Dr. Vanessa Teague is one frustrated cryptographer. A researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia, Teague has twice demonstrated massive security flaws in the online voting systems used in state elections in Australia — including one of the largest deployments of online voting ever, the 2015 New South Wales (NSW) state election, with 280,000 votes cast online. The response? Official complaints about her efforts to university administrators, and a determination by state election officials to keep using online voting, despite ample empirical proof, she says, that these systems are not secure.
If you’re a politically inclined technologist, this is your moment. There have never been more rewarding career opportunities for your wonky, nerdy kind. Unless someone wants to hire you to figure out what to do about Russia. That job would suck, because it seems like nobody has any idea how to do it. The consensus last week at CampaignTech East, a two-day conference in Washington, D.C., put on by the trade publication Campaigns & Elections, was that tech-enabled shenanigans—whether masterminded by Vladimir Putin and friends or other bad hombres—are only going to further infect the U.S. political system. Everybody at CampaignTech seemed wracked by the worst-case scenarios that have happened already and are yet to happen. Half a dozen panels and presentations dealt with the specter explicitly—e.g., “Social Disinformation and Cyber Interference in the 2018 Midterms.” And sessions not directly focused on the threat still had a tendency, at one point or another, to circle back to the topic.
Editorials: Crosscheck is ineffective and insecure. But states aren’t withdrawing | Aaron Sankin/Salon
At least eight states have stopped using Kansas’ anti-voter fraud program because of its ineffectiveness, but put citizens’ personal data at risk by not formally withdrawing. The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program was supposed to help states scrub ineligible voters, but many states have for years found the program’s data to be inaccurate and burdensome to verify. Rather than immediately cancelling the free program, these states continued to send sensitive voter information — in one case, for nearly a full decade — through a system with serious cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Sending data through this insecure system had the potential of opening up millions of American citizens to identity theft. Based on interviews with state election officials and communications obtained through public record requests, the following states have sent voter registration data to Crosscheck without using the analysis received in return to clean their voter lists: South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Louisiana and Colorado. None of the states listed have submitted voter data into the Crosscheck program since these cybersecurity vulnerabilities were made public late last year.
Arkansas: Justices halt voter-ID ruling; voters must prove identities at polls this month | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared election officials to enforce the state’s controversial voter-ID law in this month’s primary and judicial elections. Only last week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray declared the 2017 law unconstitutional, but the high court, in a one-page order, halted Gray’s injunction. Since August last year, the law — Act 633 of 2017 — has required voters to show government-issued identification to poll workers to ensure their votes are counted. Secretary of State Mark Martin appealed Gray’s ruling, asking the state’s high court to stay the circuit judge’s decision until after the May 22 election, when the matter can be fully heard. Chief Justice John Dan Kemp would’ve denied Martin’s request, the court’s order notes. Early voting for the May 22 primary begins Monday.
Georgia: Nonprofit Sues Georgia, Seeking to Prevent Voting on All-Electric Systems in November | GovTech
Georgia’s Secretary of State office is facing a lawsuit over its use of an all-electronic voting system with no paper ballot verification backups, one of five states that currently use such a system. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia is holding proceedings for Donna Curling v. Brian Kemp. Plaintiff attorney David Cross said his clients are asking the judge for a preliminary injunction to stop Secretary of State Brian Kemp from using Georgia’s current all-electronic voting system in the November elections. The lawsuit stems from the alleged 2016 discovery of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Georgia’s Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) voting system. The plaintiffs claim that the Secretary of State’s ignored repeated warnings from cybersecurity experts and told them, in essence, to go away, according to a copy of the amended complaint. The complaint asserted that there is an “incompatibility between the functioning of the current electronic voting system and the voters’ right to cast a secret ballot and have that vote accurately counted.”
