For all the hubbub about election security in the US ahead of the 2018 midterms, there is one issue that almost no one seems to be talking about: old voting machines. A total of 41 states currently have voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, leaving thousands of systems vulnerable to hackers and other security risks that could compromise election results. With old voting machines come a whole host of issues: outdated software, machine breakdown, spare replacement parts that are near impossible to find. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, called on states to “rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.”
Media Release: Georgia: Election Integrity Experts Do Not Support the Current House Version of SB 403
Marian K. Schneider: The only people who are happy with SB 403 are voting system vendors who are salivating over the chance to sell many more machines than necessary.” The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, about why Georgia’s current Senate Bill 403 cannot ensure a verifiable and accurate…
Media Release: Senate Intelligence Committee’s Recommendations Outline Urgent Need for Paper Ballots, Post-Election Audits
Marian K. Schneider: “The recommendations…make the case that states need immediate federal support to build a stronger defense.” (March 21 2018) — The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report today about Russian targeting of election infrastructure during the 2016 election. Read the full set of recommendations here. The following is a statement from…
National: Key Senate committee concludes Russian interference; calls for voting reforms | San Francisco Chronicle
With unanimity, both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and urged their congressional colleagues to help states upgrade their balloting systems to ensure the integrity of November’s midterm elections. California was among the 21 states whose election systems Russia attempted to infiltrate, committee members said during a news conference outlining their recommendations to improve election security. Russia succeeded in penetrating the voter database of one state, Illinois, but the committee said it found no evidence that any votes were altered. The committee plans to issue a full report and has scheduled a hearing Wednesday with testimony from Trump administration officials and the heads of national associations of state election officials.
National: Senate Intel Committee gives Homeland Security its election security wish list | TechCrunch
In a press conference today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence presented its urgent recommendations for protecting election systems as the U.S. moves toward midterm elections later this year. “Currently we have an election upon us, and the past tells us that the future will probably hold another set of threats if we are not prepared,” Senator Kamala Harris said. The bipartisan committee offered a set of measures to defend domestic election infrastructure against hostile foreign nations. Before launching into the findings from its committee-wide examination of current practices, written up in an accompanying report, the group emphasized that states are “firmly in the lead” in conducting elections, although the federal government should work closely to provide funds and information.
A bipartisan group of senators leading an inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election called on Tuesday for urgent action by Congress to help states protect their voting systems from future threats of foreign interference. With the 2018 congressional primaries already under way, members of the senate intelligence committee outlined a series of recommendations – the first public release from the panel’s yearlong investigation – that they say will help improve the cybersecurity of the nation’s election infrastructure. “We’re now at a point where we’ve wrapped up one piece of our investigation, which deals with election security,” said Republican senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, who spoke alongside the Democratic vice-chair, Senator Mark Warner, and members of the committee. By and large, he said, “we need to be more effective at deterring our adversaries.”
Facebook is reeling from a series of revelations about private user data being leaked to Cambridge Analytica, a shadowy political consulting firm that did work for the Donald Trump campaign. Last Friday, reporters from The New York Times and The Observer of London told Facebook that Cambridge had retained copies of private data for about 50 million Facebook users. Facebook says Cambridge promised in 2015 that the data would be deleted. Facebook responded to the new revelations by banning Cambridge and several of its associates from Facebook. But this week the controversy surrounding Facebook’s ties to Cambridge—and its handling of private user data more generally—has mushroomed. British members of Parliament accused Facebook of misleading them about the breach and asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg to come to the UK to clear up the issue personally. Facebook has scheduled a surprise all-hands meeting to answer employee questions about the controversy.
Alaska elections officials are struggling to put methods in place to translate the state’s election ballot into an array of diverse Alaska Native languages. The effort to respond to a couple of court settlements has already resulted in materials in seven different Yup’ik dialects and some Athabascan Gwich’in languages. The state, expanding its effort beyond the court order, now includes a couple of Inupiaq languages. The effort is the subject of a conference that is going on this week at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. The law requires written ballot materials in minority languages, but one of the big issues is that many Alaska Native speakers never learned to read their Native language.
The Guam Legislature and the Guam Election Commission want to give residents a chance to kill two birds with one stone at the Department of Revenue & Taxation. Talks of automatic voter registration were up for discussion at today’s Mayors Council of Guam meeting. Both parties are hoping to gain support from local village mayors in their effort. Senator Regine Biscoe Lee and GEC Director Maria Pangelinan made an appearance before the Mayor’s Council special meeting today to discuss an important topic of the year – voter registration.
With the Illinois primary just hours away, state election officials are beefing up cyber defenses and scanning for possible intrusions into voting systems and voter registration rolls. They have good reason to be on guard: Two years ago, Illinois was the lone state known to have its state election system breached in a hacking effort that ultimately targeted 21 states. Hackers believe to be connected to Russia penetrated the state’s voter rolls, viewing data on some 76,000 Illinois voters, although there is no indication any information was changed. Since then, Illinois election officials have added firewalls, installed software designed to prevent intrusions and shifted staffing to focus on the threats. The state has been receiving regular cyber scans from the federal government to identify potential weak spots and has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. That assessment is scheduled but did not happen before Illinois’s second-in the-nation primary.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a tongue lashing Tuesday from the judge who will decide whether he violated federal law by blocking tens of thousands of voter applications. Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in “gamesmanship” and skirting her orders. In the nearly two years since Robinson ordered him to register those voters, she said, he has forced her and the American Civil Liberties Union to monitor his actions down to the tiniest details in an effort to get him to comply. “I’ve had to police this over and over and over again,” she said.
