Voting machine manufacturers are increasing their Capitol Hill presence as lawmakers demand they do more to protect U.S. elections against foreign hackers. Dominion Voting Systems — which commands more than a third of the voting-machine market without having Washington lobbyists — has hired its first, a high-powered firm that includes a longtime aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The No. 1 vendor, Election Systems & Software, added two new lobbying firms last fall. Members of Congress have criticized those and other companies for their security methods and business practices.
Democratic senators sent a letter to three of the country’s top election system vendors on Tuesday, pressing them on what they will do to help secure the 2020 election from foreign attacks. The letter, sent to the heads of voting vendors Election Systems & Software LLC, Hart InterCivic Inc. and Dominion Voting Systems, requested that the companies inform Democratic leaders of efforts to improve their systems to guard against cyber vulnerabilities. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, was joined on the letter by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), Senate Homeland Security Committee ranking member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.). “Despite the progress that has been made, election security experts and federal and state government officials continue to warn that more must be done to fortify our election systems,” the senators wrote. “Of particular concern is the fact that many of the machines that Americans use to vote have not been meaningfully updated in nearly two decades.”
Legislation introduced last week would give the U.S. Senate’s sergeant at arms responsibility to help secure the personal devices and online accounts used by senators and their staff to help ward off cyberattacks and other threats. The bill, known as the “Senate Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2019,” was introduced by senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who both serve on the Intelligence Committee. While there is not yet a similar bill pending in the House to provide members with similar services, backers of the Senate bill are urging the House to take up a similar measure. The Senate bill would allow the sergeant at arms, who is already responsible for cybersecurity within the Senate, to provide voluntary cybersecurity assistance for personal accounts and devices to senators and certain staff members. This could include assistance with security for personal hardware, such as laptops, desktops, cell phones, tablets and other internet-connected devices, as well as personal accounts, including email, text messaging, cloud computing and social media as well as residential internet, healthcare and financial services, according to a summary.
In the wake of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the US electoral system, experts warn the nation is just as exposed as it was in 2016, raising new concerns about the 2020 presidential election. More than two years after intelligence agencies exposed Moscow’s efforts to exploit weaknesses in the US democratic system, technology companies and state governments have yet to come to terms with a foreign power’s meddling in domestic affairs of state. When it comes to the 2020 presidential vote, the US faces many of the same vulnerabilities that made its electoral system a prime target In 2016 — and perhaps some new ones, said Doug Lute, a former American ambassador to Nato and retired Army lieutenant-general who has taken up the cause of US election security. “We are more prepared in the sense that we are more aware. But we are little better prepared in terms of actual security,” said Mr Lute. He noted that Russia’s strategy in 2016 resembled an age-old Russian military doctrine: to attack on a broad front, assess strengths and weaknesses, then prepare to reattack vulnerabilities — a potentially dangerous scenario for 2020.
Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” we can all move on to fighting over whether those activities actually changed the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Attorney General William Barr’s letter to Congress summarizing the Mueller report says the special counsel determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election: “The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.” Mueller has brought criminal charges against a number of Russian individuals, Russian military officers, and Russian companies or entities in connection with these activities. They’re never going to be in a U.S. courtroom, but the indictments tell us what happened.
The city’s Board of Elections is arguing it may need some new voting machines because of early voting, but the board’s leader is pushing for machines made by a company he has benefited from, raising questions of conflicts of interest. For almost 10 years, New York City has used the same type of voting machine: An optical scanner. But now, the city Board of Elections may want to try something else. It’s a new machine called the ExpressVote XL, and it’s made by the major voting machine manufacturer, Election Systems and Software (ES&S). In a letter exclusively obtained by NY1, the city asked the state Board of Elections this week to possibly use the new machine for early voting this year. It says using paper ballots would be virtually impossible. That’s because there will be far fewer poll sites open for early voting than on a traditional election day. Officials question whether every site would be able to keep all of the different ballot configurations for each election district, and this ExpressVote XL machine uses a touch screen to vote instead. But there is a problem: The state Board of Elections has not certified or fully tested this machine for use in New York. The city Board of Elections is essentially asking state officials to skirt that approval process, specifically asking permission from the state board to use the machine in this fall’s general election. The letter states “time is of the essence.” It is signed by two people. One is the executive director of the board, Michael Ryan. One leader of the state Board of Elections immediately dismissed the city board’s request: “What annoyed me most about the letter is it doesn’t seem to understand the reason for New York’s certification for voting equipment,” state Board of Elections Co-Chair Douglas Kellner said. “We have to recognize that there are security risks.”
