Georgia: Voting registration verification law faces legal threat | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is rejecting a lawsuit threat from a civil rights organization over the state’s “exact match” method for verifying voter registration applications. The threatened lawsuit would allege that the “exact match” system has a high error rate and a negative impact on African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters, according to a July 18 letter from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to Kemp. Kemp, a Republican, said the potential lawsuit is a political stunt as he’s running for governor. He faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the November general election.

Hawaii: Hawaii grapples with lava, hurricane as election nears | Associated Press

As Hawaii readies for its primary elections, voters are grappling with an erupting volcano and Hurricane Hector. Elections are challenging times for candidates even in the best of circumstances. But Big Island politicians frequently have extra adversity, given they live on top of one of the world’s most active volcanoes and in the general vicinity of hurricanes that barrel through the central Pacific Ocean many summers. The island has a history of nature-related election disruptions: In 2014, Tropical Storm Iselle forced the same two precincts hit hardest by Kilauea volcano to close the day of the primary. The state Office of Elections organized a makeup election day for the two precincts six days later.

Michigan: Blind voters may struggle with new voting machines | Associated Press

New voting machines in Michigan may cause problems for residents with a visual disability. Tuesday’s primary election will feature $40 million of new equipment that replaced aging voting machines, The Detroit Free Press reported. For more than a decade, blind voters in the state have used AutoMark Voter Assist Terminals, which have a touch screen and a keypad with Braille. A 2015 survey estimates that about 221,000 Michigan residents have a visual disability. Most Michigan counties will now use Dominion Voting Systems, which don’t have keypads with Braille and feature verbal instructions that can be difficult for a blind person to follow. Some counties selected new equipment from Election Systems & Software or Hart InterCivic. About 100 blind people helped test out the three systems in 2016, said Fred Wurtzel, who is blind and is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan. He said most testers preferred the Election Systems equipment, while many said the Hart InterCivic were the most difficult to use.

Missouri: Lawsuit seeks to knock gerrymandering issue off November ballot | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A Kansas City attorney who helped draw the boundaries of Missouri’s current legislative districts is trying to knock a question off the November ballot designed to end partisan gerrymandering. In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Paul Ritter, a Miller County resident, attorney Eddie Greim said the proposed referendum violates a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prevents multiple subjects from being combined into one ballot proposal. “One purpose of the prohibition on multiple subjects in a single ballot proposal is to prevent `logrolling,’ a practice familiar to legislative bodies whereby unrelated subjects that individually might not muster enough support to pass are combined to generate the necessary support,” the lawsuit says.

Verified Voting in the News: First new election results audit held in Fairfax city | WTOP

In a first for Virginia, elections officials gathered Thursday and Friday at the Fairfax County Courthouse to prove that election results from June’s primary were correct. The risk-limiting audit was for the Republican U.S. Senate primary results in the city of Fairfax. It was a demonstration of what could be done statewide in future elections as a statistical check to provide more evidence that the final results based on counts from ballot scanners are correct. The audits, when done for an entire election, are meant to show statistical confidence that the winner really won and the loser or losers really lost. Results of the first audit completed Friday showed the results of 69 randomly selected ballots scanned by a machine Thursday matched the hand count of those same ballots done Friday morning. (One ballot was selected twice by the random process).

Verified Voting in the News: Despite Russian Hacking Horror Stories, West Virginia Looks at Blockchain Voting App for Midterms | Crypto Disrupt

United States intelligence agencies have recently warned of possible Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections. Despite these warnings, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner intends to press ahead with plans to offer West Virginians who are serving overseas in the military with the opportunity to vote via a smartphone app created by Boston company Voatz. … As you can imagine, there are some dissenting voices out there, and one came in the form of Joseph Lorenzo Hall, who is the chief technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology who told CNN that “Mobile voting is a horrific idea. It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

Iraq: Election commission says election recount complete but cut short in capital over fire | Reuters

Iraq’s election commission said on Monday it had completed a manual recount of May’s parliamentary election but was forced to cut the process short in the capital because voting records had been destroyed by a warehouse fire two months ago. The recount was ordered by parliament in June after a government report concluded there were serious violations in an initial count using an electronic vote-counting system. However, within hours of parliament voting for the recount, a fire broke out at a warehouse where voting machines and other records from the capital were kept.

