What would it cost to protect the nation’s voting systems from attack? About $400 million would go a long way, say cybersecurity experts. It’s not a lot of money when it comes to national defense — the Pentagon spent more than that last year on military bands alone — but getting funds for election systems is always a struggle. At a Senate intelligence committee hearing last week about Russian hacking during last year’s election, Jeanette Manfra , the acting deputy under secretary for cybersecurity at the Department Homeland Security recommended that election officials have a paper-based audit process to identify anomalies after an election. While that’s the advice most cybersecurity experts give, right now more than a dozen states use electronic voting machines that have no paper backup. Replacing those machines would go a long way toward protecting one of the core functions of democracy, says Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York. “I don’t think that would cost a huge amount of money. I think it would probably cost between $200 million and $300 million to replace that equipment,” adding that $400 million is his top estimate.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, on Tuesday appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which has begun interviewing witnesses in its probe of how Russia may have influenced the 2016 election. Committee members declined to comment on the discussion to reporters as they left the panel’s secure hearing room. Podesta stopped and commented briefly. “They asked me to come forward to give to the best of my knowledge what I knew about that, and I was happy to cooperate with the committee in their investigation of Russian interference with the democratic process in the United States,” he said.
The email that would help Democrats lose the 2016 presidential election arrived on March 19, 2016, signed — seemingly harmlessly — “Best, the Gmail team.” The email was sent to John Podesta, the then-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But it wasn’t a benign message; it was actually a spear-phishing email authored by hackers with ties to Russia. “There was a Google alert that there was some compromise in the system,” Podesta told CNN of the email, which prompted Podesta to change his password “immediately” by clicking on a link. “It actually got managed by my assistant, who checked with our cybersecurity guy,” Podesta said. “And through a comedy of errors, I guess, he instructed her to go ahead and click on it and she did.”
As voters in many states learn more about the ongoing practice and effects of partisan gerrymandering, a high-profile lawsuit originating in Wisconsin may have profound implications for how much a political party can do to keep itself in power. The U.S. Supreme Court announced June 19 that it would hear an appeal in Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to the legislative districts Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011. It’s always thorny to try and predict how the justices will rule on a given case based on their previous rulings and writings, and what they eventually end up asking in oral arguments. But it is helpful to focus in on the specific questions at issue, not just the greater policy implications.
Editorials: Transparency is Solution to Shameful Lack of Security For U.S. Voting Systems Revealed by NSA Leak | Leah Rosenbloom/ACLU
Elections belong to the public. Just as we have the right to understand our overall election process, we have a right to understand the underlying hardware and software involved in electronic voting. We have a right to understand where our votes and voter registrations go, who checks them, and which institutions have access to that information. The NSA document allegedly leaked by Reality Leigh Winner and recently published by The Intercept suggests that the government is no longer confident about that critical information. The report details a Russian spear-phishing campaign that introduced malware into election contractors’ and officials’ machines, causing them to run “an unknown payload from malicious infrastructure.” According to the report, “It is unknown…what potential data could have been accessed” by Russian hackers. The malicious code was implanted into instructions for EViD, a piece of software that allows poll workers to verify voters’ sensitive personal information, including name, address, registration status, and voting history. The verification is done entirely over the Internet, and all data is communicated to and from EViD’s “secure website.”
Democracy is in crisis. Even as the country is deeply divided along class and ideological lines, it seems to be unified in its frustration with our current brand of politics. Polls show that less than 20 percent of the country approves of the way Congress is doing its job. The time has come to consider a transformative idea that reflects the American electorate’s desire for moderation and fairness and that encourages the reemergence of bridge builders and candidates with an eye for compromise. That idea involves changing the way we elect members of the House of Representatives. This week I introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would make two fundamental changes in how voters elect their representative in the U.S. House.
The Maine House and Senate passed conflicting versions of ranked-choice voting legislation Tuesday, making the future of the first-in-the-nation, voter-approved measure uncertain. The Senate voted Tuesday morning to repeal the ranked-choice voting law. The 21-13 vote came after the state’s highest court gave an advisory opinion that electing members of the Legislature and the governor by ranked choice did not comply with the Maine Constitution, which calls for the winners of those elections to be selected by a plurality of voters. But just moments after the Senate action, and with no debate, the House of Representatives voted 79-66 to leave parts of the law intact for primary voting and congressional elections. The House bill also leaves open the door to ranked-choice voting for governor and the Legislature if a constitutional amendment is passed in the future.
