Major websites were inaccessible to people across wide swaths of the United States on Friday after a company that manages crucial parts of the internet’s infrastructure said it was under attack. Users reported sporadic problems reaching several websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times. The company, Dyn, whose servers monitor and reroute internet traffic, said it began experiencing what security experts called a distributed denial-of-service attack just after 7 a.m. Reports that many sites were inaccessible started on the East Coast, but spread westward in three waves as the day wore on and into the evening. And in a troubling development, the attack appears to have relied on hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices like cameras, baby monitors and home routers that have been infected — without their owners’ knowledge — with software that allows hackers to command them to flood a target with overwhelming traffic. … The attacks were not only more frequent, they were bigger and more sophisticated. The typical attack more than doubled in size. What is more, the attackers were simultaneously using different methods to attack the company’s servers, making them harder to stop. The most frequent targets were businesses that provide internet infrastructure services like Dyn. “DNS has often been neglected in terms of its security and availability,” Richard Meeus, vice president for technology at Nsfocus, a network security firm, wrote in an email. “It is treated as if it will always be there in the same way that water comes out of the tap.”
Adding to the already mile-long list of reasons why the United States should never adopt a centralized online voting system, widespread internet outages on Friday serve as yet another example of how the U.S. election system benefits from keeping it old school. High-profile security breaches targeting politicians and alarms raised by the U.S. intelligence community over the possibility of an election day disruption by a malicious foreign actor have already led some states to engage in war-game-like exercises against their own election systems. But denial-of-service attacks, like the one experienced by millions in the U.S. on Friday, is a very different animal from the type of infiltration keeping lawmakers up at night. … “This is a reminder of how effective an attack on one can be an effective attack on many,” said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer for Intel Security. “An attacker seeking to disrupt services to multiple websites may be successful simply by hitting one service provider such as this, a DNS provider, or providers of multiple other Internet infrastructure systems.” The idea of creating a centralized online voting system to enable Americans to vote electronically has been roundly dismissed as bad by government and private industry experts alike. It is also very enticing, perhaps because at first blush it feels only natural to evolve in that direction.
National: Most states have no laws about guns in polling places. Some election officials think that could be a problem. | The Washington Post
Most states have no laws regarding guns in polling places, because for the most part, they haven’t really needed to make them. The confluence of firearms and polling places isn’t something America has been concerned about on a national scale — until now. As we stumble into the home stretch of one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent history — complete with eyebrow-raising rhetoric on guns and voter fraud — many election officials across the country are, for the very first time, bracing for intimidation or even violence on Election Day. And there’s not much they can really do about it. “We’ve never seen this level of concern, this far out from Election Day — poll workers in states across the country being trained to deal with guns,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman with the Michael Bloomberg-aligned gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety. But other than training for how to respond in a mass shooting or studying up on what actions define voter intimidation, state laws about guns and voter intimidation are a patchwork of wildly varying regulations. Most election officials sort through a hodgepodge of laws about concealed weapons and open carry, and take into account whether the polling place is on private or public property, to figure out whether a gun-toting voter is allowed in.
National: Donald Trump jokes that it’s okay for his supporters to commit voter fraud | The Washington Post
As Donald Trump once again warned his supporters on Saturday that voter fraud is rampant and could cost him the election, he wondered aloud if he is receiving any of the fraudulent votes. “Maybe they’ll vote for Trump, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be saying that,” the GOP presidential nominee said at a Saturday night rally in a convention center near the airport here. “I may be hurting myself, you’re right. You’re right. Maybe they’re going to vote for Trump. All right, let’s forget that. It’s okay for them to do it.” His tone was joking — but Trump’s comments follow several days of serious allegations that the system is “rigged” against him and that rampant voter fraud could cost him the election.
