In 2006, Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten received an anonymous message offering him a Diebold AccuVote TS, one of the most widely used touch-screen voting machines at the time. Manufacturers like Diebold touted the touch-screens, known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, as secure and more convenient than their paper-based predecessors. Computer experts were skeptical, since any computer can be vulnerable to viruses and malware, but it was hard to get ahold of a touch-screen voting machine to test it. The manufacturers were so secretive about how the technology worked that they often required election officials to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from bringing in outside experts who could assess the machines. Felten was intrigued enough that he sent his 25-year-old computer science graduate student, Alex Halderman, on a mission to retrieve the AccuVote TS from a trenchcoat-clad man in an alleyway near New York’s Times Square. Felten’s team then spent the summer working in secrecy in an unmarked room in the basement of a building to reverse-engineer the machine. In September 2006, they published a research paper and an accompanying video detailing how they could spread malicious code to the AccuVote TS to change the record of the votes to produce whatever outcome the code writers desired. And the code could spread from one machine to another like a virus.
National: Election integrity commission says it doesn’t need to make privacy assessment | Washington Times
President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity responded to one of an increasing number of lawsuits against it, asking a federal judge Monday to deny a request seeking to prevent the gathering of states’ voter data over concerns about transparency and privacy. In a court filing on Monday, the commission argued federal law doesn’t require it to perform a privacy risk assessment before collecting voter data, which was a key argument in one of the first lawsuits brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) earlier this month. After Kris W. Kobach, the panel vice chairman, asked states to turn over names, partial Social Security numbers, birthdays, political party affiliations, military status and other public information last month, EPIC filed suit, hoping to force the commission to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment before gathering the personal data. EPIC quickly scored a win when the commission suspended its collection of state voter information earlier this month until a judge rules on the matter.
President Trump’s voter fraud commission is urging a federal court not to block it from collecting state data on registered voters. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity responded Monday to a motion from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The privacy group asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this month for a temporary restraining order to stop the commission from collecting state voter roll data. EPIC claims the commission violated the E-Government Act of 2002 and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in asking all 50 states and D.C. for voters’ full names and addresses, political party registration and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is sharply divided over how the election watchdog agency should respond to Russian interference in the U.S. election as more revelations come to light about foreign meddling during 2016. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee, believes the FEC should play a more active role and consider rulemaking proposals to prevent foreign influence in future U.S. elections. She advocates a forward-looking, “prospective” approach focused on preventing future influence in the 2018 midterm elections. Federal election law prohibits foreign nationals or entities from making campaign contributions or influencing U.S. elections.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee called for more investigation into the digital activities of Donald Trump’s campaign, amid concerns about Russian-directed misinformation efforts to influence the election, even as the president’s lawyer vigorously defended his client. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said he wants to look into the activities of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that advised Trump’s campaign, as well as Trump’s digital efforts during the election because of the way false election stories about Hillary Clinton were circulated and targeted online. “The ability to manipulate these search engines and some of these social media platforms is real, it’s out there,” Warner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “We need information from the companies, as well as we need to look into the activities of some of the Trump digital campaign activities.’’
Democrats are stepping up their criticism of the White House’s voter integrity commission, while trying to stave off panic about the commission’s requests for data — panic that has already led to thousands of voters asking to be removed from the rolls in key states. “It’s Republican overreach,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in an interview. “This voter commission exposes the Republicans very clearly for what they’re trying to do, which is simply to suppress the vote. You look at the people on this commission and they’ve been the long-term leaders of the campaign to do that. It’s not hard to figure out.”
Editorials: Congress should reauthorize modern Voting Rights Act | Sensenbrenner/Milwaukee Jounral-Sentinel
I vividly remember a road trip I took as a young man with my father to the Deep South. When we stopped at gas stations, I watched out the window of our vehicle as black attendants pumped gas while white station owners collected the money. I saw first-hand the separation of water fountains and restroom facilities and wondered how communities could allow this practice to continue. Later, as a representative in the Wisconsin Legislature, I again saw racial injustice up close. While attending events and spending time in parts of Milwaukee’s majority black neighborhoods, I listened to constituents as they described unnecessary obstructions that prohibited them from voting. Their personal stories were the inspiration behind my work to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Ensuring that every eligible American voter has the ability to cast his or her ballot without intimidation, preclusion and prejudice is a constitutional right. Since my earliest days in Congress, I have fought to protect it.
