Election Experts to Discuss How Hackers Might Target Voter Rolls, Registration in the 2018 Elections, What Signs to Look For and How to Respond. For more information, please contact Aurora Matthews, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301)-221-7984. What Press call to discuss election day security preparedness and “What Would a 2018 Election Hack Look Like?” When Monday, October 15,…
Online banking, ecommerce, e-filing taxes. Moving print documents and in-person services online–even those full of sensitive information–has been an inexorable trend for decades. And voting has moved in that direction too, in 32 U.S. states and several countries, starting in those simpler times of the 1990s and early 2000s. That was a giant security blunder, according to a new report from tech and election experts that urges a return to good old paper ballots. “This is a position consistently that computer scientists have been saying for a decade, and computer scientists are the ones who you think would be the most favorable to the idea [of online voting] because, we invent the things.” So says Jeremy Epstein, vice chair of the U.S. Technology Policy Council at the ACM, billed as the largest association of computing experts.
Election security groups are sounding the alarm about emailed ballots ahead of the November midterm elections, warning in a new report that PDF and JPEG ballot attachments sent to election officials could be exploited by hackers. The organizations, including watchdog group Common Cause, issued a report Wednesday that found election workers who receive emailed ballots are at risk of clicking on unsafe attachments, sent from unknown sources, that could contain malware. “In jurisdictions that receive ballots by PDF or JPEG attachment, election workers must routinely click on documents from unknown sources to process emailed or faxed ballots, exposing the computer receiving the ballots — and any other devices on the same network — to a host of cyberattacks that could be launched from a false ballot laden with malicious software,” the report says. “An infected false ballot would enter the server like any other ballot, but once opened, it would download malware that could give attackers backdoor access to the elections office’s network.”
Voters cast a minimum of 100,000 ballots using insecure internet methods in the 2016 election, highlighting an overlooked threat to election integrity, according to a report released Wednesday. Thirty-two states permit some voters—primarily overseas military personnel—to return ballots by email, fax or internet, according to “Email and Internet Voting: The Overlooked Threat to Election Security,” a report produced by the Association for Computing Machinery, Common Cause, the National Election Defense Coalition and R Street. “There are two concerns with email voting,” in which ballots and voter identification information are typically attached as a PDF or JPEG. “One—the ballots can be intercepted and undetectably altered or deleted. This hack was performed at DEF CON in August. And it’s something academics have long known,” Susannah Goodman, one of the authors of the report, told Newsweek. “Second—emailed ballots can be easily spoofed in a spear phishing attack designed to put malware on a county election official’s computer.”
A number of states are blocking web traffic from foreign countries to their voter registration websites, making the process harder for some U.S. citizens who live overseas to vote, despite the practice providing no real security benefits. On its face, the “geo-targeting” of foreign countries may seem like a solid plan: election officials around the country are concerned about foreign interference after Russia’s efforts leading up to the 2016 election, so blocking traffic to election websites from outside the United States might seem like an obvious defense starting point. But cybersecurity experts and voting rights advocates say it’s an ineffective solution that any hacker could easily sidestep using a virtual private network, or VPN, a commonly-used and easily-available service. Such networks allow for a computer user to use the Internet and appear in a different location than they actually are.
In August at DEFCON, the annual hackers’ convention in Las Vegas, J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and an expert in cybersecurity, brought along several of his Diebold Accuvote TSX voting machines. The Accuvote is a touch-screen voting device known as a direct-recording electronic voting machine, which, as the name suggests, records votes and stores them on a memory device. Halderman’s machines were set up as part of the Voting Village, an area dedicated to the cybersecurity of voting machines, where visitors were asked to cast votes in a mock presidential election between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. “Because this is DEFCON, of course almost everyone thought they were clever and voted for Benedict Arnold,” said Halderman. At the end of the mock election, with over 100 votes cast, the machine produced the totals and the winner of the two-man race: the Dark Tangent.
National: Why federal courts may become the next front in the battle to secure our elections | The Hill
Last week, a team of security researchers who run the DefCon hacking convention released a report on voting machines in use around the country that contain structural flaws ripe for exploitation by hackers. Among its dismaying findings, DefCon reported a flaw in one widely used voting tabulator that, if hacked, “could enable an attacker to flip the Electoral College and determine the outcome of a presidential election.” Though it’s been nearly two years since the 2016 election, there remains a startling gap between the well understood need to secure our elections against cyberattacks and the reality on the ground. Computer security experts and leading intelligence and law enforcement voices have sounded the alarm on the persistent and serious threats facing election systems. Yet the actors best positioned to take broad action — state governments, Congress, and election system vendors — have moved slowly, and in some cases stalled.
