U.S. election systems are increasingly at risk for cyberattacks ahead of the November midterms as Russia continues information operations to sow political division, according to cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. State and local election infrastructure is becoming a more popular target for hackers, particularly state-sponsored cyberespionage actors, the Milpitas, California-based company said in a recent report, outlining risks to voter registration, polling places and ballot submission systems. Although the U.S. primary season is well underway, FireEye said it hasn’t observed attacks against election infrastructure as of March. But following Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, “malicious actors and nation states likely already have an understanding of the flaws in the U.S. elections infrastructure and will seek to exploit opportunities where they can,” the report said.
Kansas: SOS Kris Kobach’s office paid $1,000 fine in federal case with state-issued credit card | The Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach used state tax dollars to comply with a federal magistrate’s order to pay a $1,000 fine for misleading the court about documents in a folder he carried into a meeting with Donald Trump shortly after the Republican was elected president. U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara levied the penalty against Kobach after concluding he made “patently misleading characterizations” to the court about materials he carried into the Trump meeting in late 2016. The judge urged the secretary of state to avoid making unsupportable positions in such matters because it “it hurts his or her credibility when the court considers arguments” on more complex matters. Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said three weeks ago Kobach had paid the penalty “out of his own pocket.” However, a Kansas Open Records Act request of the Kansas Department of Administration produced records Friday showing the payment was processed July 21, 2017, with a credit card issued by the state to Craig McCullah, who at that time was deputy assistant secretary of state under Kobach and is now seeking the Republican Party’s nomination as secretary of state.
The federal government needs to take “bold” appraoches to increasing the cybersecurity of agencies, according to a report the White House released a report last week, which found serious deficiencies in the government’s risk management abilities. In the “Federal Cybersecurity Risk Determination Report and Action Plan,” the Office of Management and Budget and Department of Homeland Security determined that 71 of 96 agencies (74 percent) participating in a federal risk assessment process “have cybersecurity programs that are either at risk or high risk.” OMB and DHS also found that agencies are “not equipped to determine how threat actors seek to gain access to their information.” … Malicious software, or malware, is perhaps the oldest cybersecurity threat, with viruses and worms tracing their roots back to the 1980s. The authors of malware keep pace with improvements in security technologies, and in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game, go to great lengths to keep a foothold in upgraded operating systems and applications by developing stealthier and more effective malware.
Civil rights lawyers sued the U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday to try to stop plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The Manhattan federal court lawsuit on behalf of immigrants’ rights groups says racial animus was behind a recent announcement that the census will include a citizenship question for the first time since 1950. The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, claims the question intentionally discriminates against immigrants and will increase fear in their communities. It alleges census participation will be depressed, diluting the economic and political power of residents.
California: Los Angeles County officials say entire city blocks were left off voter rolls | LA Daily News
County workers are expediting the count of what is likely to be thousands of provisional ballots Wednesday due to a printing glitch that left nearly 120,000 voters off of Los Angeles Country rolls. A spokesman for the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office said an estimate of the total provisional ballots was expected to be released late this afternoon and the root cause of the error was still being investigated. In the wake of the problem, members of the Board of Supervisors summoned Dean Logan, the county’s registrar-recorder/county clerk, to answer questions during a weekly public hearing. Logan first offered his “regret and apologies that we fell short … I understand the gravity of it,” before assuring the board that there was no issue related to individual voters’ eligibility to vote.
Georgia’s Secretary of State, now running for governor, is pushing to replace the state’s voting machines after years of declaring the current system safe. Brian Kemp established the Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections Commission in April to study a replacement for Georgia’s current electronic touchscreen system, which does not create an auditable paper record, after efforts to get replacements installed in time for this year’s elections failed. The group will meet for the first time June 13, and will review options including touchscreens that print paper ballots, and ballots marked by hand with a pen.
Sara Hornick and her husband, Chris, took their children to Southwest Middle School at 8 a.m. Tuesday to showcase the democratic process at work. In the parking lot, a man was shouting. “Turn around. Don’t waste your time. We can’t vote, anyway!” Determined, she continued onward. At the desk where she’d normally verify her registration, a worker told her the electronic device — an e-poll book — wasn’t working. “Any idea when it will be?” she asked. “We have no idea,” the poll worker said, who then suggested she contact the Pennington County auditor. It was a scene taking place at polling places across Rapid City. More than half the voting sites, 16 in all, extended the closing time on Tuesday’s election day to accommodate a late start to ballot-casting thanks to a computer problem: The county-issued Dell Computers that navigated the new e-poll book service were not connecting to the secure hot spots provided by a separate router for each device.
