Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. state election systems in the 2016 presidential race and a small number were breached but there was no evidence any votes were manipulated, a Homeland Security Department official told Congress on Wednesday. Jeanette Manfra, the department’s acting deputy undersecretary of cyber security, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Kremlin orchestrated a wide-ranging influence operation that included email hacking and online propaganda to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, a Republican, win the White House in November. The Russia issue has cast a shadow over Trump’s first five months in office. The extent of interference by Russian hackers, and whether they or others could interfere in future elections, has been the source of speculation and media reports for months.
Local officials consistently play down suspicions about the long lines at polling places on Election Day 2016 that led some discouraged voters in heavily Democratic Durham County, N.C., to leave without casting a ballot. Minor glitches in the way new electronic poll books were put to use had simply gummed things up, according to local elections officials there. Elections Board Chairman William Brian Jr. assured Durham residents that “an extensive investigation” showed there was nothing to worry about with the county’s new registration software. He was wrong. What Brian and other election officials across eight states didn’t know until the leak of a classified intelligence is that Russian operatives hacked into the Florida headquarters of VR Systems, Inc., the vendor that sold them digital products to manage voter registrations. … David Jefferson, a computer scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California who has acted in his personal capacity in trying to safeguard election integrity, said he believes it is “absolutely possible” that the Russians affected last year’s election. “And we have done almost nothing to seriously examine that,” he said. “The Russians really were engaged in a pattern of attacks against the machinery of the election, and not merely a pattern of propaganda or information warfare and selective leaking,” said Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor. “The question is, how far did they get in that pattern of attacks, and were they successful?”
National: GOP Data Firm Accidentally Leaks Personal Details of Nearly 200 Million American Voters | Gizmodo
Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server. The data leak contains a wealth of personal information on roughly 61 percent of the US population. Along with home addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers, the records include advanced sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity. The data was amassed from a variety of sources—from the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove.
Editorials: Here’s how to keep Russian hackers from attacking the 2018 elections | J. Alex Halderman and Justin Talbot-Zorn/The Washington Post
“They’re coming after America,” former FBI director James B. Comey told the Senate intelligence committee this month. “They will be back.” In a highly politicized hearing, this bold statement drew strikingly little partisan disagreement. Senators on both sides of the aisle have seemingly reached consensus that foreign agents did try to tamper with the 2016 election and that they are extremely likely to do so again. The question is: What do we do about it? While the ongoing Russia investigation has, understandably, received massive attention, there’s so far been scant public focus on the question of how we safeguard our electoral systems from outside interference in the future. Responding to the threat of election hacking isn’t exclusively a matter of diplomatic intrigue or international sanctions. It’s fundamentally a matter of computer science: how we harden our election technology through cybersecurity standards.
This letter was sent to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence following a hearing on June 21, 2017. (Download PDF) Verified Voting vigorously applauds the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its leadership and commitment to securing our elections. With clear evidence that foreign attackers sought to attack our 2016 elections through various means,…
The polls are closing in Georgia following the most expensive congressional election in American history. As results are announced, there’s significant controversy over the credibility of those results. “Georgia’s voting issues aren’t rooted in any specific hacking threat,” reports Wired. “The problem instead lies in the state’s inability to prove if fraud or tampering happened in the first place.” The state of Georgia has 27,000 voting machines from the now-defunct Premier Election Systems (formerly known as Diebold) and 6,000 ExpressPoll machines — also made by Diebold. None of the machines have a paper trail. “You have an un-provable system,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting told Wired. “It might be right, it might not be right, and that absence of authoritative confirmation is the biggest problem. It’s corrosive.”
The Maine Senate tabled a bill Wednesday that would have repealed a citizens initiative passed in November that made Maine the first state in the nation to adopt a statewide ranked-choice voting system. Senators then voted unanimously, without a roll call tally, to give initial approval to a bill that would amend the Maine Constitution – if approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and by voters – to resolve issues with the new law identified by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Its advisory opinion in May found that parts of the new law violated the state constitution, which calls for candidates in races for the Legislature and the governor’s office to be elected by a plurality of voters – the most votes – and not necessarily a majority of voters – at least 50 percent – as they would be under a ranked-choice system. But the opinion did not address ranked-choice voting in Maine’s federal elections or party primary elections, and supporters have argued the law should stand for those races while the Legislature and then voters decide if the constitution should be amended.
