Florida: Election officials seek info as support builds for Nelson’s Russian-hack claim | McClatchy

Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections. A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Nelson recently that operatives working for Russia penetrated some county voter registration databases in Florida. That appears to represent new information about fallout from a Russian hacking operation nearly two years ago and not evidence of a fresh attack, the government official familiar with the matter said. And on Saturday, Nelson defended himself against claims by Gov. Rick Scott, his likely opponent in a hotly contested U.S. Senate election, that he was careless with classified information.

Florida: Civil rights groups sue for bilingual ballots in Florida | The Hill

Civil rights groups in Florida are suing for bilingual ballots, claiming the English-language ballots in a state with a growing population of Spanish-speakers are a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Civic engagement groups Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, UnidosUS, and Vamos4PR on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Florida’s secretary of State and the elections supervisors of 32 Florida counties. The groups are calling for these counties to offer bilingual ballots and assistance for non English-speakers, with a focus on the growing population of Puerto Ricans in the state. The secretary of State’s office said it would “review” the lawsuit, according to the The Tampa Bay Times.

Georgia: Voting rights activists move to block a plan to close two-thirds of polling places in a majority black county | The Washington Post

Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election. The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.

Massachusetts: State works to implement new automatic voter registration law | Sentinel & Enterprise

Local city and town clerks are looking for guidance as the state develops methods and regulations to automatically register eligible voters in time for the 2020 presidential elections. “I think it’s going to unfold as we get closer,” said Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell. “We want everything to be clear as we move forward.” Gov. Charlie Baker signed the law to enact automatic voter registration earlier in the month. The Registry of Motor Vehicles, MassHealth, and the Health Connector will be the agencies that automatically register residents who meet the qualifications to vote. There is an option to opt out. Automatic registration is expected to be in place before the next presidential primary, said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bill Galvin, whose office oversees voting and elections.

New Jersey: State spending $10M to fix one of most vulnerable voting systems in US | NorthJersey.com

With less than three months until a midterm election that could shift control of the House, New Jersey is planning to spend nearly $10 million in federal money it received this spring to strengthen what is widely considered one of the most vulnerable voting systems in the country. But the grant money from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is a fraction of what’s needed to improve the state’s election infrastructure from the threats federal officials say are being directed at the U.S., leaving New Jersey susceptible to outside influence when it may also serve as a Congressional battleground. While election officials across the state remain confident that hacking or voting fraud is unlikely — or at least detectable — the 2016 presidential election showed that outside forces are constantly coming up with novel ways to infiltrate the country’s election systems and disrupt one of the most sacred rituals of democracy. “It’s very likely we’ll be susceptible to hacking,” said Aquene Freechild, co-director of a voting campaign for Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “The problem in New Jersey is you wouldn’t know if there was a hack or not.”

Ohio: Republican officials lose bid to dismiss gerrymandering suit over congressional map | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Three federal judges have rejected a request by Republican elected leaders in Ohio to dismiss a lawsuit that says the judges should toss out the state’s congressional district map because it’s gerrymandered. Judges Karen Nelson Moore, Timothy Black and Michael Watson ruled Wednesday that the constitutional violations the group challenging Ohio’s map allege are still germane despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue from earlier this year.

US Virgin Islands: Snafu delays election certification | Virgin Islands Daily News

The V.I. Board of Elections postponed its certification of the Democratic primary election Friday after members realized the final certification document did not include a territory-wide tally for the gubernatorial and senator at-large races. Elections Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. said the document showed only the district results for both races and that he would not certify the election until the document showed a merged, territory-wide result. “Why would we certify these numbers if they only reflect the districts?” Watlington asked. “Our certification has to be territorial, as one entity.”

Verified Voting in the News: West Virginia is testing a mobile voting app for the midterms. What could go wrong? | Vox

On November 6, West Virginians who are serving in the military or living overseas will be able to vote in a brand new way — via an app on their smartphone. But in a climate that’s rife with fear of US election hacking, this new method of voting is raising some questions. …  As mentioned earlier, Voatz relies on blockchain to record the votes. Blockchain, in brief, is a digital ledger that records data — in this case, your vote — but once it’s published, it can’t be canceled or altered. Voatz says its blockchain is “permissioned,” which means you need to be an authenticated user to access it, ostensibly making it more protected. But the problem, according to Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California Berkeley, is that blockchain does nothing to solve the really difficult problems of voting online. “The one-sentence summary is it’s a scam,” he said of Voatz. “They are not doing what they claim to be doing.”

