As new reports emerge about Russian-backed attempts to hack state and local election systems, U.S. officials are increasingly worried about how vulnerable American elections really are. While the officials say they see no evidence that any votes were tampered with, no one knows for sure. Voters were assured repeatedly last year that foreign hackers couldn’t manipulate votes because, with few exceptions, voting machines are not connected to the Internet. “So how do you hack something in cyberspace, when it’s not in cyberspace?” Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said shortly before the 2016 election. But even if most voting machines aren’t connected to the Internet, says cybersecurity expert Jeremy Epstein, “they are connected to something that’s connected to something that’s connected to the Internet.” … While it’s unclear if any of the recipients took the bait in the email attack, University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman says it’s just the kind of phishing campaign someone would launch if they wanted to manipulate votes.
Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported. In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.
Editorials: The Invisibles: The cruel Catch-22 of being poor with no ID | Patrick Marion Bradley/The Washington Post
Patricia Brown couldn’t prove her identity. On a Saturday morning in May last year, she rushed into the basement of Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, frantic that she would miss its I.D. Ministry hours. She took deep breaths as she reached the bright-yellow room crowded with narrow tables, where people sat poring over papers. Without valid identification, she couldn’t get housing or work, her food stamps or medication. She sat in a metal chair beside me, wiping away sweat from her forehead. The volunteer across from us looked concerned as Brown reviewed an intake checklist: Social Security card? No. Birth certificate? No. ID? Expired. “So, we don’t have anything?” the volunteer asked. No. Nothing. I’d seen situations like Brown’s many times. I volunteered at the I.D. Ministry from January 2015 to March 2016. Two Saturday mornings a month, I would help the ministry’s poor or homeless clients navigate the bureaucracy of acquiring government identification. For most people, replacing a lost driver’s license or other ID is an inconvenience but not an ordeal. For Foundry’s clients, however, the path to an ID is more like a high-stakes test of endurance and resourcefulness.
Last August, when the FBI reported that hackers were probing voter registration databases in more than a dozen states, prompting concerns about the integrity of the looming presidential election, Logan Lamb decided he wanted to get his hands on a voting machine. A 29-year-old former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Lamb, who now works for a private internet security firm in Georgia, wanted to assess the security of the state’s voting systems. When he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines for the entire state of Georgia, he searched the center’s website. “I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hacked an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.
Maryland’s State Board of Elections detected “suspicious activity” on the computer system it uses for online voter registration before last fall’s election and called in cybersecurity experts to evaluate it, administrator Linda H. Lamone said Wednesday. Lamone’s disclosure came in response to an inquiry by The Baltimore Sun amid reports that Russian cyberattacks had breached election systems in 39 states. Lamone said the system was not penetrated. She said the activity did not compromise vote tabulation.
Voting-rights advocates in Pennsylvania filed suit on Thursday to nullify the state’s congressional-district map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, joining other court battles over the role of politics in redistricting already being waged in three other states. It is the latest major legal effort arguing that gerrymanders have become so egregious they are subverting democracy and creating legislative races with predetermined results. In a tactical twist, however, the Pennsylvania lawsuit was filed in a state court, which means that if the plaintiffs prevail, the ruling would set no precedent for challenges in other states. The three other lawsuits, in Maryland, North Carolina and Wisconsin, were filed in federal court and argue that the maps of congressional or state legislative districts violate the federal Constitution.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday demanded that the U.S. government recognize his commonwealth as the 51st state, citing the island’s overwhelming vote for statehood four days ago. He faces long odds. “The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have taken a stand and have pleaded a choice,” said Rossello, speaking in a small, half-empty room occupied by reporters and his own staff at the National Press Club in Washington. Yet while 97 percent of those who participated backed statehood in the June 11 vote, the nonbinding referendum was boycotted by opposition parties, who either support the current commonwealth status or independence. As a result, less than a quarter of eligible voters cast ballots. Héctor Ferrer, the head of the opposition Popular Democratic Party, called the referendum “a rigged process,” in an interview with POLITICO this month.
