The US government has formally accused Russia of hacking the Democratic party’s computer networks and said that Moscow was attempting to “interfere” with the US presidential election. Hillary Clinton and US officials have blamed Russian hackers for stealing more than 19,000 emails from Democratic party officials, but Friday’s announcement marked the first time that the Obama administration has pointed the finger at Moscow. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” said the office of the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)in a joint statement. The accusation marked a new escalation of tensions with Russia and came shortly after the US secretary of state, John Kerry, called for Russia to be investigated for war crimes in Syria.
With the U.S. presidential election just weeks away, questions about election security continue to dog the nation’s voting system. It’s too late for election officials to make major improvements, “and there are no resources,” said Joe Kiniry, a long-time election security researcher. However, officials can take several steps for upcoming elections, security experts say. “Nobody should ever imagine changing the voting technology used this close to a general election,” said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa. “The best time to buy new equipment would be in January after a general election, so you’ve got almost two years to learn how to use it.” … Some states conduct extensive pre-election tests of their voting equipment, but other tests are less comprehensive, said Pamela Smith, president of elections security advocacy group Verified Voting. Most jurisdictions conduct pre-election voting tests, but many “randomly select some machines” after ballot information, such as candidates’ names, is programmed in, Smith said. Testing all voting machines before an election would be more secure, she said.
This interview was posted at KQED on October 4, 2016, where audio of the interview can be heard.
We can bank online and we can shop online so why can’t we vote online? To answer that question, we first need to agree on what it means, said David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford and the founder of the Verified Voting Foundation. In other words, what do people mean when they ask: “Why can’t we vote online?”
“The reason people want internet voting is because they want the convenience to vote at home or vote on their smartphone,” Dill said. I have to agree. I want to vote online like I do everything else online. I want to vote anywhere, anytime and on any device. If that’s the case, Dill said the answer is simple: We can’t vote online because our personal devices are too easy to hack. “If we had online elections, we would never be able to trust the results of those elections,” Dill said. “These systems are just notoriously insecure.”
If you follow the news, you know that our smartphones and personal computers are constantly getting hacked. While antivirus companies try, no software can stop all viruses. In fact, you might have a virus on your computer right now and not realize it, Dill said. “Now you can imagine the impact on trying to cast a ballot on such a machine,” Dill said. “The technology does not exist for secure online voting.”
But aren’t there places that have voted online? Yes, but Dill says they’ve all been hacked.
Democrats are suing Florida’s top election official in federal court to stop the practice of election officials tossing vote by mail ballots if the signature on the ballot envelope does not match the one on file. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida by the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee. The listed defendant is Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversee state elections. “This is a case about the denial of the fundamental right to vote of thousands of Florida voters who vote-by-mail,” read the lawsuit. The case is being brought by attorney Mark Herron, one of Florida’s most prominent Democratic attorneys, and attorneys from Perkins Coie, which is the go-to law firm for Democrats nationally.
Indiana State Police investigators on Tuesday searched a voter registration agency on Indianapolis’ north side as they look into a voter fraud case that spans nine counties. The investigation began in late August when police learned of the filing of fraudulent voter registration forms in Marion and Hendricks counties. The investigation has expanded from Marion and Hendricks counties to include Allen, Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson, Lake and Madison counties, according to a statement from State Police. Police said the growing number of involved counties leads investigators to believe that the number of fraudulent records might be in the hundreds. The possible fraudulent information is a combination of fake names, addresses and dates of birth with real information.
Indiana State Police said on Thursday that they have expanded an investigation of possible voter registration fraud to 57 of the state’s 92 counties. The investigation expanded from nine counties state police said they were investigating on Tuesday. Capt. Dave Bursten, state police spokesman, provided no details on the reason for the expansion. The announcement came about an hour after Patriot Majority USA, a group that runs the Indiana Voter Registration Project that is under investigation in the nine counties named Tuesday, said it asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to look into whether the investigation is an attempt to suppress black votes.
A new online ballot system and marking tool could weaken Maryland’s voting security and make it the most vulnerable state in the nation, according to some cybersecurity experts. On Sept. 14, the Maryland State Board of Elections voted 4-1 to certify a new voting system and marking tool for online ballots. The new system will allow all Maryland voters the ability to both make selections on a computer and print absentee ballots from home, and send them into the State Board of Elections. Nikki Charlson, the deputy state administrator of the Board of Elections, said the system and tool are as secure as possible. “We are following all of the best practices for IT systems,” she said. Experts in cybersecurity and computer science have publicly stated they believe the potential risks with the new method of voting outweigh the benefits.
