The good news is that the thousands of county and municipal governments that administer elections across the US have a variety of effective cybersecurity programs available to them, free of charge. The bad news is that the vast majority don’t use any of them. In the complex debate about US election security, the focus tends to be on campaigns, parties, states, voting equipment manufacturers, and national trends. But the literal administration of elections, like the printing of ballots, coordinating poll workers, and organizing polling places, falls to more than 10,000 county clerks and local municipalities, according to the nonprofit organization Verified Voting. And those are the people the Department of Homeland Security would like to sign up for its cybersecurity program.
National: Thousands at risk from rightwing push to purge eligible voters from US rolls | The Guardian
In June last year, Luis, a resident of Virginia, was astonished to discover that his name and personal details, including home address, had been posted on the internet by a group known as the Public Interest Legal Foundation (Pilf). Luis’s data had been released by the group, along with hundreds of other names, as an appendix to Pilf’s two-part report called “Alien Invasion”. The front cover showed a UFO hovering ominously over a billboard on which the famous tourism slogan “Virginia is for lovers” had been photoshopped to read: “Virginia is for aliens”. In lurid language, Pilf claimed that it had uncovered proof that “large numbers of ineligible aliens are registering to vote and casting ballots”. It warned its readers: “Your vote is at risk. New alien voters are being added to the rolls month after month, and swift changes must be made to ensure that only Americans are choosing American leaders.” The only problem was that Luis, in common with dozens of other Virginians on the list posted by Pilf, was not in fact an “alien”. He was born in Los Angeles and has always enjoyed US citizenship, with full rights to vote since the age of 18. He also happens to be a federal employee of the US immigration service. Yet here he was, his name attached to a report in which Pilf claimed to have discovered more than 5,000 non-citizens in Virginia who had cast 7,474 votes – every one a criminal act amounting to a felony.
Five years after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has confirmed predictions that the ruling would hobble enforcement of that landmark law. In addition to prohibiting racial discrimination in voting nationwide, the Voting Rights Act requires states and localities with a history of discrimination —most of them in the South —to “pre-clear” changes in their election procedures with the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court. In its 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, however, the court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress had established to determine which states would have to submit to pre-clearance, effectively shutting pre-clearance down.
Arizona: Maricopa County Audit: election mishaps due to faulty equipment, no backup plan | Arizona Capitol Times
Malfunctioning voting equipment and the lack of a back-up plan led to 62 polling locations opening late for the Aug. 28 primary election, the Maricopa County auditors concluded. The Maricopa County Internal Audit Department conducted a review of the election-day mishaps and found they were tied to the county’s electronic voter check-in and ballot printing system, which was first used in the November 2017 municipal elections and the special election for Congressional District 8 in February. The review found that the county’s electronic voter check-in system, SiteBooks, which was used at all 463 polling locations and 40 vote centers, didn’t work at the polling locations that opened late. The Recorder’s Office denied many of the auditor’s findings, which were made public Sept. 21.
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 Elections Cybersecurity will focus on combating social media campaigns that try to confuse voters or discourage them from casting ballots. During the 2016 election, in addition to hacking email accounts and attacking voting systems, Russian agents used social media to plant disinformation intended to drive down voter turnout.
When Georgia voters cast their ballots this fall, some will wonder whether the state’s outdated touchscreen voting machines are safe and accurate. Election officials say voters have nothing to fear, but election integrity advocates say there’s good reason to worry. Electronic voting machines could be hacked if someone got around security measures. There’s no paper backup. And a state election computer exposed voting information online for months. Even a federal judge said this week that there’s a “mounting tide of evidence” the state’s digital voting system is at risk. Can Georgians trust their votes will be counted in the election for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp? Skeptics say they’ve lost faith in the system and in Kemp’s ability to oversee it while running for higher office. Kemp and election officials are trying to reassure voters that the election system hasn’t been compromised, and that voting is safe and accurate.
As Georgia leaders debate how to replace the state’s maligned voting system, local government officials have a simple request: Pick up the tab. In its list of legislative priorities released earlier this month, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said the state government should fully fund any new voting technology. It also said the state should pay to train county employees to use the new system — whatever it turns out to be. State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said during a June meeting that a new voting system will cost “realistically” $30-$60 million. Todd Edwards, the association’s deputy legislative director, pointed out Friday that a Georgia law on the books requires the state to pay for voting equipment in all 159 counties. That doesn’t guarantee the law will be the same when the Legislature wraps up at end of March.
A federal judge ordered Missouri officials to provide voter registration information to residents seeking to update their addresses at motor vehicle offices by mail or online. U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes found that their failure to do so violates the National Voter Registration Act, more commonly known as the federal motor voter law. Wimes ordered the action to be taken ahead of this November’s election. His order came in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. The suit named Missouri Secretary of State John R. “Jay” Ashcroft and Joel Walters, director of the Missouri Department of Revenue. Ashcroft is the state’s chief election official responsible for enforcing the motor voter law. The Department of Revenue oversees the Driver License Bureau.
Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton plans to replace the state’s voter registration system and pay for improvements to its election cyber security programs with a $3 million federal grant. The money is part of $380 million in grants President Donald Trump budgeted for election security across the nation against a backdrop of threats from Russia and others. Montana is putting up $150,000 as a 5 percent match for the grant. Stapleton outlined the plan in a letter to members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a group that administers the grants, sent out Wednesday. The state received the money, but the program required Stapleton provide details on how it would be spent.
