As the Secure Elections Act barrels towards a crucial markup in the Senate, two of its original cosponsors expressed divergent views on whether the bill must mandate hand counted post-election audits. The latest version of the bill released by Senate Rules Committee chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) would, like its predecessors, mandate that every state conduct a post-election audit to verify the results. However, Blunt’s version would allow states to conduct those audits by hand as well as through electronic means. Previous versions of the bill specified that audits be inspected “by hand and not by device.” During a hearing on cybersecurity, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, pressed her colleagues to fight to reinsert the language. “I would love to see that risk-limiting audit requirement across the country,” said Klobuchar. “What we have right now in the bill is a requirement that simply audits be required and they have to report back to us. We have backup paper ballots in 14 states now, nine as you know have partial [paper backups], five don’t have any at all….I don’t know how you could prove what happened in an election if there was a hacking.”
Racing to shore up their election systems before November, states are using millions of dollars from the federal government to tighten cybersecurity, safeguard their voter registration rolls and improve communication between county and state election officers. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released a report Tuesday showing how states plan to spend $380 million allocated by Congress last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others. All but a fraction of the money has already been sent to the states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The largest chunk — roughly 36 percent — is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories. More than a quarter of the money will be used to replace voting equipment in 33 states and territories, although the bulk of this is unlikely to happen until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
National: Majority of election security grants going toward cybersecurity, equipment upgrades | CyberScoop
About a third of federal funding meant to improve election technology will be spent on cybersecurity-related improvements, while another third will be used to upgrade old equipment, according to plans released Tuesday by states and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In March, Congress appropriated $380 million for states to use for upgrades to election infrastructure, under the Help America Vote Act. It’s the first time the federal distributes HAVA funding since 2010. “The 380 [million] is something new in terms of additional funding, but it’s in that same realm of ensuring that our voting process remain secure and that vote of confidence remains high,” Tom Hicks, chairman of the EAC, told CyberScoop.
The Russians can’t hack paper. On Tuesday, nine Senators introduced a bill that would require state and local governments to use paper ballots in an effort to secure elections from hackers. The bill would also require rigorous audits for all federal elections to ensure that results match the votes. “Leaving the fate of America’s democracy up to hackable election machines is like leaving your front door open, unlocked and putting up a sign that says ‘out of town,'” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a . “Any failure to secure our elections amounts to disenfranchising American voters.”
Democrats are getting ready for a major fight this fall over access to the polls, which the party believes could be a critical issue toward determining congressional majorities in the midterm elections. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, pointed out recent efforts to limit turnout by likely Democratic voters in Texas, Ohio and Indiana — three Senate battlegrounds. “A number of states have already acted. Texas put in place a set of additional restrictions,” Van Hollen said in an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.” Hilary Shelton, the director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, a nonpartisan group, said voting rights are under greater threat in 2018 compared to recent elections because of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
At the world’s largest hacking conference, there was good news and bad news for fans of free and fair elections. The good news is that hacking the US midterms – actually changing the recorded votes to steal the election for a particular candidate – may be harder than it seems, and most of the political actors who could pose a threat to the validity of an election are hesitant to escalate their attacks that far. The bad news is that it doesn’t really matter. While the actual risk of a hacker seizing thousands of voting machines and altering their records may be remote, the risk of a hacker casting the validity of an election into question through one of any number of other entry points is huge, and the actual difficulty of such an attack is child’s play. Literally.
The Election Assistance Commission, the government agency charged with distributing federal funds to support elections, released a report Tuesday detailing how each state plans to spend a total of $380 million in grants allocated to improve and secure their election systems. But even as intelligence officials warn of foreign interference in the midterm election, much…
In 2016, Russia attacked the United States. Not with bombs or guns, but with a sophisticated well-funded cyberattack and information warfare directed by President Vladimir Putin designed to undermine the values we hold most dear. Russian entities launched cyberattacks against at least 21 states and attacked U.S. voting system software companies. Every top U.S. intelligence official has warned us, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who recently described our digital election infrastructure as “literally under attack,” and sounded the alarm that “the warning lights are blinking red again.” Far from being chastened by these reports, our foreign adversaries have only become emboldened. Microsoft has already detected phishing attacks targeting at least three midterm campaigns this year.
Voting rights organizations are suing Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan over concerns that her office isn’t updating voters’ addresses. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona on Monday announced the lawsuit from multiple voter rights organizations including the League of Women Voters of Arizona. They’re concerned that Reagan’s office doesn’t update voter registration information when someone changes their address on their driver’s license. Reagan’s office last week rejected a request from the ACLU to change more than 500,000 voter registration addresses to what is listed on driver’s licenses. She cited concerns about a lack of voters’ consent. Instead, she says her office has coordinated with the Arizona Department of Transportation to make those changes next year.
Los Angeles County’s open-source vote tally system was certified by the secretary of state Tuesday, clearing the way for redesigned vote-by-mail ballots to be used in the November election. “With security on the minds of elections officials and the public, open-source technology has the potential to further modernize election administration, security and transparency,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Los Angeles County’s VSAP vote tally system is now California’s first certified election system to use open-source technology. This publicly-owned technology represents a significant step in the future of elections in California and across the country.”
