Is it time to panic about Election Day? Not about the choices for president, but about whether the votes that millions of Americans will cast Nov. 8 will be secure. “My level of concern is pretty high,” said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan group created to develop guidelines after the disputed 2000 presidential election. Experts are warning that in a year of unending political drama, still more might be in store, from Russian hackers to obsolete voting machines prone to breakdowns, all with the potential for causing considerable political chaos. … Nervousness over the apparatus by which the next president will be chosen seemed inevitable. Computer-security experts have long expressed concerns about the vulnerabilities of state voter-registration rolls and the frailties of older voting machines.
People have trouble prioritizing risk. For example, you often hear about the threat of voter fraud, when all evidence suggests that the risks of such fraud are inconsequential. In truth, hacked voting machines are much more likely to affect an election’s outcome. Why would an election fraudster try to herd a flock of criminal participants to the polls when one mildly talented hacker could cause far more trouble? On a state-by-state level, most presidential elections are decided by many thousands of votes. For example, in 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by more than 166,000 votes in the swing state of Ohio. Even in the 2000 election, the closest presidential contest ever, what sort of Houdini could have marshaled the miscreants necessary to cast a few hundred fake votes to tip the balance without getting caught? A hack of a single voting machine could accomplish the same objective.
Although Champaign, Ill., native Judith Maltby has lived in Great Britain for 30 years, she returns to the United States regularly and follows U.S. presidential races. This year’s election is of particular concern to Maltby, a chaplain at England’s Oxford University who hopes “the U.S. remains a serious partner with democratic Europe and continues to be outward looking.” She said she is backing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton because Republican “Donald Trump’s campaign is about isolationism of the most destructive kind.” Maltby is one of approximately 8 million Americans living abroad, a group large enough to tip elections in close presidential and state contests. They could not vote until 1975, when the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act became law. Since then, non-partisan organizations, including Vote From Abroad and Overseas Vote Foundation, have offered help, such as how to register from abroad.
Following an official invitation to observe the US general election in November and an in-country assessment in May, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) plans to deploy 100 long-term and 400 short-term observers to the US this fall. The mission will also include a media monitoring element and will be complimented by a core team of analysts. While the long-term observers are slated to follow the election process across the country already before election day, the short-term observers are tasked with monitoring the polls on election day only. Election observers are usually seconded for the mission by OSCE participating states. Four years ago the OSCE deployed 44 short-term observers across the country as well as a core team of 13 experts to monitor the 2012 US election. No short-term contingent was sent for what was considered a “limited mission.”
Brace for a stream of digital leaks and shenanigans by Election Day. Whether it’s newly disclosed Democratic Party emails or someone tampering with voting machines, this year’s presidential election could come with hacking intrigue like none before it. Consider messages stolen from the Democrats by suspected Russian-linked hackers and posted online in the summer by the self-described…
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s disclosure earlier this month that foreign hackers had infiltrated voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona came as no surprise to some cybersecurity experts. “Given where cybercrime has gone, it’s not too surprising to think about how information risks might manifest themselves during the election season to cause some level of either potential disruption, change in voting, or even just political fodder to add the hype cycle,” says Malcolm Harkins, chief security and trust officer at network security firm Cylance. Growing concern that hackers sponsored by Russia or other countries may be attempting to disrupt the presidential election is certainly not far-fetched, given the recent data breach at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. In fact, hacking an election is shockingly easy, according to a report by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a cybersecurity think tank. In most cases, electronic voting systems “are nothing but bare-bone, decade old computer systems that lack even rudimentary endpoint security,” according to the report. Security vulnerabilities are discussed every four years, but little attention is given to the problem. “It’s time for a complete overhaul in the electoral process’ cyber, technical and physical security,” the report concludes.
National: National Association of Secretaries of State names members of election security group | FCW
After reports of possible hacks by foreign entities on U.S. voting systems and massive data theft from political party databases, the Department of Homeland Security is assembling a group of state and federal officials who will explore ways to protect the integrity of U.S. election systems. On Aug. 31, the National Association of Secretaries of State named four representatives to DHS’ Election Infrastructure Cybersecurity Working Group: Denise Merrill, Connecticut’s secretary of state and the association’s president; Connie Lawson, Indiana’s secretary of state and the association’s president-elect; and NASS Elections Committee Co-Chairs Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, and Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state. Other participants in the group include the Election Assistance Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official said.
