Federal money set aside to help states upgrade their voting equipment is running out, at a time when many states are seeking to replace aging machines and further fortify against cyberattacks. While federal funding has gradually diminished, the 2016 fiscal year marked a new low. As of September 2016, states had collectively spent more than the approximately $3.2 billion, distributed over several years, that Congress provided under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, according to a report from the independent Election Assistance Commission released Wednesday. Several states now rely mostly on any interest accrued from federal grants or on other sources for election-related efforts, such as replacing equipment that is in some cases a decade old.
National: US Commission on Civil Rights: Trump’s reversal on voter case could lead to ‘disenfranchisement’ | Washington Examiner
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights argued Friday that the Trump administration’s decision to support the way Ohio removes people from its voter rolls could lead to the disenfranchisement of more voters. Last year, the Obama administration filed an amicus brief in favor of civil rights groups who were challenging the way Ohio purges its voter rolls. But under the Trump administration, the Justice Department switched sides, and in August it filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the state of Ohio.
National: Trump Election Commissioners Are Resisting Efforts to Protect Elections From Hacking | Mother Jones
The intelligence community fears that Russia’s meddling in US elections did not end in November 2016, and that when the Kremlin tries to intervene again, state and local voting systems will be a prime target. “They will be back,” former FBI Director James Comey warned in June. Many election systems would prove an easy target. Last month, hackers at the annual DEF Con conference demonstrated this vulnerability when they easily breached multiple voting machines. A 16-year-old hacked a machine in 45 minutes. In response to this threat, the Department of Homeland Security has taken a major step to protect elections by prioritizing the cybersecurity of state and local voting systems. Yet several members of President Donald Trump’s controversial election commission oppose DHS’s move, and two of them have dismissed the threat entirely as a ploy for the federal government to intrude on states’ rights. Their opposition is a signal that the commission, tasked with finding vulnerabilities in the country’s election system, is not likely to take cybersecurity seriously. On January 6, the same day that the intelligence community released a declassified report alleging Russian meddling in the election, DHS announced that it would make additional cybersecurity assistance available to states that request it. This was done by classifying election infrastructure as “critical infrastructure,” a designation that already brings heightened security measures to critical infrastructure such as dams and the electrical grid. The move means that DHS will provide risk assessments, system scanning, and other cybersecurity services to states that request them. But several election officials and experts who sit on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity quickly condemned the designation.
A civil rights organization is asking Alabama’s secretary of state to restore hundreds of thousands of people to active voter status after what the group described as widespread confusion in election day. In a Friday letter to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it believes large numbers of people were incorrectly moved to inactive voting status during an update of rolls. Merrill responded that his office followed the law. The secretary of state’s office said 340,162 people were put on inactive voter status in the required update of voting rolls.
Buried in the state attorney’s recent memo about voter fraud in a 2016 primary election were a few lines that left political observers scratching their heads: Collecting absentee ballots, it said, is illegal. For years, local campaigns and organizations have gone door to door collecting people’s vote-by-mail ballots to deliver to election headquarters, with the assumption that as long as they weren’t being paid to do it, it was legal. That apparently is no longer the case, adding confusion to one of the more bizarre elements of Florida’s already vague absentee ballot laws and potentially exposing well-meaning volunteers to first-degree misdemeanor charges. A spokesman for Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said the office is offering no opinion beyond what was in its memo, which states, several times: “It is a crime for non-official election personnel to be in possession of any absentee ballots.”