New York: Win for Election Transparency as Court Rules Ballot Images Are Public Records | WhoWhatWhy
Election-integrity advocates hailed the recent decision of a state court that could have a sweeping effect on election transparency throughout the country. At issue was whether electronic ballot images — the kind captured by optical and digital ballot scanners — are public records and therefore subject to freedom of information laws. That is particularly important because most Americans cast their ballots through some kind of electronic voting machine — despite their proven vulnerability — and ballot images provide the public with at least some measure that their votes are counted accurately. Therefore, easy access to these images is crucial. Knowing that the public has some measure of verification is an important deterrent against tampering with elections. That is precisely why this case from upstate New York is a major victory for transparency advocates.
Editorials: Ahead of the 2020 election, let’s address Pennsylvania’s election security so your vote can count | David Hickton & Paul McNulty/Philadelphia Inquirer
Exercising our right to vote is the purest expression of our faith in democracy. Without a shared sense of trust in the integrity of that vote, we risk becoming a nation dangerously divided against itself. Great vigilance would be in order, then, even if Pennsylvanians could rely on secure, resilient election systems and architecture. The reality, however, is otherwise. Today our state is among the most vulnerable in the country to hacking and cyber attack – a democratic four-alarm blaze just waiting to happen. Pennsylvania’s role as a perennial swing-state brings with it high stakes, close presidential elections, and even closer scrutiny. In 2016, Donald Trump’s margin of victory here – fewer than 70,000 votes – was barely one percent of the nearly six million votes cast statewide. We know that faith in the validity of our elections is a quality much harder to earn than to lose. That’s why, as proud Pennsylvanians who have dedicated our careers to justice, law, and education, we feel strongly that the time is now to address this vulnerability. We must come together as a commonwealth, as communities, and as citizens to make an honest assessment of Pennsylvania’s election security architecture, to diagnose and discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and to plan for a better, more secure future.
The shutdown of a county website in Tennessee — which briefly disrupted the display of election-night results in primary races — is under investigation, and occurred as officials around the country fear cyber attacks in this fall’s midterm elections. A server crashed, shutting down the Knox County website just as polls closed Monday night for local government offices, according to a statement from Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. The website was down for about an hour before officials restored it. “Although the crash didn’t affect the vote tallies or the integrity of the election, this is not something that should happen,” Burchett said. “I want to know what happened, and I think an independent review will help to determine that so we can move forward and work to prevent similar issues in the future.”
The new electronic ballot-counting device for the upcoming Iraqi elections is easy to be programmed and could be used to tamper votes from one party to another, an official from the Kurdistan Region’s electoral commission warned on Wednesday. Iraqi parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on May 12 across the country. It is the first time Iraq will use an electronic vote counter. Voters are still required to place their votes on paper ballots, but machines will do the counting. “An electronic system for elections is good, but it should be used in a country that has the rule of law—in a country that does not have militias or some political parties which have full control over the system,” Ismael Khurmali, the Kurdistan Region’s Election Commission Council’s decision-maker, told Kurdistan 24.
A trial of voter ID has seen people in England turned away from polling booths for the first time for not carrying the necessary documents, with other issues reported including abuse of voting staff and some confusion over what evidence needed to be shown. The local elections saw the scheme tested out in five boroughs in an attempt to crack down on voter impersonation, with the possibility it could be extended nationwide in future elections. The main issues appeared to be in Bromley and Woking where, along with Gosport, people had to show one piece of photo ID or two from a list of other documents. In the other two test areas, Swindon and Watford, only a polling card was required. In Bromley, south-east London, tallies by the opposition Labour group found at least 13 people turned away from just one ward, Crystal Palace. There were also reports of some voters being angry and abusive to polling station workers when asked to show ID.
Tunisia is hoping to break through barriers with its first local election since its 2011 Arab Spring revolution — a vote that could produce the first female mayor of the capital, the first Jewish official with an Islamist party and new flock of mayors with greater powers. The North African country is trying to consolidate its young democracy with Sunday’s election, in which Tunisia’s 5.3 million voters will choose local leadership from 2,000 lists of candidates. The top vote-getters are expected to come from the Islamist Ennahdha party and the president’s moderate secular Nida Tunis party, which govern together in a coalition. But nearly half the candidate lists are from independent groups that are pledging to address local issues.
