Will November’s election be hacked? A quick sampling of news stories over the past couple of years offers little comfort. In the months before the 2016 presidential election, Russian hackers tried to infiltrate voting systems in dozens of states. They succeeded in at least one, gaining access to tens of thousands of voter-registration records in Illinois. In April, the nation’s top voting-machine manufacturer told Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, that it had installed remote-access software on election-management systems that it sold from 2000 to 2006. Senator Wyden called it “the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.” At a hacking convention last summer, an 11-year-old boy broke into a replica of Florida’s state election website and altered the vote totals recorded there. It took him less than 10 minutes. All along, the nation’s top intelligence and law-enforcement officials have been sounding the alarm, warning that Russia is engaged in a “24-7 365-days-a-year” effort to disrupt the upcoming midterm elections and imploring Congress and the White House to take more decisive action.
It’s not easy to get in to see Diane Ellis-Marseglia, one of three commissioners who run Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Security is tight at the Government Administration Building on 55 East Court Street in Doylestown, a three-story brick structure with no windows, where she has an office. It also happens to be where officials retreat on election night to tally the votes recorded on the county’s 900 or so voting machines. Guards at the door X-ray bags and scan each visitor with a wand.Unfortunately, Russian hackers won’t need to come calling on Election Day. Cyberexperts warn that they could use more sophisticated means of changing the outcomes of close races or sowing confusion in an effort to throw the U.S. elections into disrepute. The 2018 midterms offer a compelling target: a patchwork of 3,000 or so county governments that administer elections, often on a shoestring budget, many of them with outdated electronic voting machines vulnerable to manipulation. With Democrats on track to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate, the political stakes are high. … The U.S. certainly hasn’t forced the Russians to look hard for places to strike. The midterm elections are rich in targets. Bucks County is hardly unique in relying on easily hacked voting machines, whose results could determine control of Congress or individual states. About 30 percent of America’s voting machines are as outdated and nearly unprotected as those in Bucks County, says Marian Schneider, a former Pennsylvania deputy secretary for elections and administration and now president of Verified Voting, a national election-integrity advocacy group. Ballotpedia, a nonprofit website that tracks elections, lists nearly 400 congressional and top state official races this November as competitive enough to be considered battleground contests.
In three states, the referee for the midterm elections is also on the field as a player. Elected secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas — who in their official capacities oversee the elections in their states — are running for governor. Ohio’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. All are Republicans. They have faced scattered calls to resign but have refused to do so. Election reformers say the situation underscores the conflict of interest when an official has responsibilities for an election while also running as a candidate. “There is just too much of a temptation if a political party is in a position to run the mechanics of an election to try to tilt it, and it’s a temptation we ought not to encourage,” said former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who spent 34 years on Capitol Hill. “This is not nuclear physics.” While the three secretaries of state are Republican, concerns about inappropriate actions by partisans who hold the office transcend parties. An independent counsel earlier this month began investigating Kentucky’s Democratic secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, over allegations that her office accessed voter registration data to check the party affiliation of job applicants. Grimes may seek higher office next year.
Thousands of voters in Tennessee were at risk of being blocked from casting regular ballots when early voting opened this week, as officials struggled to process a surge of new registrations ahead of Nov. 6 elections to determine control of the U.S. Congress. The delay disproportionately affected the area around Memphis, a majority African-American city, leading activists to charge the Republican-controlled state government has not done enough to protect the rights of young and minority voters. State officials, however, said they were simply struggling to keep up with a surge in paperwork ahead of Election Day. But young and minority voters could very well tip the U.S. Senate election between Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen and Republican U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn.
Foreign governments continue to try to influence U.S. elections, the director of national intelligence warned Friday in a joint statement from agencies, including the FBI and Justice Department. A Russian national was charged Friday in Virginia with allegedly trying to interfere with the 2018 election, authorities said. Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, Russia, was charged with playing a central role in Project Lakhta, which had an operating budget of $10 million from January through June, to provide “information warfare against the United States,” according to the indictment. But a top Department of Homeland Security official said Friday he isn’t aware of any hacking attempts against U.S. election systems this year, as happened in 2016. The continuing threat from Russia, China, Iran and others is to influence U.S. elections through misinformation, he said.