A federal judge on Friday found partially in favor of two Native American tribes in their lawsuit against the Secretary of State’s Office and two Nevada counties in a voter disenfranchisement case. Federal Judge Miranda Du released her ruling late Friday afternoon which found in favor of the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes’ request for early in-person polling in Nixon and Schurz and Election Day in-person polling at Nixon. She denied the request for satellite voter registration sites in both places. “In this case, while injunctive relief would impose costs upon defendants, there is no indication it would interfere with the state’s ability to move forward with the November election as scheduled,” Du said in the ruling. “The public interest is served by the enforcement of the (Voting Rights Act of 1965) and the inclusion of protected classes in the political process.”
North Carolina: A federal court struck down much of North Carolina’s voter ID law – but what’s left could still shrink the black vote | The Washington Post
Many voting rights activists breathed a sigh of relief this year when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned numerous provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 election law. The law had instituted a strict voter ID requirement, curtailed the early voting period and eliminated one-stop voting and registration, among other provisions. Critics argued that if the law were fully implemented it would lead to a sharp reduction in voting by racial minorities and younger citizens. The 4th Circuit agreed, saying that the “new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” On emergency appeal, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4 to 4 on granting a stay, which meant that the 4th Circuit’s decision will stand for the 2016 election. But there is an overlooked yet consequential provision of the law that the court did not strike down: the removal of the straight-ticket option from North Carolina ballots. As in 2014, there will be no such option on the ballot in 2016.
Thousands of mailed absentee ballots could be thrown out because witnesses for the voters did not provide their full addresses. With only a fraction of absentee ballots mailed in, the number of ballots at risk of being tossed is now in the hundreds and could easily grow to thousands in the state’s largest city alone, said Neil Albrecht, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. In most cases where ballots are at risk, the error is a minor one — the witness provided a street address but not the name of a municipality. Often, the voter and witness live at the same address, but clerks aren’t allowed to fill in the missing information unless they track down the voter and get his or her permission. “What distresses me the most about this is it’s mostly seniors,” Albrecht said. “I think it’s absurd that your ballot might not be counted because someone in your household didn’t record their municipality.”
Colombians narrowly rejected a peace deal with Marxist guerrillas in a referendum on Sunday, plunging the nation into uncertainty and dashing President Juan Manuel Santos’ painstakingly negotiated plan to end the 52-year war. The surprise victory for the “no” camp poured cold water on international joy, from the White House to the Vatican, at what had seemed to be the end of the longest-running conflict in the Americas. The “no” camp won by 50.21 percent to 49.78 percent. Voter turnout was only 37 percent, perhaps partly owing to torrential rain through the country. Both sides in the war immediately sought to reassure the world they would try to revive their peace plan. Santos, 65, said a ceasefire already negotiated would remain in place. He vowed to sit down on Monday with the victorious “no” camp to discuss the way forward, and send his chief negotiator back to Cuba to meet with FARC rebel leaders. “I will not give up, I will keep seeking peace until the last day of my term because that is the way to leave a better nation for our children,” said Santos, who cannot seek re-election when his second term ends in August 2018.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s destructive pass through Haiti, which left at least 10 people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced and a death toll certain to climb, elections officials on Wednesday postponed Sunday’s rerun presidential and legislative elections for the second time this year. The delay was expected by many Haitians after Tuesday’s battering from Matthew, a monster Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph that made landfall along the country’s southern coast bringing 15 to 20 inches of rain and triggering fears of a cholera outbreak. But elections observers, and some candidates, criticized the Haitian government for failing to set a new date for the election. The country’s Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, announced the postponement on the day that Haitian National Police and a United Nations logistics team were scheduled to begin moving ballots and other sensitive materials to voting centers.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s failed referendum against EU refugee quotas brought him harsh attacks at home and dismissal abroad. Orban suffered a stinging domestic rebuke to his anti-refugee campaign on Sunday, when his pet referendum drew just 40 percent of eligible voters, rendering the plebiscite invalid. At least 50 percent turnout was needed. Still, more than 98 percent of those who cast a ballot supported Orban’s anti-refugee stance. Toth Csaba, an analyst at the Republikon Institute in Budapest, called the results a failure for a prime minister who put considerable resources into swaying public opinion ahead of the plebiscite. “It’s more of loss for the government,” Csaba said. “Expectations were very high, and the government put forth a massive spending campaign to support it.” Orban had called the referendum to boost his political standing at home – and to taunt Brussels and Berlin over a program that has been essentially discarded. Last year the European Union announced plans to introduce a system to distribute more than 1 million migrants among member states.
