The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for September 11-17 2017

There was plenty of controversy surrounding the meeting of President Trump’s “election integrity” commission over an unfounded assertion by vice chairman Kris Kobach that the result of New Hampshire’s Senate election last year “likely” changed because of voter fraud. E,J. Donne examined Kobach’s claims in a Washington Post oped. But the real event was the panel of cybersecurity experts Andrew Appel, Ron Rivest and Harri Hursti. The trio presented a powerful case for voter marked paper ballots, risk-limiting post election audits and best practices in cyber hygiene.

Appel, a professor at Princeton University, said it would be easy to write a program that cheats on election results and deletes evidence of the hack as soon as the results are reported and all the experts observed that hackers likely would leave fingerprints only if they wanted to be spotted and hurt confidence in the U.S. electoral system. “To ignore the fact that the computers are completely hackable and to try to run elections, as some states do, where they entirely rely on the word of a computer program on who won is entirely irresponsible,” Mr. Appel said. A video of the entire hearing can be viewed here, with the cybersecurity panel beginning around 6:30.

A bipartisan amendment to the annual defense authorization measure aimed at enhancing election security is being offered by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Among the possible uses of grant funds to states authorized under the amendment would include paper ballot voting systems and post-election audits.

Lost amid the news of the Equifax breach, security researchers at the Kromtech Security Research Center found an unsecured database containing records on all 593,328 registered voter in the state of Alaska. 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.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced that he had ordered the removal of Kaspersky antivirus software that was being used in three counties after hearing concerns over the company’s possible ties to the Russian government. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on intelligence agencies efforts to determine whether Kaspersky’s software could contain back doors that would allow access to computers. This week acting secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke ordered federal agencies to develop plans to remove Kaspersky software from government systems in the next 90 days.

A New Hampshire judge has 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. The ruling set the stage for a deep review that is expected to take many months to resolve. Legislators on both sides of the aisle praised the decision, which will allow more time to sort out controversial issues surrounding residency requirements.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill next week that would allow the state Board of Elections to perform post election risk limiting audits of paper ballots as a way to ensure voting machines have not been hacked. The bill that was moved out of committee and sent to the floor where it is expected to pass next week. Rhode Island Governor Raimondo is on the record as supporting the legislation. 

Inexplicably, though American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, over five million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress. Six former Illinois residents living in these territories filed suit over this allegedly arbitrary distinction between the territories, seeking the right to cast absentee ballots in their former state. The Trump Administration Justice Department opposes the lawsuit and is predictably arguing for even greater restrictions on voting rights in the territories.

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. In a press release the party noted “that nobody can ensure that manipulation will not take place, especially now, when information about the security risk with substantial explanations has spread across the world.”

A pro-democracy start-up led by a former municipal representative and a former operative for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, has developed an app that significantly reduces the notorious bureaucracy involved in running for local office in Russia. The program called MunDep (for Municipal Deputy) is credited with contributing the unexpected strong showing of anti-Putin candidates in Moscow during elections last weekend.