A new set of voluntary guidelines for security and reliability of elections systems was approved on Sept. 12 by a key committee of the Elections Assistance Commission. The vote took place at a meeting of the EAC that was chaired by Kent Rochford, acting director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The new document represents a refresh of voting system guidelines that were developed in 2005 and last updated in 2015. The EAC vote comes as cybersecurity experts warn that election systems are vulnerable to hacking, and almost a year after the Department of Homeland Security added election systems to its list of critical U.S. infrastructure.
Citing security concerns, the Virginia Board of Elections announced last Friday that it will stop using electronic voting machines in the state. The board’s action is the latest sign that state and local election agencies are trying to address growing concerns that the nation’s election infrastructure is vulnerable to hacking. During the 2016 presidential election, Russia targeted voting systems in 21 states, according to U.S. officials. Though U.S. security officials say the cyberbreach did not impact vote-counting, they have warned of future, and more intrusive, attacks. Some states — including Virginia and Georgia, which recently announced a pilot program to use paper ballots — hope eliminating the use of electronic ballots will reduce the threat of cyberattacks.
“Election Fraud is rampant!! California has 11 Counties that have MORE VOTERS than registered voters!!” reads one of the most recent public comments submitted to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “I have personally witnessed voter fraud in California,” reads another comment. An earlier comment claims that “many [voters] were deceased and many were not citizens.” Yet another post is from a former San Diego poll watcher who claims to have witnessed attempted voter fraud and was told by an elections official: “if someone wants to vote I am not about to stop them. This is America, not China!” Over 500 comments were submitted online during the run-up to the second meeting of the commission on Tuesday, which was led by its vice-chair Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Many of those comments were in the same vein as those from the San Diego poll watcher, containing anecdotes or hearsay about egregious incidents of voter fraud or alleging massive levels of fraud on a national level. While those public comments weren’t directly addressed during the proceedings of the meeting, they did help set its tone, as Kobach and his fellow commissioners grappled with the gap between rhetoric on voter fraud—backed by ample anecdote—and data on in-person voter fraud, which are scant.
Last week, much of official Washington rejoiced after President Trump made a deal with senior congressional Democrats to forestall a government shutdown, provide aid to hurricane victims, and raise the debt ceiling until December. The deal, some observers claimed, marked Trump’s long-awaited pivot to conventional Presidential leadership and a bipartisan style of governing. Some praised this maneuver as statesmanlike, while others denounced it as a betrayal of the President’s fellow-Republicans, but there was something close to consensus that Trump had jettisoned the hard-right politics expressed at the beginning of his term in office and begun a new and different chapter. This is, to put it charitably, nonsense. Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer, the top Democrats in Congress, understandably accepted a modest political gift from the President; Trump, by agreeing to just a three-month extension of the deadlines, gave the opposition party somewhat more leverage when the next negotiation takes place, before the end of the year. But, notwithstanding the developments of last week, which mostly amount to inside baseball, the course of the Trump Presidency is set, and conservatives are still very much in charge.
What was already expected to be a contentious second meeting for President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, on Tuesday in Manchester, N.H., is likely to get a whole lot more contentious thanks to a column written by the panel’s co-chair. Although the chairman, Vice President Pence, said in that first meeting that the commission has “no preconceived notions or pre-ordained results,” the panel’s co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, seemed to contradict him in Breitbart News last week. Kobach claimed that “now there’s proof” of voter fraud in last year’s election, enough to have likely changed the outcome of a key Senate race. He cited a report that more than 5,000 New Hampshire voters used out-of-state drivers’ licences as identification and have yet to update those licenses, even though new residents are required to do so within 60 days of moving to the state. “It is highly likely that voting by nonresidents changed the result,” wrote Kobach, one of the few election officials in the country who hasn’t dismissed Trump’s unfounded claim that up to 5 million ballots were cast illegally last year. What Kobach didn’t say in the Breitbart column is that there are other possible explanations for all the out-of-state voter IDs. The most likely is that many were used by out-of-state college students, who are still eligible to vote.
I’ve been asked about a number of ideas lately involving voting systems and blockchains. This blog piece talks about all the security properties that a voting system needs to have, where blockchains help, and where they don’t. Let’s start off a decade ago, when Daniel Sandler and I first wrote a paper saying blockchains would be useful for voting systems. We observed that voting machines running on modern computers have overwhelming amounts of CPU and storage, so let’s use it in a serious way. Let’s place a copy of every vote on every machine and let’s use timeline entanglement (Maniatis and Baker 2002), so every machine’s history is protected by hashes stored on other machines. We even built a prototype voting system called VoteBox that used all of this, and many of the same ideas now appear in a design called STAR-Vote, which we hope could someday be used by real voters in real elections.
