After the debacle of the 2000 presidential election count, the US invested heavily in electronic voting systems – but not, it seems, the security to protect them. This year at the DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas, 30 computer-powered ballot boxes used in American elections were set up in a simulated national White House race – and hackers got to work physically breaking the gear open to find out what was hidden inside. In less than 90 minutes, the first cracks in the systems’ defenses started appearing, revealing an embarrassing low level of security. Then one was hacked wirelessly. “Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we’ve uncovered even more about exactly how,” said Jake Braun, who sold DEF CON founder Jeff Moss on the idea earlier this year. “The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security.”
National: U.S. elections are an easier target for Russian hackers than once thought | Los Angeles Times
When Chris Grayson pointed his Web browser in the direction of Georgia’s elections system earlier this year, what he found there shocked him. The Santa Monica cybersecurity researcher effortlessly downloaded the confidential voter file of every registered Georgian. He hit upon unprotected folders with passwords, apparently for accessing voting machines. He found the off-the-shelf software patches used to keep the system secure, several of which Grayson said could be easily infected by a savvy 15-year-old hacker. “It was like, holy smokes, this is all on the Internet with no authentication?” Grayson said in an interview. “There were so many things wrong with this.” … Among the most alarmed have been pedigreed computer security scholars, who warn that a well-timed hack of a vendor that serves multiple states could be enough to cause chaos even in systems that were thought to be walled off from one another. And they say security lapses like those in Georgia reveal the ease with which hackers can slip in.
Editorials: What does the US election integrity commission need to be credible? Some actual experts | Michael Halpern and Michael Latner/The Guardian
Last Wednesday, the US Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity (PACEI) held its first meeting, with many election experts and political observers anxious to get clarity on the group’s composition and stated objectives. But even before its first meeting, experts have called it a sham and orchestrated chaos, and have accused it of breaking the law. Our assessment of the first meeting is that, as currently structured, the commission will almost certainly create more problems than it solves. The most remarkable thing about the first meeting is not who was there and what was said, but rather who was not there and what was not said. Election integrity commissions are traditionally bipartisan affairs, and have been led by major figures from both parties, like Jimmy Carter and Jim Baker. This commission is headed by Republicans Kris Kobach and Vice-President Mike Pence. Only two notable Democrats, Maine and New Hampshire Secretaries of State Matt Dunlap and Bill Gardner, have agreed to serve on the 15-member panel.
Alabama: State clashes with advocacy group in federal court over felony disenfranchisement suit | AL.com
Lawyers for the state of Alabama sparred Tuesday afternoon in federal court in Montgomery with attorneys representing a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit over issues related to Alabama’s felony disenfranchisement law. The hearing centered on a request by the Campaign Legal Center, a voting rights advocacy group, that Chief District Judge W. Keith Watkins force the state to take steps to educate thousands of convicted felons that they may be eligible to vote under a new state law. The organization is also asking Watkins to force the state to automatically add to the voting rolls several thousand convicted felons who applied to register to vote in recent years but were denied that opportunity, yet are now eligible to regain the franchise under the new law. “An issue will be ordered forthwith,” Watkins said at the conclusion of the hearing, without offering a specific timeframe for a ruling on the Campaign Legal Center’s request for a preliminary injunction, which was initially filed June 30.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could use a little credibility at the moment. President Trump’s so-called election-integrity commission, of which he is the de facto chief, has come under suspicion for both its methods and its purpose. But citizens seeking assurance about Kobach’s motives won’t find that from the federal courts. In a ruling yesterday, flagged by the indefatigable Rick Hasen, Judge Julie Robinson of the U.S. District Court of Kansas rejected Kobach’s request that she overturn a $1,000 fine levied on him by a U.S. magistrate judge. That wasn’t the most significant part of the ruling. Over 13 pages, Robinson carefully lays out ways in which Kobach appeared to be playing fast and loose with the facts in the lower court. And in affirming Magistrate Judge James O’Hara’s fine, she became the second federal judge to deem Kobach at the very least misleading in his court appearances. … Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, continued that “these examples… demonstrate a pattern, which gives further credence to Judge O’Hara’s conclusion that a sanctions award is necessary to deter defense counsel in this case from misleading the Court about the facts and record in the future.” In the dry language of federal courts—a federal judge is unlikely to call a statewide official a liar—that’s a stinging judgment on Kobach’s honesty.
