For many, the most intense race leading up to Election Day won’t be among politicians. It’ll be the mad, final scramble by county officials and tech companies to make sure your votes are safe from hackers. But with the slow pace of funding, unprepared campaigns and lack of cooperation among counties, many cybersecurity experts wonder if they’ll reach that finish line by the first Tuesday in November. An election director in Illinois, for instance, still hasn’t received any federal funding for cybersecurity. A security expert who traveled across the country to train campaigns found shockingly inadequate protection.
At a Boston technology conference last month, computer scientist Alex Halderman showed how easy it was to hack into an electronic voting machine and change the result, without leaving a trace. Halderman staged a mock election in which three conference attendees voted for George Washington, but an infected memory card switched the result to give a 2-1 victory to Benedict Arnold, the military officer who sold secrets during the Revolutionary War. Halderman’s demonstration was on a voting machine still in use in 20 US states, which had no paper ballots that could be compared to the electronic output, and thus no way to determine if vote totals had been altered. “What keeps me up at night is the threat that a hostile nation-state could probe every swing state or swing district (and) find the ones most weakly protected, to silently change the results of a national election,” the University of Michigan professor said.
Barely a month before midterm elections, voting integrity advocates and electronic voting experts want the federal government to issue an official warning to states that use voting machines with integrated cellular modems that the machines are vulnerable to hacks, potentially interfering with the ballot counting. Once seen as a useful tool to provide quick election results, voting machines with cellular modems are now subject to fierce debate over how easy it would be to break into them and change the results. Such machines are certified for use in Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. … But a number of voting machine researchers take issue with such assertions, saying that cellular networks increasingly overlap with the internet and open avenues for hackers to interfere with unofficial early results even when there are paper ballots that can be tallied for a slower official count. They say interfering with unofficial early results, even when corrected later, could increase mistrust among voters and add uncertainty immediately after elections conclude.
The spotlight on cyber vulnerabilities of political campaigns has grown brighter after three Democratic campaigns in California were hacked during the state’s primary elections. The campaigns of Bryan Caforio, Hans Keirstead and David Min all fell victim to cyber intrusions this year, underscoring a shortcoming that applies to political operations of various sizes: insufficient protections to guard against cyberattacks. The problem is particularly acute for smaller-scale campaigns, which often have fewer resources to ensure their technology and communications are secure, while incumbents can draw from bigger campaign accounts. But having more cash on hand doesn’t always mean it’ll be used to beef up protections. A recent McClatchy analysis of Federal Election Commission filings found that only six candidates running for seats in the House and Senate this election cycle have spent more than $1,000 on cybersecurity measures.
Just days before Tuesday’s deadline to register to vote in Georgia, all voter registration shut down for nearly the entire day Friday at every Department of Driver Services location in the state. The department said its software operator, the global corporation IDEMIA, had taken full responsibility for the failure. David Connell, the chairman of the DDS’ oversight board, said he was confident in the vendor’s statement that the problem resulted from a database overload, not a cyber intrusion. “It’s an issue we all wish wouldn’t have happened,” Connell said. IDEMIA did not respond to a phone message left by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at its Virginia representative office.
Maryland: Gerrymandering case is back in court where judges floated an independent mapping commission as a fix | The Washington Post
Federal judges in Maryland floated the idea Thursday of taking the state’s congressional voting map out of the hands of political leaders and leaving the drawing of electoral lines to an independent, nonpartisan commission. A three-judge panel pressed the attorney general’s office and Republican voters challenging the electoral map about the possibility of settling their long-running case as it arrived back in court for the first time since the Supreme Court declined to immediately review the matter of redrawn maps. The high court in June avoided answering the question of when extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional in the Maryland case involving a Democratic-drawn map — and in another from Wisconsin involving a Republican-led effort.
