Hackers could influence the outcomes of November’s elections, a computer science professor who has demonstrated security weaknesses in voting machines told lawmakers on Wednesday. “It’s possible,” said Andrew Appel, a professor at Princeton University, at a House Oversight IT subcommittee hearing focused on election cybersecurity. But Appel, who has hacked voting machines used in many states, was the only one to reply affirmatively when subpanel Chairman Will Hurd (R-Texas) asked for a “yes” or “no” answer to the question, “Can a cyberattack change the outcome of our national elections?” The four other people testifying — including a secretary of state, the chairman of the federal agency that assists with elections, a top Department of Homeland Security cyber official and the head of a public policy firm’s division focused on voting rights — all essentially answered “no.
A congressional subcommittee on information technology gathered on Wednesday, inviting high-ranking officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the US Election Assistance Commission, as well as cybersecurity experts to testify on how hackers could hijack the 2016 presidential elections. All five witnesses agreed that a cyberattack would not affect the outcome of the presidential election this November. The electronic voting system’s best line of defense against cyberattacks is that the machines aren’t connected to the internet, meaning hackers would have to show up in person to hijack the election.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told a Senate hearing Tuesday that 18 states have taken up his agency’s offer to help improve cyber security for their election systems, in the wake of suspected breaches blamed on Russian hackers. “We are seeing a limited number of instances where there have been efforts through cyber intrusions to get into the online presence of various state election agencies. And, one or two of them have been successful, others have not,” Johnson said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. The issue of the integrity of US elections has been a prominent one on the presidential campaign trail, with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid each raising concerns about possible rigging of the results. Both Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, said at Monday’s debate that they would respect the election results. Asked by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, whether hackers are seeking to change votes, Johnson said: “What we are seeing are efforts to get into voter registration rolls, the identity of registered voters, things of that nature, not to change a ballot count.”
A new study has found that over 34,000 transgender people may be prevented from voting in the upcoming election due to strict voter ID laws. The study, “The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters in the 2016 General Election,” was released by UCLA School of Law’s The Williams Institute — a think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. Its author, Williams Institute Scholar Jody L. Herman, Ph.D., used data from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality to look at voter ID laws in eight states: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. In those states, around 112,000 transgender are estimated to have transitioned and be eligible to vote, but about 30% may be prevented from doing so. The reason? A lack of identification that accurately reflects their correct gender, according to the study. Currently, thirty-four states have voter ID laws that require someone to produce an “acceptable” form of identification to poll workers in order to vote. The strictest forms of those laws require government-issued ID, which is where transgender people face a potential barrier.
U.S. officials are increasingly confident that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 is part of a network of individuals and groups kept at arm’s length by Russia to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions such as the theft of thousands of Democratic Party documents, according to people familiar with the matter. While the hacker denies working on behalf of the Russian government, U.S. officials and independent security experts say the syndicate is one of the most striking elements of what looks like an intensifying Russian campaign to target prominent American athletes, party officials and military leaders. A fuller picture of the operation has come into focus in the past several weeks. U.S. officials believe that at least two hacking groups with ties to the Russian government, known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, are involved in the escalating data-theft efforts, according to people briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of the cyberattacks.
One of the last questions asked of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Monday night’s debate at Hofstra University deserves to be revisited. Moderator Lester Holt asked both candidates whether, if they lost the election, they accept the results as the “will of the voters.” Both indicated that yes, they would (although Mr. Trump agreed to support Ms. Clinton so reluctantly — it required a follow-up question from Mr. Holt — that reporters felt compelled to confirm his position afterward). In any other presidential race, a question about recognizing the will of the voters would be regarded as a softball — the answer so obvious that surely no debate prep was needed. After all, what kind of presidential nominee seeks to delegitimize the essential process that sustains the greatest democracy on earth? But these are not ordinary times. The nation’s voting system faces a very real threat from computer hackers. That much was made clear with the breach of a voter information database in Illinois this summer. Election boards across the country — including Maryland’s — were put on alert by federal authorities out of concern for potential vulnerabilities.
California: Felons in county jails to be allowed to vote in California elections | Los Angeles Times
Despite widespread opposition from law enforcement, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a bill that will allow thousands of felons in county jails to vote in California elections as part of an effort to speed their transition back into society. Through a representative, Brown declined to comment on the bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), who said it would reduce the likelihood of convicts committing new crimes. “Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber said when the bill was introduced.
An investigation into Georgia’s Election Administration claims that state officials at the highest levels have engaged in a “long-term assault on voting rights.” The report by Allied Progress – a national non-profit group – found that officials were systematically making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly, disabled, and low-income voters to cast ballots.The scathing report accuses Georgia’s Secretary of State and Governor of pushing suppression efforts, which include: Strict voter ID requirements, Proof of citizenship, Reduced early voting, and Felon voting right restrictions. Karl Frisch, Executive Director of Allied Progress, joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now and said, “You’ve got an election administration process from the top on down to the bottom where people have admitted to their partisan motivation and when they thought no one was looking, they sometimes say in public or on social media absolutely racially abhorrent things.” By Frisch’s account, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said, “If minorities get registered to vote, they could beat Republicans.” He continued, “As if it would be a bad thing for minorities to get registered to vote.”
A Shawnee County judge has issued an order that should ensure that thousands of people are able to vote in state and local elections this November. Judge Larry Hendricks previously issued a preliminary order that people who registered to vote at the DMV could vote in the August primary regardless of whether they had provided proof of citizenship. He has now extended that order through the Nov. 8 general election. He has also amended his order to require that Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the defendant in the case, ensure that these 18,000 voters are given timely notice by local election offices that they qualify to vote in federal, state and local races in the general election. Kobach will face a contempt hearing this week in a separate federal case over allegations that he has failed to ensure these voters are registered and informed of their status.