Foreign nationals would be prohibited from owning or controlling companies that support U.S. election systems under legislation introduced by two senators from Maryland, where officials learned this summer that a Russian oligarch is heavily invested in a company that maintains key parts of their state’s election infrastructure. Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin are sponsoring the “Protect Our Elections Act,” along with Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine. “We cannot allow Russia or any other foreign adversaries to own our elections systems,” Van Hollen said. “This isn’t just a hypothetical issue — it happened right here in my home state of Maryland.”
Arkansas’ highest court on Thursday upheld a voter ID law that is nearly identical to a restriction struck down by the court four years ago. The 5-2 decision from the Arkansas Supreme Court means the law, which requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, will remain in effect in this year’s midterm election. Unlike the measure struck down in 2014, the law approved last year allows voters to cast provisional ballots without a photo ID if they sign a sworn statement confirming their identities. Opponents of the new measure had argued that it circumvented the 2014 ruling. But justices on Thursday said lawmakers had the power to enact the restriction by labeling it a change to a constitutional amendment related to voter registration requirements and was “therefore constitutional.”
A federal judge has rejected a request from the Florida Democratic Party to force the state to extend a voter-registration deadline because of Hurricane Michael. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle turned down the party’s request for a temporary restraining order to extend the registration deadline to Oct. 16, a week later than the original Tuesday deadline. The party contended an extension was needed because the hurricane, which devastated parts of the Panhandle on Wednesday, could prevent people from registering to vote in the Nov. 6 election. Secretary of State Ken Detzner this week issued a directive authorizing county elections supervisors whose offices were closed Tuesday to accept paper registration applications on the day that their offices reopen. Detzner did not extend a Tuesday night deadline for voters to register online.
As a hurricane threatened Florida, Gov. Rick Scott balked at extending Tuesday’s voter registration deadline for a week as Democrats want, in part because the state has an online system to sign up new voters. But thousands of Floridians have told some elections supervisors in recent days that the system isn’t working — despite claims from the state that the problems had been fixed and that the effort has been “immensely successful.” “A mess!” Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told POLITICO by email. Florida Democrats are suing Scott’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, in federal court to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline, which is Tuesday, for at least a week due to the approach of Hurricane Michael.
Georgia: Lawsuit challenges 53,000 stalled Georgia voter registrations | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday challenges a Georgia law that has stalled the voter registrations of more than 53,000 potential voters until they verify their basic information. The lawsuit, brought by several civil rights groups, asks a judge to overturn Georgia’s “exact match” law, which requires voter registration information to match driver’s licenses, state ID cards or Social Security records. The legal action comes after The Associated Press reported this week that at least 53,000 voter registrations were flagged because of the law. Those voter registrations are on hold because of discrepancies between application information and government records, such as a missing hyphen in a last name or data entry errors. But potential voters can still participate in this year’s elections if they show photo ID either when they go to vote or beforehand. They can also mail identification to county election officials in advance. If their ID resolves the discrepancy, they will immediately become active voters eligible to cast a normal ballot on Georgia’s voting machines.
Georgia: Democrat Abrams demands GOP’s Kemp resign as Georgia secretary of state amid ‘voter suppression’ uproar | CNN
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams’ campaign is calling on Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp to resign following a report his office is using a controversial verification law to effectively suppress the minority vote in their race to become the state’s next governor. The demand from the Abrams campaign comes in response to an Associated Press report on records it obtained showing Georgia has put a hold on more than 53,000 voter registration applications — nearly seven-in-ten of them belonging to African Americans — because they failed to clear the state’s “exact match” standard. Under the policy, even the most minor discrepancy — like a typo or missing letter — between a voter’s registration and their drivers license, social security or state ID cards can be flagged.
The question before a panel of U.S. appeals court judges: Should non-native residents of Guam have a say in the territory’s future relationship with the United States? Three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were at the University of Hawaii’s law school Wednesday to listen to arguments in an appeal of a federal judge’s 2017 ruling that says limiting the vote to those who are considered native inhabitants of the island is unconstitutional. Voters would have three choices: independence, statehood and free association with the United States similar to island states that allow the U.S. exclusive military access to their land and waters while their citizens have the right to live and work in the U.S.
Kansas: With 3.5 weeks until election, Johnson County gets certification for update to voting machine software that caused reporting delays in August | Shawnee Mission Post
Officials have signed off on a patched version of the software program that will power Johnson County’s voting system next month. The question is, will it work? A month and a half after the company announced it had rewritten the portion of its software program that led to massive reporting delays in the August primary elections, Election Systems & Software has received federal and state certification for the software’s use in the Nov. 6 general election, Johnson County announced today. ES&S submitted the corrected software program to the Election Assistance Commission for review on Sept. 5 and received notice of certification on Oct. 4. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office announced today that it was granting state certification to the system as well.
