The government’s all-hands effort to secure election systems after a Russian assault on the 2016 contest missed one glaring vulnerability: online ballots, according to a Wednesday report by voting security experts. Online voting is not common in the U.S., but Americans cast at least 100,000 online ballots in the 2016 election, according to the authors’ tally. Many of those ballots were cast by military members overseas taking advantage of state laws that allow them to return ballots by email or digital fax. In total, 32 states allow some subset of residents to return ballots by email, fax or through an internet portal, and Alaska and Hawaii offer electronic ballot return for all voters, according to the report from security experts at the Association for Computing Machinery US Technology Policy Committee, Common Cause Education Fund, the National Election Defense Coalition and the R Street Institute.
Two U.S. senators sent a letter to Super Micro Computer Inc. asking if and when the company found evidence of tampering with hardware components after a Bloomberg Businessweek report described how China’s intelligence services used subcontractors to plant malicious chips in the company’s server motherboards. Florida Republican Marco Rubio and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday gave the company until Oct. 17 to respond to a list of questions that also includes whether the company investigated its supply chain and cooperated with U.S. law enforcement. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s report, one official said investigators found that the Chinese infiltration through Super Micro reached almost 30 companies, including Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. Super Micro and both Amazon and Apple disputed the findings. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it has “no reason to doubt” the companies’ denials of Bloomberg Businessweek’s reporting.
When it comes to expanding voter access, most often the conversation centers around allowing early voting or establishing automatic voting registration. But a forum at the University of Delaware Tuesday focused instead on making voting more accessible for those with disabilities. “We still have this cultural lag where we don’t really expect people with disabilities to be voters,” said Rabia Belt, historian and assistant professor at Stanford Law School. “It’s still quite difficult for people to be able to access polling places, people to receive the accommodations that are legally mandated.” The forum organized by UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies looked at how people with disabilities are underrepresented at the polls.
Editorials: Midterm elections are four weeks away. Russian hacking is not the only worry ahead. | USA Today
Four weeks from Election Day, it’s hard to be confident that every eligible American who wants to vote will be able to do so, and that every vote will be recorded accurately. Hacking has gotten the most attention since the 2016 Russian attacks on the presidential race. In July, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that the “lights are blinking red again.” Along with possible foreign interference, other problems — some the fault of federal and state inaction — loom over this crucial election. Among the most serious:
►Aging equipment. Thirteen states still use voting machines without a paper trail in some or all counties, leaving no reliable way to audit votes after an election. Five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — use these outdated machines in every county, although election experts have been warning for years about their inadequacies. Officials in some states are in denial about how vulnerable the systems are and have fought improvements. Even where problems are recognized, some states have failed to make replacement a budget priority.
Editorials: Voter Suppression Is No Excuse – Yes, it’s an outrage. But it is not the main reason that voter turnout is so low. | David Leonhardt/The New York Times
“My message in this upcoming election is very simple: It’s vote,” Barack Obama told his former speechwriter Jon Favreau in a recent episode of “The Wilderness” podcast. “It’s not that much to ask.” “This isn’t really a 50-50 country. It’s like a 60-40 country,” Obama continued. “Democrats could and will do even better if every one of your listeners not only votes but makes sure that all your wishy-washy, excuse-making, Internet-surfing, TV-watching, grumbling-but-not-doing-nothing friends and family members get to the polls. Vote.” Obama was clearly smiling as he delivered the line. But as soon as I heard it, I knew the reaction that many progressives would likely have: Don’t blame us — blame voter suppression! It’s the same reaction that I’ve heard when I have written about the miserably low voter-turnout rates in midterm elections.
Calling it unacceptable, Secretary of State Alex Padilla angrily criticized Department of Motor Vehicles officials Tuesday after they improperly registered about 1,500 people to vote in November’s election. Padilla did not mince words when it came to the error. “These mistakes from the DMV are totally unacceptable,” he told reporters. “It risks jeopardizing confidence in the electoral process which is why yesterday I called for an independent audit of the DMV’s technology and their practices…The DMV needs to get it together here real quick.” The focus is on the national Motor Voter Law that allows voters to register at DMV offices. Padilla said reports that all 1,500 people registered in error were non-citizens was not correct.
A partisan brushfire blew up Tuesday over voter registration deadlines in the battleground state of Florida after Hurricane Michael’s approach disrupted registration in the state’s Panhandle region. The Florida Democratic Party sued in federal court, asking a judge to extend the state’s registration deadline by at least a week. Florida’s deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, 29 days ahead of the Nov. 6 election. Democrats including Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor against Republican Ron DeSantis, called for an extension as Michael’s imminent arrival prompted evacuations and the closing of government offices across the Panhandle.