Georgian Dream won parliamentary elections, retaining power by edging the party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, an exit poll showed. Georgian Dream received 39.9 percent of the vote in the former Soviet republic, compared with 32.7 percent for United National Movement, according to a survey by the polling company GfK. A second poll by TNS gave Georgian Dream almost 54 percent to UNM’s 19.5 percent. Preliminary results of Saturday’s ballot will be released through the night. For single-member districts where no candidate captures a majority, a runoff will be held in two weeks. Georgian Dream swept to power in 2012 elections, six months after being formed by reclusive billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, ending the UNM rule that had started in the 2003 Rose Revolution. Over the past year, the government struggled to contain a currency crisis, which kept voters focused on the economy as it reeled from the impact of the Ukrainian conflict and Russia’s slide into recession. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who ascended to the post less than 10 months ago, is promising to rev up growth in the next decade.
After a spree of favorable court rulings that softened or blocked Republican-passed voting restrictions, voting rights advocates are engaged in a new phase of trench warfare with a mere month left before November’s election and early voting in some places already underway. There was no time for civil rights groups to rest on their laurels after winning the high-profile legal challenges. In many states, such rulings were met with attempts to undermine or circumvent court orders meant to make it easier to vote. “You take a step back and it’s really appalling,” said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project who has been involved in many of the legal challenges to state voting restrictions. “I mean the Department of Justice and other groups, we have all won the cases … you would have thought we would have been finished with this whole thing, when, up until Election Day, we have to stay on these people,” Ho told TPM. At times, it’s hard to pin down whether issues red states have faced in implementing court orders have been motivated by bureaucratic incompetence or something worse. But the pattern is undeniable. In almost every state where voting rights advocates have scored a major legal victory in recent months, they have had to threaten to drag state officials back into court over the shoddy job election administrators have done following the rulings.
67-year-old Leroy Switlick is angry. He’s angry because he’s made three separate trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Milwaukee to get a photo ID so he can vote in next month’s general election. Each time he’s come away empty-handed. Leroy has voted in every presidential election for more than 40 years, but Wisconsin’s new voter ID law means that even though he’s registered, he will not be able to cast his ballot without showing photo ID such as a driving licence or passport. “It’s silly,” he says. Switlick, who has been partially sighted for most of his life, never learned to drive – and so never had a driver’s license. He was not previously required to have a state-issued ID for any other purpose. “The first question the man behind the counter asked me was ‘Can I see your photo ID?’ Now if I’m coming to get a photo ID, how can I already have a photo ID?” Each time he visited the DMV, he took a satchel full of documents including his birth certificate. But the DMV never actually examined his papers.
National: Why 10% of Florida Adults Can’t Vote: How Felony Convictions Affect Access to the Ballot | The New York Times
One of every 40 American adults cannot vote in November’s election because of state laws that bar people with past felony convictions from casting ballots. Experts say racial disparities in sentencing have had a disproportionate effect on the voting rights of blacks and Hispanics. A report by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization focused on criminal justice reform, estimates that 6.1 million Americans will not be allowed to vote next month because of these laws. State laws that bar voting vary widely. Three swing states — Florida, Iowa and Virginia — have some of the harshest laws; they impose a lifetime voting ban on felons, although their voting rights can be restored on a case-by-case basis by a governor or a court. On the other end of the spectrum, Maine and Vermont place no restrictions on people with felony convictions, allowing them to vote while incarcerated.
National: Foreign election observers to cast their eyes on the U.S. presidential vote | The Washington Post
The world will be watching from close-up when the United States chooses a president next month, as foreign election observers fan out to polling places across the country. For the first time, the Organization of American States (OAS) will dispatch 30 to 40 observers and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has been sending small groups of observers to U.S. elections since 2002, hopes to boost its contingent dramatically, fielding hundreds of poll watchers. Even Russia, where 63 U.S. observers traveled for parliamentary elections last month, is considering sending people to watch Americans vote, according to Yury Melnik, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington. The plethora of poll watchers — some of whom are veteran monitors of elections in countries where voter fraud is rampant — is another sign that the 2016 contest is unlike any other.
National: Computer Science Professor: Many hurdles preventing emergence of online voting | Purdue Exponent
The search for solutions to increase voter numbers on Election Day continues as states have underwhelming turnouts in both presidential and non-presidential election years. But Eugene Spafford, computer science professor at Purdue, says online voting is not one of those solutions. The most important aspects of an election are privacy and accuracy for citizens and, from the standpoint of candidates, the vote total accountability. However, current online technology available to the average citizen dictates that you can’t have it all, says Spafford, the executive director of Purdue’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security. “Voting by Internet sounds attractive, but either we have to give up the anonymity of the ballot, which is not a good practice, or we have to give up the ability to confirm that the count is correct,” he said in a press release.
