Recent cyberattacks on state voter databases and the Democratic National Committee are raising fresh concerns that hackers could manipulate the upcoming presidential election. … “When people hear how the Russians have infiltrated political parties or state election sites, they immediately jump to, ‘Oh, they can flip votes and change the result of an election,’ ” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. That’s much easier said than done, said Mr. Norden. State boards of elections and law enforcement officials are working to protect the vote, and election officials do have measures in place to safeguard elections. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security said it will monitor closely for suspected breaches on voting systems and work with election boards to bolster their security. Still, according to Norden and other experts, more needs to be done. Here’s a closer look at potential problems at today’s ballot box and some solutions to harden the vote against hackers.
If we were to poll the readers of this article, we would likely find that the vast majority of readers — if not all — regularly shop online, make banking transactions online, fill out registrations and applications online, pay taxes online and maybe even vote for contestants in reality shows online. Yet Americans cannot vote for candidates for public office online. … But experts warn that online voting isn’t as simple as it sounds. Even though it has already been tried in a few places around the world, it probably can’t be secured. We already worry about hackers stealing our credit cards and our identities. If we voted online, we would have to worry about hackers stealing our elections, too.… Several countries have experimented with online voting, but none has forged ahead as far as the tiny Baltic country of Estonia, where nearly a third of ballots are cast online. But Estonia’s elections don’t look anything like those of the United States, where more votes are cast in some cities than in all of Estonia. The Estonian online voter must plug a national ID card — mandatory for all Estonians older than 15, and each of which has an embedded encrypted chip — into a card reader attached to his or her computer. It sounds secure, but two independent assessments, led by Verified Voting in 2011 and the University of Michigan in 2014, found serious flaws with the system.
Hackers are becoming a major source of political leaks in this year’s presidential race. Case in point: On Tuesday, stolen emails from former secretary of state Colin Powell became headline news after a mysterious site with possible ties to Russian cyber spies gave them to the press. Since then, media outlets have been pointing out juicy details found in the emails. For example, Powell called Clinton “greedy” and her rival Donald Trump a “national disgrace.” The incident has security experts worried that hackers are manipulating U.S. media outlets to influence this year’s election. “The media is certainly being used as a battlefield here,” said Rich Barger, CIO with security firm ThreatConnect.
The upcoming presidential election will mark a surprising first. Yes, a woman will be on the ballot as a major party nominee. But in addition, for the first time ever, the Organization of American States is sending poll observers to watch as U.S. voting takes place. The OAS, based in Washington, D.C., has previously observed elections in 26 of its 34 member nations, but never before in the United States. The mission will be led by former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. Gerardo de Icaza, the OAS director of electoral observation and cooperation, says “a small deployment” of 20 to 30 observers will be sent at the invitation of the U.S. State Department. He says the OAS views it “as a learning experience” and will issue nonbinding recommendations “that can improve the electoral system anywhere.” Those recommendations will be shared with the other OAS members.
The Department of Homeland Security will not classify election systems as critical infrastructure before the November presidential election, DHS Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Andy Ozment said at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit Tuesday. “This is not something we’re looking to in the near future. This is a conversation we’re having in the long term with state and local government, who are responsible for voting infrastructure,” said Ozment, a former senior director for cybersecurity on the National Security Council. “We’re focused right now on what we can usefully offer that local and state government will find valuable.”
The EAC is pleased to announce the Fors Marsh Group (FMG) will administer the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). The biennial survey, which has been administered since 2004, collects election administration data from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The biennial Statutory Overview is also being administered by FMG and will provide an overview of state laws and procedures governing federal elections. To prepare for administering the survey, in late August FMG hosted a webinar including EAC Commissioner Matt Masterson, Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) director Matt Boehmer, former San Diego County, CA Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler, and FMG subject matter expert Thad Hall to discuss the 2016 survey with the states. More than 30 states joined the webinar along with more than half-a-dozen counties. A video of this webinar is now available on the EAC’s website.