Revelations that Russian hackers tried to break into Dallas County’s web servers, likely with the intention of accessing voter registration files, in the lead up to last November’s election renewed concerns about Texas election security. Both Wednesday night’s news out of Dallas and a Bloomberg report on Monday—which said that the Russian hacking attempts affected 39 states—are forcing states to look inward and re-examine the security of their local and state-level electoral technologies. The particular targets of Russian hackers were the accounts of elections officials and voter registration rolls, which are connected to the internet and are unlike the voting systems that actually do the recording and vote tallying. But a possible security breach of one area of electoral technologies has the potential to ripple out and affect the integrity of other ones. “The reason why this whole Russian hacking thing is a wake-up call is because we’ve been caught not paying as much attention as we should have in an area that all of us didn’t think was that vulnerable,” Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County clerk since 1987, says. “And yet it has turned out to be extremely vulnerable in ways we did not expect.”
Disenfranchised expat Canadians are questioning whether the Liberal government is deliberately allowing legislation aimed at restoring their voting rights to wither on the vine. The concern comes as the country’s top court set a new date for hearing their constitutional battle against provisions that strip Canadians abroad for more than five years from voting in federal elections. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed just ahead of a scheduled hearing in February to a government request for an adjournment given the introduction of Bill C-33 in late November.
In March and April hackers tried to infiltrate computers of think tanks associated with Germany’s top two political parties. A year earlier, scammers set up a fake server in Latvia to flood German lawmakers with phishing emails. And in 2015 criminals breached the network of the German Parliament, stealing 16 gigabytes of data. Although there’s no definitive proof, the attacks have been linked to Pawn Storm, a shadowy group with ties to Russian intelligence agencies—raising the possibility that the Kremlin might disrupt a September vote in which Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest critic in Europe, is seeking a fourth term. “There’s increasing evidence of attempts to influence the election” by Russia, says Hans-Georg Maassen, head of BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. “We expect another jump in cyberattacks ahead of the vote.” While polls show Merkel is likely to defeat the left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD), the concern is that the Kremlin will try to strengthen the far-right Alternative for Germany and turn the estimated 2.5 million voters who speak Russian against her. “Cybersecurity is a top priority, and Chancellor Merkel is taking it very seriously,” says Arne Schönbohm, president of the BSI, the country’s top technology security agency.
In the past week, a series of dramatic congressional hearings have sought to plumb possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – or possible presidential obstruction of justice over the matter, which special counsel Robert Mueller is now reportedly investigating. But this spotlight, while an important line of questioning into last year’s interference, overshadows other steps that Congress is taking to prevent Russian meddling in future elections. Absent an administration that is staffed up or a president inclined to go hard on Moscow, Congress is looking to define its own strategy. “We don’t really have a Russia strategy” to prevent a repeat of election meddling, says James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Congress is trying to figure out what that should be.” Specifically, it’s looking at several areas: sanctions, what exactly Russia did in the last election and appropriate countermeasures, and US digital defenses.
Let’s put aside for a moment the question of whether anyone connected to President Donald Trump colluded with Russia in its attempts to hack the 2016 election. Let’s not not get into an argument about whether the effort changed any votes, not to speak of the outcome. Let’s not even worry about whether Vladimir Putin himself was involved. The fact is, the hacking was massive, sophisticated and far more widespread than previously thought. According to a new report from Bloomberg, hackers broke into the election systems in 39 states. They may not have succeeded this time in breaching the voting machines themselves or even in substantially disrupting the voter registration rolls. But next time, they could. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how that would sow chaos and undermine trust in our democracy. That’s because our disorganized, underfunded and inconsistent voting systems — not to speak of actual, organized efforts by Republican officials to purge voter rolls and keep minorities, young people and the elderly from the polls — have done more than enough in that regard already.
