Many experts on election security say the key to more secure ballots is to move away from electronic voting machines toward models that produce paper records of votes. But it takes more than just that, a former federal cybersecurity strategist said Wednesday at a conference for city and county officials. Mike Garcia, now a consultant with the Center for Internet Security, told the group of about 40 that attempts to undermine the U.S. electoral process are going to target more than just ballot boxes. “Voting machines aren’t the only place you can undermine the election process,” Garcia said at the Public Technology Institute event in Washington. “Adversaries are going to find weaknesses anywhere.”
As tech companies and government agencies prepare to defend against possible Russian interference in the midterm elections, the Federal Election Commission has a different response: too soon. The four commissioners on Thursday deadlocked, again, on proposals to consider new rules, for example, for foreign-influenced U.S. corporations and for politically active entities that don’t disclose their donors. “We have reason to think there are foreign actors who are looking for every single avenue to try and influence our elections,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who offered two proposals for new regulations. Both proposals failed on partisan 2-2 votes.
National: The FBI is trying to thwart a massive Russia-linked hacking campaign | The Washington Post
U.S. law enforcement is trying to seize control of a network of hundreds of thousands of wireless routers and other devices infected by malicious software and under the control of a Russian hacking group that typically targets government, military and security organizations. In a statement issued late Wednesday, the Justice Department said the FBI had received a court order to seize a domain at the core of the massive botnet, which would allow the government to protect victims by redirecting the malware to an FBI-controlled server. The DOJ attributed the hacking campaign to the group known as Sofacy, also known as Fancy Bear. While the statement did not explicitly name Russia, Fancy Bear is the Russian military-linked group that breached the Democratic National Committee in the presidential election.
Editorials: Russia will try again this fall. Congress doesn’t seem to care. | Karen Tumulty/The Washington Post
When top intelligence officials went to Capitol Hill one morning this week to give House members a classified briefing on the security of the upcoming elections, only 40 or so bothered to show up. In other words, 9 out of 10 lawmakers thought they had better things to do than listen to an assessment of threats to the integrity of a closely contested midterm that is less than six months away. “Well, it was at 8 o’clock,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) said.
The people who run Florida’s elections used to fret about having enough poll workers and voting machines. Now they talk about incident response teams and threat detectors. They buy expensive sensors that can detect malicious intruders bent on creating havoc. They field sales pitches from election vendors selling cyber-insurance. It may be a matter of time before elections workers have to pass a Level 2 criminal background check — just to be on the safe side. Absentee ballots are important, but so are “hacktivists,” computer hackers on a social or political mission. “A cyber attack is like a hurricane,” said Klint Walker, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security cyber expert. “It’s always brewing out there.”
Sixteen states have formally applied for federal money to improve their election security in advance of the 2018 vote. Florida is not yet one of them. The state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, says: “We’ve been working on it daily.” The state hasn’t specifically said why up until this week it hasn’t sought the money. Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered Detzner to seek Florida’s $19 million share of a $380 million fund, part of a spending bill that President Donald J. Trump signed in March. Scott also directed Detzner to hire five cyber-security experts.
A group trying change the way Michigan draws political boundaries rallied Thursday at the Capitol and urged state officials to put the proposal on the November ballot despite a legal challenge. The Michigan Bureau of Elections said Tuesday that Voters Not Politicians turned in an estimated 394,092 signatures, more than the 315,654 required, for a ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission that would redo congressional and legislative maps every ten years instead of lawmakers. The Board of State Canvassers was set to consider certification Thursday but on Wednesday cancelled the meeting, citing ongoing litigation. Organizers and volunteers came to the Capitol anyway.
New Hampshire: Bill on power to delay town elections fails; secretary of state candidates react | Concord Monitor
Keep your fingers crossed for good weather next March – the New Hampshire Legislature has failed to resolve the issue of who has the authority to postpone local elections. Though state law requires towns to hold annual elections the second Tuesday in March, nearly 80 communities rescheduled their 2017 elections when a storm dumped more than a foot of snow across much of the state. That sparked widespread confusion about who has the authority to reschedule elections. But before lawmakers could agree, another storm hit this year. The Senate later passed a bill, Senate Bill 438, to give the secretary of state the final say, while the House gave authority to town moderators. A committee of conference recommended a slightly modified version of the Senate bill, but the House rejected it Wednesday.
New Jersey: Poor Security of New Jersey Election System and Russian Hackers Prompt Move to Revamp | NJ Spotlight
Voting in New Jersey would go retro, using paper, pens and scanning machines, under legislation designed to increase the security of the ballot in the state. Not everyone who testified at the Assembly’s first hearing Wednesday on a new bill (A3991), called the New Jersey Elections Security Act could agree on what voting machines would be best. But all did agree that the state needs new voting machines with a paper trail to allow audits of election results to ensure their accuracy. “We must have an assurance that our votes are accurate and legitimate,” said Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic), both chair of the committee and co-sponsor of the bill. “Where is our democracy without our votes being valid?”
