The news coming out of last month’s DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas was not good for voting machine manufacturers — and unsettling for election officials. A “voting village” was set up where hackers tested the security of about a dozen voting machines. They made their way into every single one. Eric Hodge, director of consulting at CyberScout, helped plan the event. There had been plenty of discussion about the security of these machines, he said. American intelligence officials concluded last year that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election, but many state election officials argued that their voting machines were secure because they were not connected to the internet. The DefCon voting village was set up to actually test the physical machines, which Hodge said never experience much penetration testing. In their testing debut, they didn’t fare too well. … Within minutes, some of the machines were hacked. “These guys are good,” Hodge said. “But, you know, so are the Russians.”
Officials from both parties had a consistent answer last year when asked about the security of voting systems: U.S. elections are so decentralized that it would be impossible for hackers to manipulate ballot counts or voter rolls on a wide scale. But the voter fraud commission established by President Donald Trump could take away that one bit of security. The commission has requested information on voters from every state and recently won a federal court challenge to push ahead with the collection, keeping it in one place. By compiling a national list of registered voters, the federal government could provide one-stop shopping for hackers and hostile foreign governments seeking to wreak havoc with elections. “Coordinating a national voter registration system located in the White House is akin to handing a zip drive to Russia,” said Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat who has refused to send data to the commission.
Even with the widespread attention and federal protections provided to election systems, state and federal officials alike have concerns that U.S. election systems remain vulnerable to digital meddling. In the final days of the Obama administration, then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson formally designated state election assets as U.S. critical infrastructure in response to digital floods of misinformation, as well as Russian cyber espionage on an election software vendor and spear-phishing attempts against local election officials during the lead-up to the November 2016 presidential election. The move allowed state governments to ask DHS for help on a voluntary basis in securing their election infrastructure, but was met with resistance from many state officials and some members of Congress. Amid this resistance — and the current shuffle in DHS leadership — Johnson expressed fear on CBS’s Face the Nation Aug. 6 that voting systems remain vulnerable to digital meddling. “I’m concerned that we are almost as vulnerable, perhaps, now as we were six, nine months ago,” he said.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, his son Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign manager Paul Manafort have started turning over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the panel’s expanded investigation of Russian election-meddling. The Trump campaign turned over about 20,000 pages of documents on Aug. 2, committee spokesman George Hartmann said Tuesday. Manafort provided about 400 pages on Aug. 2, including his foreign-advocacy filing, while Trump Jr. gave about 250 pages on Aug. 4, Hartmann said. The committee had asked them last month to start producing the documents by Aug. 2. A company the Judiciary panel says has been linked to a salacious “dossier” on Trump, Fusion GPS, and its chief executive officer, Glenn Simpson, have yet to turn over any requested documents, Hartmann said.
Editorials: Jeff Sessions’ DOJ just gave states the green light to purge voter rolls | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice has switched sides in several key court battles, reversing positions the agency took during the Obama era. Already, the DOJ has withdrawn its opposition to Texas’ draconian voter ID law and to mandatory arbitration agreements designed to thwart class actions. Now the agency has made another about-face: On Monday, it dropped its objections to Ohio’s voter purge procedures, which kick voters off the rolls for skipping elections. The DOJ is now arguing that such maneuvers are perfectly legal. Ohio’s voter purges are at issue in a Supreme Court case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which the justices will hear next term. The state purges voters from the rolls relentlessly, removing around 2 million people between 2011 and 2016—with voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods twice as likely to be purged as those in Republican-leaning neighborhoods. While most states regularly clean up their voter rolls, Ohio is unusually aggressive in targeting individuals because they have not recently cast a ballot. Up to 1.2 million of those 2 million purged voters may have been removed for infrequent voting.
Editorials: We face greatest threat to voting rights of past half-century | Alex Padilla/The Fresno Bee
Two years ago, President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act with a White House summit on protecting and expanding the right to vote. As California’s chief elections officer, I was invited to this significant event. It was an inspiring day, meeting in the Oval Office with the president and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon, and joining voting rights advocates from across the country in a series of panels. Sunday marked the 52nd anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. The contrast in the White House could not be more stark. Our current president believes, without evidence, that millions of “illegal votes” cost him the popular vote. He has created a sham “Election Integrity Commission” headed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the nation’s foremost vote suppressor, to place barriers between American citizens and their right to vote. Make no mistake: We are facing the greatest threat to voting rights in the past half-century.
A judge on Tuesday refused to block a new state law making it easier for opponents to challenge citizen initiatives, but she sidestepped a decision on whether the law violates the state Constitution. The ruling from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens said opponents of the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature haven’t yet been harmed because there are no pending initiatives that would be affected by the new standard. “The Court finds this matter is not ripe for judicial review,” Stephens wrote. “Plaintiffs believe House Bill 2244 will affect their future initiative efforts but this Court finds that expectation is not sufficient to make this matter ripe for judicial review of the constitutionality of HB 2244.” The law goes into effect Wednesday and will apply to all future initiatives.
Colorado: Secretary of State Wayne Williams dispels myths about election integrity at national forum for state lawmakers | The Denver Post
A Wisconsin lawmaker took the microphone and aimed a pointed question this week at Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams: What is the state doing to protect its voting systems against internet hackers and election manipulation? It’s become a familiar one for the Republican elections chief, and he told a conference for state lawmakers Monday in Boston what he has tried to tell President Donald Trump and others who continue to question the integrity of the nation’s election system. “Thanks for the question,” started Williams, a featured speaker at the annual summit for the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. “Colorado is very aggressive at protecting the online voter registration database.” The exasperation in Williams’ voice is thinly veiled after more than a year of answering questions on the topic, most of them in response to Trump’s accusations, and he doesn’t seem to relish the role.
