For many, the most important question as the midterms approach isn’t whether the Democrats or Republicans will win control of Congress, but whether the elections themselves will be secure. In 2016, Russian hackers likely targeted election systems in many states and penetrated Illinois’s registration database; this year there is concern that hackers will go after both government and private systems. In March, Congress made $380 million available to states seeking to improve their election systems’ cybersecurity. But state officials and election security experts say this doesn’t even come close to addressing the nation’s electoral cybersecurity needs. So what exactly do states need to do in order to secure their election systems? Although experts largely agree on basic guidelines, there is no one playbook for how to beef up electoral cybersecurity. America’s elections infrastructure is highly decentralized, with every state managing its own system. This is a benefit in some ways, said Jim Condos, Vermont’s secretary of state and a prominent voice in election cybersecurity discussions. It means bad actors can’t just break into one centralized system. But it also means states employ a patchwork of approaches to elections cybersecurity. The contours of threats and their fixes are constantly shifting as well.
National: Voting Rights Activists Threatened with Lawsuit by ES&S Over Sharing Instruction Manual | Alternet
One the country’s most dogged vote-count transparency activists, John Brakey of Tucson, Arizona, and the small non-profit he leads, AUDIT-USA, have been told by one of America’s biggest voting machine makers to take down the instruction manuals for their firm’s paper-ballot scanners from their website by Monday—or face a lawsuit, according to a September 27, 2018, letter from Timothy J. Hallett, Associate General Counsel for Election Systems & Software, or ES&S. Brakey, a barrel-chested grandfather who sees verifying vote counts as nothing less than a moral crusade to save American democracy from the dark forces that have colonized and privatized the ballot box, posted various ES&S manuals on AUDIT-USA’s website for a simple reason. The latest generation of high-speed scanners used to tally paper ballots has a built-in feature that he wants all precincts and counting centers to use: making an electronic image of every paper ballot cast. The digitized ballot images can be used to verify close counts, which has occurred in a handful of recent races across the U.S.
A record number of people registered to vote in the midterm elections on National Voter Registration Day last week, surpassing the previous record set during the 2016 presidential campaign. More than 800,000 people registered to vote this year as part of National Voter Registration Day, which fell on Sept. 25. The corresponding campaign had aimed to register 300,000 people. “Some us were saying, ‘Hey, maybe we’ll hit 400 or 500,000,” says Brian Miller, who coordinates National Voter Registration Day in his role as executive director of Nonprofit VOTE. “No one that I know of thought we would surpass 800,000 voter registrations. That surprised all of us. But I think it’s a sign of the interest in the midterms and the interest in having this unified day of action.”
As the close of voter registration approaches in Arizona for the November 6 midterms, it is more than likely that thousands—if not tens of thousands—of registered voters who recently moved inside the state will be walking into a trap on Election Day. At best, they will face an annoying and inconvenient runaround to find a polling place to cast a ballot that will count. But just as likely many voters who moved to another county will find that their voting status has been suspended for the 2018 election. The reasons for this likely quagmire are numerous. Some of the blame falls on Arizona residents who moved and didn’t revise their voter registration information. But a larger share of the blame falls on the state, especially two agencies involved in elections, for a series of uneven, bureaucratically opaque, and even legally dubious moves that don’t come down on the side of ensuring that all already-registered voters can participate.
California has declared open season on the use of bots to try to secretly influence elections. Legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday makes it illegal to use automated online programs, or bots, to try to influence voters’ opinions during an election without revealing the source’s artificial nature. The law also applies to bots trying to sell merchandise or services. Bots are everywhere in technology, ranging from search engine spiders that crawl the internet looking for new web pages, to malicious bots that come with a virus. They’ve also been traced to Russian attempts to sow the seeds of discontent among Americans by spreading false or deceptive information during the 2016 election.
Starting next year, Kansas counties are required to do post-election audits. The check will make sure the voting process — from equipment to office procedures — is done correctly, and the election results are accurate. According to legislation approved earlier this year, a county election board will review at least one contested race on federal, state and county levels. According to legislation approved earlier this year, a county election board will review at least one contested race on federal, state and county levels. The audit will be a hand recount of paper ballots, regardless of the method of voting, in one percent of randomly selected voting districts in each county.
Cole County Senior Judge Richard Callahan said Monday he expects to have a ruling next week in the lawsuit challenging Missouri’s new law requiring a photo identification as the easiest way to cast a vote at the polls. He gave lawyers for both sides until the end of Wednesday to submit any final briefs in the case. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by national group Priorities USA, two Missouri residents and the West (St. Louis) County Community Action Network. They argue that a 2016 voter-approved amendment and the enacting legislation adding the photo ID language to Missouri Constitution don’t “eliminate the express, constitutional right to vote” that already is defined in two different places in the Constitution — and they want Callahan to block enforcement of the law during the Nov. 6 general election. “Plaintiffs started this case talking about the right to vote, and the unique place it holds in our democracy,” lawyer Uzoma Nkwonta, of Washington, D.C., told Callahan at the beginning of Monday’s final arguments in the trial that began last week.
A civil rights group and key legislator are concerned enough about how residents displaced by Hurricane Florence will be able to vote that they’re seeking action on ballot and registration access. On the eve of special session addressing Florence relief, the state NAACP held a news conference Monday asking the state elections board to extend the traditional voter registration deadline from Oct. 12 to Oct. 17 in close to 30 eastern counties. But Republican Rep. David Lewis, a House Elections Committee chairman, said he’s put together legislation for Tuesday’s special session for Florence relief that would extend traditional registration until Oct. 15 in 28 counties currently declared federal disaster areas.