West Virginia: Technology experts have concerns about West Virginia’s mobile voting | WV News

West Virginia voters who will be overseas during the November general election might qualify to use a new mobile app to cast their vote more easily than traditional absentee ballots. Several computer and technology experts have questioned whether the system will be secure enough during the first federal election after the 2016 Russian hacking. Officials with the Secretary of State’s office say the app is a calculated risk to allow more people to vote. … The mobile app, run by a company called Voatz, uses blockchain technology. That it a distributed ledger technology used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered after the fact. The mobile app voting was tested earlier this year in the primary election, and Kersey said its still in a pilot phase.

Canada: Federal government to go on retreat to beef up bill to prevent foreign interference in elections | Calgary Herald

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his newly shuffled cabinet will focus squarely on next year’s election at a two-day retreat this week — including a hard look at the very laws governing elections. Last spring the government introduced Bill C-76, aimed at preventing foreign interference in elections and regulating third-party advocacy groups, as well as undoing a number of controversial measures passed by the previous Conservative government. But insiders say the Liberals now want to beef up the bill, which was being studied by the procedure and House affairs committee when Parliament broke for the summer. Among other things, the government wants to do more to ensure foreign actors or money aren’t involved in elections, require more transparency for political messaging on social media and prevent political parties from setting up ostensible advocacy groups to support them and help skirt spending limits.

Iraq: Supreme Court ratifies May election results | Reuters

Iraq’s Supreme Court has ratified the results of the May 12 parliamentary election, its spokesman said on Sunday, setting in motion a 90-day constitutional deadline for the winning parties to form a government. Parliament in June ordered a nationwide manual recount of the results, which were tallied electronically, after a government report said there were widespread violations and blamed the electoral commission. Yet the recount showed little had changed from the initial results as populist Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr retained his lead, positioning him to play a central role in forming the country’s next government.

Maldives: Election Commission denies voter registration fraud | Maldives Independent

The Elections Commission denied allegations of registration fraud as lots were drawn Saturday to assign candidate numbers for the September 23 election. President Abdulla Yameen will be candidate number one and joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be number two on the ballot paper. Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer and lawyer Hisaan Hussain drew lots on their behalf. Speaking at the ceremony, EC chief Ahmed Shareef denied fraudulent registration of people who did not seek to vote outside their island of permanent residence. It emerged last week that several people – including at least 87 from Gaaf Alif Villigili and 22 from Kolamaafushi – were re-registered elsewhere despite not applying. Some people were registered to vote in Sri Lanka and England.

Mali: Opposition supporters protest Keïta’s re-election | AFP

More than a thousand supporters of Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse gathered in the capital Bamako on Saturday after he lost a presidential run-off to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid accusations of fraud. Keita was re-elected with 67.17% of Sunday’s vote against 32.83% for challenger and former finance minister Cisse. In Bamako, the protesters played vuvuzelas and displayed their candidate’s campaign posters, watched by dozens of police officers in riot gear, AFP journalists witnessed. Cisse, who said on Friday he had won the poll and dismissed the official results as “parody and lies”, joined his supporters mid-morning.

Tanzania: Tanzania rejects US criticism of local polls | AFP

Tanzania is an “independent” country and will not be “intimidated”, the ruling party said on Saturday after the US expressed concern about the conduct of 70 recent by-elections. The US on Wednesday cited “election violence and irregularities” aimed at the opposition after local elections were held on Sunday to replace officials who had either resigned or died. “Credible accounts of election violence and irregularities include refusal by National Election Commission authorities to register opposition candidates, intimidation by police of opposition party members, unwarranted arrests, and suppression of freedoms of assembly and speech in the lead up to the by-elections,” the US said in a statement.

Media Release: Audit Language of the Secure Elections Act Falls Short of Standard for Effective Election Cyberdefense

Marian K. Schneider: “Verified Voting cannot in good conscience support the Secure Elections Act unless the previous audit language of the bill is restored” The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, formerly Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration in the Pennsylvania Department of State, regarding the Chairman’s mark of…

National: Are Blockchains the Answer for Secure Elections? Probably Not | Scientific American

With the U.S. heading into a pivotal midterm election, little progress has been made on ensuring the integrity of voting systems—a concern that retook the spotlight when the 2016 presidential election ushered Donald Trump into the White House amid allegations of foreign interference. A raft of start-ups has been hawking what they see as a revolutionary solution: repurposing blockchains, best known as the digital transaction ledgers for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, to record votes. Backers say these internet-based systems would increase voter access to elections while improving tamper-resistance and public auditability. But experts in both cybersecurity and voting see blockchains as needlessly complicated, and no more secure than other online ballots. Existing voting systems do leave plenty of room for suspicion: Voter impersonation is theoretically possible (although investigations have repeatedly found negligible rates for this in the U.S.); mail-in votes can be altered or stolen; election officials might count inaccurately; and nearly every electronic voting machine has proved hackable. Not surprisingly, a Gallup poll published prior to the 2016 election found a third of Americans doubted votes would be tallied properly.

