Virginia’s election office on Friday urged the state’s election supervisors to prohibit touch-screen voting machines before November’s elections, saying the devices posed unacceptable digital risks. If approved, the move would represent one of the most dramatic actions taken to help secure elections since a 2016 presidential race rife with concerns about digital meddling and vote tampering. Election security experts have long warned that such machines are a top target for hackers. The decision would force Virginia counties to swiftly replace any touch-screen devices with machines that produce a paper trail, ensuring the state could audit its closely watched gubernatorial race this November between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie. The state election board will vote Friday afternoon on the recommendation.
Advance voting began Monday for New Zealand’s general election, which could see a change of government in the South Pacific nation for the first time in nine years. Election officials say just over 3 million voters are enrolled for the Sept. 23 election, in the country of nearly 5 million people. Opinion polls indicate it will be a close race between the conservative National Party, led by Prime Minister Bill English, and the liberal Labour Party, led by Jacinda Ardern. Six weeks ago the conservatives were comfortably ahead in the polls and appeared to be coasting to a fourth consecutive victory. But then the Labour Party leader quit and 37-year-old Ardern took the reins, sparking a rapid rise in the party’s fortunes that some are calling “Jacindamania.”
President Trump’s commission on voter fraud, which has ricocheted between controversies since its creation in May, is scheduled to hold its second public meeting on Tuesday in New Hampshire. Already, the commission’s de facto leader has warmed up for the session by suggesting that the election in November of Senator Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, was rigged. The accusation led the state’s entire congressional delegation to demand that William M. Gardner, the New Hampshire secretary of state, resign from the commission. Mr. Gardner, a Democrat and the host of the meeting on Tuesday, refused to do so, and said the state’s two senators and two representatives were being hypocritical. Uproar has become standard practice for the fraud panel, officially called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Critics say the commission is a pretext for Republican efforts to make it harder to register and to vote, and that it will reach a predetermined conclusion, that tough new rules are needed to prevent fraud. Studies have repeatedly shown that illegal voting is very rare, and that voter impersonation — perhaps the main danger suggested by advocates of tighter election rules — is next to nonexistent.
Some experts say that given uneven IT security requirements for voting systems, the best protection against election hacking may be less technology. “Based on my experience, I don’t have a lot of confidence” in the security of election equipment, said Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computer Security and Society, at a Sept. 8 Brookings Institution discussion. “Our election systems are known to be vulnerable,” he said, adding that even if they were not manipulated by a foreign government in 2016, “I think it’s a matter of time… [attacks] will only be more sophisticated going forward.” Halderman’s research includes information security testing on the exact machines used by states during federal elections.
National: I Ran Digital For A 2016 Presidential Campaign. Here’s What Russia Might Have Got For $100,000 | Buzzfeed
One common response to the news that a Kremlin-linked online operation in Russia bought $100,000 worth of Facebook ads during the 2016 election campaign has been that the money is a drop in the bucket relative to the more than $1 billion spent on ads during the cycle, or the $27 billion in revenue earned by Facebook last year. But as one of a handful of Americans who managed the digital operations of a 2016 presidential campaign, I think $100,000 smartly spent on Facebook could have a much larger reach than you may realize. And more importantly, nobody — not the political pros, or the advertising gurus — truly knows how far a message spreads when Facebook is paid to promote it. The social network still contains many mysteries, even to those pouring millions into it. What I do know, from managing the digital operations for Gov. John Kasich’s campaign, is how the game was played in 2016. So how much impact would $100,000 of advertising have on Facebook during the cycle? The short answer is…that completely depends on how large the targeted audience was, and how long the campaigns were running.
A Democratic member of President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate voter fraud issued some of the strongest criticism yet from within the panel on efforts to make it more difficult to vote. In a lengthy statement to the commission, Alan King, a Democratic probate judge in Alabama, criticized overzealous efforts to purge people from the voter rolls. In his statement, King wrote that while there may be some people who voted twice, there were thousands more who were removed from the rolls for no reason or had their vote suppressed. King won’t be attending the panel’s Tuesday meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire, because of a scheduling conflict, he told commission organizers. “The reality is that the less affluent in our society are more prone to move and more prone to have a diminished economic position in life, just to survive. But that does not mean that officials in government should ‘game the system’ to deprive the less affluent from voting, simply because they may have moved from one election to another only to be stricken from the active voter list,” he wrote.
