As states start receiving their slice of a new federal fund to enhance the administration of elections, an ensemble of election security advocates is calling on the officials to spend that money on things like replacing paperless machines and improving network security. Signatories of an open letter to election officials in all 50 states include subject matter experts from think tanks and universities, former state election officials and former federal government officials. State and local election officials have been deliberating over how to make the best use of a $380 million election improvement fund that Congress included in an omnibus spending bill last month.
A bipartisan group of former state election specialists, intelligence officials and voting experts have urged local state officials to ditch paperless voting machines as part of a $380m security overhaul. The funds were released by Congress to help states upgrade their election systems in the wake of Russian cyber-attacks ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed last year that a total of 21 state systems were targeted by Kremlin hackers ahead of the election. Although actual compromises were confined to a small number of states, there are fears that the hackers will use the intelligence they gained to potentially cause greater disruption next time around.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee will meet Tuesday to examine the federal government’s cyber mission, focusing in part on work to secure election systems from cyberattacks, according to opening remarks from Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Lawmakers will have the opportunity to question a top cyber official at the Department of Homeland Security who is leading efforts to provide cyber vulnerability scans of election systems and other services to states that request them. “The midterm elections are fast approaching, and I am glad to see the Administration and DHS working diligently to engage with the states, election agencies, and election service providers,” Johnson will say, according to a copy of his planned remarks obtained by The Hill.
The voting environment in America has been forever changed. That’s because the significant vulnerability of the country’s election systems and the fear of election “interference” by foreign or domestic operatives are genuine. With midterm elections only seven months away, this situation weighs heavily on the minds of both candidates and public officials responsible for ensuring secure and accurate election results. While hacking of American voting systems is a relatively new challenge, technical problems caused by the advanced age of most voting machines are not new. Technology in recent years set the bar for improved voting efficiency by replacing paper ballot systems with electronic voting machines. But the new technology, which does not leave a paper trail, tends to fall short when it comes to security, accuracy and attacks by hackers. Too many voting machines currently in use have not been replaced or updated in more than a decade, and a high percentage have exceeded their life expectancy.
A bill to modernize elections that had broad support from both parties ran into a partisan buzz saw last week when the Republican House leader stripped key items such as weekend voting. The legislation would have allowed Arizona counties with the proper technology to keep early voting centers open from Saturday through Monday before Election Day, giving voters three more days to cast a ballot. The current prohibition on voting during the weekend dates to when election departments needed time to mark paper rosters by hand to note who cast early ballots before Election Day.
Florida: Fearing court action, Rick Scott calls emergency meeting of clemency board | Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Rick Scott called an emergency meeting of the Cabinet for Wednesday in anticipation of a federal court not approving a delay in adopting a new system of granting the right to vote to convicted felons. Scott acted in the absence of a decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has not acted on the state’s request to stay a lower court decision that struck down the state’s system of restoring voting rights to felons and ordered a new system to be instituted by April 26.
Kansas: ‘Probably not worth arguing’: Kobach legal team mistakenly files draft with note | Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office on Tuesday mistakenly filed an unfinished document in the case over the state’s voter registration law. An all-caps note in the document declares a legal point is “PROBABLY NOT WORTH ARGUING.” Another section was left blank. There is a declaration that “it has been illegal in Kansas to register to vote for years.” The office later corrected the document, which was signed by Garrett Roe, a deputy assistant secretary of state.
Louisiana: State officials deny assessment, say they are working to prevent voting interference | The Louisiana Weekly
The Institute for Southern Studies compiled research on states’ election security and concluded that many states, including Louisiana, urgently need to improve. The recommendation follows months of research on the part of federal and state lawmakers as well as voting security experts, who began assessing the vulnerability of election procedures after Department of Homeland Security officials notified 21 states that Russian hackers had attempted to infiltrate their election systems during the 2016 presidential election. In Illinois, hackers successfully accessed voter registration information for tens of thousands of voters. … The Institute’s index includes extensive research from the Center for American Progress, which gave Louisiana a “D” grade for its voting security in an election security report released in February 2018, based in part on the state’s continued use of paperless electronic voting machines. Election security experts recommend that states use machines that create ballots as votes are cast, which can be counted in a post-election audit to detect potential manipulation of votes.
Some former convicts who want to regain voting rights in Mississippi say their lawsuit should stand on its own and not be merged with a similar case. Two federal lawsuits are challenging Mississippi’s system for restoring suffrage to people convicted of certain felonies. One was filed in September by the Mississippi Center for Justice and other attorneys, representing some former convicts. The other was filed in March by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other attorneys, with a different set of plaintiffs who had lost voting rights because of felony convictions. The state’s top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, filed papers April 5 requesting consolidation of the two cases, which he said are similar. They are assigned to different judges.
