Paper ballots may seem like an antiquated voting practice, but hacking fears are now pushing an increasing number of states toward a return to the basics. State legislatures and election directors are heeding warnings from Washington that hackers may tamper with electronic voting systems in the 2018 midterm elections. The U.S. intelligence community has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and that the Kremlin will try to do so again. On the national level, lawmakers have made several attempts to push legislation aiming to strengthen election cybersecurity through grants to upgrade equipment and to increase cooperation between the federal government and lower jurisdictions. So far, no such legislation has passed either chamber of Congress. Amid all this national attention, a number of states have started to act on their own bolster the integrity of elections they run. With these states, the focus has been on doing away with direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs) that don’t produce a paper record.
Before the 2016 election, at least 21 U.S. states’ registration databases or websites were targeted by hackers and seven states were successfully “compromised,” although there’s no evidence that votes were altered. As U.S. intelligence agencies recently made clear, the risk to voting systems continues in 2018. Foreign actors could target registration records, electronic voting machines or vote tabulations. Because American elections are controlled by individual states that employ a wide array of voting systems, a localized breach is especially feasible. Amplifying the danger is that many Americans will react to vote manipulation somewhere in the United States with doubts about election results everywhere. Even if this interference does not actually change an election outcome, people may use any breach to cast doubt on outcomes they don’t want to believe. This havoc is precisely what Russia wants.
Editorials: We can stop Russian election hackers in 2018 | Duncan Buell, Richard DeMillo and Candice Hoke/USA Today
The first ballots of the 2018 mid-term elections will soon be cast, but many Americans will exercise this constitutional right without much confidence that their votes will be fairly and securely counted. Partisanship in Congress and bureaucratic delays have left voting even more vulnerable to the attacks that top intelligence officials say will accelerate in 2018. Meanwhile, irrefutable evidence has revealed that Russia engaged in a multifaceted attack on the 2016 election through information warfare, and that hackers also scanned or penetrated state election infrastructure in ways that could lead to manipulation of voter registration data — and possibly change vote totals in 2018. We propose two stopgap measures that can be immediately implemented without waiting for funding or new legislation. Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.
Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.
An attorney for a Little Rock man challenging Arkansas’ voter ID law called the measure an end run around a court decision striking down a nearly identical state law four years ago, while attorneys for the state called the provision a proper way to verify a voter’s registration. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray didn’t say when she would rule on a request to block the law’s enforcement in Arkansas’ May 22 primary after a day of testimony and arguments from lawyers for the state and the voter challenging the measure, Barry Haas of Little Rock. Early voting for the primary is set to begin May 7.
Georgia: Bill to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines advances | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A proposal to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines passed a subcommittee Tuesday despite concerns that the legislation doesn’t go far enough to safeguard elections. The measure calls for the state to begin using a new voting system with paper ballots in time for the 2020 presidential election. State lawmakers say the state’s all-digital election system, in use since 2002, is outdated and needs to be scrapped after tech experts exposed security vulnerabilities last year in the same type of voting machines as those used in Georgia. … Critics of the voting legislation say the touch-screen machines, which the state tested during a Conyers election in November, are vulnerable to tampering because they use bar codes for tabulation purposes. Voters wouldn’t be able to tell whether the bar codes matched the candidates they chose, which would also be printed on the ballot.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint members to a combined state elections and ethics board this week, even while he continues to fight in court over the legality of the board’s latest iteration. Cooper’s office announced the decision Wednesday, two days before a new law approved by Republicans last month creating a nine-member panel is supposed to take effect. The Democratic governor has sued GOP legislative leaders three times — the latest lawsuit coming Tuesday — over legislation creating different versions of the joint board. The first lawsuit was filed in December 2016, just before Cooper got sworn in. A state board administering elections and campaign finance laws has been vacant since last June while the constitutionality of the combination board has been litigated. While election board staff performed their duties, policy decisions got delayed and contested municipal election results had to be settled by judges.
Pennsylvania’s tight congressional special election underscores the need for states to replace aging voting machines and use paper ballots as backups to ensure the integrity of vote counts ahead of pivotal November U.S. midterm elections, election security advocates said on Wednesday. Democrat Conor Lamb led Republican Rick Saccone by only a few hundred votes out of nearly 230,000 cast in the closely watched U.S. House of Representatives election on Tuesday in western Pennsylvania. With many states using antiquated voting machines and with concerns about potential interference in U.S. elections by Russia or other actors, there is rising concern among experts about the need to safeguard American balloting.
Pennsylvania: The GOP Couldn’t Recount The Votes In Pennsylvania Even If It Wanted. There’s No Paper Trail To Audit. | Buzzfeed
Republican Rick Saccone still hasn’t conceded defeat in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. But if he calls for a recount, his state’s use of older electronic voting machines guarantees that a real audit will be practically impossible. That’s because the four counties that make up the 18th exclusively use touchscreen voting machines manufactured by either Premiere or ES&S, and use no models that create a paper receipt, said Marian Schneider, Pennsylvania’s former deputy secretary for elections and administration. “Selections are written to computer memory. There’s no other record of the voter’s selection,” Schneider told BuzzFeed News. “Two different brands with the same kind of interface.” Any recount of such machines wouldn’t produce a formal audit. Instead, it would simply ask a given computer to repeat a tally it had already given, akin to downloading an email attachment and then downloading it a second time, overwriting the first file.
