National: The Vulnerabilities of Our Voting Machines | Scientific American

A few weeks ago computer scientist J. Alex Halderman rolled an electronic voting machine onto a Massachusetts Institute of Technology stage and demonstrated how simple it is to hack an election. In a mock contest between George Washington and Benedict Arnold three volunteers each voted for Washington. But Halderman, whose research involves testing the security of election systems, had tampered with the ballot programming, infecting the machine’s memory card with malicious software. When he printed out the results, the receipt showed Arnold had won, 2 to 1. Without a paper trail of each vote, neither the voters nor a human auditor could check for discrepancies. In real elections, too, about 20 percent of voters nationally still cast electronic ballots only. As the U.S. midterm elections approach, Halderman, among others, has warned our “outmoded and under-tested” electronic voting systems are increasingly vulnerable to attacks. They can also lead to confusion. Some early voters in Texas have already reported votes they cast for Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Beto O’Rourke were switched on-screen to incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. There’s no evidence of hacking, and the particular machines in question are known to have software bugs, which could account for the errors.

National: Mystery of the Midterm Elections: Where Are the Russians? | The New York Times

Shane Huntley has seen every form of state-sponsored cyberattack, first as an Australian intelligence officer and now as director of Google’s most advanced team of threat detectors. So when he was asked what surprised him the most about the 2018 midterm elections, his response was a bit counterintuitive. “The answer is surprisingly little on the hacking front, at least compared to two years ago.” He paused, and added: “And that reassures some people, and it scares some people.” He is right. From the cyberwar room that the Department of Homeland Security runs round the clock in a bland office building in Arlington, Va., to Microsoft’s threat-assessment center at the other end of the country, in Redmond, Wash., every form of digital radar is being focused on Russia, especially its military-intelligence unit, formerly known as the G.R.U.

National: Campaign cybersecurity poses next major challenge for federal election officials | The Hill

Federal officials say they want to help political campaigns guard against against cyberattacks, but are struggling to figure out how. Election officials said this week that while much of the attention since 2016 has focused on protecting voting systems, campaigns remain highly susceptible to cyber intrusions. However, those same officials have no means of directly communicating with the hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates about how best to address cyber threats. Robert Kolasky, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Risk Management Center, said DHS has resorted to contacting the Republican and Democratic national committees to try to reach campaigns. And even then federal officials aren’t able to reach everyone. Few campaigns reach out to DHS about cybersecurity issues, Kolasky told reporters on Tuesday, adding that candidates are more likely to contact the FBI or their national committees when they notice something has gone wrong.

National: Ahead of U.S. elections, fears of voter suppression – and efforts to fight back | Reuters

Clemente Torres has proudly cast his vote in person at Dodge City’s lone polling place in every election since he became a naturalized citizen 20 years ago. This year is different. After Republican officials said in September they would move the Hispanic-majority city’s only polling place to a remote spot outside the city limits, across railroad tracks and away from bus lines, Torres decided to vote by mail. “I wanted to be sure I could vote,” said Torres, 57, who works at a meatpacking plant in this western Kansas city best known for its history as a Wild West outpost. “I didn’t want to take any chances.” Torres and other voters interviewed by Reuters said they were worried voting would be more difficult at the new location. Some were skeptical of the official explanation: that construction will hinder access to the usual site. The move sparked an outcry from voting rights groups that say Republicans are trying to limit Hispanic votes. The American Civil Liberties Union asked the courts to force Dodge City to open another polling site – a request denied by a judge on Thursday.

National: Mail-In Ballot Postage Becomes a Surprising (and Unnecessary) Cause of Voter Anxiety | ProPublica

At the absentee ballot parties organized by assistant professor Allison Rank and her political science students at the State University of New York at Oswego, young voters can sip apple cider and eat donuts as they fill out their ballots. But the main draw is the free stamps. “The stamp was actually the thing I was concerned about,” one freshman told Rank after she explained the process of completing and mailing in a ballot. According to Rank, only one store on the rural upstate campus sells postage. It has limited hours and only takes cash, which many students don’t carry. It’s not only students who may be short a stamp this election. An increasing number of Americans vote by mail in an age when fewer of us have a reason to keep postage on hand. But it’s long been an open secret among election officials: Even though the return envelopes on many mail-in ballots say “postage required,” the U.S. Postal Service will deliver even without a stamp.