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to take up a voting rights case on a technical challenge to the state’s right to reject a voter registration application on the basis of an error or omission unrelated to the voter’s qualifications. The justices refused to hear an appeal by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which challenged Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted about whether private parties can appeal an Ohio voter-roll purge under the Voting Rights Act. The provisions effectively keep voters from registering if they have made a small error in their registration or voter forms, such as writing a name in legible cursive rather than in print, omitting a zip code, or missing a digit from a Social Security number, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which supported the claimants in this case.
With the next election season looming, a federal judge has set a fast-paced schedule for determining whether Texas should be penalized for a voter ID law found to have been written to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. Saying no additional hearings will be needed in her Corpus Christi courtroom, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos gave lawyers two weeks to file legal briefs on the matter, with a final round of response briefs due July 17. Ramos also said she wants to receive arguments about whether Texas should be placed under preclearance — meaning the U.S. Justice Department would have to approve changes to voting laws or practices in the state to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Lawyers for Texas have told Ramos that state election officials need a decision by Aug. 10, when voter certificates are finalized and sent to each county for printing. The officials want the certificates to include information on what form of identification voters need to take to the polls in 2018.
Wisconsin: U.S. Supreme Court to hear Wisconsin’s redistricting case but blocks redrawing of maps | Milwaukee Journal Sentinal
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case that found Wisconsin Republicans overreached in 2011 by drawing legislative districts that were so favorable to them that they violated the U.S. Constitution. In a related ruling Monday, the high court handed Republicans a victory by blocking a lower court ruling that the state develop new maps by Nov. 1. Democrats and those aligned with them took that order as a sign they could lose the case. The case is being watched nationally because it will likely resolve whether maps of lawmakers’ districts can be so one-sided that they violate the constitutional rights of voters. The question has eluded courts for decades. The court’s ultimate ruling could shift how legislative and congressional lines are drawn — and thus who controls statehouses and Congress. “This is a blockbuster. This could become the most important election law case in years if not decades,” said Joshua Douglas, a University of Kentucky College of Law professor and co-editor of the book “Election Law Stories.”
Canada: Despite risk of cyber attacks, political parties still handle Canadians’ data with no rules in place | Toronto Star
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould says it’s not the time to implement basic privacy and security rules for political parties’ collection of Canadians’ personal data, despite warning that those parties are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Speaking with the Star on Friday, Gould said she decided on a voluntary approach for parties to meet and discuss vulnerabilities with the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s electronic spying and cyber defence agency. “I think it’s important that we respect the independence of political parties, and we ensure that they are able to make those decisions (around cyber security),” Gould said in an interview.
Papua New Guinea is about to start its ninth general election, with voting taking place between June 24 and July 8, followed by counting over subsequent weeks. The coalition government led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill enters the election under siege, facing battles on political, legal and economic fronts. From the outside, O’Neill looks to be in a strong position. His government holds a significant majority in parliament, and the opposition is fractured. However, alliances in Papua New Guinea are often unstable, and the result of the election is far from certain. O’Neill, then treasurer, wrested power in 2011 from long-serving Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, widely known as Papua New Guinea’s “Grand Chief.” The country was starting the construction of its largest natural resource project, a $19 billion liquefied natural gas project that was expected to transform the nation’s economy.
Verified Voting Blog: Alex Halderman: Expert Testimony before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
This testimony was delivered at a hearing on June 21, 2017. (Download PDF) Chairman Burr, Vice Chairman Warner, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to speak today about the security of U.S. elections. I’m here to tell you not just what I think, but about concerns shared by hundreds of experts…
National: Can US Elections Be Hacked? Security Experts Call For More Protections Against Election Hacking | International Business Times
More than one hundred security researchers and experts signed on to a letter sent to member of the United States Congress to warn of their belief that not enough has been done to protect against potential threats to state and federal elections. The letter, published Wednesday as a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, argues many states are unprepared to respond to cybersecurity risks that may arise during upcoming election.The signatories laid out three primary suggestions for securing the electoral process and prevent against any potential tampering that may occur. First, the experts called on election officials to establish voter-verified paper ballots as the “official record of voter intent.” Doing so would require phasing out paperless voting machines that offer no way to verify if a vote tallied by the system corresponds to the vote intended to be cast by the voter.
The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME. In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents. The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.
