The halfway point between the election of President Donald Trump and the 2018 midterms has come and gone, and it still isn’t fully clear what Russian hackers did to America’s state and county voter registration systems. Or what has been done to make sure a future hacking effort won’t succeed. US officials, obsessed for now with evidence that Russia’s intelligence services exploited social media to sway US voters, have taken solace in the idea that the integrity of the country’s voting is protected by the system’s acknowledged clunkiness. With its decentralized assortment of different machines, procedures, and contractors, who could possibly hack into all those many systems to change vote totals? … Most states’ elections officials still don’t have the security clearances necessary to have a thorough discussion with federal officials about what’s known about Russian, or others’, efforts to hack into their systems.
In the face of overwhelming evidence that the Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, states are adopting auditing measure to detect any possible direct ballot fraud and give voters confidence in the results. After clear evidence emerged that Russia attempted to influence the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election by social media, and more directly by hacking election systems, state governments are embarking on a variety of efforts to use statistical auditing to verify election results. On Nov. 15, Colorado kicked off its first statewide statistical audit of its most recent election by using a statistical technique known as risk-limiting audits to establish the integrity of the vote. Because of mail-in ballots from voters serving in the military, the state had to wait eight days to receive all votes and initiate the audit. Risk-limiting audits, or RLAs, allow election officials to verify the outcome of an election by sampling a much smaller subset of ballots compared to a full recount. Verifying the results of presidential elections in each state from 1992 to 2008, for example, only requires an average of 307 ballots per state. The number of ballots required to verify the vote, however, increases as the contests become closer and eventually defaults to a full recount, in the case of an extremely close race. Colorado’s legislature voted to adopt an election-wide audit in 2010, and election officials began piloting RLA in 2013.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has rejected the idea that Sen. Luther Strange could resign his Senate seat, sparking a new special election and potentially blocking Roy Moore from being elected to the Senate. National Republican leaders have called on Moore to step aside as the GOP nominee following allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. Politico reported Wednesday that one idea GOP leaders have contemplated is having Strange resign his seat so Ivey could set a new special election. Strange was appointed to the seat in February when Sen. Jeff Sessions resigned to become attorney general. Ivey, the first female Republican governor of Alabama, rejected that in a Wednesday night interview with AL.com.
Arizona: Voting rights groups say state is in violation of National Voter Registration Act | Arizona Daily Sun
A coalition of voting rights groups is charging that state agencies are violating federal laws designed to provide opportunities for people to register. In a 15-page complaint Tuesday to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, attorneys for the groups detailed what they say are flaws in both state statutes and the processes used by state agencies in getting people signed up to vote. The lawyers say if the problems are not corrected within 90 days they will sue. Attorney Darrell Hill of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona defended the 90 day deadline. “The state has been aware of some of these problems for quite some time,” he told Capitol Media Services. Hill said groups have filed similar complaints in the past.
Colorado: State embarks on a first-of-its-kind election audit that’s drawing interest from out of state | The Denver Post
Colorado is embarking on a first-of-its-kind, statewide election audit that seeks to validate the accuracy of the state’s ballot-counting machines amid national concern about election integrity. The so-called risk-limiting audit involves a manual recount of a sample of ballots from 56 counties that had elections this year to compare them with how they were interpreted by tabulating machines. The exercise is drawing observers from Rhode Island, as well as top federal voting-oversight officials. “It’s a huge deal in the election world,” said Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which is implementing the audit.
A map-making expert brought in by federal judges to rework North Carolina’s House and Senate districts released his proposal Monday. Attorneys on both sides of the underlying lawsuit requiring new maps have until Friday to recommend changes for a plan that’s due Dec. 1 to the federal judges overseeing the redraw. That panel of three judges could accept that map, drawn by Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily, or stick with something closer to what the General Assembly’s Republican majority submitted earlier this year. The attorneys who initially sued to change the state’s maps argue that the GOP’s redraw didn’t fully address the racial gerrymander found by the judges and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ohio: Lawsuit against Jon Husted by blind Ohio voters is revived by appeals court | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal appeals court on Monday revived a lawsuit filed by a national advocacy group for the visually impaired against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that says the state’s voting regulations violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The National Federation of the Blind’s 2015 lawsuit alleges that the state’s system of only allowing absentee voters to cast their ballots on paper infringes on the right of blind people to vote privately and independently. Senior U.S. District Judge George Smith had dismissed the lawsuit, which also included three blind Ohio voters as plaintiffs, before either the advocacy group or Husted had conducted any discovery. A three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said the dismissal was premature. The 6th Circuit’s decision means the case will be sent back to Smith to be litigated.