Voter turnout in the United States is abysmal, far worse than it is in most other developed countries. In 2014, U.S. voter participation was the lowest it had been in more than 70 years—with less than half the population voting in 43 states. In general elections, for which voter turnout is typically highest, there are still some 88 million adults in the United States who are eligible to vote, but don’t. Even among those who do vote, an alarming number of ballots don’t end up getting counted. In each of the presidential elections that took place between 1992 and 2004, according to a 2005 analysis in the University of Chicago’s Journal of Politics, more than 2 million votes were cast but never tallied—totaling nearly 9 million votes that went uncounted because they were blank, marked incorrectly, or otherwise spoiled. “It’s a wicked problem,” says Whitney Quesenbery, a co-director at the Center for Civic Design. “We’ve always been in this battle between good, fast, and easy—but still accurate, reliable, accessible and all those other good things voting needs to be.”
National: In a year of Trump and new voting laws, U.S. government will ‘severely’ limit election observers | The Washington Post
The Justice Department is significantly reducing the number of federal observers stationed inside polling places in next month’s election at the same time that voters will face strict new election laws in more than a dozen states. These laws, including requirements to present certain kinds of photo identification, are expected to lead to disputes at the polls. Adding to the potential for confusion, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for his supporters to police the polls themselves for fraud. For the past five decades, the Justice Department has sent hundreds of observers and poll monitors across the country to ensure that voters are not intimidated or discriminated against when they cast their ballots. But U.S. officials say that a 2013 Supreme Court decision now limits the federal government’s role inside polling places on Election Day. “In the past, we have . . . relied heavily on election observers, specially trained individuals who are authorized to enter polling locations and monitor the process to ensure that it lives up to its legal obligations,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch told a Latino civil rights group over the summer. “Our ability to deploy them has been severely curtailed.”
Editorials: Hurricane Matthew could have devastating consequences for the election | Richard Hasen/Slate
If Hurricane Matthew is as devastating to Florida as forecasters have predicted, it could be a human tragedy costing people their lives, health, homes, and personal property. Beyond that initial tragedy, though, the storm also may have dire electoral implications, potentially affecting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and landing emergency election litigation from Florida once again before the (now-deadlocked) United States Supreme Court. Florida is seen as a state key to Donald Trump’s chances of victory over Hillary Clinton for the presidency, and this storm could have major impacts on voter registration and voting. Voter registration in Florida closes in just five days. According to Professor Dan Smith of the University of Florida, in the last five days of registration in 2012, 50,000 Florida voters signed up to vote. Many who might normally sign up to vote at the last minute are now following Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s order to flee the affected areas of the state, and they are not likely to register to vote on their way out or drop ballots in closed post offices or soon-to-be-flooded post office boxes. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already called for voter registration deadlines to be extended, but the Republican governor has already turned down that request.
A partial picture of campaign finance in 2016, with much still to learn, suggests that the fully rounded-out version may feature surprises and interesting twists. It will certainly influence, perhaps even redirect, the debate over reform. For example: The aggressively “outsider” Republican nominee is relying on the party apparatus to fund the basics of his campaign. Trump is succeeding with on-line fundraising, as one might expect from outsiders, but it is not enough without the party doing, or attempting to do, what is needed. How well will the party do? Meanwhile, the Super PACs have been slow to extend their support to this candidate of self-declared if disputed wealth: while this may change in the weeks ahead, the wealthy have so far declined to shower their funds on this candidacy, instead putting much of their resources into congressional races. On the Democratic side, the Super PACs are active: the Washington Post’s Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy find that “once-reluctant Democrats have fully embraced” these entities as key requirements for being competitive. In the primaries, however, these PACs were a point of controversy and small donors financed an insurgent, outsider candidacy that was fully competitive with what the front-running candidate from within the party could muster. Meanwhile, while the rallying cry for reform remains Citizens United, the most prominent money behind the Super PACs money is individual and not corporate.
Editorials: Alabama’s grossly unconstitutional felony disenfranchisement scheme | Mark Joseph Stern/The Atlantic
In 1901, Alabama passed a constitution that stripped voting rights from any person who committed a “crime involving moral turpitude.” The purpose of this disenfranchisement, the president of the convention explained, was to “establish white supremacy in this state”; Alabama labelled those offenses more frequently committed by blacks as crimes “involving moral turpitude” in order to purge minorities from the voter rolls. In 1985, the Supreme Court unanimously invalidated the “moral turpitude” provision as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. But 11 years later, the state quietly reinserted the same words into its felony disenfranchisement law. Today, the statute has helped to disenfranchise 250,000 Alabamans, most of them black. Indeed, a stunning 15 percent of otherwise qualified black voters in Alabama can’t cast a ballot because of the state’s felony disenfranchisement law. A new lawsuit spearheaded by the Campaign Legal Center argues that the statute is a gross violation of Alabamans’ rights under both the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution.
