With 23 days until Election Day, state and local election officials, as well as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, are on their highest-ever level of alert for hackers trying to meddle with the vote. But it’s not vote rigging or the takeover of electronic voting booths that has officials most concerned. … Rather, officials are more concerned by the discovery in recent weeks that hackers, including ones believed to be working for the Russian government, are trying to access voter registration files, perhaps to alter or delete them, inmore than 20 states. … This unprecedented focus on election security was prompted both by a suspected Russian campaign to hack emails and documents from U.S. political organizations, as well as the news that, last summer, election systems were compromised by hackers in Arizona and Illinois, where the perpetrators are believed to have absconded with files on 200,000 voters. “When you suddenly had two states with reports of registration breaches, regardless of the effect or the impact, which appear to have been minor, it gave everybody a sense that this isn’t necessarily theoretical anymore,” Pam Smith, the president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit group that advocates transparency and security in U.S. elections, told The Daily Beast.
Fear that hackers could exploit vulnerabilities in our voting systems could undermine voter confidence this November, especially if the vote ends up being close. The good news is that it is also helping fuel an important discussion about how the U.S. should secure its elections. Recent hacks on the Democratic National Committee, for which the White House has officially blamed Russia, along with reports that hackers have targeted online voter registration databases in more than 20 states, have made it clear that adversaries are inclined to disrupt the American political system using cybercrime. The attacks prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to begin assisting state and local election boards on cybersecurity matters. Congress has held multiple hearings to assess the national election system’s technical weaknesses and explore ways to account for them. And there have been countless media reports (including some from MIT Technology Review) cataloguing vulnerabilities like Internet-connected voting registration databases and absentee ballot-return systems, as well as electronic voting machines that don’t produce paper audit trails.
As U.S. elections increasingly are digitized, the same threats faced by other users of cyberspace loom as potential vulnerabilities to voting and ballot tallies. Candidates and interest groups have expressed concern about the validity of the upcoming election based on real and perceived cyber threats. Voting systems connected to the Internet as well as those that are isolated are susceptible to intrusions that could shake up an election. The threat to an election can take two forms. One is an attack that actually changes the outcome by altering the vote count to favor one candidate over another. The other threat is tampering that may not clearly change the outcome but sows doubt among the electorate and reduces public trust about the validity of an election and the sanctity of the democratic system. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a joint statement on October 7 expressing confidence that the Russian government “directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. … These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
Federal judges dealt double blows to Democrats’ efforts to challenge Arizona election laws Tuesday, with an appeals court panel refusing to block a new law prohibiting get-out-the-vote groups from collecting early ballots and a U.S. District Court judge declining to order Arizona to count votes cast in the wrong precinct. The rulings came in different parts of the same lawsuit filed by Democratic voters and national and state Democratic groups, along with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It was filed after major problems with long lines during the March presidential primary election and the signing of the new ballot collection law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. In the ballot collection portion, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes that kept the new law in effect. It means people who collect ballots for delivery to the polls in most cases face a felony charge.
A federal judge on Saturday issued a scathing rebuke to Florida’s top election official in an order cancelling a hearing on a lawsuit over vote-by-mail ballots. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker accused Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner of delaying a hearing on the lawsuit “so that he could use every second available to run out the clock” so there wouldn’t be enough time to address problems raised in the lawsuit. The judge also said Detzner’s actions amounted to an “undeclared war’ on the right to vote in Florida, the largest swing state in the presidential election. The judge in Tallahassee, Florida said he will make a decision on the lawsuit without a hearing that had been set for Monday. “This court will not allow the Florida Secretary of State — a high-level officer of the State of Florida — to take a knee and deprive Florida citizens of their most precious right,” Walker said in his order.
Georgia: North Carolina: Voter registration in Georgia and North Carolina must be extended, judges rule | The Guardian
Judges in Georgia and North Carolina on Friday ordered state election officials to extend voter registration deadlines in some counties due to disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew, which forced thousands of people to evacuate and temporarily closed some government offices. The judges’ rulings came after Georgia’s governor and the executive director of North Carolina’s state board of elections declined to extend the deadlines. In North Carolina, where the traditional deadline to register was Friday, a state judge ordered election officials to extend it until next Wednesday in 36 eastern counties affected by extensive flooding from the hurricane that left 24 dead. Matthew killed a total of 41 people in the US, and more than 500 in Haiti. In Georgia, William T Moore Jr, a US district court judge, ruled residents of Chatham County, which includes Savannah, must be allowed to register through next Tuesday a week after the original deadline passed. Powerful winds, heavy rain and flooding from Matthew led to downed trees, building damage and power outages around Chatham County, which has 278,000 residents.
