At a recent DefCon security conference, organizers wanted to test how voting machines could be hacked. The result? It took just 90 minutes for the hackers to get into the machines. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in Washington, DC, says the hack took that long only because the individual had to leave the facility to go buy a USB keyboard. “When he came back, there were two open USB ports on the back of this machine, which was a decertified AVS WINVote,” Hall explains. “He did the ‘three-fingered salute’— the Windows control-alt-delete — and it dropped to Task Manager. Then he could load whatever he wanted. They installed Winamp and played the now-famous Rick Astley song, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’” Some of the machines the hackers “attacked” are still in use, but for the most part, they were purchased on eBay or GovDeals (the government version of eBay), Hall says. Most were two or three years old and not running the most current software. Nevertheless, the experiment exposed serious flaws in virtually every type of machine.
It has been eight years since Neil Volz finished serving probation on a felony charge stemming from a congressional corruption scandal. During that time Volz has continued to atone for his crime. He went to work for his Fort Myers church helping homeless individuals dealing with drug and alcohol issues. He currently chairs the Lee County Homeless Coalition. But even as Volz married and became a dedicated member of his community who is devoted to helping the less fortunate, one measure of redemption eluded him: he still cannot vote. If Volz lived in Washington, D.C., where the crime occurred, he’d be able to vote. But he moved to Florida in 2008, and the state has one of the most restrictive laws in the nation regarding the voting rights of convicted felons.
The federal government has not notified U.S. state election officials if their voting systems were targeted by suspected Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential campaign, and the information will likely never be made public, a top state election chief told Reuters. “You’re absolutely never going to learn it, because we don’t even know it,” Judd Choate, state election director for Colorado and president of the National Association of State Election Directors, said in an interview on Thursday during the group’s summer conference. Nearly 10 months after Republican Donald Trump’s upset presidential victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Choate said he had not spoken to a single state election director who had been told by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security if their state was among those attacked. The lack of information-sharing on the election breaches reflects the difficulty state and federal officials have had in working together to protect U.S. voting from cyber threats. All U.S. elections are run by state and local governments, which have varying degrees of technical competence.
National: My Conversation With a Leading Election Technology Researcher Should Terrify You | Patriot NOT Partisan
Def Con is a 25 year old hacking convention where the worlds best hackers come together often highlighting security vulnerabilities in technology. This year, Def Con made news by raising awareness of our voting machine insecurities by challenging hackers to hack into the voting machines commonly used in this country for elections. These Def Con hacks took place in the “Voting Village”. I spoke with Voting Village organizer and leading election technology researcher, Harri Hursti, about the results of the experiment and the challenges we face in securing our elections in the future.
AM: Tell me about Def Con and the “Voting Village” and the role you played in the experiment.
HH: I was the co-organizer of the Village along with professor Matt Blaze.
AM: What was the main purpose of this exhibition?
HH: Education. We wanted to let the security community learn more about the machines and the designs. So far, only a very small group of people have been allowed to study and research these machines. As a result there was a lot of misinformation, rumors and false claims, and finding proven facts was difficult. The broader community which has 1st hand experience can help the public and the policy makers to get the facts known and drive better policies and practices to secure the elections.
J. Christian Adams claims there’s an “alien invasion” at the voting booth. Adams, a member of President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission, is dedicating his life to cleaning up registration rolls around the country and trying to prevent non-citizens from casting ballots. To do so, he’s spent years suing counties to force them to purge their rolls and he’s published personal information online about thousands of registered voters he believes could have committed fraud. Adams has turned allegations of sweeping, illegal voting into a career marked by frequent litigation and a bombastic media presence — calling critics who say that there’s no widespread proof of voter fraud “flat-earthers.”
National: Kander says courts can’t be counted on to save voting rights in Trump era | The Kansas City Star
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander told a crowd of people at a progressive event in Parkville Saturday that they can’t just rely on the courts to protect voting rights under President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Kander, a Democrat, said that with Trump appointing judges and Sessions running the U.S. Department of Justice, voting rights cases will become tougher to win. Legal challenges have to be paired with political activism. “I believe there should be political consequences for politicians who commit voter suppression,” Kander said. “I believe that if you make it harder to vote, then we should make it harder for you to get reelected.” Kander, who started a political action committee this year called Let America Vote, spoke at a “voting rights festival” hosted at English Landing Park by Northland Progress. The festival is part of the group’s “In for 10” campaign, in which volunteers pledge to help at least 10 Missouri citizens register to vote.
