After multiple hacks of Democratic Party e-mail systems and fears of Russian cyber attacks on the U.S. election, paper ballots have taken on an unexpected appeal. Online voting software companies are convinced convenience-loving Americans will increasingly push to cast their ballots on smartphones and laptops, and they’re working to make that happen. But voter advocates, election officials and others are still leery of the risks involved in conducting elections over the all-too-vulnerable internet. For now, fears about voting security may be giving paper-ballot backers the upper hand where it matters most: Americans’ confidence in the integrity of the election system. “In recent weeks, reports on cyber attacks have voters questioning whether their vote will actually count, and that, in my opinion, is more damaging than the potential for hacking,” Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler told a House committee meeting Sept. 13. The best voting system, he said, is the one which “people of that state feel comfortable voting.”… The U.S. Election Assistance Commission—which develops voluntary guidelines, tests and certifies voting hardware and software—has not certified any internet voting systems. A commission spokesman told Bloomberg BNA it was not clear if an update to its technical guidelines—slated for 2018—would include language about online voting systems. However, the guidelines committee adopted a list of priorities in September 2016 which include discussions on the risks and benefits of electronically returning ballots.
As the United States barrels toward November elections, officials are still looking for last-minute fixes to ensure that the patchwork of voting technology used around the country can fend off the increasingly troubling prospect of hacker attacks. And in the latest of those efforts, Georgia representative Hank Johnson is set to introduce two bills today designed to shore up that fragile system’s security. The Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2016 would mandate that the Department of Homeland Security classify voting systems as critical infrastructure, and the Election Integrity Act would limit which voting machines states can buy and also create a plan for handling system failures. The bills reflect a growing debate about whether designating voting tech as critical infrastructure (like the public water supply, energy systems, transportation, communication grid, and the financial sector) would help to secure the U.S.’s highly decentralized voting setup. In the wake of the Democratic National Committee breach and increasingly brazen Russian cyberespionage attacks, concern is mounting about the potential for election hacking in the 2016 presidential race and beyond. Voting registries and election board websites have been compromised, security researchers have shown that electronic voting machines are vulnerable, and agencies like the FBI are on alert.
A pair of comprehensive, complimentary election infrastructure reform bills, which will be first introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives, seeks to take all voting machines offline, offers funding for election cybersecurity research and mandates the use of paper ballots across the U.S. by 2018, FedScoop has learned. These two pieces of legislation — named the “Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2016” and the “Election Integrity Act,” respectively — are being sponsored by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a lawmaker whose constituents will rely on paperless ballots to cast their votes in November’s presidential election. “In the wake of the DNC server hack and well-documented efforts by states to suppress the vote, citizens are rightly concerned,” Johnson said in a statement. “We must work to reduce the vulnerability of our crucial voting systems, protect the security and integrity of our electoral process, and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to vote.”
How does a lie come to be widely taken as the truth? The answer is disturbingly simple: Repeat it over and over again. When faced with facts that contradict the lie, repeat it louder. This, in a nutshell, is the story of claims of voting fraud in America — and particularly of voter impersonation fraud, the only kind that voter ID laws can possibly prevent. Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that nearly half of registered American voters believe that voter fraud occurs “somewhat” or “very” often. That astonishing number includes two-thirds of people who say they’re voting for Donald Trump and a little more than one-quarter of Hillary Clinton supporters. Another 26 percent of American voters said that fraud “rarely” occurs, but even that characterization is off the mark. Just 1 percent of respondents gave the answer that comes closest to reflecting reality: “Never.” As study after study has shown, there is virtually no voter fraud anywhere in the country. The most comprehensive investigation to date found that out of one billion votes cast in all American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were 31 possible cases of impersonation fraud. Other violations — like absentee ballot fraud, multiple voting and registration fraud — are also exceedingly rare. So why do so many people continue to believe this falsehood?
Verified Voting Blog: What are the post-Election Day procedures states can take to confirm the election went well?
Ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the vote count can help generate public confidence in elections. Two of the most important steps happen after voting concludes on Election Day. Ballot accounting and reconciliation (BA&R) is a not-so-exciting name for a crucial best practice. BA&R is a multi-step process that is designed to account for all ballots, whether cast at the polling place or sent in remotely, and compare that with the number of voters who voted, as the first pass. After that, the next step is to ensure that all batches of votes from all the polling places are aggregated into the totals once (and only once). This is a basic “sanity check” that makes sure no ballots are missing, none are found later, none were counted twice, etc. Most jurisdictions do a good job at this task.