Indiana: Group accuses Mike Pence of voter suppression after state police raid registration program in Indiana | The Washington Post
A progressive advocacy group is launching an advertising campaign accusing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who also is the Republican vice-presidential nominee, of allowing voter suppression after state police raided the offices of a voter registration program aimed at signing up African Americans. Patriot Majority USA will place the ads on black-oriented radio stations and in print and online with black newspapers throughout the state starting Saturday, said the group’s director, Craig Varoga. Patriot Majority is affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC that supports Democratic candidates. On Oct. 4, one week before the state’s deadline to register to vote, state police raided the Indianapolis office of the Indiana Voter Registration Project, seizing computers, cellphones and records. The state police launched an investigation in late August after elections officials in Hendricks County, a suburb of Indianapolis, alerted authorities to some applications that seemed amiss. A spokesman for the state police told local news media that “at least 10” applications were confirmed to be fraudulent.
The Kansas requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship could be struck down by a federal court because Secretary of State Kris Kobach failed to file a response earlier this year. The state’s requirement that voters provide a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when they register to vote had already been weakened after federal courts ruled that the state could not require proof of citizenship of people who register at the Department of Motor Vehicles or with the federal form. However, the requirement remained intact for voters who registered using the state form or through the state’s website.
Ohio: Secretary of State proposes that voters culled from voting rolls in 2015 be allowed to vote in November’s general election | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has proposed that voters who were purged from the state’s voter rolls in 2015 be allowed to vote in the 2016 election using provisional ballots. Husted’s proposal, part of a motion filed with U.S. District Court in Columbus, is in response to a recent U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the system Ohio was using to clear some inactive voters off the voting lists violated federal laws. In its ruling Sept. 23, the appellate court said the system, which was triggered when an inactive voter missed two years of elections, violated federal provisions which barred the culling of voter rolls solely because a person had not voted regularly. The proposal from the state Thursday would not resolve the entire case. But it would resolve how to handle voters for this November’s election. The plaintiffs in the case, A. Philip Randolph Institute, American Civil Liberties Union Ohio and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, will have a chance to respond to the proposal.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the state to provide more information to the public about how they could easily get voting credentials even if they don’t have birth certificates, but declined to suspend the voter ID law. U.S. District Judge James Peterson said his order would “patch up” the system used to provide voting credentials to people with the most difficulty getting IDs, but acknowledged it would be an imperfect, temporary solution. He said the state would have to implement broader changes to that system later, but there is not enough time to do that before the Nov. 8 election. Under the 2011 voter ID law, people can get free IDs for voting, but a small group of people face challenges in getting them because they don’t have birth certificates or have problems with their documentation.
As a vote recount for the disputed mayoralty of Srebrenica began on Monday in Sarajevo, the Bosniak-led Party of Democratic Action, SDA called for a complete annulment of the local polls in the wartime flashpoint town. According to the SDA, which is led by the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, the legality of the vote was violated when police special forces from Republika Srpska entered the municipality election commission’s headquarters last Tuesday. “Members of the SDA are seeking to nullify the elections in Srebrenica, because [the RS Ministy of Security’s intervention] grossly undermined the integrity of the electoral process,” said the SDA in a statement. According to the statement, the interference constituted a violation of Bosnia’s electoral code, which stipulates that the Municipal Election Commission is responsible for collecting and processing results.
Montenegrins are heading to the polls on October 16 in a parliamentary election that is being billed as a choice between Russia and the West. The long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists is facing pro-Russian and pro-Serbian opposition groups that strongly oppose the country’s NATO bid and path toward joining the European Union. Pro-Western Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has led the tiny Balkan nation as president or prime minister for more than 25 years, is facing his toughest challenge yet to cling on to power. “Everyone is aware that the fate of the state will be decided…whether Montenegro will become a member of the EU and NATO or a Russian colony,” Djukanovic said on October 14 at an election rally. Some 530,000 registered voters will be voting for 17 lists, including a total of 34 parties.