Georgia: Secretary of State backs off address confirmation notices for some voters | Atlanta Journal Constitution
After facing a legal backlash over sending address confirmation notices to tens of thousands of voters who had moved within the county they had already registered in, Georgia has quietly decided to reverse course. State officials confirmed Friday to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia will no longer give those voters a 30-day deadline to respond or be declared “inactive,” and it will immediately recognize as active nearly half of the 383,487 voters who received the notices last month as part of the state’s biennial effort to clean up its voting rolls. “We reviewed the process and determined that these revisions would be in the best interest of all Georgia voters,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
Illinois: Election Systems & Software Exposes Backup of Chicago Voter Roll via AWS Bucket | Threatpost
Voter registration data belonging to the entirety of Chicago’s electoral roll—1.8 million records—was found a week ago in an Amazon Web Services bucket configured for public access. The data was a backup stored in AWS by Election Systems & Software (ES&S), a voting machine and election management systems vendor based in Omaha, Nebraska. Researchers from UpGuard made the discovery last Saturday and privately reported the leak to a government regulator who connected them to the Chicago FBI field office. The FBI then notified ES&S, which immediately pulled down the data from Amazon. Amazon buckets are configured to be private by default and require some kind of authentication to access what’s stored in them. For some reason, ES&S misconfigured its bucket to public months ago, opening the possibility that others had accessed the data before UpGuard.
A voting machine company exposed 1.8 million Chicago voter records after misconfiguring a security setting on the server that stored them. Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the Nebraska-based voting software and election management company, confirmed the leak on Thursday. In a blog post, the company said the voter data leak contained names, addresses, birthdates, partial social security numbers and some driver’s license and state ID numbers stored in backup files on a server. Authorities alerted ES&S to the leak on Aug. 12, and the data was secured. A security researcher from UpGuard discovered the breach. The data did not contain any voting information, like the results of how someone voted. Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, said the leak did not contain or affect anyone’s voting ballots, which are handled by a different vendor. “We deeply regret this,” Allen said. “It was a violation of our information security protocol by the vendor.”
A former employee in Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office alleges in a lawsuit headed to trial Monday that she was fired because she didn’t go to church enough. Kobach — who until the middle of 2016 held after-hours Christian prayer and Bible study sessions in his office — has called the allegation of religious discrimination by Courtney Canfield “ridiculous.” His office contends she was fired over performance issues. The lawsuit blames Kobach’s chief deputy, Eric Rucker, for the firing and Kobach himself is not a defendant. But the case is sure to draw attention to Kobach, a Republican with a national reputation for championing tough voter identification laws and helping to draft proposals in numerous states aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
State lawmakers on Saturday released a new map showing how they want to redraw state House districts. The proposed map comes after courts ruled that 2011 election maps for the state House and Senate included unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. State Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican who co-chairs the legislature’s joint redistricting committee, said new Senate maps will likely be released on Sunday. Public hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and Lewis hopes the House will vote on his plan on Friday. “The next step is members of the General Assembly and interested members of the public can look at them and offer suggestions,” Lewis said in a phone interview Saturday.
Republican mapmakers proposed new districts for most members of the N.C. House on Saturday, a move forced by federal courts that said they illegally overemphasized race in drawing the current voting boundaries. The state House map released online was the first made public ahead of a statewide public hearing Tuesday. State legislators are expected to finalize new House and Senate district lines the following week. While Republicans control both chambers and can draw the boundaries to their liking, the new legislative maps will be reviewed by a three-judge panel of federal judges. They are not subject to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Republicans currently hold 74 of the 120 House seats and 35 of the 50 Senate seats. Not all districts had to be redrawn because of the 28 House and Senate districts found to be illegal. Detailed data about the districts, which could better project how many seats each party would be favored to win under the map, will be made public Monday.
Supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would allow South Dakota counties to switch to elections conducted entirely by mail ballot aim to put the initiative before voters next year, the sponsor said Friday. Backers are waiting for approval to start gathering signatures to appear on the 2018 ballot. Sponsor Drey Samuelson said the vote-at-home plan would help people cast an informed vote, increase election turnout and save taxpayer money. “We’re very serious about it,” said Samuelson, a co-founder of initiative group TakeItBack.Org. “We’re going to get this on the ballot, and I’m confident that we’ll pass it.”