What is a blockchain good for? Fundamentally, it’s about having a tamper-evident history of events. In the context of a voting system, this means that a blockchain is a great place to store ballots to protect their integrity. STAR-Vote and many other “end-to-end” voting systems have a concept of a “public bulletin board” where encrypted votes go, and a blockchain is the obvious way to implement the public bulletin board. Every STAR-Vote voter leaves the polling place with a “receipt” which is really just the hash of their encrypted ballot, which in turn has the hash of the previous ballot. In other words, STAR-Vote voters all leave the polling place with a pointer into the blockchain which can be independently verified. … Achieving a “cast as intended” property requires a variety of mechanisms ranging from paper ballots and spot challenges of machines. The blockchain protects the integrity of the recorded vote, but has nothing to say about its fidelity to the intent of the voter.
Alabama: Probate judge: Election integrity group should look to expand, not limit, voting rights | AL.com
Alan King, the lone Alabama representative on President Donald Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, couldn’t attend the panel’s meeting Tuesday in New Hampshire. But King, the chief election officer and probate judge for Jefferson County, let the commission know how he felt about what he sees as an effort to keep people from voting rather than expanding the right to vote. “It is my sincere hope and prayer that this Commission will focus on the real election issues facing the United States of America, including alleged ‘hacking’ by the Russians, instead of spending precious time focusing on non-issues to deprive American citizens from voting,” King, a Democrat, stated in a recent 5-page report to the panel.
California: Lawmakers block effort to allow 17-year-olds to vote in California elections | Los Angeles Times
California lawmakers blocked an effort to allow 17-year-olds to vote in local and state elections. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10, proposed by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), failed to gather a required two-thirds vote in the Assembly. The proposal aimed to promote early civic engagement. It would have made California the first state to allow 17-year-olds to vote in elections. “This is a bold idea. But bold ideas are required to make significant change,” Low said on the Assembly floor before the vote.
The city council and mayor of College Park are expected to decide Tuesday whether to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections, following a heated discussion among residents over the summer about the issue. The majority of residents who have submitted comments in the Washington suburb, home to the University of Maryland’s flagship campus, support the amendment to allow green-card holders, undocumented immigrants and student-visa holders to vote in local elections, Mayor Patrick Wojahn said. The council postponed the initial vote, which was scheduled for a meeting on Aug. 8, so it could consider whether to hold a referendum to let voters decide. “My goal is to keep the conversation tomorrow civil and productive,” Wojahn said. “I’m hoping that we won’t have the circus around it that we had last time.”
New Hampshire: Judge says new voting law can take effect, but blocks penalties as ‘severe restrictions on right to vote’ | WMUR
A judge early Tuesday allowed the state to use new voting registration forms and impose new tightened ID requirements as called for in a law passed earlier this year, but blocked the penalties called for in the law from taking effect. Judge Charles Temple ruled that the penalties of $5,000 and a year in jail for fraud outlined in Senate Bill 3 “act as a very serious deterrent on the right to vote, and if there is indeed a ‘compelling’ need for them, the Court has yet to see it.” Temple granted a request by the League of Women Voters and New Hampshire Democratic Party regarding the penalties of Senate Bill 3, but allowed the law to take effect in time for the use of new voting forms in a special New Hampshire House election in Belknap County. Further hearings on the merits of the law will be held at a future date. Read the full order here.
The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a serious setback to those hoping Texas would see new congressional and House district maps ahead of the 2018 elections. In separate orders issued Tuesday, the high court blocked two lower court rulings that invalidated parts of those maps where lawmakers were found to have discriminated against voters of color. The justices’ 5-4 decisions stay the rulings — which would have required new maps — as they take up an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented from the majority opinion. The development could upend efforts to get a new map in place ahead of the 2018 elections. After years of legal wrangling, Texans and the minority rights groups suing over the maps were finally set to hash out new maps in court last week, but those hearings were canceled as the Supreme Court asked for responses from the minority rights groups to the state’s emergency request for the high court to intervene.
Verified Voting in the News: Virginia Is Getting Rid Of Its Vulnerable Voting Machines | Newburgh Gazette
The State Elections Board of Virginia, on Friday the 8th of September, approved a plan to replace the direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines used now in the state due to concerns about hacking in future elections. Additionally, the direct-recording electronic voting equipment in use in Virginia does not have a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, which is an important security feature provided by the paper systems, the statement added. As of today, the following 22 Virginia localities use DREs: Bath, Buchanan, Chesapeake, Colonial Heights, Culpeper, Cumberland, Emporia, Falls Church, Gloucester, Hopewell, Lee, Madison, Martinsville, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Rappahannock, Russell, Surry, Sussex, Tazewell, and Washington. Most states will not hold a major election until November 2018, but Virginia will elect a new governor and other statewide officials this November.
