National: “A Horrifically Bad Idea”: Smartphone Voting Is Coming, Just in Time for the Midterms | Vanity Fair

Almost a year ago, the Department of Homeland Security alerted roughly half of all U.S. states that their election systems had been the targets of hackers linked to Russia. Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, later confirmed the attacks. “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated,” she told NBC News in February. Even worse, experts have warned that Russia’s attempts at meddling did not end in 2016. “They’re still very active—in making preparations, at least—to influence public opinion again,” Feike Hacquebord, a security researcher at Trend Micro, told the Associated Press in January. The Trump administration, meanwhile, is doing painfully little to prevent future attacks. The president’s repeated denials of Russian meddling is another form of malign neglect. With less than three months to go until Americans return to the polls en masse, the United States remains deeply vulnerable to any hackers who might like to cast a vote of their own.  Enter Voatz. With a name reminiscent of a plot device in Idiocracy, Voatz is a mobile election-voting-software start-up that wants to let you vote from your phone. In the upcoming midterm elections, West Virginians serving overseas will be the first in the U.S. to be able to vote via a smartphone app using Voatz technology, CNN reported Monday. The Boston-based company raised $2.2 million earlier this year, helped along by buzzwords such as “biometrics” and “blockchain,” which it claims allows it to secure the voting process. Its app reportedly requires voters to take and upload a picture of their government-issued I.D., along with a selfie-style video of their face, which facial-recognition technology then uses to ensure the person pictured in the I.D. and the person entering a vote are the same. The ballots are anonymized and recorded on the blockchain.

National: States have a lot of work to do on cybersecurity, and they shouldn’t wait for kids to find the problems | Washington Examiner

Today in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Washington, and Missouri, voters head to the polls to vote in primaries. But how safe are state websites with voter information? If you ask the organizers of the kids’ program at DEFCON, the answer is, so unsafe that a kid could probably figure out how to hack it. DEFCON, a top tier cybersecurity conference, has a program for kids called “r00tz,” and this year, part of the agenda is to have them hack replicas of state elections websites. The goal of the event is to both teach the participants basics of hacking, but also scare states into taking action to safeguard web security.

National: Hackers Already Attacking Midterm Elections, Raising U.S. Alarms | Bloomberg

The U.S. midterm elections are at increasing risk of interference by foreign adversaries led by Russia, and cybersecurity experts warn the Trump administration isn’t adequately defending against the meddling. At stake is control of the U.S. Congress. The risks range from social media campaigns intended to fool American voters to sophisticated computer hacking that could change the tabulation of votes. At least three congressional candidates have already been hit with phishing attacks that strongly resemble Russian sabotage in the 2016 campaign. Among them was Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat in one of the year’s most hotly contested races.

Editorials: Congress must not ignore the ‘flashing red light’ on election security | Steny Hoyer/The Hill

In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, technology experts testified that Russia and other foreign actors are continuing efforts to influence our elections. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have already identified cyber threats against states’ election systems and made clear that this year’s midterm elections remain a target for disruption. If we do nothing, the very fabric of our democracy will be put at grave risk. The Republican-led Congress, however, continues to ignore this threat, even as Trump administration officials acknowledge that election security is a major concern. When House Republican leaders brought an appropriations bill to the Floor in July, they did so without providing funds to assist states in making their voting technology secure, accurate, and verifiable. House Republicans unanimously rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to provide those resources, and Senate Republicans rejected a similar amendment last week.

Voting Blogs: Lawsuit Seeks Public Info About Controversial Voting Purge Letter | Brennan Center for Justice

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is suing the Justice Department today for refusing to turn over documents related to a controversial letter DOJ sent last year, which sought detailed information about how states maintain their voter rolls. Voting rights groups are concerned that it could be a prelude to pressuring states to engage in aggressive voter purges — the often-flawed process of deleting names from voter registration lists. “The public has a right to know why the Justice Department sent this letter, and what information it received from states in response,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The Justice Department should be fighting to protect the voting rights of all Americans. We are concerned, though, that this letter may be part of a broader effort to undermine those rights, and we are going to court to find out.”