North Dakota will offer an affidavit to voters who don’t bring an identification to the polls, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland’s order comes roughly a month and a half after he said the state couldn’t implement its voter ID laws without offering some kind of “fail-safe” mechanism. Seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued Secretary of State Al Jaeger in January, arguing the voter ID laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013 and 2015 disproportionately burden Native Americans. The 2013 change eliminated the option to use an affidavit, which voters could use to swear they were a qualified elector in a particular precinct, as well as the ability for poll workers to vouch for a voter’s eligibility.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in a case involving removal of names from voter registration rolls. A 2-1 decision by the Cincinnati-based appeals court overturned a decision by a federal district court earlier this year, which found Husted was not illegally deleting voters. The case will now go back to the U.S. District Court for reconsideration.”The secretary’s newly issued form does nothing to correct the fact that Ohio has, for years, been removing voters from the rolls because they failed to respond to forms that are blatantly non-compliant,” the court said. Read the full decision here.
The nation’s highest court may soon decide the fate of the controversial voter ID law here in Texas. State Attorney General Ken Paxton will ask them to take up the case. Paxton will make the request to find out once and for all whether the state’s voter id laws are legal. Republican State Senator Don Huffines of Dallas applauds Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s decision to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s voter ID law. “I think it’s a great decision.” says Senator Don Huffines. Huffines says he’s confident the nation’s highest court will overturn lower court rulings that the 2011 law is discriminatory against minorities. “We’ve had voter ID in Texas for several years now, and we’ve conducted several major statewide elections under the law, and we have no history of anyone being disenfranchised.”
Opposition leader Jean Ping on Saturday lashed a decision by Gabon’s top court to validate President Ali Bongo’s re-election, as police and troops patrolled the deserted streets of Libreville to prevent a new flareup of violence. Ping accused the Constitutional Court of “bias (and) miscarriage of justice” following a ruling early Saturday that upheld Bongo’s disputed victory in the August 27 presidential election. “I will not retreat. As president clearly elected by the Gabonese people, I remain at your side to defend your vote and your sovereignty,” Ping said. Concern has been growing that a ruling in favour of Bongo, in power since the death of his long-ruling father Omar Bongo in 2009, could spark more of the deadly unrest Gabon saw after the president’s re-election was announced.
Voters across Russia handed a sweeping victory to President Vladimir Putin’s allies in a parliamentary election on Sunday. But in two regions Reuters reporters saw inflated turnout figures, ballot-stuffing and people voting more than once at three polling stations. In the Bashkortostan region’s capital Ufa, in the foothills of the Urals, Reuters reporters counted 799 voters casting ballots at polling station number 284. When officials tallied the vote later in the day, they said the turnout was 1,689. At polling station 591 in the Mordovia regional capital of Saransk, about 650 km south-east of Moscow, reporters counted 1,172 voters but officials recorded a turnout of 1,756. A Reuters reporter obtained a temporary registration to vote at that station, and cast a ballot for a party other than the pro-Putin United Russia. During the count, officials recorded that not a single vote had been cast for that party.
Election officials on Wednesday quashed the opposition’s hope of holding a recall referendum that could wrest Venezuela’s presidency from the ruling socialist party. Officials said a national vote on removing President Nicolas Maduro could take place if the opposition gathers enough signatures over the course of three days at the end of October, but add that a referendum would be held in the first quarter of 2017. That timing is crucial. A successful vote to oust Maduro this year would trigger a presidential election and give the opposition a shot at winning power. If Maduro were to be voted out in 2017, though, his vice president would finish the presidential term, leaving the socialists in charge. With Venezuela’s economy in crisis, with soaring inflation and widespread shortages, polls say a majority of Venezuelans want Maduro gone.