A Kansas voter registration law enacted in 2013 has stopped thousands of eligible citizens from voting and will damage the election process if it is allowed to stand, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union argued Monday as testimony ended after seven, often-contentious days in a federal bench trial. ACLU attorney Dale Ho said during closing arguments that the hordes of noncitizens accused of illegally registering to vote and stealing elections by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach “are not real.” He derided one of Kobach’s frequent statements that the 129 noncitizens he says have registered to vote in Kansas are “just the tip of the iceberg.” “The iceberg, on close inspection your honor, is more of an ice cube,” said Ho, who urged U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson to find that the law will not be imposed in Kansas.
Another aspect of New Hampshire election law is going to court: The ACLU-NH is suing over town moderators’ ability to reject absentee ballots if they have doubts about the signature, without telling the voter. At issue is state law RSA 659:50, which allows moderators to reject absentee ballots if they don’t believe “the signature on the affidavit appears to be executed by the same person who signed the application” for voting by absentee ballot, “unless the voter received assistance because the voter is blind or has a disability.” In a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Concord, the ACLU says that during the 2016, 2014, and 2012 elections, this law “disenfranchised approximately 275, 145, and 350 voters, respectively.”
Editorials: Uncertainty, intensity in Pennsylvania’s gerrymander case isn’t likely ending soon | John Baer/Phildelphia Inquirer
Many are asking what’s taking the U.S. Supreme Court so long to act on Pennsylvania’s gerrymander case. But another key question is, what happens once the Supreme Court acts? Tuesday is the deadline to file petitions to run for Congress.So, expectations are that court action is imminent. But even after the Supreme Court acts in what is a tale of high-stakes politics and political revenge, ramifications are expected for some time. “All we know is this isn’t over. What we don’t know is how long it lasts.” So says Michael Gerhardt, constitutional scholar at the National Constitution Center. He adds, “Everybody’s waiting for movement. And nobody’s moving.” You know the basics, right?
If a voter in Wisconsin sues the state to try and compel the governor to call a special election, they might have a hard time finding precedent for that action. A plaintiff in such a case can make specific arguments about what state law requires a governor to do when a state legislative seat becomes vacant, and perhaps broader constitutional arguments about the right of citizens to elect their representatives. But special-elections lawsuits are hard to find in Wisconsin’s legal history, and similar suits in other states have little to no bearing on how a judge should interpret Wisconsin law. On top of that limitation, federal courts haven’t really given state-level judges much to go on.
Lawmakers in the House of Peoples of Bosnia’s state-level parliament are to vote on Wednesday on legal changes approving the use video surveillance and scanners during polling. “We want voters to decide on the results of the election, and not those who count the votes,” Sasa Magazinovic, a member of parliament from the Social Democratic Party, SDP, told BIRN. Parliament’s other chamber, the House of Representatives, adopted the amendments to the country’s electoral law at the beginning of this month. Bosnia is not believed to have major problems with electoral fraud, although some irregularities were noted at the local polls in 2016.
Elections Canada is erecting multiple lines of defence to fight fake news, cyber-attacks and foreign interference in next year’s federal election campaign. Democracies around the world are grappling with new threats to democracy in the digital age, from foreign actors tampering with voting systems to the viral spread of disinformation through social media. With the U.S., U.K. and various European countries still reeling over the explosion of fake news on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, acting Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault said he believes Canadians are better prepared than many others to spot fake political news after the high-profile 2011 “robocalls” scandal and the recent U.S. presidential election. “I think there was a vigilance that emerged from that situation, and that is also, of course, built on the U.S. situation,” he said.
As expected, Vladimir Putin was reelected Sunday with a reported 76 percent of the vote, outpacing his nearest competitor by more than 60 points. The next morning, Ella Pamfilova, head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, claimed that the contest was one of Russia’s cleanest, with about half as many complaints of irregularities as in the 2012 presidential contest. But irregularities were still numerous. As Russians filed in and out of polling stations Sunday, reports and videos of attacks on election monitors and blatant ballot stuffing littered social media feeds. The videos came from Moscow, the Far East, Chechnya and Dagestan — among other places. So blatant were some of these acts that the results from several of these stations were annulled.
Editorials: Why Putin’s sham election shows what he’s afraid of | Vladimir Kara-Murza/The Washington Post
Autocrats have a talent for producing impressive election results. In the last elections they ever ran in, Indonesian dictator Suharto achieved 75 percent of the vote; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had 89 percent; Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu mastered an impressive 98 percent. My friend Boris Vishnevsky, a leading opposition legislator in St. Petersburg, likes to point out that Ceausescu still had a 99 percent approval rating in December 1989, just one week before his trial. As all these victors found out in the end, the results of manipulated “elections” in authoritarian systems are a poor indicator of the actual state of public opinion.
Following the presidential elections conducted in Sierra Leone on March 7, it was widely reported in the media that Sierra Leone had become the first country in the world to run blockchain-powered elections. These reports were based on the claims of a Swiss blockchain company, Agora, where it said that the country had utilized blockchain tech to tally and audit the election results. However, it seems that the company’s claims were entirely false. The National Election Commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone released an official statement on Twitter on March 18 to set the record straight. The tweet quoted the NEC Chair Mohamed Conteh saying that “the NEC has not used, and is not using blockchain technology in any part of the electoral process.”
Scottish Government proposals that could see electronic voting introduced may leave Scotland vulnerable to election interference by foreign agents, campaigners have claimed. With a consultation on electoral reform due to close on 29 March, the Scottish Government said it wants to “explore and trial the potential of electronic voting solutions”. This could help increase voter participation, provide “choice and flexibility” over how Scots vote and assist people who “find voting in elections challenging”. The proposals under consideration include electronic voting, as well as introducing technology to allow voting remotely over the internet or from mobile phones. However, critics of the plans have expressed concern and warned that future elections could be targeted by outside parties.