The U.S. needs hundreds of millions of dollars to protect future elections from hackers — but neither the states nor Congress is rushing to fill the gap. Instead, a nation still squabbling over the role Russian cyberattacks played in the 2016 presidential campaign is fractured about how to pay for the steps needed to prevent repeats in 2018 and 2020, according to interviews with dozens of state election officials, federal lawmakers, current and former Department of Homeland Security staffers and leading election security experts. These people agree that digital meddlers threaten the public’s confidence in America’s democratic process. And nearly everyone believes that the danger calls for collective action — from replacing the voting equipment at tens of thousands of polling places to strengthening state voter databases, training election workers and systematically conducting post-election audits. But those steps would require major spending, and only a handful of states’ legislatures are boosting their election security budgets, according to a POLITICO survey of state election agencies. And leaders in Congress are showing no eagerness to help them out.
National: Study points to potential vulnerability in online voter registration systems | Harvard Gazette
For as little as a few thousand dollars, online attackers can purchase enough personal information to perhaps alter voter registration information in as many as 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to a new Harvard study. Dubbed “voter identity theft” by study authors Latanya Sweeney, professor of government and technology in residence, research analyst Ji Su Yoo, and graduate student Jinyan Zang, the vulnerability could be exploited by internet attackers attempting to disenfranchise many voters where registration information can be changed online. Armed with personal information obtained through legitimate or illegitimate sources, hackers could learn enough to impersonate voters and change key information using the online registration systems. One tactic, researchers said, would be to simply change voters’ addresses, making it appear — to poll workers at least — as though they were voting at the wrong locations. Those voters might be forced to cast provisional ballots, which in many circumstances are not counted. The study is described in a Sept. 6 paper published in the Journal of Technology Science.
Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website. “These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US,” he wrote on June 8, 2016. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!” Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy. The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site’s phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled.
American voters received yet another rude awakening last month. Chicago’s Board of Elections reported that names, addresses, birth dates and other sensitive information about the city’s 1.8 million registered voters had been exposed on an Amazon cloud server for an unknown period. Worse, it appears hackers might have gained access to employees’ personal accounts at Election Systems & Software, a major election technology vendor—info that could be used to hack a future U.S. election. Earlier, the Department of Homeland Security reported that foreign agents targeted voting systems in 21 states in the 2016 election, and Bloomberg News reported that hackers had successfully compromised various election-technology companies.
The thin, long piece of paper slides slowly out the voting machine, the internal mechanism guiding it making a sound similar to a copying machine. Printed on it are choices selected during voting, tapped seconds before on an electronic screen attached to the same machine. The piece of paper, in this case a ballot, is then carried to a second machine that electronically tabulates the votes while also dropping the paper into a locked, internal box. “Every vote that’s been cast there is a hard-copy paper record that each voter validated before it was inserted, scanned and tabulated,” said Jeb S. Cameron with Election Systems and Software, a Nebraska-based voting software and election management company that will help Georgia pilot a new paper-ballot voting system in November. That touches on one of the fiercest criticisms Georgia’s current system has received: There’s currently no paper record for most ballots cast in its elections.
Following a weekend of legal maneuvering, a federal judge has sent two lawsuits challenging the state’s controversial new Republican-backed law tightening voter registration requirements back to the state Superior Court, where the claims were initially filed. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante came after attorneys for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and League of Women Voters amended their separate, but almost identical, complaints to remove allegations that the new law violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, attorneys for the Democrats and the League said, they have now focused their suits on alleged violations of the New Hampshire Constitution in the law formerly known as Senate Bill 3.
Texas: Delay of Game: Texas Redistricting Delays Could Cause Election Chaos | US News & World Report
After roughly six years battling the state in court, groups representing minority voters got what looked like a solid win late last month. In mid-August, a federal court ruled Texas had clearly drawn political districts to put voters of color at a disadvantage, so the maps would have to be redrawn, and in a hurry – the 2018 midterm elections are coming up fast. But that victory could be short-lived. Just a week after the lower court ordered Texas to draft new voting districts as the clock ticked towards midterm elections, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito hit the pause button. In a one-paragraph order, he temporarily blocked the new districts from being drawn. The developments essentially put Texas in a court-ordered holding pattern on voting laws and districts, just 14 months ahead of next year’s midterm elections. It’s forced political candidates to wait before filing paperwork and launching campaigns, and it’s left voters uncertain about where they can vote, who they’re voting for and what documents they’ll need, if any, to cast a ballot. But Texas isn’t alone: Eight states are in the midst of litigation over voting districts, including three cases currently on appeal to the Supreme Court. At the same time, four of them – Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania – are major political battleground states that could help determine the balance of power in Congress and whether President Donald Trump wins re-election in 2020.
