West Virginia: State to introduce mobile phone voting for midterm elections | CNN

West Virginians serving overseas will be the first in the country to cast federal election ballots using a smartphone app, a move designed to make voting in November’s election easier for troops living abroad. But election integrity and computer security experts expressed alarm at the prospect of voting by phone, and one went so far as to call it “a horrific idea.”
The state’s decision to pioneer mobile voting comes even as the United States grapples with Russian interference in its elections. A recent federal indictment outlined Russia’s attempts to hack US voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential race, and US intelligence agencies have warned of Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm election. Still, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Voatz, the Boston company that developed the app, insist it is secure. Anyone using it must first register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification and a selfie-style video of their face, then upload them via the app. Voatz says its facial recognition software will ensure the photo and video show the same person. Once approved, voters can cast their ballot using the Voatz app. Not everyone shares his enthusiasm.

National: Cyberattacks Haven’t Stopped but Neither Have Bills to Fight Them | Nextgov

When they took the podium at Thursday’s White House press briefing, national security and intelligence chiefs had one resounding message for the American people: The country is still under attack. “Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.” Wray was joined by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, National Security Agency chief Gen. Paul Nakasone and National Security Adviser John Bolton, all of whom reiterated their commitment to defending against foreign influence campaigns. The briefing came the day after internet researchers urged the government to take more targeted actions against online misinformation campaigns at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

National: Amid cybersecurity fears, tech firms are offering to help secure the U.S. elections for free or at a discount | Fast Company

American democracy is under attack, with foreign spies and trolls throwing wrenches into the workings of U.S. elections—be it attempts to hack candidate websites, scramble voter rolls, or spread fake news on social media platforms. While Washington bickers about whether it’s spending enough on security upgrades ($380 million has been allocated, with Democrats repeatedly asking for more), the overtaxed cities and counties that actually run the polls are scrambling to catch up. Although Silicon Valley has come under fire for its role in recent elections around the world, enabling the social media vandalism of 2016, for instance, several tech firms are now stepping up to boost election security with free or discounted services. “We saw that tech was being used to undermine elections. And the question was, could we be a tech company that was helping to provide our services to help support those elections?” says Matthew Prince, CEO of the content-delivery network and security service Cloudflare.

National: The 2020 census could be a prime target for hackers | The Washington Post

The Census Bureau is trying to quell concerns that it’s not prepared to protect Americans’ data from cyber intrusions when it conducts the first fully digital census in 2020. Kevin Smith, the Census Bureau’s chief information officer, used a little-publicized quarterly meeting Friday to explain how the agency is working with the Department of Homeland Security and using tools such as encryption to safeguard the troves of information it will gather in the next population count. “I want to stress that protection of the data we collect is census’s highest priority,” he said. Smith outlined some fairly basic steps, which are unlikely to satisfy a growing group of critics who say the bureau has for months avoided answering questions about its cybersecurity preparations. These critics, including members of the House Oversight Committee and former senior national security officials, argue the bureau, which is part the Commerce Department, has fallen behind on important equipment tests and left the public in the dark about whether it had implemented even minimal cybersecurity practices. They want more transparency at a time when Russian election hacks and other data breaches are increasingly putting Americans’ personal information at risk.

National: Judge Shuts Down Multimillion-Dollar Loophole In Election Law | NPR

A widely used loophole for funneling secret “dark money” into political ads closed quietly last weekend, as a federal judge concluded it thwarted Congress’ intent to have broad disclosure of political money. Chief Judge Beryl Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, threw out a regulation adopted by the Federal Election Commission in 1980. The rule said that “non-political” groups, such as 501(c) nonprofit organizations, could ignore a disclosure law if donors’ contributions were earmarked for specific advertisements — an exception that wasn’t in the law passed by Congress. Howell’s decision was issued Friday evening.

National: Kris Kobach used flawed research to defend Trump’s voter fraud panel, experts say | The Washington Post

After Matthew Dunlap, one of the members of President Trump’s disbanded voting fraud panel, released documents from the commission showing that it had failed to turn up any evidence of widespread voter fraud last week, the panel’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, made his case for the commission’s existence. One of the foremost proponents of stricter voter identification laws, Kobach, who is running in the primary Tuesday for the Republican nomination for the state’s governorship, has been undeterred since a federal judge struck down a restrictive voting law he had advocated for in the state. And in a statement sent to The Washington Post, Kobach accused Dunlap of being “willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” pointing to studies from two conservative groups about the supposed voter fraud that he has been so vocal about: a database from the Heritage Foundation that found 983 convictions in state, local and federal elections dating back decades, and a study from the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit founded by Stephen K. Bannon and another Breitbart editor, that purported to find 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election.