National: More U.S. states deploy technology to track election hacking attempts | Reuters

A majority of U.S. states has adopted technology that allows the federal government to see inside state computer systems managing voter data or voting devices in order to root out hackers. Two years after Russian hackers breached voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona, most states have begun using the government-approved equipment, according to three sources with knowledge of the deployment. Voter registration databases are used to verify the identity of voters when they visit polling stations. The rapid adoption of the so-called Albert sensors, a $5,000 piece of hardware developed by the Center for Internet Security www.cisecurity.org, illustrates the broad concern shared by state government officials ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, government cybersecurity experts told Reuters.

National: Hacking an American Election Is Child’s Play, Just Ask These Kids | Roll Call

In March, Hawaii Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Securing America’s Elections Act to require the use of paper ballots as backup in case of alleged election hacking. Now voting advocates are suing Georgia to do the same thing. Some voting systems are so easy to hack a child can do it. Eleven year old Emmett Brewer hacked into a simulation of Florida’s state voting website in less than 10 minutes at the DefCon hacking conference last week in Las Vegas, according to Time. Of the approximately 50 children age 8 to 17 who took part in the Election Voting Hacking Village at DefCon, 30 were able to hack into imitation election websites within three hours, Time reported. The kids were able to rewrite vote tallies so that they totaled as much as 12 billion, and change the names of parties and candidates, according to the Guardian.

National: Native Americans Work to Break Down Barriers to Voting | VoA News

In November 2012, former North Dakota attorney general Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, won a hotly-contested race for a seat in the U.S. Senate, a win attributed to the state’s Native American voters. Shortly after that, lawmakers in the majority Republican state passed a tough voter-ID law, making it a lot harder for tribe members to vote. The nonprofit Native American Rights Fund (NARF) sees the new law as racially motivated and has taken North Dakota to court. This year, NARF conducted field hearings across Indian Country to hear testimony on voter suppression in other states. “And what we heard was really disturbing,” said NARF attorney Jacqueline D. De León, a member of the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico.

National: U.S. states demand better access to secrets about election cyber threats | Reuters

U.S. state election officials are demanding better access to sometimes classified federal government information about hacking threats to voting systems. With less than three months until the November midterm elections, 44 states, the District of Columbia, and numerous counties on Wednesday participated in a simulation that tested the ability of state and federal officials to work together to stop data breaches, disinformation and other voting-related security issues. They did not simulate a cyber attack, but rather played out various scenarios to learn how to react if there were one. The Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. Cyber Command, Justice Department and the FBI participated.

Alaska: Voter log changes could delay Alaska results | Associated Press

Some election results from the Alaska primary could be delayed after more than 100,000 voters were given a month to clear up discrepancies with their addresses on voting records. Election officials have not given an exact count of how many did so, but those who didn’t may have to vote a questioned ballot in Tuesday’s primary election. That creates the potential for a delay in election results, especially in tight races, since election officials do not begin counting questioned ballots until a week after the election. “I think the problem is, we don’t know the breadth of the issue right now, so until we know the breadth of the issue, I don’t know that we know the questions to ask,” Stacey Stone, an attorney for the Alaska Republican Party, told The Associated Press. Josie Bahnke, the elections director, was too busy with the election to talk to a reporter, her spokeswoman said.

Florida: Lawsuit seeks Spanish translation of ballots, alleges voting rights violations affecting Puerto Ricans | The Washington Post

Civil rights organizations have asked a federal judge to order the state of Florida and local election officials to provide Spanish-language ballots, literature and translators for voters of Latino descent in time for the midterm election. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, a coalition of nonpartisan groups argue that Florida’s secretary of state and local officials are violating the voting rights of Puerto Ricans, tens of thousands of whom moved to the state in the past year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The groups have spent months trying to work with local election officials in 32 counties to provide language services to Spanish-speaking residents.

Georgia: Kemp wants verifiable voting — after his race | Associated Press

Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp says Georgia’s aging electronic voting machines should be replaced, coming around to a position critics say he’s resisted for eight years as the state’s top elections official. There’s just one thing – Kemp says it can’t be done in time for his own election this November. The secretary of state is asking companies for proposals to implement new machines that produce verifiable paper records in time for the next presidential election in 2020. Meanwhile, he’s dismissing experts who say the electronic machines are susceptible to hacking and that there’s no way to confirm the accuracy of their vote counts. Kemp is defending the system in place since 2002 as “accurate and secure” enough for this fall’s elections, even though it produces no paper backups that can be audited to make sure each voter’s choice is reflected in the tally.