Maldives: Ruling party denies plans to delay election | Maldives Independent

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives dismissed speculation the government will seek to delay the September 23 presidential election. “We want to hold the election as soon as possible. And it will happen on the date the Elections Commission has set,” MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla told the press Sunday evening. The PPM will not seek to postpone the polls “under any circumstances” or support delays, the party’s deputy leader insisted. The press briefing was called after the Maldivian Democratic Party said President Abdulla Yameen was “inventing cowardly excuses to cancel or delay the election,” referring to an astonishing Facebook post from the defence minister about a plot to destabilise the Maldives in the coming days.

Pakistan: Election Commission criticised for ‘imposing media curbs, failing to conduct fair elections’ | The News

Representatives of political parties, legal fraternity and journalists on Monday bitterly criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for what they termed its failure to conduct transparent and fair general elections, provide a level playing field to political parties and their candidates, and imposing restrictions on media coverage. Addressing a seminar titled “What Journalists Saw in General Elections 2018” at the Karachi Press Club on Monday, speakers called for reforms in election laws by removing all defects in the election procedures and for steps to be taken to ensure that the media is not restricted from covering the polls in future. The seminar was organised by the Karachi Union of Journalists-Dustoor group. Stating that the ECP failed to conduct fair elections, Pakistan Peoples Party Karachi President Saeed Ghani said that political parties were not provided a level playing field before and on the polling day. He said polling agents were not provided Form-45 after the counting process in sheer violation of the election laws.

Editorials: Zimbabwe’s Dubious Election | The New York Times

Last week’s national elections in Zimbabwe were a critical test of whether President Emmerson Mnangagwa was really prepared to lead the revival of a country brought to ruin by his autocratic predecessor, Robert Mugabe. So far, the aftermath of the elections that gave Mr. Mnangagwa and the governing ZANU-PF party at least five more years in power has given little reason for celebration. International observers charged that the playing field was not even, with coverage on state media, misuse of state resources and intimidation working in the government’s favor. Even before the results were in, Mr. Mnangagwa’s 40-year-old opponent, Nelson Chamisa, claimed fraud and pledged to challenge the results.

National: Local Officials Call Federal Election Funds ‘A 10-Cent Solution To A $25 Problem’ | WGBH

States across the country are in the process of receiving grants from the federal government to secure their voting systems. Earlier this year Congress approved $380 million in grants for states to improve election technology and “make certain election security improvements.” But how states use that money is up to them. In Texas, officials say they want to use the bulk of their grant to secure the state’s voter registration database. According to federal officials, Russians tried to hack a Texas election website in 2016. Dana Debeauvoir, who runs elections in Austin, Texas, as the Travis County clerk, says running elections has become increasingly more expensive and technologically complicated. She says she cast her first ballot on a lever machine — a big metal box with a bunch of tiny metal handles voters crank to select the candidate of their choice. These machines, and others, were banned by Congress when lawmakers passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. “So they are now no longer used — also right along with punch card voting,” Debeauvoir says.

National: Trump’s ‘bizarre’ voter fraud panel found none, former member Matthew Dunlap says | The Washington Post

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the 11 members of the commission formed by President Trump to investigate supposed voter fraud, issued a scathing rebuke of the disbanded panel on Friday, accusing Vice Chair Kris Kobach and the White House of making false statements and saying that he had concluded that the panel had been set up to try to validate the president’s baseless claims about fraudulent votes in the 2016 election. Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the panel, made the statements in a report he sent to the commission’s two leaders — Vice President Pence and Kobach, who is Kansas’s secretary of state — after reviewing more than 8,000 documents from the group’s work, which he acquired only after a legal fight despite his participation on the panel. Before it was disbanded by Trump in January, the panel had never presented any findings or evidence of widespread voter fraud. But the White House claimed at the time that it had shut down the commission despite “substantial evidence of voter fraud” due to the mounting legal challenges it faced from states. Kobach, too, spoke around that time about how “some people on the left were getting uncomfortable about how much we were finding out.” 