National: Homeless Americans Can Vote, But It Isn’t Easy | HowStuffWorks

If voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, then why does it have to be such a pain? Election Day in the U.S. is always a Tuesday, smack in the middle of the work week. If you move to a new state or county, you need to re-register. State voter ID requirements change all the time, so you could show up to a polling station, wait in line and still get blocked from voting. Now imagine that you’re homeless in America. You move so frequently that it’s nearly impossible to maintain a stable mailing address. You’ve never had a driver’s license and your Social Security card was lost years ago. You can’t afford transportation to the county elections office or your local polling place. And frankly, you have a lot more pressing problems than registering to vote. So, while homeless people have every right to vote in U.S. elections (and may want to if only to influence policy on housing and poverty), the obstacles to successfully registering and voting while homeless can be insurmountable.

Editorials: Why Russian Money Ends Up in U.S. Elections | Bob Bauer/The New York Times

The 2018 campaign may set a record for midterm spending, predicted to hit the $4 billion mark. The ways in which this staggering sum of money will have been collected and spent, and either disclosed or not disclosed, are evidence yet again that our campaign finance system — if it can even be called a “system” — is in tatters. Super PACs, which can take money from virtually any source in any amount and spend just as freely, stand out as the most glaring example of the collapse of the post-Watergate-era model of regulation. Contribution limits, restrictions on corporate spending, disclosure requirements and muscular independent enforcement: These pillars of the systemic reforms of the 1970s are all crumbling. How bad is it? In 2016, it turns out, one of the larger political organizations active in the presidential election, employing hundreds and spending millions, was organized and run by a foreign government. This intervention from abroad did not end there: The director of national intelligence has warned Congress that Russia “perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

Georgia: Voting registration verification law faces legal threat | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is rejecting a lawsuit threat from a civil rights organization over the state’s “exact match” method for verifying voter registration applications. The threatened lawsuit would allege that the “exact match” system has a high error rate and a negative impact on African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters, according to a July 18 letter from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to Kemp. Kemp, a Republican, said the potential lawsuit is a political stunt as he’s running for governor. He faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the November general election.

Hawaii: Hawaii grapples with lava, hurricane as election nears | Associated Press

As Hawaii readies for its primary elections, voters are grappling with an erupting volcano and Hurricane Hector. Elections are challenging times for candidates even in the best of circumstances. But Big Island politicians frequently have extra adversity, given they live on top of one of the world’s most active volcanoes and in the general vicinity of hurricanes that barrel through the central Pacific Ocean many summers. The island has a history of nature-related election disruptions: In 2014, Tropical Storm Iselle forced the same two precincts hit hardest by Kilauea volcano to close the day of the primary. The state Office of Elections organized a makeup election day for the two precincts six days later.

Michigan: Blind voters may struggle with new voting machines | Associated Press

New voting machines in Michigan may cause problems for residents with a visual disability. Tuesday’s primary election will feature $40 million of new equipment that replaced aging voting machines, The Detroit Free Press reported. For more than a decade, blind voters in the state have used AutoMark Voter Assist Terminals, which have a touch screen and a keypad with Braille. A 2015 survey estimates that about 221,000 Michigan residents have a visual disability. Most Michigan counties will now use Dominion Voting Systems, which don’t have keypads with Braille and feature verbal instructions that can be difficult for a blind person to follow. Some counties selected new equipment from Election Systems & Software or Hart InterCivic. About 100 blind people helped test out the three systems in 2016, said Fred Wurtzel, who is blind and is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan. He said most testers preferred the Election Systems equipment, while many said the Hart InterCivic were the most difficult to use.

