Two senators sponsoring legislation to secure digital election systems from cyberattacks are meeting Monday with state officials on the details of their proposal. Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are scheduled to meet with secretaries of state to discuss the Secure Elections Act, a spokesman for Lankford confirmed. The bipartisan bill, originally introduced last December, is designed to help and incentivize state officials to make cybersecurity upgrades to their election infrastructure following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The senators rolled out a revised version of the proposal in March, after some state officials, who are responsible for administering federal elections, expressed concerns with the effort.
When Young Mie Kim began studying political ads on Facebook in August of 2016—while Hillary Clinton was still leading the polls— few people had ever heard of the Russian propaganda group, Internet Research Agency. Not even Facebook itself understood how the group was manipulating the platform’s users to influence the election. For Kim, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the goal was to document the way the usual dark money groups target divisive election ads online, the kind that would be more strictly regulated if they appeared on TV. She never knew then she was walking into a crime scene. Over the last year and a half, mounting revelations about Russian trolls’ influence campaign on Facebook have dramatically altered the scope and focus of Kim’s work. In the course of her six-week study in 2016, Kim collected mounds of evidence about how the IRA and other suspicious groups sought to divide and target the US electorate in the days leading up to the election. Now, Kim is detailing those findings in a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Political Communication.
National: Congress, states don’t seem inclined to incorporate biometrics in new voting technologies | BiometricUpdate
While other nations are rapidly incorporating biometrics into their voting technologies, the US Congress and states – and local jurisdictions – don’t seem to be all that concerned about utilizing biometrics to verify the identities of individuals voting in America, despite the concerns over election machine cyber-tampering that’s continued to mount since the 2016 elections. In its report, Observations on Voting Equipment Use and Replacement (PDF), which was requested by lawmakers, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) — Congress’ investigative arm — “did not consider the issue of biometrics as part of our work,” Biometric Update was told by Rebecca Gambler, Director, Homeland Security & Justice issues at GAO. In fact, Gambler said, “GAO’s prior work on elections issues also has not addressed biometrics, and thus, we don’t have background or insights to share in this area.”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill gathered federal, state and local officials for a meeting Monday to work on strengthening Connecticut’s election cybersecurity before ballots are cast in November. “2018 will be one of the most closely watched elections in our nation’s history,” said Merrill. “We are going to ensure through this task force the people in Connecticut know every vote will be counted, every voice will be heard.” Representatives from Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard, several state agencies, legislators and local election officials discussed how to block hackers and improve communications across the 169 towns running Connecticut’s elections.
Colorado: A federal judge dismissed the ‘Hamilton Elector’ lawsuit in Colorado. But that’s what they wanted. | The Colorado Independent
A federal judge in Colorado on Tuesday dismissed a case its plaintiffs hope will eventually bring more clarity to how members of the Electoral College should vote in presidential elections. And a dismissal is actually just what the plaintiffs wanted. They expect an appeal could bring their case before the nation’s highest court. At issue is a lawsuit by three members of the 2016 class of Colorado’s Electoral College who argued that Colorado GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to officially cast their national electoral ballots for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Daniel dismissed the case— and in doing so, helped get the legal question potentially further up the legal chain on an appeal and perhaps, eventually, before the United States Supreme Court, which is what the plaintiffs ultimately want.
High school students marched to protest for gun control after the Parkland shooting in Florida and soon they might be marching straight to the voting booth in the nation’s capital. Washington is on track to become the first place in the country to allow people as young as 16 to vote in federal elections, including for president, as the nation glimpses the emerging political power of the generation that follows millennials. It’s part of a burgeoning movement in the U.S. and abroad as a growing number of cities and states consider ways to expand voting rights to younger people.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet formally asked a federal appeals court Monday to delay a judge’s order to revamp the state’s system of restoring voting rights to convicted felons. The four statewide officials say a delay pending an appeal is necessary to avoid “chaos and uncertainty” in two upcoming elections in Florida. The request for a stay was filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta 10 days before the effective date of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s order that directs the state to scrap an unconstitutional vote restoration process and replace it by April 26.
All nine members of U.S. Congress representing Maryland requested this month that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan bolster the state’s election security and infrastructure before the 2018 midterms. Gov. Hogan agreed. In a letter to the governor, lawmakers wrote, “With the 2018 midterm elections fast approaching, we hope you will work quickly and collaboratively with the Maryland State Board of Elections to ensure Maryland has access to this critical federal funding.” Maryland is one of 21 states that was notified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last year that Russia attempted to hack their election system. Though the tallying of votes was not thought to have been affected, and many states were only scanned by Russian actors, legislators hope that this new election security funding will prevent future hacks.
