It was mid-July 2016 when Neil Jenkins learned that someone had hacked the Illinois Board of Elections. Jenkins was a director in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, the domestic agency with a congressional mandate to protect “critical infrastructure.” Although election systems were not yet formally designated as such — that wouldn’t happen until January 2017 — it was increasingly clear that the presidential election was becoming a national-security issue. Just a month before, Americans had been confronted with the blockbuster revelation that Russian government actors had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s servers and stolen private email and opposition research against Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate. And now, it emerged, someone was trying to infiltrate the election system itself. The Illinois intruders had quietly breached the network in June and spent weeks conducting reconnaissance. After alighting on the state’s voter-registration database, they downloaded information on hundreds of thousands of voters. Then something went wrong, and the attackers crashed a server, alerting officials to their presence.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that a bipartisan election security bill won’t be passed by Congress ahead of November’s midterm elections. Lankford told The Hill that the text of the bill, known as the Secure Elections Act, is still being worked out. And with the House only being in session for a limited number of days before the elections, the chances of an election security bill being passed by then are next to none. “The House won’t be here after this week so it’s going to be impossible to get passed,” Lankford said of the bill.
National: Why lawmakers’ personal accounts are a prime target for foreign hackers | The Washington Post
Foreign government hackers are continuing their assault on the personal email accounts used by lawmakers and congressional staff — and cybersecurity experts are warning that Congress is ill-equipped to deal with the problem. The issue got fresh attention last week, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) revealed — and Google later confirmed — that an unspecified number of senators’ and Senate staff members’ private email accounts were targeted by foreign hackers, as my colleague Karoun Demirjian reported. In a letter to Senate leadership, Wyden said the Senate sergeant-at-arms, the chamber’s main cybersecurity authority, wouldn’t assist them because the cyberattacks didn’t involve official accounts or devices. The threats against personal accounts are well known. The major hacks of Democratic officials during the 2016 election involved nonofficial emails, and officials as high-ranking as White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly have had their personal accounts hacked. But Congress hasn’t taken action to safeguard their own despite intelligence officials’ warnings that foreign adversaries are still trying to disrupt U.S. politics. The risks hackers will steal or leak information only increase the longer lawmakers wait to secure their personal accounts, said Daniel Schuman, co-founder of the Congressional Data Coalition, which seeks to improve the way Congress stores and shares information online.
The most secure form of voting technology remains the familiar, durable innovation known as paper, according to a report authored by a group of election experts, including two prominent scholars from MIT. The report, issued by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, is a response to the emerging threat of hackers targeting computerized voting systems, and it comes as concerns continue to be aired over the security of the U.S. midterm elections of 2018. The U.S. has a decentralized voting system, with roughly 9,000 political jurisdictions bearing some responsibility for administering elections. However, for all that variation, and while many questions are swirling around election security, the report identifies some main themes on the topic.
National: Congress poised to allow DHS to take the lead on federal cybersecurity | The Washington Post
After years of debate, Congress is poised to vote on legislation that would cement the Department of Homeland Security’s role as the government’s main civilian cybersecurity authority. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act, which has been in the works since the Obama administration, would give the department a stand-alone cybersecurity agency with the same stature as other DHS units, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Senate could vote on the bill, which passed in the House last year, as early as this week as it takes up a slew of cybersecurity-related legislation. Approving the legislation would mark a major shift in Congress’s views on whether DHS should lead the government’s efforts to protect federal computer networks, power plants and other critical infrastructure from digital attacks. Attempts to make DHS the government’s civilian cybersecurity hub have stalled amid resistance from some lawmakers who say the relatively young agency isn’t as well equipped to deal with cyberthreats as the National Security Agency or the FBI.
With midterm elections right around the corner, election officials says they’re focused on putting contingency plans in place so voting can continue even if systems are disrupted. Edgardo Cortés, the former Virginia Commissioner of Elections and current Election Security Advisor at the Brennan Center for Justice, said he is focused on low-tech plans to ensure voting continues to take place. These plans include having enough provisional ballots and having a back-up paper poll book at each voting location — “things that will keep the process going and allow people to vote even if we end up with a worst-case situation,” Cortés said at a Sept. 24 Brennan Center event.
Twenty-five years ago, when he was a sophomore at Ohio State, Neil Volz started volunteering for his state senator, Bob Ney. Volz grew up in a family that wasn’t especially political, but he was drawn to libertarian principles about limited regulation and taxation, and a political-science professor connected him with Ney, who was about to run in the Republican primary for an open seat in Congress. When Ney won his congressional election in 1994, the year Newt Gingrich’s “Republican revolution” swept Democrats from power in Washington, he asked Volz to join his staff. Volz was 24 (he had taken time off from college), and he decided to rent a car to drive to Washington and take the job. “It was a dream come true, honestly,” he told me.
After more than 668,000 voter registrations were canceled in Georgia in 2017, election officials are removing far fewer people from voting rolls this election year. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections, is no longer purging names from the state’s list of 6.8 million eligible voters as he runs for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams. But Kemp’s record of trimming inactive registered voters — more than 1 million since he took office in 2010 — is drawing criticism from his opponents who say he’s limiting opportunities to vote, especially among low-income and minority Georgians who are more likely to have their registrations canceled.