Voting rights advocates are accusing a Washington bureaucrat of helping Republican-led states enforce tight restrictions on voter registration, a move they say turned a federal voting agency into a de facto ally of state officials looking to make voting harder. A progressive group on Wednesday called on the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to conduct an internal investigation into the actions taken by Brian Newby, the agency’s executive director. The group, Allied Progress, charged that Newby had improper private communications with his former boss, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and perhaps other election officials, about their requests to change the federal voter registration form to require applicants to show proof of citizenship. Patricia Layfield, the inspector general of the EAC, said no decision had yet been made on whether to open an investigation into Newby’s actions. “I continue to consider the various options available,” Layfield told NBC. “I’m taking the concerns expressed in the letter very seriously.”
State information technology officials have strengthened their defenses against hackers and cybercriminals who attack their computer networks millions of times a day, but admit they’re not fully prepared for increasingly complex threats that could expose the personal information of their residents. A report by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP released Tuesday revealed that cybersecurity is the foremost priority for state IT officers, who are highly concerned about increasing efforts, especially by sophisticated crooks, to breach their systems. “These sophisticated threats have grown significantly,” said Doug Robinson, NASCIO’s executive director. “There’s a never-ending parade of bad guys who are attempting to penetrate the network.” For citizens, the stakes in averting breaches are high. State data systems contain personal information about millions of people that is valuable to identity thieves. They house birth and death certificates, and driver’s license numbers. The systems also house Social Security numbers of state income taxpayers and the credit card numbers of people who make payments to state agencies.
The White House said Thursday it was looking into a cyber breach after what appeared to be a scan of first lady Michelle Obama’s passport was posted online. The fresh disclosures, which included emails to and from White House staffers, raised further concerns about the security of sensitive systems following a string of breaches affecting government agencies, private companies and the Democratic National Committee. Though officials declined to say whether the disclosures were authentic, there were no immediate reasons to suspect they were not. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said it was “something that we are looking into.” The U.S. Secret Service, responsible for the first lady’s safety, also expressed concern.
It won’t take Russian hackers or a wide-scale attack to undermine the November election, cyber security experts warn. What they fear most is something far easier to pull off: Smaller, targeted attacks on a few voting systems that create widespread doubt among voters. In the age of social media, even a small cyber-attack could explode into chaos by casting doubt on the election’s integrity, experts warn. “Today we have social media, where a lie can circle the globe before the truth can reach the keyboard,” said Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Silicon Valley non-profit OSET Institute. “It doesn’t take very long for incredible chaos to break out over the presumption that something has gone wrong.” Both President Obama and the FBI have warned of possible tampering with this year’s election process. Miller says that sets the stage for potential turmoil with or without an actual attack on Election Day.
With more than 120 million Americans expected to cast ballots for president this fall, the nation’s voting process seems more convoluted than ever and rife with potential for confusion come Election Day. Voting rules vary widely by state and sometimes by county, meaning some Americans can register the same day they vote, while others must do so weeks in advance. Some can mail in a ballot, while others must stand in line at a polling place that might be miles from home. Some who forget photo identification can simply sign an affidavit and have their ballot count, while others must return with their ID within a few days or their vote doesn’t matter. Fourteen states have new voting and registration rules in place for this election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. Legal challenges have led to a multitude of recent court rulings that have blocked or struck down some provisions and upheld or reinstated others, scrambling the picture further. The new rules and the rapidly shifting landscape have already caused confusion, and some experts fear problems on Nov. 8.
National: US lawmakers: Russia trying to ′influence the US election′ through cyber attacks | Deutsche Welle
Two Democratic lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees said on Thursday that Russia is behind a recent spate of cyber attacks which they are using to impact the outcome of the November 8 election. “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election,” wrote Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff in a joint-statement. “At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election. We can see no other rationale for the behavior of the Russians.”
As the election draws closer and the race narrows, there are rising concerns about the integrity of the vote count. For one congressman, that means having more federal observers at polling stations come November. Rep. John Lewis, (D) of Georgia, brings a lifetime of commitment to voting rights to the 2016 election. He was a leader in the civil rights movement and later directed the Voter Education Program, which added 4 million minority voters to election rolls during his tenure. During a roundtable on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, he expressed concern about voter ID laws and decried what he described as, “a deliberate, persistent, systematic effort to make it … more difficult for the disabled, students, seniors, minorities, for poor and rural voters to participate in the democratic process.” Representative Lewis says that having federal election observers in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and maybe other southern states would help prevent discrimination and intimidation. But a change to the Voting Rights Act means that the Justice Department no longer determines which states get election observers. Instead, a federal court has to rule that they are required.
