The controversy still rages over Russia’s possible hacking into computer systems used by American political entities. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has warned Russia not to try to interfere with the U.S. general election in November. Yet Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he doubts that Russia is involved. The election — the heart of U.S. democracy — is at the center of the debate. But before we tell you how … a little background. The system is decentralized. Votes are collected where people live, and then each state sets up its own security, in its own electoral system, to tabulate its votes. This method is intended to reduce fraud. So imagine the shock when the FBI told Arizona election officials that Russians had hacked into their system. Experts also blame Russia for hacking into Democratic party emails.
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 following 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. … Computer security experts have long expressed concerns about the vulnerabilities of state voter registration rolls and the frailties of older voting machines. “Flipped votes, freezes, shutdowns, long lines and in the worst-case scenarios, lost votes and erroneous tallies,” is how a report last year, “America’s Voting Machines At Risk,” described the recurring problems of older machines. It was written by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy and legal research center at the New York University School of Law.
Elections authorities and cyber security experts say a concerted effort to alter the outcome of November’s elections through a cyber attack is nearly impossible, even after hackers gained access to voter registration databases in at least two states. But some of those same experts say hackers with ties to Russia aren’t aiming to change election results; instead, their goal is to create a perception that the results are in question, and to undermine confidence in American democracy. “Russian tampering with elections is not new. It’s only new to the U.S.,” said Chris Porter, who runs strategic intelligence for the cybersecurity firm FireEye Horizons. He pointed to Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and the Philippines, where Russian-backed hackers have gained access to electoral systems in recent years.
“It’s just enough create scandal,” Porter said. “That’s sufficient for Russian aims.” Last month, officials in Arizona and Illinois discovered their voter registration systems had been hacked, a leak that put thousands of voter registration records up for sale on the black market. In January, more than 17 million voter registration records from Washington, Delaware, Rhode Island and Ohio were stolen.
Editorials: Hacking The US Election: How The Worlds Of Cyberwarfare And Politics Are Colliding Spectacularly | Kalev Leetaru/Forbes
Headlines have buzzed over the past few months with a series of cyberattacks targeting the American political system leading up to the presidential election this November. While initially dismissing the attacks as simple data breaches that would have little impact on electoral integrity, the administration is increasingly voicing concern that the breaches have been part of an orchestrated campaign to sow doubt and disarray in the American political system. Of particular concern is the release of stolen material to shift the balance of public opinion towards or against the candidates, while at the same time creating a steady drumbeat of doubt around the security of the voting system such that in the case of a tight race the losing candidate could claim that voting was rigged.
The statement, “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything” is usually attributed to the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Whoever said it, that thought is probably in the mind of Russian President Vladimir Putin as November 8 approaches. For months, the reported hacking into Democratic National Committee emails and the release of confidential DNC documents has been linked to possible Russian cyber attacks. Last week it was revealed that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are investigating what may be a broadly-based covert Russian cyber operation designed to discredit and possibly interfere with ballot counting in the November election. The election processes in Arizona and Illinois have reportedly been subjected to attempted or successful cyberattacks probably performed by the Russians. The FBI has reportedly alerted all state and local officials to the possibility of cyberattacks on the voting process.
Verified Voting is pleased to announce that noted computer scientist Steven M. Bellovin has joined our Board of Advisors. Bellovin is the Percy K. and Vidal L. W. Hudson Professor of computer science at Columbia University and member of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Center of the university’s Data Science Institute. He is the Technology Scholar at the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. He does research on security and privacy and on related public policy issues. In his copious spare professional time, he does some work on the history of cryptography. He joined the faculty in 2005 after many years at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs Research, where he was an AT&T Fellow.
Prof. Bellovin received a BA degree from Columbia University, and an MS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While a graduate student, he helped create Netnews; for this, he and the other perpetrators were given the 1995 Usenix Lifetime Achievement Award (The Flame). Bellovin has served as Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is serving on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In the past, he has been a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Advisory Committee, and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the Election Assistance Commission; he has also received the 2007 NIST/NSA National Computer Systems Security Award and has been elected to theCybersecurity Hall of Fame.
There’s been a lot of attention recently in the media on potential threats to the election system from hackers – but the focus has tended to be on what might happen or who plans to get involved. What’s been lacking up until now is a sense of what can be done about it; namely, what concrete steps that election officials across the nation can do to harden their systems. Fortunately, members of the Election Verification Network (EVN) have worked together to develop a “Top Ten list” that is intended to be an intensely practical guide for offices seeking to do something right now:
The ten recommendations below address these concerns by providing specific steps election officials and individuals can take during the next few weeks to reduce risk and improve public confidence in the upcoming elections. Because of local laws and regulations, not every suggestion will be appropriate to every election jurisdiction.
