The state of Illinois has improved its cyber defenses since hackers broke into its voter database in 2016 — but the actual machines that will record votes in this fall’s midterms are another story. Most of the state’s voting machines need to be replaced, says Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. How many? “It depends on which counties you ask,” said Sandvoss, “but I would say 80, maybe 90 percent. That’s the figure I’m hearing.” Illinois is not alone. Despite compromises of election systems in seven states in 2016, NBC News has interviewed a wide variety of experts in the two years since that election who say a majority of both the nation’s voting machines and the PCs that tally the votes are just not reliable. Most of the nation’s voting machines, for example, are close to 15 years old.
US voting infrastructure should return to paper ballots by the next presidential election, according to a major new report from the non-profit The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Commissioned by the non-profit Carnegie Corporation of New York and charity the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the two-year report concluded that online voting apparatus is too exposed to potential compromise. Citing Russian infiltration ahead of the 2016 presidential election, it warns that “aging equipment and a lack of sustained funding” have further undermined efforts to maintain resilience. Ideally by the mid-terms later this year but certainly by the next presidential election in 2020, all US local, state and federal elections should return to human-readable paper ballots, the report argued. Not only this, but marked ballots should also not be sent over the internet or any connected network, as no technology can currently guarantee their “secrecy, security, and verifiability.” These ballots could be made and counted by hand or machine, but any systems which don’t allow for independent auditing should be removed, the report continued.
The head of House Republicans’ campaign arm defended abruptly pulling out of late-stage negotiations with Democrats on a pledge to reject using hacked materials in election ads, citing an erosion of trust between the parties. But National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Steve Stivers, an Ohio congressman, on Friday also took his strongest public stance to date against using such illicit materials, telling reporters, “We are not seeking stolen or hacked material, we do not want stolen or hacked material, we have no intention of using stolen or hacked material.” Stivers and his Democratic counterpart, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, have been in talks since May to try to reach an agreement on a pact, which they hoped would send a strong message against election interference in the lead-up to the midterms.
Behind a locked steel door somewhere in northern Virginia, America’s fight in cyberspace never shuts down. On the eve of the National Election Security Summit in St. Louis, where elections officials from across the country will meet with homeland security and cyber experts, the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit is taking viewers inside the secure center outside the nation’s Capitol where the United States wages “cyber combat” to protect the voting process. “This is the place where we coordinate everything,” explained DHS Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Jeanette Manfra while giving Hearst Television a one-on-one tour of the watch floor of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).
Inmates within America’s overflowing prisons are marking the end of a 19-day national prison strike on Sunday with a new push to regain the vote for up to 6 million Americans who have been stripped of their democratic rights. The strike was formally brought to a close on the anniversary of the 1971 uprising at Attica prison in upstate New York. Though details of the protest have been sketchy since it was launched on 21 August, hunger strikes, boycotts of facilities and refusal to carry out work duties have been reported in many states, from Florida and South Carolina to Washington. Now that the strike has ended, organisers hope its momentum can be sustained as they attempt to fulfill their demands including the restoration of the vote. Not only does the US have the world’s largest incarcerated population – 2.3 million are behind bars – it also harbors at state level some of the harshest felony disenfranchisement laws in the world.
District of Columbia: DC awarded $3 million for new election security & upgrades, $0 spent as midterms loom | WUSA
It was a clarion call from the White House briefing room, that the threat from Russia was real. The nation’s top national intelligence officials took to the West Wing podium, as Director of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen encapsulated the message in stark terms. “Our democracy is in the crosshairs,” Nielsen said. She added, “we have seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians,” to hack the American election infrastructure, including voter rolls and voting machines. But only six blocks from the August news conference, the urgency may not have seemed apparent, with the D.C. Council in summer recess, and a $3 million election security grant waiting to be approved. With less than 60 days before the midterm elections, the District has spent $0 of the $3 million grant, according to interviews and documents reviewed by WUSA9.
A federal judge ordered 32 Florida counties to provide sample ballots in Spanish so Puerto Rican voters can use them to navigate English-only ballots in a ruling Friday that was often sarcastic and scolding. A coalition of groups sued the Department of State and the county supervisors in the hope they’d be forced to produce bilingual or Spanish language ballots. While U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker agreed with the defendants that it would be nearly impossible to change election software and to redesign ballots before the Nov. 6 election, he ordered them to make provisions for Puerto Rican voters. “While lost on some, Puerto Rico is part of the United States,” Walker said in his ruling. “The American flag has flown over the island since 1898, and its people have been American citizens since 1917.”
Indiana Democrats want to replace the state’s voting machines, all in the name of election security. The nonpartisan nonprofit Verified Voting created a map of the myriad of equipment that will be used in Indiana counties on Nov. 6. Marion County and Vigo County will use paper ballots. Others will use use a mix of electronic and paper machines. Most counties, including Allen and Vanderburgh, are all electronic. Indiana’s Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said he wants all of Indiana’s 92 counties to use voting machines that leave a paper trail.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin defended the selection of a vendor to replace Louisiana’s years-old voting machines, saying Friday that the evaluation process was done “with a view to ensuring fairness to all participants.” Ardoin filed his formal response to a protest of the lucrative contract award that a losing bidder lodged with the state’s procurement office. The Republican secretary of state said his office “at all times acted in the best interests of the state to secure the best, most cost-effective voting technology for the citizens.” Dominion Voting Systems was the winning vendor. But contract negotiations with Dominion to replace 10,000 early voting and Election Day machines are stalled while the protest filed by Election Systems and Software is under review.