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) and the Georgia House Democratic Caucus will hold a press conference on Wednesday, August 9, 2017, at 1 p.m. in room 610 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in Atlanta. The press conference will address improper voter registration purge notices. “The purpose of the press conference is two-fold,” said State Representative William Boddie (D-East Point), GLBC Communications Chair. “First, we want to encourage all registered Georgia voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote so that no registered voter will be in jeopardy of being purged from state’s voting rolls. #url#
The legislature recently held a public hearing on a new redistricting plan it is developing, but it was hard to see it as anything more than a dog-and-pony show. While the General Assembly will ultimately vote on the new court-ordered plan, the real work has actually been outsourced to Washington, D.C. More precisely, the job has been given to the national Republican Party’s redistricting top gun – Tom Hofeller, the same person who designed the state’s heavily gerrymandered political maps in 2011.
Ohio: Justice Department reverses position to support Ohio purging inactive voters in high-profile case | The Washington Post
The Justice Department has reversed itself in a high-profile voting case in Ohio to side with the state and allow the purging of voters from the rolls for not answering election mail and not voting in recent elections. In a court filing Monday, Justice attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involved the state’s removal of thousands of inactive voters from the Ohio voting rolls. Civil rights groups last year challenged Ohio’s process, arguing that such purges are prohibited under the National Voter Registration Act. The Justice Department under Obama filed an amicus brief siding with the groups, and the Supreme Court is set to hear the case in the next term. But in an unusual turn, the department filed a new amicus brief Monday arguing that the purges of voters are legal under federal law. This brief, unlike the prior one, was not signed by career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division.
Texas: House Elections Committee approves several mail-in ballot fraud bills | Austin American-Statesman
The House Elections Committee on Monday voted 4-2 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 5, already cleared by the Senate. The bill by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones within a month after an election and a process for correcting errors. Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud in some cases could reach $4,000 and up to a year in jail. Hancock and bill supporters have said the bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities. Democrats Celia Israel of Austin and Ron Reynolds of Missouri City voted no.
Less than a week has passed since Gov. Jim Justice switched his registration to the Republican Party, and one state Senate Democrat is already thinking about the path to a recall vote. Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, is drumming up support for a bill he wants to introduce in the next legislative session that would give citizens power to vote officials out of office during their term. “This isn’t a Republican-against-Democrat bill,” Ojeda said. “This is basically saying that any elected official in the state of West Virginia who is not living up to their promises and doing right by the people, the people should have a right to fire them. We always say that we work for you, the people. Well, if we work for the people, the people should have a right to fire us.”
The Australian Electoral Commission is hoping that when it next comes time to vote, citizens will have no difficulty finding a polling station or working out exactly how long they will be waiting. The agency is preparing to develop two mobile applications – one for public usage and the other for its election workforce – to provide better access to its services and information. The public app will allow citizens to check their enrolment status and details of federal, state or local electoral divisions, and use GPS to identify the closest polling station and wait time. … The agency makes no mention of the use of the app for electronic voting, and it remains unlikely that this will change in the short term, as the agency wrestles with aging IT systems that need immediate rectification.
Long queues were the order of the day as Kenyans took to the polls Tuesday to vote in a hotly contested national election, pitting current president Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party against former prime minister Raila Odinga’s Nasa party. Voters started queueing as early as 2am, according to Caroline Kantai, presiding officer at Moi Avenue Primary School. Polling centres officially opened at 6am. Some centres opened late due to poor weather conditions, the delayed arrival of voting materials and problems with the Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS), which verify voters’ biometric information. Kantai said some polling stations had problems verifying biometrics because voters’ fingers were sweaty or oily, or because “the machine just failed for one reason or the other”. In cases like these, polling clerks verified voters’ identities manually, using their identification documents.
The leader of Kenya’s opposition has claimed that he was cheated of victory by an overnight hacking attack which manipulated the results in the country’s presidential election. “You can only cheat the people for so long,” Raila Odinga said. “The 2017 general election was a fraud.” With ballots from 94% of polling stations counted, results released by Kenya’s electoral commission showed the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta leading with 54.4% of the nearly 14 million ballots tallied, against Odinga’s 44.8%, a difference of 1.3 million votes. Turnout appears to have been around 75%. Millions of people queued late into the evening on Tuesday to cast their votes in an election seen as a key test of the stability of one of Africa’s most important countries.
Liberia: Elections May Be Called Off Over Legislature-Judicial Branch’s Impeachment Tussle | FrontPageAfrica
On Tuesday the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary submitted its preliminary report on the petition for the impeachment of his Honor Kabineh Ja’ Neh, Her Honor Jameetta Howard-Wollokollie and his Honor Philips A.Z. Banks all three being associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia. According to the committee’s report, after receiving the petition a writ of summons were issued. Given that Liberian law gives a minimum of ten days for answer/returns to be filed in civil cases, notwithstanding the mandate as to when the Judiciary committee should report to plenary, the writ of summons gives the Associate Justices up to August 14, 2017 to file their answer/returns.