Federal investigators believe Russian hackers were behind cyberattacks on a contractor for Florida’s election system that may have exposed the personal data of Florida voters, according to US officials briefed on the probe. The hack of the Florida contractor comes on the heels of hacks in Illinois, in which personal data of tens of thousands of voters may have been stolen, and one in Arizona, in which investigators now believe the data of voters was likely exposed. The FBI, in the coming days, is preparing to provide updated guidance to state elections officials around the US aiming to help them spot suspicious activity on their computer networks. Several states have reported attempted scans of their computer systems, which often is a precursor to a breach.
National: Elections at Risk in Cyberspace, Part III: Vote Database Security Ultimately Could Determine an Election Result | SIGNAL Magazine
Any attempts to sabotage an election through cyber attacks ultimately would be geared to affecting the vote count, either to change the outcome of the race or to sow doubt on the validity of the election itself. Just as banks strive to secure their depositors’ assets, governments also work to ensure the fidelity of their election returns. But, as bank accounts are vulnerable to cyber attacks, so are vote totals—to varying degrees. While most tabulation databases are safe from everyday hacker threats, nation-states with highly advanced cyber operations theoretically might be able to mount an effective cyber attack on a U.S. national election by bringing their best offensive cyber capabilities to bear. State governments, which are responsible for the voting process, pay close attention to tabulation security. Ron Bandes is a network security analyst in the CERT division of the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. He also is president of VoteAllegheny, a nonpartisan election integrity organization. Bandes points out that in many states, two tallies occur. One is done at the local level, usually by the county. The other is a statewide count comprising all the county totals. These counts are cross-validated. “The outputs from the voting machines have to match the inputs to the tally system,” Bandes points out.
Malcolm Nance is extremely worried about what might happen as U.S. votes are tallied on Nov. 8, election night. A career U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence official with 33 years of experience, Nance said he had overwhelming evidence that Russia is seeking to interfere in U.S. elections to put “not just a finger, but their whole hand” on the scale to help Republican nominee Donald Trump and hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Nance said a number of private companies had traced cyberattacks exposing potentially damaging Democratic Party emails and voicemails back to cyber “fingerprints” clearly identified in the past as those of Russian state hackers. He said the same fingerprints were found in what turned out to be Russian hacking of power plants in Ukraine and of the German parliament. … U.S. federal investigators believe Russian hackers are also behind cyberattacks on a contractor for Florida’s election system that may have exposed the personal data of Florida voters.
National: Two State Elections Databases Have Been Hacked. The Russians Aren’t the Only Suspects. | Mother Jones
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan was in the backyard of her home last June when she got a call from her chief of staff. “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Can you sit down?'” Reagan told Mother Jones. He then said that her office had been “contacted by the FBI, and it looks like there’s a computer password and username that belongs to our database for sale on the dark web.” Reagan is the chief elections officer for the state of Arizona, and the credential that was for sale on the “dark web”—a collection of websites that hide their IP addresses to obscure where they’re hosted and who runs them—would potentially give the buyer access to a database containing personal information for nearly 4 million voters. With help from the FBI, the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, and the Arizona Department of Administration, Reagan and her staff determined that an employee in Gila County, Arizona, had opened a Microsoft Word document attached to an email. That document likely contained software that may have tracked the employee’s key strokes, which eventually led to the attacker getting a username and password to one of the state’s election-related databases.
Concerns about the fragility of US electronic voting systems to cyberattacks go back to 2002 when the Help America Vote Act was passed mandating the replacement of lever-based machines and punchcards with more modern voting equipment. Those concerns have been greatly amplified this election season with reports of attacks on voter registration systems in some 20 states and intrusions into the Democratic National Committee’s computers by hackers believed to be out of Russia. The attacks have stirred considerable fears about foreign adversaries and nation-state actors somehow disrupting the elections and even manipulating the outcome of the voting to favor one of the two major party candidates. … In all states but five, a vast majority of the electronic voting equipment that voters use will have paper backups. Some voters will use what are known as Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems to cast their votes electronically. Others will mark their choices on a paper ballot and feed it into an optical scanner that will do the ballot counting. In both cases, voters and election officials will have a so-called Voter Verifiable Paper Audit trail that will provide a reliable backup even if the machines fail or are somehow compromised.
