President Donald Trump is objecting to the Senate’s effort to help improve election security, citing concerns about imposing federal burdens on state and local governments. The Rules and Administration Committee abruptly scrapped a Wednesday markup of bipartisan election security legislation, and there were rumors that the White House might have been at least in part behind the delay. Some Republican members of the committee were against the bill, including former Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. … The White House is asking the Senate, “Do not violate the principles of Federalism — Elections are the responsibility of the states and local governments,” according to the Walters statement. “We cannot support legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections.”
A bill that would have significantly bolstered the nation’s defenses against electoral interference has been held up in the Senate at the behest of the White House, which opposed the proposed legislation, according to congressional sources. The Secure Elections Act, introduced by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., in December 2017, had co-sponsorship from two of the Senate’s most prominent liberals, Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as well as from conservative stalwart Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and consummate centrist Susan Collins, R-Me. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was set to conduct a markup of the bill on Wednesday morning in the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs. The bill had widespread support, including from some of the committee’s Republican members, and was expected to come to a full Senate vote in October. But then the chairman’s mark, as the critical step is known, was canceled, and no explanation was given.
The Senate Rules Committee’s last-minute decision Wednesday to postpone a markup of the Secure Elections Act (S. 2593) was a significant setback for a bill that had been considered a bipartisan bright spot in a bitterly divided Congress. “For everyone else who delayed this action today, I hope that you will listen to the clarion cry of our intelligence community and continue to work with us and reschedule the markup and pass the bill into law,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking member on the Rules Committee and the bill’s chief Democratic co-sponsor, said in a statement. Rules announced the delay hours before DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urged states to have a “verifiable and auditable ballot,” though she deferred on the question of whether paper was essential, saying, “I don’t know that we’re interested in mandating how.”
Earlier this month, Bianca Lewis, who is eleven years old, was wearing a T-shirt printed with the words “No time for Barbie, there’s hacking to be done” and sitting in front of a computer at the annual Def Con hacking conference, in Las Vegas, meddling with a replica of the Florida Secretary of State’s election Web site. She’d already surreptitiously entered the site’s database through what is known as an SQL injection. “First, you open the site,” she explained, “then you type a few lines of code into the search bar, and you can delete things and change votes. I deleted Trump. I deleted every single vote for him.” Lewis was visiting an event at the conference run by R00tz Asylum, a nonprofit that teaches hacking to kids, where organizers had replicated thirteen Secretary of State Web sites and invited kids to hack them. The day the conference began, as programmers were finishing coding the sites, the National Association of Secretaries of State issued a press release complaining that Def Con “utilizes a pseudo environment which in no way replicates state election systems, networks, or physical security.” That was true enough—these sites were only look-alikes—but they were constructed from data scraped from the actual state sites, and contained known vulnerabilities that had been exploited by hackers in the past. One of the organizers, Jake Braun, rolled his eyes when I asked him about the association’s letter. “It’s totally tone-deaf,” he said. “A nation-state is literally hacking our democracy—wouldn’t you want to take any help you could possibly get? If they don’t think that the Russians are not doing what we’re doing here all year, as opposed to just a weekend, then they are fucking idiots, right?”
Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos has issued a sobering warning about the continuing threat of foreign interference in US elections, saying it’s “too late to protect the 2018 elections.” But he believes the 2020 election can still be saved. Stamos, who departed Facebook for Stanford University earlier this month, is well acquainted with the subject, having played a central role in Facebook’s response to interference by Russian trolls in the 2016 US presidential election that took place on the social media giant. In a blog post published Wednesday on Lawfare, Stamos seizes on two pieces of news he says proves that “America’s adversaries believe that it is still both safe and effective to attack U.S. democracy using American technologies and the freedoms we cherish.”
A major election systems vendor on Thursday announced steps to boost the security of its products, just one day after lawmakers raised concerns that the company is not doing enough to safeguard itself from hackers. Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which is the third largest election system vendor in the U.S., announced it will work more closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISAC) in an effort to increase security of its systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The company in a press release said it has formed “new partnerships with multiple DHS offices that include its key cyber office known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) as well as the National Cybersecurity Assessment and Technical Services (NCATS).
California: Los Angeles County’s new ‘open source’ vote tallying system isn’t open source just yet | Statescoop
Election officials in Los Angeles County are touting the state’s approval of a new system of tallying absentee votes, one they say will allow the county to distribute redesigned mail-in ballots in time for the Nov. 6 general election. The system runs on technology owned by the county, rather than a private vendor, and in what officials say is a first for California, it’s an open source platform. “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,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who certified the new system on Tuesday, said in a press release. The one catch? The new system might not count as “open source” just yet, as the agency that created it hasn’t shared the underlying code with the wider programming community.
California: No, You Can’t Vote Through Twitter: California’s Unprecedented Plan to Tackle Fake Election News | Governing
With less than three months to the midterm elections, American voters remain vulnerable to the same type of information warfare that Russia used to interfere with the 2016 presidential race. Election officials say voting systems are better protected against hackers than they were two years ago, but intelligence experts say the federal government hasn’t tackled the threat of foreign-created disinformation on social media. The risk endures after Russian nationals used hundreds of fake social media accounts to stoke political discord in the U.S. in 2016, according to an indictment earlier this year by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. “The spreading of misinformation and disinformation is one of the single greatest threats to our democratic process,” says National Association of Secretaries of State President Jim Condos, a Democrat who is also Vermont’s Secretary of State. “As we saw in 2016, our foreign adversaries used these tactics to sow doubt with voters and weaken voter confidence in the integrity of our elections.” Now the nation’s most populous state is pushing back, launching an unprecedented effort to address the issue.
