The country’s voting machines are susceptible to hacking, which could be done in a way so that it leaves no fingerprints, making it impossible to know whether the outcome was changed, computer experts told President Trump’s voter integrity commission Tuesday. The testimony marked a departure for the commission, which was formed to look into fraud and barriers to voting, but which heard that a potentially greater threat to confidence in American elections is the chance for enemy actors to meddle. “There’s no perfect security; there’s only degrees of insecurity,” said Ronald Rivest, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said hackers have myriad ways of attacking voting machines. “You don’t want to rest the election of the president on, ‘Maybe the Wi-Fi was turned on when it shouldn’t have been.’” He and two other computer security experts said bar codes on ballots and smartphones in voting locations could give hackers a chance to rewrite results in ways that couldn’t be traceable, short of sampling of ballots or hand recounts — and those work only in cases where there’s a paper trail.
A bipartisan effort to enhance election security is among the priorities for Senate Democrats as part of the debate on the annual defense authorization measure. “The consensus of 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies was that Russia, a foreign adversary, interfered in our elections. Make no mistake: Their success in 2016 will encourage them to try again,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday. “We have state elections in a couple of months and the 2018 election is a little more than a year away. We must improve our defenses now to ensure we’re prepared.” The New York Democrat was speaking on the floor about a bipartisan effort led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.
Editorials: Trump’s voter-fraud propagandist cooks up extremely fuzzy math | E.J. Dionne/The Washington Post
It is neither paranoid nor alarmist to begin asking if the Trump administration plans to rationalize blocking a large number of voters who oppose the president from casting ballots in 2018 and 2020. And it is imperative that the civic-minded of all parties demand the disbanding of a government commission whose very existence is based on a lie. The lying doesn’t stop. Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, is vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Its name reminds us why the adjective “Orwellian” was invented. Kobach chose to use a meeting of the commission held in New Hampshire on Tuesday to continue to cast doubt on the state’s election results even after his charges of voter fraud had fallen apart. It was an object lesson into how Trumpists will twist, cook and distort facts about voting to manufacture numbers that sound ominous but vanish into the ether as soon as they’re examined.
A cache of voter records on over a half-million Americans has been found online. The records, totaling 593,328 individual sets of records, appear to contain every registered voter in the state of Alaska, according to security researchers at the Kromtech Security Research Center, who found the database. The records were stored in a misconfigured CouchDB database, which was accessible to anyone with a web browser — no password needed — until Monday when the data was secured and subsequently pulled offline. The exposed data is just a portion of a larger voter file compiled by TargetSmart, which said its national voter file — that contains 191 million voters — is the “most comprehensive and up-to-date voter file ever assembled.” The data is collected and used to help political campaigns with their fundraising, research, and voter contact programs, the company said. ZDNet was provided a small sample of the records for verification. Each XML-formatted record contained details, some sensitive and personally identifiable information, on prospective voters, including names, addresses, dates of birth, their ethnic identity, whether an individual is married, and the individual’s voting preferences.
Mississippi: State has halted use of Russian software in election systems, Hosemann says | Jackson Clarion- Ledger
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson on Friday urged Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to remove any Kaspersky Lab software from Mississippi’s elections systems over fears of Russian hacking. But Hosemann said he made that call about a month ago, after he first heard concerns over the company’s possible ties to the Russian government. He said the Kaspersky antivirus software, sold throughout the U.S., was being used in three Mississippi counties, Adams, Franklin and Wilkinson. One has already switched to another brand and two others are in the process, Hosemann said. “On Aug. 18, we notified all our circuit clerks of potential vulnerabilities of Kaspersky software and at that time determined three of them were using it,” Hosemann said. “All have responded. One I know has already changed and two are in the process.”
