The toughest thing to convey to newcomers at the DefCon Voting Village in Las Vegas this weekend? Just how far they could go with hacking the voting machines set up on site. “Break things, just try to pace yourself,” said Matt Blaze, a security researcher from the University of Pennsylvania who co-organized the workshop. DefCon veterans were way ahead of him. From the moment the doors opened, they had cracked open plastic cases and tried to hot-wire devices that wouldn’t boot. Within two minutes, democracy-tech researcher Carsten Schürmann used a novel vulnerability to get remote access to a WINVote machine. The Voting Village organizers—including Harri Hursti, an election technology researcher from Finland, and Sandy Clark from the University of Pennsylvania—had set up about a dozen US digital voting machines for conference attendees to mess with. Some of the models were used in elections until recently and have since been decommissioned; some are still in use. Over three days, attendees probed, deconstructed and, yes, even broke the equipment in an effort to understand how it works and how it could be compromised by attackers. Their findings were impressive, but more importantly, they represented a first step toward familiarizing the security community with voting machines and creating momentum for developing necessary defenses.
National: Federal judge denies Common Cause effort to block Trump fraud commission | The Washington Post
A federal judge on Tuesday declined to temporarily bar President Trump’s voting commission from collectingvoter data from states and the District, saying a federal appeals court likely will be deciding the legality of the request. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District denied an emergency motion by Common Cause, a nonprofit government watchdog group. The group alleged the request for voting history and political party affiliation by the Trump administration violates a Watergate-era law that prohibits the government from gathering information about how Americans exercise their First Amendment rights. Lamberth advised the group to flesh out its claims by documenting the commission’s activity at a recent July 19 meeting while the lawsuit continues.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided cybersecurity assistance to 33 state election offices and 36 local election offices leading up to the 2016 presidential election, according to information released by Democratic congressional staff. During the final weeks of the Obama administration, the DHS announced that it would designate election infrastructure as critical, following revelations about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Since January, two states and six local governments have requested cyber hygiene scanning from the DHS, according to a memo and DHS correspondence disclosed Wednesday by the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The information is related to the committee’s ongoing oversight of the DHS decision to designate election infrastructure.
If there’s a single lesson Americans have learned from the events of the past year, it might be this: Hackers are dangerous people. They interfere in our elections, bring giant corporations to their knees, and steal passwords and credit card numbers by the truckload. They ignore boundaries. They delight in creating chaos. But what if that’s the wrong narrative? What if we’re ignoring a different group of hackers who aren’t lawless renegades, who are in fact patriotic, public-spirited Americans who want to use their technical skills to protect our country from cyberattacks, but are being held back by outdated rules and overly protective institutions? In other words: What if the problem we face is not too many bad hackers, but too few good ones? The topic of ethical hacking was on everyone’s mind at Def Con, the hacker convention last week in Las Vegas. It’s the security community’s annual gathering, where thousands of hackers gathered to show their latest exploits, discuss new security research and swap cyberwar stories. Many of the hackers I spoke to were gravely concerned about Russia’s wide-ranging interference in last year’s election. They wanted to know: How can we stop attacks like these in the future?
A federal appeals court ruling will force Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to answer questions under oath about plans to change U.S. election law. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied the Kansas Republican’s request for an emergency stay of his deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union. Kobach’s office declined to comment on the decision. Judges in Kansas found Kobach misled the court about the contents of a document he took into a November meeting with then-President-elect Donald Trump and a separate draft amendment to the National Voter Registration Act.
North Carolina Republicans have begun to release details of their schedule for drawing new boundaries to correct legislative districts found unconstitutional by the federal courts. But they have not presented any maps to the public yet. The General Assembly, which met for what was expected to be a one-day legislative session on Thursday, is tentatively set to vote on new maps on Aug. 24 or 25, according to Rep. David Lewis, the state House member shepherding the redistricting process. Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, and Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Mitchell County who leads the Senate redistricting committee, announced this week that they are seeking public comments Friday at a 10:30 a.m. hearing on the criteria the committee should use to draw new maps.