Two federal judges said Thursday they are concerned that North Carolina legislative leaders have taken few if any steps to draw new election maps since they were struck down last year, and one judge suggested they don’t appear to be taking their duty seriously. A three-judge panel is deciding when and how the electoral map must be remade. “What concerns, at least me, is the seriousness of how this is being taken by the legislature. This is serious,” Judge James A. Wynn of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals told a lawyer for the legislative leaders at a hearing in federal court in Greensboro. His fellow panel member, U.S District Judge Catherine Eagles, then added: “You don’t seem serious. What’s our assurance that you are serious about remedying this?” The panel ruled in August 2016 that 28 state House and Senate districts were illegally drawn, based on racial considerations. After Republicans took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices agreed this summer that the districts must be redrawn. Democrats hope the new boundaries could help them erode the GOP’s veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.
The Texas Senate tentatively approved a bill Wednesday aiming to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud, largely by beefing up criminal penalties — a response to voting irregularities in Dallas County. “Any attempt to scam the system,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who authored Senate Bill 5, “must be addressed accordingly.” With a 21-10 vote, the chamber advanced the bill mostly along party lines. Several Democrats said they initially planned to back it, but they voted against the proposal due to a section that appeared to criminalize certain political discussions between family members “in the presence of” a mail-in ballot. “There is the possibility that a family member looking over my shoulder — saying you should vote for Sen. Van Taylor — that individual would be in violation of this section of the law,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. “I see this as a potential trap for senior citizens.”
Wisconsin: State files first brief to U.S. Supreme Court in gerrymandering case | Wisconsin State Journal
State lawyers defending Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting plan, which was called an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander by a federal court panel, filed their opening brief Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the high court should reject the lower court ruling and throw out a lawsuit brought in 2015 by a group of state Democratic voters. The Supreme Court in June announced that it would decide the case, and later set oral arguments for Oct. 3. The group of Democrats charges that the 2011 plan was designed to heavily favor Republican candidates in state legislative races, giving them a built-in advantage to retain a large majority of seats in Wisconsin’s legislative houses, despite statewide vote totals in presidential races that typically split nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Russian intelligence agents attempted to spy on President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign earlier this year by creating phony Facebook personas, according to a U.S. congressman and two other people briefed on the effort. About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election, the sources said. Macron won in a landslide in May. Facebook said in April it had taken action against fake accounts that were spreading misinformation about the French election. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials has not previously been reported.
Venezuela’s beleaguered government appeared prepared to go ahead with a vote on Sunday that critics at home and abroad have warned will seal the demise of the oil-rich nation’s democracy. At least five people were killed last week after the opposition stepped up its protests against the controversial vote that will elect a 545-member constituent assembly with the power to rewrite the constitution and dissolve state institutions. A government ban on public demonstrations in the run-up to the election reduced turnouts for nationwide protests called by the opposition, but sporadic looting and clashes between protesters manning barricades of tree branches and barbed wire were reported in several cities on Friday night. Despite the continuing threat of repression, the opposition coalition, known as MUD, called for mass demonstrations in Caracas on Sunday while voting takes place.
Threat intelligence company LookingGlass Cyber Solutions says it has discovered over 40 million voter records from nine different states being traded in an underground forum for stolen credit card data and login credentials. The voter records being offered for sale include the voter’s full first, last and middle name, voter ID, birthdate, voter status, party affiliation, residential address and other details. The data belongs to voters in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington State. Over the last two days, voter databases from at least two of the states—Arkansas and Ohio—were sold for a mere $2 each, or a total of $4 for almost 10 million voter records. That suggests financial gain is not the primary reason for the activity, according to LookingGlass. ‘Logan,’ the individual who has advertised the data and is selling it on a site called RaidForums, has hinted at possessing voter records for an additional 20 to 25 states, says Jonathan Tomek, director of threat research at LookingGlass Cyber Solutions.
National: Kris Kobach says Trump’s fraud panel will keep voter data secure. Some states aren’t buying it | Los Angeles Times
After weeks of legal battles and bipartisan pushback from top election officials nationwide, President Trump’s voter fraud commission has renewed a message for the states: It’s safe to pass along your data about voters. “Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the commission’s existence,” Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the commission, wrote in a letter sent late Wednesday to all 50 secretaries of state. Even so, by Thursday, much of the criticism that greeted an earlier request from the commission was repeated by election officials and activists, who have expressed concerns about privacy and have called the panel both a sham created by an insecure president and a tool to suppress votes. … The letter from Kobach is the second in less than a month requesting that secretaries of state submit voter data to the so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
The Senate is moving forward with legislation to combat cyberattacks and deter foreign interference amid an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The bill approved by the Senate intelligence committee 14-1 Thursday will now move to the Senate floor. According to the panel, the legislation would ensure the intelligence community is well-positioned to detect cyberattacks, strengthen information-sharing with states to protect voting systems and “send a message to Moscow that we will not accept their aggressive actions.”