Egypt: The opposition is calling for a boycott of this month’s election. Will it work? | The Washington Post
Later this month, Egyptians will go to the polls to reelect Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to his second term as president. An all too familiar scenario is playing out: Sissi is the only viable candidate. His sole challenger, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, is the head of a party that had endorsed Sissi before entering its own candidate at the last minute. Other potential challengers were threatened, intimidated or arrested into withdrawing. The regime’s harassment and deterrence of potential opposition candidates do not always lead to calls for boycotting. This time, however, 150 opposition figures and seven political parties came together to denounce the elections as a farce and call for a boycott of the upcoming polls. As with most boycott campaigns, the opposition’s decision has roused its share of detractors who dismiss the strategy as ineffective and even a threat to Egypt’s security. The situation in Egypt raises a critical question: Do boycotts work?
Russians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in what was more a referendum on giving President Vladimir V. Putin another six years in office than an actual competitive race. With cold winter temperatures covering the vast, continental country, more than 110 million people were eligible to vote from the distant Kamchatka peninsula in the Far East to the European enclave of Kaliningrad, where the last polls were due to close at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Gone were the Soviet days when there was just one name on the ballot and the winner habitually harvested 99 percent of the vote. The spirit was similar, however, with pictures of Mr. Putin and his campaign slogan, “Strong president, strong Russia,” blanketing the country.
National: Trump Administration Penalizes Russians Over Election Meddling and Cyberattacks | The New York Times
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals on Thursday in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential election and other “malicious cyberattacks,” its most significant action against Moscow since President Trump took office. The sanctions came as the United States joined with Britain, France and Germany in denouncing Russia for its apparent role in a nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, calling it a “clear violation” of international law. But the joint statement said nothing about any collective action in response. In his first comment on the poison attack, Mr. Trump agreed that, despite its denials, Russia was likely behind it. “It looks like it,” he told reporters in the Oval Office, adding that he had spoken with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain.
A bill to restore the vote to thousands of Connecticut residents is getting a hearing Thursday in the General Assembly. The Government Administration and Elections Committee is hearing testimony on HB 5418. If passed the bill would give some 4,000 people who are in custody but have not been convicted of a crime access to ballots, and it would restore voting rights to another 3,000 who are on parole. According to Kennard Ray, chair of the Full Citizen Coalition to Unlock the Vote, the legislation would bring Connecticut’s voting rights laws into line with every other state in New England.
Georgia: Groups threaten to stall Gwinnett County’s elections over voting rights suit | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Advocacy groups are asking a federal judge to schedule a trial next month to resolve their ongoing voting rights litigation with Gwinnett County — and they’re threatening to try and stall Gwinnett’s 2018 elections if it’s not. An alliance led by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and the Georgia NAACP filed a lawsuit in August 2016 alleging that Gwinnett County’s commission and school board districts were drawn to dilute the influence of minority voters. The subsequent time has been full of legal wrangling by both sides and, earlier this month, Judge Amy Totenberg ordered them to issue a joint statement regarding their positions on a dozen key issues in the case.
People would be able to register to vote online under a package of bills passed by the state Senate on Thursday by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Michigan residents who have driver’s licenses or state identification cards would be able to take advantage of the online registration. The bills, which passed on 35-1 votes in the Senate, were touted as a nod to the advances of technology and a convenience for Michiganders, by state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants Americans to believe that voter fraud is such a pervasive problem that it could even explain how Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. It’s one thing to point out that the overwhelming majority of political experts disagree with his assertion; even his own expert, however, won’t back up his claim. During a trial over Kansas’ restrictive voter registration law, political scientist Jesse Richman was unable to support many of his claims as he was interrogated by two lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Richman was testifying as an expert witness for Kobach, who has pointed to Richman’s work in order to back up his own theories about voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election.
Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she still wants to restore straight-ticket voting in which a slate of major-party candidates can be chosen all at one time. Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday said she hopes to allow straight-ticket voting in fall elections. The change would fulfill a campaign pledge. Also known as straight-party voting, the option was removed in 2012 elections by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran.
North Dakota: With election nearing, state of State asks for quick review of voter ID case | West Fargo Pioneer
The state of North Dakota has asked a federal judge to speed up his review in the ongoing battle over its voter identification laws as a statewide election draws closer. In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in North Dakota Friday, March 9, an attorney for the state noted that the primary election is just three months away. Moreover, absentee and mail-in ballots for that election can be submitted as early as April 27. Deputy Solicitor General James Nicolai wrote that “timely resolution of the pending motions brought by both sides is necessary for proper planning by election officials.” He asked U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland to “resolve this matter at the earliest possible time.”