North Carolina: Bipartisan Furor as North Carolina Election Law Shrinks Early Voting Locations by Almost 20 Percent | ProPublica
In June, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation mandating that all early voting sites in the state remain open for uniform hours on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., a move supporters argued would reduce confusion and ultimately make early voting easier and more accessible. But with the start of early voting only weeks away, county election officials across the state — who previously had control over setting polling hours in their jurisdictions — say the new law has hamstrung their ability to best serve voters. Some officials in rural counties say they’ve had to shrink the number of early voting locations to accommodate the law’s longer hour requirements and stay within their budgets. A ProPublica analysis of polling locations shows that North Carolina’s 2018 midterm election will have nearly 20 percent fewer early voting locations than there were in 2014. Nearly half of North Carolina’s 100 counties are shutting down polling places, in part because of the new law. Poorer rural counties, often strapped for resources to begin with, are having a particularly difficult time adjusting to the new requirement.
South Carolina: Court ruling could change how South Carolina votes. Will it stop elections from being hacked? | The State
Duncan Buell paints a nightmare scenario of how South Carolina’s elections could be hacked. Someone armed with a smartphone, a palm pilot — even a personal electronic ballot purchased online, like the ones used by S.C. poll workers — could sign in to vote at a polling site and load a bit of malicious code onto one of the state’s touchscreen voting machines without anyone noticing. A voter carrying their own personal electronic ballot might stand out in the line to cast a ballot, said Buell, a computer science professor at Clemson University who consults on election technology. But, he added, “If it’s a day when it would not be unusual to be wearing a trench coat, someone could get it in, slot it and insert malware into the machine.” Buell is not the only one worried that South Carolina’s aging voting machines are vulnerable to outside interference in an election. Last week, a federal court in Georgia ruled against an effort to force the Peach State to switch to paper ballots in time for the Nov. 6 election.
When Gov. Jim Justice recently appointed two of the most prominent Republicans in the state to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court of Appeals, he might not have expected such a heavy legal fight. But the temporary appointments, and the men hoping to win the seats in the November general election, are facing a legal battle that will kick off Monday morning — in the state’s Supreme Court. Currently, only two elected justices are actively serving on the Supreme Court. Those two are Justices Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, both of whom were impeached by delegates earlier this year. They are currently awaiting the Senate to try their impeachments, which will decide if they should be removed from office.
African Union election observers urged eSwatini on Saturday to lift a ban on political parties and allow candidates to campaign freely in the tiny country, which went to the polls this week. The AU statement came a day after parliamentary elections in landlocked eSwatini, which is ruled by an absolute monarch and was known as Swaziland until earlier this year. Candidates cannot be affiliated to any political group under the constitution which emphasises “individual merit” as the basis for selecting members of parliament and public officials.
A nondescript office in Riga’s communist-era Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science may be Latvia’s last line of defense against threats to next month’s general election. There, the nation’s 29-strong CERT cyber-security group is bracing for its biggest test to date: repelling attempts by Russia to sway the voting process. Having studied meddling in the U.S. and fellow European Union members like Germany, the team is schooling state employees on suspicious emails and website links that could be phishing attempts, all the while receiving “threat feeds” from NATO and allied countries. Elsewhere, the government is working with Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to stem the spread of fake news. Ballots at the Oct. 6 vote will be scanned electronically and can be counted by hand, should concerns arise at any precinct, adding an extra layer of security.
PKR’s electronic voting system is not going well in Kedah as the names of candidates and voters went missing in the voting app after the system hung, leading to a fight and the postponement of voting in eight divisions. It is learned that a voter in Merbok lost his cool after discovering that the names of certain candidates had gone missing from the e-ballots and alleged that this was an attempt at sabotage. A video of him wielding a stick and hitting someone has also gone viral on social media. The police reportedly arrested two men in connection with the fight. Kedah PKR chairman Dr Azman Ismail, who is Kuala Kedah MP, said voting in seven divisions had to be postponed because the voting stations could not connect to the Internet.
Maldives: Long lines, fainting and shoving: Maldives voting proves slow-going | Maldives Independent
People reported waiting up to six hours to cast their vote in the Maldives presidential election Sunday, as long lines persisted at polling stations more than halfway through the day. There are about 262,000 eligible voters. Elections Commission member Ahmed Akram told the Maldives Independent that turnout had reached 38 percent by noon. Polls close in less than an hour, but queues stretched outside most schools where polling stations were set up in the capital. In Kuala Lumpur people fainted while waiting, leaving others in the queue to manage the line and arrange for drinking water. Queues were said to extend from the 10th floor to the ground floor. There are almost 1,900 people registered to vote in Kuala Lumpur, but only one ballot box.
British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday he would back a second Brexit referendum if his Labour Party votes to pursue the move, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, whose plans for a divorce deal with the EU have hit an impasse. Corbyn, a veteran eurosceptic, has resisted growing demands to back a new “People’s Vote” on the decision to quit the European Union, keen to keep those party members on board who voted in favour of Brexit at a 2016 referendum. But the political landscape has changed since May’s plans for Brexit — the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades — were resoundingly rebuffed by the EU on Thursday, with any outcome of the negotiations more uncertain than ever.