House Republicans are backing several provisions that could reshape campaign-finance rules ahead of next year’s midterm elections as spending negotiations continue this fall. The measures are included in a GOP package of spending bills being debated in the House. While the House package is unlikely to advance in the Senate, its provisions could become bargaining chips in the negotiations leading up to the next government-funding deadline, now Dec. 8. Under one deregulatory measure in the spending package, churches may be able to contribute to candidates without fear of losing their tax-exempt status, furthering President Donald Trump’s promise to “get rid of and totally destroy” a law that forbids such activity. Corporations also would be able to ask their employees to donate to unlimited numbers of trade associations’ political-action groups instead of limiting employee solicitations to one group per year.
Voting Blogs: Analysis: Heritage Foundation’s Database Undermines Claims of Recent Voter Fraud | Brennan Center for Justice
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity relies on a database produced by the Heritage Foundation to justify baseless claims — by President Trump and some of the panel’s members — of rampant voter fraud. But according to an analysis of the database by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the numbers in the database reveal exactly the opposite. Claims that the database contains almost 1,100 proven instances of voter fraud are grossly exaggerated and devoid of context, according to Heritage Fraud Database: An Assessment. It confirms what numerous studies have consistently shown: Voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and impersonating a voter at the polls is less common a phenomenon than being struck by lightning. “The database includes an assortment of cases, many unrelated or tangentially related, going back decades, with only a handful pertaining to non-citizens voting or impersonation at the polls,” writes the author. “They add up to a molecular fraction of the total votes cast nationwide. Inadvertently, the Heritage Foundation’s database undermines its claim of widespread voter fraud.
California: The political parties would like voters to kill top-two primary system in 2018 | Los Angeles Times
Political parties and open primaries are the electoral equivalent of oil and water. They may coexist, but they don’t mix. So it’s hardly surprising that neither California’s dominant Democrats nor its fading Republicans have ever really embraced Proposition 14, the sweeping ballot measure that abolished partisan primaries six years ago. Some, in fact, say they’ve seen enough. It’s time to scrap it. “If we don’t get California straightened out for every party, at least give them some kind of chance, then why the hell are we involved in politics at all?” asks Tom Palzer, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga.
Voting-rights advocates are floating a proposal that could make it easier to vote, but the state’s top election official is dead-set against it, raising the possibility of voter fraud. The idea is election-day registration, a system used by 16 states and the District of Columbia, where voters can register or update their voting information at the polling place on election day. “All the states that have election-day registration are at the top of voter turnout,” voting-rights expert Kevin Kennedy said in the keynote speech at “Democracy Tomorrow,” a daylong voting-rights seminar held Friday at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex. About 10 to 15 percent of voters take advantage of the same-day option in the states that have it, Kennedy said. It especially attracts late deciders, who may not think about voting until the election is upon them, he said. While some election officials consider those voters to be lazy, “I’m thinking they’re busy,” he said.
New Hampshire: Gardner rejects call by congressional delegation to step down from Trump election commission | WMUR
A fired up Secretary of State William Gardner Friday flatly refused demands by the four Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation that he step down from President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission after the panel’s vice chairman questioned the legitimacy of last year’s U.S. Senate race. Gardner, who is also a Democrat, told WMUR the comments by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster are “hypocritical.” “No, I’m not going to step down, and it’s hypocritical to ask me to step down as a member of a federal commission,” Gardner said. “Have they ever stepped down from a Senate committee or a committee that they serve on because they disagreed with someone on the committee?”
North Carolina: Two Republicans say they accidentally asked the Supreme Court to end gerrymandering | News & Observer
Two of the three North Carolina lawmakers who had joined with prominent national politicians to oppose gerrymandering have now backtracked, saying they didn’t mean to add their names on an anti-gerrymandering letter sent to the Supreme Court. Rep. Mark Meadows and Rep. Walter Jones, both Republicans, signed on to the legal brief along with Democratic Rep. David Price. Meadows blamed an “error” and Jones blamed “miscommunication” for their participation. Meadows also made a point to say he supports the N.C. General Assembly, which is in charge of drawing the state’s lines for its members of Congress. That means Price is now the only one of North Carolina’s 15 members of Congress who remains involved in the anti-gerrymandering efforts at the Supreme Court. The Chapel Hill lawmaker’s office confirmed Friday that he didn’t sign his name accidentally.