New Hampshire: Judge’s ruling on voting law sets stage for deep, lengthy review of new ID requirements | WMUR
When Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple issued a ruling early Tuesday morning blocking the state from enforcing its new voter registration law, Senate Bill 3, he set the stage for a deep review that is expected to take many months to resolve. Temple is a former University of New Hampshire Law professor appointed in 2013 by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan. In the Tuesday order, he denied the state’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit by the state Democratic Party, League of Women Voters and three individual plaintiffs. With a special election for a New Hampshire House seat scheduled for Tuesday, the judge heard arguments on the dismissal motion and the plaintiffs’ attempt to block the law on Monday afternoon, concluding at 4:30 p.m, and then told the attorneys that he’s have a ruling out by 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Amid national news reports about potential election-hacking by Russia — and a machine ballot miscount in North Kingstown last year — state lawmakers have added audits of vote tallies to their special-session agenda. At a rare Friday afternoon meeting in September, the House Judiciary Committee is also scheduled to vote on a criminal-sentencing overhaul that stalled out in the 2016 legislative session, and then got caught up in end-of-session chaos this past June. … That was expected. But the committee will also likely approve — and send along to the full House for action at Tuesday’s special session — a bill requiring post-election audits to make sure that the state’s voting machines — which are actually optical scanners — got the winners and losers right. The Senate has already passed a version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. James Sheehan. But that bill — and a matching House version with Republican and Democrat-sponsors — had not made it all the way when the regular session ended abruptly in June.
The Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments Friday in a case centered on whether residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands should be allowed to vote absentee in their former state of residence. American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote, and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, but five million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of this system, finding that territory residents have no protected right to vote because the territories are “not a part” of the U.S. However, by some strange quirk, federal law requires all states to allow former residents currently living in the Northern Mariana Islands to vote via absentee ballot. Illinois extends this right to former residents living in American Samoa.
The Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) has submitted an appeal to Estonia’s National Electoral Committee challenging the committee’s decision to allow e-voting in the local elections this October despite a detected security risk that could affect 750,000 ID cards.
According to EKRE parliamentary group chairman Martin Helme, the party finds that the Sept. 6 decision of the National Electoral Committee to still allow e-voting in the upcoming elections opens them up to vote manipulation and the influencing of election results, party spokespeople said. The party is seeking to have e-voting called off and the elections to be held with paper ballots exclusively.
A political sea change is emerging within the Russian Federation, and it’s all thanks to a web app. MunDep (that’s short for “municipal deputy”) is the online interface that gamifies the process of turning someone from Russian citizen into Russian political candidate. The country’s notorious bureaucracy usually keeps citizens away from participating in politics meaningfully, but MunDep presents itself as a convenient central hub for meeting a prospective candidate’s every conceivable need. It guides them through the process of filling out paperwork, collecting signatures, and printing political leaflets for distribution. When candidates face trouble of any sort, they can even chat with the human staff via voice or text. Thoroughly cutting through Russia’s red tape, this platform turns the country’s political registration process into a 15-step “quest” for office. MunDep is the brainchild of Maxim Katz, a former municipal representative currently focused on political technology. He operates it alongside Dmitry Gudkov, former Russian parliament member and current Moscow mayoral candidate, and Vitali Shkliarov, a former operative for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have the same problem, they have squandered their credibility. They both appear clever because by chance they have spent a lifetime getting away with things that have brought down others long ago, and they lied about them. They get away with it because the audacity catches everyone off guard. However, the lesson of Trump’s first months in office is that, once most people catch on, it is harder to pull off the next audacious stunt. Trump’s agenda from health care to that wall is stalled. Putin has had a longer run in public office but is having trouble with his agenda, too — from lifting oil prices to lifting sanctions. Now that everyone has caught on to Russia’s election interference and propaganda, Putin’s audacious stunts, despite much hand wringing by his victims, are harder to pull off without a substantial reaction in response. Local elections held in Russia on Sept. 10 fit the pattern and spell possible trouble for next year’s presidential election that Putin is currently expected to win handedly. On Sept. 10, Putin’s United Russia party swept local elections in the 16 Regions where elections took place, including in Sevastopol in Crimea seized by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. However, opposition candidates in Moscow made surprising gains.
Two months after the campaign managers for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney helped launch an effort to assist campaigns in preventing future cyberattacks, four secretaries of state have signed on to work on their project. Republicans Mac Warner of West Virginia and Tom Schedler of Louisiana, and Democrats Denise Merrill of Connecticut and Nellie Gorbea of Rhode Island, are now participating in the effort to create a non-partisan playbook for campaigns. The project is in part fueled by the presidential campaign experiences of Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades, both of whom managed campaigns that fell victim to hacking by foreign entities. Mook and Rhoades have been in touch with a number of campaigns this year but won’t identify them because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Editorials: Our elections are facing more threats online. Our laws must catch up. | Ellen L. Weintraub/The Washington Post
Would you click on that political ad if you knew it had been generated by a Russian troll farm? Probably not. But without knowing that? Well, you might. Indeed, we now know that millions of people did just that during the 2016 election. How can we prevent a repeat in 2018 and beyond? For our democracy to work, the American people need to know that the ads they see on their computer screens and in their social media feeds aren’t paid for by Russia or other foreign countries. There’s only one federal agency with the power to stem the flow of foreign money into political ads online: the Federal Election Commission, where I serve as a commissioner. On Thursday, we took a small step forward in that quest, but the news suggests we have much more work to do.