States have taken it upon themselves to bolster cyber defenses for the midterm elections instead of waiting for Congress to act. “Cybersecurity is now our focus, it’s what keeps many of us as secretaries of states and local officials up at night,” said Jim Condos, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Vermont Secretary of State. Hacks of states’ voter registration systems, voting machines or vote reporting systems could lead to rigged vote counts, confusion at polling booths and public distrust of results, according to interviews with voting advocacy groups, former and current Department of Homeland Security officials, and state election officials. Two dozen states lack several of the strongest measures that could protect them against cyber attacks: mandating voting machines that leave a paper trail and requirements for a post-election audit to check for accuracy of the system.
With just over a month before the crucial midterm elections, Americans in some states will return to the polls two years after the election of Donald Trump to face new laws that could make it harder to vote. Since a landmark supreme court ruling in 2013, which repealed key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, over a dozen states, mostly Republican controlled, have imposed a swathe of laws that critics argue are intended to suppress the franchise among often vulnerable, Democratic leaning, groups. The measures range from complex voter ID laws to restrictive voter registration procedures as well as efforts to cut back on polling places and bids to exclude more former felons from casting a ballot.
National: Twitter Releases Tweets Showing Russian, Iranian Attempts to Influence US Politics | VoA News
On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda organization, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran. The data, analyzed and released in a report by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, are made up of 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, 770 other accounts potentially based in Iran as well as 10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, videos and other media. Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left and the right. Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States, the report said.
National: Security Seals Used to Protect Voting Machines Can Be Easily Opened With Shim Crafted from a Soda Can | Motherboard
Voting machine vendors and election officials have long insisted that no one can manipulate voting machines and ballots because tamper-evident seals used to secure them would prevent intruders from doing so without anyone noticing. But a security researcher in Michigan has shown in videos how he can defeat plastic security ties that counties across his state use to protect ballot bags, the cases that store voting machines and the ports that store the memory cards on optical-scan machines—electronic voting machines that record paper ballots scanned into them. He can do so without leaving evidence of tampering. If an intruder obtains physical access to the machines and this port, it’s possible to alter software in the machines using a rogue memory card—something that security researchers at Princeton University demonstrated in the past is possible. Matt Bernhard, a grad student at the University of Michigan and voting machine security expert, posted two videos online last week showing how he can open different types of plastic tamper-evident ties used in Michigan in just seconds, using a shim crafted from an aluminum Dr. Pepper can. By simply curling a small piece of the aluminum around a plastic zip tie and slipping it into the channel that encases the tie, he’s able to open the security device and re-close it, while leaving no marks or damage to indicate it was manipulated. He demonstrated the technique on smooth plastic ties as well as zip ties.
National: Justice Dept. charges Russian woman with interference in midterm elections | The Washington Post
The Justice Department announced Friday it had charged a Russian woman who prosecutors say conspired to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case that accuses a foreign national of interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of “Project Lakhta,” a foreign influence operation they said was designed “to sow discord in the U.S. political system” by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and National Football League protests during the national anthem. The charges against Khusyaynova came just as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned that it was concerned about “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China and Iran to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections and the 2020 race — an ominous message just weeks before voters head to the polls.
Two events occurred in 2008 that help explain why we live today in a new age of voter suppression. Everyone talks about the second occurrence, the election of Barack Obama in November and the wave of explicit white racism that followed it, when explaining why so many Republican officials now are so eager deny their fellow citizens the ability to vote. Too few people ever talk about the first event that occurred in 2008 that led us to today’s desperate fight for voting rights: the Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law. The Crawford decision was wrong the day it was decided. Wrong because it validated state lawmakers who had ginned up onerous new voting restrictions without offering any credible evidence that such restrictions were necessary. Wrong because widespread in-person voter fraud, then and now, is a myth fabricated by conservative ideologues who seek to use it as justification to disenfranchise millions of poor, elderly, or minority voters. Wrong, according to 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner, the Reagan-nominated judge who wrote the appellate decision the Supreme Court upheld in Crawford. To his credit, Judge Posner determined years ago that he had made a terrible mistake and wasn’t afraid to say so.
