It’s been a tough couple of years for the business of voting. There’s the state that discovered a Russian oligarch now finances the company that hosts its voting data. Then there’s the company that manufactures and services voter registration software in eight states that found itself hacked by Russian operatives leading up to the 2016 presidential election. And then there’s the largest voting machine company in the country, which initially denied and then admitted it had installed software on its systems considered by experts to be extremely vulnerable to hacking. Private companies play a crucial role in elections, from printing and designing ballots, to manufacturing voting machines, to hosting results websites. The industry exists because the local and state governments who run elections don’t have the resources or expertise to maintain all aspects of an election themselves.
Joseph Stalin, no friend of free elections, is credited with saying it was not the people who cast the votes that decide elections. It’s the people who count them. Since the 2016 presidential election, considerable thought — but not much money — has gone into seeing if he’s wrong. According to an expert interviewed by NPR, it would cost at most $400 million to make states with vulnerable systems more secure, but a bill to do that died in Congress last month. There have been some changes in voting procedures, but whether the changes will be enough to block foreign and domestic interference with the upcoming midterm elections is simply unknown.
It its latest report on minority voting rights in America, published this month, the bipartisan United States Commission on Civil Rights reports that a range of restrictive voting measures have been enacted by states in recent years. They range from laws demanding that voters produce specific forms of identification to reductions in the number of locations where people can cast their ballot. These laws have a disproportionate effect on the ability of minority groups to exercise their voting rights. And thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that weakens federal authority to restrict such laws, they are remaining on the books. The 1965 Voting Rights Act and its extensions helped dismantle generations of rules and regulations that had disenfranchised minority voters—and in particular black Americans. One of the act’s major provisions mandated that jurisdictions with a history of voter rights discrimination, including Texas, North Carolina, and seven other states, had to “pre-clear” new voting requirements. This involved persuading the federal government or a three-judge panel that the requirements would not be discriminatory in impact. But in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance process.
Sandwiched between Building 20 and Building 21 in the heart of Facebook’s campus, an approximately 25-foot-by-35-foot conference room is under construction. Thick cords of blue wiring hang from the ceiling, ready to be attached to window-size computer monitors on 16 desks. On one wall, a half-dozen televisions will be tuned to CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and other major networks. A small paper sign with orange lettering taped to the glass door describes what’s being built: “War Room.” Although it is not much to look at now, as of next week the space will be Facebook’s headquarters for safeguarding elections. More than 300 people across the company are working on the initiative, but the War Room will house a team of about 20 focused on rooting out disinformation, monitoring false news and deleting fake accounts that may be trying to influence voters before elections in the United States, Brazil and other countries.
Voting Blogs: CEIR voter registration database security report: Survey finds most states adopted best cybersecurity practices since ‘16 | electionlineWeekly
The Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) has released a new report based on a survey of 26 states conducted between June and July of 2018 to assess the current state of security around voter registration databases (VRDBs). The survey results, released ahead of National Voter Registration Day, show that immense progress has been made in securing voter registration databases since 2016, though significant room for improvement remains for states to strengthen their defenses against hacking attempts. Voter registration databases have been a central focus of conversations around election security since the 2016 presidential election when several voter registration databases were scanned and at least one infiltrated by Russian operatives.
The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on the state’s appeal of a ruling invalidating the voter ID law passed in 2017. Judge Alice Gray enjoined the law as an unconstitutional addition of a restriction on voting, but the Supreme Court earlier stayed that order and the law was put in place in primary voting. Jeff Priebe, attorney for the plaintiff, Barry Haas, in a public interest lawsuit, argued that the 2017 law was an attempt to circumvent a similar law passed in 2014 that was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court. A change was made that allowed voters who didn’t have an ID to cast a provisional ballot and sign an affidavit and the vote is supposed to be counted unless other problems are found.
The campaign website of a Democratic congressional candidate in California was taken down by cyberattacks several times during the primary election season, according to cybersecurity experts. Rolling Stone reported on Thursday that cybersecurity experts who reviewed forensic server data and emails concluded that the website for Bryan Caforio, who finished third in the June primary, was hit with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks while he was campaigning. The attacks, which amount to artificially heavy website traffic that forces hosting companies to shut down or slow website services, were not advanced enough to access any data on the campaign site, but they succeeded in blocking access to bryancaforio.com four times before the primary, including during a crucial debate and in the week before the election.
California election officials are launching a new effort to fight the kind of disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 elections — an effort that comes with thorny legal and political questions. The state’s new Office of Election Cybersecurity will focus on social media efforts to discourage or confuse voters into not casting a ballot. During the 2016 election, in addition to hacking email accounts and attacking voting systems, Russian agents used social media also planted disinformation intended to drive down voter turnout.
Georgia election officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision to allow voters to continue a challenge to the state’s practice of relying solely on electronic voting machines in its elections. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp filed a notice of appeal Tuesday evening after U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled the Coalition for Good Governance had validly stated a claim that the machines used in the state’s election are vulnerable to hacking. The group, representing voters across the state, had hoped Totenberg would issue a preliminary injunction and order the state to use paper ballots during the November midterm election. Totenberg declined to do so due to the lack of time to get the new system in place before November 6.