Texas: Attorney General appeals ruling requiring new congressional districts | Austin American-Statesman
Three days after a federal court ruled that Republican lawmakers drew congressional districts to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision and protect districts in Travis and Bastrop counties from having to be redrawn. In a separate filing Friday, Paxton asked the San Antonio-based federal court to delay enforcement of its Tuesday ruling while the appeal proceeds, arguing that a stay is needed to avoid disrupting the 2018 primaries. State officials have said that new maps would have to be ready by about Oct. 1 to meet deadlines for setting precinct lines and to allow candidate filing for the 2018 primaries to begin, as scheduled, in mid-November. If a delay is not granted by Wednesday, the state will ask the U.S. Supreme Court block enforcement, Paxton told the court.
Editorials: Utah needs to think about security above all as it buys new voting machines | Robert Gehrke/The Salt Lake Tribune
State elections officials held an open house earlier this month to demonstrate five election systems vying to replace the voting machines that have been chugging away for the past 13 years. Just a few days earlier, a group of hackers in Las Vegas took part in a demonstration of their own, designed to show how easily they could exploit the machines used around the country and potentially compromise our elections process. The results were alarming. The first voting machine was hacked within 90 minutes. By the end of the afternoon, all five had been compromised. One was reprogrammed to play Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The whole thing had been Rick Rolled. … Barbara Simons, president of Verified Voting, has been sounding the alarm about voting machine security — or lack thereof — for years. But even she was skeptical before the DefCon hacker exercise that the hackers would be able to compromise the machines. She was wrong. And the Russian interest in hacking election equipment makes her doubly concerned.
It is a contest that will be familiar to many – not just in Angola but in every country across Africa where anyone remembers the cold war. It pits the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the political party that has ruled the southern African country for more than four decades, against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), which has been battling to gain control for more than 50 years. The two are no longer warring over trenches, airstrips and dusty roads through scrubby forests, but fighting for the backing of 9 million voters as Angola goes to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new president. Angola’s civil war lasted more than 25 years, ending in 2002, leaving the country devastated. Since then more than $100bn has been spent on reconstruction. The stakes are now not quite as high as when MPLA troops, backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union, clashed with Unita forces, supported by South Africa and the US, in the 1980s, but few doubt the importance of the poll.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the German government on Saturday for criticizing his appeal to ethnic Turks living in Germany not to vote for the county’s two ruling parties in the upcoming September elections. Addressing a crowd of supporters in the southwestern province of Denizli, Erdogan had particularly harsh words for German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
Read more: Ankara mayor slams German Green party leader for ‘treachery’ “He knows no limits! Who are you to talk to the president of Turkey? Know your limits. He is trying to teach us a lesson… How long have you been in politics? How old are you?” Erdogan said.
‘Unprecedented act of interference’
Jordan’s municipal elections were hailed by many as a positive step towards political reform but their aftermath was tarnished by deadly celebratory gunfire. While some cheered the outcome of the elections, others mourned the death of two children killed by stray bullets from celebratory gunfire. The elections were marred by road blocks, riots and rallies in the streets of various governorates by supporters of losing candidates. Making matters worse, the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC) website crashed due to heavy traffic, with some attributing the breakdown to hackers’ attempts to manipulate the results. Mayors, municipal council members and governorate councils were elected for the first time under the Decentralisation Law, which gives a voice to the elected council in determining the governorate’s development priorities.
Kosovo’s failure to establish a government two months after an election is stalling its bids for greater international recognition and blocking funds for the poverty-stricken country. A coalition led by President Hashim Thaci’s PDK party — itself in power since 2007 — topped early parliamentary polls held on June 11, but the alliance did not win the absolute majority needed to govern alone. Made up of the old guard of ex-guerrilla fighters, the coalition can only form a government after nominating and winning support for a parliamentary speaker. But so far the coalition has boycotted assembly sessions and a vote for speaker because it needs the backing of more deputies. “The ruling political class doesn’t want to give up power,” said Agron Bajrami, editor of the Koha Ditore newspaper.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has inaugurated a 20-member Inter-Agency Technical Committee to assess a newly-developed e-voting system. The commission disclosed this in a statement issued by INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, on Thursday in Abuja. The e-voting machine was developed by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). The agency, led by the Minister for Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, had in June paid a visit to the commission for a demonstration of a prototype e-voting machine developed by NASENI.