A year-long legal battle over the Democratic National Committee’s handling of the 2016 presidential primary came to an end Friday, with a federal judge in Florida dismissing a class-action suit brought by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “To the extent Plaintiffs wish to air their general grievances with the DNC or its candidate selection process, their redress is through the ballot box, the DNC’s internal workings, or their right of free speech — not through the judiciary,” Judge William Zloch, a Reagan appointee, wrote in his dismissal. “To the extent Plaintiffs have asserted specific causes of action grounded in specific factual allegations, it is this Court’s emphatic duty to measure Plaintiffs’ pleadings against existing legal standards. Having done so . . . the Court finds that the named Plaintiffs have not presented a case that is cognizable in federal court.”
At 6’5″, Aaron Dennis towers over the whiteboard beside him. Blue marker in hand, the 22-year-old hunches slightly to jot down suggestions being shouted by a group of people deep into a brainstorming session. Dressed mostly in nerdy T-shirts (one reads Science! with a test tube in place of the letter i), they’re trying to come up with names for a tech tool they plan to build during a two-day hackathon at Tufts University’s data lab. The group includes computer science PhD candidates, mathematicians, political operatives, and experts in so-called geographic information systems, or GIS. That’s the mapping technology that underlies many apps and software tools that run our lives, from Google Maps to logistics software. It also comes in handy when you’re carving the American electorate into voting districts that favor your political party, a time-honored—and reviled—tradition known as gerrymandering.
As the 2018 and 2020 elections approach, federal and state officials ought to be scrambling for ways to prevent a repeat of Russian interference or other meddling in American democracy. Instead, many are on an obsessive hunt to eradicate phantom problems, such as supposedly massive fraud by non-citizens and people voting in two states. The upshot is that 54 years after Martin Luther King Jr. appealed for voting rights in his “I Have a Dream” speech, those rights remain under a double-barreled assault.
California: There’s a simple reason some say it’s time for a larger California Legislature | Los Angeles Times
When the California Legislature reconvenes this week for its final month of work for the year, its members will likely do what they believe is in their constituents’ best interests. And yet, Californians have less representation than citizens of states such as Georgia and Minnesota. A single state senator in Sacramento represents roughly 988,000 people — more than the populations of six states. Each Assembly member now represents nearly half a million people, about 45 times more Californians than each lawmaker represented in the years following the historic Gold Rush. In short, California’s representative democracy is a far cry from the days when politicians could easily connect with their constituents. “That whole concept has gotten totally lost in California,” said Mark Paul, a journalist and historian who co-wrote a book on improving the Golden State’s system of governance.
Let’s be honest: Republicans have gamed Indiana’s voting system to their advantage. They gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts in their favor after the 2010 Census, helping the party gain supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate. They’ve also suppressed the number of early voting sites in Democratic areas while encouraging their expansion in counties where Republicans dominate. Consider that in Marion County, population 939,000, voters can cast early ballots at only one location, at the City-County Building in congested Downtown. Republicans repeatedly have blocked proposals to open more voting centers in Indy.
Editorials: Why did Kansas discard nearly 14,000 ballots in the 2016 election? | The Kansas City Star
On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York urged the White House to disband its misnamed Election Integrity Commission, whose vice chairman is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Otherwise, Schumer said, he’ll try to block the commission by forcing its demise in an amendment to must-pass legislation, such as an increase in the debt ceiling or a government funding bill. We’re not big fans of using must-pass bills as trees on which to hang unrelated legislative ornaments. But the senator is right to call for the dismantling of the already-discredited commission. The effort to verify President Donald Trump’s claim that millions of Americans voted illegally is a waste of time and money. Instead, Americans should support Schumer’s alternative: public hearings on the status of voting rights.
A Republican strategist has filed a complaint against Michigan’s Bureau of Elections alleging state officials acted improperly when advising the group pushing for an independent redistricting commission on the 2018 ballot. Robert LaBrant, who currently serves as counsel for the Lansing-based Sterling Corporation, submitted the complaint Thursday. He wrote the bureau’s review of the petition language submitted by the group Voters Not Politicians was a “misplaced, over-zealous attempt at being customer friendly even though the service the bureau provided VNP is illegal.”
Secretary of State Bill Gardner has invited Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York to address President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity when it meets in New Hampshire next month. The invitation comes days after Schumer, in a national opinion column, called on Trump to disband the commission saying it was critical in the wake of the racist march on Charlottesville that turned deadly this month. “We need more than just words – we also need action,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in an opinion piece first published at Medium. “And I believe that one important way that Congress can begin to heal this painful divide in our country when we return in September is by showing that we can come together to stop the systemic disenfranchisement of American voters.”