Voting Blogs: Can Federalism Cope with Russian Election Meddling? | Ciara Torres-Spelliscy/Brennan Center for Justice
I’ve spent many hours this summer watching Senate hearings on the integrity of American elections. Lest we forget the Church Committee, which investigated the CIA, or the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, the Watergate Committee, Congress can be one way Americans learn the truth. As a former Senate staffer, I have much respect for the professionalism and bipartisanship shown by the two leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Chairman Richard Burr (R-S.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) Nearly 20 million people watched Former FBI Director James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month. One of his warnings was that the Russians had come after American democracy “[a]nd they will be back.” But two other hearings that garnered much less attention left me troubled that the American electoral system won’t be fortified in time for the 2018 election. One hearing was about the history of Russian hacking in Europe and the other was about the reaction of state election officials to federal assistance in light of Russian interference.
The state of Colorado is moving to audit future digital election results, hiring a Portland-based startup to develop software to help ensure that electronic vote tallies are accurate. The startup Free & Fair announced on Monday that it had been selected by the state to develop a software system for state and local election officials to conduct what are called “risk-limiting audits.” A risk-limiting audit, or RLA, is a method that checks election outcomes by comparing a random sample of paper ballots to the accompanying digital versions. The development comes amid deepening fears on Capitol Hill about the possibility of foreign interference in future elections, following Russia’s use of cyberattacks and disinformation to influence the 2016 presidential election. According to the U.S. intelligence community, Moscow’s efforts also included targeting state and local election systems.
A state agency has launched an investigation into Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s involvement in voting cases, including allegations that he misrepresented the content of a document he was photographed taking into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump. The Office of Disciplinary Administration considers misconduct complaints against attorneys, and Kobach — a Republican candidate for Kansas governor next year — is the only secretary of state in the country with prosecutorial powers. He also serves as vice chairman of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which recently set off a nationwide outcry when the commission asked states for detailed information about every voter.
Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has called for more thorough reviews of rejected ballots to identify cases of voter fraud, sparking an email feud with Missoula County and frustrating other election officials from Republican and Democratic counties who see no evidence of a broken system. Stapleton, who took office in January, is the first Montana Secretary of State in memory to declare a crackdown on voter fraud as a priority. The Republican’s policy shift mirrors similar efforts cropping up in other states, where the GOP has secured a growing number of the top election posts, and as President Donald Trump has asserted – with no evidence to date – that he lost the popular election because of millions of illegal votes.
Nebraska: Gale says he’s against creating federal voter registration database, spells out conditions for release of voter data | Omaha World Herald
In a letter to a federal voting commission, Nebraska’s top election official said he’s opposed to the creation of a federal voter registration database. Secretary of State John Gale said access to a federal database of some kind, however, could help local and state election officials confirm death records, citizenship status and other statuses to maintain clean voter rolls. Gale sent the letter on Friday to Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the voting commission, to formally ask how the commission intends to use the voter data it requested.
Pennsylvania: Activists laying out options to urge Allegheny County to acquire new voting machines | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A coalition of activists wants a new commission to review — and recommend replacements for — Allegheny County’s 4,600 voting machines. And as befits an effort to double-check the results of each election, organizers have back-up plans to ensure they have their say. The coalition, which includes the local League of Women Voters and the election-transparency group Vote Allegheny, has proposed an ordinance to create a 13-member “Voting Process Review Commission” tasked with “conduct[ing] regular periodic reviews” of voting equipment. If it decides newer equipment is needed, the commission would recommend the machines to be purchased, if voters approve a referendum to pay for them. “Sooner or later, the county will have to replace the machines, and we’d like them to be prepared with a recommendation about the replacement,” said Annette Shimer, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh. The effort stems from longstanding doubts about the touch-screen voting machines Allegheny County uses. Such machines store votes in memory, but have no paper trail to confirm voters’ choices. Some activists say the absence of hard copies makes it harder to detect vote-rigging.
