Over the past two days, all major US news outlets breathlessly reported that hackers in Las Vegas needed little time to expose the security flaws of several types of voting machines this weekend. While it is certainly nice to see the mainstream media cover election integrity issues more than once every four years, anybody following the topic, as WhoWhatWhy routinely does, was hardly surprised that the hackers were so successful. How do we know? Because, in anticipation of what happened at the DEF CON hacking conference, WhoWhatWhy spoke to many of the leading election integrity experts to get their thoughts on the event. Most of them expressed hope that the hackers would raise much-needed awareness of the vulnerabilities of US voting machines. Some of the experts we spoke to ahead of the event expressed concerns that, should the hackers fail to breach the machines, it would give people a false sense of security. It turns out that they did not have to worry about that — at all.
For the first time in the 25 years of the world’s largest hacker convention, DefCon, two sitting U.S. Congressmen trekked here from Washington, D.C., to discuss their cybersecurity expertise on stage. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, and Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, visited hacking villages investigating vulnerabilities in cars, medical devices, and voting machines; learned about how security researchers plan to defend quantum computers from hacks; and met children learning how to hack for good. … Hurd said security researchers could play an important role in addressing increasingly alarming vulnerabilities in the nation’s voting apparatus. DefCon’s first voting machine-hacking village this weekend hosted a voting machine from Shelby County, Tenn., that unexpectedly contained personal information related to more than 600,000 voters. Village visitors managed to hack the machine, along with 29 others.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is seeking to avoid answering questions under oath about two documents containing plans for changes to U.S. election law. Kobach, who also is vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity, filed a notice late Monday saying he is appealing to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals an order to submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union in a voting rights case. The closed deposition is scheduled for Thursday. The ACLU said Tuesday that Kobach’s appeal of the deposition order to the 10th Circuit is “bizarre.”Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is seeking to avoid answering questions under oath about two documents containing plans for changes to U.S. election law. Kobach, who also is vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity, filed a notice late Monday saying he is appealing to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals an order to submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union in a voting rights case. The closed deposition is scheduled for Thursday. The ACLU said Tuesday that Kobach’s appeal of the deposition order to the 10th Circuit is “bizarre.”
National: Hackers at a cybersecurity conference breached dozens of voting machines | Business Insider
Professional hackers were invited to break into dozens of voting machines and election software at this year’s annual DEFCON cybersecurity conference. And they successfully hacked every single one of the 30 machines acquired by the conference. The challenge was held at DEF CON’s “Voting Village,” where hackers took turns breaching ten sample voting machines and voter registration systems, Politico reported. … “Follow the money,” Harri Hursti, the cofounder of Nordic Innovation Labs, which helped organize DEF CON, told The Hill. “On the other end of the ballot, that’s where the money is — banks and roads.” Hodge said that if officials take care to “store machines, set them up, [and] always have someone keeping an eye on machines,” that could go a long way in ensuring the safety of the electoral process.
National: To make our voting tech more secure, policymakers may need to work with the people who can break in them | KPCC
After acquiring a decommissioned voting machine, Anne-Marie “Punky” Chun and her colleagues at Synack set out to hack it. It took them only a matter of hours. “Just looking at the security hygiene, it wasn’t very strong,” Chun told Take Two host A Martinez in an interview. “The encryption password, for example, was hard-coded as ‘ABCD.’ And it was used on the whole machine.” Chun and her team test cyber security in, arguably, the most effective way: by breaking in themselves. So when they though about the best way to check the security of election data, they knew they had to find a voting machine, and preferably an older one.
Colorado finally sent its voter roll information over to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission on Tuesday, a day after the transfer was delayed due to “user error” in the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. The office had been set to send the information over to the controversial commission on Monday, but a spokeswoman for the office said a system lockout stopped the transfer. Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert told the Denver Post Monday night it was due to “user error.” The sending of the information had already been delayed while a lawsuit over the commission and its request was cleared up in federal court.
