President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia dismisses the idea that he has the power to interfere with Tuesday’s election. “Does anyone seriously think that Russia can affect the choice of the American people?” he asked during a foreign policy conference last week in the resort city of Sochi. “What, is America a banana republic? America’s a great power. Correct me if I’m wrong.” America’s top intelligence officials say he is highly unlikely to be able to alter the results. But they expect Russian hackers, or others, to try to disrupt the process — perhaps to help Donald J. Trump, but more likely to simply undercut what Mr. Putin views as America’s holier-than-thou attitudes about its democratic procedures. The Obama administration has concluded that much of the email hacking that has roiled the campaign was almost certainly approved by the Russian leadership. More recent activity — including the probing of registration rolls in several states — might be the work of independent Russian hackers, it says. While no one knows what to expect before the polls close, a tight race is more susceptible to mischief. So government agencies and commercial enterprises, including some hired by state election boards facing a determined cyberthreat for the first time, are on high alert. But they are not exactly sure what to look for. Russian hackers? Other attackers? Malware that harnesses devices to strike election infrastructure? More email revelations?
The hackers settled in, arranged their laptops on a small table and got right to work. The clock was ticking. They began by carefully combing through the online voting system’s code, rapping at their keyboards and exchanging a pitter-patter of techie jargon. They toggled between screens. One displayed the unblemished interface that prospective voters would see. The other was black, threaded with lines of code: a sketch of their half-drafted attack. The first few hours were full of dead ends: a rejected ballot; an unexpected security fix, made in real time by election officials to thwart their efforts. Had they been found out? Suddenly, one of the four hackers paused midscroll. He’d found a seemingly trivial mistake, the code equivalent of an unlocked window. “Let’s steal things! Yes, let’s steal,” one of them said, tugging at his mop of dark hair. “Let’s get their ballot public key – GPG export or Base64 out to a file.” University of Michigan computer science professor Alex Halderman and his team of graduate students demonstrated in 2010 that it’s possible for a few hackers to quickly manipulate online voting systems. This was not a war room in Russia, where hackers allegedly have worked to infiltrate email servers to disrupt this year’s election. It was the office of Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan. The hackers were graduate students, proving a point about Washington, D.C.’s fledgling voting system: that internet voting is vulnerable, a hunk of cybersecurity Swiss cheese. It was Sept. 29, 2010, just a few weeks before the city’s system was to be launched.
Online voting is sometimes heralded as a solution to all our election headaches. Proponents claim it eliminates hassle, provides better verification for voters and auditors, and may even increase voter turnout. In reality, it’s not a panacea, and certainly not ready for use in U.S. elections. Recent events have illustrated the complex problem of voting in the presence of a state-level attacker, and online voting will make U.S. elections more vulnerable to foreign interference. In just the past year, we have seen Russian hackers exfiltrate information from the Democratic National Committee and probe voter databases for vulnerabilities, prompting the U.S. government to formally accuse Russia of hacking. In light of those events, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may soon classify voting systems as critical infrastructure, underscoring the significant cybersecurity risks facing American elections. Internet voting would paint an even more attractive target on the ballot box for Russian adversaries with a record of attempting to disrupt elections through online attacks.
Neo-Nazi leader Andrew Anglin plans to muster thousands of poll watchers across all 50 states. His partners at the alt-right website “the Right Stuff” are touting plans to set up hidden cameras at polling places in Philadelphia and hand out liquor and marijuana in the city’s “ghetto” on Election Day to induce residents to stay home. The National Socialist Movement, various factions of the Ku Klux Klan and the white nationalist American Freedom Party all are deploying members to watch polls, either “informally” or, they say, through the Trump campaign. The Oath Keepers, a group of former law enforcement and military members that often shows up in public heavily armed, is advising members to go undercover and conduct “intelligence-gathering” at polling places, and Donald Trump ally Roger Stone is organizing his own exit polling, aiming to monitor thousands of precincts across the country.
For Donald Trump, questioning whether the campaign will be “rigged” has become a campaign stump mantra. For Republican National Committee lawyers, it’s become a different kind of worry. Trump has repeatedly invited his followers to watch polling areas. “Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” he said at a rally in Pennsylvania this summer. Now, a federal judge wants to hear more. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in New Jersey, and the RNC has been directed to provide information detailing “any efforts regarding poll watching or poll observation.” The RNC is forbidden from engaging in any ballot security activities that might deter qualified voters from voting because of a decades old consent decree that has been modified over the years and is set to expire at the end of 2017.