On the day of the general election in 2016, Maricopa County voters experienced problems at the polls. Some of those problems, according to elections officials, were the result of the “epollbooks” used in the place of paper voter rolls. Officials say the software had trouble handling the sheer number of voters the Phoenix metro area…
Maryland: Legislators Consider Improving Election Security after Hearing with State Voting Board | Southern Maryland News
Maryland legislators learned last week the state’s electronic balloting system may need better security measures to protect voters’ information and that the lawmakers must be the ones to add those protections. The state’s electoral board told lawmakers Sept. 6 that they are powerless to make those changes, and that any security changes must directly come from the legislative body. Last year, the state’s Board of Elections voted 4-1 to certify a new system for online ballots, even though experts in cybersecurity and computer science publicly objected. While nearly all states have a system in place for signature verification, the General Assembly did not vote last year on the topic so there was no verification system in place, leaving Maryland as the only state in the nation without one, according to a report last year by Capital News Service.
Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said in a letter read by his chief of staff to a legislative committee Thursday that he never made any allegations of 360 cases of voter fraud in the May 25 special election and that media reports were incorrect. “I made no such statement,” Stapleton said in the Sept. 14 letter to Sen. Sue Malek, chair of the State Administration and Veterans Affairs Interim Committee. And he added he would “ask you to correct the public record to the extent that you can.” Malek had invited Stapleton to the meeting saying she wanted him to come and provide more information on the “360 cases of voter fraud” that he discussed at SAVA’s July 20 meeting.
Editorials: Redistricting in North Carolina should be fair and nonpartisan | Eva M. Clayton/News & Observer
North Carolina’s redistricting process continues to be disappointing – quite simply, the process has failed to meet the test of openness and transparency in our democracy. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that North Carolina’s district maps were unconstitutional on the grounds that race was considered in drawing the maps. In response, the N.C. General Assembly recently released its new redistricting map for state House and Senate districts. Public hearings were held two days later with statistical information selectively provided a day before the hearing. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the state made limited modifications to the 12th and the 1st Congressional districts, maintaining the state’s 10-3 Republican congressional delegation majority. The Supreme Court ruled that this revised Congressional map was unconstitutional.
Gov. Gary Herbert wished aloud Thursday that the Utah Republican Party would drop its lawsuit challenging the state’s new election law, which is driving a wedge between the party’s right wing and moderates. But he concedes that maneuvering by conservatives has probably successfully forced party leaders to proceed against his wishes — and their own. When asked at his monthly KUED news conference if the GOP should drop the lawsuit, Herbert said, “They would be wise to do that.” The suit challenges SB54, which allows candidates to qualify for a primary election by collecting signatures and/or the traditional caucus-convention system.
Utah: Suit over vote-by-mail procedures in San Juan County is headed to trial | The Salt Lake Tribune
After recent rulings by a federal judge, a lawsuit that alleges San Juan County does not provide effective language assistance and equal voting opportunities to Navajos will go to trial. The Navajo Human Rights Commission and seven members of the Navajo Nation filed suit in February 2016 claiming San Juan County had violated the federal Voting Rights Act by closing polling places ahead of the 2014 election and moving toward a mail-only voting system, hindering access to the ballot box. The defendants — San Juan County, Clerk John David Nielson, and county Commissioners Phil Lyman, Bruce Adams and Rebecca Benally — filed a counterclaim against the plaintiffs, alleging the suit is based on fabricated claims and seeking a declaration that the voting procedures comply with the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Territories: Administration Argues For Rollback Of Voting Rights In U.S. Territories | Virgin Islands Consotium
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago will consider an equal protection challenge by plaintiffs in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who would be able to absentee vote for president and voting representation in Congress, if they lived in other U.S. territories or a foreign country, but are denied such rights based solely on their ZIP code, according to ‘We The People Project’, a non-profit that advocates for equal rights and representation in U.S. territories. According to a release issued by the nonprofit on Wednesday, on Monday, the Trump Administration unexpectedly filed a last-minute letter with the court arguing for the first time that if an equal protection violation is found, the remedy should be to strip away statutorily provided absentee voting rights that are already provided to residents of certain territories. As plaintiffs explained in a filing yesterday, the Trump Administration’s view that voting rights should be “leveled down” is unprecedented – for good reason courts are hesitant to strip voting rights provided by law.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner says officials need to take a proactive role to insure the integrity of our political elections. Speaking before the Berkeley County Council on Thursday, Warner said relentless media coverage reporting Russian hacking of recent American elections may have eroded citizen confidence, and consequently affect voter turnout. “If you keep one person away from registering to vote because they don’t want their information captured somewhere, or if they keep one person from voting, because they think somehow my vote isn’t going to matter, then they’ve eroded that confidence and they’re attacking the very fundamental foundations of our democracy — which is our electoral process,” Warner said.