Tennessee: Personal Info of 650,000 Voters Discovered on Electronic Poll Book Sold on Ebay | Gizmodo
When 650 thousand Tennesseans voted in the Memphis area, they probably didn’t expect their personal information would eventually be picked apart at a hacker conference at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. … When US government workers decommission old voting equipment and auction them off to the public, they’re supposed to wipe voter information from the device’s memory. But hackers given access to an ExpressPoll-5000 electronic poll book—the kind of device used to check in voters on Election Day—have discovered the personal records of 654,517 people who voted in Shelby Country, Tennessee. It’s unclear how much of the personal information wasn’t yet public. Some of the records, viewed by Gizmodo at the Voting Village, a collection of real, used voting machines that anyone could tinker with at the DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas, include not just name, address, and birthday, but also political party, whether they voted absentee, and whether they were asked to provide identification.
The manufacturer of the digital voting machines used across the state filed suit in Travis County district court this week, seeking to block the Texas secretary of state from certifying rival machine makers whose devices produce a paper receipt of votes cast. The lawsuit adds to the growing controversy surrounding the security of voting systems across the country — prompted, in part, by fears of potential hacking and by unsubstantiated claims by President Donald Trump that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. The lawsuit filed by Hart InterCivic — the manufacturer of the eSlate voting machines used in Travis County — asks a district court judge to preemptively rule that voting machines that produce a paper record do not comply with state laws requiring the use of electronic voting machines for all countywide elections. The Texas secretary of state’s office declined to comment. Hart Intercivic’s attorney did not return calls from the American-Statesman.
Virginia: State auditors to review Virginia elections agency after IT troubles | Richmond Times-Dispatch
State auditors will review the Virginia Department of Elections after a series of technical problems that have raised questions about the reliability of the software that powers the state’s voter system. Last month, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission approved a resolution instructing its staff to conduct an in-depth review of the elections agency, which hasn’t been fully studied in almost 20 years. During that span, the agency implemented VERIS, the information system that local elections officials say has been spotty and slow. The IT problems have mostly meant headaches for the registrars who use the system. For the most part, they haven’t disrupted the election process, but a surge of would-be voters trying to register for the presidential election caused the registration website to crash right before the registration deadline. That failure prompted a federal judge to order the reopening of the state’s voter registration period to accommodate those who had been locked out.
Paul Kagame, the controversial president of Rwanda, has won a landslide victory in the small African state’s election, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power. The result will surprise no one, inside or outside Rwanda. Kagame, 59, has won international praise for the stability and economic development he has brought Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 people were killed, but he has also been accused of running an authoritarian, one-party state. Some have dismissed the polls as a sham. Friday’s election came after a constitutional amendment, which ended a two-term limit for presidents and theoretically permits Kagame to remain in power until 2034. The amendment was approved by 98% of voters.
The Venezuelan government reported false turnout figures for its contentious election over the weekend, announcing a tally that had been altered by at least one million votes, a software company involved in setting up voting systems for the country said on Wednesday. “We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated,” the company, Smartmatic, said in a statement. The vote was part of an ambitious plan by the government to consolidate power. President Nicolás Maduro instructed Venezuelans to select from a list of trusted allies of the governing party — including his wife — who will rewrite the nation’s Constitution and rule Venezuela with virtually unlimited authority until they finish their work.
E-voting machines and voter registration systems used widely in the United States and other countries’ elections can readily be hacked—in some cases with less than two hours’ work. This conclusion emerged from a three-day-long hackathon at the Def Con security conference in Las Vegas last weekend. Some of those hacks could potentially leave no trace, undercutting the assurances of election officials and voting machine companies who claim that virtually unhackable election systems are in place. … “These people who hacked the e-poll book system, when they came in the door they didn’t even know such a machine exists. They had no prior knowledge, so they started completely from scratch,” says Harri Hursti, Hacking Village co-coordinator and data security expert behind the first hack of any e-voting system in 2005.
National: State Voter Registration Systems Are Easier to Hack Than Anyone Wants to Admit | Mother Jones
Last weekend at the DEF CON conference—the annual get together for hackers, spooks, and computer enthusiasts—hackers showed how easily voting machines could be hacked, proving once more how vulnerable they are to cyber attacks. But conference organizers did not restrict the electoral hacking demonstration to voting machines. A virtual voter registration data base was also attacked, and defended, which experts say is just as worrisome. “If you look at all of the reports about foreign actors, malicious actors attacking US election infrastructure in the last election, they were not attacking the election machines,” Harri Hursti, an expert in hacking voting machines, and one of the co-organizers of the voting machine hacking exercises, tells Mother Jones. “They were attacking the back-end network, the underlying infrastructure. This was the simulation that showed how vulnerable [it is] and how hard it is to defend.”