Editorials: Transparency sought in Delaware voting system purchase | Jennifer Hill/Delaware State News
Common Cause Delaware has been closely following the state of Delaware’s work to purchase a new voting system. For the past 18 months Common Cause has attended election system demonstrations, met with state election officials and state legislators, held public forums and worked with the media in our effort to be a voice for transparency and election integrity. CCDE was able to obtain the voting system bids from the Office of Management and budget in late July. Those bids came to the Department of Elections in January of this year, and at that time only the names of the vendors were released to the public. After our requests to see the content of the bids were rejected, we made a FOIA request for the information contained in the bids so all Delawareans would know the possible options for our new voting system. Many states are replacing their aging voting systems and Delaware is one of only five states that still operate with machines that have no paper trail. Delaware first used the voting machines in 1996 and we will be voting on those same machines in the 2018 elections.
Florida: Election official: Bilingual ballots in 32 Florida counties is ‘recipe for disaster’ | Tampa Bay Times
Another Florida voting rights case heads to court Tuesday as advocacy groups ask a judge to tell the state to direct 32 counties to print voting materials in English and Spanish in the November election. The plaintiffs argue that Hurricane Maria forced Puerto Rican voters to evacuate to counties all over Florida, including many places where all ballots, signs and other materials are printed only in English. The lawsuit was filed by Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, UnidosUS and Vamos4PR on behalf of a voter who’s registered in Gainesville, Marta Valentina Rivera Madera. The groups want election materials be printed in both languages in 32 counties, including Monroe, Pasco and Hernando.
Switching to paper ballots before November’s election is the only way to ensure voting is secure and accurate, say plaintiffs trying to convince a federal judge to discard the Georgia’s electronic voting machines. The court filing was made Monday in a lawsuit from voting integrity advocates who sued to prevent the state from using its 27,000 touchscreen machines, which they say could be hacked without a trace. Attorneys for some of the plaintiffs wrote that it was “utterly ridiculous” for the state government to suggest changing to paper ballots would cause chaos. “The only change that a voter will notice as a result of this change is that, rather than touching an electronic screen, the voter will use a felt-tip pen to record his or her vote on a paper ballot and will place the paper ballot in a secure ballot box,” according to attorneys for the Coalition for Good Governance, an organization seeking transparent and verifiable elections.
Pop the hood of Georgia’s elections system and you’ll notice a lot of old, rusted parts, begging to be repaired or replaced. But if you ask Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee in this year’s gubernatorial contest, for a diagnosis, he’ll likely assure you that, despite a few loose screws and some oxidation on the battery, the eight-cylinder power propelling this motor has no problem carrying you from Point A to Point B—or running an election. Kemp, who elbowed Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle out of the race in the July 24 runoff election, is the overseer of Georgia’s elections engine, which will likely count well over 2 million votes to determine if he or his Democratic rival, Stacey Abrams, will claim the state’s top job after the November 6 general election. Some—including the Democratic Party of Georgia—take issue with the fact that Kemp oversees the procedures that are used to elect Georgia’s public officials, calling on him to resign from his elections czar post or recuse himself from involvement in the vote tabulation and certification. (Congresswoman Karen Handel stepped down when she held the job in 2010 to run for governor, but Cathy Cox held on to her position when she ran for governor in the 2006 Democratic primary.) Kemp has reportedly said he has no intention of resigning.
Editorials: The Georgia GOP turns to toilets to suppress more black voters | Dana Milbank/The Washington Post
It warms the heart to see the newfound concern that Georgia has for its disabled residents. Election overseers were worried sick that the disabled in Randolph County, a rural hamlet where 60 percent of residents are black and nearly a third live in poverty, might arrive at their polling place and find they had to park on grass or, worse, that there was no railing next to the toilet seat. And so, bless their hearts, the officials did the compassionate thing: They proposed to close seven of the nine polling places in Randolph. Now disabled people wouldn’t have to worry about tripping on turf. They’d simply have to haul themselves up to 30 miles round trip to one of the two remaining precincts. … Many of those present expressed suspicion that the election officials’ motive was concern for the disabled, rather than, say, suppressing African American voters. Malone assured them this was the “farthest thing from the fact.” Indeed, why would anybody suspect this?
The up to $95 million price tag estimated by the company chosen for Louisiana’s lucrative voting machine replacement contract may have caused a bit of sticker shock, but the projection remains tens of millions of dollars cheaper than plans pitched by the two losing bidders. Financial proposals by vendors who weren’t chosen ranged from $115 million to nearly $160 million for the work, according to bid evaluation documents obtained by The Associated Press. Still, the cost projections submitted by the low-bidder that won the award, Dominion Voting Systems, remains at least $50 million or more higher than the money set aside for the work. Final terms — and a final price tag — for the contract remain to be negotiated.
