The website of Sweden’s centre-left Social Democrats has been hacked for a second time, and the IP address responsible was linked to Russia and North Korea, according to the party’s IT provider. The hack was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, meaning those responsible disrupted the site to make it unavailable to users. “This is serious. Citizens don’t have access to our site, the heart of our election campaign, where the information about our policies is,” the party’s head of communications, Helena Salomonson, told TT. The site was attacked at around 9pm on Monday, and was down for around six minutes in total, Salomonson said. The party has reported the incident to police.
A Senate committee on Wednesday abruptly postponed the planned markup of a key election security bill that had bipartisan support and would have imposed new audit requirements on states. The markup of the Secure Elections Act, authored by Oklahoma Republican James Lankford and Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, is “postponed until further notice,” the Senate Rules and Administration Committee said on its website. The bill had the backing of several GOP lawmakers, including Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well as Democrats such as Mark Warner of Virginia, Kamala Harris of California and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. But a senior Republican lawmaker, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, objected to the bill’s provisions expanding the federal role in elections.
National: Senate Intelligence Committee members raise concerns about voting system vulnerabilities | The Hill
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee raised concerns Wednesday about the election voting systems provided by one of the largest vendors in the United States, questioning whether the company is doing enough to safeguard itself from hackers. Four committee members wrote in a letter they were disappointed that Election Systems & Software (ES&S) has not agreed to undergo independent testing to determine the security level of its systems. The letter comes after an annual hacking conference earlier this month appeared to reveal security vulnerabilities in ES&S voting systems. “We are concerned that ES&S and other election system providers may not be prepared for the growing threats to our elections,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to the company.
National: DHS chief calls on officials in all 50 states to have ‘verifiable’ ballots by 2020 election | The Hill
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday called on election officials in all 50 states to ensure that ballots used during the 2020 presidential election are able to be audited. Nielsen told a group of reporters touring the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Va., that she wants “all state and local election officials to make certain that by the 2020 presidential election, every American votes on a verifiable and auditable ballot.” “Our systems must be resilient. We must be able to demonstrate that the votes count and that they are counted correctly,” she added.
No matter what side of the political divide on which one falls, everyone agrees that the security and integrity of elections are critical. Throughout history, foreign adversaries have attempted to influence election outcomes to their benefit and, in 2016, the efforts escalated to cyberattacks. For this reason, the security of US elections and election infrastructure remains a top national concern, and in early 2017, the government designated the election system as one of our critical infrastructures. With the number of cyberattacks growing every day, improving cybersecurity will be a mandatory component in preserving our political process. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that at least 21 states have had their networks scanned by Russian adversaries. Scanning is the cyber equivalent of checking for holes in a fence, an unlocked door, or an open window. There are also confirmed reports of a few specific intrusions into government-owned voter registration databases.
The Democratic National Committee said Wednesday that it was alerted to an attempted hack of its voter database this week and that it had notified law enforcement. The effort to target the Democratic Party’s voter file, known as Votebuilder, was not successful, and a party official said the identities of the culprits were unclear. When the Democratic National Committee was hacked in 2016 during the presidential campaign, the incident was traced to Russia. This week’s attempt was aggressive, two officials briefed on it said. The hackers set up a fake page that mimicked the party’s login page for its voter-registration website, a tactic that could gather names, passwords and other credentials of those using the voter database. The hackers also may have sent emails to people within the national committee to try to trick them into using the fake page, a tactic known as “spearphishing,” the officials said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident, one of the officials said.
National: Officials fear voter registries vulnerable to hackers, could lead to problems on Election Day | Associated Press
A top Department of Homeland Security official said on Tuesday that while it would be difficult for hackers to meaningfully change vote totals in the upcoming elections, they could attack more vulnerable voter registration files, which an expert said could sow “chaos” on Election Day. “Our assessment is that it would be exceedingly complex to change vote totals, and that in trying to attempt to do so [it’s] likely that something would be noticed,” DHS’s National Risk Management Center Director Robert Kolasky said in a Senate hearing. “Voter registration files we’ve assessed as more of a vulnerability than the actual vote count process.”
State election officials plan to spend about two thirds of election security money allocated by Congress earlier this year on new voting equipment and cybersecurity efforts, though not all the improvements will be completed before the November elections. New data gathered by the federal agency that distributes the funds detail how states plan to spend $380 million appropriated by Congress in March to upgrade election security. States plan to spend roughly $134.2 million on cybersecurity upgrades over five years, and $102.6 million on voting equipment, according to the data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. States plan to spend the rest of the federal funding on measures that include upgrading voter-registration databases, bolstering postelection auditing and communications capabilities.