Wisconsin Elections Commission staff plan to hire a half-dozen new employees and upgrade software to bolster election security. The commission received a $7 million federal grant in March to upgrade security after Russian actors tried to access a state Department of Workforce Development system before the 2016 election. Staff told the commission Thursday that the Department of Administration has approved hiring six new four-year security positions, including an information technology project manager, an elections security trainer and a voting systems specialist.
Europe: Russian Election Interference: Europe’s Counter to Fake News and Cyber Attacks | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
In 2016, Moscow brought a threat that has long plagued many Central and Eastern European capitals to the heart of Washington, DC. Russia hacked the U.S. Democratic National Committee’s system and subsequently released the confidential material to the public in a clear attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.1 The cyber attack was paired with a disinformation campaign whose scope and reach is still being assessed more than a year later. The administration of then president Barack Obama was certainly concerned about potential hacking—especially given the malware attack during Ukraine’s 2014 presidential election—but all evidence to date suggests that the Russian government achieved significant success without actually hacking election infrastructure. The U.S. government was essentially caught off guard.
Puddles of sewage dapple the potholed road into Hastings, a tourist hub on Barbados’s southern coast. Tanker lorries parked by the roadside suck up stinking waste. The liquid forming one large pool at nearby Accra beach is not seawater. The governments of the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany recently warned tourists about raw sewage. Hotels complain of cancelled bookings, and a few businesses have shut. The stench comes at an inconvenient time for Barbados’s prime minister, Freundel Stuart, who faces an election on May 24th. If the opinion polls are correct, his Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which has governed for ten years, will be thrashed by the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). The parties do not disagree much on ideas or policies, so they fight each other with accusations of corruption and incompetence. The sewage crisis has given Mia Mottley, the opposition leader, plenty of muck to fling.
In an era rife with concerns about cybersecurity, election officials are increasingly turning to a decidedly low-tech solution: paper. While security advocates have long considered use of paper a best practice for election integrity, the pace of its adoption has accelerated in the wake of Russian meddling in the U.S. election in 2016. City and county governments around the country and a handful oif states, so far, have moved to replace electronic voting methods with paper ballots or to adopt electronic voting machines that generate paper receipts. Virginia last year, just two months before its state election, phased out all its old electronic touch-screen machines after a demonstration at a hacking conference spotlighted vulnerabvilities in its electronic voting machines. Voters across the state cast paper ballots on election day. In Kentucky and Pennsylvania, meanwhile, state officials have ordered that all new voting equipment have a paper trail.
Every afternoon in Samaná, a small coffee-growing town in the Colombian Andes, prosperous townspeople mount Paso Fino horses to ride from bar to bar, where they down shots of aguardiente, Colombia’s most popular tipple. Their tongues loosened by the anise-flavoured drink, they become garrulous on the subject of the country’s presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for May 27th. Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing former president, “is a horseman just like us”, declares Brayan López, a horse-dealer. He, and almost everyone else in Samaná, it seems, will vote for Iván Duque, Mr Uribe’s protégé, who is leading in the polls. As president from 2002 to 2010, Mr Uribe sent the army to expel from the area around Samaná the 47th Front, a unit of the FARC, a guerrilla group that had fought the state since 1964. The front’s leader, Elda Neyis Mosquera, known as “la negra Karina”, was one of the FARC’s few female commanders and is thought to have been one of its bloodiest. She turned herself in and is now, by Mr López’s account, an uribista. In all, some 220,000 people died in the war and perhaps 7m were displaced.
Iraqi authorities have launched an inquiry into this month’s parliamentary elections after intelligence services found that the voting machines used were vulnerable to hacking. The May 12 poll delivered a shock win for populist cleric Moqtada Sadr, who faces a huge task to form a governing coalition despite winning the most seats in parliament. But with the results yet to be ratified by Iraq’s Supreme Court, a government official told parliament on Thursday that intelligence services had conducted tests which showed it was possible to hack voting machines and manipulate the results.
On May 21, a group of Iraqi parliament members submitted a request to the speaker to cancel the results of the May 12 parliamentary elections. The group also called for dissolving the Independent High Electoral Commission, discontinuing electronic voting and reinstating manual voting and sorting, with many legislators saying the elections were sabotaged. The next day, six Kurdish parties of the Iraqi Kurdistan region threatened to boycott the political process if their demand to cancel the results in Iraqi Kurdistan and other contested areas is not met. However, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the two main political parties that came in first and second in the provinces of the region, did not join in on the complaints. On May 18, the Independent High Electoral Commission announced the results of the elections. It also said that ballots cast in 103 polling stations in five provinces — Baghdad, Anbar, Salahuddin, Ninevah and Kirkuk — had been annulled because of sabotage and suspicions of fraud. However, the commission did not say whether the cancellation of those ballots actually changed the results.
Ireland began voting on Friday in an abortion referendum that could be a milestone on a path of change in a country that, only two decades ago, was one of Europe’s most socially conservative. Polls suggest Irish voters are set to overturn one of the world’s strictest bans on terminations. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in favour of change, has called the referendum a “once-in-a-generation” chance. Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation will be asked if they wish to scrap a prohibition that was enshrined in the constitution by referendum 35 year ago, and partly lifted in 2013 only for cases where the mother’s life is in danger.