National: Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe | The New York Times
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential election, has issued subpoenas from a Washington-based grand jury in recent weeks, according to several lawyers involved in the case. At least some of the subpoenas were for documents related to the business dealings of Michael T. Flynn, the retired general who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser. Mr. Flynn is under investigation for foreign lobbying work, as well as for conversations he had during the transition with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Mr. Mueller’s team is broadly investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with the Russian government in its attempts to disrupt the election. It is unclear whether the subpoenas issued in recent weeks relate to other members of Mr. Trump’s campaign who have been a focus of the Mueller investigation, including Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman.
Opponents of President Donald Trump’s voting integrity commission are seeking to hamstring the effort in court, filing three lawsuits Monday that say the panel is running afoul of federal laws — and introducing Trump’s heated rhetoric against him in court. The new lawsuits add to the legal challenges against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which recently sent a letter to all 50 states that included a request for voter roll information, including parts of Social Security numbers, that alarmed states and voters. The letter asked for all “publicly available” data, but the long list of pieces of information sought, including the last four digits of Social Security numbers, included several elements that very few states, if any, say they can legally comply with. One lawsuit targets on the request for voter information as a violation of privacy, while the other two focus more generally on whether the commission has been violating government transparency laws.
Florida is paying attorneys who represented the state and national Democratic Party more than $82,000. Court records filed last week show the administration of Gov. Rick Scott agreed to pay the money to end a lawsuit over the state’s vote-by-mail law. Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, verified the amount that will be paid. The Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee sued the state last year because the law did not require voters to be notified if their signatures on their ballot and voter registration forms don’t match. A federal judge called the law “illogical” and “bizarre.”
Voters from 63 communities in 11 Michigan counties heading to the booths on August 8th will notice new ballot counting machines. The new machines will be replacing ten-year-old equipment with new optical-scan voting systems. By November of 2018, all cities and townships in Michigan will have the new equipment that allows for faster processing and easier use for disabled voters. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson introduced the new voting machines in the Rochester Hills City Hall building on Wednesday morning, August 2. “The new state of the art machines and programming protect the integrity of our process to ensure every vote counts,” said Johnson.
New York state will hand over some voter information to President Donald Trump’s commission investigating voter fraud, becoming the first state to largely comply with the request after initially balking. The state’s Board of Elections voted Wednesday to provide data such as voter names, birthdates, addresses and voting history after determining it was a legitimate request based on state open records laws. The state will withhold certain information, however, such as a voter’s Social Security number or criminal history, because of state laws on voter privacy. “The data will be sent out this afternoon,” said John Conklin, a spokesman for the Board of Elections. “We had no lawful reason to deny it.”
North Carolina: Elections rule would make false voter fraud reports a felony | The North State Journal
The North Carolina State Board of Elections held a public comment hearing Monday, soliciting input on a proposed rule that will make falsely reporting voter fraud a felony. The new rule would also require protesters to describe facts, reveal if a lawyer helped them make their claims, and say whether they have any witnesses to the alleged voter fraud. ”We all know laws are written by human beings, and sometimes they’re not very clear.” said Executive Director of the N.C. Republican Party Dallas Woodhouse, who opposes the rule change. “This issue of protest is amazingly clear in the statute. It is written specifically how to do it and what is required of the voter. [The State Board of Elections] does not have the power to rewrite the statute.
Rhode Island is making national news by becoming the ninth state to pass an Automatic Voter Registration bill, which automatically registers eligible citizens to vote when interacting with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has long championed AVR, saying it will clean up voter rolls and boost registration among previously underrepresented groups. “I made a point of saying that we would have elections that are fair, fast and accurate,” Gorbea said at a press conference Tuesday at the State House. She continued, “Of course, having a clean voter list is critical to preserving the integrity of elections.”
A Democrat lawmaker’s plan to make voter registration automatic based upon information about the Ohio electorate stored in government and secondary school databases is stalled in committee as of summer recess. House Bill 14, referred to the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives in February, has failed to gain any traction among committee members, despite Kent Rep. Kathleen Clyde’s promise of an additional million Ohio voters added to the rolls. “Automatic voter registration is a far more sensible way to make the list of eligible voters in Ohio,” Clyde said of the plan promoted in the bill she sponsored. “House Bill 14 will allow Ohioans to be added to the rolls when they do everyday things like get a driver’s license, seek disability services or simply turn 18.”