Donald J. Trump’s suggestions that he might reject the results of the American election as illegitimate have unnerved scholars on democratic decline, who say his language echoes that of dictators who seize power by force and firebrand populists who weaken democracy for personal gain. “To a political scientist who studies authoritarianism, it’s a shock,” said Steven Levitsky, a professor at Harvard. “This is the stuff that we see in Russia and Venezuela and Azerbaijan and Malawi and Bangladesh, and that we don’t see in stable democracies anywhere.” Throughout October, Mr. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the vote will be “rigged” and “taken away from us.” At the final presidential debate, he refused to say he would accept the election’s outcome, and later joked at a rally that he would accept the results “if I win.” In weak democracies around the world, scholars warned Friday, political leaders have used the same language to erode popular faith in democracy — often intending to incite violence that will serve their political aims, and sometimes to undo democracy entirely. The United States is not at risk of such worst-case scenarios. American democratic norms and institutions are too strong for any one politician to destabilize. But Mr. Trump’s language, the scholars say, follows a similar playbook and could pose real, if less extreme, risks.
When Americans go the polls on Nov. 8, they’ll be casting votes using a wide array of technology, from touchscreens to pen and paper. In light of Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud — and with the memory of the disputed presidential election of 2000 still looming — that technology could be under more scrutiny than ever in this year’s presidential election. Here’s a look at the different ways Americans will make their choices:
Ballot scanning: Familiar to anyone who’s taken a standardized test, the scanning method requires voters to mark a specific area, such as filling in a bubble. The ballots are then tabulated by a scanner, using either optical equipment or digital scanning technology. Counting ballots with scanners is the most widely-used method of voting in the U.S., “and has been for a very long time,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a U.S. non-profit that advocates for accurate, transparent and verifiable elections. “Any electronic system can be tampered with,” says Smith. “But the benefit of having a scanner is that you maintain the ballot” for auditing later, if necessary.
Electronic systems: These ATM-like devices, known in election-industry parlance as “direct recording electronic” systems, enable voting by touchscreen, button or dial. The machines tabulate votes automatically, helping to speed up the voting process — unless technical difficulties strike. “If more than one [machine] breaks down, then you’re stuck with emergency paper ballots,” explains Smith. “Then you start running out.” The flexibility of electronic systems can be useful in areas where voters speak multiple languages, and can also help disabled voters through the process. Still, not all direct recording electronic systems print paper receipts of the votes cast, creating a potential lack of accountability.
Here is a frightening prospect: with four weeks to go before Election Day, some of America’s voting machines are not as secure as they could be. For years, the idea that hackers might mess with a U.S. election seemed more like the plot of a novel than a real possibility. As a result, election administrators have tried to save taxpayer money by using the same machines year after year, even after vulnerabilities with some voting machines were exposed. This year is different. Cyber attackers in Russia have targeted U.S. election systems, taking aim at the Democratic National Committee and voter registration databases of more than 20 states. The risk is small, but real. Let’s start with good news: you can trust the national outcome. Most Americans vote on paper ballots. Those ballots are mainly counted by efficient, accurate optical scan voting machines, and, in most states, they are also audited — hand-counted in public in a small number of randomly selected precincts — to make sure that the optical scan machines are working right. If the election is close enough to merit a recount, or if a random audit shows an anomaly, more precincts can be counted by hand.
Choosing to release us from the three weeks of “suspense” he promoted in the previous night’s debate, Donald Trump on Thursday promised, with characteristic graciousness, to accept the results of the election… if he wins. Rarely has an ellipsis been more consequential. Even at a time when all the constraining norms of American politics appear to be disintegrating before us, the assumption of a peaceful transfer of power — in which the election’s loser concedes to the winner — would have seemed a foregone conclusion. No longer. Of course, if Trump were merely suggesting that he reserves the right to litigate if the election results are uncertain or too close to call, then he was merely stating the obvious. But never before has a candidate sought to keep the nation in “suspense” as to whether he would concede. To do so, by its very nature, casts doubt on the democracy. The reality TV show that this campaign has become could do without yet another dangerous cliffhanger.