North Dakota is going ahead with requiring residents to provide a street address in order to vote on Election Day, even though some American Indian tribes have argued in federal court that they sometimes aren’t assigned on reservations. Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office notified the state’s five tribes by email late Friday of North Dakota voter ID requirements. The email said obtaining a residential street address is a quick and no-cost process that can be done by notifying 911 coordinators in any of North Dakota’s 53 counties. A file containing a downloadable poster was attached to the email. “The effort is to educate people who vote and how to comply with the law,” Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said Monday.
South Carolina: Public officials, advocacy groups push for extension of voter registration deadline | WCSC
The ACLU of South Carolina and Attorney General Alan Wilson are pushing for an extension on the deadline for South Carolinians to register to vote. The requests for extending the deadline come after several counties were impacted by the threat and damages from Hurricane Florence in September. “In these extraordinary circumstances, we strongly recommend that measures be taken to ensure that all voting-eligible South Carolinians who need additional time to register to vote as a result of the impact of Hurricane Florence be given that time so that they are not disenfranchised by this natural disaster,” the ACLU said in a letter sent to the Election Commission.
U.S. Territories: Supreme Court to consider review of voter rights in U.S. territories | Virgin Islands Daily News
The U.S. Supreme Court will meet privately in conference Friday to consider whether to grant review of Segovia v. United States, a voting rights lawsuit that seeks to expand voting rights in the U.S. territories. Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, a nonprofit that advocates for equality and civil rights for Americans living in the territories, said in a Monday press release that the news is “momentous.” “The federal government’s response to hurricanes Maria and Irma has demonstrated just how important it is that Americans living in U.S. territories enjoy the same right to vote as their fellow citizens,” said Weare in the press release. “We hope the Supreme Court will take the opportunity to consider whether voting rights can be arbitrarily protected or denied based on where one happens to live outside the 50 states.”
Media Release: Wisconsin Proves It’s Not Too Late for States to Take Key Election Security Steps Before November
Nearly 20 U.S. States Do Not Audit Election Results by Checking Paper Ballots Against Machine Counts or Lack a Paper Ballot to Conduct Effective Audits WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wisconsin’s action last week requiring a post-election audit will help secure the November vote and should be followed by states that lack such protections, according to Public…
Voting in Australia has long followed the same formula – use pencils to mark on a piece of paper behind a cardboard booth, then folding said paper and slotting it into a box. For years, having humans manually count paper ballots have created an electoral system that is deemed highly secure and tamper-resistant. Compulsory voting in the country has helped secure against suppression tactics that have affected elections in the US and the UK. In the digital age, it is tempting to move voting online; the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) tried dabbling in e-voting in 2013. However, experts warned that e-voting brings more harm than good. The trouble of electronic voting has been in the spotlight for the past few years at DefCon, the world’s largest hacker conference taking place annually in the US, where hackers have been showcasing vulnerabilities to the US election equipment, databases, and infrastructure. In fact, this year an 11-year-old managed to hack into replica websites to manipulate vote tallies in just 10 minutes.
A fresh look at Canada’s ability to defend against possible online threats to the next national election will be one of a new federal cybersecurity centre’s first tasks. An updated version of a groundbreaking report on lurking dangers to electoral integrity will be issued in the new year, said Scott Jones, head of the fledgling Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. The new federal body aims to be a clearinghouse of information, advice and guidance on threats for the public, Canadian businesses, and owners and operators of critical infrastructure, such as power grids and banking systems. “We want to be that trusted source of information for Canadians,” Jones said in an interview.
Finland: ‘We are constantly one step behind’: Finland worries about cyber warfare in shadow of Russia | The Independent
Finland, on the northern edge of Europe and with a population of fewer than 5.5 million, may not seem an obvious player in struggles of geopolitics. But being situated in the shadow of its giant neighbour, Russia, has meant that the country has been inevitably drawn into the world of hybrid warfare. Helsinki was the focus of global attention as the venue of the summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, with questions inevitably raised over claims that the Russian president had placed his man in the White House through manipulation of the US election. Away for the limelight Helsinki has become the base for a major cyber-defence programme for the west with the establishment of the Nato-backed European Centre for Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threat, which has received funding and resources from the US, Britain, France and Nordic states.
Macedonia: A referendum on Macedonia’s new name fails to settle anything – One step forward, two steps back in Skopje | The Economist
IT HAD been billed as the most important vote in the region’s recent history, a referendum in favour of settling a long-standing dispute between Greece and Macedonia. Instead, voters have opened the door to instability and uncertainty. The vote, held on September 30th in Macedonia, which aimed to endorse an historic compromise agreement between the two countries over Macedonia’s name, has instead thrown the deal into question. It is on life support. But Ana Petruseva, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Macedonia, says “it is not dead yet.”
Tens of thousands of Catalans congregated in Barcelona on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the region’s unilateral and illegal independence referendum as groups of pro-independence activists blocked roads, motorways and a high-speed rail line and surrounded the Catalan parliament. Police in the city estimated that about 180,000 people took part in a rally in the city on Monday evening. Tensions flared between police and protesters as some hardline demonstrators jumped over barriers at the entrance to the parliament. There were similar scenes outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police. Crowds of students filled the city’s central square on Monday afternoon, waving yellow, red and blue separatist flags and chanting “1 October, no forgiving, no forgetting”. Nearby, others let off smoke bombs and fireworks.