National: Tech giants open up about election cyberthreats as specter of regulation looms | The Washington Post
Tech companies are taking a more transparent approach than usual in disclosing cyberthreats against their platforms — especially when it comes to election interference. One high-profile example came this week when Microsoft announced that Russian hackers tried to use the company’s domains to launch phishing attacks on U.S. political institutions. The company also revealed recently that hackers had used similar means to target 2018 congressional candidates. And just last month, Facebook said that it had uncovered a sophisticated political disinformation campaign involving nearly two dozen fraudulent pages and profiles. The disclosures are not just limited to U.S. election threats. Late Tuesday, Facebook announced that it had identified new social media influence campaigns — one backed by the Iranian government, another linked to Russian military intelligence — and removed hundreds of fraudulent accounts that it said were designed to manipulate users in other countries around the globe.
Editorials: The South Will Disenfranchise Again: How the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act allows states to disenfranchise black voters | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
The two notices were published in a local paper on Aug. 9, but no one could quite make sense of them. In one, Georgia’s Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration declared it would hold public meetings on Aug. 16 and 17 “to discuss Precinct Consolidation.” In the other, the board clarified that it planned to close seven of the nine polling places in the county. It announced a meeting on Aug. 24 “to consider this proposal,” but failed to specify a date or time. The notice added that the closures “shall become effective” on Aug. 24—indicating that the period of consideration was already over, and the decision to shutter the polls had already been made. For decades, Randolph County—a majority-black jurisdiction with a history of racist voter suppression—could not unilaterally alter its voting rules. It was covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, compelling the county to obtain federal permission, or “preclearance,” before changing its election procedures. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court kneecapped Section 5, effectively abolishing preclearance. The result has been a dramatic escalation of voter suppression across the country, a trend that’s vividly illustrated by the direct assault on the franchise in Georgia.
A predominantly black county in rural Georgia is facing a nationwide backlash over plans to close about 75 percent of its voting locations ahead of the November election. County officials say the locations are inaccessible to those with disabilities; critics say the closures will disenfranchise black voters ahead of an election in which a black candidate is running for governor for the first time. The Randolph County elections board is considering a proposal to eliminate seven of nine polling places in the county. The seven precincts in question don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, county officials and an independent consultant say. Longtime Randolph County attorney Tommy Coleman acknowledged in a phone interview with The Associated Press that the timing of the move could appear strange. The polling places were used during the May 22 primary election and July 24 primary runoff, and officials have known about ADA compliance problems in the county for at least six years.
Georgia: Randolph County Can’t Back Up Its Excuse For Plan To Disenfranchise Black Voters | HuffPost
Officials in a majority-black Georgia county accused of trying to close almost all polling places to make it harder for black people to vote claimed last week that the locations couldn’t be used because of accessibility problems for people with disabilities. But Randolph County doesn’t have a single recent report, analysis or document supporting the idea that it needs to close seven of its nine polling places due to accessibility issues, a lawyer for the county told HuffPost on Tuesday in response to a public records request. HuffPost requested records from the county dating back to March 1, 2018. The county hired Michael Malone, an outside elections consultant now pushing for the closures, on April 2. But according to the county, it has no written record of evidence to back his recommendations. “There is no document, report or analysis studying the handicap accessibility of polling places in Randolph County and the cost of fixing them within the time frame specified in your open records request,” Hayden Hooks, an attorney with the firm Perry & Walters, which represents Randolph County, wrote in an email. The county has no record of such a document in the past year, Hooks added.
As uncertainty loomed about the outcome of the GOP primary for governor in the days after the Aug. 7 primary, Kris Kobach said it was unclear how many non-citizens voted in the election. Back then, the race was too close to call. But now, a week after he secured a 350-vote victory over Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach is dismissing concerns that voter fraud could have changed the election’s outcome. In an Aug. 21 Breitbart column, Kobach writes that his race against Colyer “was the closest in modern history in Kansas.” But he maintains that “it is highly unlikely that voter fraud changed the outcome,” despite telling The Star during the weeklong post-election feud between him and Colyer when a winner was undecided that it was unclear how many “non-citizens” voted in the Republican primary.
A nearly $10 million infusion of cash meant to shore up New Jersey’s highly vulnerable voting system is welcome, but it’s not enough, and it won’t measurably address one big problem – the state’s lack of a verifiable paper record of votes cast. Indeed, the federal grant money the state secured this spring from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is a fraction of what is needed to transform the state’s election infrastructure, which a number of election experts view as susceptible to hacking or worse.