With two federal courts again blasting Texas for “intentional discrimination” against blacks and Hispanics in drawing political boundaries, concern is mounting that voter rights litigation could upend the state’s 2018 elections calendar. State officials insisted Friday that they expect to stop the court challenges on appeal and reverse Texas’ losing streak on the voting rights lawsuits; legal experts predicted that Texas could end up back under federal supervision of its elections rules if the appeals fail. In short, the court fight is shaping up as a political game of chicken, with significant consequences no matter how it turns out. “In both of the cases where there are new decisions, the courts have ruled that Texas has purposefully maintained ‘intentional discrimination’ in the way it drew its maps,” said Michael Li, an expert on Texas redistricting who is senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
Lawyers seeking to overturn the state’s voter ID law on Friday asked all 14 judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to void a prior ruling that allowed Texas to continue using the law for elections this year. If the law was allowed to continue, the petition said, “Texas voters will once again be forced to attempt to exercise a fundamental right within a racially discriminatory voting scheme until this case is resolved.” Friday’s request was the latest twist since U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi ruled that the Republican-drafted law violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution because it was “enacted with discriminatory intent — knowingly placing additional burdens on a disproportionate number of Hispanic and African-American voters,” who tend to support Democrats.
Verified Voting in the News: Board of Elections halts use of voting machines considered vulnerable to hacking | Reuters
Virginia on Friday agreed to stop using paperless touchscreen voting machines that had been flagged by cyber security experts as potentially vulnerable to hackers and lacking sufficient vote auditing capabilities. The action represented one of the most concrete steps taken by a U.S. state to bolster the cyber security of election systems since the 2016 presidential race, when U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia waged a digital influence campaign to help President Donald Trump win. Virginia’s board of elections voted to accept a recommendation from its state election director, Edgardo Cortes, to decertify so-called direct-recording electronic machines, which count votes digitally and do not produce paper trails that can be checked against a final result.
Virginia’s Board of Elections voted unanimously to decertify all of the state’s touchscreen voting machines, which are considered by cybersecurity experts to be vulnerable to manipulation by hackers. The race is now on to replace the machines, which are used in 22 counties, before Virginia’s elections in November. Industry experts and and the state’s elections department have recommended that the touchscreen machines be replaced with ones that record votes on paper instead of only electronically, so the votes can be audited and verified.
Virginia: Board of Elections bans touch-screen voting machines over hacking concerns | Associated Press
The Virginia State Board of Elections voted Friday to ban use of touch-screen voting machines in November’s closely watched gubernatorial contest, over concerns the equipment can be hacked. The three-person board voted unanimously at a hastily arranged meeting to decertify touch-screen voting machines, which are still used by counties and cities around the state. The vote came after a closed-door briefing on potential vulnerabilities to the touch-screen systems. “It was enlightening, to say the least,” said board member Clara Belle Wheeler, who said she had originally intended not vote for decertification because of the closeness to the Nov. 7 elections.
The Chaos Computer Club is publishing an analysis of software used for tabulating the German parliamentary elections (Bundestagswahl). The analysis shows a host of problems and security holes, to an extent where public trust in the correct tabulation of votes is at stake. Proof-of-concept attack tools against this software are published with source code. Hackers of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) have studied a software package used in many German states to capture, aggregate and tabulate the votes during elections, to see if this software was secure against external attack. The analysis showed a number of security problems and multiple practicable attack scenarios. Some of these scenarios allow for the changing of vote totals across electoral district and state boundaries. „PC-Wahl“, the software in question, has been used to record, analyse and present election data in national, state and municipal elections for multiple decades. The result of this analysis is somewhat of a „total loss“ for the software product. The CCC is publishing its findings in a report of more than twenty pages. The technical details and the software used to exploit the weaknesses are published in a repository.