National: Voter fraud commission will almost certainly ‘find’ thousands of duplicate registrations that aren’t duplicates. Here’s why. | The Washington Post
Did Vice President Pence commit voter fraud? You might think so, if you looked at voter registration data that includes only each voter’s name and birth year. Mike Pence registered to vote eight times and cast seven ballots across six states in the November 2016 election. But you would be wrong. Each of these registration records belongs to a different person. Their only crime is that they share their name and were born in the same year as the vice president. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, led by the vice president, has gotten considerable attention for requesting voter registration information (including names, birthdays and Social Security numbers) from each state. Presumably, the commission will use the names and birthdays in these lists to identify potential duplicate registration records between states.
The Senate on Thursday approved sweeping sanctions against Russia, forcing President Trump to decide whether to accept a tougher line against Moscow or issue a politically explosive veto amid investigations into ties between his presidential campaign and Russian officials. The Senate vote, 98 to 2, followed the passage of a House bill this week to punish Russia, Iran and North Korea for various violations by each of the three American adversaries. In effect, the measure would sharply limit Mr. Trump’s ability to suspend or lift sanctions on Russia — handcuffing a sitting president just six months into his term with the nearly unanimous support of a Republican-led Congress.
Editorials: Trump’s Election Integrity Commission is illegal and unconstitutional — that’s why we filed a lawsuit | Sherrilyn Ifill /Salon
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund recently filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission as illegal and unconstitutional. Our complaint makes clear that to falsely allege that voter fraud exists is nothing more than a pretext for the suppression of Black and Latino voters. Ours is the seventh suit against the commission, and the first to allege that it discriminates against voters of color. Statements made by President Trump and his surrogates demonstrate the connection between race and the commission’s search for voter fraud. Without offering any evidence, the president has repeatedly claimed that voter fraud is rampant in the U.S. and that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 election because of millions of “illegal” votes cast for Hillary Clinton. He has couched these allegations in racially coded terms, implying that voter impersonation is perpetrated mostly by immigrants or residents of predominantly Black urban centers. A few weeks before the election, then-candidate Trump told a predominantly white crowd in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, “I just hear such reports about Philadelphia. … We have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us.” He added: “Everybody knows what I’m talking about.”
Editorials: As Hackers Target U.S. Voting Machines, We Need Leaders Who’ll Put Country Over Party | Karen Hobert Flynn/Just Security
“If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told senators in May. Clapper’s warning about the impact of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the potential damage from future cyberattacks around the world packed a particularly powerful wallop. Over the next few days in Las Vegas, a group of white hat hackers will run a “Voting Machine Hacking Village,” using real U.S. voting machines to back up Clapper’s alarm with a demonstration of the vulnerability of some of our voting systems. This private effort, part of DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker convention, highlights a serious public problem: our election infrastructure was attacked and will be again; our federal and state governments must do much more to protect our most cherished right as Americans, our vote.
Colorado: No evidence 5,000 Colorado voters who unregistered were ineligible to vote, secretary of state says |
There is no evidence any of the more than 5,000 Colorado voters who have withdrawn their registrations following the Trump administration’s request for voter information were ineligible to participate in elections, Secretary of State Wayne Williams said Thursday. “It’s my hope that citizens who withdrew their registration will re-register, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle,” Williams said in a written statement. “Clearly we wouldn’t be asking them to re-register if we didn’t believe they were eligible.” Williams’ remarks come as his office prepares in the coming days to send publicly available voter data — including names, addresses, party affiliations and birth years — to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Julia Sunny, a spokeswoman for Williams, said the information is slated to be submitted by Monday night.
Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes will testify in federal court in Miami on Monday about allegations the county has a bloated voter list because her office isn’t doing enough to purge ineligible voters. Snipes will be defending her office against a suit brought by the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative Virginia-based group that has been challenging voter registration lists nationwide. The nonprofit organization says it wants to make sure voter lists accurately reflect only eligible voters to reduce the potential for voter fraud.
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office said Thursday that a second request for state voting data from President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission raises concerns about the panel’s work. The Presidential Commission on Election Integrity’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent letters to Maine and other states on Wednesday seeking personal voter information. It’s similar to a June request to all states that was rejected by Dunlap’s office. However, Kobach’s second request says identifiable voter information won’t be made public — only summarized — and will be deleted by the federal government when the panel is done. His first request said identifiable information would be public.