Virginia: In emergency meeting, Virginia elections board votes to scrap all touch-screen voting machines | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Virginia State Board of Elections voted Friday to discontinue use of all touch-screen voting machines throughout the state because of potential security vulnerabilities, forcing 22 cities and counties to scramble to find new equipment just weeks before voting begins for the November gubernatorial election. Behind closed doors at an emergency meeting in Richmond on Friday afternoon, the board heard about specific vulnerabilities identified after a cybersecurity conference this summer in Las Vegas, where hackers showed they could break into voting machines with relative ease. After the July Defcon conference, Virginia’s Department of Elections asked the state’s IT agency to review the security of touch screens still in use in the state. Details of that review were kept confidential, but they caused the elections board to speed up the end of touch screens, which were already scheduled to be phased out of Virginia elections by 2020.
Estonia suffered an embarrassing blow to its much-vaunted ID cards that underpin everything from electronic voting to online banking, just days before hosting a big EU exercise on cyber warfare. International scientists have informed Estonian officials that they have found a security risk that affects almost 750,000 ID cards and that would enable a hacker to steal a person’s identity. The Baltic country of just 1.3m people stressed there was no evidence of a hack of what it has proclaimed to be the world’s most advanced IT card system. The cards are used to access a wide range of digital services from signing documents to submitting tax returns and checking medical records, as well as by foreigners who are e-residents in the country.
Hackers could tamper with Germany’s election results because the country is relying on poorly protected software, according to German tech watchdog Chaos Computer Club. While Germans hand in paper ballots that are hand-counted, the results are collected and disseminated electronically, including with a software called PC-Wahl that can be manipulated, CCC said in a report released Thursday. CCC found passwords online and easily figured out others — one was “test.” The group said the software isn’t secure because it uses an older encryption method with a single secret key, rather than newer and more-secure “asymmetrical” combinations. Hackers could “influence the transmitted voting result data on a nationwide level,” CCC wrote in the report. It urged the German government to modernize its software to protect the Sept. 24 election.
Facebook is facing intense political fallout and thorny legal questions a day after confirming that Russian funds paid for advertising on the social media platform aimed at influencing voters during last year’s presidential election. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday he hopes to call executives from Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to testify publicly about what role their companies may have played, however unwittingly, in the wider Kremlin effort to manipulate the 2016 White House race. “I think we may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” the Virginia Democrat told reporters in response to Facebook’s Wednesday disclosure that apparent Russian-tied accounts spent some $150,000 on more than 5,200 political ads last year. Warner said Facebook’s disclosure was based only on a “fairly narrow search” for suspicious ad-buying accounts.
The news that Facebook ran tens of thousands of dollars worth of ads from a Putin-linked Russian troll farm is the latest evidence that the Kremlin has proved adept at turning those features of the American system it most detests into advantages for itself. Although Putin is an apostle of illiberalism, he has picked up on U.S. freedom of the press as a useful tool for Russian messages. In this case, propagandists for the nationalist Russian state are working to turn America’s diversity against it, using potent wedge issues to create and widen social fissures. Foreigners are prohibited from spending to influence an election, so there could be a violation of law and Federal Election Commission guidelines, but it’s not like Russia is going to extradite anyone to the U.S. to face campaign-finance charges. The ads could only be further evidence of Russian attempts to interfere in the election, which at this point is acknowledged by nearly everyone save the president. But if, as Senator Mark Warner and others have implied, the Russians might have received guidance on who to target with the ads, it might point closer to the elusive smoking gun proving collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. There’s also no way to know whether the estimated $100,000 buy, a relative pittance by campaign-spending standards, is the end of the splurge or just the start.
A long list of prominent Republicans is urging the Supreme Court to find that extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, saying the practice of drawing electoral lines to benefit one party or another is detrimental to democracy. It puts those Republicans on opposing sides from groups such as the Republican National Committee and the party’s congressional campaign committee, which are supporting Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature in a major high court case to be heard next month. A lower court found lawmakers drew maps that so favored Republican candidates that they violated the constitutional right of equal protection.
Voting Blogs: New Senate Amendment Would Provide Resources To States For Election Cybersecurity | Election Academy
Senators Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have proposed an amendment (SA656) to the defense authorization bill that would provide states with federal dollars to upgrade their election cybersecurity. The bill, which borrows in large part from Klobuchar’s HACK Act introduced earlier this year, would require the federal government to establish best practices for cybersecurity and set up “election technology improvement grants” to help states fund improvements to meet those best practices based on a state plan laying out those proposed improvements. … You’d think that an amendment like SA656 – which both addresses the issue of cybersecurity AND makes (scarce) money available to states – would be an easy win, but there is apparently resistance because of concerns of federal intrusion into state and local control over election administration.