National: Trump’s voter fraud claim untrue, election official says | USA Today

There’s no proof to support President Donald Trump’s repeated claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election, according to a member of the disbanded commission set up to examine abuse at the ballot box. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who sat on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, wrote Friday that a review of documents shows the panel’s evidence of voter fraud is “glaringly empty.” Dunlap said the documents confirmed the commission’s “troubling bias” that assumed widespread fraud going into the review before any data had been collected.

National: Red state and GOP efforts to purge voter rolls have been stymied | Salon

As a key deadline approaches next week on updating statewide voter rolls before the November election, it appears a controversial data-mining operation mostly used by red states to purge legitimate voters is withering, or at least dormant, in 2018. The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program, known as Crosscheck, has been blasted in the press, academia,legal briefs, and federal court rulings for sloppy analytics that generate tens or hundreds of thousands of suspected duplicate voter registrations in member states. (It uses few data specifics, including common names, producing false positives.) Some of those states have used Crosscheck’s analyses to turn a bland voter roll bookkeeping process (removing dead people, people who moved) into a partisan cudgel. This June, a federal district court issued a restraining order against Indiana election officials to not use Crosscheck to prematurely purge its voter rolls.

National: Democratic House candidate claims Russians tried to hack campaign website | The Hill

The Democrat challenging Rep. Martha Roby (R) for her Alabama House seat says that her campaign website faced more than 1,400 hacking attempts, most of them from Russia. Tabitha Isner told Business Insider that the attempts were first brought to her attention when the company that she uses to host her website advised her to upgrade her services because of a spike in traffic. That’s when she had her web administrator examine the uptick, she told the news outlet. The web administrator, Kristopher Vilamaa, said that when he looked into it, he discovered that many Russian IP addresses had been blocked from the site.

National: Why the Government Wants to Know Your Citizenship Status | The New York Times

Are you an American citizen? The Trump administration really wants to know. In March, it added to the 2020 census a question asking people, for the first time in more than half a century, about their citizenship status. Administration officials have claimed, in public and before Congress, that the Justice Department needs the question answered in order to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act. But late last month, the government turned over a batch of emails as part of a federal lawsuit that casts significant doubt on those claims. The push to include the question has also set off concerns about the way such data might be used in the next decennial redistricting cycle, which begins in 2021. For perspective, the editorial board spoke with Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of groups that is opposing the citizenship question. From 2014 to 2017, Ms. Gupta served as the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. The new documents give us evidence in black and white of something that many of us already suspected to be the case: The rationale that the Justice Department needs to go door-to-door to find out who is a citizen in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act is obviously a ruse.

Editorials: How to Protect the Midterms From Hackers | Bloomberg

Some 13 weeks till Election Day, and “The warning lights are blinking red,” says the U.S. director of national intelligence. “I cannot emphasize enough the vulnerability,” says Senator Marco Rubio. “We could be just a moment away from it going to the next level,” says the FBI director. On Thursday, the Trump administration’s national security team held a joint press conference to underscore the threat. They’re all worried about foreign countries meddling in the midterms, just as Russia did in 2016. And with good reason: Although election security hasn’t been a notable priority for this administration — it has evidently held just two meetings on the topic since taking office — there’s every reason to think more attacks are imminent. What’s the proper response? Precaution, not panic. In particular, three problems need attention. 

Alaska: Threat of cyber attack prompts change in Alaska primary | KTVA

Early voting for the state’s primary elections starts Monday. However, there is a slight change to the process this year due to the current threat of foreign cyber attacks. The Alaska Division of Elections (DOE) said it is suspending the return of ballots online until security advancements can be made to the state voting system. “We want our voters to feel confident in our elections system and that their votes are secure, which is why we are taking proactive steps to improve how we safeguard their ballots as we head into this year’s elections,” said State Elections Director Josie Bahnke.