National: In the South, an Aggressive Effort to Purge Former Felons From Voting Rolls | Pacific Standard

In many parts of the country, it’s becoming easier than ever for former felons to vote. A growing number of states have loosened restrictions, such as allowing people to cast ballots while still on parole or probation. But there is one region that still has a penchant for purging felons from the rolls: the South. An APM Reports/Pacific Standard analysis of federal data shows that, in the past decade, the number of registered voters removed from the rolls across the South due to a conviction has nearly doubled. That trend comes at a time when overall crime rates have been declining. States with the largest voting-aged, African-American populations tend to have some of the strictest laws. And that’s created a disproportionate impact on minority voters. In fact, the laws were initially designed 150 years ago to suppress African-American political influence.

Editorials: Election Security is an Immediate National Security Concern | Scott Holcomb/Just Security

Election security continues to be an issue of national security. Russia attacked the United States in 2016, and it is doing so again now. I am from Georgia, and my home state is one of the most vulnerable in the nation. It is so bad that citizen activists filed a lawsuit to try to force Georgia to take action and secure its outdated and insecure voting machines that lack a paper trail. But in September, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that, despite valid and serious election security concerns, Georgia can continue using touchscreen voting machines for the midterm elections this year. These machines are known to be vulnerable to hacking—an ever more serious concern following Russia’s 2016 attacks and the assaults it continues to wage today, none of which have been sufficiently addressed.

District of Columbia: D.C. Council committee approves bill to lower voting age to 16 | WJLA

The D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety passed the bill to lower the voting age to 16 in D.C. with a unanimous 3-0 vote Thursday. With Committee approval, the bill will now be placed on the agenda of the Nov. 13 City Council Legislative Meeting, where it will be voted on by the full council. Vote16DC, a coalition of youth, adult allies, and organizations that support granting voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in the District, has spent months leading up to this committee vote mobilizing community support and educating Councilmembers on the merits of lowering DC’s voting age to 16.

Georgia: Senators blast Georgia’s Brian Kemp for ‘a total disregard for election security’ | The Washington Post

With just days to go before the midterms, two Democrats are accusing Republican Brian Kemp of downplaying election security for his own political gain in his run for Georgia governor. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) calls the potential insecurity of Georgia’s paperless voting machines a “disaster.” And Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told me the fact that Georgia voters will be going to the polls without a paper backup is “outrageous.” “Secretary of State Kemp has shown a total disregard for election security,” Wyden said in an email. “He seems to see a personal benefit to ignoring the urgent warnings from experts and intelligence agencies about the threats to Georgia’s election system.”

Georgia: Here are the chilling tricks we’ve caught Georgia using to disqualify voters | The Washington Post

A young woman learned her name was no longer on the voter rolls in Georgia. Ironically, she discovered this while training as a canvasser for new voters. Since registering and casting her first ballot in 2008, she hadn’t returned to the polls, and under the new “use it or lose it” rule, the system purged her registration. A dentist in Macon received a letter from the secretary of state, warning him that he was at risk of being labeled an “inactive voter” for changing addresses, not voting or not responding to election-related mail. None of that was true, he said: He’d participated in every Georgia election in the past 40 years and had lived in his home for 30. A man was moved to a “pending” list of voters and told he had to prove his identity before he could cast a ballot, because the clerk registering him had missed the hyphen in his first name. It took a three-way phone call between him, a team of election lawyers and the Fulton County Board of Elections to secure his status as an eligible voter.

Kansas: Judge troubled by clerk’s ‘LOL’ remark, but won’t order another Dodge City polling site | The Wichita Eagle

A southwest Kansas county clerk doesn’t have to open a second polling site in Dodge City, a federal judge ruled on Thursday. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree said forcing Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox to open an additional polling location in Dodge City so close to the Nov. 6 election would not be in the public’s interest. But Crabtree said he is troubled by Cox’s reaction to an American Civil Liberties Union letter, which Cox forwarded last week to a state official with the comment “LOL.” Cox moved the city’s only polling place from a central location in town, the Civic Center, to the Expo Center half a mile outside the city limits this fall. The new location is not accessible via sidewalk and there is no regular public transportation there, though the city has said it will provide rides to voters. The League of United Latin American Citizens and 18-year-old first-time voter Alejandro Rangel-Lopez had sued Cox in an effort to force her to open a second polling location.

