A federal judge could rule Wednesday on a far-reaching request to switch Georgia from electronic to paper ballots just eight weeks before November’s election. Changing the state’s voting system on short notice would be a dramatic change, but concerned voters and election integrity groups say it would eliminate the possibility the state’s touchscreen machines, which lack a verifiable paper backup, could be hacked. They’ll be in court Wednesday to ask U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg for an injunction prohibiting election officials from using the state’s 27,000 direct-recording electronic voting units, or DREs. Instead, voters would use pens to fill in paper ballots by hand. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the defendant in the case, strongly opposes a quick move away from the voting system in place since 2002. He said electronic voting machines are secure and that a rushed transition to paper would result in a less trustworthy election system. But Donna Curling, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said Georgia’s electronic voting machines are inherently unsafe. If voting machines were penetrated by hackers, malicious code could rig elections, she said.
For years, cybersecurity was considered an issue for IT teams and was often not prioritized when creating and executing policy. However, recent events have demonstrated the many ways that cyberattacks can impact a country’s critical infrastructure, bringing essential operations to a halt and even endangering citizens. These attacks have come in the form of ransomware at schools and hospitals, data breaches at major financial institutions and large-scale distributed denial-of-service attacks that have knocked organizations of all types offline. As a result, politicians and government bodies have come to recognize the critical importance of cybersecurity in protecting national infrastructure. As digital transformation increases technology use across public infrastructure, the attack surface continues to grow. Government CIOs and IT teams are working to deploy security measures that enable transformation, rather than slow it down. For instance, Fortinet’s latest Global Threat Landscape Report found that government agencies use, on average, 255 different applications a day on their networks.
National: Better cooperation between states and U.S. can help safeguard midterm elections, officials say | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a visit to the St. Louis area on Monday pledged the government’s assistance to states battling threats to election security, calling interference with elections one of the “principal national security threats.” Nielsen was a guest speaker at a two-day seminar on election security that began Monday at the headquarters of World Wide Technology in West Port Plaza. The event, hosted by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, was also attended by 10 other secretaries of state on Monday, and more were expected Tuesday. Nielsen has recently spoken about a growing need for cybersecurity in elections, reversing the course of an administration that has been criticized for not doing enough.
Nearly three dozen states require voters to show identification at the polls. And almost half of those states want photo IDs. But there are millions of eligible voters who don’t have them. A 2012 survey estimated that 7 percent of American adults lack a government-issued photo ID. While some organizations have sued to overturn these laws, a nonprofit organization called Spread The Vote has taken a different tack: It helps people without IDs get them. And people over 50 years of age have presented some of their biggest challenges. On a recent Tuesday morning in Austell, Ga., 53-year-old Pamela Moon tried to get a replacement for an ID she had lost. She worked with a Spread The Vote volunteer at the Sweetwater Mission. The group sends volunteers to the mission every other Tuesday, so that people who come for food and clothes can get help obtaining a Georgia ID at the same time.
Blockchain technology is unsuitable for use in voting systems until they are verified as secure, a scientific report has warned. The study, from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, concludes that internet-based voting systems are not ready for current use, although they “may seem promising” for use in the future. “Insecure internet voting is possible now, but the risks currently associated with internet voting are more significant than the benefits,” the report reads. “Secure internet voting will likely not be feasible in the near future.
Attacks on judicial independence are becoming more frequent and more partisan. The current effort to impeach the entire West Virginia Supreme Court, while not unprecedented, is taking place against a backdrop of political attacks against judges elsewhere. “There’s a kind of a war going on between the legislatures and the courts,” says Chris Bonneau, a political scientist at the University of Pittsburgh. “Absolutely, we’re seeing a new environment.” The West Virginia House last month voted to impeach all the sitting justices on the state Supreme Court. The state Senate is set to begin its impeachment trial Tuesday. There were legitimate reasons for legislators to go after justices, or at least some of them.
National: How can election groups get out the vote when just half of Americans say process is ‘fair and open’? | USA Today
Helen Butler carefully avoids mentioning Russian hacking or other threats to election systems when she tries to register voters in Georgia. She doesn’t want to scare off people already doubting their vote will count. “I’m concerned about anything that would dissuade voters from participating,” said Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda. As midterms approach, Butler, election officials and others face the challenge of persuading wary voters to go to the polls. They’re right to be concerned. Only about half of American voters believe the nation’s elections are “fair and open,” according to a recent University of Virginia Center for Politics/Ipsos poll. And only 15 percent of those voters “strongly agree” with that.
More than 1.5 million Florida residents are barred from voting in state elections for the rest of their lives, because of a tough law that permanently revokes voting rights for anyone convicted of a felony. But a measure on the November ballot could change that, allowing those who have served their time to cast votes as soon as the 2020 elections. The “Voting Restoration Amendment,” also called Amendment 4, was approved to be on the ballot back in January after gathering the requisite 766,200 signatures and would automatically restore voting rights to felons – murderers and sex offenders not included – who have done prison time, completed parole or probation and paid any restitution. Florida’s ballot measure is part of a broader move over the last few decades to restore voting rights to felons, but is the first to put it to voters to decide.