Maricopa County elections officials satisfied concerns from Democrats that there will be enough polling locations for the Nov. 8 election, leading to a settlement on one part of a federal lawsuit stemming from March’s presidential preference election. The settlement was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. Arizona minority voters, along with state and national Democratic Party officials and the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, sued in April. It came weeks after long lines for the March 22 presidential preference election frustrated voters and prompted many to abandon the long waits and not vote.
California: That letter that says you’re not a registered voter might be wrong | The Orange County Register
A voter registration drive by a national nonprofit has erroneously notified scores of voters throughout Southern California that they are not registered. That’s causing “absolutely unnecessary voter confusion,” according to Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, whose office has received dozens of calls from voters who received letters from the group and wanted to verify that they were registered. Officials in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties also reported a recent rash of calls from puzzled voters, as the group has launched the latest phase of a mailing that has reached more than 4 million California households this year. “Whether by intent or by accident, it is clear that the organization that sent out these mailings used bad data and failed to compare that data with the existing voter file,” said Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.
A federal court has blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship if they register using the federal form. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission approved a controversial rule in late January to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof of citizenship from voters who register using the federal form. The League of Women Voters brought a lawsuit against the rule, and the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction Friday by a 2-1 decision. Under the order, Kansas can no longer require people to show proof of citizenship when they register using the federal form and must allow anyone who registered after Jan. 29 to vote regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.
An extraordinary request to exclude Republican nominee Donald Trump from the Minnesota ballot sparked sharp words Friday and a swift timetable for the Minnesota Supreme Court to consider the Democratic petition. At least 1 million Minnesota ballots have already been printed, according to one legal filing. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin and his lawyers urged Trump’s removal from the ballot in a filing Thursday, arguing that state Republicans didn’t follow the law for submitting his candidate paperwork. Republican Party Chair Keith Downey shot back that the case was frivolous. “Donald Trump got on our ballot fair and square, and it is outrageous that the Democrat Party would actually try to rig the election this way,” Downey said in a written statement. “It sure smells bad when the Democrat Party petitions the Democrat Secretary of State to remove the Republican candidate from the presidential ballot.”
Selfie culture, long debated in the court of public opinion, will make its debut in a federal court of appeals on Tuesday, when a panel of judges is set to appraise a New Hampshire law banning voters from sharing photos of their marked ballots on social media. The case before the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston pits longstanding policies favoring ballot secrecy—generally adopted in the U.S. in the 19th century to stanch then-rampant vote buying—against a form of smartphone-enabled expression popular with young voters. Since at least 1979 it has been illegal in New Hampshire for a voter to show his ballot to someone else with the intention of disclosing how he plans to vote. In 2014, state legislators amended the law to include a ban on “taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media.” The aim of the law: to guard against hypothetical vote-buying schemes in which ballot selfies serve as proof of performance.
Reports that a foreign government is suspected of attempting to hack into American election systems have generated interest and cautious concern, at most, among Ohio elections officials. And the person at the top of the state’s election bureaucracy warned that it should not become a justification for a federal takeover. State and local elections officials said the elections process is already under close security scrutiny, is kept unconnected to the Internet, and — most importantly — maintains a paper database. “You don’t have to worry about our server being hacked because our server is not hooked up to the Internet and it can’t be by law,” said Gina Kaczala, the Republican director of the Lucas County Board of Elections. “The secretary of state is taking everything seriously and they do take tight control.”
Rhode Island voters will go to the polls Tuesday to select candidates for Congress and General Assembly and for mayor in North Providence and Woonsocket. Voters will notice a few minor changes at the polls this year, and turnout is expected to be light. … Voters will notice a small change in the way they vote: filling in an oval on their paper ballot rather than connecting an arrow. The change is due to new digital-scan voting machines being rolled out across the state in the primary. A portion of the polling locations will also start using new electronic poll books during the primary. The new wireless tablet-based system is designed to make it easier for poll workers to find voters’ names and eliminate the waits that can happen when workers have to pore through printed binders arranged alphabetically. Several more polling places will use electronic poll books during the Nov. 8 general election, and then the full rollout is scheduled to happen in 2018, Gorbea’s office said.
At least one opposition candidate has won a seat in parliamentary elections in Belarus, their first representation in the chamber for 20 years. The Electoral Commission said Anna Konopatskaya of the United Civil Party won one of the 110 seats being contested in the lower house. Lawmakers loyal to hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko are expected to occupy most remaining seats. Opposition candidates were able to enter more easily than earlier votes. The opposition’s participation in the election is a concession to Western calls for more transparency in Belarus, correspondents say. External monitors were also given access to the vote count.
