Tuesday’s primary is a dry run for democracy in a tense time of cyber-threats. It will be the most thorough test of voting operations since Russian operatives tried to hack Florida voting rolls before the 2016 presidential election. But it’s not one election, it’s 67 — one in every county from the Keys to Pensacola. As counties plan for what’s often a low-turnout election, they have spent millions of dollars safeguarding computer servers, installing surveillance cameras and card readers, building security barriers and training workers to detect threats they can’t see. “We want to make sure that our employees know what a phishing email looks like,” says Lisa Lewis, supervisor of elections in Volusia County, a county the Russians targeted two years ago. “If there’s no subject line, I tell people, ‘Don’t open it.’ “
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey is the latest U.S. politician to announce his campaign was the target of an attempt to hack into its emails. Google notified Toomey’s office that “hackers from a nation state may have attempted to infiltrate specific email accounts associated with his campaign apparatus” through a phishing scam, Steve Kelly, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Republican, said in a statement. “This underscores the cybersecurity threats our government, campaigns, and elections are currently facing,” Kelly said. “It is essential that Congress impose tough penalties on any entity that undermines our institutions.” The attacks were not successful. Toomey’s Senate office has not been the target of similar hacking attempts.
Despite warnings about possible cyberattacks aimed at undermining midterm election security, new research reveals an overwhelming number of evaluated state, territory and District of Columbia election offices as highly vulnerable to email spoofing. Released today, the “Email Spoofing Threat to the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections” report by Anomali Labs, the R&D arm of threat intelligence company Anomali, explores the strength of email security programs for election-related infrastructure. And of the 90 state, territory and District of Columbia election offices Anomali Labs assessed, 96 percent are “highly susceptible” to email spoofing attacks. The report found a low adoption rate of strong email authentication and email security standards among the majority of state-level election offices and their online voter registration sites. Adoption overall is inconsistent across the board. Being spoofable means threat actors could falsify the sender’s origins to appear as if the fraudulent email came from a legitimate government organization, according to the report. This type of threat is “100 percent real, and as far as urgency, given that phishing is the No. 1 attack vector, not just against election officials but also in industry in general, I think it’s very, very high,” said Roberto Sanchez, Anomali director of threat and sharing analysis and the lead researcher for the election security report.
On Election Day, the people most in the dark about the security threats to Florida’s voting systems are Floridians. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has made alarming claims about cyberattacks by Russian hackers, while citing classified sources and offering no evidence, but the response from state officials has only added confusion and rancor to what should be a sober discussion. Voters need clearer, concrete information in order to have confidence that their elections are secure. Since the 2016 presidential election, Americans have known that Russian operatives have attempted various means of hacking into states’ voting systems. An indictment this summer of 12 Russian intelligence officers stated that operatives in 2016 faked a real election vendor email account to send more than 100 “spearphishing” emails to election administrators in several Florida counties. Sen. Marco Rubio has said those threats remain as hackers continue to probe for cyber vulnerabilities, and he suggested that county elections supervisors have “overconfidence” in their systems.
Kemp, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, co-chairs the SAFE Commission with Harlem state Rep. Barry Fleming. The bipartisan committee includes two Democratic state legislators, six county elections officials, attorneys for the state Democratic and Republican parties and others. They won’t be put to use in Georgia anytime soon, but vendors interested in providing the state’s new voting system will present their wares Thursday in Grovetown. At the second meeting of the Secure, Accessible and Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission, vendors who responded to the state’s recent request for information on options for replacing Georgia’s voting system are invited to present their products to the statewide panel.
Voters are, once again, preparing to head to the ballot box as concerns over election tampering persist. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson says she is taking steps to ensure every vote is protected but her opponent Jim Harper insists more should be done. The Republican incumbent recently announced plans to use more than $7.5 million in federal funding to beef up election security but the Democrat challenger says it’s a mistake the plan does not include improvements to voting machines. News 10 spoke with candidate Jim Harper while he was in Terre Haute speaking with voters and stumping with other Democrat candidates. Harper says voting machines should be replaced so there is a “paper trail.” He explains votes should be cast on paper ballots or voters should be given a verified receipt. Not every Indiana election machine issues receipts.
Kansas: ES&S says it’s rewritten faulty code that caused big delays — but can’t guarantee new software will be approved for use by November | Shawnee Mission Post
Twenty days after company officials told Johnson County residents technicians were “working around the clock” to identify the issue, Election Systems & Software said this morning that it had rewritten a portion of the software code that led to a massive delay in reporting primary election results earlier this month. But it’s not a guarantee that the updated software will be approved for use in November’s elections. “The slow reporting of results was unacceptable, and we apologize,” said Tom Burt, president and CEO, ES&S. “We know the Election Office and other Johnson County Government leaders put their faith in us and we let down our valued partners. After exhaustive analysis to pinpoint the issue, we rewrote the portion of code that caused the issue, and initial tests of the optimized code were successful. We will continue testing, and we look forward to federal certification of the optimized software.”
For hundreds of Nevada voters and candidates, June’s primary election did not go as planned. Officials said then that a spate of well-publicized voting machine problems — including glitches that left some candidates off of ballots or displayed the wrong slate of ballot choices — only affected a small handful of voters. But a Reno Gazette Journal review of public records found more than 300 reported machine malfunctions across the state. More than 100 were recorded in Washoe County alone. Those software hiccups contributed to a double-voting snafu that forced officials to call a rare special election in Clark County. Records reveal they also saw Washoe threatened with at least one election-challenging lawsuit amid widespread reports of candidates being left off the ballot. Now, little more than two months ahead of the general election, elections officials have said in interviews with the RGJ they don’t know how many improperly displayed ballots might have gone unnoticed by voters and unreported to poll workers during the primary.
