A privacy advocacy group sued to block President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity from collecting voter information across the U.S. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — the commission’s vice chairman and most public face — has asked all 50 states to submit data on all their registered voters, including names, addresses, birth dates, political party affiliations if available, records of elections in which they’ve participated, plus the last four digits of their social security numbers. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, in a complaint filed Monday at a U.S. court in Washington, said the commission failed to first conduct a mandatory privacy impact assessment, without which its actions are unlawful and unconstitutional.
Editorials: Trump’s voter data request poses an unnoticed danger — to national security | Michael Chertoff/The Washington Post
The Trump administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is asking states for voter-registration data from as far back as 2006. This would include names, dates of birth, voting histories, party registrations and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. The request has engendered controversy, to put it mildly, including refusals by many states and a caustic presidential tweet. But whatever the political, legal and constitutional issues raised by this data request, one issue has barely been part of the public discussion: national security. If this sensitive data is to be collected and aggregated by the federal government, then the administration should honor its own recent cybersecurity executive order and ensure that the data is not stolen by hackers or insiders.
Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election may not have altered the outcome of any races, but it showed that America’s voting system is far more vulnerable to attack than most people realized. Whether the attackers are hostile nations like Russia (which could well try it again even though President Trump has raised the issue with President Vladimir Putin of Russia) or hostile groups like ISIS, the threat is very real. The question is this: Can the system be strengthened against cyberattacks in time for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential race? The answer, encouragingly, is that there are concrete steps state and local governments can take right now to improve the security and integrity of their elections. A new study by the Brennan Center for Justice identifies two critical pieces of election infrastructure — aging voting machines and voter registration databases relying on outdated software — that present appealing targets for hackers and yet can be shored up at a reasonable cost. … The report identifies three immediate steps states and localities can take to counter the threat.
This interview with Pam Smith was posted electionlineWeekly. on July 6, 2017.
In recent weeks we’ve said good-bye to some leaders in the elections field and this week completes our unfortunate trifecta of departing “election geeks”. Pam Smith has stepped down as the president of Verified Voting. Smith joined Verified Voting in 2004, and served as its president for 10 years. She was an outspoken advocate for the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections. If you had a question about election technology or audits, Smith was the go-to source. Good luck Pam. We will miss your willingness to go on the record and talk about voting technology.
You are leaving the field at an interesting time, to say the least, why now?
Why, is something going on? Just kidding. Actually, I hope I’m not leaving altogether. I started out as an advocate before I came to Verified Voting, and I’ll likely stay one. And as anyone knows who works in elections, once it’s in you, you can’t ever really let it go!
But your point is a good one. Enormous progress has been made in moving toward getting the tools in place that enable officials around the country to demonstrate the correctness of election outcomes.
The work isn’t done yet. But what’s different today from when I started is that on major networks, in op-ed columns, in legislatures and around the coffee table, there’s awareness that we need to take steps to ensure our election systems are reliable. People are saying it out loud. It feels like the effort has a full head of steam now, and that was always one of my goals.
Karen Handel’s win in the hotly contested 6th Congressional District special election should be thrown out and the contest redone, according to a new lawsuit seeking to ultimately invalidate Georgia’s aging electronic voting system. The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, is the second pursued in less than two months by a Colorado-based group over the security of Georgia’s election infrastructure. The suit says those concerns include private cybersecurity researcher Logan Lamb’s finding last year that a misconfigured server at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems — which has helped run Georgia’s elections for the past 15 years — exposed more than 6.5 million voter records and other sensitive information that opponents said could be used to alter results. The same records were accessed a second time earlier this year by another security researcher. The FBI investigated both Lamb’s and the second researcher’s probing but did not file charges, saying neither of the two had broken federal law.
Massachusetts: Suit challenging Massacusetts voter registration cutoff rule now in court | Associated Press
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state requirement that eligible voters register at least 20 days ahead of an election is being heard in court this week, with critics saying the law disenfranchises thousands of potential voters every election. Opponents of the cutoff — including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts — are urging the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to order the state to end its enforcement, saying the law arbitrarily denies citizens their right to vote. Opponents are trying to bolster their argument by pointing to the state’s adoption of early voting last year. That change allowed voters to begin casting ballots on Oct. 24, just five days after the Oct. 19 registration cutoff. They say that undercuts the rationale that the state needs to end the registration of voters 20 days before Election Day.