Senate Republicans turned to the nuclear option Wednesday, voting to cut off debate, end a Democratic filibuster and override Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a voter ID bill. The maneuver, known as “calling the previous question,” has historically been rarely used — only 15 times since 1970. But in recent years Republicans have increasingly used it to force through bills that have garnered vehement Democratic opposition, including earlier this year when they killed a nearly 40-hour filibuster of a “religious freedom” amendment to the state constitution. That was the case Wednesday on a bill that would require Missouri voters to provide a government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to keep the Libertarian candidate for secretary of state on November’s election ballots after the head of the state’s Republican Party tried to have the candidate declared ineligible. The justices, in a 5-1 decision, denied GOP Chairman Jeff Essmann’s request to remove Roger Roots from the ballot because Roots failed to file his required campaign finance disclosure paperwork. Roots is a long-shot candidate for the open seat against Republican Corey Stapleton and Democrat Monica Lindeen. He has neither raised nor spent any money in his campaign to replace outgoing Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.
New Hampshire: How the ballot selfie went from a New Hampshire voting booth all the way to federal court | Boston Globe
A federal appeals court in Boston will hear arguments Tuesday on a case that junctures the contentious issues of free speech, the integrity of the voting process, and selfies. Yes, selfies—specifically, so-called ballot selfies. The state of New Hampshire is appealing a ruling last year that struck down the state’s law explicitly banning voters from taking and posting photos with or of their ballots. The law, which carries a fine up to $1,000 for violators, went into effect shortly before New Hampshire’s 2014 state primary. The act intended to protect against vote buying in the digital age; what it got was widespread protest and a two-year legal saga. Leon Rideout knew what he was doing. “It was sort of a protest photo,” the Republican state representative from Lancaster said in an interview.
Wisconsin: In newly released emails, critics see proof of political motive for GOP voter fraud claims | Wisconsin State Journal
Hours after polls closed in the closely contested 2011 state Supreme Court election, Republican consultants and lobbyists traded emails about launching a potential public campaign to allege “widespread” voter fraud, newly released emails show. Critics say the emails are another sign of political motives behind Republican claims that voter fraud is a serious problem in Wisconsin. The emails became public Wednesday through a report by Guardian US, an arm of the British newspaper, which included leaked court documents from the secret John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign. They were dated to the early morning hours of April 6, 2011. At that time, the incumbent and GOP favorite in the Supreme Court race, then-Justice David Prosser, clung to a razor-thin election lead over the candidate favored by Democrats, Judge Joanne Kloppenburg.
The African Union says it plans to send observers to help Gabon’s Constitutional Court with a legal complaint lodged by opposition leader Jean Ping, who accuses President Ali Bongo of cheating to secure victory in an election last month. The dispute has led to riots that killed at least six people and brought unwelcome international scrutiny for Bongo, whose family has ruled the central African OPEC member for nearly 50 years. Ping, who officially lost by fewer than 6,000 votes, last week applied to the court to authorise a recount in the Haut-Ogooue province, Bongo’s stronghold, where the president won 95 percent of the votes on a 99.9 percent turnout. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union requested that its executive branch deploy observers from other French-speaking African countries “to assist the Constitutional Court of Gabon”, it said in a statement late on Tuesday.
A move that would have added another layer of secrecy to the voting process in India has been nixed by a team of ministers headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The ministers have decided not to allow the Election Commission to introduce Totaliser voting machines, which make it difficult to learn how an area voted by scrambling data from polling booths. The Election Commission has been planning for over a decade to introduce the machines. The government, however, has been against it because it argues it will hamper polling booth management.
It has been described as the most boring election of 2016, a parliamentary race set for Sunday that is largely devoid of drama and unlikely to change Vladimir Putin’s Russia very much. But among the country’s citizens faith in the democratic process has never been stronger. A report published in January by the Moscow-based Levada Centre has found that 62% of Russians believe the country is truly democratic, compared with just 36% five years ago. Putin’s personal approval rating has risen to 82%, underlining just how much the Kremlin has cemented its power since 2011, when the previous parliamentary elections degenerated into the biggest protests since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Shaded by cypress trees on Crimea’s Black Sea shore, a group of locals watch as folk singers in tall headdresses boom out a patriotic song about Russia with the lyrics: “I have no other motherland.” Two-and-a-half years after Moscow annexed the strategic peninsula from Ukraine, residents are gearing up to vote Sunday in their first polls to elect deputies to Russia’s national parliament. The ballot in Crimea — not recognised by Kiev or the international community — looks set to bind the region still closer to Moscow as the new pro-Kremlin elite cements its grip and opposition is silenced.