With accusations of rigging and voter fraud hanging over this year’s elections, alarms are set off by the mere suggestion of irregularities in the registration and voting process. So when questions were raised in Indiana this year about suspicious registration forms, the matter quickly snowballed, leading to a sweeping investigation, supported by the Republican secretary of state and led by the State Police. The contention was that some voter registration forms submitted by the Indiana Voter Registration Project, which set out this year to sign up thousands of African-Americans to vote in the state, were missing key information or appeared fraudulent. The State Police descended on the group’s headquarters this month, and conservatives have pointed to the case as a possible example of ineligible voters being recruited to sway elections. The Indiana Voter Registration Project insists there was no wrongdoing, pointed out that the state’s governor, Mike Pence, is the Republican vice-presidential candidate and asserted that the investigation was politically motivated. They invited federal authorities to come in and look for themselves. The state investigation is ongoing, with no resolution assured before the Nov. 8 election, when Indiana voters will select a new governor and United States senator; and help choose a new president.
Earlier this month, just ahead of Indiana’s voter registration deadline, state police executed a search warrant at the office of an organization that had set out to register black voters in a state with the worst voter turnout in the country. Officers conducted their search on the Indiana Voter Registration Project’s headquarters just a few weeks after Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson sent a letter to state election officials warning that “nefarious actors are operating” in the Hoosier state and asking them to inform authorities if they received any voter registration forms from the group. The letter from Lawson ― who, when she was a state legislator, co-sponsored Indiana’s controversial voter ID law ― amounted to “the voter suppression equivalent of an Amber alert,” said Craig Varoga, the president of Patriot Majority USA, a liberal nonprofit group that ran the Indiana Voter Registration Project. The publicity surrounding the actions taken by Lawson and Indiana’s state police have cast a shadow over the nonprofits, with many stories accusing them of voter fraud.
Mississippi: Voting rights activists fret over loss of election observers in Mississippi | The Kansas City Star
November’s presidential election is the first in more than 50 years in which the federal government won’t send a full complement of specially trained observers to monitor elections in states, like Mississippi, with long records of discriminatory voting practices. After the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder weakened a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the U.S. Department of Justice can deploy special election observers from the Office of Personnel Management only where authorized by a court order. Because of that requirement, the department will deploy a smaller number of its own staff attorneys and other personnel to monitor elections next month in roughly half the states. Unlike the special observers, the department staffers won’t have the authority to view activity inside polling places and locations where votes are tallied unless they get approval from local officials. That potential loss of access to real-time voting operations is causing concern among civil- and voting-rights activists about the integrity of Mississippi’s vote process.
Concerns over voter fraud, cyber breaches and voter intimidate loom as Nevada voters prepare to participate in early voting starting Saturday. More than 60 percent of Nevada voters will cast their ballots early. Elections officials say they are confident and ready to protect the integrity of the voting process. In Clark County, there are roughly 4,900 electronic voting machines and 97 early voting locations set up throughout the county. Joe Gloria is the registrar of Clark County Voters and maintains that the voting system is secure. Concerns over voter fraud have been fueled through accusations by Donald Trump in recent days despite multiple reports disputing his claims. “Voter fraud is all too common and then they criticize us for saying that,” Trump said to a group of supporters recently.
More than 12,500 Rhode Islanders who used the “upgraded” Division of Motor Vehicles computer system over the summer to register to vote or update their voter information while renewing their driver’s licenses were inadvertently categorized as “unaffiliated,” whether they were or not. The state Department of Revenue director, Robert S. Hull, who oversees the DMV, said Friday that the DMV “was made aware” of the problem midweek, and is “working diligently with the secretary of state’s office and our vendor — SAFRAN MorphoTrust USA — to make sure that all voter registration information received through the DMV is accurate and up to date.” The vendor stated it expects to fix the problem by the end of next week.
Texas: Officials prepare for uncertainty, confusion as early voting begins Monday | Houston Chronicle
Harris County politicos are bracing for uncertainty with Monday’s start to early balloting, as many voters remain confused about Texas’ voter identification requirements and Donald Trump continues to warn – without proof – of a “rigged election.” … Amid the tumult, local Democrats eager to keep tabs on balloting have rushed to train as poll watchers. “Why are the Democrats gearing up? Well it’s because the Republican presidential nominee is saying he’s not going to abide by the results. He’s saying the election is rigged,” said Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis, projecting that roughly 180 people will complete one of the party’s poll watching courses. The Democratic Party certified just 20-30 poll watchers for the 2012 general election, Lewis said.
