Homeland Security Department inspectors aren’t turning up anything shocking when they assess state and local election systems for cybersecurity vulnerabilities in advance of the 2018 midterms, an official said Tuesday. Most of what Homeland Security is turning up in the risk and vulnerability assessments are the same issues you’d see in any information technology environment, Matthew Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That includes unpatched software, outdated equipment and misconfigured systems. Homeland Security has conducted risk and vulnerability assessments of 17 states and 10 localities so far, Masterson said.
Foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections are still going on just five months before the midterm elections, special counsel Robert Mueller told a judge on Tuesday. Mueller made the assertion in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in his prosecution of 13 Russian nationals and three companies who were indicted in February on charges including interference in the 2016 presidential election. It says the government believes foreign “individuals and entities” are continuing to “engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment.” The filing seeks to protect evidence requested by one of the companies, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which provides food services at the Kremlin and is run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who prosecutors allege is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has had “extensive dealings” with the Russian Defense Ministry.
A group of Democratic senators is introducing a bill aimed at securing U.S. elections from hacking efforts, the latest response to attempted Russian interference in the 2016 presidential vote. The bill introduced Tuesday is specifically designed to ensure the integrity of and bolster confidence in the federal vote count. It would require state and local governments to take two steps to ensure that votes are counted correctly. Under the legislation, states would have to use voting systems that use voter-verified paper ballots that could be audited in the event a result is called into question. State and local officials would also be required to implement what are known as “risk-limiting audits” — a method that verifies election outcomes by comparing a random sample of paper ballots with their corresponding digital versions — for all federal elections.
National: Congress struggles with ‘more than 30 proposals’ to combat foreign election meddling | Washington Times
Congress is wrestling with more than 30 proposals “to combat different angles of the foreign election meddling issue,” according to Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley. The logjam of legislation — much of it pushed by House and Senate bipartisan efforts — comes as the 2018 midterm election season accelerates toward its November finale that will determine the balance of power in Congress and in statehouses across the nation. “There have been no fewer than 18 pieces of legislation proposed to combat different angles of the foreign election meddling issue in the Senate alone,” Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing exploring election safety and foreign influence.
State and local elections officials preparing for the 2018 elections are strapped for time and resources, but the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate is stepping in to help. Two weeks ago, at the request of the Elections Government Coordinating Council, NPPD released guidance on what states and localities should do with their share of the $382 million from 2018 Help America Vote Act Security Fund, said Matt Masterson, NPPD senior cybersecurity advisor, during a June 12 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. NPPD provided insights on where the money should be used to address risks in the election process. “We focused first on common IT vulnerabilities that exist across elections — things like patching, training for phishing campaigns as well as manpower,” Masterson said.
Another Democrat-Republican feud is showing that when it comes to politically charged hacking, politics may not stop at the water’s edge. The divide is focused on whether political parties should be allowed to use insider information that’s provided by hackers; similar to what occurred at the state level in 2016. Last week, a Democratic lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee introduced a bill that would punish federal candidates if they fail to notify the FBI whenever a suspected hacking group offers them political dirt. On Thursday, Rep. Eric Swalwell introduced the “Duty to Report Act.” The proposed law would make it a crime for campaign staffers to not tip the government off to certain suspected hacking activities.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 to uphold Ohio’s program of canceling registrations of infrequent voters — a decision that history shows disproportionately strikes minority and low-income voters from the rolls. Under Ohio’s program, which a federal appeals court had struck down as violating the National Voter Registration Act, registered voters who don’t cast a ballot in two years are sent a notice asking them to confirm that they still reside at the same address. If they don’t respond, and then fail to vote in the next two federal elections, they are assumed to have moved to a different county and are excised from the rolls.
Editorials: In Ohio, Supreme Court delivers GOP a victory in the war on voting | The Washington Post
Imagine this scenario. Like many people, you didn’t bother voting in the last election or two, because you were busy, or none of the races really interested you, or maybe you’re in the military and were stationed overseas, or maybe you just haven’t gotten around to it for a while. You vaguely remember getting a notice about your registration from the state board of elections, but you threw it away with the other junk mail. You know you’re registered, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Then, on the next Election Day, you show up to vote only to discover that you’ve been “purged.” Because you didn’t vote for a time and you didn’t return that letter, the state has kicked you off the voting rolls. Today, the Supreme Court said that’s just fine.
Maine: With first ranked-choice election, LePage says he ‘probably’ won’t certify results | Portland Press Herald
As Mainers headed to the polls for primary voting Tuesday morning, Gov. Paul LePage announced he may not certify the results. Tuesday is the first time in Maine when voters statewide will use a ranked-choice system, which allows voters to submit a ballot that ranks votes for candidates in order of preference. It is being used in both parties’ voting for gubernatorial candidates, a race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House in the state’s 2nd Congressional district and a state legislative seat. LePage, in an interview with WCSH-TV, called the voting system “the most horrific thing in the world” and said he “probably” won’t certify the results and instead will “leave it up to the courts to decide.”