California: Marin County officials detail glitches behind election-night web foulup | Marin Independent Journal

Old code, software problems and server configuration combined with heavy traffic caused the blooper that made it impossible for the public to view results on election night June 5, county officials said this week. “We determined that it was a combination of three things,” said Liza Lowery Massey, director of Marin County’s Department of Information Services and Technology. The Registrar of Voters’ website, which had been redesigned to feature more graphs and other visual elements to make the data more accessible to the general public, remained inaccessible most of the night.

Georgia: Lawsuit details multiple flaws in Georgia election system | McClatchy

Habersham County’s Mud Creek precinct in northeastern Georgia had 276 registered voters ahead of the state’s primary elections in May. But 670 ballots were cast, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office, indicating a 243 percent turnout. The discrepancy, included in a number of sworn statements and exhibits filed as part of a federal lawsuit against the state by election security activists, comes amid swelling public concern for the security of Georgia’s voting systems. Georgia is one of four states that uses voting machines statewide that produce no paper record for voters to verify, making them difficult to audit, experts say. And cybersecurity experts have warned that there were security flaws on the state election website leading up to the 2016 contest that permitted the download and manipulation of voter information.

Illinois: GOP chair praises ‘nonpartisan’ effort to eliminate Bloomington Election Commission | WJBC

The chairman of the McLean County Republican Party said it was satisfying to work on a nonpartisan issue even though leaders from the local Democratic Party were not involved. Republicans and Libertarians filed a petition Monday for a judge to decide whether to place on the November ballot a binding referendum to get rid of the Bloomington Election Commission. The county clerk would run all county elections. County GOP Chair Connie Beard said the two parties gathered almost 1,300 signatures, which exceeds the required 1,000 signatures. County Democratic leaders believe the referendum is a political move, but Beard said Democratic voters were among those who signed the petition.

North Carolina: Russian election threat grows, but GOP wants more scrutiny of North Carolina voters | News & Observer

The motive behind requiring a photo ID to vote has always been thinly veiled. The real intention isn’t to protect the integrity of an election. It’s to discourage voting by people from groups that tend to vote Democratic — African-Americans, Hispanic immigrants and college students, in particular. Now the investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections has laid that hypocrisy bare. The U.S. intelligence community agrees that the threat of Russia’s interference is real. Studies show the threat of people impersonating other voters isn’t. Yet North Carolina’s lawmakers are pushing to stop the latter and saying little about the former.

Ohio: In New Wave of Voting Machine Purchases, Ohio Moves Toward Paper Ballots | Dayton Daily News

County election boards across Ohio are preparing to buy a new generation of voting machines, and although it’s unclear what systems will be chosen, it’s becoming more likely that tens of thousands of voters in southwest Ohio will fill out paper ballots rather than voting on touchscreens as soon as the May election. “It could be a departure for the polling locations,” said Jan Kelly, Montgomery County Board of Elections director. “They really aren’t like what we have now.” Voters in Montgomery County along with those in Butler, Darke, Greene and Miami counties and 36 others, currently use DRE machines, or direct-recording electronic voting machines that have touchscreens. But as election officials work now to get new systems online and proven before the 2020 presidential election, no DRE machine has been certified for use in Ohio, according to officials. 

South Carolina: Aging voting system threatens election security in South Carolina | WYFF

Election security experts see cracks in South Carolina’s current voting system. Elizabeth Howard works as Cybersecurity and Elections Counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice in Washington, D.C. Howard said an aging election system could impact every vote in South Carolina. “Election security is an issue that faces every eligible voter in the state of South Carolina and across the country,” Howard told WYFF News 4. “There is widespread agreement, bipartisan agreement, that the current situation is very concerning.”

Texas: Travis County approves purchase of $8M paper-trail voting system | Austin American-Statesman

It might not be the first-of-its-kind, open-source software voting system that Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has sought for more than a decade, but the county will have a voting system with a paper trail by the November 2019 election. Travis County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of an about $8.2 million electronic voting system with paper backup from Election Systems & Software. About $1.5 million in costs for other election day equipment will need to be approved in coming weeks, bringing the total cost to about $9.7 million. The county will be among the first in the nation to commit to rigorous statistical auditing using that backup.