With only two months until election day, officials in Virginia have decided fully-electronic voting machines aren’t safe. Amid growing cyber-security threats, the Board of Elections is forcing localities to stop using the of the touch screen machines that leave no paper trail. … Alex Blakemore with Virginia Verified Voting has long advocated for the machines to be decertified. While he hasn’t seen what the latest testing shows, he does remember the results of a similar security review back in 2015. “The machines were unbelievably vulnerable. They had wifi on them which, why would you want wifi on a voting machine?” Blakemore asked. “You could hack in remotely, the password was abcde.”
The Supreme Court has long kept a distance from arguments over gerrymandering, that most American practice of redrawing the lines of legislative districts in order to tip elections toward the party in power. But early next month, the justices will hear a challenge to the 2011 redrawing of Wisconsin’s state legislative map by Republican lawmakers — a demonstration of how increasingly powerful technology allows partisan mapmakers to distort representation with ever-greater precision. Using computer modeling, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature produced districts so unbalanced that, in 2012, Republicans won a supermajority in the state assembly even after losing the popular vote. And the state GOP continued to entrench that hold in 2014 and 2016, even after winning only slim majorities of the vote.
A photo claiming to show how the supposedly secret same-sex marriage postal vote can be seen through the envelope created controversy online. The image appears to show a gay marriage vote form with the ‘no’ box ticked being illuminated through the envelope with a torch. The photo began circulating on social media after a concerned voter saw the image pop up on his Facebook news feed. ‘So we wasted $122 million on a survey where a torch can reveal the answer through the reply envelope it came with.’ The person who posted the photo said they would ‘be voting yes… if it will even be counted now after this stuff up’.
Accused of glossing over flaws in Kenya’s election which later caused the result to be overturned, international observers are under a harsh spotlight ahead of a re-run next month.
The August 8 poll, which saw President Uhuru Kenyatta re-elected, was annulled by Kenya’s Supreme Court earlier this month on grounds of “irregularities and illegalities”, notably in the transmission of election results. The shock decision put foreign observers in a particularly difficult position, accused by Kenya’s opposition and many media outlets of being too quick to declare the elections were “free and fair” in a preference for the status quo over democracy. But observers themselves – and some analysts – told AFP this characterisation was unfair, saying enthusiastic praise for part of the electoral process was mistaken for endorsement of the whole. And they point to the media, as well as Kenya’s polarised public and combative opposition, for over-simplifying and misinterpreting their messages.
People goes to the polls for Parliament elections on Monday, but results are likely not ready before Tuesday. Computer counting alone is not enough. The Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) and the Police Security Service (PST) have together with the Directorate of Elections made risk and vulnerability assessments. The government says there are no indications that anyone has attempted to affect the conduct of the elections in any way. However, the government says in a statement, «there are increasing activity and attention, both domestically and internationally, around some of the technical solutions in place. This is in and of itself a source of elevated risk.»
At polling station no. 333 in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, Reuters reporters only counted 256 voters casting their ballots in a regional election on Sunday. People were voting across Russia in what is seen as a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote. Kremlin candidates for regional parliaments and governorships performed strongly nationwide. When the official results for polling station no. 333 were declared, the turnout was first given as 1,331 before being revised up to 1,867 on Tuesday. That is more than seven times higher than the number of voters counted by Reuters – with 73 percent of the votes going to United Russia, the party of President Vladimir Putin. Election officials at the polling station said their tally was correct and there were no discrepancies. Reuters reporters were there when the polls opened at 08:00 until after the official count had been completed. They saw one man, who said he was a United Russia election observer, approaching the ballot box multiple times and each time putting inside voting papers. “We must ensure 85 percent for United Russia. Otherwise, the Tsar will stop providing us with money,” the man, Sergei Lyutikov, told a reporter, in an apparent reference to Putin.
Togo’s parliament suspended its session Tuesday as opposition members protested the lack of a promised discussion of constitutional reforms, while anger grew over the 50-year-rule of the Gnassingbe family. Opposition lawmakers want a discussion on reinstating the country’s 1992 constitution, which included presidential term limits and two rounds of voting to allow the opposition to reassemble behind one candidate. Thousands of people across the small West African nation have been demonstrating for term limits on President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since his father died in 2005. The protests began last month, when security forces killed at least two people and injured several others.