Florida: A few former felons in Florida regain voting rights weeks before 2016 election | Miami Herald
It took 33 years, but Gilberto Hernandez of Miami finally feels like an American citizen again. He can vote. Hernandez was one of the few fortunate ones Wednesday as Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet sat in judgment of four dozen people seeking to restore their civil rights, decades after they ran afoul of the law and weeks before what could be the most important election of their lifetimes. Hernandez, walking with a cane, expressed remorse for his past and pleaded for the right to full citizenship while he still has the chance. He has Parkinson’s disease and will turn 65 next month. “For 33 years, I’ve been waiting for this day, to try to bring back my civil rights,” Hernandez testified. “I felt that I was less than an American because my rights were all taken away. And I felt very bad.” Hernandez is one of 1.5 million disenfranchised felons in Florida, more than any other state, according to a study by the Sentencing Project. Florida revokes civil rights of convicted felons for life, including the right to vote, serve on a jury or run for public office.
The email popped into Georgia Elections Director Chris Harvey’s in-box one Monday morning in August, with four sparse lines punctuated by a smiley face and a YouTube link. “I know you have been asked,” Columbia County Elections Director Nancy Gay wrote of the video, which poll workers, the public and elections officials alike had shared over fears it meant trouble for the November election. “I would love to know your response.” A steady stream of questions about the security of the state’s voting systems has come to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office over the past two months, according to a review of records by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That includes the video shared by Gay on Aug. 22, just days after the FBI’s cyber division warned states that it was investigating incidents related to elections data systems in two states believed to be Arizona and Illinois.
Kansas: DC group wants inspector general to examine Brian Newby’s voter decision | The Kansas City Star
A Washington group has renewed its call for an investigation of Brian Newby, the former head of the Johnson County Election Office and now in charge of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, or EAC. Allied Progress has written the EAC’s inspector general, asking her to examine Newby’s decision to approve applications from three states, including Kansas, to modify their federal registration forms in order to require documentary proof of citizenship to register. Newby made the decision to allow the changes despite the absence of formal approval from the EAC’s board of comissioners. Newby said he had the authority to make the decision on his own. Several groups sued to stop implementation of the requirement. In September, a federal appeals court blocked Kansas and the other states from changing their federal forms to require citizenship proof.
Montana: Ballot printing delayed while Libertarians sort dispute after candidate’s death | Associated Press
Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch on Thursday accepted a replacement for U.S. House candidate Mike Fellows, who died in a car crash earlier this week, after a Libertarian Party internal dispute briefly threatened to delay county election officials from printing new ballots. Rick Breckenridge of Proctor filed his paperwork with McCulloch’s office on Thursday morning after the Ravalli County Libertarian Central Committee chose him to replace Mike Fellows in the U.S. House race. Fellows, the longtime state chairman of the Libertarian Party, died Monday night in a head-on collision after a campaign event in Seeley Lake. But a power struggle emerged within the party over Fellows’ successor as the head of the party who could properly name a replacement candidate, and McCulloch said Breckenridge’s filing could not be accepted until the dispute was settled.
Ohio has a controversial practice of removing voters from the rolls who have not cast ballots in years. But just how many are deleted remains a mystery, raising questions about the care taken with the swing-state’s voter rolls. The practice itself has attracted scrutiny – it’s the subject of one of several federal lawsuits over voting in the battleground state. But the way officials delete and track voter registrations raises other concerns. Depending on where you live, county election officials might diligently remove thousands of voter registrations each year, documented by detailed records. Or they might insist they haven’t followed through with the state-ordered process in some years, or apologize for tossing those files years ago, according to an Enquirer / USA Today Network investigation, in which Ohio reporters contacted all 88 county board of elections.
The Democratic Party of Virginia argued before a federal appeals court on Thursday that its ruling blocking North Carolina’s voter identification law should also apply to Virginia’s, since Republican lawmakers in their state also sought to suppress voting by minorities and young people. Bruce Spiva, an attorney for Virginia Democrats, told a three judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that state’s law requiring people to show photo identification at the polls was passed for a single purpose: to make it more difficult for blacks, Latinos and young people to vote. “The same Legislature that passed the voter ID law is the same Legislature that was found to have racially gerrymandered its districts,” Spiva added, referring to 4th Circuit’s ruling that Virginia Republicans packed too many black voters in one congressional district to make adjacent districts safer for GOP incumbents. Much of Thursday’s debate centered on how Virginia’s law — and the facts surrounding its implementation — differ from North Carolina’s.