The Murphy administration has decided how it will spend $10.2 million on election security initiatives, mostly federal aid that will pay for cybersecurity, database improvements and auditing the accuracy of election machines. Among the uses for the funds will be implementing automatic voter registration at the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission agencies and helping some counties acquire voting machines that create a voter-verified paper audit trail. Among the 13 states with paperless voting machines, only Indiana and Texas are committing a smaller percentage of their new Help America Vote Act funds toward voting equipment than the $2.5 million New Jersey plans to spend. “The state’s plan to spend the HAVA funds I think is really thorough, but it’s important to note that the amount of funds that they’re talking about is really just a drop in the bucket to what they really need to update our election systems,” said Jesse Burns, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. The funding includes $9.76 million in federal funds, part of $380 million in grants the federal Election Assistance Commission is making available through a law enacted in March, and $487,873 in required state matching funds.
The state of Nevada is spending nearly $4.3 million in federal grants to shore up its election systems, with the bulk of the money targeted for safeguarding voter registration rolls and lesser amounts to tighten cybersecurity and improve communication between county and state election officers. The money is included in a report the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released Tuesday showing how states plan to spend $380 million allocated by Congress last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others under the Help America Vote Act. The largest chunk nationally — roughly 36 percent — is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories.
Texas: Republican Campaign Against Voter Fraud More Extensive Than Previously Thought | Houston Press
The Harris County Republic Party is under fire at the moment following allegations that they targeted voters in areas populated by minorities for challenges to their voter registrations. By challenging these locations under the guise of rooting out voter fraud, the party has effectively suspended the voting rights of people living at those addresses. The Republican Party campaign was undertaken by Alan Vela, chairman of the party’s Ballot Security Committee and involved 4,000 addresses. … One such person was Third Ward resident Lynn Lane, a prominent local photographer. Despite living at the same address for the past five years and voting in every election, he received a letter from Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Ann Harris-Bennett’s office informing him that his registration was suspect and that he had to provide proof of residency or face loss of his voting power. By law Harris-Bennet’s office must respond to the challenges with official notices to residents informing them they are in danger of losing their right to vote.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is calling the General Assembly into special session on Aug. 30 to redraw legislative districts that a federal court deemed had been racially gerrymandered. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on June 26 that the lines for 11 House of Delegates districts had been drawn with the purpose of concentrating black voters. The 2-to-1 ruling was a victory for Democrats, who hope that new district boundaries will help them retake control of the House for the first time in nearly two decades. Last year’s elections wiped out a 2-to-1 GOP advantage in the 100-seat House, leaving Republicans with a narrow 51-to-49 majority.
A ban on dozens of Afghan strongmen and lawmakers from running for parliament because of suspected links to illegal armed groups has spurred threats to disrupt a general election already at risk from worsening security. The October polls, seen as an important test of Afghanistan’s democratic legitimacy and a dry run for a presidential election next year, have been repeatedly delayed because of organizational problems. “There will be riots, protests and road-blockages if they don’t accept me,” said Assadullah Sharifi, a lawmaker who is among 35 people the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has barred from standing.
The shadow assistant minister for cyber security, Gai Brodtmann, has called for the government to classify Australia’s election systems as a “critical infrastructure sector” under the Trusted Information Sharing Network in order to “overlay the appropriate scrutiny and assurance mechanisms to assure the Australian people of the cyber resilience of their democracy”. The Labor MP, who earlier this month announced she would not contest the next election, cited concerns over alleged attempts to influence the US and French elections as well as the denial of service attacks on the 2016 Census. The TISN is an initiative to boost information sharing and collaboration between critical infrastructure operators.
In the run up to the 2015 presidential election, a public relations firm named Cambridge Analytica attempted to influence Nigerian voters by orchestrating a smear campaign against eventual winner, Muhammadu Buhari.
When Cambridge Analytica’s efforts to influence Nigeria’s elections were made public earlier this year, many were shocked as to the length the firm (formerly SCL Elections) went to ensure the re-election victory of then-president, Goodluck Jonathan. On the prompting of an unnamed Nigerian billionaire, the data mining firm hacked Facebook to harvest the profile of millions of users and target what was determined to be their worst fears. In a video the firm produced, people were filmed being dismembered, having their throats cut and bled to death, and also burned to death in a bid to portray Muslims as violent and Buhari as the man that will impose Sharia Law that’ll make that sort of violence commonplace in the country.
On July 30, for the first time since 1980, Zimbabwe held general elections without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. Many Western donor countries have had sanctions on Zimbabwe since 2002 because of the government’s political repression and human rights abuses — and promised to lift these once the country held free and fair elections. But free and fair do not appear to apply. Officially, President Emmerson Mnangagwa — a former Mugabe lieutenant who grabbed power in a November 2017 coup — won with 50.8 percent of the vote, narrowly avoiding a runoff election. And his ruling ZANU-PF party won a two-thirds majority of 149 seats in parliament’s lower house, permitting it to amend the constitution at will. But those results are disputed. International election observers have pointed to irregularities. The opposition party has challenged the results, and the Constitutional Court must rule by Friday.