It’s a fact few people, even politicians know: Every jurisdiction, whether it be a city, town, fire district, school district or water district, must pay its county’s election department to get their races and measures on a ballot. There’s one exception- the State of Washington. State laws says the state is exempt from reimbursing counties the costs of putting state and federal races on ballots during years ending in an even number. State auditors and election officials say those costs are being place on the backs of counties and jurisdictions — some that can barely afford to put on an election. “The state is getting a free ride in even years when it’s the most expensive,” says Julie Anderson, Pierce County Auditor who is heading up a legislative effort of state auditors to change the law.
Less than two months remain before Germans go to the polls in a general election. On the surface, this has been as regular an election season as can be: Parties have assembled their programs and teams, candidates have been out campaigning, and politics have mostly revolved around the classic issues: taxes, social benefits, public investment. Yet hanging over this appearance of normalcy is the question of when and how Russia will inject itself into the upcoming ballot. After apparent interference in the U.S. and French elections, there can be little doubt that the Kremlin will also attempt to sway the vote in Germany. Indeed, the German interior minister recently issued a public warning about potential Russian cyberattacks and disinformation ahead of the elections. While it remains unclear what the Kremlin has in store, chances are that it will try — and that German democracy will weather the onslaught.
EC’s bid to conduct the 2019 general elections using an entirely new set of electronic voting machines with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is running four weeks behind schedule. While the general elections are scheduled to be held in May 2019, the 16-lakh VVPAT machines to be used in the polls were to be received by September 2018. According to EC officials, who are closely monitoring the procurement of the machines, the delay has been caused by minor ‘slippages’ related to security of EVMs. EC officials, however, said the plan to use VVPAT machines in 2019 was still on track and such machines would be used across all booths for the first time. ET has learnt that in a review meeting on Wednesday, there were discussions around the security of EVMs which has led to the delay. “Even though we are looking at using new EVMs for the election, it is important that all loose ends related to security are cleared,” a highly placed official said.
Jane keeps the well-worn sarong wrap neatly folded in her home in a Nairobi slum, a memento of a life-altering event a decade ago. She was draped with it after two policemen raped her and left her to rioters the officers had been deployed to stop during deadly post-election violence. “I lost consciousness after the first two civilians raped me. After that, I don’t know how many people did it,” she said. “All this while my 5-year-old daughter was hiding in an empty water container. She hid there when the policemen started breaking into houses and looting.” The 38-year-old tailor says she regained consciousness, with a broken hip and knee, when an elderly neighbour gently dressed her in the sarong. The neighbour “had also been raped by the police as her grown-up son watched and then they ordered him to clean his mother,” Jane said. “I can never forget her compassion.” Kenyans again face the threat of violence as the 8 August presidential election approaches, even as many who survived the deadliest period in the East African country’s history 10 years ago say they still haven’t found justice.
A television host’s question on motherhood to the new leader of New Zealand’s opposition Labour Party has prompted a row over gender roles in the country that was the first to give women the right to vote. Jacinda Ardern was elected head of Labour on Tuesday, and at 37 she is the youngest person, and second woman (Helen Clark, the first, was also a prime minister), to lead the party. The headlines about her so far have been enthusiastic. She’s being portrayed as “authentic,” “powerful, composed, and eloquent”—all traits she’ll need when New Zealand votes next month in parliamentary elections. Her party’s poor performance in the polls prompted Andrew Little, its leader, to step down. Ardern, who had been spoken of as a future party leader, ascended to the post almost immediately. But if persuading the electorate that Labour is worth voting for is one battle for Ardern, her other battle was persuading television panelists that her future plans for motherhood was irrelevant to her potential leadership of New Zealand. She and her partner, Clarke Gayford, don’t have children, and Ardern has previously discussed how wanting children has made her think about her professional choices. But the questions about parenthood began a few hours after her election Tuesday as Labour’s leader.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has campaigned in Gasabo, a suburb of the capital Kigali, in the run-up to the August 4 general and presidential elections. Tens of thousands of his supporters had to be beaten back by police brandishing baton sticks and fenced in on Wednesday as they fought to catch one last glimpse of their leader. Some claim the rally is evidence of the depth of Kagame’s support Kagame in the lead-up to Friday’s poll. “It’s because the people love him. He’s our hero, through him we built this country from scratch. Rwanda was dead before and now we are alive,” said Solange Mubaraki, the founder of Defence Spouses Alliance Cyuzuzo, a local support group of more than 250 wives of those serving in Rwanda’s security services. “Everyone can see Rwanda is not about genocide, but development and peace because of the leadership of Kagame,” he said.