The Montana Democratic Party, assisted by a prestigious international law firm, is taking Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to court over approving signatures that allowed the Green Party to qualify for the general election. Green Party spokesperson Danielle Breck said the Montana Democrats have a date in Helena District Court on Tuesday afternoon. “The Montana Democratic Party, along with a couple of individuals, have filed suit against the Secretary of State saying that 180 of the more than 7,300 signatures that he validated of the more than 10,000 we turned in, are not valid, and therefore we should be removed from the ballot,” said Breck. “Tomorrow (Tuesday) there is a hearing to show cause and the Democrats have to show cause to move forward with the case.”
Computer security expert J. Alex Halderman has seen just how vulnerable many of the nation’s voting machines are to sabotage. Pennsylvania is among the most susceptible. A decade ago, he was part of the first academic team to conduct a comprehensive security analysis of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which are widely used throughout the state, including Bucks County. “What we found was disturbing,” Halderman said in a June 2017 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “We could reprogram the machine to invisibly cause any candidate to win. We also created malicious software — vote-stealing code — that could spread from machine-to-machine like a computer virus, and silently change the election outcome.” A Bucks County native and professor and director of the Center for Computer Security and Society at the University of Michigan, Halderman said cybersecurity is critical in the fight to protect American elections, “the bedrock of our democracy.”
Texas: White Judge Sentenced to Probation for Election Fraud in Same County Where Black Woman Received 5 Years | The Root
Right now, there is a black woman sitting in prison, reading about a Texas judge who was found guilty of the same crime she committed. She probably noticed that the judge was sentenced to five years’ probation in the same county that sentenced her to five years in jail. More than likely, she also noticed that she is black and the judge who was found guilty of turning in fake signatures to secure a spot in the Republican primary is white. On Monday, Tarrant County, Texas, Justice of the Peace Russ Casey pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record after an investigation found that many signatures on his ballot petition were false, even though Casey signed a form attesting that he’d witnessed the signatures, according to the Star-Telegram.
Texas: Judge dismisses GOP lawsuit that sought to remove dozens of Democrats from November ballot | Dallas Morning News
A judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that would have removed more than 80 Democrats from the November general election ballot, putting to rest a controversy that threatened to toss Dallas County elections into chaos. State District Judge Eric Moyé issued an order tossing out Dallas County Republican Party Chairwoman Missy Shorey’s lawsuit against Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Donovan and 127 Democrats originally listed on the March 6 primary election ballot. After the primary, the names of the candidates that were in jeopardy dwindled to 82. The lawsuit contended that Donovan did not sign the candidate applications of 127 Democrats before they were forwarded to the Texas secretary of state’s office. That signature, according the lawsuit, was needed in order to certify the candidates for the election.
U.S. Territories: Territorial voting rights case appealed to U.S. Supreme Court | Pacific Daily News
A federal lawsuit involving the inability of residents of Guam and other U.S. territories to vote for president has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court typically hears about 0 cases out of the thousands of petitions it receives each year. It announces its docket in early October, In November 2015, six U.S. citizens, who all are former Illinois residents now living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, filed a lawsuit in Illinois’ northern district court with the nonprofit groups Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific and the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands.
When floods swept through West Virginia polling places during the 2012 presidential election, the National Guard came to the rescue with tents and electrical connections. For the state’s congressional primaries next month, the Guard will be on the lookout for another disaster: Russian interference. West Virginia’s top election official, Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner, has embedded a member of the Air National Guard in his office to scour election networks daily. Short on funds and expertise, a number of Warner’s counterparts across the country are also tapping the Guard to bolster their cybersecurity before November’s midterms.
Incidents of political violence including an assault on one candidate and an attack on the office of another are casting a shadow over Lebanon’s first general election in nine years. The May 6 vote will take place using a complicated new electoral law. It is not expected to cause major changes to the government or its policies. Analysts expect Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri will head the next cabinet. But the law has made the outcome less predictable in some places. This has sharpened local rivalries and is encouraging parties to campaign extra hard.
Malaysia: Election Commission’s new rules disqualify use of Mahathir’s face in campaign materials | Channel NewsAsia
Malaysia’s Election Commission on Tuesday (Apr 24) issued new guidelines relating to campaign materials for the 14th general election. Only images of party presidents and deputy presidents – or their equivalents – can be used on campaigning material. This effectively rules out pictures of Pakatan Harapan chairman Mahathir Mohamad on most posters and banners in campaigning for the May 9 polls – a move the opposition decried as a deliberate decision targeted at the 92-year-old former prime minister.