Gerrymandering is the term used in the United States to describe the intentional manipulation of district boundaries to discriminate against a group of voters on the basis of their politics or race. The term dates to 1812 when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed into law a redistricting plan that included a district that many thought looked like a salamander, leading opponents to nickname the district after him. But while the term has become a synonym for redistricting abuses, it actually covers a wide variety of sins, not all of which are related. For example, one form of gerrymandering involves making a district super safe for an incumbent. Likewise, sometimes districts are drawn so a powerful lawmaker’s brother-in-law or another favored candidate can successfully run for office. These types of gerrymanders – which often occur through bipartisan collusion between political parties –can be harmful to democracy by pre-determining outcomes and depriving voters of a meaningful choice. But Gill v. Whitford involves another variant of political gerrymandering that is even more pernicious.
As California moves closer to the rollout of a major voting overhaul law, new research from UC Davis suggests that some racial and ethnic groups could be left behind under the new system. The research, released Thursday by the university’s California Civic Engagement Project, shows large disparities among racial and ethnic groups regarding mail voting and the degree to which they trust the U.S. Postal Service, which is a key component to voting by mail. The new law, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall, is expected to shutter many neighborhood polling places. Instead, counties will have the option to switch to “vote centers,” where voters can cast ballots over a period of up to 10 days. The new system will also rely heavily on an increased use of voting by mail. In most parts of the state, all registered voters will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot.
We applaud the Colorado’s League of Women Voters for its effort to curtail gerrymandering ahead of the 2020 census, and wish the non-partisan group luck in its endeavor. While we will withhold judgment of the organization’s proposal until we see the final language and whether it qualifies for the ballot this year, we’re encouraged that someone is stepping up to make this system of drawing districts more fair to voters of all political views. For too long the redistricting of Colorado’s congressional districts and state legislative districts have fallen victim to the underhanded strategies of both Republicans and Democrats who are trying to get the upper hand in the next decade’s elections.
Ask most Maryland Democratic leaders about partisan gerrymandering, and they’ll tell you it’s a horrible problem. They’ll say that is contrary to the principles of democracy, that it lets politicians choose their voters rather than the other way around and that it contributes to hyper-partisanship in Congress and state legislatures. Ask them to do something about it — as numerous good-government advocacy groups, editorial boards and Gov. Larry Hogan have done — and you’ll hear a different story. Taking the task of drawing congressional and legislative district lines out of the self-interested hands of Democrats in Maryland would amount to unilateral surrender, they say, and they have no interest in that unless Republicans start doing the same in the states where they have controlled the process for their own gain.
A newly released report from the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Department of Safety says a majority of people who used out-of-state IDs to register in last November’s elections haven’t registered vehicles in New Hampshire or gotten in-state drivers licenses in the months since. While this data alone doesn’t provide proof of voter fraud, as NHPR has noted before, it’s quickly become fodder in an ongoing debate about New Hampshire’s voting requirements. The data came in response to a request from House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who said he was seeking the statistics in part to inform future voting law changes. Among other things, Jasper asked for information on whether those who register to vote in New Hampshire also obtain driver’s licenses or car registrations here.
North Carolina: Republicans defend maps before Wisconsin redistricting SCOTUS case | News & Observer
As a key U.S. Supreme Court case on gerrymandering looms, North Carolina Republicans are pushing back against the criticism of their own political maps. Racially motivated gerrymandering is unconstitutional, and within the past two years North Carolina has had to redraw its U.S. House, N.C. House and N.C. Senate districts after all were found to have disenfranchised black voters. The three maps found unconstitutional were drawn in 2011 by Republican state legislators, shortly after they took control of the N.C. General Assembly that year. However, federal courts have long avoided deciding whether politically motivated gerrymandering is also unconstitutional. Democrats for years drew lines to help their party, and Republicans have done the same. Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte said that of the 4,300 written comments legislators received on the most recent round of redistricting, fewer than 1 percent were in favor.
North Dakota state officials are unable to provide requested voter information to a controversial committee studying alleged voter fraud, Secretary of State Al Jaeger told the commission this week. In a letter to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity dated Tuesday, Sept. 5, Jaeger said North Dakota doesn’t register voters and state law doesn’t allow information maintained in its Central Voter File to be shared “except with certain individuals and groups and for a specific limited purpose.” He said information in the CVF is only available to candidates, political parties and political committees and may only be used for election-related purposes. “The commission does not qualify as an eligible recipient,” Jaeger, a Republican, wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court did something out of the ordinary last week: It responded to an appeal when there was technically nothing to appeal. Justice Samuel Alito temporarily blocked a ruling that found two congressional districts in Texas discriminated against minorities. Attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case aren’t entirely sure why he responded to the state’s appeal, however. “There are a number of decision points and if it sounds complicated, welcome to Texas redistricting,” Michael Li, a redistricting expert with the Brennan Center for Justice, says. A federal district court in San Antonio ruled last month on the constitutionality of the congressional map – but the scope of the ruling was just the constitutionality. Specifically, the court found that two districts violated the Voting Rights Act. But the lower court didn’t do anything that Texas officials could appeal, says Jose Garza, an attorney representing plaintiffs.