Arkansas: Proposed cap for terms gets on state ballot | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A proposed constitutional amendment that would limit state lawmakers to serving a maximum of 10 years qualified for the Nov. 6 general election ballot, an official in the secretary of state’s office said Friday. The Arkansas Term Limits committee’s ballot proposal also would limit lawmakers to serving three two-year terms as a state representative, two four-year terms as a senator or any terms that would exceed a total of 10 years in the General Assembly. The amendment wouldn’t affect members of Congress. If approved by voters, Arkansas’ legislative term limits would be the strictest in the nation, said John Mahoney, a policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Georgia: Election officials knew system was at risk before 2016 vote | McClatchy

Georgia election officials got a friendly warning in August 2016 that their electronic voting system could be easily breached. But less than a month before the November election, a state cybersecurity official fretted that “critical vulnerabilities” persisted, internal emails show. The emails, obtained through a voting security group’s open records request, offer a glimpse into a Georgia election security team that appeared to be outmatched even as evidence grew that Russian operatives were seeking to penetrate state and county election systems across the country. “I am sure that you are aware that these are opportunities for malicious users to gather account credentials,” William Moore, a cybersecurity official on a Kennesaw State University team tasked with running Georgia’s election system, wrote to a colleague in October. Officials at Kennesaw’s Center for Election Systems were struggling to respond to the report of a cyber watchdog who nosed around the system to test its defenses two months earlier and wound up gaining access to a colossal, 15-gigabyte store of confidential material, including voter data and passwords to the system.

New Jersey: State sought more money to protect voting machines from hackers. Republicans in Congress said no. |

New Jersey’s voting machines are among the nation’s most vulnerable to hacking, and state officials asked Congress for more money to protect their equipment. Republicans who run the show in Washington said no. Both the House and Senate declined to allocate millions of dollars in grants to states when they passed spending bills funding the Election Assistance Commission for the 12-month period beginning Oct. 1. “This is going to be an ongoing need and election officials are going to need a regular stream of funds to combat the threats and defend their systems,” said David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a Washington research group. …  State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sought more federal help. “I strongly believe that the federal government should be doing more, not less, to ensure our democratic institutions are free from foreign intrusion, and I’m disappointed that Congress disagrees,” he said.

Cambodia: Two parties reject results of election | Phnom Penh Post

Two minor political parties have refused to accept the results of the Kingdom’s July 29 national elections. One has filed a complaint with the Constitutional Council demanding a recount, while the other has warned that it will lead demonstrations. A National Election Committee (NEC) official said while the complaint was valid, it should not have been sent to the council, while the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman said the complaint went against the peoples’ will. While the NEC is slated to announce preliminary results later this week and official results on August 15, unofficial calculations have shown that the CPP will control all 125 seats in the National Assembly. Speaking on Sunday, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan urged opposition parties to learn “new strategies” before competing with his party.

Iraq: Election commission ignored warnings over voting machines – document | Reuters

Iraq’s election commission ignored an anti-corruption body’s warnings about the credibility of electronic vote-counting machines used in May’s parliamentary election, according to investigators and a document seen by Reuters. The devices, provided by South Korean company Miru Systems under a deal with the Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC), are at the heart of fraud allegations that led to a manual recount in some areas after the May 12 election. The results of the recount have not yet been announced and political leaders are still trying to form a government. Concerns about the election count center on discrepancies in the tallying of votes by the voting machines, mainly in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya and the ethnically-mixed province of Kirkuk, and suggestions that the devices could have been tampered with or hacked into to skew the result.

Pakistan: 1.67 million ballots rejected in polls, says report | The Financial Express

About 1.67 million votes were excluded from the count in Pakistan’s July 25 general election, surpassing the number of ballots rejected in 2013 polls, according to a report by an independent poll watchdog. Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) is a coalition of 30 domestic non-governmental organizations that observe general election and mobilize voters. According to the FAFEN report, the increase in the number of discarded ballots was a ubiquitous phenomenon observed in Pakistan’s all four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Overall, the increase was recorded at around 11.7 per cent. There were more than 100 million registered voters in Pakistan but out of them, only about 51 per cent exercised their franchise, according to the Election Commission.

Mali: Candidate goes to court alleging vote fraud | Al Jazeera

Opposition candidate Soumaila Cisse is mounting a legal challenge in Mali’s constitutional court alleging “ballot box-stuffing” after he came in a distant second to incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in the first round of the country’s presidential election. Keita won 41.42 percent of votes in the July 29 presidential poll, easily ahead of Cisse with 17.8 percent. They will face off in a second-round runoff on Sunday, August 12. “Soumaila Cisse filed last night (Saturday) around 20 submissions to the constitutional court for ballot box-stuffing, violations of the electoral law and other irregularities,” a spokesman for the candidate told the AFP news agency on Sunday. 