North Carolina: Legislators: more than 65% of districts could change to correct racial gerrymanders | News & Observer
North Carolina lawmakers say they might have to change 116 of the state’s 170 state legislative districts to correct the illegal racially gerrymandered districts used to elect General Assembly members for the past six years. The private attorneys representing the legislators who were sued over the 2011 district lines offered that detail in federal court documents this week as one reason for opposing special elections this year. A month has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a ruling of three federal judges who found 28 North Carolina legislative districts were drawn illegally to weaken the overall influence of black voters.
Texas’ new voter identification law fully absolves the state from having discriminated against minority voters in 2011, and courts should not take further action in a battle over the state’s old voter ID law, President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice argued in a legal filing Wednesday. “Texas’s voter ID law both guarantees to Texas voters the opportunity to cast an in-person ballot and protects the integrity of Texas’s elections,” the filing stated. Federal lawyers were referring to Senate Bill 5, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month. It would soften a 2011 voter ID law — known as the nation’s most stringent — that courts have ruled purposefully burdened Latino and black voters. If allowed to take effect, the law would allow people without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining what was otherwise required.
India: Election Commission to tally paper trail slips with electronic voting machines in 5% booths in each assembly seat | The Indian Express
In a bid to further reinforce the credibility of electronic voting machines, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to mandatorily tally paper trail slips with the results of EVMs in five per cent of polling stations in each assembly seat, for all state and Lok Sabha elections. The counting of paper trail slips, however, will not take place in more than 14 polling stations and less than five polling stations in each assembly seat. The stations will be selected or identified at random. This change in the vote counting process will, by the EC’s estimate, delay the announcement of poll results by three hours. The Commission has already decided to link all EVMs with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, scheduled to be held towards the end of this year. VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM. The printed ballot slip is deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the election.
Counting is under way in Papua New Guinea’s sprawling elections, officials said Thursday, but voting has been marred by claims of rigging, electoral roll flaws and ballot paper shortages. The last polling stations are due to close Saturday after two weeks of voting for the 111-seat parliament across the vast and remote country where previous elections have been tarnished by violence. The Pacific nation’s leader, Peter O’Neill of the People’s National Congress (PNC), has hailed this year’s poll as “calm and peaceful”, even as some voters complained their names had vanished from the electoral roll.
National: Trump fraud commission to store data on White House computers under Pence staff direction | The Washington Post
The Trump administration announced plans to keep voter roll data it has requested from all 50 states and the District on White House computers under the direction of a member of Vice President Pence’s staff, it told a federal judge Thursday. The disclosure of the White House role came in a government filing required in a lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a watchdog organization that has asked a federal judge in Washington to block the requests for voter data until the impact on Americans’ privacy can be fully assessed. A decision on the request for a temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is expected as early as Friday afternoon. The commission’s request for voting information has caused a nationwide uproar.
Republicans officials and officeholders were, for the most part, not pleased about the rise of Donald Trump as their party’s candidate, but they found themselves powerless to stop his winning the nomination and then the presidency. Since Trump became president, however, Republicans have become some of his most effective antagonists, stymieing a range of efforts. House members defeated a first attempt at repealing Obamacare; a Senate bill to do the same is looking precarious. (Democrats, although unified in opposition, have played no real role.) Congress has pursued an investigation into Russian interference Trump dislikes, and may strengthen sanctions he wants to lift. And now Republicans are posing a serious challenge to Trump’s ballyhooed election-fraud commission. But first, let’s back up a step. The board has always looked like a cynical ploy. Stung by his failure to win the popular vote, even as the electoral college gave him the presidency, Trump has insisted that there were 3 to 5 million votes cast by ineligible voters during the presidential election. This number seems to be based on wildly speculative figures produced by an activist named Gregg Phillips.
President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission won’t have access to all of the information it would like because of state laws that map out what is and what is not publicly available — triggering a national conversation on the privacy of voters’ information. At the heart of the issue is a letter sent last week by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his capacity as vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In that letter, Kobach asked for all “publicly available” data, but the long list of pieces of information sought, including the last the four digits of Social Security numbers, included several elements that very few states, if any, say they can legally comply with.
Russian spies are ramping up their intelligence-gathering efforts in the US, according to current and former US intelligence officials who say they have noticed an increase since the election. The officials say they believe one of the biggest US adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations. “Russians have maintained an aggressive collection posture in the US, and their success in election meddling has not deterred them,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with Trump administration efforts.
Russians could also be seeking more information on Trump’s administration, which is new and still unpredictable to Moscow, according to Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of operations.
National: Ex-intel chief: ‘No evidence whatsoever’ anyone but Russia interfered in election | The Hill
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday that he saw no evidence that anyone besides Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite President Trump’s comments. “As far as others doing this, well that’s new to me,” Clapper, who served under former President Barack Obama, said during an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “We saw no evidence whatsoever that [there] was anyone involved in this other than the Russians,” he said. Clapper’s comments draw a contrast from Trump, who declined earlier Thursday to single out Russia for interference in the 2016 White House race. Trump asserted in Poland that other countries besides Russia likely meddled in the U.S. election and that “nobody really knows.”