Michigan: U.S. Supreme Court won’t intervene in Michigan’s straight-party voting dispute | Associated Press
The U.S. Supreme Court won’t intervene in a dispute over Michigan’s ban on straight-party voting. The court turned down an appeal Friday, which means the ban will go into effect in the November election. Voters can’t use a single mark to quickly pick all candidates of a single party. A Detroit federal judge said the ban violated the rights of black voters. But an appeals court this week suspended that decision and said the ruling likely will be overturned.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is sticking to her guns. In a 23-page response to a lawsuit filed by the state Republican and Libertarian parties and others, lawyers representing the Democrat in charge of New Mexico elections rejected their claim that the state Legislature did away with straight-party voting in 2001 and asserted that Toulouse Oliver has the power to give voters that option. The response, filed Friday in the state Supreme Court, argues that “the New Mexico Legislature has never prohibited the inclusion of a straight-party voting option on the ballot. The Legislature, instead, left this option, like other options involved in formatting the ballot, to be determined by the secretary of state.”
North Carolina: Justice Dept. Demand for North Carolina Voting Records Extended to D.M.V. | The New York Times
In a further sign of the sprawling nature of the Justice Department’s effort to collect voting records in North Carolina, prosecutors demanded eight years of information from the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times. The newly disclosed order, along with subpoenas sent to the state’s elections board and counties, appears linked to a federal inquiry into illegal voting by noncitizens. Under federal law, residents seeking to obtain or renew a driver’s license must be offered a chance to register to vote. The demand from the government seeks voter-registration forms submitted to the North Carolina D.M.V. by an array of applicants since 2010. The applicants include those who are foreign-born, said they were not citizens, did not produce a driver’s license as proof of identification, or displayed nonimmigrant visas or other documents “that reflect the applicant was not a United States citizen.”
Cost is the biggest roadblock Valley election officials are having in meeting Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate that all voting machines provide a paper trail before the 2020 presidential election. The mandate covers the entire state, including counties with optical scan machines that count votes marked on paper ballots, said Wanda Murren, a Department of State spokeswoman. Union County’s director of elections and voter registration Greg Katherman on Friday afternoon, said the county’s current voting machines are functioning, but worn and approaching the time in which they should be replaced. “There is some money coming from the Federal omnibus spending package, but it’s not enough to cover the costs,” he said.
Rhode Island: Due to computer glitch, ineligible candidate listed on Pawtucket primary ballot | Providence Journal
The DMV voter-registration glitch has created a messy situation in a Pawtucket House race, where it has come to light that Rep. Jean Philippe Barros’ only opponent — Democratic primary challenger David Santagata — is not a registered Democrat. With the Wednesday, Sept. 12 primary only days away, the state Board of Elections has scheduled a meeting for Monday to decide what to do in this unprecedented situation where ballots have already been printed — and mail ballots cast — in a race that includes a candidate who was a registered member of the Moderate Party when he was certified as a Democratic primary candidate in Pawtucket House District 59. On Friday, the state Board of Elections posted an agenda that brought this consequence of the DMV snafu to light.
Australia: Intelligence officials plan to repel fake news in Australian federal election | Financial Review
Australian intelligence and government officials are working on the best means to repel attacks from foreign actors attempting to cause unrest and interfere with the 2019 federal election via the dissemination of fake news of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. A new wave of election interference came into the spotlight following the shock election of Donald Trump as US president in 2016. Russia-linked accounts were discovered to have been circulating false stories over Facebook, Twitter and Google before the election in an attempt to whip up social and political unrest with outlandish claims which many Americans believed.
The overseas Pakistanis have so far shown little interest in getting themselves registered for first-ever I-voting in the upcoming by-election in 37 constituencies and so far just 6,000 have got themselves registered for their voting right. Sources in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said there are estimated 0.520 million expats, who could exercise their voting right with regard to these constituencies. But hitherto, just 3,000 qualified for this and were ready to vote in by-election. “These qualified persons will be using their respective passwords to take part in voting,” they explained.
Kremlin opponents across Russia took to the streets on Sunday to protest planned hikes to the retirement age, just as authorities were holding regional elections on the same day. Hundreds took part in the demonstrations across 25 towns and cities, including in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. The protests were called by opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence in connection with an unrelated protest back in January. Around 50 of his supporters were arrested ahead of Sunday’s rallies, although that failed to stop them from going ahead. Another 150 people were arrested at the various protests, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.
Sweden faces a protracted period of political uncertainty after an election that left the two main parliamentary blocs tied but well short of a majority, and the far-right Sweden Democrats promising to wield “real influence” in parliament despite making more modest gains than many had predicted. The populist, anti-immigrant party won 17.6% of the vote, according to preliminary official results – well up on the 12.9% it scored in 2014, but far below the 25%-plus some polls had predicted earlier in the summer. It looked highly likely, however, to have a significant role in policymaking. The governing Social Democrats, led by prime minister Stefan Löfven, maintained their record of finishing first in every election since 1917, but saw their score fall to 28.4%, the lowest for a century, while the main centre-right opposition Moderate party also slipped to 19.8%.
United Kingdom: Thousands call for entire UK to get voting rights in London mayoral elections – claiming decisions in the capital ‘affect the rest of the country’ | London Evening Standard
Thousands of people are calling for the entire UK to get voting rights in London’s mayoral elections. A petition – entitled “Let the UK vote for the next London Mayor. It is our capital after all!” – has been signed by more than 6,500 people. Launched by Lorraine Davis, it claims voters outside the capital should have the right to vote because the Mayor of London’s decisions have a “roll-on effect” on the rest of the UK. She said: “After the disastrous last few years of Sadiq Khan being the mayor of London, let the people of the country elect the next mayor, as it does affect the rest of the country, what does and does not happen in London seems to have a roll-on effect.” However, the petition is guaranteed to be rejected by the government because the mayor is directly accountable to Londoners under local democracy laws.