North Carolina: Federal Court Throws Out North Carolina’s Congressional Districts, Again | The New York Times
A panel of three federal judges again declared North Carolina’s congressional district map to be unconstitutional, ruling on Monday that it was gerrymandered to unfairly favor Republican candidates. The decision, which may have significant implications for control of Congress after the midterm elections, is likely to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which for the moment is evenly split on ideological lines without a ninth justice to tip the balance. Though North Carolina’s voters tend to divide about evenly between the two parties, Republicans currently hold 10 of the state’s 13 House seats. A redrawn district map may put more of the seats within Democrats’ reach. The three judges had ruled unanimously in January that the state’s House map violated the First and 14th Amendments by unfairly giving one group of voters — Republicans — a bigger voice than others in choosing representatives.
South Carolina: Proposal to pay $50 million for better voting machines at South Carolina polls | wistv
There are millions of dollars of taxes collected that are unspent and lawmakers will decide what to do with them. Here’s a plan for the ballot box: to spend $50 million to replace old, outdated voting machines in South Carolina. There are 13,000 voting machines some call antiquated. One state representative goes as far to call them unreliable. But the commission says $50 million may not replace all 13,000 machines, but it could at least make a better backup system – a paper trail of votes. The right to vote is the backbone of democracy. Some feel the system in South Carolina needs adjustment – worth $50 million taxpayer dollars. “Ballots are the currency in which we purchase democracy,” said Rokey Suleman II with Richland County Voter Registration, and Elections. “So, we have to treat that ballot as secure as we do any sort of currency, and we have to treat it like a bank vault and a cash drawer at a store.”
West Virginia: Mobile Blockchain Ballot Trial Raises Voting Security Questions | Security Intelligence
Smartphone voting will get a trial run during November’s U.S. elections. As part of a new pilot program, West Virginia has partnered with Voatz, a Boston-based technology startup, to allow some members of the military stationed overseas to cast ballots with devices connected to a blockchain-enabled vote recording system. Security experts have had mixed reactions to the plan, with some saying blockchain technologies aren’t yet ready for important tasks such as voting security. But defenders say the pilot program will allow veterans stationed in remote locations to make their voices heard during the midterm elections — as long as proper security measures are put in place. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group, believes smartphone voting is too unproven to use during this year’s elections. “I don’t know why everyone’s solution to things lately is ‘rub some blockchain on it,’” he said. “Blockchain voting methods typically mean you are doing internet voting — which is a horrifically bad idea — and committing encrypted ballots to the blockchain.”
The European Commission is set to announce plans to clamp down on the misuse of personal data retrieved from social networks in the run-up to the 2019 European Elections, the Financial Times reported on Sunday (26 August). The move comes after the Cambridge Analytica scandal made headlines earlier this year with the company’s acquisition of personal data from Facebook users causing outrage. The Financial Times wrote that the European Commission will draft an amendment prohibiting European political parties from harvesting online data as a means to make strategic headway in next year’s elections. Any potential amendment would require the approval of EU governments as well as the European Parliament. A Commission spokesperson, contacted by EURACTIV, could not offer any specific details.
Colombia: Colombia, the country that voted against a peace process, fails to vote against corruption | Colombia Reports
A referendum that sought to curb rampant corruption in Colombia’s congress failed on a knife’s edge on Sunday after voters failed to turn out. Of Colombia’s 36.4 million voters, less than 12 million cast votes, leaving the referendum 500 thousand votes short for it to be declared valid. The citizens who did vote, overwhelmingly approved the seven anti-corruption measures. More than 99 percent of the voters who did turn up approved the measures. Colombia’s rampant corruption is one of the most common grievances in the South American country, yet it failed to mobilize enough voters to address the problem that is bleeding the national treasury. According to the country’s Inspector General some 10 percent of the national budget gets lost through corruption every year.
Several opposition parties and ruling NDA constituent Shiv Sena on Monday pushed for reverting back to ballot paper in place of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and opposed simultaneous elections at a meeting convened by the Election Commission which also saw some parties pitching for state funding of elections. The Shiv Sena differed with its ally BJP to support the polls through ballot paper and the CPI-M too differed from other opposition parties and said it was not for returning to the old system of holding elections. It sought more safeguards in EVMs. Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat said after the meeting that the poll panel will take a call on all the issues raised by parties including on EVMs and ballot paper, integrity of electoral rolls and ceiling on expenditure by political parties.
Maldives: Opposition presidential candidate says government may rig next month’s election | Associated Press
The Maldives opposition presidential candidate said Monday he fears the government will rig next month’s election. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said his Maldivian Democratic Party is “very worried about the situation” but has “trust in the people.” Solih spoke to journalists after addressing a meeting of Maldivian citizens living in Sri Lanka. A government spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment. The government has rejected such accusations in the past, saying they are baseless.
Papua New Guinea: 2 Million Papuan Voters Threatened to Lose Voting Rights, House of Parliament Reacts | Netral News
House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo (Bamsoet) fears that some 2 million Papuan voters could not exercise their voting rights in the 2019 Election. This was said after the Papua Election Commission released a data on voters who did not have an electronic identity card (e-KTP) comprise of 2 million prospective voters. Bamsoet says if referring to Regulation Number 7 Year 2017 on General Elections, e-KTP becomes a valid requirement of voters to exercise their right to vote. The right to vote for all Indonesian citizens (WNI) must be guaranteed. Therefore, Bamsoet asked the Interior Ministry together with the Papua Population and Civil Registration Service to immediately collect data / matching activities and research on people who do not have e-KTP.