Zimbabwe: Opposition face wave of detentions, beatings after election loss | The Guardian

Security agencies continued a crackdown on opposition activists in Zimbabwe on Sunday, less than three days after historic presidential elections won by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Human rights groups reported dozens of abductions, beatings and rapes carried out by unidentified men overnight in the centre and north-eastern areas of the former British colony. The wave of repression began on Friday night with the army moving through neighbourhoods in Harare, the capital, and satellite towns, targeting supporters and officials of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). An MDC spokesman said thousands of its members were now in hiding. “The nature of an abduction means we can’t tell who has gone, but we have lots of people missing. We have helped five people who narrowly escaped abduction to flee Zimbabwe. Others we are hiding in safe houses. There is intimidation and atrocious treatment of people who they catch,” Nkululeko Sibanda, an MDC spokesman, said.

National: DEF CON plans to show US election hacking is so easy kids can do it | The Register

DEF CON Last year, the hackers at DEF CON showed how shockingly easy it was to crack into voting machine software and hardware. Next week, the 2018 conference’s Vote Hacking Village will let kids have a shot at subverting democracy. Beginning on Friday, August 10, teams in three age ranges, 8-11, 12-14 and 15-16, will be let loose on replica American government websites that report election results. In elections in the Ukraine and Ghana, these were hacked to spread confusion about the voting process and its results – and the village’s organizers hope the youngsters can do the same with US-style tech. “It’s just so easy to hack these websites we thought the grown-up hackers in the vote hacking village wouldn’t find it interesting,” Jake Braun, cofounder of the Vote Hacking Village and executive director of the University of Chicago Cyber Policy Initiative, told The Register. “When I was discussing it with a colleague, they noted ‘it would be child’s play’ and I said ‘good f**king point!’ and started planning the event with the Capture the Packet crew and the r00tz Asylum group, which trains young hackers.”

National: Russia Is ‘Keyboard Click’ From Major Election Hack, Coats Warns | Bloomberg

Russian efforts to interfere in upcoming U.S. midterm elections have yet to reach the intensity of the Kremlin’s campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential vote, but they’re only “a keyboard click away” from a more serious attack, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said. “We have not seen that kind of robust campaign from them so far,” Coats said in a briefing at the White House on Thursday. Coats was among five top national security leaders — including National Security Adviser John Bolton, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency — who blasted Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. The White House is looking to tamp down criticism that President Donald Trump has appeared reluctant to hold Russia accountable for election tampering. He provoked an uproar at the July summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

National: How the U.S. Is Fighting Russian Election Interference | The New York Times

Senior Trump administration officials warned on Thursday that Russia is trying to interfere in November’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election and vowed to combat Moscow’s aggression. The high-profile alarm sounded at the daily White House briefing was striking for the officials’ unequivocal warnings, a departure from President Trump’s fumbling acknowledgments that Moscow undertook an influence campaign in 2016 to exploit partisan divisions in the American electorate and sow discord. “This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus,” said the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray. 

National: Facebook Grapples With a Maturing Adversary in Election Meddling | The New York Times

They covered their tracks, using software to camouflage their internet traffic. They created Facebook pages for anti-Trump culture warriors, Hispanic activists and fans of alternative medicine. And they organized protests in coordination with real-world political groups. The people behind an influence campaign ahead of this year’s elections, which Facebook disclosed on Tuesday, copied enough of the tactics used by Russians in the 2016 races to raise suspicion that Russia was at it again. But the new efforts also revealed signs of a maturing adversary, adapting and evolving to better disguise itself, while also better imitating real activists. The coordinated activity — a collection of memes, photos and posts on issues like feminist empowerment, indigenous rights and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — show the enormity of the challenge ahead of Facebook, as it tries to weed out impersonators. As the forces behind the accounts become harder to detect, the company is left to separate the ordinary rants and raves of legitimate users from coordinated, possibly state-backed attempts to sway public opinion.