National: Giuliani said the Stormy Daniels payment was legal. Here’s what campaign finance experts said. | The Washington Post
In interviews Wednesday and Thursday, President Trump’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani repeatedly asserted that a $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the presidential campaign was legal. “It’s not campaign money,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “No campaign finance violation.” The settlement with Daniels, made by Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen in the fall of 2016, was a “personal thing,” Giuliani later told The Washington Post. “Was the president really wise to take it out of personal funds rather than from campaign funds?” he added. “Thank God he did, [or else] he’d get a campaign finance violation they’d try to drum up into a felony or something. The president is personally protected.” But under federal campaign finance rules, a contribution is “anything of value given, loaned or advanced to influence a federal election.” A “knowing and willful” violation of those rules can lead to criminal charges.
Editorials: How voters lost the freedom to access the campaign website of their choice | Jon M. Peha/The Hill
The Senate may soon be voting on net neutrality. The net neutrality debate is driven in part by the fact that Internet service providers (ISPs) have the technical ability and financial incentive to act as gatekeepers, picking winners and losers in the Internet marketplace. Perhaps an ISP will favor a particular airline reservation website or an online newspaper by blocking access to its competitors, or simply by making access to competitors’ content painfully slow. These delays matter; Google found that a majority of viewers typically abandon a website if they have to wait just three seconds.
Republicans in the Arizona House on Wednesday pushed through a proposal to revamp the commission that draws the state’s political boundaries. The House voted 32-25 to approve the measure to overhaul Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, which sets political district lines that determine who represents voters in Congress and the state Legislature. The vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats in opposition, came as lawmakers were working to put together and pass a final budget. Any changes to the commission require a vote of the people in the form of an amendment to the Arizona Constitution.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that the state would hire special election security consultants in advance of this year’s critical elections despite state legislators rejecting a similar request earlier this year. Scott and state officials had asked the Florida Legislature to create a cybersecurity unit in the state’s elections office to combat a “growing threat.” The move came after an effort to infiltrate the state’s election systems during the 2016 elections. Legislators did not agree to the request so the Republican governor said the state would hire five employees under contract to assist Florida election officials. State officials said they would use a federal grant to pay for the security consultants.
Officials in Knox County, Tennessee, are trying to gather more information about a cyberattack that crashed a government website that displayed election results to the public during its primary election for local offices on Tuesday. Dick Moran, the county’s top IT official, believes Knox County was the target of a denial-of-service attack in which actors with both domestic and foreign IP addresses deliberately flooded the county’s servers with traffic to try and crash them. The county website displaying election results went down for about an hour as polls closed on Tuesday. The crash meant that people who went to check election results between 8 and 9 p.m. on election night received an error message, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. While the website was down, election officials printed out hard copies of the election results and gave them to reporters, WBIR, a local NBC affiliate, reported. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (R) said on Wednesday that the crash didn’t impact “vote tallies or the integrity of the election,” but that the county had hired a security firm to investigate the cause of the crash.
A local election in Tennessee is dealing with the aftermath of a cyberattack, and the county’s mayor is calling for an investigation. On Tuesday night, as polls were closing for Knox County’s primary races for the mayoral election, the county’s website displaying the results crashed. The page was down for about an hour starting around 8 p.m. before officials were able to restore it, according to the county’s Election Commission. … The primary election continued, with the county announcing that Glenn Jacobs, also known as WWE wrestler Kane, had won the GOP nomination by 17 votes. The attack did not affect votes because the county’s voting machines are not connected online, an election official told WBIR.
As Virginia prepares for the November midterm elections, the State Board of Elections approved a number of policy changes aimed at clarifying the voting process and making ballots easier to understand. On March 23, the board met for the first time since the Northam administration was sworn in. The panel unanimously voted to roll out new ballot standards for the Nov. 6 general election. The goal of the standards is clarification – including allowing candidates to use nicknames, more readable fonts and user-friendly instructions on the ballots. Each ballot will include instructions on how to vote. It will also state, “If you want to change a vote or if you have made a mistake, ask an election worker for another ballot. If you make marks on the ballot besides filling in the oval, your votes may not be counted.”