Officials reported “isolated” primary voting glitches Tuesday involving the state’s new touch-screen voting machines in Nevada’s two most populous areas, and blamed the system for a technical problem that delayed the count of ballots in one rural northern county. Registrars in Las Vegas and Reno said a small number of voting machines failed to properly display all candidates’ names early in the day, and a state official and a member of The Associated Press election tabulation team said the vote tally was delayed for more than two hours after polls closed in Pershing County. In no case were voters unable to successfully cast a ballot with help from poll workers, said Jennifer Russell, spokeswoman for the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.
Ohio: No voters will be purged before November election, secretary of state says | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Monday’s Supreme Court decision upholding Ohio’s process of canceling certain voter registrations won’t affect elections held in August and November this year. No voters will be removed as a result of failing to vote for several years, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office confirmed Tuesday. Ohio’s 88 county board of elections were directed on Monday to not take any action to use the state’s “supplemental process” for removing voters from the rolls ahead of the November election. The supplemental process allows elections officials to cancel registrations if a voter has not cast a ballot in two years and then fails to vote or respond to a notice within the following four years.
Pennsylvania: After 2016 Russian hack attempts on voter data, registration system to be audited | Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Monday that his office will evaluate the security of the state’s voter-registration system, a target of Russian hackers before the 2016 presidential election. Pennsylvania was one of 21 states whose election data were sought by Russian hackers, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said last year. Though there was no evidence of a breach, DePasquale said, the revelation prompted him and others to test the system’s security. “This is something that has been talked about both locally and nationally for quite some time,” DePasquale said. “I believe it is the right time to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure our voting system in Pennsylvania is secure.”
The General Assembly turned down a request from the State Election Commission and Gov. Henry McMaster to expedite the replacement of the state’s aging voting machines, providing only $4 million of a $20 million request to get going on a project expected to cost about $50 million over two years. With heightened concerns over election tampering, lawmakers should reconsider their decision as soon as possible. Even if all of the funding was provided next year, the earliest South Carolina voters would have access to the new machines that produce a paper trail of their votes would be the November 2020 general election. The state is unlikely to have the new machines in time for the 2020 presidential primaries or other contests held before that time.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, wants to make a drastic change to how legislative vacancies are filled, taking power away from party delegates and giving it to voters. Currently, when a legislator steps down from office, their replacement is determined by a vote of party delegates from their district. Most recently, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, retired and Republican delegates in her district chose Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, as her replacement. Once Grover’s appointment is approved by Gov. Gary Herbert, GOP delegates in his former House district will then get to pick his replacement. Bramble argues it’s time to scrap that replacement method in favor of a special election.
Virginia: On primary day in Virginia, officials say they’re preparing for more cyberthreats against elections | StateScoop
As five more states hold primary elections Tuesday, one of the biggest concerns in this year’s voting cycle continues to be how secure ballot systems are. But the lead elections official in Arlington County, Virginia, is confident votes there will be counted without issue. “We have a practical, low-key approach,” said Linda Lindberg, Arlington’s director of elections. Arlington is a bit of a model citizen for how jurisdictions conduct elections. Lindberg’s “practical” hews closely to what many ballot-security advocates call for: recording votes on paper ballots, which are then counted by optical scanners. Lindberg said her office also conducts routine tests of its equipment and scans its voter-registration system for vulnerabilities.
Belgium’s chief regulator of intelligence services warned that Russia would seek to meddle in local elections coming up in October, he told Belgian magazine Knack and newspaper Le Soir in an interview published Wednesday. Guy Rapaille, who oversees the watchdog for intelligence services in Belgium, Comité R, urged intelligence services to pay close attention to Russian meddling in Belgium’s upcoming local elections in October, as well as regional, federal and European elections in May 2019. He pointed to revelations that the Russian state had contacts with far-right parties. “In France there were sometimes troubling relations with the [far-right party of Marine Le Pen] National Front, one could imagine the same in Belgium too,” he said.
Canada: Federal government unveils plan to boost Canada’s defences against online attacks, crime | The Globe and Mail
The federal government unveiled its plan to bolster Canada’s defences against nefarious online attacks and crime Tuesday, even as it acknowledged a shortage of skilled cyberwarriors to meet the country’s needs. Backstopped by more than $500-million in new funding over the next five years, Ottawa’s newly released cybersecurity strategy lays out a range of initiatives to help Canadians, business and the government better protect against cyberthreats. The strategy was the result of nearly two years of consultations with industry, academics and other experts, and updates the first such plan released by the Harper Conservatives in 2010.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday he opposed any repeat of the May 12 parliamentary election, and warned that anyone who tried to sabotage the political process would be punished, after allegations of electoral fraud raised tensions. Parliament has demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run. Abadi said only the Supreme Federal Court could decide whether to re-run the vote, which was won by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s bloc.
Zug, Switzerland, is a hub of welcoming regulation, digital currency acceptance, and blockchain-related events and companies. The local government has consistently extended a friendly hand to crypto-related projects, and its Crypto Valley Association strives to promote the region as “a global center where emerging cryptographic, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies and businesses can thrive in a safe, supportive, and vibrant environment.” … The results of the survey are nonbinding but will give the city council valuable information about public opinion. The poll will include questions about local matters and digital IDs. Residents will be asked if they would like to use their digital IDs to participate in other government services such as libraries, payment of parking fees, submission of electronic tax returns, and regular referendums.