Kansas: Kobach had duty to publicize new voting schedule; it appears that he didn’t | Lawrence Journal World
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach does not appear to have conducted any public information campaign, as required by law, to publicize the fact that the state recently shifted the election cycle for municipal elections from the spring to the fall of odd-numbered years. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew cited that as one possible explanation for why voter turnout in the county was lower than expected on Tuesday, when the first municipal elections took place in Kansas under the new cycle. “We tried to get what word out that we could,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday. “I think there was an anticipation that there would be kind of a statewide push getting information out. We’ll kind of evaluate it for us, how we increase that push locally.”
Editorials: Separate facts, myths on voter fraud in Kentucky | Joshua A. Douglas/Lexington Herald Leader
When discussing the right to vote — the most fundamental right in our democracy — it is important to separate fact from conjecture, myth from reality. Unfortunately, the recent op-ed from the organization Americans First Inc. about President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission fails in that regard. Focusing solely on allegedly bloated voter registration rolls, the op-ed suggests that voter fraud is widespread. It uses unreliable studies based on Census estimates, not hard data. It fails to acknowledge that Trump’s commission is hardly bipartisan and does not have the support of any serious academic in the election law field. Let’s separate the facts from hyperbole.
Michigan: Group aims to take politics out of redistricting in Michigan with independent commission | MLive
A grassroots group is hoping to improve the process of drawing district lines for Michigan’s state Legislature and Congressional seats by severing it from anyone with political influence. Voters Not Politicians is aiming to amend the state Constitution with a ballot petition that would put in place an 13-member commission every 10 years to redraw the lines of state House, state Senate and Congressional districts that reflect changes in population based on U.S. Census data. Currently, the redistricting process in Michigan is conducted by the state Legislature, which has been majority Republican in recent redistricting years. A nationwide analysis of 2016 election data by the Associated Press found battleground states such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia — all of which had their districts drawn by Republican-led legislatures — had significant Republican advantages in state House and Congressional races.
Updates to otherwise mundane North Carolina rules on filing and evaluating election protests are drawing attention after last fall’s tight gubernatorial race. State elections board attorneys took public comment Monday on tentative rules taking shape in the months after Republicans filed dozens of protests soon after Election Day challenging votes cast by several hundred people. Most protests seeking to throw out ballots were dismissed by election officials for lack of evidence or set aside until after the election. It was early December before GOP Gov. Pat McCrory conceded the election to Democrat Roy Cooper, who won by a little over 10,000 votes of the more than 4.7 million ballots cast.
A federal court is expected to rule soon on whether Texas intentionally discriminated against minorities and failed to draw enough minority-majority districts when it adopted its current congressional map. The decision could put a meaningful dent in the G.O.P.’s advantage in the House heading into next year’s midterm elections. In an oft-quoted Texas Tribune article, Republican lawyers have raised the possibility of an “Armageddon map” — one that endangered a half-dozen Republican districts, fully one-fourth of the 24 seats that Democrats need to retake the House in 2018. “Armageddon” might not be the likeliest outcome. But a victory for Texas Republicans might not be the likeliest outcome either.
Even on issues where Republicans and Democrats agree on a problem, they differ on solutions. Case in point: mail-in ballot fraud. With the Texas Legislature midway through a special session, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say something should be done to better prevent, detect and punish people who abuse the mail-in ballot system and steal the votes of vulnerable seniors. But, Republican legislative proposals to do that have drawn little support from Democrats. Jonathan White, who works on voter fraud cases in the Texas Attorney General’s office, says the mail-in ballot is more of an honor system, and that’s why it gets abused. He says prosecutors like him need more tools to tackle the problem. … But where White sees voter fraud as a problem largely undetected and prosecuted, Myrna Perez from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University says the statistics are clear: Voter fraud is extremely rare, though it is more likely to happen through mail-in ballots than in person.
Wikileaks has published Emmanuel Macron’s leaked presidential campaign emails as a searchable archive, meaning millions of internet users will be able to access the 71,848 emails sent and received during Macron’s leadership bid. The whistleblowing website revealed more than 20,000 of the emails were sent or received by addresses associated with the campaign, with the others emails it couldn’t verify. Macron’s office said the now French President’s email account was hacked on 5 May – just a few days before he defeated second favourite candidate Marine Le Pen. This is despite the campaign team reportedly planting false data to try and fool any hackers from stealing the data.
