The purpose of the bill seemed unassailable: to ensure that state officials could protect their elections against the kind of hacking or interference that has clouded the 2016 campaign. Although it started out backed by election integrity advocates and powerful senators from both parties, the Secure Elections Act has now all but collapsed. Lawmakers modified one of the bill’s key provisions after hearing relentless complaints from state officials, prompting many of its advocates to pull their support. Then last week delivered what one of the bill’s co-sponsors called “the gut punch” — the formal meeting to draft the bill before sending it to the floor was abruptly postponed, and the White House offered a statement critical of the legislation later that same day. No timetable has since been offered to reschedule it, and the election is two months away.
Just two months before the midterm elections, bipartisan legislation to try to prevent foreign hacking into U.S. election systems is stalled in Congress as the White House and some Republicans worry it could exert too much federal control over the states. Supporters of the bill say the delay could embolden Russia, which targeted election infrastructure in at least 21 states in 2016. A committee vote on the bipartisan bill was abruptly canceled two weeks ago after objections from some Republican senators and the states they represent. And Republicans and Democrats who are supporting the bill say they don’t know when — or if — it will be taken up again in the few remaining weeks Congress is in session before the midterms. The delay has some concerned that Congress could punt on the only piece of legislation that is designed to fix what went wrong in 2016 — and to prevent Russia or other countries from trying again. There is no evidence that the Russian targeting of state election systems was successful or changed any votes, but lawmakers, intelligence officials and elections experts say that they believe Russia will return in 2018 and beyond with more sophisticated tools.
National: States want more money, but aren’t waiting around to improve election cybersecurity | Washington Examiner
Election officials at the state and local levels are unhappily coming to terms with the idea that more funding probably isn’t coming for securing electoral systems from hacks this fall. But with help from the Department of Homeland Security, their confidence appears to be growing about how well they will perform on Election Day. Those officials are the front-line soldiers in the battle to combat Russian and any other cyber interference aimed at the midterm elections. In turn, they are becoming cybersecurity managers, according to Noah Praetz, director of elections in Cook County, Ill. He warned that $380 million in recent federal assistance to the 50 states “is not nearly enough to do a technology refresh” to update all of the antiquated elections systems across the country, but it has helped put state cyber experts “on the street” in five counties across Illinois. “It’s kind of like Andy in Mayberry being sent to deal with a foreign invasion,” he joked. DHS official Jeanette Manfra, speaking at a recent cyber conference, said the department is collaborating with states to shield voter registration from manipulation, ensuring the machines that tally votes are secure, and helping ensure that “unofficial tallies” released before the final election results aren’t altered to sow confusion and discord.
National: State Department unit created to fight foreign election interference still waiting on funding: report | The Hill
A State Department unit established to blunt election interference efforts by foreign countries has still not received funding that was allocated for the project two years ago, HuffPost reported. The news outlet reported that the Defense Department agreed to provide $40 million in funding to the Global Engagement Center earlier this year following complaints from lawmakers. However, the money still had not arrived as of last week, and a Senate aide told HuffPost that the amount had since been cut in half to $20 million. A State Department official told the news outlet that the Global Engagement Center would “be fine” even with the reduced amount of funding. The official said the center is waiting on another $20 million through the State Department’s budget.
For a while there, the Senate’s flagship bill to help states improve election security appeared to be gaining steam. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle signed onto it. And an unlikely coalition of former national security officials, technologists and public policy groups urged lawmakers to pass the legislation. But the Secure Elections Act stalled last week after the Senate Rules Committee canceled a key vote on the legislation at the last minute — and now its future is uncertain. Some Republicans who seemed poised to support the bill balked after the White House raised concerns about giving the federal government too much authority in election administration, while state officials objected to some of its requirements. Election security experts, meanwhile, worry the legislation is getting too watered down. The delay highlights the tension at the core of the debate over how to best secure the country’s elections as officials warn about Russia’s ongoing campaign to disrupt U.S. politics. And the lack of progress in Congress underscores how difficult it is for lawmakers to balance competing concerns from state election administrators to national security officials to voting integrity groups.