Texas: Counties Are Struggling to Find Money to Replace Antiquated Voting Machines | Texas Observer

In the lobby of a North Austin hotel, Almina Cook is eating an ice cream sandwich as she and two of her deputies listen to a salesman pitch them on a soon-to-hit-the-market voting machine. Along with hundreds of other election administrators from across Texas, Cook, the top election official in Hunt County, has come to this biannual conference to get briefed by state and federal officials and shop for machines and software. Vendors get to entice election officials with private demos, dinners and other freebies. This year is particularly important for Cook; she needs to replace the county’s 13-year-old machines, which have exceeded their recommended life cycle and require constant repair. But early in the salesman’s spiel, Cook makes one thing clear: She’s just window shopping for now.`

West Virginia: Experts criticize West Virginia’s plan for smartphone voting | Ars Technica

The state of West Virginia is planning to allow overseas voting via smartphone in the 2018 election, and election security experts aren’t happy about it. “Mobile voting is a horrific idea,” said Joe Hall, an election security expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology in an interview with CNN. The West Virginia project is being run by Voatz, a startup with $2 million in venture capital funding. To ensure buzzword-compliance, the Voatz system uses a blockchain in addition to a mobile app. The state did a limited trial run of the technology in West Virginia’s primary election back in May. Military voters from two West Virginia counties were offered the option to vote via their smartphone instead of sending in an absentee ballot via mail, fax, or email. West Virginia’s secretary of state told CNN that the pilot worked well and that the system passed four audits of various parts of the system. So this November, the state is planning to offer the system more broadly to West Virginians deployed overseas.

Australia: Election rejection: Tasmanian activists launch inquiry into 2018 result | The Guardian

A March election would usually be a distant memory by August. But not so in Tasmania, where anger over the 2018 campaign remains white-hot. A group of community activists will tap into that sentiment on Wednesday, launching a novel concept in a state with the weakest political donations laws in the country – fed up over a lack of political transparency, the group will hold its own inquiry into the 2018 state election.

Iraq: UN hails Iraq’s ‘credible’ vote recount | MEO

The United Nations on Monday hailed Iraq’s “credible” vote recount, which paves the way for a government to be formed nearly three months after polls. Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary elections were marred by allegations of fraud, prompting the country’s supreme court to order a partial manual recount. As an official announced the checks had concluded, the UN said it had observed the recount and found it to be “conducted in a manner that is credible, professional and transparent”. “We are very pleased that it’s been concluded and we look forward to the next steps in this process towards the formation of the new government,” said a statement by Alice Walpole, a UN envoy to Iraq.

Mali: Tensions and rigging allegations as Mali awaits election second-round | African Arguments

Malians look set to vote again on 12 August to choose their president from the two remaining candidates. The run-off will see President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (known as IBK) go up against Soumaila Cisse for the second time in five years. In the first round of Mali’s presidential election on 29 July, IBK officially won 41.4% of the vote. Cisse came a distant second with 17.8%. However, the poll was marred by widespread allegations of corruption, rigging and vote-buying. Activists and party members allege various incidents of fraud and ballot-box stuffing. Cisse’s campaign director, for example, claimed there is a “village of 150 inhabitants where 3,000 people voted”. Citizen observers in Kayes region say voters were seen standing in line to receive fertiliser after casting their votes, while some in Bamako were reportedly offered tens of dollars to vote a certain way. In the north, where there is little security, rumours abound that the ruling party conspired with militant groups to rig the vote.

Mali: Opposition protests, EU calls for transparency ahead of poll | AFP

After the first round of Mali’s presidential election was marred by violence and accusations of fraud, EU observers on Tuesday called for more transparency and access during Sunday’s run-off. It came as a thousand people gathered in the capital of Bamako to condemn alleged fraud in the July 29 poll. “With the second round approaching, it would be desirable for authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee all voters can exercise their right to vote,” said Cecile Kyenge, who heads the EU observer mission in Mali. Kyenge welcomed the publication of a detailed list of 871 polling stations where voting could not be held in the first round, due to outbreaks of violence.

Zimbabwe: Court bails opposition members accused of post-election violence | Reuters

A Zimbabwe court Tuesday freed on bail 27 opposition supporters arrested by police last week on accusations of fomenting post-election violence. Magistrate Francis Vhitorini granted $50 bail to each of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members. “The court has indicated that it did not consider any of them to be a flight risk. The judgment was so brilliant that we are still trying to process it,” MDC lawyer Denford Halimani said. Violence erupted last week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF party won a national election. The MDC disputes the outcome and says the vote was rigged.