Verified Voting Blog: Continuous-roll VVPAT under glass: an idea whose time has passed | Andrew Appel
This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on October 19, 2018. States and counties should not adopt DRE+VVPAT voting machines such as the Dominion ImageCast X and the ES&S ExpressVote. Here’s why. Touchscreen voting machines (direct-recording electronic, DRE) cannot be trusted to count votes, because (like any voting computer) a hacker may have…
Florida: Extended early voting, but no fax or email ballots for storm-ravaged counties | Florida Politics
Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington counties are all still facing existential challenges regarding recovery from Hurricane Michael. On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott rolled out an Executive Order outlining the way forward. Supervisors of elections in the affected counties can extend early voting, beginning next Monday. Poll watchers have until Oct. 26 to register, and vote-by-mail ballots can be forwarded to different addresses, an accommodation for displaced voters. The media release does rule out voting by fax or email. “In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots. Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues.”
Even by Georgia standards, the voter purge of late July 2017 was remarkable. In a single day, more than half a million people — 8 percent of Georgia’s registered voters — were cut from the voter rolls. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump who has described himself as a “politically incorrect conservative,” oversaw the removals eight months after he’d declared himself a candidate for governor. The purge was noteworthy for another reason: For an estimated 107,000 of those people, their removal from the voter rolls was triggered not because they moved or died or went to prison, but rather because they had decided not to vote in prior elections, according to an APM Reports analysis. Many of those previously registered voters may not even realize they’ve been dropped from the rolls. If they show up at the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in the heated Georgia governor’s race, they won’t be allowed to cast a ballot. Kemp’s opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is vying to become the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve as a governor. The state has undergone a dramatic influx of African Americans and Latinos whose votes could challenge Republican dominance, and her campaign is trying to turn out people of color, who are more likely to be infrequent voters. If the race is close, the July 2017 purge could affect the outcome.
Civil rights groups are asking a federal judge to allow new Americans to vote in Georgia’s election if they show proof of citizenship. The groups filed an emergency motion Friday asking the courts to intervene so that citizens inaccurately labeled as non-citizens can still vote in this year’s race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. The voter registrations of more than 3,600 people have been put on hold in Georgia because their citizenship hasn’t been verified. These potential voters are among over 53,000 people whose registrations are pending because of the state’s “exact match” law requiring registration applications to match government records.
Wim Laven arrived to his polling location in Atlanta’s northern suburbs this week unsure what to make of recent allegations of voter difficulties at the ballot box. Then he waited two hours in the Georgia sun; saw one person in the line treated for heat exhaustion; and watched a second collapse, receive help from paramedics, yet refuse to be taken to the hospital — so he could remain in line and cast his ballot. Mr. Laven is now a believer. “I have a hard time imaging this is anything but an intentional effort,” said Mr. Laven, who teaches political science at Kennesaw State University. “I can’t imagine this is just pure incompetence. Everyone knew how serious people have been around here about getting out the vote.”
Editorials: Georgia’s ‘exact match’ law could disenfranchise 909,540 eligible voters, my research finds | Ted Enamorado/The Washington Post
Recently, there’s been an uproar about Georgia’s approach to voter registration. The state’s “exact match” law, passed last year, requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls. If the two don’t match, additional verification by a local registrar will be necessary. The Georgia NAACP and other civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit arguing that the measure, effective since July 2017, is aimed at disenfranchising racial minorities in the upcoming midterm elections. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, has put on hold more than 53,000 voters so far, given mismatches in the names in their voting records and other sources of identification such as driver’s licenses and Social Security cards. If the measure takes effect, voters whose information does not exactly match across sources will need to bring a valid photo ID to the polls on Election Day to vote. That could suppress voter turnout, either because some voters lack IDs or because voters are confused about whether they are eligible. Proponents of the rule assert that it is only meant to prevent illegal voting. But is missing a hyphen, an initial instead of a complete middle name, or just having a discrepancy in one letter in a voter’s name good evidence that the voter is not who they say they are? How would we know?