Virginia: Virginia judge won’t force count of 55 absentee ballots in close delegate race | The Washington Post
A federal judge in Alexandria declined Friday to force a count of 55 absentee ballots that could help determine control of the Virginia House of Delegates. In the race to fill the seat held by retiring Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Republican Robert Thomas is ahead of Joshua Cole by 82 votes. Cole’s campaign filed suit arguing that 55 absentee ballots that arrived in Stafford County the day after the Nov. 7 election were late because of postal-office problems and should be counted. Judge Claude M. Hilton disagreed. “These ballots were late,” he said. Everyone, Hilton added, wonders sometimes “what’s wrong with the mail.” But he saw no evidence of “improprieties” here.
Changes at the U.S. Postal Service may be a key reason hundreds of absentee ballots submitted across Virginia will not count — including 55 ballots in tight races in Stafford County. Former Virginia Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer, now a fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center focused on election improvements, said changes that added two days to standard processing times for First Class mail, among other things, have made it less likely that even ballots mailed the Friday before an election arrive in time to be counted. In Virginia, only ballots received before polls close can be counted under current law; the postmark does not matter.
Kaspersky, the Russian cybersecurity company accused of helping the Kremlin spy on the U.S. intelligence agencies as part of its 2016 election meddling, has launched a new product aimed at helping secure online voting and make elections more transparent and open. Polys, an online voting platform built using the same blockchain technology that underpins bitcoin, allows anyone to conduct “secure, anonymous, and scalable online voting with results that cannot be altered by participants or organizers,” the company said. Kaspersky is already speaking to a number of “politicians and political organizations in Europe” about using the system, and it says that countries in western Europe, Scandinavia and Asia are technologically and mentally ready to make the change to online voting. But one place Kaspersky will not be hawking Polys is Washington.
In order to ensure the security of online voting systems used in Switzerland, the government needs to issue a challenge to the worldwide hacker community, offering rewards to anyone who can “blow holes in the system”, says a computer scientist in parliament. Since it began in 2000, Switzerland’s e-voting project has been a matter of controversy. While some have been calling for its introduction to be fast-tracked in all the country’s 26 cantons, others would like to see the project slowed. In parliament there has been a call for a moratorium on electronic voting in the whole country for four years, except for the Swiss abroad. To put an end to all the concerns and convince the critics that security and secrecy of online voting can be guaranteed, Radical Party parliamentarian Marcel Dobler thinks there needs to be an unequivocal demonstration that systems used in Switzerland are proof against computer piracy. The best way to do this, he says, is to invite hackers to target them.
It’s been almost a year since Election Day 2016, but the campaign news hasn’t stopped. October 30th brought the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. On Tuesday and Wednesday, representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter faced congressional grilling over widespread Russian influence on their platforms. Also on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice is considering charging Russian government officials for crimes related to the Democratic National Committee hack. Amid the flurry, it’s easy to blur these conversations—especially because they all seem to feature Russia. But the election-hacking conversation desperately needs to be untangled. Whatever other revelations may come, it helps to remember that election hacking is really about three separate threats: hacking voters, hacking votes, and causing disruption or chaos.
Emboldened both by President Donald Trump’s claim that millions of noncitizens voted in 2016 and by his creation of a panel to investigate the alleged fraud, lawmakers in several states want to require people registering to vote to provide proof of their citizenship – even though federal registration forms don’t require it. This year at least four states – Kansas, Maryland, Texas and Virginia – considered proof of citizenship measures, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. That means residents must provide documentation such as a passport or birth certificate when registering to vote.
National: Jared Kushner failed to disclose emails sent to Trump team about WikiLeaks and Russia | The Guardian
Jared Kushner shared emails within Donald Trump’s team about WikiLeaks and a “backdoor overture” from Russia during the 2016 election campaign and failed to turn them over to investigators, it emerged on Thursday. Senators said that a disclosure of files to their committee by Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, “appears to have been incomplete” and was missing “documents that are known to exist but were not included”. They said in a letter to Kushner’s attorney that they knew of emails received and then sent on by Kushner during the campaign that appear relevant to inquiries into alleged collusion between Moscow and Trump’s team.
With national attention on Alabama’s Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones, and Republican Roy Moore, WAAY 31 wanted to know how write-in votes would be counted. “I will be voting for Roy Moore,” said Tuscumbia resident, Anethea Harper. Harper said she trusts Moore and, if she votes, then her ballot will go to him. The former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice is accsued of sexual misconduct by multiple women. “If he’s guilty then I think he will do the right thing and step aside,” said Harper.