Virginia: Amid voter ID fight and ‘misleading’ mailings, voting to begin in battleground Virginia | The Washington Post
Voters begin going to the polls Friday in this battleground state, where Republicans and Democrats continue wrangling over voter ID laws, and elections officials were warning Virginians to ignore “misleading” letters about their registration status. Voters who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day may cast their ballots in person at their local elections offices starting Friday. In-person absentee voting continues through Nov. 5. Virginia does not offer early voting to all voters, as some other states do. But it allows people to vote absentee — with mail-in ballots or in person — if they fit certain categories. Those include voters who will be away at college or on business trips and vacations, who have long commutes or religious obligations, are first responders or active-duty members of the military or are in jail awaiting trial. … Earlier this week, state elections officials warned that some voters may have received mailings that suggested their voter registration status was in question. Edgardo Cortés, the state’s elections commissioner, said the mailings came from at least two organizations, America’s Future and the Voter Participation Center.
Gabon’s ambassador to the United States has said that a recount of votes in the country’s controversial August election would be impossible, since the ballots had been burned, despite announcing a review of the result on Monday. Michael Moussa-Adamo, the Central African country’s representative to the U.S., stated in a letter to the New York Times on Monday that the Gabonese Constitutional Court would undertake a review of the election result, including a “recount of the vote.” The country’s electoral commission declared President Ali Bongo Ondimba the winner of the vote, sparking violent protests among supporters of opposition candidate Jean Ping.
Gabon’s constitutional court is to rule as early as Friday who will be the country’s next president, ending weeks of uncertainty after disputed polls sparked a political crisis and violent protests. Incumbent President Ali Bongo, the son of late autocratic ruler Omar Bongo, was declared the winner of the August 27 election by a margin of fewer than 6,000 votes. But rival Jean Ping, a career diplomat and former chairman of the African Union Commission, filed a legal challenge and demanded a recount, saying that the vote was fraudulent. The court met Thursday and had retired to consider its verdict. It has the choice of either upholding the original result or overturning it.
Germanyis investigating a series of sophisticated computer hacking attacks on MPs and political parties amid fears Russia may be trying to influence the outcome of next year’s elections. The offices of several MPs inside Germany’s parliament were targeted in the attacks, as well as regional offices of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and rival parties. The German government agency in charge of cyber security believes the attacks originated from Russia and may be linked to the hacking of private emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team in the US earlier this year. Senior American Democrats have accused Russia of being behind the leak of thousands of internal emails in an attempt to help Republican candidate Donald Trump win the White House.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Thursday announced the preliminary results of five districts, two of which had three women winning outside the quota. Meanwhile, the IEC announced that no re-vote would be held in the Central Badia District, where sabotage of ballots was reported. At a press conference, Mustafa Barari, head of the commission’s special committee entrusted with auditing the elections’ results, announced the initial outcomes of Karak, Balqa and Irbid’s 1st and 4th districts as well as the Central Badia. In Karak, the number of voters stood at 103,451 with 10 seats allocated for the southern constituency, including those designated for women and Christians. Out of eleven competing lists, six have made it to the 18th House.
The Sunday September 18 election for the Russian parliament has given Vladimir Putin another pro-Putin parliament (Duma) to routinely rubber-stamp his most ludicrous and repressive legislation. His United Russia party gained a majority (54 percent according to preliminary results). No opposition party crossed the five percent hurdle; instead, the reliable Communist (13 percent), Liberal Democrat (13 percent), and Just Russia Parties (6 percent) will join United Russia in the new Duma. Only sixteen candidates from the so-called small parties gained seats in regional parliaments. In a word: The Duma election was a total wipeout of legislative opposition in Putin’s Russia. This is no big deal in itself because the legislative branch has little power, but the election signaled the end of hope for change through elections in Russia. Palace coups or the streets are the only remaining options of the Russian people.