Mississippi: A New Class of Voting Rights Activists Picks Up the Mantle in Mississippi | The New York Times
The first time Howard Kirschenbaum registered voters in Mississippi was during the summer of 1964, when he was arrested and thrown in jail. The second time was on Tuesday, after returning to the Southern state more than a half-century later to support a new generation of voting rights activists. In the quiet of a rainy morning, Mr. Kirschenbaum helped to register students on the campus of the University of Mississippi, and before long, he was in tears. Memories of Freedom Summer 1964, the historic campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi, came rushing back. “In that moment, there must have been five or six students, all waiting patiently to fill out the registration form,” said Mr. Kirschenbaum, 73, recalling the summer he spent in Moss Point, Miss., 54 years ago. “I am witnessing this moment. They want to vote. They are able to vote. The connection between then and now was so palpable. This is what we worked for all those years ago.”
Missouri: Federal judge orders protection for Missouri voters at risk of being disenfranchised in 2018 Midterms | St. Louis American
A federal judge in the Western District of Missouri issued an order on Friday requiring the State of Missouri to take immediate steps to prevent Missourians from being denied their right to vote in this November’s election as a result of the state’s failure to comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The judge ordered that the online and mail change-of-address forms used by the state motor vehicle agency, the Department of Revenue (DOR), be updated to provide voter registration information, and that the state send every voter who has used these forms since August 1, 2017 a mailing that includes a voter registration form and information about the appropriate polling location. These mailings must continue to be sent to every voter who uses the mail and online change-of-address forms until the court-ordered changes to those forms are completed.
A 21-member panel of elected officials, former U.S. Justice department officers and nonprofit leaders convened in May by the University of Pittsburgh to review Pennsylvania’s election security issued its preliminary report Tuesday, landing on a increasingly common conclusion for states reviewing their voting processes: buy new ballot equipment that produces a paper record for each voter. The Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security, run out of Pitt’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, made two other broad recommendations in its preliminary report, calling on state and federal lawmakers to provide additional funding to help the commonwealth’s 67 counties buy new voting machines, and asking elections officials to scrutinize the cybersecurity practices of the vendors they work with. But the top-line item is the swift replacement of the direct-recording electronic machines — also known as DREs — that don’t produce printed backups of ballots, and that 83 percent of Pennsylvania voters currently use. DREs are frequently cited by election-security analysts as being particularly vulnerable to tampering because they cannot be audited following an election.
Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee
Written Testimony of Verified Voting.org President Marian K. Schneider before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee Public Hearing on Senate Bill 1249 and Voting Machine Demonstration, September 25, 2018. Download as PDF.
Thank you Chairman Folmer, Minority Chair Williams, and members of the Committee for allowing Verified Voting to submit written testimony in connection with the Senate State Government Committee hearing. We write to address the security risks presented for Pennsylvania’s counties and the need to expeditiously replace aging and vulnerable electronic voting systems. We urge the Committee to recommend that the Commonwealth appropriate adequate funding to permit counties to replace their aging electronic voting systems as soon as possible.
Verified Voting is a national non-partisan, non-profit research and advocacy organization committed to safeguarding elections in the digital age. Founded by computer scientists, Verified Voting’s mission is to advocate for the responsible use of emerging technologies to ensure that Americans can be confident their votes will be cast as intended and counted as cast. We promote auditable, accessible and resilient voting for all eligible citizens. Our board of directors and board of advisors include some of the top computer scientists, cyber security experts and statisticians working in the election administration arena as well as former and current elections officials. Verified Voting has no financial interest in the type of equipment used. Our goal is for every jurisdiction in the United States to have secure and verifiable elections.
There are two basic kinds of electronic voting systems in use in Pennsylvania: Direct recording electronic (DRE) or optical scan systems. Both types of systems are computers, and both are prepared in similar ways. The primary difference is that an optical scan system incorporates a voter-marked paper ballot, marked either with a pen or pencil or with a ballot marking device and that ballot is retained for recounts or audits. Optical scan systems leverage the speed of the computer to report unofficial results quickly. The presence and availability of that paper ballot provides a trustworthy record of voter intent and allows jurisdictions to monitor their system for problems, detect any problems, (either hacking or error), respond to them and recover by, if necessary, hand counting the paper ballots. Seventeen counties in Pennsylvania already benefit from the security protection of paper ballots.
Texas: ‘Election drainage’: ACLU says Bexar County inaccurately translated ‘election runoff’ in online Spanish material | San Antonio Express News
Spanish-speaking voters in Bexar County looking for information online about the race to replace ex-Sen. Carlos Uresti were no doubt startled to find there was “election drainage” coming up instead of a runoff. That’s one of the bad translations created by Google Translate on the county’s elections site — it was still there Tuesday — prompting the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas to write a letter to Bexar officials, warning that the county could be in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Jacque Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator, said all of the county’s departments use Google Translate online. The translation engine offers more than 100 language choices, from Albanian to Zulu and even Latin.