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is increasing the pressure on President Trump’s election fraud commission to release documents he says have been withheld from him. Dunlap, who is a member of the president’s commission, announced Thursday that he has asked a federal court for an injunction in his request that is designed to force the commission to share records and meeting materials. If granted, the injunction would shorten the timeframe for the commission to respond to his complaint from two months to one week.
Nevada: State, county election officials say Democratic challenge to recalls should be tossed | The Nevada Independent
Clark County and Nevada election officials are asking a federal court judge to deny or throw out a preliminary stay of special Republican-backed recall elections targeting two state senators. In several filings submitted Thursday in a Las Vegas federal court, attorneys for Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske sharply criticized arguments made by Democratic attorneys seeking to block special elections of the targeted state senators — Democrats Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro. An effort to recall Independent Sen. Patricia Farley fell short last week.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio’s executive director spoke to a crowd of nearly 100 students, faculty and community members Tuesday about voter suppression in America and Ohio, as well as Ohio University’s controversial “Freedom of Expression” policy. J. Bennett Guess, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, said during the talk at the Athena Cinema that Ohio Secretary of State John Husted has been engaged actively in purging people from the voter rolls in Ohio, an effort that Guess contends disproportionately impacts economically disadvantaged people of color (who typically vote Democratic).
In spite of a growing bipartisan citizens’ movement across Pennsylvania for redistricting reform to end gerrymandering, House Bill 722 is stalled in committee. As the majority chairman of the House State Government Committee, Rep. Metcalfe is the only person who can move this bill forward. We are urging him to schedule HB 722 for action. A call to his office to find out why he has not moved on a bill that will restore integrity to our election process so that every person’s vote counts has gone unanswered.
The Rhode Island Board of Elections has started the process of changing one of its rules in response to a complaint filed by a former GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ken Block, who has testified before President Trump’s commission on voting irregularities. Block filed a complaint in September with the U.S. Justice Department, alleging the state was violating a federal voting regulation by failing to collect Social Security or driver’s license numbers from new voters.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sacked the chairman of the country’s Independent Election Commission on Wednesday, raising doubts over whether parliamentary and council ballots scheduled for next year will take place as planned. Najibullah Ahmadzai, head of the body charged with organizing the elections, had faced growing pressure following repeated delays to preparations for them and had lost the support of both Ghani and disillusioned foreign donors. The 2018 votes are seen as dry runs for a presidential election in 2019 and a key test of the progress made by Afghanistan’s Western-backed government towards establishing durable democratic institutions.
Kenya’s Supreme Court is in its last day of hearing arguments on two petitions contesting results of the October 26 presidential election. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner by a landslide after challenger Raila Odinga urged his supporters to boycott the poll, which was a re-run of the August election the court declared invalid. The two petitions were filed by a former lawmaker, Harun Mwau, and two human rights defenders, Njonjo Mue and Khalef Khalifa. The petitioners argued the electoral commission committed illegalities by going ahead with the election in spite of opposition leader Raila Odinga pulling out of the race.
The U.S. embassy in Liberia on Wednesday defended the credibility of last month’s presidential election there, amid allegations of irregularities and fraud that have delayed a run-off poll. First-round winner George Weah, a former international football star, was initially set to face the runner-up, Vice-President Joseph Boakai, last week to determine who will replace current term-limited President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But the third-place finisher, Charles Brumskine, contested the outcome of the first round, claiming gross irregularities had occurred and accusing NEC officials of fraud, an allegation the body denies.
The Election Commission (EC) website where voters can check their voting constituency and polling station by entering their MyKad number is not secure, tech blogger Keith Rozario said. The creator of sayakenahack.com, aimed at helping victims of a massive data breach to find out if they were affected, said in a blog post that the EC site was marked as “insecure by Google Chrome because it doesn’t even have TLS”. TLS or Transport Layer Security is meant to ensure privacy and data integrity between two communicating computer applications. In the case of a voter checking their status on the EC website, TLS would ensure that data travelling between the voter’s browser and the EC on a WiFi or data connection used would be encrypted. Without TLS, he said that someone searching for their voting information on the EC website could have their data “transferred in clear across the internet for anyone in the middle to see”.
United Kingdom: Russia used a network of 150,000 Twitter accounts to meddle in Brexit | Business Insider
Twitter accounts based in Russia posted 45,000 tweets about Brexit within the space of 48 hours during last year’s referendum on EU membership, an investigation commissioned by The Times has found. Data scientists at the University of Swansea and University of California, Berkeley found that over 150,000 accounts based in Russia posted content relating to Brexit in the days leading up to voting day on June 23, 2016. These accounts had previously focused on issues like Russia’s annexation of Crimea, before focusing their attention on the Brexit referendum, with the majority of tweets seen by the Times encouraging people to vote Leave.