Of all the disturbing questions raised by Russia’s interference in last year’s election, the most alarming may be how a foreign power might hack into the nation’s voting infrastructure. So far there’s no evidence that Russian cyberattacks altered U.S. vote totals in any way. But recent disclosures make clear that Russian intelligence intrusions were much broader and deeper than initially known. And the U.S. election system, while it has strengths, remains vulnerable on several fronts. Aging voting machines, the absence of a paper trail in some states, and spotty audits are all weaknesses that could be exploited in 2018 and 2020. … While most states—36 all told—use machines that produce a paper record, that still leaves 14 states that still operate machines with no voter verifiable paper trail. The absence of paper makes it virtually impossible to cross-check and confirm results after the fact.
A computer science professor told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that voting machines that create an electronic record of the voters’ decisions are open to fraud and computer hacking, vulnerabilities that are big enough to potentially change the outcome of some elections. J. Alex Halderman, professor of computer science at Michigan University, said he and his team began studying “direct-recording electronic” (DRE) voting machines 10 years ago and found that “we could reprogram the machine to invisibly cause any candidate to win. We also created malicious software — vote-stealing code — that could spread from machine-to-machine like a computer virus, and silently change the election outcome.” … As a computer science professor, Halderman has not only run academic trials on hacking voting machines, he has also run real-time examples.
Hackers can breach air-gapped voting machines and vote tallying systems – those not connected to internet – in an attempt to alter ballots to sway the outcome of an election, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has learned. “Our election infrastructure is not as distant from the internet as it may seem,” Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor, testified Wednesday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence The Senate panel, as well as its House counterpart, held simultaneous hearings focused on the impact of Russian hacking on America’s election process (see Election Systems’ Hacks Far Greater Than First Realized ). At both sessions, lawmakers heard witnesses agree that Russian hackers did not alter votes in the 2016 presidential election.
National: Obama White House Knew of Russian Election Hacking, but Delayed Telling | The New York Times
The Obama administration feared that acknowledging Russian meddling in the 2016 election would reveal too much about intelligence gathering and be interpreted as “taking sides” in the race, the former secretary of homeland security said Wednesday. “One of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting that the election was going to be ‘rigged’ in some way,” said Jeh Johnson, the former secretary, referring to President Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation before Election Day. “We were concerned that by making the statement we might, in and of itself, be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.” Mr. Johnson’s testimony, before the House Intelligence Committee, provided a fresh insight into how the Obama administration tried to balance politically explosive information with the public’s need to know. That question also vexed federal law enforcement officials investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
National: House Democrats Move to Restore Key Provisions of the Voting Rights Act | US News & World Report
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D.-Ga., and Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell Thursday introduced a bill that would restore voting rights protections struck down a year ago by the Supreme Court in an effort to block some states’ efforts to impose tough new voter registration laws. Nearly all of the 193 House Democrats have signed on to the legislation; the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus also endorsed the bill. Sewell said no Republicans were willing to support the measure. The Voting Rights Advancement Act is a response to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder; the court struck down two key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which put 13 states under strict rules not to change their voter laws without federal approval and set a formula for determining which states would be subject to the law.
On Super Bowl Sunday this year, President Donald Trump told Fox News that Vice President Mike Pence would head a commission into voter fraud allegations — ones that he made, claiming that between three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. The commission was formed three months later, but it has yet to meet and there’s no date set to do so. More than one member of the White House’s Election on Voter Integrity told CNN on Thursday that the group would not be doing its job if it did not examine possible interference by a Russian intelligence agency or a military intelligence agency in voting systems. “If you know that there is an outside force that is trying to jimmy the door on the election process somehow, you would want to know about that,” said Matt Dunlap, Maine’s secretary of state and a member of the commission. “That includes the Russians, the Martians, I don’t care. It has to be part of the discussion.” Dunlap said he has not heard from the White House about the commission since the May press release.
Editorials: Do we really want the Supreme Court to decide how partisan is too partisan? | Charles Lane/The Washington Post
On Dec. 12, 2000, the Supreme Court ended the recount of Florida’s votes in that year’s presidential election, effectively awarding 25 electoral votes to Republican George W. Bush and making him president. The decision was 5 to 4, with the most conservative Republican-appointed justices in favor of Bush. Democrats condemned the ruling as nakedly partisan, saying it was based not on precedent but a cooked-to-order legal rationale: Recount rules didn’t treat all ballots the same way, thus violating the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Many critics saw Bush v. Gore as an indelible blot on the court’s legitimacy. Seventeen-odd years later, Democrats are pressing a case whose essential premise is that the Supreme Court can and should be trusted to write a whole new category of rules affecting almost every state legislative and congressional election in the United States.