Alaska: Judge reverses House District 40 primary, gives Nageak a two-vote edge | Alaska Public Media
Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi ordered the Division of Elections to certify that incumbent Benjamin Nageak of Barrow won the primary over Dean Westlake of Kotzebue by a two-vote margin. The outcome of the primary could determine who organizes a House majority. While both are Democrats, Nageak caucuses with the Republican-led House majority, and Westlake said he’ll caucus with the Democrats. The decision reverses the outcome of a recount, which had Westlake winning by eight votes. Nageak, who is the co-chairman of the House Resources Committee, expressed relief. “I’m pleased by the court’s result and hopeful it will be sustained during the appeal to the Supreme Court,” Nageak said. “I’m sure that’s where it’s going to go. And I hope this decision will result in improvement of training.”
Editorials: Upgrading California’s voting systems is long overdue | Gregory Miller/San Jose Mercury News
Can you imagine using the same mobile phone that you used in 2005? Neither can I. Yet, the technology that runs our elections hasn’t changed in more than a decade. Anyone who has voted in California knows well that our voting machines are in dire need of an upgrade. Some counties, including Santa Clara, use paper ballots. Election officials desperate to shore up antiquated voting technology have resorted to buying spare parts at online auctions just to keep their machines working. It’s estimated that 70 percent of all voting machines nationwide need to be replaced before the 2020 election, a third of that before 2018. The state and, for that matter, our country can no longer rely on vulnerable technology that depends on spare parts and is susceptible to bad actors.
Florida: Scott won’t extend voter registration deadline as Hurricane Matthew threatens state | Politico
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the chairman of the super PAC backing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has refused to extend the Tuesday deadline for voter registration as requested by Hillary Clinton’s campaign due to Hurricane Matthew. “Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said during a storm update Thursday night in the state’s Emergency Operations Center. “On top of that, we’ve got lots of opportunities to vote: Early voting, absentee voting and Election Day. So, I don’t intend to make any changes.” The decision from the political leader of the nation’s most-important swing state – one Trump needs to win to keep his White House hopes alive — comes at a crucial time in the presidential race in Florida, where polls show Clinton is starting to nudge ahead of her GOP rival.
Students from Furman University will soon learn whether or not they can register to vote in Greenville County. Thursday, a judge heard arguments on a lawsuit claiming they were blocked from registering using their university address. “I hope that we will get a verdict quickly so we will be able to register as many people as possible in the next 36 hours,” said plaintiff, Katherine West. The clock ticks down on voter registration deadline, but for the Furman sophomore, she tried mailing in her Greenville County application more than a month ago. She says she was sent a questionnaire instead of her registration card. The list of questions is sent to inquiring college students is part of a long standing Greenville County election commission policy to determine if the student is a serious resident of the area. Now, it is at the center of a lawsuit filed against the state and the county election commissions.
South Carolina: Voter registration deadline not extended, still mail-in registrations discrepancies exist | WJBF
We are just a little over a month from Election Day and time is winding down to register to vote. Many voters may not be aware that when you send in that voter registration card could be the deciding factor, when it comes to whether a vote is counted. Federal law requires all mailed-in voter registration forms to be in 30 days before Election Day and that falls on a Sunday this year. That following Monday is Columbus Day, so many states have extended the voter registration deadline, but that’s not the case in South Carolina. South Carolina has made it simple for people to register to vote. More than 100,000 Aiken County residents have signed-up in person, online, or by mail.
Two organizations that urged supporters to donate money to a ballot committee that is promoting a constitutional amendment in South Dakota denied Thursday that they broke state campaign finance laws. The Vote Yes on V campaign took contributions from two outside groups, Open Primaries and TakeItBack.org, that raised and collected money explicitly to back the ballot measure. While outside groups are free to donate money to ballot committees like Yes on V, state law forbids those organizations from contributing money that was “raised or collected by the organization for the purpose of influencing the ballot question.” In at least two instances, Open Primaries and TakeItBack.org solicited donations citing their efforts to fund the South Dakota amendment, said Will Mortenson, the chairman of Vote No on V. In an email last month, Open Primaries urged its supporters to donate money to Vote Yes on V, which the group promised to match two-to-one to help fund Vote Yes on V television ads. TakeItBack.org also released an email to supporters this week endorsing Amendment V.