Maryland: In Wake of Russian Meddling, Critics Say Maryland’s Online Ballot System Is Potential Target – NBC4
Requests for absentee ballots are on the rise ahead of the November election — the first general contest since learning of Russian efforts to access voting systems, including those right here in the Washington area. But critics, including a host of computer security experts, say a system designed to make voting easier also makes it more of a target for hackers intending to interfere in U.S. elections. Maryland officials, however, argue those concerns are hypothetical and say they’ve put the necessary safeguards in place. At issue is Maryland’s online ballot delivery system, which allows any voter to request and download an absentee ballot from the internet. Maryland doesn’t allow residents to vote online, so users of this system must mail in their ballots.’
Missouri voters shouldn’t be asked to sign an affidavit if they attempt to vote without a photo ID in the Nov. 6 general election, after the Missouri Supreme Court on Friday denied Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Attorney General Josh Hawley’s request to overturn a ruling striking part of the state’s new voter ID law. The state’s lawyers had asked the court to stay the immediate effectiveness of Cole County Senior Judge Richard Callahan’s order, which said the state can’t require voters who are “otherwise qualified to cast a regular ballot” to sign an affidavit — if they don’t have one of the photo IDs lawmakers included in the new law, which went into effect July 1, 2017. Missouri voters, by a 63 percent margin in November 2016, added an amendment to the Missouri Constitution allowing lawmakers to create requirements for voters to identify themselves when voting at their polling place, including using photo IDs.
The Missouri Republican Party sent mailers to 10,000 voters across the state with false information about when their absentee ballots are due, the party’s executive director acknowledged Friday. Ray Bozarth said the incorrect information was printed on postcards as the result of a miscommunication between the party and its vendor, which he declined to name. Bozarth also did not say how the miscommunication occurred. A photo of the mailer provided to the Star shows a red bar across the top that says “urgent notice” in all capital letters and encourages voters to return their mail-in ballots “today.”
North Dakota is home to one of the most important Senate races of 2018, and less than three weeks before Election Day, it’s embroiled in a fierce battle over who will be able to participate. nOn Oct. 9, the Supreme Court allowed a new state voter identification requirement to take effect, meaning North Dakotans will be voting under different rules than in the primaries just a few months ago. The change disproportionately affects Native Americans, and tribal leaders and advocacy groups have spent the past week and a half scrambling. In a recent letter to the North Dakota secretary of state, one group called the state’s current process unworkable and proposed a solution, but the secretary of state would not endorse it. It is an extraordinary situation: the electoral process thrown into chaos at the last minute in a state that will help decide which party controls the Senate. Here’s a look at where things stand.
Richland County, South Carolina’s much-maligned election commission is dealing with yet another problem as the upcoming 2018 midterms approach. And given this particular jurisdiction’s history of, um,”issues” – you will forgive us for expressing a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to both the origin of the problem and the county’s ability to effectively address it. As much as we wish it were otherwise, we simply do not trust the integrity of elections in Richland County. Hopefully, our faith will be restored under the leadership of new election administrators, but after the notorious “rigged election” of 2012 we remain less than optimistic. Six years ago, illegal shortages of voting machines disproportionately targeted precincts which opposed a so-called “penny” tax hike in the previous (2010) election. These illegal shortages led to abnormally long wait times in these precincts and the mass disenfranchisement of anti-tax voters.
When the first day of early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election day had ended Wednesday, Shelby County election commissioner Norma Lester offered her verdict on how it went with a brief Facebook post. “Don’t know any other way to say it except the first day of Early Voting was absolute HELL!” she wrote. “Hoping for a better Second day.” A total of 11,445 Shelby County voters cast their ballots on the first day of the voting period that runs through Nov. 1 and takes in 27 polling places countywide. The total, which includes absentee ballots, is more than three times the 3,215 early voters at 20 sites on the opening day of early voting for the same election cycle in 2014 and more than double the 4,713 at 21 sites in 2010. The total early voting turnout was 84,711 four years ago and 109,232 in 2010.
Recent charges alleging that four women are part of an organized voter fraud ring on the city’s north side — announced just weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm election — are political moves geared to diminish minority voting in one of the state’s reddest counties, two attorneys allege. “They are political footballs being kicked back and forth by people who have a vested interest in suppressing minority vote,” said Greg Westfall, who along with Frank Sellers is representing one of the women, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin. “They are mothers and grandmothers. They are active in the community. “They are being used by people who want to justify voter ID,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’s not going to be any fraud in this deal.” These comments come one week after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced that four people were arrested — Tepichin, her mother Leticia Sanchez, Maria Solis and Laura Parra — after being indicted on dozens of felony counts of voter fraud.