Wisconsin: 21,000 Milwaukee residents will get their voter registrations reinstated before the election | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
About 21,000 Milwaukee residents who were cut from the voter rolls last year will regain their voter registration before the Nov. 6 election. The state Elections Commission on Tuesday unanimously agreed to allow local clerks to reinstate the voter registration for thousands of people who were taken off the voter rolls last year. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he planned to reinstate the registrations of about 21,000 people. The Milwaukee Elections Commission will work with the state agency on the issue. “These are people who never should have been dropped from the rolls in the first place,” Barrett said.
John Nlom has five children and wants to keep them alive. When machete-wielding men attacked a nearby school this month in a suspected strike against the teaching of French, wounded students were rushed to hospitals while frightened parents decided to flee. Nlom and his family piled onto one of the dozens of buses now leaving daily from the capital of Cameroon’s Southwest Region, joining thousands of civilians escaping bloody fighting between the government and Anglophone separatists who vow to disrupt next month’s presidential elections.
Canada: Trudeau says Canada does redistricting better than we do. Is he right? | The Washington Post
Speaking Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an offhand swipe at the United States’ notoriously gerrymandered congressional districts. “Our electoral district boundaries are determined every year — every 10 years by fully independent commissions,” Trudeau said, referring to Canada’s 338 House of Commons districts. “So you get actual, you know, reasonable-looking electoral districts, and not some of the zigzags that you guys have.” Ouch. Here’s the thing, though: Trudeau has a point.
Early voting in the governor race here is surging as rumors swirl online that employers are pressuring workers to vote for certain candidates and provide photographic evidence of their choices at the ballot box. Some Internet users have posted allegations of such interference, including pictures, prompting alarmed lawyers in Okinawa Prefecture to call on the prefectural election administration committee to impose a ban on taking photographs inside polling stations. “It is a grave situation violating freedom of voting and ballot secrecy,” one of the lawyers said.
Arguments over Brexit, the rise of nationalism and how to deal with Russia are consuming Europe, but there’s one dispute that’s been edging toward a resolution – and it’s in a region where there’s much at stake for the world order. The Republic of Macedonia will hold a referendum on Sept. 30 on changing the former Yugoslav state’s name to Republic of North Macedonia. The insertion of the geographical denominator is key to settling a 27-year-old row with Greece, which claims the country misappropriated the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in northern Greece. Polls show most people support the change. The Balkans is a theater of tug-of-war between the West and Russia and resolving the dispute would be a rare victory in a volatile region where nations still struggle to mend ties going back to the bloody conflicts of the 1990s. Greece has agreed to drop its objection to the Republic of Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO as part of an agreement struck in June.
A manual voting system would be better for the PKR elections this time around, as the e-voting system which had been used in the abortive polling in Penang and Kedah appeared to have many weaknesses. State PKR chairman Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman said this was his personal opinion on the matter, adding that the e-voting system was perhaps better used for the future. He said it was brave of PKR to introduce the e-voting system, but it now appeared to not be so appropriate due to several obstacles, such as the slow Internet speeds in some areas.
Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen has conceded defeat after a surprise election win for the opposition in a poll that was billed as a test for democracy in the troubled island nation. “The citizens of the Maldives had their say … and I accept that result,” Yameen said in a televised speech on Monday. The 59-year-old, who presided over a five-year crackdown on dissent, said he met with president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the president’s office in Male shortly before his speech. “I have congratulated him,” Yameen said.
The Supreme Court, as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), recently ruled to do away with the contentious shading thresholds as basis for segregating ballots in the protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.
In a step that could fast-track the recount, justices of the tribunal unanimously agreed to refer to election returns (ERs) – the document reflecting totals from polling precincts – in determining how the votes would be credited to either candidates. “The Head Revisors are hereby directed to refer to the election returns to verity the total number of votes as read and counted by the Vote Counting Machines,” the 21-page resolution, promulgated on Tuesday, September 18, read. The resolution amends Rule 62 (Votes of the Parties) of the PET Revisor’s Guide, “effective immediately.” Its amended part now reads: “The segregation and classification of ballots shall be done by referring to the Election Return (ER) generated by the machine used in the elections.” Debate ends on 25% and 50% ballot shading thresholds: Marcos, who lost to Robredo by a narrow 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential election, has identified 3 pilot provinces in his protest: Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental – the first one being Robredo’s home province, where she won overwhelmingly.
Russia: In a first for Russia, Moscow agrees with locals that their election was rigged | CS Monitor
It is fairly common to hear public complaints that fraud is boosting pro-Kremlin candidates in Russian elections. But it is exceedingly rare to see Moscow authorities lend solid support to such complaints. That’s just what occurred in the far eastern province of Primorsky Krai, or Primorye, last week, after a “miraculous” last-minute voting surge in favor of the Kremlin-backed incumbent governor, Andrei Tarasenko, handed him a narrow victory over his Communist opponent, Andrei Ishchenko. The Communists, who say this sort of thing happens to them all the time in distant regions, took their usual course of staging some street protests and filing a lawsuit in the local court. Even they were surprised when the Central Electoral Commission in Moscow declared that the election was marred by violations and the results must be annulled. It’s the first time in post-Soviet history that a local election has been overturned.