Editorials: Without a modernized Voting Rights Act, there’s no such thing as an honest election | Jim Sensenbrenner/The Washington Post
On Tuesday, Americans will elect a president without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The last time that happened they were deciding between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater — more than a half-century ago. In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that voter discrimination was no longer a problem and effectively struck down the only portion of the act designed to stop discrimination before it affects an election. The court let stand the provisions of the act that allow lawsuits after a discriminatory law takes effect, but unfortunately, the United States has learned the hard way that there is no satisfactory cure for discrimination after an election occurs.
As the political parties fight in court about possible plans by Trump supporters – as well as White nationalists – to station people outside many polling places on Election Day next Tuesday, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan this afternoon issued a comprehensive “Guidance” about what constitutes punishable “voter intimidation.” The 2 1/2 page document addresses the use of uniforms, the display of weapons, taking photos or video, and many other possible intimidation methods. When asked about what prompted the Guidance, Secretary of State Communications Director Matt Roberts tells Arizona’s Politics that “The Secretary and our office has been getting a number of emails/calls social media conversations from people concerned with the General Election. She felt it appropriate that she remind people of the rules, laws on the books.”
Most of us dread going to the DMV, but the D.C. Council hopes your next trip to renew or update your license might help increase voter turnout. On Tuesday, Council members unanimously approved legislation making voter registration automatic. The veto-proof D.C. Council bill is now waiting for Mayor Muriel Bowser’s signature. The pending law would automatically send District Department of Motor Vehicles data to the D.C. Board of Elections. “At a time in our country, when we see states time and time again try to block people from the poll, from the ballot box, I’m really proud that in D.C. we actually are trying to make it easy as possible and get as many people registered to vote as we can,” said Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen who introduced the bill.
Florida: West Palm Beach Trump Supporters Use Bullhorns, Scream at Clinton Supporters Outside Poll | Electionland
Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continue to gather in front of the West Palm Beach, Florida, supervisor of elections’ office and shout at Hillary Clinton supporters and voters through bullhorns as they use the early voting location, videos show. “How many Syrian refugees, Muslim refugees, are you taking into your home?” yelled one Trump supporter in a video filmed Sunday afternoon at Clinton supporters across a parking lot. Later she said, “You hypocrites! Separate the people! Over here we have the LGBT, over here we have the blacks, and then over here we have the Hispanics. But I’m going to tell you something, the hard working American people that served in the armed forces support Donald Trump!” Therese Barbera, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office, said by email that the sheriff’s office “was not aware” of the incidents in the videos until Electionland called for a statement but that “from what we reviewed we do not believe there are any violations occurring. As far as voter intimidation, we did not observe any infractions in the video,” she added. “Please remember that there are First Amendment privileges being afforded here as long as they don’t violate the law.”
A federal judge has dealt a setback to former Illinois residents who are blocked from voting by absentee ballot in next week’s presidential election because they now live in certain U.S. territories. In a written opinion last week, U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall rejected the argument that the Illinois Military Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act violates the equal protection clause by treating former Illinois voters differently depending on their current residence. Illinois’ MOVE Act bars former state residents living in Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands from voting by Illinois absentee ballot in federal elections, but allows their counterparts in American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands to do so. The disparate treatment, Gottschall held, “is rationally related to legitimate state interests.”
A group that has repeatedly challenged Minnesota’s elections process says several election judges — including three it is joining in a new lawsuit — are refusing to follow their duties at polling places because they disagree with how the state checks voters’ eligibility. The Minnesota Voters Alliance filed lawsuits last week in Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties with election officials from each area, contending that the secretary of state’s office is not doing enough to block ineligible voters, including felons, noncitizens and people considered wards of the state because of their developmental disabilities or other issues. The cases, which have been combined and will be heard by a Ramsey County judge on Friday, largely mirror a lawsuit the group filed earlier this year with the Minnesota Supreme Court. In that matter, the state’s highest court determined that it was not the proper jurisdiction to hear the case and sent it back to district court, where it has not yet been settled. In the meantime, with Election Day approaching, leaders of the Minnesota Voters Alliance decided to move forward with another lawsuit. Erick Kaardal, the attorney representing the group, said he received calls from election judges concerned about the potential for allowing felons to vote.
Democrats put forward more evidence on Wednesday that they said showed that the Republican National Committee was illegally engaging in poll watching activities. The additional filing comes after an initial round of affidavits from Dem poll observers in Nevada who said they met other observers claiming to be working for the RNC earlier this week. The new filing includes the affidavits of three more Democratic poll observers who have been monitoring early voting sites in Las Vegas. They said that not only did they meet poll observers who suggested RNC involvement in elections monitoring, but that one of the GOP observers gave inaccurate information to voters, according to the court documents. The affidavits were filed in an ongoing case concerning allegations by the Democratic National Committee that the RNC had violated a decades-old consent decree limiting its ability to participate in so-called “ballot security” activities. The RNC has maintained that it has followed the decree, and filed its own court documents Wednesday that said it could find no evidence of any RNC agreements with the Donald Trump campaign to assist in Trump’s poll watcher crusade.