Florida: With hours left to register to vote in Florida, complaints are mounting over glitches | Miami Herald
That huge swirling menace in the Gulf known as Hurricane Michael has the attention of Floridians four weeks before Nov. 6, Election Day. But a disturbance of another kind is intensifying, and it involves voting. Two controversies erupted at once Tuesday, one over a state online voter registration system and the other involving the storm’s disruption of the last day that Florida residents could become eligible voters in 2018. Complaints multiplied from people who say the state’s online registration portal was not working. The portal, which was a year old on Oct. 1, has had glitches before but never this close to a voter registration deadline, and it prompted threats of legal action.
Scattered online problems on the last day of voter registration in Georgia have some voters complaining of long delays and slow-loading websites. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received reports from a half-dozen voters who reported problems registering to vote, and officials with the Democratic party and Democrat Stacey Abrams’ campaign said they’ve heard from dozens more. Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office said its staffers have received four “easily resolved” election-related calls from voters who experienced problems. A spokeswoman for the office said there have been no system outages and no systemwide issues. The voter registration process is under scrutiny ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to vote for the Nov. 6 election, which features a matchup between Abrams and Kemp.
With the Nov. 6 election less than 30 days away, Michigan officials tout the fact that the state’s election machines are not connected to the Internet — eliminating a major hacking risk. But does that fact alone make Michigan’s election machines impervious to hacking? Many researchers and election integrity activists say no. They say Michigan could be vulnerable as one of at least four states — along with Florida, Illinois, and Wisconsin — that use cellular modems to transmit unofficial election results. In an Oct. 2 letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 30 academics, security experts and election integrity activists — including a computer science professor at the University of Michigan — expressed “grave concerns” about the devices.
A Cole County judge on Tuesday upheld most of a Missouri law requiring that voters present an ID at the polls but barred the state from requiring voters without a photo ID to sign a statement the court deemed “misleading.” Priorities USA, a national progressive organization, challenged Missouri’s voter ID law in a lawsuit filed in June. Missouri voters in 2016 gave the state authority by a constitutional amendment to impose a voter ID requirement. Under the state’s requirement, voters are to present a government-issued photo ID prior to voting if they have one. Voters who don’t have a photo ID but had another form of ID without a photo were supposed to sign a statement confirming their identity under penalty of perjury.
New Hampshire: Deputy secretary of state says ballot errors flagged by voting group now corrected | WMUR
The progressive New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights this week called on the Ssecretary of state’s office to conduct a “full review” of ballots for the upcoming general election after finding that some incorrect absentee ballots and sample ballots were printed and distributed. WMUR has learned that on Tuesday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party went further and issued a formal election law complaint to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, requesting that “immediate action be taken to audit all ballots issued for the Nov. 6 election.” According to a statement provided by the NHDP to WMUR, “The party has also requested corrections on inaccurate ballots, that voters in receipt of inaccurate ballots be notified and issued a correct ballot, and that an investigation into the publication and distribution of ballots occur immediately.”
New Jersey: Thousands of Voters Received Ballots With Errors, but They’ll Still Count | The New York Times
There were two unusual lines, both confusing and concerning, on Jonathan Latimer’s vote-by-mail ballot: “MAIL 6619” and “BROWN UNIVERSITY.” Neither line is part of his actual address in Middlesex County, N.J., and so Mr. Latimer, 76, who went to college in California many years ago, was concerned the erroneous and random insertions threatened to invalidate his mail-in ballot for November’s midterm elections. If the address on his ballot didn’t match the address the state had on record, he wondered, would it be counted given New Jersey’s strict vote-by-mail requirements? Turns out, Mr. Latimer is not alone. More than 43,000 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out, and the Middlesex County Clerk’s office estimated that “a large percentage of them” contained erroneous address information, though they were not able to give an exact number of affected ballots.