Louisiana is voiding a multimillion-dollar contract award to replace thousands of voting machines after a key official in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration found flaws in the vendor selection. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office will have to redo the bid process for the lucrative work if the decision by Louisiana’s chief procurement officer Paula Tregre stands. “I hereby determine that it is in the best interest of the state to rescind the award made to Dominion Voting Systems,” Tregre said in a 17-page decision released Wednesday night. The decision comes at an unfortunate time for Ardoin, a Republican in office since May who is running in a November special election to remain in the job. Running on his experience, Ardoin has defended the bid evaluators’ pick of Dominion and suggested criticism was “baloney” while opponents have panned his handling of the voting machine replacement.
About 10,000 of the vote-by-mail ballots that the Middlesex County Clerk’s office sent out last weekend contained errors in the recipients’ addresses, authorities said. County Clerk Elaine Flynn said several confused residents called the her office, wondering why their information was listed incorrectly and worried their vote wouldn’t be counted if they sent their ballot back. (One of our very own NJ Advance Media reporters was even the recipient of a wrongly-addressed mailer). “The ballots are valid, and the voters should use the materials they received,” Cassandra Achille, supervisor of the election division, said in a written statement. Achille assured recipients that their returned ballots would be counted.
Ohio: Federal judge deals another blow to group challenging voter roll purge | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that notification forms Ohio sends to voters in its process to remove inactive voters from its rolls are compliant with federal law, dealing another blow to a group challenging the state’s voter purge process. The groups suing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said all voters the state deleted from its rolls from 1995 through 2016 through a disputed process were actually removed unlawfully because the state’s notices for removal didn’t comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Senior U.S. District Judge George Smith disagreed in an opinion issued Wednesday, largely ruling against the plaintiffs and saying the forms complied with federal law. He struck down arguments from the plaintiffs that said voters weren’t told of the deadlines to respond to the forms and weren’t informed of the consequences of failing to respond.
When we think about those who defend the territorial integrity of our nation and state, we tend to imagine well-equipped members of the U.S. armed forces, or perhaps a square-jawed detachment of Texas Rangers. Increasingly, however, the twenty-first century battle for control of the American homeland is being fought in the computerized elections systems overseen by our humble county clerks.
Here in Texas, votes in federal and state elections are tallied independently by 254 local officials, one in each county seat, from big cities like Houston and Dallas to tiny courthouse towns like Tahoka and Floydada. If a hostile country decides to hack an election in Texas, that means pitting Russia’s (or Iran’s or North Korea’s or China’s) most skilled hackers against a group of officials and volunteers who may not even know their way around an iPhone. “We’re asking county clerks, and for that matter local poll workers, to defend against a nation-state adversary,” says Dan Wallach, computer science professor at Rice and expert on election security issues. “That’s not a fair fight.”
Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan continue to face an uncertain future, and the upcoming parliamentary election on October 20 doesn’t seem to solve any of their problems. As these refugees are not allowed to vote in the polls, they feel they will have no influence over the legislators in the next parliament. There is little incentive for these people to return to their homeland. A lack of security in Afghanistan and Kabul’s reluctance to support them hinder their return. Authorities in Islamabad and Tehran urge the Afghan government to take back refugees, as they consider them a burden on their economy. But many of these refugees have been living in the neighboring countries for decades and despite various problems in the host nations, Iran and Pakistan are still a better option for them.
Several thousand Bosnian Croat nationalist supporters on Thursday protested the election of a moderate politician to the Croat seat in Bosnia’s three-person presidency. The crowd marched through the ethnically divided southern town of Mostar holding banners reading “Not my president” and “RIP democracy” to protest Zeljko Komsic’s victory. Bosnia’s presidency also has a Muslim and a Serb member. A peace deal that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 ethnic war created a Muslim-Croat region and a Serb region held together in a central government. Komsic advocates strengthening Bosnia’s unity. Nationalist are disputing his win in an election Sunday, saying he was backed by Muslim voters and does not represent Croats.
Brazil: ‘Flowering of hate’: bitter election brings wave of political violence to Brazil | The Guardian
The two contenders in Brazil’s bitterly-contested presidential race have urged calm after a wave of attacks on journalists, activists and members of the LGBT community by supporters of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro including beatings, a knife attack and a murder. Supporters of the former paratrooper – himself the victim of a botched assassination attempt last month – have also reportedly been targeted with violence. But an investigation by independent journalism group Agência Publica found that an overwhelming majority of the violence was committed by supporters of Bolsonaro, who polls give a 16-point lead over his leftist opponent, Fernando Haddad, ahead of the second round runoff on 28 October.
Cameroon’s elections management body says it has received 25 petitions from candidates and voters calling for the Oct. 7 presidential election to be annulled. Candidates Cabral Libii of the opposition Universe party and Joshua Osih of the opposition Social Democratic Front are among those who want the polls annulled. They allege massive fraud and ballot stuffing in favor of President Paul Biya’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party. Cleric Rigobert Gabanmidanha of the Live and Peace Ministry also petitioned for the cancellation of the polls. He claims the constitutional council that certifies election results is controlled by Biya and that many opposition supporters like himself were not allowed to vote.