North Carolina: State Supreme Court hears bellwether redistricting and voting rights cases | News & Observer
The state Supreme Court will hear two cases on Monday that could determine how much power North Carolina lawmakers have as the 2018 elections approach. Gov. Roy Cooper has asked the seven justices to review a three-judge panel’s decision that upheld the merger this year of the state elections board and ethics commission, a case that could determine whether Republicans will have leadership on elections boards at the state and county level during presidential election years when North Carolina voters also elect their governor. Another case that will go before the state’s highest court on Monday is a redistricting challenge sent back to the justices earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed federal court rulings finding unconstitutional racial gerrymandering in 28 state legislative districts and two unconstitutional gerrymanders in place from 2011 to 2016.
Oregon: Legality of Oregon Secretary of State Richardson’s election rule change questioned | The Register-Guard
A change in the rules for collecting initiative petition signatures in Oregon, proposed by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, may be on shaky legal ground, according to a preliminary analysis by the Legislature’s lawyers. Richardson, a Republican, wants to let the backers of initiative petitions start gathering signatures before their ballot title — the neutral, summarized descriptor of what the measure would do — is finalized. Under current practice, backers must wait until their ballot title is approved by either the Oregon attorney general or the state Supreme Court, a process that can be lengthy due to legal disputes about what wording is the most accurate and fair.
Texas: After losses on voting laws and districting, Texas turns to Supreme Court | The Washington Post
The state of Texas is in the midst of an extraordinary losing streak in federal courts over the way it conducts elections. It is hoping the Supreme Court will come to the rescue. In the past couple of weeks, federal judges in four separate cases ruled that the Texas Legislature discriminated against minorities in drawing congressional and legislative districts, setting ID requirements for voters and even regulating who can assist voters for whom English is not their first language. Two courts are considering whether the actions intended to discourage African American and Hispanic voters. If the courts find that the efforts were intentional, it could return Texas to the kind of federal oversight from which the Supreme Court freed it and other mostly Southern states in the landmark 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
Editorials: A judge ruled Texas’s second try at voter ID laws is illegal. She’s right. | The Washington Post
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Texas’s voter identification law is illegal. Again. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had previously repudiated the state legislature’s toughest-in-the-nation ballot ID law, and the appeals court above her largely agreed. Now she has found that the state’s second try at imposing voter ID rules is not good enough, either. She is right. Ms. Ramos found previously that the forms of ID the state would accept made things disproportionately more difficult for minority voters. Polling workers would accept gun licenses, which white people are more likely to carry. But they would not accept other forms of state-issued ID that minority voters might have in greater proportion. In fact, the list of acceptable ID was exceptionally narrow, especially compared with other states. After negative court rulings, the state expanded the list slightly — but not “meaningfully,” Ms. Ramos found. The discriminatory effect still existed.
One of Angola’s main opposition parties plans to contest the results of last week’s general election, alleging unfair conduct during the vote that kept the ruling party of former president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in power. The ruling MPLA party won just over 61 percent of the votes cast on Wednesday and about 150 of the 220 seats in Parliament, according to election commission officials, which would put a Dos Santos loyalist, Joao Lourenco, in the presidency. But the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) has accused the government of manipulating the vote, for example by depriving opposition groups of media access.
The Christian Democrats and Social Democrats are going door-to-door collecting voter information. They are hoping to gain access to the electorate in a way that was once unthinkable under Germany’s strict privacy laws. Cornelius Golembiewski takes an iPad and a smartphone with him when he goes door-to-door for the Christian Democrats (CDU). On the iPad, he sees a map of his hometown, Jena, covered in green spots. The green indicates clusters of houses where potential CDU voters are likely to live.
Kenya’s Supreme Court ordered the elections commission on Monday to allow the opposition, which is disputing the results of this month’s presidential vote, have access to its computer servers and electronic devices used in the vote-count. Election authorities say President Uhuru Kenyatta easily won a second term in the Aug. 8 polls by 1.4 million votes. A parallel tally by independent monitors based on a sample of around 2,000 polling stations produced a similar result. But opposition leader Raila Odinga is disputing these results, which sparked scattered protests in parts of Kenya. The protests, which dissipated within days, had raised fears that political violence could again destabilize the region’s biggest economy, as it did following a disputed election in 2007.
The pro-independence ruling coalition in Catalonia is submitting a bill to the regional parliament that aims to serve as a transitional constitution should a controversial vote to secede from Spain succeed. Spain’s government says the referendum called for Oct. 1 by the regional Catalan government is unconstitutional and has pledged to prosecute officials who take formal steps to hold it.