Kansas: Kobach attorney says ACLU fees for contempt are redundant, excessive | The Topeka Capital-Journal
An attorney for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the attorney fees requested by the American Civil Liberties Union for a contempt finding against Kobach are unreasonably high. In the latest filing in a case over the state’s voter registration law, which requires applicants to provide proof of citizenship, Sue Becker argues $50,000 is too costly for a single motion. A federal judge issued the contempt ruling in April, a month after a hearing over the failure of Kobach and his office to comply with her orders in the case.
All 44 new electronic poll machines that were supposed to help citizens speed through the check in process at polling precincts failed Tuesday in Pennington County. The massive failure caused major delays in voting — and vote counting. And the glitch hit other counties in the state as well. This election was the first one that the new Electronic Pollbooks were used in every Pennington County precinct. They worked fine during a Rapid City water rate election this year but at 6 a.m. Tuesday election officials knew they had a problem. Poll workers reported that their machines were “timing out” and had to get repeatedly rebooted. They switched to backup paper logs but in 16 precincts the paper logs weren’t on hand and had to be delivered from the County Auditors office.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law. Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request. Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade.
Over the last decade, predictive statistical models have emerged that can uncover private traits about individuals without their consent. These traits, such as personality or mood, are predicted through various machine learning methods, using digital records of online activity such as social media data. Predictive models have allegedly been used by “propaganda machines” that target individuals with ideas or advertising. The use of predicted private traits has been shown to be an effective means of mass persuasion that can significantly increase product sales. Now we are seeing firms like Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ employing these tools for political causes like Brexit and candidates such as Donald Trump. Psychological profiling using social media data was reportedly used for voter suppression — discouraging people from casting their ballots — in the 2016 US presidential election. Cambridge Analytica claimed it used 5,000 data points per adult voter in the United States to create targeted ads for the Trump campaign.
Iraq’s parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of a manual ballot recount after allegations of widespread fraud in the country’s recently held parliamentary elections, a lawmaker said, a development that could further prolong the process of forming a new government. Hours later, a pair of explosions ripped through a mosque in a mostly Shiite district in Baghdad, killing at least seven worshippers, including two children. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts. Parliament member Mohammed Saadoun said lawmakers voted on the election bill, which in effect constitutes an amendment to the country’s election law and also includes cancellation of vote results from balloting abroad and in camps for displaced people in four Sunni-dominated provinces. “This is meant to correct the election results and bring the political process in Iraq back on track after it was proven that fraud and manipulation of vote results took place,” he said.
China: Could call to give vote to half a million Hongkongers in mainland China open door to voting rights for all citizens overseas? | South China Morning Post
The Hong Kong government has said it would consider giving voting rights to hundreds of thousands of citizens living over the border in mainland China, prompting the immediate question of whether this would be extended globally. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said at the weekly Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday that any arrangements for polling outside Hong Kong must be critically examined. “[We must consider things] such as how the polling and counting process could be effectively monitored as well as transportation of ballot papers and boxes to and from polling stations outside Hong Kong,” Nip said, adding that the relevant electoral legislation, any emergency risks and unforeseen incidents also had to be considered.
In most countries, politicians who warned that aliens were trying to influence an upcoming general election would likely find themselves ridiculed by the media and shunned at the ballot box. In Pakistan, where cryptic references to “invisible hands” wielded by “the boys” have long been part of the political lexicon, such talk is a staple of the campaign trail. Ahead of the July 25 vote, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cautioned that “aliens” (Pakistan’s military) will attempt to prevent his party from winning another five-year term. Others whisper about the role the country’s feared “angels” (intelligence services) might play. The colorful terminology is partly a reflection of Pakistan’s rich linguistic heritage, peppered with English terms such as “blue-eyed boy” (one favored by those in power) and “red lines” (forbidden subjects).
An upcoming referendum in the wealthy Alpine nation of Switzerland could be set to dramatically transform the global banking industry. Swiss voters go to the polls Sunday to decide whether the country should switch to a so-called sovereign money system. The referendum is attracting international interest because of how it reflects debates held by economists and lawmakers in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crash.