Croatia’s conservatives were poised to remain in power after winning a snap election but will have to begin coalition talks to form a government after falling short of a majority. The close result does little to dispel political uncertainty in the EU’s newest member but the new conservative leader – now likely to be prime minister – has signalled a shift towards the centre after a lurch to the right. The conservative HDZ won 61 seats while its centre-left opposition rivals, the Social Democrats (SDP), had 54, according to results from nearly all polling stations. Slovenia and Croatia ban transit of refugees to other European countries “I’m certain that we are the party that will have the privilege of forming the next stable Croatian government,” HDZ’s new moderate leader, Andrej Plenkovic, told supporters early on Monday.
Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping has appealed to the country’s highest court contesting last month’s presidential election — results that have led to deadly violence with opposition supporters protesting in the central African nation. Ping lodged a complaint Thursday with the Constitutional Court, his campaign team told CNN, demanding a vote recount. “I am committed to defend the vote of Gabon,” Ping said in a statement after meeting Friday with supporters in Libreville, the capital. “If the Gabonese people do not recognize themselves in the decision handed down by the Constitutional Court, I will stand by their side, by the side of the people to demand they respect Article 9 of the constitution that states unambiguously that the election of the president of the republic is gained by the candidate who obtains the most votes,” he said.
Ilya Gushchin says the two and a half years he spent in prison for standing up to the Kremlin were a warning from the authorities for ordinary Russians. “It was a threat to the population to quieten down,” Gushchin, 28, told AFP. “For society it showed that the authorities were willing to do whatever was needed to stay in power.” Russia is currently gearing up for parliamentary elections on September 18 that pro-Kremlin parties look set to dominate, and that message seems to have registered. The last time the country voted in legislative polls five years ago, tens of thousands of ordinary citizens took to the streets for mass protests that became the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s domination of the country since he took charge in 2000. This time around there appears to be little chance of a repeat.
As elections to Russian parliament, Duma, approach, Ukraine says it will not allow Russian polling stations on its territory – even if they are placed in the diplomatic establishments. Both countries have exchanged unfriendly statements on Sept. 10. “The President (of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko) instructed the foreign minister (Pavlo Klimkin) to inform Moscow about the inability of Russian elections in Ukraine,” Poroshenko’s spokesperson, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, wrote on Twitter on Sept. 10. Russia holds the elections on Sept. 18. It plans to open polling stations in Russian consulates and embassy in Ukraine, for the Russians living in Ukraine to vote. In 2014, some 150,000 Russian citizens were living in Ukraine according to official data. But Ukrainian government isn’t going to allow the Russian polling stations to open in Ukraine. The reason is, Russian authorities also plan to hold the elections in the annexed Crimea.
Seychelles: Opposition coalition wins National Assembly in historic electoral transition | Seychelles News Agency
An opposition coalition — Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) — has won parliamentary polls held in Seychelles, the Electoral Commission confirmed early Sunday. LDS has won majority votes in 15 of the 25 constituencies contested, while the ruling Parti Lepep took the remaining 10. It’s the first time since the return of multiparty democracy in Seychelles in 1993 that the ruling Parti Lepep has lost its majority in parliament. LDS is a coalition of four main parties including the Seychelles National Party (SNP) which boycotted the 2011 parliamentary polls. The leader of LDS Roger Mancienne said the result marks “a historic step” for the country. “It’s historic because it’s the first time that we have a transition of power in one of the branches of government – the legislature,” said Mancienne, adding that the transition had occured in a peaceful and orderly manner.
Spain: With little hope of actually electing a government, Spain preparing to vote for third time in a year | Los Angeles Times
As Americans cast ballots this fall, they might spare a thought for Spaniards preparing to do the same — for the third time in a year, with little hope of actually electing a government. For nearly nine months, Spain has had only a caretaker, lame-duck government. Public infrastructure investment is on hold. Lawmakers have been unable to approve a new national budget. Some embassies are left with no ambassador. It’s the longest Spain has gone without elected officials since it became a democracy in 1978, and it’s testing the country’s fortitude. (Belgium is believed to hold the world record for a democracy going without an elected government: 589 days in 2010-11.) After a punishing economic crisis, two new national parties have emerged in Spain: Podemos, or We Can, on the left, and Ciudadanos, or Citizens, at the center-right. Both are led by fresh politicians in their 30s, challenging Spain’s 4-decade-old establishment of elites. The result? Absolute deadlock.