Wisconsin: Little-known change to Wisconsin voting law could affect voters who plan to mail in absentee ballots this November | Wisconsin State Journal
Voters who mail in their absentee ballots have an earlier deadline to do so this year under a new state law that took effect last month. Under the law the absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, in order to count. Previously, mail-in absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day and received by a clerk’s office by 4 p.m. on the next Friday. The new law is one of a handful of changes to voting rules that could trip up some of the half-million to a million people in the state who only turn out to vote once every four years for presidential elections. The most substantial change for them will be the new voter ID requirement, which critics fear will cause long lines on Election Day and result in some eligible voters being turned away at the polls. Supporters say the requirement will prevent voter fraud, though incidents of illegal voter impersonation are exceptionally rare.
Iceland’s national elections take place on Saturday, and at present, a radical fringe party could be heading for the win. One in five Icelanders favor the Pirate Party, according to an online opinion poll run by the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Iceland, the Iceland Monitor reports. The results of the poll put the Pirates in the lead with 22.6%, ahead of the incumbent center-right Independence party by one and a half points. From its beginnings in the radical margins four years ago, to its position at the center point — and counterpoint — of mainstream Icelandic politics today, the rise of Iceland’s Pirate Party has been short and sharp.
Lithuania: Center-right opposition claims victory in Lithuania vote, to start coalition talks | Reuters
Lithuania’s center-right opposition Peasants and Greens party declared victory after a second round of voting in a general election on Sunday and said it would start negotiations with the Homeland Union and Social Democrats over forming a coalition government. The Peasants and Greens won 54 seats in the 141-member parliament, making it the biggest party, results published by the Lithuanian election commission showed. “Our government will be transparent, responsible, professional and resolute,” Saulius Skvernelis, the man who led the party’s election campaign and is now its candidate to be the next prime minister, told Reuters. The result is likely to mean that Lithuania’s prime minister will come from a party other than the centre-left Social Democrats or the center-right Homeland Union for the first time in 15 years. “I think people got fed up,” Skvernelis said.
Spain: Political Impasse Ends as Socialist Party Clears Way for Rajoy’s Re-election | Wall Street Journal
Mariano Rajoy, a prominent target of the antiestablishment fervor rising across Europe, was assured of re-election as prime minister when his Socialist rivals conceded defeat Sunday, ending Spain’s 10-month leadership impasse. Socialist leaders, in a reversal, instructed their party’s lawmakers to abstain when Parliament considers his candidacy next weekend, depriving other opposition parties of the votes needed to keep blocking the conservative incumbent. The Socialists, distant runners-up to Mr. Rajoy in two elections of deadlocked parliaments since December, said they feared a deeper loss if a third election was required. The Socialist leadership committee took Sunday’s decision by a vote of 139 to 96. Mr. Rajoy oversaw Spain’s recovery from its worst postwar recession but met a populist backlash over austerity policies and corruption scandals. The impasse has kept the 61-year-old leader suspended between victory and defeat, his powers reduced to those of a caretaker. On Sunday, he emerged as a consummate survivor, demonstrating the uneven impact of the Continent’s insurgent protest parties.
Venezuela’s Congress on Sunday declared that the government had staged a coup by blocking a drive to recall President Nicolas Maduro in a raucous legislative session that was interrupted when his supporters stormed the chamber. Opposition lawmakers vowed to put Maduro on trial after a court friendly to his socialist administration on Thursday suspended their campaign to collect signatures to hold a referendum on removing the deeply-unpopular president. Lawmaker Julio Borges said the opposition-led congress is now in open rebellion after a majority of its members voted that the decision constituted a coup with government participation. “We will bring a political trial against President Nicolas Maduro to get to the bottom of his role in the break with democracy and human rights here,” Borges said.