Now that the 2017-18 U.S. Supreme Court term has sputtered to a stop, let’s reflect on the justices’ most important decision of the year. It’s not a case in which the court issued an opinion, but rather one in which it has merely agreed to hear arguments. The most consequential decision the court made this last term was to hear arguments in a case involving the drawing of legislative district lines. Please don’t yawn. This process of drawing district lines, called redistricting, dictates who our state and federal representatives will be. Decisions regarding how we draw district lines implicate every important policy issue, from health care and immigration, to the environment and criminal justice. Because of partisan gerrymandering, many Americans don’t chose their lawmakers. Their lawmakers chose them.
Nothing telegraphs a federal commission’s basic incompetence quite like having 44 states refuse to cooperate with its inquiry. But that’s the running total, according to a recent CNN survey, of states that have declined to provide requested voter data to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the Trump administration’s sham inquiry into voter fraud. As cynically partisan as the commission appears to be in makeup and mission, the decision by the states was far more straightforward: In most cases, state laws expressly forbid election agencies from releasing much of the data (including the last four digits of voter Social Security numbers) for privacy reasons. That was certainly true in Maryland where the state elections administrator formally notified the commission of its rejection Monday in a two-paragraph letter that simply noted that much of the information requested was protected by state and federal law. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh offered a more damning statement calling the request for personal data “repugnant” and designed “only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.”
A voting rights group has asked a federal judge to force Alabama to tell people that they could be eligible to vote after previously being disqualified for a felony conviction. U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins on Wednesday scheduled a July 25 hearing on the Campaign Legal Center’s injunction request. The Campaign Legal Center last week asked Watkins to require the state to implement an education campaign and take other steps, after lawmakers approved legislation clarifying which felonies cause a person to lose voting rights. The group also asked the state to reinstate eligible voters and disclose all voter registration applicants and voter registrants who were denied the right to vote on the basis of conviction in the past two years.
A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp indicated Thursday that Kemp is eager to show a jury why there should not be a rematch between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff in the 6th District Congressional race. The plaintiffs, meanwhile, demonstrated for reporters why they believe their lawsuit has merit. A diverse group of Georgia voters, along with a nonprofit government watchdog group, filed a lawsuit Monday in Fulton County Superior Court demanding that the results of the June 20th special election runoff be tossed out. The suit requests a new election using a paper ballot system. The suit names as defendants Kemp, local elections supervisors who oversaw the runoff election, and Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems and its director, Merle King.
Illinois will not hand over voter roll data as requested by a Trump administration panel, the Board of Elections announced on Thursday, saying that it does not have a publicly available roll. After Trump’s newly created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a letter asking that states provide voter data—including names, addresses, birth dates, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history, stretching back ten years—the Illinois office was met with an influx of calls urging the Board to deny the request. Kenneth Menzel, General Counsel of the State Board of Elections, wrote in a letter to Kris Kobach, Vice Chair of the PACEI, that the Commission’s stated intention to make public any submitted data prevents the Board from turning it over, per the state’s election-code safeguards.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach suffered another setback in an ongoing voter ID case with the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday, after a federal judge refused to reconsider an order requiring Kobach to sit for a deposition and pay a $1,000 fine for misleading the court. On June 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara fined Kobach for misleading the court as to the nature of the voting and immigration policy documents he shared with President Donald Trump in a November meeting. Kobach asked O’Hara to reconsider, contending that last-minute changes to the court filing led to the misleading information. Kobach also asked O’Hara to reconsider the deposition requirement, stating it might prevent him from acting as counsel in the case due to a potential conflict of interest. He also said the deposition was “intended to harass, annoy, or embarrass” him.
More than 40 states and the District of Columbia are saying they can’t or won’t hand over voter data to President Trump’s “election integrity” commission — and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes had a colorful way to describe how the White House request has been received in her state. “As my grandmother used to say, ‘It’s about as welcoming as a breeze off an outhouse,’” Grimes said on MSNBC Wednesday. “The folks across the state — not just Democrats, but Republicans — are realizing that turning over personal sensitive information to the federal government — to the president who has requested this — one, isn’t in the state’s interest and two, isn’t in individuals’ interests.” The data requests were first made last week by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a group formed by Trump following his unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election. The letters requested information about voters, including birthdays, party affiliation and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Editorials: Kentucky voters could become victims of cyber crime | Lisa Berry-Tayman and Eric Hodge/Courier-Journal
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has asked that the Commonwealth turn over its voter records to the federal government. The legality of such a request is questionable, however, and the Commission’s actions could put Kentucky’s voters at significant risk of identity theft and election fraud. It’s a dangerous cyber world where hacking tools and consumer information are sold openly on the Internet. In 2016, data breaches exposed more than 4.2 billion pieces of information about individuals. The Russian hacking of the presidential election was followed by global ransomware attacks that hijacked thousands of networked systems and foreshadowed new, more destructive attacks. Most recently, a consultancy engaged by the Republican National Committee accidentally exposed the personal voter information of nearly 200 million Americans.
