As Election Day gets closer, one issue looms large for voters and election officials alike: cybersecurity. Hoping to quell fears about foreign hackers and repel potential threats, many states and counties are beefing up their plans to deal with cyberattacks. They’re shoring up systems to protect their voter databases and hiring security experts to assess the strength of their defenses. They’re coordinating with social-media organizations to stamp out deliberately fraudulent messages that could mislead voters about how to cast a ballot. And they’re banding together to share information and simulating how to respond to potential emergencies. One simulation-based exercise, held by the Department of Homeland Security in mid-August, gathered officials from 44 states, the District of Columbia and multiple federal agencies, the DHS says. “There absolutely is more emphasis on contingency planning” since 2016, says J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan.
National: Election Equipment Vendors Play a Key, and Underexamined, Role in U.S. Democracy | Take Care
Every vote in the United States — for city council, state representative, or president — is cast using materials and equipment manufactured by third party vendors. There are vendors large and small, but the American election equipment industry is dominated by three vendors: ES&S, Hart, and Dominion. These vendors manufacture the machines that approximately 92% of eligible voters use on election day — and they wield extraordinary power with significant implications for our democracy. Because of this, it’s critical that elected officials and advocates pay attention to the role vendors play in the security and transparency of American election systems. Perhaps most concerning are vendor efforts to keep secret the technology upon which American elections rely while at the same time feteing state and local election officials with expensive trips and meals. Vendors have actively and increasingly pushed back on efforts to study and analyze the equipment that forms the basic foundation of our democratic processes.
Symantec is offering a free tool for US campaigns and election officials to fight fraudulent websites, the company announced Tuesday. The feature could help take away an important weapon in the election hacking arsenal: the spoof website. Lookalike websites could imitate official government sites and report false information about candidates or voting. What’s more, they’ve already been used to imitate a login page to trick campaign workers to enter their valuable usernames and passwords. That approach, called phishing, was key to letting hackers gain access to the emails and internal documents of important Democratic Party organizations and key figures in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to an indictment of the Russian hackers alleged to have stolen and leaked emails from the groups.
National: Is There Voter Suppression In 2018? Here’s What It Could Look Like In The Midterms | Bustlea
Voter suppression is a serious issue that takes many forms — but it’s a lot more subtle than you might think. When it comes to voter suppression in the midterms, you might not even know it’s happening, but you can bet that a bunch of (strategically placed) red tape will end up blocking some people from voting this year. Basically, any action taken with the goal of preventing or dissuading you from voting is voter suppression. You often hear about voter suppression in the context of policies that have made it harder for certain groups of people, or for people who live in certain areas, to cast their ballots. These barriers are bureaucratic for the most part. Voting rights advocates point to voter ID requirements, decreased early voting opportunities, polling station closures, voter roll purges, and gerrymandering as means of voter suppression. Voting rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging most of these obstacles in court, but there’s still the possibility you could run into difficulties at the polls. Don’t panic, though. There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you (and the people you know) don’t encounter any barriers to voting this year. Let’s walk through some of the hurdles that could prevent you from voting, and then we’ll talk about what you can do about them.
Georgia: This Judge Just Cast More Doubt on Elections Security Right Before Midterms | InsideSources
Right before midterms, a United States District Court judge found that Georgia’s electronic voting machines are extremely vulnerable to hacking and foreign meddling — including from Russia — but ruled against changing the state’s elections systems to avoid voter confusion and chaos. But by simply highlighting the vulnerability of Georgia’s electronic voting machines, the judge may have already undermined voter confidence just weeks before the midterms. The new ruling from Judge Amy Totenberg in Curling v. Kemp found that Georgia’s electronic voting machines are so easily hacked that it is irresponsible for a locality or state to use them without a paper audit trail. Georgia’s machines do not have paper audit trails. Totenberg admonished the state of Georgia for not properly addressing election security issues in time for the 2018 midterm elections, reminding them that “2020 elections are around the corner” and that “if a new balloting system is to be launched in Georgia in an effective manner, it should address democracy’s critical need for transparent, fair, accurate, and verifiable election processes that guarantee each citizen’s fundamental right to cast an accountable vote.”
