolutely concerned,” the DHS official said. “The concern is the ability to cause confusion and chaos.” Only two successful breaches have been disclosed, both of online voter registration databases, in Illinois and Arizona over the summer.

Full Article: Hackers Target Election Systems in 20 States - NBC News.

National: State officials warn Congress: don’t damage public confidence in election systems | SC Magazine

An association of state officials has published an open letter that seeks to strengthen public confidence in the electoral process, in light of research that has raised questions about the security of voting machines. The National Association of Secretaries of State’s (NASS) letter calls on Congress to avoid using political rhetoric or proposing legislation that may damage confidence in the election systems. State officials are “working overtime to help the public understand the components of our election process and some of the built-in safeguards that exist,” the letter stated. “Voting systems are spread out in a highly-decentralized structure covering more than 9,000 election jurisdictions and hundreds of thousands of polling locations.” Despite NASS’s argument that the decentralized structure of election systems creates added security, a series of reports on voting machine infrastructure suggests another view. In an email to SCMagazine.com, James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), noted that the lack of a centralized system creates added risks. “The lack of a National system just means that some states manage secure election systems while others lack the resources or expertise to do so,” he wrote. “An attacker only needs to compromise the results of one or two pivotal states in order to alter the results of the election.”

Full Article: State officials warn Congress: don't damage public confidence in election systems.

National: A Brief History Of Early Voting | Michael P. McDonald/Huffington Post

In recent years American voters are rediscovering a way of voting used during the country’s first half-century of existence. I’m talking about early voting. Since the early 1990s, the number voters who cast their ballots prior to Election Day has steadily risen from less than a tenth to about a third. The rise is fueled by two phenomenon. More states are offering early voting options, and once a state adopts early voting more people vote early a part of their election regimen. As voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day, they may be surprised to learn they are walking in the shoes of the nation’s founders. At the founding, voting was held over several days so that rural voters could have ample time to travel to town and county courthouses to cast their ballots. An extended voting period could not be disrupted greatly by unexpected weather that made rural river crossings impassable. In other words, early voting was matter of convenience. Two centuries later, convenience continues to be the rallying cry of early voting advocates. Just as an argument for early voting echoes through time, so does an argument against. In 1845, the federal government set a uniform, single day for voting for president: the familiar first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Among the arguments for a single day was that it would prevent people from crossing state lines to vote more than once. Today, politicians speak of early voting as one way by which elections can be “rigged.”

Full Article: A Brief History Of Early Voting | Huffington Post.

National: Democrats Seek Reversal on Voter Registration Hurdle | NBC

High-ranking congressional Democrats are raising more serious concerns about a move by the director of a federal voting agency that made it easier for several red states to require documentary proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Robert A. Brady and Rep. James E. Clyburn urged the Election Assistance Commission in a letter sent Wednesday to formally rescind a change made in January to the instructions on the federal voter registration form for Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, which allowed those states to require citizenship proof. A federal court found this month that the move, which was carried out unilaterally by the agency’s executive director, Brian Newby, could disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters. Ruling that the move may violate federal voting law, the court blocked it from being enforced pending a resolution of the case. The letter outlines what the lawmakers called “troubling findings” from their probe into the issue — among them, that Newby conducted no written analysis of the impact of the change, and that he himself may no longer be certain that it was legal.

Full Article: Dems Seek Reversal on Voter Registration Hurdle - NBC News.

Editorials: Are U.S. elections ‘rigged?’ Here’s how to help voters believe that they’re not. | R. Michael Alvarez, Lonna Rae Atkeson and Thad E. Hall/The Washington Post

This August, the U.S. election system was cast into doubt. Donald Trump suggested that it might be rigged – presumably to help Hillary Clinton win. Russians allegedly hacked voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, although, according to the FBI, they didn’t succeed in tampering with voter rolls. Such comments and events have the potential to undermine Americans’ confidence that U.S. elections are run fairly — concerns usually brought up by those whose candidate lost the election, as Paul Gronke, Michael W. Sances and Charles Stewart III wrote here last month. Part of the reason that U.S. democracy is so stable — and that citizens accept election results instead of, say, rioting and setting the Capitol on fire — is that most American voters are confident that their ballots are counted accurately in our elections. That’s what we’ve found in our research over the past decade. And that confidence can be improved or harmed by how state and local election officials manage elections — whether their favored candidates win or lose.

Full Article: Are U.S. elections ‘rigged?’ Here’s how to help voters believe that they’re not. - The Washington Post.

Editorials: If Trump Disputes the Election, We Have No Good Way Out | Edward B. Foley/Politico

Will this year’s presidential election be rigged, as Donald Trump has predicted? It’s highly unlikely, and that’s true whether we’re talking about scary new threats, like cyber-hacking by the Russians, or old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing of the sort that ostensibly has led Trump to recruit his own poll watchers. We’re much more likely to see the kind of unintentional ineptitude that plagued the 2000 presidential race. As an old adage, often invoked by election scholars, goes: “Never attribute to malevolence what is explicable by incompetence.” But this is not to say that American democracy is immune to allegations of ill-willed vote rigging. Even if Trump said in Monday’s debate that he would support Hillary Clinton “if she wins,” he and his supporters could very well be convinced in their own minds that she did not. Then what happens? Consider Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state and the one I worry most about this year, since it uses electronic voting machines without paper backup. Suppose that on Election Night, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state announces that Clinton has won the state, and with it the presidency, but Trump says, “Prove it.” The secretary of state responds, “That’s what the machines tell us.” Trump responds, “Well, how do I know that the machines weren’t hacked?” What is the secretary of state supposed to say then?

Full Article: If Trump Disputes the Election, We Have No Good Way Out - POLITICO Magazine.

Editorials: Why Won’t Trump Blame the DNC Hack on Russia? | Kaveh Waddell/The Atlantic

After FBI Director Jim Comey warned a congressional panel on Wednesday that hackers are “poking around” voter-registration systems in various states, law-enforcement officials told CNN that the U.S. suspects Russian involvement. ABC News reported that nearly half of U.S. states have come under cyberattack from hackers affiliated with Russia, which helps explain Comey’s comment during Wednesday’s hearing that the FBI is looking into “just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.”  … So why did Donald Trump stand on a debate stage this week and equivocate on the DNC hack? … It’s not like Trump waffled onstage because he truly didn’t have the information that Clinton had. A U.S. intelligence officials told Time that the government’s confidence in Russia’s involvement in the DNC hack was covered in one of Trump’s intelligence briefings.

Full Article: Why Won’t Trump Blame the DNC Hack on Russia? - The Atlantic.

Voting Blogs: Voter registration numbers soar: Social media helps break registration records | electionlineWeekly

With the 2016 general election about a month way and the first voter registration deadlines just around the corner, it’s been a record-breaking voter registration week for states and counties across the country. Not only did we celebrate National Voter Registration Day this week, but many elections officials are thanking Google, Facebook and other social media outlets for the push. On September 23 Washington State saw a record one-day registration spike of 14,824 new registrants with nearly 13,000 of those via the state’s online portal MyVote — which was the second most for a single day since the portal launched. The spike follows a prompt from Facebook which urged Washington residents aged 18 and older to register to vote and included a link to connect people to the state’s online voter registration system.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.