Several startup companies have recently begun to promote Internet voting systems, but with a new twist – using a blockchain as the container for voted ballots transmitted over the Internet from the voter’s private device. Blockchains are a relatively new system category a little akin to a distributed database. Proponents of blockchain voting promote it…
A growing number of states are installing a cyber-intrusion sensor system supplied by the Department of Homeland Security in response to fears that election systems my be hacked by foreign adversaries during the 2018 midterm elections and beyond. To date, 36 states have installed the intrusion detection sensors, known as “Albert,” according to a DHS official. The monitoring system was developed by the Center for Internet Security, a nonprofit organization that is working with DHS on election security and coordination. Rather than block cyber threats outright, Albert alerts officials to potentially malign activity to be investigated by experts. In those states, 74 sensors in 38 counties have been installed so far, according to the official, up from 14 before the 2016 presidential election. The new numbers were first reported by Reuters.
With all the concern over cybersecurity heading into the midterm elections, it’s actually quite difficult for outsiders to directly manipulate votes. Unlike corporate networks and email systems, voting machines aren’t connected to the internet, making them hard to access. So as government officials prepare for the hotly contested congressional elections in November, their focus is more on protecting the integrity of the systems that support the pre- and post-voting periods than on the ballots themselves. “This is about more than just voting machines,” Jeanette Manfra, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. “If an [attacker] was intent on sowing discord, how could they do that? It involves us looking at the broad elections administration process.”
While most of the discussion around election security tends to focus on protecting the 2018 fall elections, much of the federal guidance and legislative proposals currently under consideration would likely have limited impact this year. Two bills in Congress – The Secure Elections Act and the PAVE Act – would implement a number of best-practice policies around cybersecurity and vote tabulation that are endorsed by most experts. Yet some of the most impactful provisions from those bills, such as grant funding to replace obsolete or out-of-support voting machines or require states to use paper ballots, would take years to implement before states realized results.
Every year, DEFCON convenes thousands of hackers who attempt to breach the security of important technologies in an effort to expose vulnerabilities. For the past two years, this has included voting machines in a room dubbed the “Voting Village.” Rather than watch from the sidelines, or read about the findings in the news, I wanted to see for myself. So, I went to DEFCON. I listened, I observed and I had the opportunity to address attendees. While it’s important to constantly search for and understand the vulnerabilities of any voting system, a unifying message at the conference — from hackers to elections officials alike — is that we must be on alert and Congress must invest more to better secure our elections. Threats to the integrity of our elections are constantly evolving. Not too long ago, a primary focus for election officials was securing voting machines. Today, cyberattack vectors have expanded — and so must our defenses.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a cyber attack on the congressional campaign of a Democratic candidate in California, according to three people close to the campaign. The hackers successfully infiltrated the election campaign computer of David Min, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives who was later defeated in the June primary for California’s 45th Congressional district. The incident, which has not been previously reported, follows an article in Rolling Stone earlier this week that the FBI has also been investigating a cyber attack against Hans Keirstead, a California Democrat. He was defeated in a primary in the 48th Congressional district, neighboring Min’s. Paige Hutchinson, Min’s former campaign manager, declined to comment. An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau cannot confirm or deny an investigation.
Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections. A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Nelson recently that operatives working for Russia penetrated some county voter registration databases in Florida. That appears to represent new information about fallout from a Russian hacking operation nearly two years ago and not evidence of a fresh attack, the government official familiar with the matter said. And on Saturday, Nelson defended himself against claims by Gov. Rick Scott, his likely opponent in a hotly contested U.S. Senate election, that he was careless with classified information.
Civil rights groups in Florida are suing for bilingual ballots, claiming the English-language ballots in a state with a growing population of Spanish-speakers are a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Civic engagement groups Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, UnidosUS, and Vamos4PR on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Florida’s secretary of State and the elections supervisors of 32 Florida counties. The groups are calling for these counties to offer bilingual ballots and assistance for non English-speakers, with a focus on the growing population of Puerto Ricans in the state. The secretary of State’s office said it would “review” the lawsuit, according to the The Tampa Bay Times.
Georgia: Voting rights activists move to block a plan to close two-thirds of polling places in a majority black county | The Washington Post
Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election. The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.
Massachusetts: State works to implement new automatic voter registration law | Sentinel & Enterprise
Local city and town clerks are looking for guidance as the state develops methods and regulations to automatically register eligible voters in time for the 2020 presidential elections. “I think it’s going to unfold as we get closer,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell. “We want everything to be clear as we move forward.” Gov. Charlie Baker signed the law to enact automatic voter registration earlier in the month. The Registry of Motor Vehicles, MassHealth, and the Health Connector will be the agencies that automatically register residents who meet the qualifications to vote. There is an option to opt out. Automatic registration is expected to be in place before the next presidential primary, said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees voting and elections.
New Jersey: State spending $10M to fix one of most vulnerable voting systems in US | NorthJersey.com
With less than three months until a midterm election that could shift control of the House, New Jersey is planning to spend nearly $10 million in federal money it received this spring to strengthen what is widely considered one of the most vulnerable voting systems in the country. But the grant money from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is a fraction of what’s needed to improve the state’s election infrastructure from the threats federal officials say are being directed at the U.S., leaving New Jersey susceptible to outside influence when it may also serve as a Congressional battleground. While election officials across the state remain confident that hacking or voting fraud is unlikely — or at least detectable — the 2016 presidential election showed that outside forces are constantly coming up with novel ways to infiltrate the country’s election systems and disrupt one of the most sacred rituals of democracy. “It’s very likely we’ll be susceptible to hacking,” said Aquene Freechild, co-director of a voting campaign for Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “The problem in New Jersey is you wouldn’t know if there was a hack or not.”