Washington: Secretary of State Kim Wyman asks Gov. Inslee for $2 million to fund prepaid postage for mail-in ballots | The Seattle Times
Gov. Jay Inslee is considering a request from the state’s top election official to spend $2 million to cover prepaid postage on mail-in ballots for this year’s elections. Secretary of State Kim Wyman made the emergency request in response to a similar measure before the Metropolitan King County Council. On Monday the county council decided to delay a vote by a week on a request sponsored by Councilmember Dave Upthegrove to spend $381,000 for prepaid postage for the Aug. 7 primary and the November general election. The request originated with King County Elections Director Julie Wise.
Election posters plastered on the bullet-riddled wall of a girls’ school in the Old City of Iraq’s Mosul pledge a better future for those casting their ballot at a nationwide vote. But the scenes of devastation that surround them almost 10 months after the Islamic State group (IS) was forced from the country’s second city belie the hopeful claims. “Iraq is moving forward,” reads an advert for candidate Laith Ahmad Hassan, standing for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance at the May 12 parliamentary poll. “We will continue the process of reconstruction and offer the benefits to the people,” says a poster for contender Fares Sheikh Sadik from a Kurdish party.
Lebanon is gearing up for parliamentary elections slated for 6 May, with members of the country’s large expatriate community having already cast their votes in elections that have been seeing complex and intertwining alliances. The last time Lebanese politicians competed for seats in parliament was in June 2009. Nine years and a new electoral law later, three main factors have come into play. First, the elections are being held after the ratification of a law granting Lebanese nationality to the offspring of expatriates, pushed for by the Alawite Free Patriotic Movement headed by Foreign Minister Jibran Bassel. The law may attract more Christian voters, since most Lebanese abroad are Christians.
Islamic State suicide bombers attacked Libya’s election commission in the capital on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people in the worst such attack in years that aimed to disrupt a nation-wide vote planned for later this year. The two bombers infiltrated the building in central Tripoli and fired on people inside, then detonated their explosives when their ammunition ran out, IS said in a statement circulated by its affiliated Amaq news agency. The Health Ministry earlier said the attack also set fire to the building, which could be seen in online videos showing thick black smoke billowing upward and security forces engaging in a gun battle. IS and other Islamic extremists in Libya oppose democratic elections, which the United Nations and Libya’s foreign backers are urging to take place this year despite security problems in the oil-rich North African country. Militants have often targeted elections in other countries, and IS has called for attacks on voting infrastructure in Libya.
Electoral watchdog groups in Malaysia said the voter list for next week’s general election had major flaws, including the existence of a 121-year-old voter, raising the spectre of possible fraud. About 15 million Malaysians are registered to vote in next Wednesday’s (May 9) election pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled for six decades, against a resurgent opposition led by former leader Mahathir Mohamad. A joint study of the voters’ rolls by electoral reform groups Bersih and Engage found more than 500,000 cases of voters registered with the same address, while more than two million were found to have no address. The groups highlighted 10 major irregularities they said affected hundreds of thousands of voters nationwide.
For generations Mexicans have been moving abroad, mostly to the United States, where they’ve often tried to leave behind the troubled politics of home. “I never considered voting iMexico” after moving to the US, says Sergio Guerrero, a shuttle driver in Houston, who left the central state of Puebla more than two decades ago in search of work. “Why would I vote for the corrupt politicians that created the conditions that [pushed me] to leave in the first place?” Mr. Guerrero asks. But Mexicans abroad play an important role back home, largely in the form of remittances, and, observers say, they are starting to wake up to the influence they can have politically, too.
Venezuela’s opposition on Thursday called for a boycott of the May 20 presidential election, urging those running against President Nicolas Maduro to withdraw their candidacy. “Don’t take part and leave the streets empty,” said a statement issued by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the main opposition coalition, which said it would be a clear sign “rejecting Maduro’s regime and electoral fraud.” There are only two challengers running against Maduro, both former supporters of the late Hugo Chavez supporters who have distanced themselves from the current government.