A federal appeals court reaffirmed Tucson’s hybrid city election process Friday, rejecting Republican claims that it violates the one-person, one-vote principle. The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the system for municipal elections – in which council members are first nominated by party in ward races and then run at-large – is allowed under the federal system that “permits ‘innovation and experimentation’” that can “vary greatly across the country.” “Tucson’s hybrid system represents a careful, longstanding choice, twice affirmed by voters, as to how best to achieve a city council with members who represent Tucson as a whole but reflect and understand all of the city’s wards,” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion.
A pair of Native American tribes are planning to file a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against the state of Nevada after being denied voter registration sites and polling places on tribal lands in Washoe and Mineral counties. The basis of the suit is voter disenfranchisement of a protected class under the Civil Rights Act. The plaintiffs — the Pyramid Lake Paiutes and the Walker River Paiutes — argue that a lack of access to voter registration and polling places on the reservation has hampered Native American turnout. Native American registration and turnout historically is low, mainly due to access and other barriers, according to Bret Healy, a consultant for the Native American advocacy group Four Directions who is overseeing the lawsuit. He’s handled similar requests in other states and said that if they are granted, turnout tends to increase dramatically, sometimes as much as 130 percent. “It’s because there’s more obstacles,” Healy said. “It’s not an equal access to the ballot box.”
North Carolina: Early voting reduced in 23 counties; 9 drop Sunday voting after GOP memo | News & Observer
Voters in 23 North Carolina counties will have fewer opportunities to vote early than they did four years ago under schedules approved by Republican-led election boards. The decisions came after the N.C. Republican Party encouraged its appointees on the county boards to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting the number of hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays. While Republicans hold a majority on the local elections board in each of the state’s 100 counties, 70 boards voted to offer more early voting hours than they’d had in the 2012 presidential election, while 23 cut hours from 2012. Of the 21 counties that offered Sunday voting in 2012, nine voted to eliminate it, while 12 agreed to keep Sunday hours. Some of the decisions are awaiting review by the State Board of Elections. In 33 counties, local election boards had split votes, which means their early voting schedules will be determined by the state board when it meets Thursday.
Instead of sleeping on Sunday night after the LegCo election, 33-year-old AM730 columnist William Chan instead volunteered to watch people count ballots, which ended up lasting until 8am in the morning due to a recount. Chan was one of the organisers of a Facebook event called Monitor Your Own Polling Stations, which called on Hong Kong people to witness the vote count at their local polling stations. Despite the fact that the page was set up only a couple days before the election, 190 people confirmed their attendance. Mo Chan, another organiser, said the event was necessary because people have no confidence in the election process. “Since the beginning of the LegCo election, since the nomination process, we have seen a lot of things that were done in a very weird way. We think that – as residents – we should use our own eyes to watch this thing carefully.” He mentioned the disqualification of candidates, reports of people arriving at polling stations to find their ballots had already been cast by someone else, and reports of people telling senior citizens who to vote for by writing it on their hands as odd happenings that unfolded during the voting process.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo, who has been accused by opposition politicians of voter fraud, resisted calls Wednesday for a recount of votes cast in the country’s presidential election, saying he has no power to order one. European Union observers in Gabon have said there was an “obvious anomaly” in election results that showed Bongo narrowly defeating challenger Jean Ping. The EU observer mission to Gabon is questioning results from Upper Ogooue province, a Bongo stronghold where the incumbent president officially won 95 percent of the votes amid 99 percent voter turnout. The opposition has said the vote tallies in the province were vastly inflated. In a statement Tuesday, the EU mission noted that turnout was significantly lower in Gabon’s eight other provinces, averaging just 48 percent nationwide. “An analysis of the number of non-voters and blank and spoiled ballots reveals an obvious anomaly in the final results of Upper Ogooue,” it said. “…the integrity of the provisional results in this province is consequently compromised.”
An African strongman accused of rigging elections in his own country is preparing to mediate between the two sides contesting the result of last week’s poll in Gabon. Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, who has ruled his country for 26 years, is expected to lead an African Union delegation that is preparing to go to Libreville to try to resolve the crisis. Both sides claimed victory, and post-election clashes between protesters and Gabon’s security forces have left up to 100 people dead, according to the opposition. Hundreds of people been have arrested, the national parliament was torched and the opposition headquarters stormed.
Zambia’s constitutional court on Monday threw out an attempt by the defeated presidential candidate to annul August’s election results, clearing the way for President Edgar Lungu’s inauguration next week. Hakainde Hichilema, who lost the election by 100,000 votes, alleged that the result was rigged and launched a legal bid to stop Lungu retaining power. Zambia is known for its relative stability, but the run-up to the vote was marked by clashes between supporters of Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) and Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND). “There is no petition to be heard before this court,” said judge Annie Sitali, ruling that a 14-day deadline for the legal challenge had expired.