Editorials: Missouri’s voter ID law was designed to discourage voting. It should go. | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Long before Donald Trump first spouted his lie that hordes of illegal voters had swarmed the polling places — his transparent attempt to soothe his own ego and explain to the nation his substantial loss of the 2016 popular vote — the Republican Party was already fully engaged in its own ongoing big lie about voter fraud. With demographics working against it, the party for years has falsely claimed rampant illegal voting, with the goal of suppressing as many Democratic votes as possible. The marriage of convenience between the GOP’s partisan cynicism and Trump’s narcissism led to last year’s creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission yielded few if any new findings of fraud but wasted lots of time, money and resources. Around the same time, a Missouri law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting their votes took effect. As with Trump’s fake commission, it was a deliberately cumbersome solution to a nonexistent problem. Now a judge is pondering whether to throw out Missouri’s voter ID law on constitutional grounds. He should.
Ohio: Challenge to Ohio’s voting roll purges persists after Supreme Court decision | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Three months after they lost a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Ohio’s process for removing inactive voters from its rolls, the lawsuit’s plaintiffs are back in federal court with a related claim: the notification forms Ohio used to initiate voter removal are illegal. The plaintiffs say all voters the state deleted from the rolls from 1995 through 2016 through the disputed process upheld by the Supreme Court were actually removed unlawfully because the state’s notices for removal didn’t comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. On Sept. 14, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Larry Harmon asked U.S. District Judge George C. Smith to reinstate all eligible voters who were sent the deficient notices, or take other measures to protect their voting rights in next month’s election.
Pennsylvania: Voters reported being blocked from State election site — and from obtaining absentee ballots — as early as 2016 | Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania election officials say they first learned last week that their new security measures blocking foreign access to state election sites were preventing voters abroad from accessing their absentee ballots. But voters living outside the country told the Inquirer and Daily News they had trouble much earlier. “Definitely I can tell you from my own experience, this happened in the May primary,” said Portia Kamons, 56, who lived in Southwestern Pennsylvania before moving to the United Kingdom nearly three decades ago. Kamons said she contacted the Pennsylvania Department of State and other officials to report the problem. When the state sent emails a few weeks ago directing voters to the same site — which remains blocked — Kamons said she was “hopping mad” that nothing had been done. Other users also reported being blocked from seeing election results in January and March on the state site and prevented from opening the voter registration page in October 2016.
Virginia: House GOP cancels redistricting session, says lawmakers are ‘unlikely’ to meet court’s deadline | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates have canceled a planned Oct. 21 floor session on redistricting, saying they see no point in coming to the Capitol to work on a plan Gov. Ralph Northam promised to veto. Barring unforeseen changes, the move all but guarantees that a court-appointed expert, not the General Assembly, will redraw the House map before the 2019 legislative elections in order to comply with a federal court order on racial gerrymandering. Republicans are appealing the June ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the GOP majority acknowledged for the first time Friday that Northam’s veto threat means the House won’t be able to pass a new map by the Oct. 30 deadline set by a federal court. In an update filed with the three-judge panel, Republicans said “a legislative solution is unlikely to occur” by the deadline, making the Oct. 21 session in Richmond a futile exercise.
Fresh fighting in central and eastern Afghanistan has killed at least 20 people, half of them civilians, fueling security concerns among voters ahead of this month’s parliamentary elections. Authorities in the central Maidan Wardak province confirmed Sunday the Taliban overnight staged a major offensive on the Sayed Abad district headquarters. The insurgents briefly overran key government installations in Sayed Abad, killing the district police chief along with at least nine other policemen. The Taliban also set fire to some official buildings before withdrawing from the district center, a usual rebel tactic. Sayed Abad is located on the main highway linking the national capital of Kabul to southern Afghanistan. Insurgents blew up bridges on the highway before assaulting the district, blocking all traffic, the provincial governor, Mohammad Arif Shajahan, confirmed Sunday. The Taliban has also planted mines on parts of the high, he added.
The state government has faced a massive onslaught of computer network attacks since the last election, with tens of millions of attempted intrusions and successful hacks on the Premier’s department, Main Roads, the finance and local government departments. In answers to parliamentary questions asked by opposition frontbencher Zak Kirkup, the government also revealed it had been subject to attacks on its information systems by “nation-state foreign actors”. The Department of Finance, which also provides information security for the Department of Treasury, bore the brunt of the attacks, recording 15.5 million intrusion attempts on its networks and website. Of these, 11 attacks were successful, but Treasurer Ben Wyatt said there had been “no indication that any Cabinet or customer-related material was compromised”.
Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik won a race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia’s three-member presidency Sunday, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago. Preliminary official results from the election gave Dodik 56 percent of the vote and his main opponent, Mladen Ivanic, 42 percent. The projections were made with 44 percent of ballots counted. “The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want,” Dodik said, adding that voters “punished” his opponent for his “servile policies toward the West.” Ivanic conceded defeat. Complete official returns were expected Monday. Dodik advocates the eventual separation of Serbs from Bosnia. His election to the three-person presidency, which also has a Muslim member and a Croat member, deals a blow to efforts to strengthen unity in the country, where ethnic divisions fueled the 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
Brazil’s electronic ballot boxes are internationally admired: The country welcomes foreign delegations that travel here to study them, and sends experts to other nations to teach them about the technology. But as the country goes to vote today (Oct. 7) in a deeply polarized election, conspiracy theories spread by frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, a radical right-wing populist, are casting doubts on their infallibility. The attack on the machines threatens to call into question the integrity of Brazil’s entire electoral process. The machines are mandatory in 460,000 voting stations across Brazil’s five regions, and have become iconic in Brazil since they were first used in 1996. Their instantly recognizable sound indicating a vote has been cast is used in political ads. They’re touted on TV on election day, with segments showing the challenges electoral workers face to transport the boxes containing them—be it by truck in São Paulo, by bus in Rio, or by boat in the Amazon. The country even lends the machines to fellow Latin American nations for tests (in countries like Argentina, Haiti, Equador, and Mexico) or for actual elections (like in the tiny neighboring nation of Paraguay).
Brazilian leftists heaved a huge collective sigh of relief on Sunday night after Jair Bolsonaro – the homophobic, dictatorship-praising far-right front-runner – fell just short of a stunning first-round victory that would have made him president of one of the world’s largest and most diverse democracies. Their relief may well be short-lived. Fernando Haddad, Bolsonaro’s opponent in the pivotal second-round vote on 28 October, has a mountain almost as high as Brazil’s Pico da Neblina to climb if he is to scupper the right-wing populist’s dramatic political ascent. Bolsonaro secured more than 49m votes on Sunday – 46% of the total and just shy of the majority he needed for an outright win – while his Workers’ party (PT) opponent won just 29%, or 31m votes.
Cameroon voted on Sunday in a presidential election marked by deadly violence in the country’s English-speaking regions and the cancellation of voting in at least one affected area over security fears.
Cameroon has been rocked by a separatist insurgency from within its anglophone minority, who number around five million, since last October. They accuse likely election winner President Paul Biya, 85, of oppression and are concentrated in the northwest and southwest of the majority-francophone country. Poll closed at 1700 GMT with the law stating that final results must be announced within 15 days. After voting got under way Sunday, security forces shot dead three suspected separatists who had allegedly fired at passersby from a motorcycle in Bamenda, the main city in the northwest region, a local official said.
President Ali Bongo’s ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) has won a legislative election by a landslide in the first round, the presidency said. “We have observed what looks like a landslide in favour of the [ruling] majority,” presidential spokesman Ike Ngouoni said on Sunday, citing results posted publicly at voting stations. He said the PDG had won 80 of the 143 seats in the national parliament. Ngouoni said turnout was “relatively weak”. The presidential spokesman said the electoral authority would announce definitive results later Sunday or on Monday.
A referendum aimed at putting same-sex marriage further out of reach in Romania was invalidated Sunday after a quick tally showed too few voters cast ballots, election officials said. The weekend vote on a constitutional amendment that would have changed the definition of family to make marriage a union between a man and a woman instead of between “spouses” required voter turnout of at least 30 percent for the result to stand. Election officials said after polls closed that only 20.41 of eligible voters participated. The turnout threshold never was close to being reached all day, a trend that gay rights group Accept said showed citizens “want a Romania based upon democratic values.” “We have shown that we cannot be fooled by a political agenda that urges us to hate and polarize society,” the group said in a statement before the turnout number was final.