Maryland: Election apparitions: These Maryland ‘ghost’ precincts have no polling places or voters | Baltimore Sun

You may or may not believe in ghosts, but if you live in Maryland, chances are you’ve encountered a few without realizing it. At a Baltimore Orioles game, for example. Or while walking in the city’s Wyman Park Dell, or observing the wildlife at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel. Maybe you’ve driven to the “Jones Thicket Ghost,” named for a road in Dorchester County where it can be found. Maryland has 54 “ghosts” — 51 scattered across ten counties, plus three in Baltimore. Ghost precincts, that is — voting precincts that, on Tuesday, will have no polling places, no election judges and will report no results. This is because these are areas where no voters live. Most of Maryland’s ghost precincts were created as a result of the last redistricting, when political boundaries for legislative, congressional and councilmanic districts were redrawn based on population data from the 2010 U.S. Census. After redistricting, voting precinct boundaries were also re-assessed and, if necessary, redrawn.

Massachusetts: ‘This is life or death’: trans people threatened by Massachusetts vote | The Guardian

Amid continued attempts by the Trump administration to roll back transgender rights in the United States, Massachusetts voters are set to decide whether or not to eliminate a 2016 state law protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in public spaces like restaurants and shops. The 6 November ballot question will mark the first statewide referendum in the country that threatens to revoke previously guaranteed transgender rights. If the law is successfully repealed, transgender rights activists worry that it could trigger similar campaigns elsewhere in the country. “Question 3 poses significant consequences for transgender people across Massachusetts, but it also would have significant consequences for transgender people across the country,” said Sarah McBride, the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group.

Mississippi: Not all ex-felons are barred from voting in Mississippi, but no one is telling them that | Mississippi Today

Jed Blackerby always understood, following his 2003 felony conviction, he had lost his right to vote. Mississippi’s constitution permanently strips the voting rights from people convicted of a number of specific felonies — 22 in total, according to the attorney general’s office. But Blackerby’s crime of aggravated assault does not appear on that list. “No one gave any guidance,” Blackerby said after learning he may still have his voting rights. “A long time ago when convicted felons, point blank, were not allowed to vote, (government officials) never made it public until afterwards that (people with) certain types of convictions were allowed to vote. It had never been publicized.” Blackerby has never visited the polls on Election Day, even though he considers himself engaged in politics and he has strong opinions about the country’s direction.

New Jersey: State to begin using newer, more secure voting machine – experts say the state is making a new mistake in the process | News12

New Jersey election officials are taking steps to replace the state’s outdated voting machines, which are vulnerable to hacking. But some experts say the state is making a new mistake in the process. Voters in New Jersey use some of the oldest, least secure voting machines in America. Ten years ago, Princeton professor Andrew Appel demonstrated the machines could be hacked. They also produce no paper backup, so Appel says, “You can’t really recount or audit. Whatever the computer says, whether it’s hacked or not, is what you have to rely on.”  That may soon change. New Jersey election director Robert Giles says all 21 county election boards are on board with transitioning to new machines that produce voter-verified paper trails. Enter the ExpressVote XL, being used for the first time next week in Westfield, before being rolled out Union County-wide. County election officials let Kane In Your Corner test the equipment, which features a 32-inch touch screen.

Texas: Straight-ticket voting problems could be due to old machines | The Texas Tribune

A national spotlight fell on Texas’ voting equipment last week after some voters complained that their votes on electronic voting machines had changed. State election officials chalked it up to user error. Critics alleged malfeasance or a software bug. The Austin-based company behind the machines says an important piece of context is missing from this debate: these machines are 16 years old. “It’s very much like someone calling Apple and asking for support on their iPhone 1,” said Steven Sockwell, vice president of marketing at Hart InterCivic. Most Texas counties last upgraded their electronic voting machines well over a decade ago, tapping billions in funds Congress approved to upgrade voting equipment around the country following election irregularities during the 2000 presidential election. Dozens of Texas counties purchased Hart’s eSlate machines. It’s those same machines that a number of voters attempted to cast straight-ticket ballots on last week only to hit a snag: when they reviewed their list of candidates on the summary screen, their choices were deselected or a candidate from an opposing party was selected.