Pennsylvania: State will receive funding to upgrade voting machines, but will it be enough? | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Federal funding slated for an upgrade of Pennsylvania’s voting machines might fall far short of what’s needed, forcing counties to take on the financial burden. The state is expected to get $13.5 million to upgrade machines in time for the 2020 presidential election. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, that would only be enough to cover 17 to 27 percent of the cost to replace Pennsylvania’s machines with optical scan voting systems, which leave paper trails. The commonwealth requested last week that each county have these machines — which cybersecurity experts say are an important step in preventing election meddling — by 2020, and preferably in time for the November 2019 election.
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia won’t have new voting machines in place for 2020 election, commissioner says | WHYY
Pennsylvania has told its counties to install new voting machines, if those now in service don’t have a “paper trail” that can be used for a recount. Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres set a Dec. 31, 2019, deadline for replacing the machines, in order to have new systems in place statewide for the 2020 presidential election. But Philadelphians won’t be casting their next vote for president on updated equipment. Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said the city will find machines by the deadline, but they will not be put in service. “I think that we are on track in the city of Philadelphia to have new equipment selected by the close of 2019,” she said.
The mechanic finishes repairing your car. “I fixed that power steering lines,” he says. “But I noticed the clutch is about to fail. Maybe next week or next month, but you’re living on borrowed time.” So what do you do? You have him install a new clutch, of course. It’s too dangerous not to. Alarmingly, Texas policy makers have not applied this logic to our state’s voting systems. Cyber experts have warned that many electronic voting machines used in Texas and 13 other states are vulnerable to hacking because they do not produce paper records as a backup. But in recent months, counties have spent millions of dollars on new voting machines that, yet again, do not keep paper records.
Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, has set May 17 as the referendum date for a controversial constitutional reform, according to a presidential decree signed on Sunday March 18. The election could allow President Nkurunziza, 54, who has been in office since 2005, to remain in power until 2034. The decree specifies that the reform will be adopted if the proportion of favorable votes is 50% plus one vote, and that parties or individuals wishing to participate in the campaign for or against this reform must register with the Independent National Electoral Commission ( CENI) between March 23 and April 6.
Tens of thousands of Hungarians demonstrated in Budapest Saturday against the re-elected Fidesz-KDNP coalition led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Opponents of the government flooded from the Opera House to Parliament to protest at what they say is an unfair electoral system, according to media reports. Orbán won a third straight term in power in elections on April 8 on the back of a strongly anti-immigrant campaign. The incumbent coalition has regained a two-thirds supermajority in the National Assembly, with final results showing that Fidesz and its ally the Christian Democratic Peopleʼs Party (KDNP) won 133 seats in the 199-seat legislature. Opposition protesters complained that Hungary’s electoral rules – a hybrid of first-past-the-post voting and proportional representation – have given the governing coalition such a large majority in Parliament despite it winning only around 49% of the popular vote.
Supreme Court of Pakistan recently called a briefing where National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) presented the online voting system for overseas Pakistanis. Chief Justice Saqib Nisar led a three-member bench to resume the hearing of a case referring to the voting rights of overseas Pakistanis. The hearing was attended by the officials of Election Commission of Pakistan, parliamentarians, representatives of political parties and faculty experts from reputable universities of Pakistan. … The online system has been integrated with the web portals of ECP and NADRA. To cast a vote, an overseas Pakistani who wishes to use the system must have a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), a machine-readable passport and a valid email address to register on the website. The eligibility of the voter will be verified by the 13-digit NICOP number, its issuance date, tracking number and passport number of the machine-readable passport. After the validation of eligibility, the identity of the voter will be confirmed if they answer two verification questions asked by the system.
The debate over a lower voting age is heating up in South Korea, with the older and younger generations clashing ahead of upcoming local elections. Under current laws, South Koreans younger than 19 years of age can’t cast a vote, join a party or participate in election campaigns, while candidates have to be at least 25 years old. President Moon Jae-in proposed a constitutional reform bill last month that would lower the country’s voting age from 19 to 18 when passed. Since then, the issue of a lower voting age has dominated the political discourse, drawing both support and criticism.
In response to a letter organised by Webroots Democracy and co-signed by 30 leading academics and charity bosses, Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick MSP has reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to the trialling of an electronic voting system. The government outlined its commitment to improving its online services as part of the Digital Strategy for Scotland, this trial is part of that mission statement. … Scottish director of Open Rights Group, Matthew Rice said: “We have got to think what would happen if a foreign actor was interested in the outcome of our elections. It [electronic voting] always introduces security risks. We are saying that it should not be rolled out.” Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo told DIGIT: “We are deeply concerned about the e-voting trials in Scotland. It is vital in a democracy that elections are free and fair. But computerised rather than human ballot counting undermines transparency and risks serious security breaches.”