Indiana: Counties Urged To Switch To Voting Machines With Paper Trails Before November Elections | WBIW
Two-thirds of Indiana counties use electronic voting machines which do not leave a paper record. Democrats want to replace them before the November election. Computer researchers led by IU president Michael McRobbie urged states to insist on voting machines with paper trails by 2020, and preferably this year. State Democratic Chairman John Zody says Virginia replaced machines on short notice last year and says it’s important enough to be worth the $25 million dollar expense.
An all-Republican state board on Monday rejected a liberal Kansas activist’s challenge to Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s listing as the GOP nominee for governor on the November ballot after he argued that hundreds of legal votes were not counted in the primary election. The State Objections Board concluded that Davis Hammet, of Topeka, could not show that Kobach’s narrow victory over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the GOP primary could be overturned by the issues Hammet raised. It also rejected Hammet’s argument that Kobach’s chief deputy should not have been involved in reviewing the challenge. Kobach defeated Colyer by 343 votes out of more than 317,000 cast. Colyer’s supporters initially raised some of the same questions Hammet did in his objection, but the governor conceded the race a week after the primary. “It is not merely that an objection has been made for one of the appropriate grounds. You also must present evidence that this election would be overturned,” said Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker, who presided over the board’s meeting.
Legislation introduced by Statehouse Democrats setting a requirement for how much in federal election security funds must be used for new voting machines would put the minimum at nearly twice as much as Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is planning. Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, said she has heard from constituents who want to ensure elections are protected from errors or manipulation. She is among the sponsors of a bill requiring New Jersey to use at least half of any federal election funds it gets for safer voting systems. Turner was surprised that the state plans to spend $2.5 million of the nearly $9.8 million in Help America Vote Act funds it will soon receive on voting machines, with nearly three-quarters of the funds directed to other priorities.
Federal investigators seeking a massive number of voting records from North Carolina election officials also want voter registration documents from the state Division of Motor Vehicles. A DMV spokesman confirmed Monday that the agency had received a subpoena recently from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh. Prosecutors want voter registration applications since 2010 that meet at least one of the several criteria, including applications from foreign-born applicants and from non-U.S. citizens “completed in a language other than English,” according to a copy of the subpoena. The state elections board is already fighting to block federal subpoenas sent to it and 44 county elections boards, calling them overly broad and unreasonable. The state board estimated those requests for ballots, poll books, absentee ballot requests, registration applications and other documents would cover more than 20 million records.
North Dakota is asking a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling that found problems with how the state’s voter identification laws affect Native Americans. The state is arguing the case Monday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in April agreed to expand the proof of identity Native Americans can use for North Dakota elections. The judge also ordered eliminating a requirement that those documents include residential street addresses, which sometimes aren’t assigned on American Indian reservations.
Virginia: Review finds elections agency had culture of ‘open support for one party over the other’ | Richmond Times-Dispatch
A legislative review of Virginia’s Department of Elections has found that the agency had an “environment of open support for one party over the other” under leadership appointed by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. Staff from the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission presented their findings Monday in a 75-page report that pointed to the perception of political bias and a faulty IT system as two key issues state lawmakers may want to address. Jamie Bitz, a chief legislative analyst for JLARC, said interviews with local voter registrars and state elections staffers showed there was “a perception of political bias that was reflected in decisions about certain policies and certain agency operations.”
Yerevan’s municipal election campaign formally kicked off on September 10, with 12 political parties and alliances taking part. The September 23 elections will be the first major election in Armenia since opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian became prime minister after leading a wave of antigovernment protests in May. Voters in the Armenian capital will elect the 65 members of the Council of Elders under a proportional representation system. The council will later elect a new mayor of Yerevan. Under Armenian election law, any political party or bloc winning more than 40 percent of the votes will have the top candidate on its list automatically elected mayor.
Congo: The U.S. is warning Congo that using electronic voting machines could backfire | The Washington Post
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has a warning for another country preparing for a presidential election: Use electronic voting machines at your own risk. At a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York late last month, Haley called on Congo to abandon its plan to use the machines for the first time in favor of paper ballots — what she called a “trusted, tested, transparent and easy-to-use voting method.” And earlier this year, she said: “These elections must be held by paper ballots so there is no question by the Congolese people about the results. The U.S. has no appetite to support an electronic voting system.” But the U.S. is still working to secure its own election infrastructure from the threat of foreign interference and cyberattacks — and though security experts and top federal officials here have also called on states to use machines with paper trails, it’s an uphill battle.
The Elections Department (ELD) plans to introduce electronic voter registration at the next General Election (GE), with a tender to procure the necessary equipment set to be called later this year. This comes after the Government previously announced plans to pilot e-registration at a few constituencies during the Presidential Election last September. But the effort did not materialise as there was no contest. Responding to TODAY’s queries, an ELD spokesperson said on Tuesday (Sept 11): “If all goes according to plan, we intend to implement this across all polling stations at the next GE.”
Sweden headed for a hung parliament after an election on Sunday that saw support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats surge as one of Europe’s most liberal nations turned right amid fears over immigration. Far-right parties have made spectacular gains throughout Europe in recent years as anxieties grow over national identity and the effects of globalisation and immigration following armed conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. In Sweden, an influx of 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015 – the most in Europe in relation to the country’s population of 10 million – has polarised voters and fractured the long-standing political consensus.