Missouri: Lawsuit seeks to knock gerrymandering issue off November ballot | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A Kansas City attorney who helped draw the boundaries of Missouri’s current legislative districts is trying to knock a question off the November ballot designed to end partisan gerrymandering. In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Paul Ritter, a Miller County resident, attorney Eddie Greim said the proposed referendum violates a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prevents multiple subjects from being combined into one ballot proposal. “One purpose of the prohibition on multiple subjects in a single ballot proposal is to prevent `logrolling,’ a practice familiar to legislative bodies whereby unrelated subjects that individually might not muster enough support to pass are combined to generate the necessary support,” the lawsuit says.

Verified Voting in the News: First new election results audit held in Fairfax city | WTOP

In a first for Virginia, elections officials gathered Thursday and Friday at the Fairfax County Courthouse to prove that election results from June’s primary were correct. The risk-limiting audit was for the Republican U.S. Senate primary results in the city of Fairfax. It was a demonstration of what could be done statewide in future elections as a statistical check to provide more evidence that the final results based on counts from ballot scanners are correct. The audits, when done for an entire election, are meant to show statistical confidence that the winner really won and the loser or losers really lost. Results of the first audit completed Friday showed the results of 69 randomly selected ballots scanned by a machine Thursday matched the hand count of those same ballots done Friday morning. (One ballot was selected twice by the random process).

Verified Voting in the News: Despite Russian Hacking Horror Stories, West Virginia Looks at Blockchain Voting App for Midterms | Crypto Disrupt

United States intelligence agencies have recently warned of possible Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections. Despite these warnings, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner intends to press ahead with plans to offer West Virginians who are serving overseas in the military with the opportunity to vote via a smartphone app created by Boston company Voatz. … As you can imagine, there are some dissenting voices out there, and one came in the form of Joseph Lorenzo Hall, who is the chief technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology who told CNN that “Mobile voting is a horrific idea. It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

Iraq: Election commission says election recount complete but cut short in capital over fire | Reuters

Iraq’s election commission said on Monday it had completed a manual recount of May’s parliamentary election but was forced to cut the process short in the capital because voting records had been destroyed by a warehouse fire two months ago. The recount was ordered by parliament in June after a government report concluded there were serious violations in an initial count using an electronic vote-counting system. However, within hours of parliament voting for the recount, a fire broke out at a warehouse where voting machines and other records from the capital were kept.

Maldives: Ruling party denies plans to delay election | Maldives Independent

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives dismissed speculation the government will seek to delay the September 23 presidential election. “We want to hold the election as soon as possible. And it will happen on the date the Elections Commission has set,” MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla told the press Sunday evening. The PPM will not seek to postpone the polls “under any circumstances” or support delays, the party’s deputy leader insisted. The press briefing was called after the Maldivian Democratic Party said President Abdulla Yameen was “inventing cowardly excuses to cancel or delay the election,” referring to an astonishing Facebook post from the defence minister about a plot to destabilise the Maldives in the coming days.

Pakistan: Election Commission criticised for ‘imposing media curbs, failing to conduct fair elections’ | The News

Representatives of political parties, legal fraternity and journalists on Monday bitterly criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for what they termed its failure to conduct transparent and fair general elections, provide a level playing field to political parties and their candidates, and imposing restrictions on media coverage. Addressing a seminar titled “What Journalists Saw in General Elections 2018” at the Karachi Press Club on Monday, speakers called for reforms in election laws by removing all defects in the election procedures and for steps to be taken to ensure that the media is not restricted from covering the polls in future. The seminar was organised by the Karachi Union of Journalists-Dustoor group. Stating that the ECP failed to conduct fair elections, Pakistan Peoples Party Karachi President Saeed Ghani said that political parties were not provided a level playing field before and on the polling day. He said polling agents were not provided Form-45 after the counting process in sheer violation of the election laws.

Editorials: Zimbabwe’s Dubious Election | The New York Times

Last week’s national elections in Zimbabwe were a critical test of whether President Emmerson Mnangagwa was really prepared to lead the revival of a country brought to ruin by his autocratic predecessor, Robert Mugabe. So far, the aftermath of the elections that gave Mr. Mnangagwa and the governing ZANU-PF party at least five more years in power has given little reason for celebration. International observers charged that the playing field was not even, with coverage on state media, misuse of state resources and intimidation working in the government’s favor. Even before the results were in, Mr. Mnangagwa’s 40-year-old opponent, Nelson Chamisa, claimed fraud and pledged to challenge the results.