Verified Voting in the News: State has new laws and the Air National Guard to help secure 2018 midterm election | TechRepublic
Changes to election procedures and assistance from the Washington Air National Guard are underway, as Washington state prepares for the 2018 midterm elections. After learning that it was one of the 21 states whose voter registration database was targeted, Washington is taking extra measures to stay secure. While Washington’s voter registration database wasn’t breached, rumors are swirling that those states targeted in 2016 could be targeted again in 2018, according to Danielle Root, voting manager at the Center for American Progress. “Many national security experts and officials have warned that 2016 was likely a testing ground for Russia,” said Root, so states must stay vigilant. Voter registration databases are an obvious target for attack, said Dan Weiske, advisor to the National Cybersecurity Center. “Any of the publicly connected systems, like the registration systems, are going to be the largest areas of attack and the highest risk,” said Weiske. “There’s a lot of data that sits on those, and it’s accessible by the public.”
EU leaders agreed at a summit on Thursday (18 October) to impose sanctions to stiffen their response to cyber attacks and to rush through new curbs on online campaigning by political parties to protect next year’s European election from interference. In the conclusions of the European Council meeting, EU leaders agreed that the new measures to tackle cybersecurity, disinformation and data manipulation “deserve rapid examination and operational follow-up”. They called for “measures to combat cyber and cyber-enabled illegal and malicious activities” and to “work on the capacity to respond to and deter cyber-attacks through EU restrictive measures should be taken forward, further to the 19 June 2017 Council conclusions.” Negotiations on running proposals are meant to be concluded by the end of the legislative term next year.
Polls have closed in Afghanistan’s long-awaited parliamentary elections, with large numbers of voters defying deadly attacks to cast their ballots. Most polling stations in the country opened on Saturday at 7am (02:30 GMT) and were scheduled to close at 4pm (12:30 GMT). But voting was extended to Sunday at 6pm (13:30 GMT) as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said they gave voters more time to cast their ballot because of a lack of voter materials at some polling stations and problems with the electronic voter system. Zabih Ullah Sadat, deputy spokesperson for the commission, told Al Jazeera that 250 polling centres “opened at 9am on Sunday and remained open until all the voters had cast their ballots”. Vote counting is under way and preliminary results are expected within 20 days. The electoral body has until December 20 to release the final results.
Over the past few months, the 120 million Brazilians who use WhatsApp, the smartphone messaging application that is owned by Facebook, have been deluged with political messages. The missives, spread through the country by the millions, have targeted voters ahead of Brazil’s fiercely contested presidential election. A final runoff between a far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, and Fernando Haddad, the leftist Workers’ Party candidate, will be on Oct. 28. One popular WhatsApp message displayed the name of a presidential candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, next to the number 17. When Brazilians vote, they punch in a number for a candidate or party in an electronic voting machine. The misleading message was just one of millions of photos containing disinformation believed to have reached Brazilians in recent months. A study of 100,000 WhatsApp images that were widely shared in Brazil found that more than half contained misleading or flatly false information.
Cameroon’s Constitutional Council on Friday rejected the last of 18 petitions calling for a re-run of an Oct. 7 election that the opposition said was marred by fraud, paving the way for results expected to extend President Paul Biya’s 36-year rule. The rejections clear all legal objections to the polls. Nearly two weeks after the vote, no results have been announced but under national law authorities have until Monday to do so. Biya is seeking a seventh term that would see him keep his place as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. The only current African president to have ruled longer is Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Following statements by the winning parties of the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections welcoming the final results, trailing parties on Sunday rejected the outcome of the vote. At midnight on Saturday, the electoral commission announced the official results of the regional parliamentary election. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) lead the polls by a large margin, securing 45 seats out of a total 111 seats available, followed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with 21 seats. The parties who rejected the results are the Change Movement (Gorran), winner of 12 seats, New Generation, which won eight seats, and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), which belonged to the Toward Reform Coalition that won five.