As the response to Hurricane Florence shifts from relief to recovery mode in the Carolinas, voting rights advocates are taking steps to ensure people living in or displaced from flood-stricken communities have access to the ballot in the upcoming election. Just days after the storm made landfall south of Wilmington on Sept. 14, the North Carolina NAACP announced it was launching a campaign to provide absentee ballot applications to registered voters in impacted counties. Under state law, any registered North Carolina voter may request an absentee ballot, no excuses needed, through 5 p.m. on Oct. 30. “It is imperative that while our communities struggle to recover from the devastating flooding and other destruction from this storm, citizens’ right to vote should not be impaired,” said Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, the group’s president.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to toss out an appeals court order that allows North Dakota to enforce its voter ID requirement during the 2018 elections. The request to toss out the order came from a group of Native American residents who are challenging a new state law that requires voters to present identification that includes a current residential street address. The challengers argued the new rule disenfranchises a disproportionate share of the population because many Native American voters live on reservations without standard addresses.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of a lawsuit that sought to expand voting rights to Americans in U.S. territories, including Guam. The Supreme Court met privately in conference on Friday, Guam time, to weigh whether it would review the case. The lead plaintiff, Luis Segovia, is a Guam resident and military veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Segovia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that ruling in favor of the Segovia plaintiffs would create so-called “super citizens.”
Four advocacy groups for elections and cybersecurity called Wednesday for the halt of a pilot project in West Virginia that allows military personnel posted overseas and other U.S. citizens living abroad to cast ballots for the 2018 midtersm using a smartphone app. “Military voters … deserve any help the government can give them to participate in democracy equally with all other citizens. However, in this threat environment, online voting endangers the very democracy the U.S. military is charged with protecting,” the groups said. Proponents argued that with voter turnout so low, technology like the app is worth the risk. The report was issued by the New York-based National Election Defense Coalition, the nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause, the center-right think tank R Street Institute, and the Technology Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, a group that says it provides neutral input on issues involving computing technology.
A suicide bomber has struck an election meeting in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, killing at least eight people, including a candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections, a provincial official said. Saleh Mohammad Achekzai was holding a meeting in front of his house in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives on Tuesday. The blast also killed several of Achekzai’s bodyguards, Attahullah Afghan, head of the southern Helmand provincial council told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. It was the second suicide attack to target a parliamentary candidate since campaigning officially kicked off on September 28 for the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20.
Bahrain’s main opposition group called Tuesday for a boycott of November parliamentary elections after its members were banned from running. The vote follows waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state crushed protests led by its Shiite majority demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. Authorities have imprisoned hundreds of dissidents, stripped many of their nationality and outlawed opposition movements including Al-Wefaq, the main movement representing the kingdom’s Shiite majority.
As Brazil nears the climax of its most bitter and polarized election in recent history, academics and digital activists fighting to stem a rising tide of fake news say that accurate coverage of the campaign risks being drowned out by the sheer volume of lies being spread on Facebook and WhatsApp. On Monday, Brazil’s electoral court ordered Facebook to remove links to 33 fake news stories targeting Manuela D’Ávila, a communist party politician and the vice-presidential candidate for Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT). D’Ávila party hailed the decision as a victory, but one digital media expert said it was a mere drop in the ocean. “This is nothing. It’s irrelevant amid the lies and attacks in this election,” said Pablo Ortellado, a professor of public policy at the University of São Paulo who leads a project monitoring public debate on social media. “There is very little correct information.”
Cameroon: A tense, long wait for election results as social media claims unverified winners | Quartz
Over the last two years, Cameroon’s government has gained a poor reputation for being repressive when it comes to internet freedoms. It’s had one of the longest-running intermittent internet shutdowns on record of 230 days between January 2017 and March 2018 as it tried to prevent political activists in the English-speaking regions of the country from using social media platforms to share information or organize. Because of this reputation, many watchers expected the government would again block the internet in the run-up to a highly contentious election in which the president, Paul Biya, 85, is looking to extend his 36-year rule by another seven years.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has filed a court challenge against his election loss, citing a “lot of complaints from supporters”, according to a lawyer. The complaint was filed at the island nation’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, said the president’s lawyer, Mohamed Saleem. Yameen lost the September 23 election by a 16 percent margin to opposition leader, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in an outcome hailed as a win for democracy in the crisis-hit Indian Ocean archipelago. The result was widely accepted, including by the United States, China, India, and the European Union.
The ruling party in Sao Tome and Principe emerged victorious in a weekend election but lost its majority in the small African island nation, according to initial results, as hundreds demonstrated against potential poll fraud but were dispersed by riot police. In power since 2014, the Independent Democratic Action party (ADI) won Sunday’s poll, securing 25 of the 55 assembly seats, the Electoral Commission said late on Monday — down on its previous tally of 33 seats. Protesters gathered on Monday night in front of the electoral commission claiming the ADI vote share had been boosted through fraud.