Counties across the state are working to beat a December deadline to replace touch-screen voting machines with models that use a paper ballot in order to comply with a 2013 state law. Twenty-five counties, including Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Union, will need to upgrade all or some of their equipment. North Carolina State Board of Elections spokesperson Patrick Gannon said updating the equipment is important “to ensure that voters are confident that when they cast a ballot, that their choices are recorded properly and they can be audited on the back end if there are concerns about whether or not votes were counted properly.” There is currently only one voting machine model that’s certified for use, but the State Board of Elections will meet soon to consider certifying additional models. Gannon said counties making the switch need to test their equipment this fall ahead of the 2020 primary next March. “The counties must be able to test any new system in the municipal election in order for it to be used in an election next year,” he said.
North Carolina: Legislators seek reprieve for Guilford County voting machines | Greensboro News and Record
Ask and ye shall receive — or at least get a reasonable shot at receiving. Two local legislators introduced a bill this week approving more than two years of additional life for Guilford County’s voting machines, only a week after county leaders formally petitioned the General Assembly for just such help. If passed, the bipartisan measure introduced by state Reps. Jon Hardister, R-Whitsett, and Amos Quick, D-Greensboro, would give county taxpayers a reprieve on the estimated $8 million cost of replacing the county’s 1,400-plus machines. The measure also would apply to Alamance County, which faces a similar dilemma and an estimated $2 million in replacement costs. Hardister said Friday afternoon that he filed the bill with Quick and fellow Reps. Dennis Riddell, R-Snow Camp, and Frank Iler, R-Oak Island, after a conversation with Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt.
The Federal Government has allocated an unspecified amount in Tuesday’s Federal Budget to improve cyber security arrangements for the forthcoming election. The amount was not specified due to what the government said were national security reasons. The Budget papers say the money will be for mitigating potential threats through enhanced monitoring and response capabilities. It will also be spent towards the creation of cyber “Sprint Teams” within the Australian Cyber Security Centre and a Cyber Security Response Fund. In February this year, it was announced that the network of the Australian Parliament had been breached by hackers whose affiliations have not yet been revealed. The networks of the three major political parties — Liberal, Labor and National — were also infiltrated.
A second error in the Swiss Post planned e-voting system has been discovered as the public intrusion test phase comes to an end. The Federal Chancellery announced the need for action and confirmed a review of the e-voting certification and approval process. The same computer experts who discovered a critical error in the source code of Swiss Post’s new e-voting system earlier this month announced they discovered a further security gap. It was identified as part of the public intrusion test that has been running since February 25, during which the e-voting source code was released. The bug affects universal verifiability – the same area of the system as the first error. However, in this case the error would not make it possible for arbitrary manipulation of any possible votes to go unnoticed, according to the Federal Chancellery. That said, votes could be made invalid without being discovered by the mathematical evidence. René Lenzin, deputy head of communications at the Federal Chancellery, told the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA that the error confirmed a “need for action”. The error discovered on March 12 had already shown that universal verifiability and thus the “heart of the system” had not worked. The system had to recognise if manipulation had taken place.
Thai demonstrators on Sunday protested against alleged cheating in the junta-ruled kingdom’s first election since a 2014 coup, a week after the controversial poll sowed confusion over the ballot results. A military-backed party and its main rival led by a self-exiled billionaire have both claimed the right to lead the government as inconsistent tallies released by the Election Commission have raised suspicion among voters. The junta-aligned Phalang Pracharat party clinched the popular vote but its rival Pheu Thai — linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — has formed a coalition claiming a majority of seats in the lower house. Full results will be ratified by May 9 but anger has mounted as the wait continues, prompting demonstrations at two Bangkok landmarks. A small but spirited group gathered near the tourist hotspot Erawan Shrine holding a banner that read “Cheating Election” and “People Want to Vote”. It featured the face of 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who is standing as the prime ministerial candidate for Phalang Pracharat. “It is the Pheu Thai party which won the election,” organiser and activist Anurak Jeantawanich said.
Exit polls from the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election, released late on March 31, seem to confirm what has long been believed: that no openly pro-Russian candidate has a chance to secure this Ukrainian presidency. But it doesn’t seem that will stop the Kremlin from having its voice heard, or from trying to have some of its strategic objectives secured, observers note. On April 1, as ballots were still being tallied, the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and Russia officially, although quietly, expired. Previously renewed automatically each decade, Ukrainian lawmakers approved the treaty’s termination on Dec. 6, 2018, after roughly four years of undeclared war between the two nations. Also on April 1, as the likely outcome of the Ukrainian presidential election started to become more clear, elected Russian lawmakers prepared a statement of “non-recognition” of the result. The move is yet another signal that Moscow is committed to discrediting the election and not accepting its outcome.