Arkansas legislators have approved rules necessary to implement a new voter-identification law that could go into effect as early as September. The state Board of Election Commissioners approved the rules Wednesday for a new law that says voters should show photo identification before casting ballots, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2sunKSh ) reported. Those without photo identification can sign a sworn statement saying they’re registered voters in the state. “We’ve had some complaints on that over the past year,” said Keith Rutledge, director of the Board of Election Commissioners. “This pretty much will clear that up. You either show me your ID or you sign this affidavit — basically.”
Automatic voter registration has been a topic in Illinois for months, and it’s something that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is also working on at a national level. Both the Illinois House and Senate unanimously passed legislation for automatic voter registration. That currently sits on the governor’s desk and has signaled that he will sign.
The Maine Senate on Wednesday gave initial approval to legislation sponsored by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, to amend Maine’s constitution to allow for the implementation of Ranked-Choice Voting in 10 state and federal elections and primaries. Voters approved the implementation of ranked-choice voting, also known as “instant runoff voting,” at the ballot box last year. Ranked-Choice Voting allows voters to cast their vote for multiple candidates, ranked in order of preference. A series of runoffs occur, redistributing ballots according to the voter’s rankings, until one candidate has a majority of votes.
The federal government is failing to coordinate a response to evidence of Russian hacking of U.S. elections, so New York state is taking action on its own, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday. Cuomo said in a release that he has directed the state Cyber Security Advisory Board to work with agencies and Boards of Election to assess the threats to the cyber security of New York’s elections and recommend solutions. This directive comes amidst confirmation by the intelligence community of Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 election.
A long-shot attempt to force a vote on creating an independent redistricting commission in North Carolina became a little bit longer Thursday. A Raleigh state senator tried to start the process of forcing the bill he supports to a vote, but a procedural maneuver by legislative leaders will require Sen. Jay Chaudhuri to wait 10 days – and lawmakers’ regular session may be over by then. Senate rules allow members to file discharge petitions to dislodge bills that have been stuck in committees without action. The petition must be signed by at least two-thirds of the chamber. There are 35 Republicans and 15 Democrats in the Senate. The 10-day pause applies to when Chadhuri can start collecting signatures. Chaudhuri, a Democrat, read most of a prepared statement on the Senate floor giving notice of his intention to file a petition to bring Senate Bill 209 to a vote of the Senate. Chaudhuri and four other Democrats filed the bill nearly four weeks ago; it has not been taken up in a committee since then. It would establish a commission to redraw state legislative and congressional districts without partisan consideration. Common Cause and other groups have been pushing for the independent body for years.
Though voting should be a simple process, it’s undeniable that some people face more obstacles at the polls than others.
When English is not your first language, the voting process can be especially difficult. Though a controversial voter ID law here has grabbed national headlines, fewer Texans know about the state’s more obscure voting rights battle that’s threatening the right to vote for U.S. citizens who don’t speak English. Several years ago, Mallika Das of Williamson County brought her son Saurabh to the polls to help her interpret her ballot. When they arrived, Saurabh was told that he couldn’t help his mom because he was registered to vote in a neighboring district. Mallika Das was a U.S. citizen and eligible voter who wanted to exercise her constitutional right — but that day, she couldn’t properly cast a ballot. They wouldn’t let her son help her.
Wisconsin: Milwaukee County Board urges state Legislature to create nonpartisan redistricting panel | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
The Milwaukee County Board on Thursday urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to create an independent panel responsible for redrawing congressional and legislative districts that do not favor one political party over another. The board’s action comes three days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on appeal that found Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 drew legislative district maps so favorable to their party that the districts violated the federal constitution. In that case, a panel of federal judges ruled 2-1 last year that Wisconsin GOP lawmakers had drawn Assembly district maps so skewed for Republicans that they violated voting rights of Democrats. The maps allowed Republicans to lock in huge majorities in the Assembly and state Senate without competitive elections, according to complainants.
If a foreign tourist, businessperson or other foreign visitor travelled through Albania at the moment, he or she would have no way of knowing that crucial parliamentary elections are taking place in the country on Sunday. There are no electoral posters or party flags, which usually cover the facades of every buildings ahead of elections, because this time political paraphernalia is allowed only during parties’ pre-election rallies. Yet even these rallies are unlike those before, as they have been passing off without heated speeches and a lot of noise, so as not to disturb people who are not interested in participating.