A federal judge has issued a split ruling in a lawsuit filed over vote-by-mail in Utah’s largest county. The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, backed by the ACLU of Utah, sued San Juan County over its decision to switch to vote-by-mail. They argue a reduced number of polling places burdens Navajo voters, who have to drive hours to vote. Navajo is also an unwritten language making vote-by-mail more difficult.
Angola’s first new president in decades has a big job ahead of him: He inherits a nation mired in recession, plagued with corruption, and home to some of the worst income inequality seen anywhere in the world. Worse still, the falling price of oil — the nation’s main cash cow — means that president-elect Joao Lourenco has limited means to dig his nation out of this difficult situation. He also starts this historic epoch in Angolan history with a credibility issue, after four of the five opposition parties challenged the official results, saying they performed better than official results indicate. However, no one disputes that Lourenco’s party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, won the largest share of votes. He is the chosen successor of longtime president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who is stepping down after 38 years in power. But his main challenger, UNITA leader Isaias Samakuva, says Lourenco did not win fairly. These results, he said, are too similar to results produced in a former election, in 2012.
An eBay user is attempting to sell their ballot paper in the upcoming same-sex marriage postal survey.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will start mailing out forms for the postal ballot on Tuesday, after the High Court dismissed a challenge to the eight-week national survey. User Garistides posted the item on the online auction website today with a price of $1500. “The reason I’m selling my vote is because either way I don’t care but thought there are people who do,” the post read. “Part of this auction proceeds will go to help kids battling cancer.” The West Australian has contacted Garistides, who confirmed the offer is genuine. According to the ABS, attempting to sell a ballot paper would likely be an offence against the Census and Statistics Act 1905 or the Commonwealth Criminal Code. A conviction could lead to a $2100 fine or 12 months imprisonment.
Some 7.8 million adult foreign residents in Germany will see themselves sidelined when federal election polls open on September 24, according to 2016 microcensus data sifted for DW by Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). On average, these resident foreigners have lived in Germany for 15 years while paying tax and obligatory levies into health and pension funds, often acquiring intimate knowledge of German politics and culture. But they cannot vote, nor stand as political party candidates – unlike 61.5 million Germans, including 3 million first-timers, who can vote in the federal election.
In recent weeks, officials inside Germany’s security agencies have been fondly circulating an article from the website of Foreign Policy magazine that was published on Aug. 3 with the headline, “Russian Hackers Can’t Beat German Democracy.” The article speculates about what Russia could do to disrupt the German federal election, which takes place on Sept. 24, and argues that the Russians will certainly attempt to interfere. Notably, though, the magazine concludes that the Kremlin is unlikely to succeed. Germany, the article argues, is excellently prepared for dealing with any attack because politicians and voters alike have been sensitized to the threat — and because the country’s media system provides a protective shield against disinformation campaigns.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That, it seems, is the advice of Kenya’s supreme court to its electoral commission. In a shock decision on September 1st, the court ruled that the presidential election held last month, in which Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent, beat Raila Odinga (pictured), an opposition stalwart, was “invalid, null and void”. The vote, it said, had not been conducted in accordance with the constitution—so it must be redone. As a display of judicial independence, the court’s decision is without precedent, not just in Kenya but across Africa, where it was widely acclaimed. It represents an opportunity—so optimists believe—to build genuine trust in the country’s institutions, especially its highest courts. Yet it also plunges east Africa’s biggest economy back into uncertainty and creates a new risk of violence.
The Government of Japan and United Nations Development Program have filled a crucial gap in election security funding. In advance of the October 10, 2017 general elections in Liberia, Japan and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) yesterday signed an exchange of notes to strengthen election security with a fund of US$1.14 million. The project is to support the deployment of police and other civilian security personnel to provide security during the elections.
Netherlands: How to hack the upcoming Dutch elections – and how hackers could have hacked all Dutch elections since 2009 | Weblog Sijmen Ruwhof
As everybody has read in the newspapers, the recent American elections involved multiple and severe hacking attacks. Tens of thousands of confidential and private emails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were leaked via WikiLeaks. It is thought by many that this helped Trump to win the election. Journalists from Dutch TV station RTL contacted me last week and wanted to know whether the Dutch elections could be hacked. They had been tipped off that the current Dutch electoral software used weak cryptography in certain parts of its system (SHA1). I was stunned and couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Are we still relying on computers for our voting process? The Dutch government banned electronic voting for cyber-security reasons on June 4th, 2009. We returned to using red pencil and paper and have done so ever since. … Seems pretty solid right with all the visible paper? Hold on!