Arizona: Lawmaker seeks to bar college students from voting at schools they attend | Arizona Daily Star
Calling the practice unethical, a Flagstaff Republican lawmaker wants to bar college students from voting where they may live most of the year. The proposal by state Rep. Bob Thorpe would put a provision that students who want to vote would be able to do so only by signing up to get an early ballot from the voting precinct where they were living before they went to college, presumably the address of their parents. They would not be able to use their college address. And that would apply not only to those who live in a campus dormitory but even those who have off-campus residences. … A similar proposal by Thorpe introduced earlier this year died when state Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, refused to give it a hearing in the House Government Committee which he chairs.
The last time voting technology was updated in California was 2002. That’s four presidential elections with the same voting machines each time. In Sacramento County, vote-counting machines have paths worn into the trays that hold ballots to be scanned, often causing ballots to fray as they pass through machines. Counties normally administer most election activities and cover the costs associated with them. States have specific requirements about elections, costing about $30 million a year. However, the state and federal governments do not regularly pay for elections, leaving counties with large modernization bills. Assembly Bill 668, the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018, would change all that. The bill would allow the state to sell $450 million in bonds that would be spent upgrading voting technology after a two-thirds vote in both houses and passage as a proposition by direct vote of the people.
Early voting in the runoff for Georgia’s Sixth District congressional seat kicked off May 30; election day itself comes on June 20. The race has garnered national attention as one in which Democrats could pick up a long-held Republican seat. It has also generated scrutiny, though, for taking place in a state with some of the most lax protections against electoral fraud, at a time when Russia has meddled freely in campaigns in the US and abroad. But Georgia’s voting issues aren’t rooted in any specific hacking threat. The problem instead lies in the state’s inability to prove if fraud or tampering happened in the first place. By not deploying a simple paper backup system, Georgia opens itself up to one of the most damaging electoral outcomes of all: uncertainty.
“You have an un-provable system,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a group that promotes best practices at the polls. “It might be right, it might not be right, and that absence of authoritative confirmation is the biggest problem. It’s corrosive.”
Several security vulnerabilities in systems used to manage Georgia’s election technology, exposing the records of 6.7 million voters months before the nation most expensive House race slated for June 20, has raised the fears that the election could be disrupted. Although 29-year-old security researcher Logan Lamb spotted and reported the vulnerabilities in August 2016, he said the state has continuously ignored efforts to patch the vulnerabilities of Georgia’s special election between Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff against Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel, according to Politico. Lamb began looking into the voting systems when he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines. He began looking for PDFs or documents that would give him more insight into the centers work when he set up an automated script to scrape the site and see what he could find.
The Maine House voted Thursday in favor of a resolution that would make it harder to put a referendum question on the ballot, but the proposal still faces hurdles, including votes in the Senate as well as statewide voter approval, if it gets that far. On the heels of an election last fall that saw five citizen-led referendum questions, the resolution would require petitioners to gather signatures more equally from each of Maine’s two congressional districts. As it stands now, the number of signatures gathered must be greater than 10 percent of the total vote in the most recent gubernatorial election. Last year, that was about 67,000 signatures.
Longtime Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren submitted her resignation letter to Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday and will leave the office at the end of this month, Noren said in a statement emailed to reporters. Noren cited health reasons for her resignation, which said was “by far the hardest task I have ever had to…
North Carolina: Governor’s lawsuit against legislature doesn’t stop elections ethics merger | News & Observer
Judges have rejected Gov. Roy Cooper’s attempts to block a change in the partisan control of elections boards while his appeal on an earlier decision awaits consideration in court. The decision, released Thursday, is the latest in an ongoing power struggle between the Democrat in the executive branch and the Republicans at the helm of the General Assembly.