Georgia: Counties respond to hacking, security threat | Atlanta Journal Constitution

As Georgians prepare to cast their ballots in a nationally watched gubernatorial race, the security and reliability of the state’s election system remains a point of concern for many voters and security experts. Polls show that a large percentage of Americans believe there’s a concerted effort underway by foreign entities to undermine American Democracy and promote discord, using everything from fake Facebook accounts to Russian Twitter bots. But perhaps nothing strikes fear in the hearts of voters in Georgia and across the country more than the notion that their ballots could be changed by hackers. In the metro area, elections officials in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Henry, Clayton and Fayette counties told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they are working with the Secretary of State’s office to ensure every ballot cast in November is counted and reported accurately. They say their systems and processes are battle tested and secure. Still, there’s a growing clamor for more precautions. The state’s weaknesses have been well documented. Georgia uses electronic voting machines and is one of only five states that don’t have paper backups that can be used to audit results.

Kansas: Lawmakers seek changes in handling disputed election ballots | The Kansas City Star

Kansas lawmakers are vowing to take a fresh look at the state’s election laws after the slim margin between Kris Kobach and Jeff Colyer in the Republican race for governor exposed a sometimes creaky and subjective vote-counting system. Even before the fight over the results of last week’s election, a nationwide review of state election systems ranked Kansas below nearly every other state. Ballots improperly filled out, mail-in ballots without postmarks, even the vote of a person who later died – all landed in the laps of local election officials who made sometimes-conflicting decisions. Two of the largest counties —Johnson and Sedgwick — took different approaches to counting some ballots cast by unaffiliated voters. For some, the deciding factor over whether their vote counted was what county they live in. 

Ohio: Panel Advances Challenge to Ohio Voting Maps | Courthouse News

A three-judge panel on Wednesday declined to throw out a gerrymandering lawsuit against Republican officials in Ohio, finding that a group of Democratic voters established legal standing to bring the challenge. In May, a coalition of Democratic voters and groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, sued Governor John Kasich and other Republican lawmakers in Cincinnati federal court. They urged the court to enjoin a 2011 redistricting statute that the GOP used to redraw maps, arguing it gave an unfair advantage to Republicans at the expense of Democratic voters. Republicans would win 12 congressional districts and Democrats four districts, even as the statewide share of the vote for each party shifted over three congressional elections between 2013 and 2016.

US Virgin Islands: Elections Board Fields Challenges About Machine Irregularities | St. Croix Source

With the counting of outstanding ballots complete in both districts, V.I. Joint Board of Elections members convened Thursday to resolve several challenges filed by or against candidates running in the August Democratic primary. Nearly two hours was spent at the beginning of the meeting dealing with a recount petition filed by St. Croix Senate candidate Nemmy Jackson-Williams, whose concerns centered on irregularities experienced by voters using machines either during the early voting process or on primary election day. Specifically, two witnesses called by Jackson-Williams and her campaign manager Dale Brown said the voting machines they used didn’t accept their ballots the first time around, and once the ballots were accepted, the screens on the machines didn’t show the voters who they actually voted for.

West Virginia: Smartphone voting brings new security concerns | The Daily Swig

Election turnouts around the world are often dismally poor; meanwhile, consumers are wedded to their smartphones and using them for new applications all the time. One obvious solution is to allow people to vote by phone. Two years ago, indeed, a Consumer Reports survey revealed that a third of Americans reckoned they’d be more likely to vote if they could do it on their phone. And now, following a pilot involving military voters earlier this year, West Virginia is planning to allow voters living overseas to cast their ballot via smartphone in the upcoming mid-term elections. The plan is to use a blockchain-based system from the company Voatz.

Editorials: Pakistan: The vulnerable e-vote | The Express Tribune

Around six million Pakistani citizens are residents of other countries and many of them are eligible to vote. With e-voting being trialled around the world the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) was tasked with finding an internet solution to their voting needs. It did so and duly submitted a proposal to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which set up a task force to investigate the proposal and its viability — and it now stands rejected. The Internet Voting Task Force (IVTF) conducted a technical audit of the proposed i-Vote and found there were flaws, specifically risks to the transparent conduct of voting.

Poland: President vetoes altered election rules | Deutsche Welle

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday said he would not sign a law put forward by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that would have effectively meant that no small party in Poland would have a chance at European Parliament elections next year. “I’ve decided to veto this bill. This change would mean that the effective electoral threshold would rise to as much as 16.5 percent from 5 percent,” Duda said on public television.