Ohio: Republican officials lose bid to dismiss gerrymandering suit over congressional map | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Three federal judges have rejected a request by Republican elected leaders in Ohio to dismiss a lawsuit that says the judges should toss out the state’s congressional district map because it’s gerrymandered. Judges Karen Nelson Moore, Timothy Black and Michael Watson ruled Wednesday that the constitutional violations the group challenging Ohio’s map allege are still germane despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue from earlier this year.
The V.I. Board of Elections postponed its certification of the Democratic primary election Friday after members realized the final certification document did not include a territory-wide tally for the gubernatorial and senator at-large races. Elections Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. said the document showed only the district results for both races and that he would not certify the election until the document showed a merged, territory-wide result. “Why would we certify these numbers if they only reflect the districts?” Watlington asked. “Our certification has to be territorial, as one entity.”
Verified Voting in the News: West Virginia is testing a mobile voting app for the midterms. What could go wrong? | Vox
On November 6, West Virginians who are serving in the military or living overseas will be able to vote in a brand new way — via an app on their smartphone. But in a climate that’s rife with fear of US election hacking, this new method of voting is raising some questions. … As mentioned earlier, Voatz relies on blockchain to record the votes. Blockchain, in brief, is a digital ledger that records data — in this case, your vote — but once it’s published, it can’t be canceled or altered. Voatz says its blockchain is “permissioned,” which means you need to be an authenticated user to access it, ostensibly making it more protected. But the problem, according to Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California Berkeley, is that blockchain does nothing to solve the really difficult problems of voting online. “The one-sentence summary is it’s a scam,” he said of Voatz. “They are not doing what they claim to be doing.”
West Virginia voters who will be overseas during the November general election might qualify to use a new mobile app to cast their vote more easily than traditional absentee ballots. Several computer and technology experts have questioned whether the system will be secure enough during the first federal election after the 2016 Russian hacking. Officials with the Secretary of State’s office say the app is a calculated risk to allow more people to vote. … The mobile app, run by a company called Voatz, uses blockchain technology. That it a distributed ledger technology used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered after the fact. The mobile app voting was tested earlier this year in the primary election, and Kersey said its still in a pilot phase.
Canada: Federal government to go on retreat to beef up bill to prevent foreign interference in elections | Calgary Herald
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his newly shuffled cabinet will focus squarely on next year’s election at a two-day retreat this week — including a hard look at the very laws governing elections. Last spring the government introduced Bill C-76, aimed at preventing foreign interference in elections and regulating third-party advocacy groups, as well as undoing a number of controversial measures passed by the previous Conservative government. But insiders say the Liberals now want to beef up the bill, which was being studied by the procedure and House affairs committee when Parliament broke for the summer. Among other things, the government wants to do more to ensure foreign actors or money aren’t involved in elections, require more transparency for political messaging on social media and prevent political parties from setting up ostensible advocacy groups to support them and help skirt spending limits.
Iraq’s Supreme Court has ratified the results of the May 12 parliamentary election, its spokesman said on Sunday, setting in motion a 90-day constitutional deadline for the winning parties to form a government. Parliament in June ordered a nationwide manual recount of the results, which were tallied electronically, after a government report said there were widespread violations and blamed the electoral commission. Yet the recount showed little had changed from the initial results as populist Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr retained his lead, positioning him to play a central role in forming the country’s next government.
The Elections Commission denied allegations of registration fraud as lots were drawn Saturday to assign candidate numbers for the September 23 election. President Abdulla Yameen will be candidate number one and joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be number two on the ballot paper. Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer and lawyer Hisaan Hussain drew lots on their behalf. Speaking at the ceremony, EC chief Ahmed Shareef denied fraudulent registration of people who did not seek to vote outside their island of permanent residence. It emerged last week that several people – including at least 87 from Gaaf Alif Villigili and 22 from Kolamaafushi – were re-registered elsewhere despite not applying. Some people were registered to vote in Sri Lanka and England.
More than a thousand supporters of Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse gathered in the capital Bamako on Saturday after he lost a presidential run-off to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid accusations of fraud. Keita was re-elected with 67.17% of Sunday’s vote against 32.83% for challenger and former finance minister Cisse. In Bamako, the protesters played vuvuzelas and displayed their candidate’s campaign posters, watched by dozens of police officers in riot gear, AFP journalists witnessed. Cisse, who said on Friday he had won the poll and dismissed the official results as “parody and lies”, joined his supporters mid-morning.
Tanzania is an “independent” country and will not be “intimidated”, the ruling party said on Saturday after the US expressed concern about the conduct of 70 recent by-elections. The US on Wednesday cited “election violence and irregularities” aimed at the opposition after local elections were held on Sunday to replace officials who had either resigned or died. “Credible accounts of election violence and irregularities include refusal by National Election Commission authorities to register opposition candidates, intimidation by police of opposition party members, unwarranted arrests, and suppression of freedoms of assembly and speech in the lead up to the by-elections,” the US said in a statement.