As Georgia’s top elections official runs for governor, a federal judge said the state has stalled too long in the face of “a mounting tide of evidence of the inadequacy and security risks” of its voting system. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, is in the midst of a closely watched race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state House minority leader who’s trying to become the country’s first black, female governor. He has repeatedly insisted that Georgia’s current voting system is secure. Voting integrity advocates sued last year, arguing that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and provide no way to confirm that votes have been recorded correctly because there’s no paper trail. They sought an immediate change to paper ballots for the midterm elections while the case is pending. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg declined to grant that request Monday, saying that although voting integrity advocates have demonstrated “the threat of real harms to their constitutional interests,” she worried about the “massive scrambling” required for a last-minute change to paper ballots. Early voting starts Oct. 15 for the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Kansas: ACLU sues for Johnson County voters’ names whose ballots were rejected | The Kansas City Star
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to get the names of Johnson County voters who cast provisional ballots in the August primary. The ACLU also wants a list of voters in the county who cast advance mail ballots that were rejected because their signature didn’t match their voter record. The lawsuit comes after a tumultuous Republican primary election for gov rnor that exposed sometimes-subjective vote counting. Some Kansas counties counted ballots that would have been tossed out in others in a race between Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer that was decided by fewer than 350 votes. “We aren’t asking to see who they voted for or any private information,” said Lauren Bonds, the ACLU of Kansas’ legal director, in a statement. “That information should be afforded the utmost privacy. However, people should know whether their vote counted or if people faced any unnecessary barriers to voting. The public interest here is just transparency.”
It’s 49 days until Election Day and the Kentucky State Board of Elections is mired in chaos. At issue is a power struggle between the staff of the State Board of Elections and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes over control of Kentucky’s election system. Grimes, a Democrat, argues that her role as chairwoman of the board of elections requires her staff to have access to Kentucky’s voter registration database and oversight of the day-to-day operations of the State Board of Elections. Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections, filed a complaint last month with the board, the executive branch ethics commission and the state personnel board, alleging Grimes had overstepped her authority by eliminating the independence of the board’s staff, asking her staffers to access the voter database, and creating a hostile work environment.
County workers are stuffing envelopes with mail-in ballots, and they’re stuffing a lot of envelopes. Thanks to a new state law, every voter who got a mail-in ballot in 2016 will automatically get one this year, unless they opt out in writing. So where Monmouth County expected to send out up to 20,000 mail-in ballots, it will now have to send out more than 30,000. “That part of the law, that new change, has been difficult to implement in such a short time period because vote by mail ballots start going out Sept. 22. It’s not like we have until November to implement a law that was enacted in August. We basically had a month,” said Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law in August, arguing that expanding mail-in voting, or what used to be known as an absentee ballot, would expand voter participation. County clerks, however, say they had just weeks to comply with the law, without additional resources to do so.
North Carolina: Florence complicates the election process. Will it keep people from voting? | News & Observer
Turnout may be tempered in the upcoming election after Hurricane Florence impaired North Carolina’s infrastructure, displaced thousands of voters and distracted from political issues as candidates jockey for favor. The deadly storm arrived just as door-knocking, campaign advertisements and fundraising started to ramp up. At stake this year are a state Supreme Court seat, congressional seats, six proposed constitutional amendments and control of North Carolina’s legislature, along with municipal races. Republicans control the legislature, and Democrats hope to gain influence by winning four House seats or six Senate seats to break the GOP supermajority. But Florence has thrown a wrench into the Republican and Democratic machines. It dumped record amounts of rain from the coast to the Piedmont, causing flooding that’s displaced countless residents and complicated the election preparation process.
Virginia: House GOP releases redistricting proposal it says is ‘race blind’; Democrats reject it as ’empty rhetoric’ | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates unveiled their own redistricting plan Tuesday, saying their proposed map is “race blind” and would fix racial gerrymandering without giving either party a significant political advantage. The General Assembly has six weeks left to pass a new House electoral map after a federal court ruled over the summer that lawmakers unconstitutionally prioritized race during the 2011 redistricting process by drawing too many African-American voters into majority-minority districts. The 2011 map passed with bipartisan support. It remains to be seen whether the GOP-controlled legislature will pass a map before the Oct. 30 deadline set by the court. But the introduction of the Republican plan puts another option on the table ahead of a House elections committee meeting next week. The bill’s patron is Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle.