A week out from Kenya’s highly-anticipated August 8 election, increasingly fake news reports are circulating on social media platforms in the country. Slickly-produced news bulletins that at first glance appear to be from major international broadcasters including CNN and the BBC have surfaced in recent days. One bogus report cuts from a legitimate CNN Philippines broadcast to a fake voiceover segment which falsely implies that one candidate is leading over the other in a recent poll.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is urging peaceful elections as candidates begin campaigning to replace the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has led the West African country through the Ebola crisis and recovery from civil war. Among those running in the October 10 election are her vice president and two of the men she faced during Liberia’s last vote in 2011. In a radio broadcast late Monday, the 78-year-old Sirleaf urged political leaders to put Liberia first and control the emotions of their supporters. “We hold them as political leaders who seek the highest office of our land to act with dignity and responsibility that befits that office — to live up to their commitments to ensure violence-free elections,” she said.
New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern Takes Over New Zealand Opposition as Election Looms | The New York Times
New Zealand’s political opposition was jolted by an abrupt change at the top on Tuesday as the Labour Party leader quit amid dismal polling numbers and a rising star, Jacinda Ardern, took over just weeks before a general election. Ms. Ardern, 37, has been seen as leadership material since she became Parliament’s youngest sitting member at age 28. But with the New Zealand election campaign already in full swing, and the face of her predecessor, Andrew Little, still on the billboards, Ms. Ardern joked to reporters Tuesday morning that she had just accepted “the worst job in politics.” Mr. Little nominated Ms. Ardern, previously his deputy, to replace him after two polls this week showed support for the left-leaning Labour Party hitting just 24 percent, its lowest level in decades.
On 4 August 2017, Rwandans head to the polls to elect a president. They will choose between Frank Habineza, Philippe Mpayimana and the incumbent Paul Kagame. Most observers expect a landslide victory for Kagame. But there’s controversy around the election because of a 2015 constitutional amendment that allowed him to seek a third seven-year term followed by two further five-year terms. The Rwandan election is being watched closely by observers concerned about an erosion of democracy in the country. While some of these concerns are valid, they must be qualified against Rwanda’s historical and developmental realities. At best, Rwanda can be characterised as an illiberal democracy, but this should not detract from the current regime’s successes. Nor is it a suggestion that Kagame shouldn’t lead. Under his tenure the country has enjoyed year-on-year socio-economic progress. In most situations, this would secure electoral victory.
Singapore: Foreign interference in Singapore politics, elections ‘cannot be underestimated’: Chan Chun Sing | Channel NewsAsia
Singaporeans must be vigilant about any potential attempts by foreign parties to influence local politics and undermine the democratic process, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Aug 1). He was responding to questions in Parliament about whether elections in Singapore are vulnerable to foreign interference, particularly with the Presidential Election due in September. “Foreign interference in domestic politics and electoral processes cannot be underestimated and must always be factored into our social and psychological defence,” said Mr Chan.
On Sunday, Venezuelans took to the streets to either vote in or boycott a controversial election to choose members of an all-powerful Constituent Assembly. The new assembly will be made up completely of government supporters but will have authority over the lives of all Venezuelans. The vote came in the midst of a constitutional crisis. For four months, there have been widespread protests, repression and failed negotiations as the government of President Nicolás Maduro battles the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition. Here are five key questions and answers about Sunday’s vote. The government said it was to bring peace to the conflicted country, but it was widely seen as a move to avoid holding other scheduled elections that the government expected to lose — including elections for governors and mayors in 2017 and for president in 2018.
Iraq, Oct. 16, 2002: 100 percent of registered voters went to the polls (nobody in the whole country was sick that day) and every single one of the country’s 11,445,638 voters in a referendum voted “yes” to extend Saddam Hussein’s hold on power (including all the Shia and Kurds who hated him and all the people who famously tore down his statue six months later). North Korea, March 8, 2009: 99.8 percent of all registered voters turned out for a Supreme People’s Assembly election (amazing how almost nobody gets sick or travels on election day). The entire voting public — 100 percent — voted for candidates of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, dominated by the Kim family, which has ruled North Korea for almost 70 years. If you believe those “official” numbers or that any of those elections were fair, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you; and if you believe the results reported by the Venezuelan government in Sunday’s constituent assembly vote, I’ll sell you that same bridge a second time.