In 2015, suspected Russian hackers broke into the computer networks of the German Parliament and made off with a mother lode of data — 16 gigabytes, enough to account for a million or more emails. Ever since, German politicians have been watching nervously for the fruits of that hack to be revealed, and for possible embarrassment and scandal to follow. Many warily eyed September 2017 — the date of the next German election — as the likely window for Russian meddling to once again rattle the foundations of a Western democracy. But with the vote only two weeks away — and with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s European nemesis, Chancellor Angela Merkel, seemingly on track for a comfortable win — the hacked emails haven’t materialized. Nor have Russian-linked propaganda networks churned into overdrive with disinformation campaigns. Even Kremlin-orchestrated bots — blamed for the viral spread of fake news in last year’s U.S. presidential campaign — have been conspicuously silent.
A pair of rusted eyeglasses, a grimy antique watch, torn bank notes and old identification cards. These simple items on display at a museum here in northern Iraq, dug from a mass grave of Kurdish tribesmen massacred by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen, help explain why there is little doubt about how Kurds will vote in a referendum this month on independence from Iraq. “How could the international community expect us to be part of Iraq after these crimes?” said Khalat Barzani, who is in charge of the museum that memorializes the deportation and killings of thousands of Kurds in 1983. Even if the outcome is a forgone conclusion — nearly every Kurd holds dear the dream of statehood — the vote in Iraqi Kurdistan represents a historic moment in the Kurds’ generations-long struggle for political independence.
Norwegians will go to the polls for a final day of voting on Monday in a parliamentary election that remains too close to call between Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s centre-right block and the centre-left opposition headed by the Labour Party. While Solberg’s Conservatives want to cut taxes in a bid to boost growth if they win a fresh mandate, Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere seeks tax hikes to fund better public services. The outcome could also impact Norway’s oil industry, as either Solberg or Gahr Stoere is likely to depend on one or more small parties that seek to impose limits on exploration in Arctic waters off Norway’s northern coast.
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans are expected to rally in the streets of Barcelona on Monday in what campaigners hope will be a show of support for independence after Madrid moved to block a planned referendum on the region’s split from Spain. The ‘Diada’ day of Sept. 11, which commemorates the fall of Barcelona to Spain in 1714, is often used by activists to voice their demands for an independent state. Coachloads of demonstrators travel to Barcelona from villages in the region. Hostility between Madrid and Barcelona has ramped up since Spain’s Constitutional Court last Thursday suspended the referendum, planned for Oct. 1, following a legal challenge by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The government says the referendum contravenes the constitution, which states that Spain is indivisible.
Russians shunned the polls Sunday for local elections which are the last vote before the presidential elections in March next year, with very low turnout rates as the opposition cried foul. There were numerous cases of fraud in the some 6,000 polls organised in 82 regions to elect 16 regional governors and many municipal councils, the opposition claimed, saying things were worst in the capital Moscow. According to preliminary results, the vote went well for parties close to the ruling United Russia, which scored a resounding majority in legislative elections a year ago. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the results were “very favourable” for United Russia, of which he is president, according to comments given to Russian press agencies. Voter turnout rates were low, in particular in Moscow where the electoral commision said that only 14 to 15 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, according to figures available two hours before polling stations closed.
Togo opposition leaders on Sunday said they were not hopeful of political change, as parliament prepared to discuss potential constitutional reform after days of huge anti-government protests. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets this week calling for presidential term limits and denouncing President Faure Gnassingbe and his family’s half-century in power. Gnassingbe took over as leader in 2005 after the death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had come to power in 1967 after a military coup.
On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that hundreds of Russia-based accounts had run anti-Hillary Clinton ads precisely aimed at Facebook users whose demographic profiles implied a vulnerability to political propaganda. It will take time to prove whether the account owners had any relationship with the Russian government, but one thing is clear: Facebook has contributed to, and profited from, the erosion of democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere. The audacity of a hostile foreign power trying to influence American voters rightly troubles us. But it should trouble us more that Facebook makes such manipulation so easy, and renders political ads exempt from the basic accountability and transparency that healthy democracy demands. The majority of the Facebook ads did not directly mention a presidential candidate, according to Alex Stamos, head of security at Facebook, but “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from L.G.B.T. matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”