Nearly a year after Russian government hackers meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, researchers at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro zeroed in on a new sign of trouble: a group of suspect websites. The sites mimicked a portal used by U.S. senators and their staffs, with easy-to-miss discrepancies. Emails to Senate users urged them to reset their passwords — an apparent attempt to steal them. Once again, hackers on the outside of the American political system were probing for a way in. “Their attack methods continue to take advantage of human nature and when you get into an election cycle the targets are very public ,” said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Trend Micro. Now the U.S. has entered a new election cycle. And the attempt to infiltrate the Senate network, linked to hackers aligned with Russia and brought to public attention in July, is a reminder of the risks, and the difficulty of assessing them.
A federal judge will not dismiss a lawsuit filed against Georgia’s Secretary of State which would require Georgia to move to paper ballots ahead of November’s election. The suit was filed due to concerns over the insecurity of Georgia’s voting systems. This means the case will move forward and both sides will present their arguments in front of a judge on September 17. Pleadings by Secretary Kemp’s legal team refer to the experts saying Georgia needs paper ballots as “so-called experts” who are only Ph.D. candidates, hackers, or low-level functionaries. They also use the term “Luddite.” WSAV’s Atlanta Capitol Correspondent, Ashley Bridges, spoke to a world-renowned cyber security expert who says our system is one of the worst in the country. “I don’t think of myself as a Luddite,” says Dr. Richard DeMillo. In reality, Dr. Richard DeMillo holds nearly 50 years of expertise in computer science and cyber security, with a PhD from Georgia Tech, even serving as the university’s Dean of Computing. He says it’s because he does understand the technology that he thinks Georgia has to throw it out. “I have an appreciation for the complexity it takes. Like most people that look at it objectively, it’s about the worst in the country.”
Georgia: Voting locations closed across Georgia after Supreme Court ruling | Atlanta Journal Constitution
When a passionate crowd rallied to save polling places in rural Randolph County, it won a high-profile battle for voting access. But voters trying to preserve their local precincts are losing the war as voting locations are vanishing across Georgia. County election officials have closed 214 precincts across the state since 2012, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That figure means nearly 8 percent of the state’s polling places, from fire stations to schools, have shut their doors over the past six years. Voting rights activists see the poll closures as an attempt to suppress turnout by African-American voters, but local election officials say they’re saving taxpayers’ money by consolidating precincts at a time when more Georgians are taking advantage of early voting.
Georgia: Voting Plan Has Drawn New Criticism, This Time Over How It’s Dealing With Voters Overseas | Buzzfeed
The state of Georgia has blocked all foreign internet traffic to its online voter registration site, BuzzFeed News has learned, a move that would do little to deter hackers but blocks absentee voters. The site, registertovote.sos.ga.gov, is accessible only to US IP addresses. The decision has outraged technologists and voting groups. In theory, it’s meant as a security measure, based on the idea that a person visiting the site is more likely to be a foreign hacker. But in practice, it has the opposite effect: Georgians abroad who don’t know how to reroute their internet traffic with tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) or Tor will be prevented from registering to vote. “This won’t really do anything to dissuade a hacker. It will only turn away real voters,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president of the US Vote Foundation, a nonprofit that helps Americans vote abroad. “A hacker, or even a determined voter, will just get onto a VPN and to a US IP address, and guess what? They’re in.”
A grand jury must be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled. The court’s one-page opinion was released Friday and offered no explanation behind the ruling, which addressed Kobach’s appeal of a lower court’s order to summon the grand jury, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The high court’s ruling stemmed from a petition first filed in 2016 by Steven Davis, a Lawrence resident who accused Kobach of intentionally choosing not to process online voter registrations and preventing qualified residents from voting in the 2016 election. The Douglas County District Court twice rejected Davis’ petition, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to support the allegations against Kobach.
Another losing bidder for Louisiana’s voting machine replacement work is calling for a new selection process and the cancellation of the current contract award. Hart InterCivic sent a letter to the Office of State Procurement supporting the protest filed by a second vendor spurned for the voting machine contract. Hart said the evaluation was “flawed and lacked the fundamental transparency that Louisiana voters deserve.” Contract negotiations with the winning bidder, Dominion Voting Systems, are stalled while the protest is under review. The secretary of state’s office described Dominion as the low bidder for the voting machine replacement, with the company estimating the work would cost between $89 million and $95 million. Bid evaluation and financial documents released by the Office of State Procurement also showed Dominion with the least-expensive proposals for either leasing or buying voting machines.
A lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday alleges Michigan’s election laws purposefully try to confuse and disenfranchise young, college-aged voters. College Democrats at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Bureau of Elections Director Sally Williams claiming the state’s youngest voters are “particularly vulnerable to restrictive voting laws and uniquely susceptible to voter confusion.” The suit claims Michigan’s laws violate the First, Fourteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and will presumably seek relief from these two come Nov. 6: “Rogers’ Law,” which requires a citizen vote where their driver’s license lists their address, as well as a law requiring first-time voters to vote in person, meaning they can’t participate in early or absentee voting.
oña Ana County Commission Chairman Ben Rawson has called for a special meeting Tuesday to consider a resolution requesting that the county clerk not include a straight-party ticket option on the ballots for the 2018 election. Rawson, a Republican, said that officials in Lea, Curry, Roosevelt, Chaves, Eddy and San Juan counties have also called special meetings for Tuesday to take up the issue, and others are expected to as well. Tuesday is the deadline for county clerks to turn ballots in to the Secretary of State’s Office, he said. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, announced that she was bringing back the option of straight-party voting, which had been discontinued in 2012 by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican. It allows voters to select all candidates from one party by filling in a single bubble on the ballot.
A three-judge panel has expanded Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority to make certain appointments, the latest step in a separation-of-powers struggle that began when then-Gov. Pat McCrory sued the General Assembly in 2016. Cooper sued in May 2017 challenging the constitutionality of the legislature appointing the majority of members to certain boards and commissions. In some cases the legislature gave itself that authority. In other cases, Cooper argued, the legislature should have changed the membership of some existing boards to reflect rulings by the state Supreme Court. The three state Superior Court judges in a ruling filed Friday noted that the Supreme Court in the lawsuit brought by McCrory said the General Assembly had overstepped its authority.
As a result of an “IT” snafu in the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles’ automatic-voter-registration system, the new and newly-updated records of at least 5,000 potential primary day voters got stuck in limbo. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is asking the state Board of Elections to take emergency steps at its next meeting on Wednesday to rectify the situation. More specifically, she is asking the state board to give the go-ahead for elections officials in all 39 cities and towns to add at least 1,400 new voters to their local rolls before the Sept. 12 primary, and change their own records to reflect changes — such as a move to a new address — of another 3,600 previously registered voters who did business with the DMV in the last year.
Brazil’s top electoral court has ruled that jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is barred from running in October’s presidential elections. The ruling came after a dramatic and gruelling late-night session broadcast live on television and across news sites, and defied a request from the United Nations human rights committee that he be allowed to stand. Lula is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering. The court also banned him from campaign advertisements. His defence said it would appeal the decision to Brazil’s supreme court.
Mauritanians are voting Saturday in general and local elections viewed as a key test of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s record with the international community calling for a credible and peaceful vote. The mobile phone market in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott never sleeps. Under faded umbrellas to protect them from the searing Saharan sun, traders nimbly switch SIM (subscriber identification module) cards and replace overheated phone batteries. In a country with a scarce telecom infrastructure and its approximately 4.5 million strong population spread across vast, often inhospitable terrain, mobile phones are a lifeline in this impoverished West African nation.
Sweden’s main opposition party has complained to international election observers of dirty tricks by the ruling Social Democrat party. Several local candidates of the centre-left Social Democrats resigned or were suspended by the party after spreading lies about the centre-right Moderates and nationalist Sweden Democrats ahead of elections on September 9. Social media post by candidates in at least five Swedish cities included the false assertions that the two rightwing parties were accusing Muslim parents of crimes in order to take their children away, and that they wanted to remove citizenship from anybody who arrived in the country after 1970. “We have been preparing . . . [for] foreign powers trying to influence the Swedish election process. We would never have dreamt that the threat would have come from within the country and our main opponents,” Anders Edholm, deputy secretary-general of the Moderates, told the Financial Times.
United Kingdom: Government rejects online voting for disabled voters amid electoral fraud fears | Sky News
The government has rejected calls to provide online voting access to disabled voters, claiming it increases the risk of electoral fraud. E-voting could make elections more accessible for disabled voters, campaigners have argued, and requests to trial online voting were submitted to a recent government report. “There may be potential benefits for some groups in using e-voting but there are significant concerns about the security of online voting,” said the government in response to those submissions. The “increased risk of electoral fraud” alongside “providing unproven systems to people who are already vulnerable […] would not be helpful,” the government explained. It was argued that online voting would help people with sight loss, where audio support and other forms of assistive technology such as screen-readers are available via their computers.