North Carolina: U.S. Supreme Court won’t speed up North Carolina map redistricting | Associated Press
The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Thursday to speed up returning to North Carolina its rulings in the case of nearly 30 legislative districts that have been declared illegal racial gerrymanders. The one-sentence denials could make it harder for a lower federal court to assemble a workable plan to hold otherwise unscheduled elections this fall under redrawn boundaries. Now it won’t be until the end of June for the justices’ judgments to be issued to the three-judge court in Greensboro. Lawyers for more than two dozen voters who successfully got 28 House and Senate districts thrown out for needlessly packing too many black voters in them wanted the judgments issued immediately. The timeline is important because attorneys for voters who sued want the lower court to act quickly on directing legislators to redraw maps and deciding whether a special election should be held. Now it’ll be another two weeks before the three judges formally receive them and act accordingly.
Pennsylvania: Groups sue Pennsylvania over congressional district gerrymandering | Philadelphia Inquirer
Calling gerrymandering “one of the greatest threats to American democracy,” the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania sued Thursday to have the state’s congressional district map thrown out. Future maps, the suit urges, should be drawn without “burdening or penalizing an identifiable group, a political party, or individual voters based on their political beliefs.” Filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of Democratic voters in each of the state’s 18 congressional districts, the complaint argues that the map, drafted in 2011, “was the product of a national movement by the Republican Party to entrench its own representatives in power.” The GOP did so, the suit argues, by “utilizing the latest advances in mapmaking technologies and big data to gerrymander districts more effectively than ever before.”
Nearly two hours into the House’s marathon budget debate this spring, a conversation about funding the state’s future U-turned toward the past. Triggering the about-face: the issue of redistricting, the once-a-decade process of redrawing political boundaries to address population changes. State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, laid out an amendment seeking to bar Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office from using more taxpayer money to defend a congressional map that a court had just declared unconstitutional — ruling that it was intentionally drawn to discriminate against minorities. Paxton’s office had already spent millions of dollars on the case. As he explained his amendment, Turner called Texas the “worst of the worst” voting rights violators. The Republican-dominated chamber was destined to table the amendment, pushing it to a pile of Democrats’ other long-shot proposals. But first, Rep. Larry Phillips strolled to the front mic to defend his colleagues — past and present.
With its nautical boutiques, trim lawns and tennis club, the seaside town of Le Touquet is the weekend refuge for the bourgeoisie of northern France. Set in deep conservative country, the town is run by a centre-right Republican mayor, Daniel Fasquelle, and voted overwhelmingly for François Fillon, the Republican candidate defeated in the first round of the presidential election earlier this year. For ten years, Mr Fasquelle has also been a parliamentary deputy. Back in January, the town expected to bring a welcome end to five years of Socialist rule in France, and a return to conservative order. Yet at a first-round ballot on June 11th for a new parliament, the good folk of Le Touquet put an unknown entrepreneur, Thibaut Guilluy, into the lead, pushing their mayor into second place and a run-off vote on June 18th. Mr Guilluy belongs to an army of novice candidates standing for President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République en Marche! (LRM) who, without pike or pitchfork, are mounting a peaceful revolution in democratic politics.
A new electoral law is expected to be ratified by Lebanon’s parliament on Friday, paving the way for the first parliamentary elections in eight years. On Wednesday, ministers announced that Lebanon will be holding the long-delayed legislative elections in May 2018 after the country’s cabinet approved a new electoral law, staving off a fresh political crisis that threatened to leave the country without a parliament. The move will also end a stalemate that saw the country’s parliament extend its tenure twice.
Nigeria: Electoral Commission bars journalists from presentation of e-voting machine | Nigerian Tribune
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Thursday, barred journalists from covering the official presentation of electronic voting machine to the commission by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu. The solar powered electronic voting machine, which was developed by the National Agency of Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), an agency under the supervision of Dr Onu, was to address the numerous challenges bedeviling Nigeria during the general elections.
More than 800 election monitors will be deployed nationwide to observe and make independent reports on the National Election. Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato said yesterday the international and local monitors will report back to their respective organisations, heads of governments and the government on the credibility of the PNG election process. “We have invited international election monitors or observers to visit during the months of June and July to see whether we have planned well for the election and also see if we followed the rule of law and the election laws on conducting the 2017 National Election,” Mr Gamato said in a statement.