Donald J. Trump has lashed out at fellow Republicans, calling them “disloyal” and “far more difficult” than Hillary Clinton. He has griped openly about a “rigged” political system, saying Wednesday he has “no respect” for the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates and complaining about a “defective” microphone in the first debate. And on Monday, at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., he worried the election could be “stolen” from him and singled out Philadelphia, a city with a large African-American population, warning, “We have to make sure we’re protected.” Mr. Trump’s ominous claims of a “stolen election” — which he often links to black, urban neighborhoods — are not entirely new. But in recent days, he has been pressing the theme with a fresh intensity, citing everything from the potential for Election Day fraud to media bias favoring Mrs. Clinton to rigged debates.
For the first time in a half-century, Americans will go to the polls in November without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. Following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating a key section of the 1965 law, the U.S. Department of Justice has had to curtail its federal observer program, under which trained monitors oversee access to ballot boxes in areas historically prone to discrimination. The shift comes just as Republican nominee Donald Trump has been exhorting his supporters to be vigilant about the supposed threat of voter fraud, which has been shown to be almost nonexistent in the U.S. “They’re letting people pour into the country so they can go and vote,” he said in an Oct. 7 meeting with the union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents. At a Pennsylvania rally on Oct. 10, he told the crowd, “So important that you watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” An online movement called Operation Red is encouraging Trump supporters to wear red to the polls so people “will have no choice but to acknowledge the visible truth in a sea of red,” according to the group’s website.
Experts rate the performance of recent American elections as the worst among two dozen Western democracies. Why? Some longstanding practices are to blame. Partisan gerrymandering insulates incumbents. Infotainment-dominated commercial news reduce campaigns to spectator sport. Social media amplifies angry trolls. Ballot access laws restrict third-party challengers. Women and minority candidates have to fight a hostile cultural backlash. Outdated technologies are vulnerable to Russian cyber hacks. All of these problems have been heightened by the close, heated, and bitterly divided 2016 contest. The result: an erosion of American confidence in the electoral process—despite the fact that voter fraud occurs very rarely. In mid-August, Gallup found that only six in ten Americans are “very” or “fairly” confident that their vote would be accurately cast and counted. That’s down from around three-quarters of all Americans a decade earlier.
The United States is an outlier in the democratic world in the extent to which politicians shape the rules that affect their own electoral fortunes. Federal campaign finance policy is administered by a feckless Federal Election Commission, whose three Democratic and three Republican commissioners routinely produce gridlock instead of effective implementation of the law. The conditions under which election ballots are cast and counted—from registration to voting equipment, ballot design, polling locations, voter ID requirements, absentee ballots and early voting—are set in a very decentralized fashion and prey to political manipulation to advantage one party over the other. And while most countries with single-member districts (such as Canada, Britain and Australia) use nonpartisan boundary commissions to redraw lines so they reflect population shifts, in America, most state legislatures create the maps for both congressional and state legislative districts through the regular legislative process. They make their own luck.
Voting Blogs: The Russian Hack of U.S. Election Systems is About Delegitimizing, Not Changing, the Result, and It Feeds Trump Vote-Rigging Claim | Election Law Blog
The headlines over the last few weeks are suggesting Russian “hacks” of U.S. election systems. But the kinds of election systems hacked are not the ones that would change election results (at least so far). Instead, I think the Russians are playing a different, also dangerous, game involving misinformation and disruption. Let’s start with what we know. We know that it is Russia behind the hacking. Most people know about the Wikileaks revelations from the Podesta emails, with the goal of embarrassing the Clinton administration and potentially affecting the outcome of the election. Maybe if Trump were not the opponent, these leaks would have more of an effect. But beyond that there have been numerous reports of Russian hackers going after U.S. election systems, such as going after the voter registration databases of Illinois and Arizona.
The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court, and reinstated Dean Westlake as the winner of a disputed House election. “I’ve been dancing in my office for the last hour,” said Westlake’s attorney, Thomas Amodio. “They got it right. Four of them got it right, anyway, but that’s all that matters.” The court issued its two-page decision within five hours of hearing oral arguments in the case, with one judge partially dissenting. The high court had hoped to reach a quick decision so ballots could be shipped to villages in the Montana-sized House District 40 beginning Monday.
The hacking attempt on Arizona’s voter database started in rural Gila County when an elections worker opened an email attachment. Michelle Reagan, Arizona’s secretary of state, said it was malware meant to attack servers holding the voter information of 4 million people. Reagan was alerted by the FBI, and experts believe the Russian government is to blame. She said she was shocked and dismayed when she first heard about the breach. “We’ve never had to worry about foreign invaders coming in and trying to mess with our confidence and our election system,” Reagan said.