The elections consultant who proposed closing most voting locations in a majority African-American rural Georgia county has been fired ahead of a vote Friday on consolidating precincts. The proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine precincts before the Nov. 6 election appears unlikely to pass, said Randolph County Attorney Tommy Coleman. Coleman fired the consultant, Mike Malone, in a letter dated Wednesday. Malone’s recommendation to close precincts before the election for Georgia governor received widespread opposition from voters and elected officials. Critics of the plan said it would have suppressed turnout in the governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Georgia election officials are blocking computers from outside the United States from viewing voter registration websites because of security concerns. Anyone trying to access the state’s online voter registration system or My Voter Page from an international internet address will see a message saying “Access Denied,” along with contact information for assistance. The sites were removed based on advice from private security vendors and the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center, which provides cyber threat monitoring for governments, said Candice Broce, spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Voters living overseas, including those in the military, can still request absentee ballots and voter registration applications online.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security team is in Maryland this week to evaluate the state’s election systems after officials learned last month about a transaction between a venture fund with Russian ties and a company involved in the state’s election infrastructure, Maryland’s elections administrator said Tuesday. The Hunt and Incident Response Team from the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center is checking to ensure the election systems hosted by ByteGrid remain secure. “They’re evaluating whether or not there’s any issues with ByteGrid,” said Linda Lamone, the state’s elections administrator. Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch asked for the technical assistance to evaluate the network last month.
A would-be hacking attempt into the national Democratic Party’s massive voter file wasn’t that at all. It turns out to be the work of a technology company hired by Michigan Democrats, all in the name of testing how secure the party can keep information on tens of millions of Americans. “This was an unauthorized test, not an attack,” Bob Lord, the Democratic National Committee’s chief security officer, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. That finding, discovered after national party officials already had contacted federal law enforcement fearing a malicious hacking attempt, marks an odd and potentially embarrassing twist to the party’s data security efforts two years after Russians penetrated DNC computers and released internal communications the upended the 2016 presidential election. The chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, Brandon Dillon, did not respond to a request for comment.
massive trove of voter records containing personal information on millions of Texas residents has been found online. The data — a single file containing an estimated 14.8 million records — was left on an unsecured server without a password. Texas has 19.3 million registered voters. It’s the latest exposure of voter data in a long string of security incidents that have cast doubt on political parties’ abilities to keep voter data safe at a time where nation states are actively trying to influence elections. TechCrunch obtained a copy of the file, which was first found by a New Zealand-based data breach hunter who goes by the pseudonym Flash Gordon. It’s not clear who owned the server where the exposed file was found, but an analysis of the data reveals that it was likely originally compiled by Data Trust, a Republican-focused data analytics firm created by the GOP to provide campaigns with voter data.
Mountainous hurdles face the Democratic Republic of Congo as it prepares for elections, just four months away, that will shape the future of one of the world’s powder-keg countries. Organising elections among some 40 million voters in a troubled, impoverished state nearly five times the size of France is a huge challenge. But, prickly about intrusion, the DRC is rejecting offers of advice, oversight and election funding from abroad. On Monday, it was regional neighbour South Africa’s turn to be spurned. The authorities rejected the appointment of South African former president Thabo Mbeki as “special envoy” to the December 23 ballot, a role announced in the press but not officially confirmed by Pretoria.
Israel: East Jerusalem’s 360,000 residents to get just 6 polling stations in local vote | The Times of Israel
The Jerusalem municipality plans to open only six polling stations in the predominantly Arab eastern part of the city for October’s mayoral election, sparking charges that officials are trying to keep Arab residents from voting — as the eastern sector of the city has some 360,000 residents. Jewish neighborhoods, which represent most of the city’s voters, will have more than 180 stations, Haaretz reported Thursday. Each polling station in a Jewish neighborhood will serve approximately 2,000 voters, as opposed to the 40,000 voters expected to use each polling station in Arab neighborhoods. Three polling stations will be opened in the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Beit Safafa, which means that the final three stations for Arab voters, located in the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah and Jabal Mukkaber, will each serve some 80,000 residents.
In less than three weeks Swedes take to the polls to cast their votes in the Swedish general election. The general election is scheduled for Sunday, September 9, 2018. Recent polls have seen far-right party Sweden Democrats (SD) gain support after a survey, conducted by Sipo, placed them second, behind Stefan Löfven and the Social Democrats Party (SAP). SAP has been favourites in Sweden for decades, but although they are topping the polls at the moment, the leftist party could be heading for their worst election in almost 100 years. This might come as a shock for the left-wing party as the support for SAP, a labour party at its core, has been stronger in Sweden than in almost any other countries since the country’s parliamentary-democratic breakthrough in 1917. 175 out of 349 seats are needed for a majority and currently, none of the parties or coalitions have reached this number in the pre-election polls.
Zimbabwe’s top court will on Friday decide whether President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s disputed July 30 election victory should stand against complaints by his main rival that it was rigged. The election, in which Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa were the main contenders, was touted as a crucial step toward economic recovery and shedding Zimbabwe’s pariah reputation, but instead has left the nation deeply polarized. An army crackdown in response to post-election violence by opposition supporters left six people dead on Aug. 1, recalling the heavyhanded security tactics that marked the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe, who was removed in a coup last November.