Texas: Fighting for the Right to Vote in a Tiny Texas County | The Atlantic

In Waller County, Texas, a 40,000-strong exurb to the northwest of Houston, early voting is simple. Texas law mandates that the county maintain a main voting site, located in the county seat of Hempstead, that is open for at least five hours every day from Monday, October 22, to Friday, November 2. During those two weeks, satellite centers provide voting hours farther out in the county. Residents in the towns of Brookshire and Waller, two of the larger places in Waller County, have multiple days to cast a ballot in both the first and second week of early voting. As guided by state law, the early-voting plans in Waller County are intended to both maximize a finite pool of resources and ensure that most of the voters in the county have at least some convenient entry points for early voting that can fit into their schedule. All of that applies so long as you aren’t a black college student, according to a lawsuit filed last week in a U.S. district court by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The suit, brought on behalf of several students at Prairie View A&M University, alleges that the county shortchanges students with a local early-voting plan that uniquely constrains their choices, offering only three days of on-campus early voting in the second week.*

Utah: Navajos could tip balance after voting-rights battle | Associated Press

Tammie Nakai lives under a vista of red-rock spires and purple sunrise sky that offers arguably some of the United States’ most breathtaking views. But her home lacks what most of the country considers basic necessities: electric lines and running water. “It’s been that way my whole life, almost 31 years,” she said at the jewelry stand she and her husband run with pride in Monument Valley, a rural community near the Utah-Arizona border where tourists stand in the highway to re-create a famous running scene from “Forest Gump.” As she decides how she’ll cast her ballot, Navajo voters like Nakai could tip the balance of power in their county on Nov. 6. It’s the first general election since a federal judge decided racially gerrymandered districts illegally minimized the voices of Navajo voters who make a slim majority of San Juan County’s population. The county overlaps with the Navajo Nation, where people face huge disparities in health, education and economics. About 40 percent lack running water in their homes.

West Virginia: Large-Scale Purge Raises Concerns Among Voters | Truthout

West Virginia’s secretary of state reported last month that more than 100,000 voters — about one in 12 registered voters — had been purged from the rolls prior to the upcoming election. As we documented in a major July report, West Virginia is one of several states that have purged their rolls more aggressively in recent years, raising concerns that eligible voters could be disenfranchised. In order to keep voter rolls accurate, election officials need to periodically remove the names of voters who have died or moved. But purges conducted without sufficient care can lead to the removal of eligible voters. West Virginia’s removals deserve close scrutiny. Some voters in the state have reported problems including being unable to access their records online, and counties reported differing remedies for restoring the registrations of those removed by mistake.

Armenia: Lawmakers in Armenia trigger early parliamentary election | Reuters

Lawmakers in Armenia triggered an early parliamentary election on Thursday after failing to elect a prime minister, a move sought by acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who quit as premier last month in order to force a new vote. Pashinyan, a former opposition leader who took power in May after a popular uprising, has long sought a new vote for parliament, which is still made up of members elected before demonstrators pushed the former ruling party out of power. By quitting and leaving parliament unable to find a successor, he forced parliament to dissolve and hold a new vote.

Congo: Thousands rally against voting machines ahead of election | East Africa Monitor

Thousands of opposition supporters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Friday rallied against the use of voting machines in the country’s upcoming election. In a rare move, President Joseph Kabila’s government authorised the protest although security forces were deployed throughout the capital Kinshasa and various other cities. However, unlike previous protests, which have ended in deadly violence, Friday’s demonstration passed without incident. Tension ahead of the DRC’s long-awaited presidential election is high, following the electoral commission’s decision to bar former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and regional baron Moise Katumbi from running. Bemba is among the opposition politicians calling upon supporters to rally against what he described as “the greatest electoral fraud ever with electronic machines that have not been tested anywhere in the world.”

Malaysia: Proposal to lower voting age, automatic voter registration agreed to in principal by political parties | New Straits Times

The proposal to lower voting age from 21 years to 18 and automatic voter registration were principally agreed by political parties from both divides today. The Election Commission (EC) chairman, Azhar Azizan Harun said 32 parties out 52 registered political parties in the country, had unanimously agreed to both proposals. The EC had earlier called the 32 political parties today for a closed-door meeting to discuss issues pertaining to voter registration. “There was no objection to the voting age limit from the political parties. “However there were several suggestions for the need for more data such as address and telephone numbers for the automatic registration,” he told reporters after the meeting at the EC headquarters here today.

Nigeria: ‘How Virtual Polling Units May Mar 2019 Elections’ |

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was warned yesterday that the credibility of its elections in 2019 may be threatened by electronic manipulation. It was further told that the manipulation was being planned by some persons within its ranks. The alarm was raised by the convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, at a press briefing in Abuja. Reliable sources in INEC revealed that the commission’s e-collation portal has been tampered with, Adeyanju said, warning that this could lead to the creation of virtual polling units. According to him, while e-collation remains the most potent way to end vote rigging, a faulty system means anyone could enter results from any location at anytime or date because the portal allegedly no longer shows location, time and date of collation.