New York has a voting problem. Maybe the only people who don’t think so are politicians who don’t want certain voters to vote. It’s the same problem that has kept state legislators clinging to whatever power they can wield over redistricting: politicians can choose their voters, rather than citizens choosing their leaders. It’s nothing less than a challenge to democracy in the state. In New York, fewer eligible voters register and fewer registered voters cast ballots than elsewhere. … Why, it’s fair to wonder, would lawmakers resist making voting as convenient as possible for all citizens? The most generous answer would be cluelessness — that some of these part-time lawmakers making what many New Yorkers would consider a nice full-time salary don’t know what it’s like to juggle the demands of a single parent household or a two-income family, making it hard for adults to take off what might end up being a few hours to vote.
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said Thursday that he plans to change the type of voter registration information that is publicly available after receiving a second request from President Trump’s election integrity commission. Richardson said the commission’s June 28 request for specific — and not all publicly available — information about Oregon voters raised privacy questions and prompted “a full legal and policy review.” He announced a new policy that covers the kind of voter registration information a political party or organization can purchase from the state. “Balancing the need for both privacy and transparency is a critical challenge in the internet age,” Richardson said.
Supporters of a constitutional amendment that would take control of redistricting from South Dakota legislators and give it to an independent commission hope to put the amendment before voters in 2018, a key supporter said Thursday. Attorney General Marty Jackley this week filed an explanation of the amendment with the secretary of state’s office, a step required before petition gatherers can spread out across the state. Supporter Rick Weiland, a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said the plan — a reprise from 2016 — would make elections fairer in South Dakota.
Gov. Gary Herbert says he thinks a new ballot initiative to reform Utah’s redistricting process is worth considering, but isn’t ready to throw his support behind it. Herbert weighed in on the proposed independent redistricting commission Thursday during his monthly news conference at KUED. He said the trick to creating such a body would be ensuring its impartiality. “I think it’s worth having the discussion…if you can truly get it independent,” he said. “Somebody has to make the appointment, and so you want to make sure when the appointment’s made that that’s an independent review…or else you can have it just as biased as if you let the legislature do it.”
The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei has said that that commission has not expended monies it accrued from the replacement of voter IDs for Ghanaians ahead of the 2016 December elections. According to her, the EC made over GH¢2.5 million from the replacement process and more than GH¢42,000 cedis from the sale of media accreditation cards. Answering an urgent question filed by the Member of Parliament for Subin, Eugene Antwi on how much the Commission accrued from the process and how it was spent, Charlotte Osei said all monies were currently in the Commission’s account at GCB Bank.
Kenya’s last two general elections have been tarnished by allegations of fraud and outbreaks of violence, which have divided the nation since. The country is hailed as Africa’s Silicon Savannah and when citizens head to the polls again on August 8, they will be using technology to make sure these elections are free and credible. A game-changing court ruling recently declared that results announced by constituency tallying centers must be regarded as final and a transparent system to transmit results has been created to prevent rigging. As a result, an officer at each polling station will transmit real-time numbers electronically through a secure mobile phone.
Pyotr Levashov appeared to be just another comfortable member of Russia’s rising middle-class—an IT entrepreneur with a taste for upmarket restaurants, Thai massages and foreign travel. Then police raided his vacation rental in Barcelona, marching him out in handcuffs to face charges of being one of the world’s most notorious spam lords. Levashov’s April 7 arrest was one in a series of American-initiated operations over the past year to seize alleged Russian cybercriminals outside their homeland, which has no extradition agreement with the United States. They come at a fraught moment in relations between Moscow and Washington, where politicians are grappling with the allegation that Kremlin hackers intervened in the U.S. election to help President Donald Trump. Through their lawyers, several defendants have suggested their arrests are linked to the election turmoil. Experts say that’s possible, though an Associated Press review of the cases found no firm evidence to back the claim.
Venezuela’s partisan divide is so deep and bitter that even the ID requirements for voters in Sunday’s critical elections have sparked controversy. Critics who fear the government of leftist President Nicolas Maduro wants to use the vote to push through a new constitution to keep him in power are questioning not just the motive but also the method of the national vote. When Venezuelans vote on Sunday to elect members of a constituent assembly, they will use special government-issued ID cards that have two numbers on the back. Plugged into the electoral system database, the numbers generate the identities of two people, said Gabriela Febres-Cordero, a former minister of trade for Venezuela.