The Fourth of July celebration is over, but the legal fireworks are just getting started in a trial that got underway Wednesday focusing on a key concern of the founding fathers – the right to vote. Jessie Rossman, one of the lawyers handling the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says as early as 1887, the state Supreme Court ruled that the cut-off for voter registration should occur as close to Election Day as possible. Rossman argues the technology is available to allow for same-day registration, so she says the current system is arbitrary and unconstitutional. “Every year, thousands of people in Massachusetts are disenfranchised and unable to vote as a result of this 20-day registration cut-off,” she states.
North Carolina: With elections board vacant, Cooper wants state Supreme Court to block board designed by GOP | News & Observer
North Carolina’s election oversight board has been vacant for more than a month, but the N.C. Supreme Court is poised to decide if Gov. Roy Cooper must make appointments to the new board designed by Republicans. Cooper last week asked the Supreme Court to block the law creating the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, which would be split equally among Republicans and Democrats – a change from the previous elections board, which was controlled by the governor’s party. Attorneys for House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger called on the court Monday to deny the request, and both the GOP legislative leaders and the N.C. Republican Party say Cooper needs to make appointments immediately.
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are re-affirming opposition to a special election this fall or winter for General Assembly seats, but say they’re prepared to redraw districts for the scheduled November 2018 election. The lawmakers’ attorneys responded Thursday to a Greensboro federal court seeking input about what to do after last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Justices agreed nearly 30 districts are racial gerrymanders and should be thrown out. But the high court rejected the Greensboro court’s order for a special election and wrote more work was needed evaluating whether it’s necessary. The GOP leaders say they’ve already laid out a schedule to draw new maps by this November. They say accelerating the timetable could short-circuit public and legislative feedback on maps and could prevent orderly elections.
State Rep. Pam Snyder, whose district includes Greene County and parts of Fayette and Washington counties, would like to see Pennsylvania allow early voting and no-excuse absentee balloting. “We’re busy people, on the go constantly to jobs, family responsibilities (and) civic duties,” Snyder said at a Harrisburg news conference last month, noting 37 states and the District of Columbia offer some sort of early voting. Twenty-seven states and the nation’s capital offer no-excuse absentee voting. “Not all of us work 9-to-5 shifts. We can do better. We should do better,” she continued.
Editorials: Texas and other states are right to refuse Trump panel’s request for private voter information | Dallas Morning News
Voting is a right in a democracy and the secrecy of the ballot protects citizens from reprisal. President Donald Trump may not appreciate this core American principle, but we’re pleased that most state election officials do. At least 43 states, including Texas, have pushed back against all or parts of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s sweeping and unprecedented request to hand over names, addresses, dates of birth, political party and voting histories, criminal records, military status and the last four digits of Social Security numbers of voters dating back to 2006. Texas will turn over information already publicly available but rightly refuses to release full or partial Social Security numbers. We find it disturbing that Trump continues to deny Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, but remains preoccupied with using this commission to pursue his own unproven allegations that millions voted illegally, costing him the popular vote.
Utah residents might have the chance to vote to form an independent redistricting commission that would redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries after the 2020 Census. A group called Utahns for Responsive Government is working to collect the more than 100,000 signatures required to put the initiative on the state’s 2018 ballot. “I strongly believe that the redistricting process (the determination of political boundaries), badly needs to be improved, and that politicians should not be choosing their voters,” said Ralph Becker, a former Salt Lake City mayor who is a member of the group.
Wyoming: Secretary of State rejects White House request for voter data, citing federal overreach | Casper Star-Tribune
Wyoming is joining more than 20 states in refusing to turn over public voter data to a federal commission investigating the integrity of elections. “I’m going to decline to provide any Wyoming voter information,” Secretary of State Ed Murray told the Star-Tribune on Monday. “It’s not sitting well with me.” The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity sent a request to all 50 states last week, asking them to turn over any publicly available personal voter data. Many state officials, from across the political spectrum, have declined to do so.