Editorials: Votes for corporations and extra votes for property owners: why Australian local council elections are undemocratic | Ryan Goss/The Conversation
Imagine, for a minute, an undemocratic political system. Imagine a voting system in which someone has more votes than you because they own property. Or a voting system in which corporations have a vote – and maybe even more votes than regular people. A voting system in which, as a result, the power of your vote could be diluted by votes cast on behalf of corporations. This voting system isn’t something from Britain during the Industrial Revolution, or America’s Deep South in the 1950s. Instead, as my recent paper outlines, this way of voting is a reality at local council elections in five of Australia’s six states. It’s time for this to change.
Canada: Facebook to launch ‘election integrity initiative’ to prevent meddling of votes, ahead of Canadian elections | Reuters
Facebook Inc, under pressure over its role in possible Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election, said it plans an election integrity initiative to protect Canada’s next vote from cyberthreats. Karina Gould, Canada’s minister of democratic institutions, will speak at a launch event next week, Facebook said Thursday in a statement announcing the project. A company spokeswoman declined to discuss details of the project, which follows a warning by Canada’s electronic spy agency in June that hackers will “very likely” try to influence Canada’s 2019 elections. The agency said it is advising all political parties on how to guard against cyberthreats.
Barring an upset, the main uncertainty surrounding Europe’s most important election this year is not whether Angela Merkel will continue to lead Germany after next week’s vote, but who with and how long they will take to get going. Although a surprise cannot be ruled out in the wake of any Russian interference, pollsters say they are confident about their surveys, which show Merkel’s conservatives winning the most seats in the Bundestag lower house. The far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) is set to enter parliament for the first time, and some experts have said it may gain more support than the roughly 10 percent polls suggest, an alarming prospect for many at home and abroa
A round-the-clock vigil at the official tallying station, spot checks on the vote count at local polling centers and an encounter with a 102-year-old woman who stood in a queue overnight to be the first in line to cast her ballot all formed part of Reuters’ reporting on Kenya’s disputed election in August. As Kenya geared up for its historic election, the Reuters team in Nairobi devised a comprehensive strategy to provide fast and accurate election coverage. Our journalists who had been schooled by contested elections in 2007 and 2013 were keenly aware that the Aug. 8 election would play out against a backdrop of potential violence and allegations of fraud. “Kenya has a history of heavily problematic elections,” says Nairobi bureau chief Katharine Houreld. “So every Kenyan wanted to understand the electoral process. Everybody needed to know how exactly it was going to work – because that meant the difference between safety and needing to flee for your life.”
Russia’s liberal opposition is on a high after achieving a series of unprecedented victories in the Kremlin’s backyard at local council elections — including in the wealthy Moscow district where Vladimir Putin cast his own ballot. The United Democrats coalition — spearheaded by Dmitry Gudkov, a former opposition lawmaker, and Yabloko, Russia’s oldest anti-Putin party — claimed 14 districts in the September 10 elections, in some cases winning with a landslide. Opposition candidates held just one district before Sunday’s vote. The majority of the districts won by the coalition lie in the very heart of Moscow. In the Tverskaya district, home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents, the opposition took 11 out of 12 council seats. The coalition also recorded a clean sweep of seats in the Gagarinsky district, the Red Square neighborhood where Putin is registered to vote.