North Carolina: Constitutional amendments: Judges say two proposals have misleading language | News & Observer
A panel of Superior Court judges on Tuesday blocked two North Carolina constitutional amendments from statewide ballots. The order from a three-judge panel said ballots should not be printed that ask voters to make changes in the state constitution on how state boards and commission members are appointed and how judges are selected to fill vacancies. The order said those ballot questions did not fully inform voters of the changes that would result if the measures passed. The court order gives Gov. Roy Cooper a victory, at least temporarily, in his lawsuit against legislative leaders. The order has no real effect since the judges last week ordered that no ballots be printed while the court cases and appeals continue. Attorneys representing Cooper, the state elections board and legislative leaders said at a hearing last week they would appeal the order if their side lost.
Texas: Harris County mistakenly suspends voter registrations after GOP challenge | Houston Chronicle
Harris County mistakenly placed more than 1,700 voters on its suspension list in response to a local Republican official’s challenge of nearly 4,000 voter registrations, county Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett said Wednesday. The situation quickly spun into a partisan spat with the Harris County Democrats accusing the GOP of targeting Democratic voters, and the Harris County Republican Party blasting Bennett, who also is the county’s voter registrar, for the suspensions and for confusing voters. “Democrat Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett should not have jumped the gun by suspending those voters’ registrations,” Harris County Republican Party Chairman Paul Simpson said in a statement. “We urge Democrat Ann Harris Bennett to follow the law and quit violating voters’ rights.”
Virginia: Hopewell electoral board stands by new registrar’s decision to approve ballots with some names in capital letters | Richmond Post Dispatch
After raised voices and pounding on the table, the Hopewell Electoral Board voted 2-1 on Tuesday to stand by its newly appointed registrar’s decision to create ballots that feature some candidates’ names in capital letters. In a heated debate in the back of the Hopewell registrar’s office, the board’s two Democrats stood by Registrar Yolanda Stokes after she submitted a draft ballot for November’s election that showed three Hopewell City Council candidates’ names entirely in uppercase. Stokes is overseeing her first general election after being appointed registrar in May. She previously served on Hopewell’s public housing board, but the City Council voted to remove her in 2013 after she clashed with other city officials who accused her of overstepping her role.
Australia: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Australia should stay away from electronic voting | The Conversation
The civic experience of interacting with analogue voting interfaces is as Australian as the democracy sausage. Voters are confronted with tiny pencils, plus physical security measures that involve huddling in a cardboard booth and origami-scale folding. The use of paper ballots – and human counting of those ballots – creates one of the most secure electoral systems imaginable. And the Australian tradition provides another sometimes under-recognised component of electoral security: compulsory voting. This practice secures against the voter suppression tactics used to undermine elections in the United States. In the digital era, smartphones are so prevalent that it might seem tempting to move to voting online. In 2013 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) explored internet voting. But cyber security experts say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic has accused the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo of using its development agency to interfere in the Balkan country’s election process, a charge dismissed by the embassy as a “wild” conspiracy theory. Milorad Dodik said the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was implementing its aid program through non-government organizations to conceal what he said was its real agenda of countering Russian influence in the region. “Aiming to directly interfere in internal affairs of the Republika Srpska and Bosnia, USAID … tries to avoid all institutions and to grant funds under cover of the alleged fight against crime and corruption,” Dodik said.
A battle between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrats over federal funding to help secure November’s U.S. elections stymied legislation in Congress on Wednesday, at least for now, that is aimed at thwarting Russian meddling by strengthening states’ voting procedures. The Senate Rules Committee unexpectedly canceled a work session that was intended to advance the Secure Elections Act. That is a bipartisan bill requiring greater coordination between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a range of other federal and state election agencies as well as making it easier to audit voting results in the 50 states. The fight pits Democrats and some state officials against the Trump administration and Republicans who oppose additional money flowing from Washington to the states to shore up elections.
Zimbabwe’s highest court is expected to issue a ruling Friday on a petition in which the country’s main opposition group is seeking a nullification of July 30 presidential election won by the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa. “The judgment is reserved and the court should be able to come with a judgment at 2pm on the 24th of August which is Friday,” said Zimbabwe’s chief justice Luke Malaba, after hearing submissions for nearly 10 hours from lawyers of the country’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused Zimbabwe’s election commission of rigging the vote in favor of President Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF party. According to the official results, Mnangagwa won nearly 51 percent of the vote to defeat MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who received just over 44 percent.