Democrats have declared victory in the race for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, but GOP nominee Rick Saccone has not conceded — and Republicans have taken some tentative steps toward seeking a recount. Attorneys for Saccone have asked for “immediate injunctive relief” in federal court after a campaign lawyer was not allowed to observe the counting of ballots in Allegheny County, where Democrat Conor Lamb won massively. They sent letters to election offices in Allegheny and the district’s other counties requesting that ballots and voting machines be preserved, a step often taken before a recount or challenge. “We are waiting for provisional ballots to be counted,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “We are not ruling out a recount.”
Filing opens Friday for candidates running in South Carolina’s 2018 election — from the governor and statewide offices to congressional and S.C. House races. But hanging over this election season are two U.S. Supreme Court cases that could reshape the state’s elections. Wisconsin Democrats claim that state’s election districts are so politically gerrymandered — redistricted to favor Republican candidates — that they violate voters’ constitutional rights. In another case before the Supreme Court, Maryland Republicans claim Democrats in that state unfairly gerrymandered a congressional district to favor their party. The justices’ decisions, expected this summer, could change the way election lines are drawn for federal, state and local races in South Carolina and across the country.
Colombian government and military officials say the government is investigating tens of thousands of cyberattacks on the country’s voter registration systems, and traced the incidents to Russia’s key allies in the region. More than 50,000 attacks on the web platform of Colombia’s national voter registry were detected during the run-up to March 11 parliamentary elections, according to Defense Minister Luis Villegas, who said some of the hacks were staged from Venezuela, which has become a proxy for Russia. While Villegas did not specifically mention Russia at a March 8 press conference in which he denounced the ongoing incidents, he said three of the hacks — which each triggered repeated robotic attacks — were linked to internet addresses in Colombia, while one was identified as coming from Venezuela. Colonel Jose Marulanda, a Colombian intelligence analyst, said Russia was seeking a foothold in the region.
Voting in Egypt’s presidential elections for Egyptian expatriates begins on Friday morning. The voting committees in the embassies of Egypt abroad will open their doors at 10:00 am on Friday for a period of three days, according to the National Elections Commission the days announced are March 16, 17 and 18 to choose one of the candidates for the presidency. The candidates are President Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi, represented by the star symbol and candidate Mousa Mustafa Mousa, head of Al Ghad Party using the plane icon. The voting takes place in 139 committees in 124 countries abroad, at the headquarters of 123 embassies and 16 Egyptian consulates under the supervision of 714 Egyptian diplomats.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Iran on Thursday of “mucking around” in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking another term after a successful, U.S.-backed war against Islamic State militants. The ballot will decide Iraq’s leader for the next four years, when Baghdad will be faced with rebuilding cities and towns seized from Islamic State, preventing the militants’ return and addressing the sectarian and economic divisions that fueled the conflict. Among Abadi’s challengers are former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri, a former transportation minister – both of whom are among Iran’s closest allies in neighboring Iraq.
Around three million indigenous people in areas across Indonesia may not be able to participate in the 2018 regional elections and 2019 legislative and presidential elections because they do not have e-ID cards, an alliance said on Thursday. Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) secretary general Rukka Sombolinggi said around one million out of the three million indigenous people lived in conservation areas, which did not belong to any village or other administrative area. Another one million are native faith followers, Rukka went on to say. Although the Constitutional Court has granted them the right to state their beliefs on their e-ID cards, they are still facing problems when they want to cite their religious preferences, she added.
In recent months, billboards around Russia have been advertising the coming presidential elections with the colours of the Russian flag and the message “Our country, our president, our choice”. Millions will vote on March 18th, but they will not have much choice at all. Vladimir Putin, who has already ruled for longer than any Russian leader since Stalin, has managed to get rid of any credible competition and there is no doubt he will emerge victorious and embark on another six-year term. The fall of communism more than a quarter-century ago was supposed to usher in a new democratic Russia. So how is it that Mr Putin can triumph every time?
Two upstart Sierra Leone political parties said Wednesday they had filed complaints over this month’s elections after failing to make the cut for the second round of the presidential ballot. The National Grand Coalition (NGC) took 6.9 percent of votes in the March 7 elections to the presidency while the Coalition for Change (C4C) garnered 3.5 percent. The results left them far behind the two frontrunners, who go into a deciding round on March 27. The NGC — whose rise last year spurred talk of the emergence of a third party in national politics — is headed by Kandeh Yumkella, a former figure in the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which topped the poll.
The Constitutional Court Wednesday reserved judgment in a case in which three Zimbabweans are challenging provisions of the electoral court which prevent Diapsorans from voting in their countries of residency. The case was heard by the full bench of the Constitutional Court with the applications represented by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. Applicants are arguing that residency requirements imposed by the Electoral Act contravene the Constitution which provided for political rights allowing every Zimbabwe citizen to participate in political processes, wherever they were.