Florida: FBI: Russia likely hacked Florida election contractor and Clinton campaign chairman | SC Magazine
U.S. intelligence officials’ concerns of a Russian hacking operation against political targets continues to escalate, as FBI officials now believe Russian intelligence agencies likely orchestrated the hacks of emails belonging to a contractor for Florida’s election system and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Podesta’s emails were released in the latest batch of emails released by Wikileaks. Trump advisor Roger Stone admitted Wednesday that he had “back-channel communication” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. A day earlier, Podesta told Bloomberg on Tuesday that it is “a reasonable assumption or at least a reasonable conclusion” that the Trump campaign knew about the most recent WikiLeaks leaks before their release. He pointed to a tweet from Stone that claimed: “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Editorials: An ill wind (and partisan politics) threatened Florida voting rights | Fred Grimm/Miami Herald
If this case had come out of a state other than Florida, the federal judge would have only been belaboring the obvious. But Judge Mark Walker knew that Gov. Rick Scott was in sore need of some basic civics. “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live,” Judge Walker wrote, quoting the late Justice Hugo Black from a landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision. “Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” In this case, Hurricane Matthew had contributed to the undermining. Hundreds of thousands of coastal residents had heeded Gov. Scott’s warning and fled inland as the storm menaced Florida. Government offices were closed. Mail delivery was disrupted. All this as the Oct. 11 registration deadline approached for Floridians hoping to cast ballots in the general election.
A federal judge has set a 10 a.m. Friday hearing in Savannah over a lawsuit seeking to reopen Georgia’s voter registration due to Hurricane Matthew. Voter advocates filed the suit Wednesday just before midnight, arguing that an emergency extension of the registration deadline was needed because some coastal residents forced to flee last weekend’s storm did not have enough opportunity to submit applications. The suit requests an extension through Oct. 18 for residents of Chatham County, where local government offices were closed for what would have been the last six days of the voter registration period that ended on Tuesday. It also suggests that the extension could be made available to residents statewide.
If you can’t make up your mind from this list of presidential candidates, you’re not trying. Sure, voters will see Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Libertarian Gary Johnson on their ballots on Nov. 8 and during ongoing early voting. But they’ll also have 15 write-in candidates for president to choose from, ranging from Green Party candidate Jill Stein to a guy who goes by the name Joe Exotic. Delaware County election officials caution that people who want to make their vote — even a write-in vote — count have to write in one of the 15 write-in candidates certified by the state. “If it’s not a certified write-in candidate, that office doesn’t get a vote,” Delaware County Clerk Mike King told The Star Press. So votes for Daffy D. Duck or Amanda Hugginkiss will not be counted. But voters will be able to write in Matthew “None of the Above” Roberts, a political science professor from Michigan who told a newspaper he wants to spark a “conversation” about the political system, or Richard Duncan, an economist from Ohio.
The state will keep Friday as the deadline for regular voter registration, the State Board of Elections announced Wednesday, despite the upheaval in eastern counties awash in floodwater. Common Cause NC this week asked the elections board to extend the regular registration deadline to Oct. 19. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat representing counties hit by flooding after Hurricane Matthew, asked the state elections board to reconsider extending the deadline. “It would be a travesty to look at the dire situation that is being endured by people in these communities who are fighting against unparalleled flooding and not grant them additional days so that they can register to vote and exercise their fundamental right in November,” Butterfield said in a statement.
Pennsylvania: As GOP warns of voter fraud, Democrats quietly register more poll watchers in ‘fraud-filled’ Philadelphia | PennLive
It’s been the secret and sometimes not-so-secret front of this election: Behind the scenes, efforts are underway on both sides of the aisle to amass armies of eagle-eyed volunteers to be dispatched to the polls on Nov. 8 to watch for signs of voter fraud. But in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold where Republican Donald Trump has warned the possibility of voter fraud is particularly acute, officials say it is the Democrats who lead in registering poll watchers, despite more oft-invoked Republican concerns about the integrity of the city’s electoral process. “Out of 66 wards, approximately 33 wards have applied on the Democratic side [to have lists of poll watching volunteers vetted and approved],” Joe Lynch, an assistant administrator of election activities with the city, told PennLive on Tuesday. By comparison, Republicans have only submitted such lists for 8 wards, Lynch added.