Texas: Harris County, Texas, Officials Won’t Say Whether Election Systems Were Targeted | Government Technology
Despite widespread alarm over the breadth of Russian cyber attacks on state and local election systems last year, including revelations of Dallas County being targeted, Harris County officials are refusing to say whether hackers similarly took aim at the nation’s third-largest county. Releasing information on whether Harris County election systems saw attacks from Russian hackers would threaten the county’s cyber security by emboldening hackers to further target local systems, county officials said this week. The county’s argument was dismissed by experts, who said the secrecy is unnecessary, and could actually downplay the seriousness of the threat and the resources needed to combat it. “There’s this concept in security called ‘security through obscurity,’ sort of, if they don’t know about it they won’t come after it,” said Pamela Smith, a consultant at Verified Voting, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes voting integrity. “But to really have robust security, you want people to be able to know that it’s there … I think what the public wants to know is that you’re aware of the threat and you’re taking steps to mitigate.”
Denmark: NATO Is Fighting Russia’s Fake News Schemes by Training Danish Troops How to Spot Propaganda | Newsweek
Political elections are not the only target of Russia’s hacking and “fake news” campaigns. Fighting forces can be targeted, as well. As such, Denmark will reportedly train troops against propaganda that it plans to send NATO next year in Estonia as the build-up of forces in Eastern Europe continues, according to Reuters. Though Russia was not specifically mentioned, President Vladimir Putin’s government has been directly accused of meddling in the United States election by disseminating false news reports and conducting cyberattacks as well as similar efforts in France, Austria, the Ukraine, Germany and the Netherlands, to name a few. “It is a whole new world. The Danish soldiers need to be extremely aware of that. Therefore I have arranged with the armed forces that the soldiers being sent out in January are informed and educated in how to protect themselves,” Danish defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said Monday.
Estonia, the only country in the world where voters elect their leaders through online balloting, is taking steps to fend off potential hacking attacks as cyber-security fears intensify. A software overhaul for the system, introduced in 2005, is ready for testing before local elections in October, according to Tarvi Martens, the National Electoral Committee’s head of e-voting. The upgrade includes anti-tampering features known as end-to-end verifiability that addresses security concerns from groups such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, he said. “End-to-end verifiability is the ‘Holy Grail’ for electronic voting,” Martens said this month in a phone interview. “When we talk about international criticism, the new software now addresses it.”
Germany: OSCE mulls monitoring German election, as far-right complains of ‘massive interference’ | The Local
The intergovernmental OSCE organization is considering whether to send a monitoring mission to the upcoming German election after speaking with each of the parties, Spiegel reports. Spiegel reported on Monday that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is deciding whether to monitor the September 24th German national election. For the first time, delegates from the OSCE met with party leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party at their central headquarters, who provided documentation of “attacks, violence, obstructions, and criminal acts against AfD members through private and public positions” as well as “individual acts and in their alarming sum make up a massive interference in a democratic competition for votes in the parliamentary election campaign.”
Israel: To avoid cyber attacks, Israel urged to manually count election results | Middle East Monitor
Israel’s National Cyber Authority is expected to recommend the manual counting of votes in future elections in order to prevent cyber attacks “following recent attempts to meddle with elections in the West,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday. Formed 18 months ago, the authority is working on a “defence plan” against possible meddling in Israeli elections through cyber attacks similar to what recently took place in the United States, France and Ukraine. The plan will recommend that votes continue to be counted manually in Israel, as they always have, even if this is an “outdated method”.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign is looking outside U.S. borders as well — and shedding light on a number of targets in Eastern Europe that shows why and how Kremlin-affiliated agents went after specific Americans. A recent open hearing by the panel revealed influence campaigns aimed at countries across Europe and the Balkans, meant to disrupt pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization candidates and parties. Those hearings are taking on new resonance amid an admission by Donald Trump Jr., son of President Donald Trump, that of a June 2016 meeting with a Russian attorney, whom the younger Trump believed to be in possession of incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. Russian influence tactics used in the U.S. presidential election and in recent European contests have been used overtly by President Vladimir Putin to exert influence over pro-NATO neighbors in Eastern Europe, experts say.
Gunmen in Venezuela shot into a crowd of voters on Sunday, activists said, killing one woman and wounding three others during an unofficial referendum organised by the opposition to push for an end to two decades of socialist rule. The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said a pro-government “paramilitary” gang opened fire in Caracas’ poor neighbourhood of Catia, where thousands were participating in the event. Video footage showed people scattering as gunshots rang out, many taking sanctuary inside a church. “The day was stained by the killing of a Venezuelan woman who was protesting and exercising her rights,” said opposition leader Freddy Guevara of the killing of Xiomara Escot. “But violence cannot hide what has happened. The people are not afraid and are clear in their decision.“