With less than two months until the November election, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has hired several new staff members to help with election security. The federal government awarded the commission nearly $7 million in grants for election security. “We’re using a significant amount of that money on hiring new people, as well as for system enhancements for security,” said Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The elections commission will hold a meeting on Aug. 25 to ask clerks and members of the public how they should spend the rest of the grant money.
Bangladesh: National Economic Council approves USD 456 million project to procure electronic voting machines | Business Standard News
Bangladesh plans to buy 1.5 lakh electronic voting machines at a cost of nearly USD 456 million, the country’s top economic policy-making body announced Tuesday. The project was approved at the weekly Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting here headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister A H M Mustafa Kamal said the Prime Minister had directed that the voting machines should initially be used in urban areas as the number of educated people in cities and towns is higher. “The EVMs will be used mainly in urban areas at first and will gradually be introduced in other areas,” he was quoted as saying by the ‘Dhaka Tribune’.
Canada: Elections Canada wants to buy social media ‘listening’ tool to track threats ahead of 2019 election | Globalnews.ca
Twitter, Reddit, Facebook. All three have been accused over the last two years of letting themselves be used by Russian attempts to influence the 2016 American election and as a new procurement posting suggests, they are just a few of the social media sites Elections Canada wants to keep an even closer eye on as it tracks risks and trends ahead of the 2019 Canadian election. To do that, the elections agency plans to buy what it calls a “social media and open source data listening and analytics tool.” In a notice of proposed procurement posted on Tuesday morning, the elections agency writes that it needs the new tool to be able to “listen, in near real time, to key influencers to identify potential issues that may affect the election early on,” as well as to “detect, through timely and accurate notifications, potential incidents and trends affecting the integrity of Canadian electoral events in near real time.”
More than a quarter of a million people will vote on Sunday for the next leader of the tropical Maldives in an election criticized internationally for a lack of transparency and suppression of government critics. President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a second five-year term in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular high-end tourist destination and a key state in the battle for influence between India and China. But the government has jailed many of his main rivals after speedy trials for charges ranging from terrorism to corruption, and introduced new vote-counting rules that observers say will prevent them from seeing individual ballot papers, leading to doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.
The campaign to register overseas Pakistanis for internet-voting in the upcoming by-polls evoked a lukewarm response, with only 7,419 expatriates out of the total 632,000 registering to avail the facility offered to them for the first time in the country’s electoral history. The process of registration of overseas Pakistanis from the 37 constituencies where by-elections are to be held on Oct 14 had started on Sept 1 and came to a close on Monday at 9am. According to a statement released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the website for the overseas voters remained functional 24/7 throughout the registration process and did not face any technical problems.
Russian gubernatorial candidate Andrei Ishchenko, of the Communist Party, has ended his hunger strike in protest of election authorities of rigging the results in Sunday’s runoff vote for governor of the Primorye region, in the country’s Far East. The hunger strike was called off — at least for now — after officials said they would investigate the vote count. With 95% of the ballots counted, Ishchenko had a 5% lead over the candidate from a pro-Kremlin party. However, a few hours later election officials reported that after all the votes were counted, the Kremlin-backed incumbent Andrei Tarasenko had won.
Togo will hold legislative and local elections in December as well as a referendum on constitutional reform. “We will hold the local elections and the referendum on December 16, and on December 20 we will organise legislative elections,” national election commission chief Kodjona Kadanga said on Tuesday. “We are technically prepared. I can assure you that we have sufficient balloting material as well as people. There are no problems on our side.” Kadanga did not specify what reforms were envisaged. Togo’s latest political crisis started in August 2017, when large numbers of people rallied against the administration of President Faure Gnassingbe. Mass anti-government rallies have repeatedly been held across the country since, with protesters demanding an end to the 50-year rule by the Gnassingbe family and constitutional reform, including a two-term limit for presidents.