“We don’t want to be another Florida.” Those words from Delaware County Elections Director Karla Herron are being echoed across Ohio — indeed, throughout much of the country — as elections officials grow increasingly worried about the growing necessity to replace aging voting equipment. Virtually no one disagrees with the need. Problem is, virtually no one wants to pay for a new voting setup. The statewide tab could top $200 million, judging by central Ohio cost estimates. Tim Ward has a ready retort for such reluctance: “You think having a good election is expensive? Try having a bad one.” The president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials and Madison County elections director said, “We don’t want to be sitting there saying I told you so.”
Election officials say South Carolina was not one of the 21 states targeted by cyberattacks before last year’s vote — but they’re moving quickly to find help shoring up their defenses. The State Election Commission is seeking proposals this week for a cybersecurity contractor to identify threats, look for holes in the state’s security and find ways to patch them. Agency spokesman Chris Whitmire said the commission is trying to replace an emergency contract it signed last year as concerns of foreign meddling in the presidential election spread across the country.
Vermont: State And Local Officials On High Alert For Breaches In Vermont’s Election System | Vermont Public Radio
Secretary of State Jim Condos says his office is actively taking steps to protect the state’s election system from being manipulated by foreign or domestic computer hackers, but says there’s no evidence so far to indicate that Vermont’s voting system was breached. Following reports of Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Homeland Security has reached out to individual states to help strengthen the security of their voting systems. Condos says this issue has become an ongoing and critically important concern for his office.
Canada: Taxpayers spent more than $600K for Electoral Reform Committee report Liberals dismissed | The Hill Times
Parliamentarians spent more than $600,000 and 200-plus hours compiling a 333-page report recommending major changes to the country’s voting system that was largely rejected by the Trudeau government within hours of its release, new House of Commons statistics show. The Special Committee on Electoral Reform, convened by the House to study and consult on prospective changes to the federal election process, posted the largest tab of any House committee over the course of 2016-17, according to spending figures released last week by the House Liaison Committee, which determines committee budgets. The all-party Electoral Reform Committee spent $477,910 travelling across the country to hear directly from Canadians, with another $125,839 charged for the work of Library of Parliament research assistants and the committee’s operational budget, which includes working meals, reports, and professional services.
The hack began as trash talk. Germany’s voting computers were so vulnerable to tampering that they could be reprogrammed to play chess, the hackers boasted. But then the machines’ maker dared them to try. Bound by honor and curiosity, the hackers got their hands on one of the computers and had it playing chess after about a month. “We have to admit,” they later wrote, “that it does not play chess all that well.” This wasn’t just a prank. The hackers, several of them associated with the Hamburg collective known as the Chaos Computer Club, or CCC, also proved they could manipulate votes that the computers had recorded. As a result, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court struck down the nation’s use of voting computers, citing CCC by name in its ruling. Oh, and this was in 2006. From imperfect voting machines to the fake news that chokes social media, the U.S., the U.K., and France are only beginning to wrestle with the ways in which democracy can be hacked. In Germany, which is heading to the polls in September, CCC has been paying closer attention. Sometimes that means such stunts as reprogramming computer systems on a dare, but the loose confederation of about 5,500 hackers isn’t a bunch of bored teens in it for the lulz. Its 29 local chapters are stocked with professionals who run security for banks, head encryption startups, and advise policymakers. The group publishes an occasional magazine, produces a monthly talk radio show, and throws the occasional party, too.
No candidate has won an outright victory in Mongolia’s presidential election meaning the first ever run-off between two leading candidates will be held next month, the General Election Committee said on Tuesday. A populist former martial arts star Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party won the most votes in the Monday election, but failed to secure the majority required, the committee said. He will face ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, who came second, in a run-off on July 9, the committee’s chairman, Choinzon Tsodnomtseren, told a news briefing.
Nepalis began voting in the second round of local elections on Wednesday, a key step towards holding a general election later this year that would complete a near decade-long democratic transition after the abolition of its monarchy. The latest round of voting covers parts of the restive southern plains that border India and there are concerns about possible violence after Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), a group that dominates the area, said it would boycott the vote and called for a general strike. In 2015 and 2016 scores of people were killed, mainly in clashes with police, in protests by the local ethnic Madhesi against a new constitution that they say leaves them marginalized and favors those living in the hills of the Himalayan nation.
Papua New Guinea polls opened on Saturday and will close July 8, because many voters have to navigate treacherous terrain to cast their ballot. Since independence in 1975, there has been an average turnover rate of 50 percent of Papua New Guinea Member of Parliaments. Sans opinion polling in the country, the vast majority of electorates – which are in the rural areas – dictate the election result. The election is being held amid Prime Minister Peter O’Neill facing an arrest warrant for corruption. He has vehemently denied all the allegations and, in recent months, weathered calls from protests and civil disobedience for his resignation.