Editorials: Courts need to protect rights of Kansas voters because Kris Kobach certainly isn’t | The Kansas City Star
In court after court, judges are being asked to protect the voting rights of thousands of Kansas citizens this year. And in case after case, the courts are coming down on the side of letting those Kansans participate in elections — despite the misguided efforts of Secretary of State Kris Kobach to keep them out of voting booths. Just this week, a U.S. Court of Appeals panel upheld an earlier ruling that Kansas couldn’t prevent citizens from voting because they didn’t provide proof of citizenship when registering. The most compelling reason offered by the court was that Kobach and other supporters of this tactic had provided far too little proof that any fraudulent voting was going on. That legal case comes on top of two others swirling around Kobach, including a potentially chilling one for his political career, which involves a contempt of court accusation.
Minnesota: State Supreme Court dismisses voting rights case from conservative group | Star Tribune.com
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a challenge from a conservative group seeking changes to how voter eligibility disputes over possible felony convictions are resolved during elections. In a 14-page ruling, justices said the lawsuit, filed by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, must first be heard in lower courts. “The broad-ranging challenges alleged here, which respondents dispute, should be addressed first in the district court, where any factual disputes can be fully litigated and resolved,” the court wrote in its opinion.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday soundly struck down New Hampshire’s ban on ballot selfies concluding it restricted innocent, political speech in the pursuit of what the judges called an “unsubstantiated and hypothetical danger” of vote-buying. A three-judge panel unanimously concluded that the state’s 2014 ban was unconstitutionally over broad. “The ballot selfie prohibition is like burning down the house to roast the pig,” wrote Judge Sandra Lynch in a 22-page decision. The state will now weigh its options, which include appealing this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said. “We’ll probably have a better idea later Thursday about how we proceed from here,” Scanlan said.
Ohio: Homeless advocates, Democrats ask full appellate court to review Ohio voter disenfranchisement case | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Advocates for the homeless who challenged the fairness of how Ohio counts some votes have asked the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their case in the wake of a three-judge panel’s decision that reversed their lower-court victory. In a court filing Tuesday, lawyers for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party argue that panel’s decision conflicts with previous Supreme Court and 6th Circuit rulings. That decision Sept. 13 overturned a lower court’s ruling that said Ohio was disenfranchising otherwise undisputedly eligible voters solely because of technical errors and omissions on voter ballot forms for absentee and provisional ballots. … Lawyers for the homeless coalitions asked for a review of the panel’s ruling by the full 6th Circuit bench, which has more than a dozen active judges.
The voting status of 1.2 million infrequent voters in Ohio remains in doubt despite a federal court ruling last week that says Ohio’s practice of purging the names from registration rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Voting rights advocates on Tuesday launched a campaign to get voters to verify their registrations ahead of the Oct. 11 deadline. They also continued to press Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to reverse course on a practice of purging infrequent voters from registration rolls if they haven’t cast ballots in years. Husted indicated he may appeal last week’s ruling from the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The decision was tremendous,” state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, said at a press conference in Columbus Tuesday. “More than 1.2 million voters will be able to vote again.” But the 1.2 million dropped voters won’t necessarily be automatically added back to the registration rolls. The appeals court left it up to the district court to decide what should happen.
Canada: Marc Mayrand urges modernization of Canada’s outdated electoral process | The Globe and Mail
Canada’s outdated way of conducting federal elections has reached a tipping point and must be modernized to meet the needs and expectations of voters, says the chief electoral officer. The Canada Elections Act is based on how elections were conducted in the 19th century, when communication with the regions was limited, oversight was minimal and election administration was local, Marc Mayrand told a news conference Wednesday. “It is a process that is entirely manual, rigid and slow.” In last fall’s election, Mayrand said long lineups at advance polls were the result “of unduly rigid and cumbersome procedures,” frustrating Canadians who expect the voting process to “align with their lifestyles and personal or family situations.” “I strongly believe that federal election administration has reached a tipping point and that action is required now to ensure we can meet electors’ changing needs and expectations.”
Russia: Journalist arrested for ‘illegal’ voting after exposing fraud in Duma elections | The Independent
An award-winning journalist who exposed voting fraud during Russia’s parliamentary elections has himself been arrested for alleged fraud. Denis Korotkov, a correspondent for the independent news website Fontanka, was scheduled to appear in court in St Petersburg on Wednesday on charges of “illegally obtaining a ballot”. But campaigners say Mr Korotkov was working undercover to expose vote rigging in the Duma elections, which have provoked international concern, and is now being harassed for his work. Mr Korotkov documented how he posed as a voter on 18 September and was given a sticker by polling station officials, who then arranged for him to be transported around St Petersburg with others to cast multiple ballots for specified candidates.
Switzerland: In referendum, Switzerland votes for meatier surveillance law by large margin | Ars Technica
Swiss citizens have backed by a large margin a new law that will expand government surveillance powers, following a national referendum held in Switzerland on Sunday. In total, 65.5 percent were in favour, and 34.5 percent against. Under the new law, Switzerland’s intelligence agency, the Service de renseignement de la Confédération (SRC), will be allowed to break into computers and install malware, spy on phone and Internet communications, and place microphones and video cameras in private locations. “This is not generalised surveillance, it’s letting the intelligence services do their job,” said Swiss Christian Democratic party vice-president Yannick Buttet, according to the Guardian. However, Swiss parliamentarian and leading member of the leftwing Social Democrats Jean Christophe Schwaab disagreed: “This law seeks to introduce mass observation and preventive surveillance. Both methods are not efficient and go against the basic rights of citizens.”