North Carolina’s process for challenging voters’ registration seems to harken to a bygone era when fewer safeguards were in place, a federal judge said Wednesday as she presided over a lawsuit that alleges voters are being purged unfairly. Lawyers for North Carolina countered that state data shows only a sliver of names have been removed from county rolls in the past two years – fewer than 7,000 statewide out of 6.8 million registered voters. The comments came during an emergency hearing over NAACP allegations that at least three counties purged voter rolls through a process disproportionately targeting blacks. Early voting is already underway in the critical swing state that the NAACP has previously sued over other voter access issues. So far, North Carolina’s black voter turnout has lagged the 2012 presidential election.
Ohio: Trump campaign, Ohio GOP ask federal judge not to limit poll watchers | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign wrote in a brief filed Wednesday that the Republican candidate’s statements encouraging supporters to watch the polls for Democratic voter fraud are protected speech and that preventing supporters from espousing those same views near polling places on Election Day would trample on their free-speech rights. Chad Readler, an attorney for the Jones Day law firm, wrote that a lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland Sunday by the Ohio Democratic Party is based on “miscellaneous long-ago statements, vague innuendo, rank speculation, and a heavy dose of rhetoric.” The suit says Republicans are engaging in voter intimidation. He wrote that Trump and other candidates “are perfectly within their rights to encourage their supporters to serve as poll watchers” and that an order preventing supporters from harassing or intimidating voters outside of polling places would violate the First Amendment.
Hundreds of voters in northwest Ohio say they have not received their absentee ballots in the mail. The problem starts seems to start at the mail sorting center in Pontiac, Michigan. The ballots were sent from Lucas, Wood and five other counties October 12. But twenty days later, many still have not been delivered. Tuesday, Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, visited the board of elections office in Wood County. He says voting has gone smoothly in Ohio except for this absentee ballot problem. Husted puts the blame squarely on the postal system, saying, “It’s completely unacceptable. The post office needs to do a better job.” Husted has been in touch with the post office but, so far, no explanation for what happened.
A federal judge has denied the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s request to lift restrictions on poll watchers crossing county lines in the upcoming presidential election. Citing an unreasonable delay and a failure to persuade the court to bar enforcement of the state’s residency requirements for election monitors, U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert said he would not issue the temporary restraining order or injunction the GOP had requested. “There is good reason to avoid last-minute intervention in a state’s election process. Any intervention at this point risks practical concerns including disruption, confusion or other unforeseen deleterious effects,” Pappert wrote. The GOP and several former Republican candidates filed the suit as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continued months of rhetoric suggesting that if he loses the election it is because it was rigged and urging supporters to go to polling places in “certain areas” to make sure “other people don’t come in and vote five times.”
A day after election officials were reminded to tell voters they could cast ballots if they do not have photo identification, poll workers across Harris County on Tuesday still were giving incomplete instructions to voters waiting in line. A federal judge ordered the state to dilute Texas’ stringent voter ID law to offer citizens without government-issued identifications – about 600,000 people, many of them minorities – the chance to cast ballots using alternative forms of identification. The judge’s order followed a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year that Texas’ voter ID law violated federal ballot-box protections for minorities. Under the watered-down provisions – implemented for the November election only – a voter may cast a ballot after signing a declaration explaining the “reasonable impediment” that prevented him from getting a photo ID, such as a lack of transportation, disability or work schedule. The “declaration” voters must present an supporting identifying document, such as a birth certificate, bank statement or utility bill.
Russia: Microsoft says Russian hackers blamed for attack on US Democrats exploited Windows bug | The Telegraph
Microsoft has blamed a hacking group previously linked to the Russian government and US political hacks for recent cyber attacks that exploited a newly discovered Windows security flaw. The software maker said there had been a small number of attacks using “spear phishing” emails from a hacking group known as Strontium, which is more widely known as “Fancy Bear,”. Microsoft did not identify any victims. Microsoft’s disclosure of the new attacks and the link to Russia came after Washington accused Moscow of launching an unprecedented hacking campaign aimed at disrupting and discrediting the upcoming US election. The US government last month formally blamed the Russian government for the election-season hacks of Democratic Party emails and their subsequent disclosure via WikiLeaks and other entities. Russia has denied those accusations. The group was also said to be responsible for hacking the records of athletes including Laura Trott and Nicola Adams.