Georgia won’t be required to make a last-minute switch to paper ballots for the November midterm elections, but a federal judge still sent a strong message to election officials that she saw significant flaws with the state’s “dated, vulnerable” voting system. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Monday denied a motion by a group of voters seeking to force Secretary of State Brian Kemp and county election offices to stop using direct recording electronic voting machines, or DREs, for anyone other than people with disabilities in 2018. DREs use reprogrammable, removable memory cards vulnerable to hackers and don’t produce an independent paper audit trail. In her order, Totenberg noted that during recent testimony she heard from both county and state officials that the logistics of moving to a paper ballot with early voting coming next month would create chaos for voters. But the judge also emphasized that she “advises the Defendants that further delay is not tolerable in their confronting of and tackling the challenges before the State’s election balloting system.”
The hackers leaned back in their chairs and scanned through options to disrupt election day as if they were reading from a menu of chaos. Fake bomb threats. Orchestrated traffic jams. A botnet of faux Twitter accounts to spread discord. In a simulated exercise put on by the Boston-based cybersecurity firm Cybereason Sept. 20, a team of seven hackers tried to outwit a group of current and former law enforcement officials from the Massachusetts area. In the end, the hackers did not need to be selective about their options. They decided to combine all of their ideas into a concoction of havoc to pick apart the simulated voting day.
North Carolina: Hurricane Florence could impact midterm elections in some North Carolina counties | The Daily Tar Heel
Even with Hurricane Florence over, North Carolina residents continue to feel its effects as many are still displaced or without power. These conditions not only impact the daily lives of residents but could also impact their ability to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. Duke Energy released a statement on Sept. 19 that estimated 1.7 million customers lost power due to Hurricane Florence. Crews have restored power to 1.6 million customers, but that leaves 114,000 customers without power. “Many of the remaining impacted customers are located in coastal and inland areas that experienced historic flooding, multiple road closures and significant structural damage,” the statement said. Last week, Tideland EMC, which serves a portion of eastern North Carolina along the coast, reported that 77 percent of its customers were without power. Tideland has not yet released updated statistics.
In the future, Wyomingites could be filling out their ballots from the comfort of their own home. A proposed bill to allow counties to move to mail-in ballot elections cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, passing out of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee on an 11-2 vote. But whether or not it finds support in the full Legislature next session remains to be seen. The bill would give county clerks the option to switch over their elections to a mail-in ballot. Voters would receive a ballot at their residence and could drop it off or mail it back to the county clerk’s office, or drop it off at one of several secured ballot drop boxes across the county. The bill also mandates the county have one polling center open on the day of the election where voters could drop off a ballot or fill one out.
Political parties cannot be involved, there are no campaign rallies and the king wields absolute power, choosing the prime minister and cabinet: a parliamentary election in eSwatini is a vote like no other. The country, landlocked between SA and Mozambique, suffers the highest HIV adult prevalence rate in the world at 27.2%. Opposition activists in the tiny Southern African country formerly known as Swaziland say Friday’s election is a mockery of democracy and reveals how its 1.3-million citizens have lived under a repressive regime. In addition to curbs on opposition parties, anti-government protests are all but banned. Undercurrents of dissent surfaced this week with trade union protests over low wages being broken up by riot police. At least 11 people were hurt on Tuesday, a trade union official told AFP.
The Fiji Elections Office says the registration of voters will close on the day the writ of election is announced. The FBC reported more than 600,000 Fijians have registered for the 2018 General Election as of the first of August this year. The date the 2018 General Election will be held has still not yet been announced. The Elections office Communications Director, Edwin Nand said the writ could be announced at any time and it’s important for eligible Fijians to take the opportunity to register now.
The usual din of fishmongers’ cries on the Maldivian capital’s waterfront was drowned out by loud boos on Tuesday when a truck carrying flag-waving activists campaigning to re-elect President Abdulla Yameen lumbered past them. It’s a sight that has become common in Male’s busy market, where a web of pink and yellow campaign banners hangs between every lamppost and from every fishing boat’s mast. Earlier this week, Yameen’s spokesman was booed out of the area by opposition supporters angry over corruption and human rights abuses in this popular Indian Ocean honeymoon destination. Yameen, 59, is standing for a second five-year term in polls on Sunday, promising “transformative economic development”, including jobs and housing for the Maldives’ large youth population.
Russia’s Far East region has cancelled the result of a runoff governorship vote in an unprecedented move after claims of vote-rigging in favour of a candidate backed by President Vladimir Putin triggered protests. A local electoral commission took the decision on Thursday after Russia’s election chief Ella Pamfilova on Wednesday recommended re-running the vote. The crisis erupted in the Far Eastern region of Primorsky Krai where an opposition candidate accused a ruling party representative endorsed by Putin of “stealing” his victory in the vote last Sunday.