Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Letter in Support of Congressional Election Cybersecurity Legislation

This letter was sent to Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) on May 14, 2019. Download the PDF.

Thank you for introducing legislation aimed at increasing cybersecurity at the state and local levels of government. We recognize the need for this important legislation, which is aimed at hardening cyber resiliency efforts and preventing vulnerabilities from becoming nightmare realities. For the states that would respond to the proposed grants in H.R. 2130 and S.1065, and for the protection of the citizens who live in them, we applaud your support in the battle against cyberattacks.

At the same time that you are bolstering cybersecurity defenses, we encourage you to add provisions specifically prohibiting these funds from being used for internet-based voting. Cybersecurity experts agree that internet return of marked ballots lacks sufficient safeguards for security and privacy. We urge you to specifically name internet voting as a threat and prohibit the funding provided by your legislation from being used to support internet voting programs and pilots.

Cybersecurity experts agree that no current technology, including blockchain voting, can guarantee the secure, verifiable, and private return of voted ballots over the internet. Both because vote-rigging malware could already be present on the voter’s computer and because electronically returned ballots could be intercepted and changed or discarded en route, local elections officials would be unable to verify that the voter’s ballot accurately reflects the voter’s intent. Furthermore, even if the voter’s selections were to arrive intact, the voted ballot could be traceable back to the individual voter, violating voter privacy.

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony Before the House Administration Committee hearing on “Election Security"

Download the Written Testimony (pdf) Chair Lofgren, Ranking Member Davis and members of the Committee, thank you for the invitation to submit testimony to the Committee on House Administration hearing on “Election Security.” We urge the Committee to move expeditiously to support state and local jurisdictions in strengthening their election systems and provide upfront and…

Verified Voting Blog: Statement on Maryland HB706/SB919 Online Delivery and Marking of Absentee Ballots

To download the PDF click here. Verified Voting supports Maryland House Bill 706 (Senate Bill 919) as an immediate, short-term mitigation to reduce risks inherent in Maryland’s current online absentee ballot system by limiting its use to only those who would otherwise be unable to vote. Going forward, substantial changes are necessary to provide Maryland’s…

Media Release: Verified Voting Applauds Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Rep. Garth Everett and Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer’s Nonpartisan Call for the Penn. General Assembly to Appropriate Funding to Replace Vulnerable Electronic Voting Machines

Marian K. Schneider: “Election security is a nonpartisan issue and the goal of hardening our voting systems against potential threats is shared across the aisle.” 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, following the press conference with Lt. Col. Anthony…

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Statement on EAC Chair Christy McCormick

The following is a statement from Verified Voting’s president, Marian K. Schneider:

“Verified Voting congratulates Christy McCormick on her election as Chair of the Election Assistance Commission and her three priorities for her tenure: election preparedness, replacing aging voting equipment, and working towards improving accessibility for all voters including voters with disabilities, military and overseas voters and limited English proficient voters.

“With those laudable goals in mind, Verified Voting urges Christy McCormick and the EAC to ensure that the next generation of voting systems provide most voters the opportunity to mark their ballots by hand and support robust post-election tabulation audits. These post-election audits can protect the integrity of the election outcomes with the existing systems.Technology has evolved so that improved security, verifiability and accessibility are not mutually exclusive, but can give everyone, the candidates, voters, the press and the public assurance that our voting system is resilient against attack.”

Pennsylvania: Controversy swirls around new Philadelphia city voting system | WHYY

Philadelphia’s three city commissioners, who run local elections, may announce the selection of a new voting system as soon as Wednesday, and it may leave some disappointed. “We’re worried the city commissioners are going to pick a voting system that is not only very expensive, but not a good system for security,” said Rich Garella of the group Citizens for Better Elections. “It has poor access for disabled people. It’s a bad choice.” The state is requiring all counties to get new voting machines this year that generate paper ballot backups. City commissioners are mum about what kind of voting system they might recommend at their Wednesday meeting, but Garella and State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the city’s selection process seems tilted toward a particular system and a single vendor. … That vendor is Omaha-based Election Systems & Software, known as ES&S, the largest manufacturer of voting systems in the country. The ES&S Express Vote XL system is the only one sold in the U.S. that shows voters all candidates for all races on one electronic screen.

National: Where cybersecurity legislation ‘goes to die’ in Congress | Politico

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson leads the committee with broad oversight over the nation’s most important cybersecurity issues, including protecting consumers and U.S. elections from hackers. But he’s also a major reason little legislation on these topics ever passes, according to lobbyists, cybersecurity policy experts, lawmakers and congressional aides from both parties who spoke with POLITICO. Johnson or members of his staff have derailed many of the most significant cybersecurity-related bills in the past four years, including legislation to secure elections, study whether the growing use of encrypted apps hampers law enforcement, and hold companies accountable for the proliferation of insecure connected devices, people who track the legislation told POLITICO.

National: Supreme Court likely to act this week on census dispute | Constitution Daily

Moving with unusual speed, the Supreme Court on Monday set the stage for acting soon – probably on Friday – on the constitutional controversy over asking everyone living in America about their citizenship, as part of the 2020 census. At issue at this point is whether the Justices will take up directly, without waiting for further action in lower courts, the dispute over the contents of the questionnaire that will go to every household across the nation next year. The outcome of the controversy may have a major influence on dividing up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, on drawing up new election district maps at all levels of government, and about the distribution of billions of dollars in federal money. Although there is a clear dispute among the two sides in the controversy about the legality of adding the citizenship question, everyone involved has now agreed that an answer needs to be forthcoming before the Supreme Court finishes its current term, probably in late June.

California: Amendment would lower California voting age from 18 to 17 | The Sacramento Bee

A state lawmaker from the Silicon Valley has reintroduced a constitutional amendment that would lower the California voting age to 17, betting that a larger Democratic majority in the Legislature this year will help his proposal reach the ballot. An amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of the state Assembly and Senate, and the approval of voters. Last year, a similar proposal from Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell failed to reach the necessary margin of 46-24. This time around, there are more Democrats in the Assembly, Low spokeswoman Maya Polon said, adding that the legislation enjoys bipartisan support.

Georgia: New Analysis Suggests Link Between Race And Odd Vote Count In Georgia’s 2018 Midterms | WABE

A new data analysis suggests the sharp drop in votes in the lieutenant governor’s election last year may be connected to the race of voters. The finding raised more questions about the results of the down-ballot contest in which Republican Geoff Duncan handily defeated Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico. Compared to the governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, about 160,000 fewer votes were cast in the lieutenant governor’s contest, while just 82,000 fewer votes were cast in the attorney general’s contest.

Idaho: Lawmakers agree to temporary truce on redistricting plan | Associated Press

Lawmakers say they are working on an agreement involving an impasse on legislation that could lead to changing the Idaho Constitution involving redistricting that Republicans want but Democrats oppose. Republican and Democratic leaders on Monday said they are talking, and that was enough for Democrats not to use procedural rules to slow down progress in the House by forcing the full reading of bills as they did on Friday.

Indiana: Johnson County to change election equipment before May Primary | FOX59

The Johnson County Election Board and Commissioners are cutting ties with software vendor that caused system crashes which resulted in thousands of voters waiting in lines for hours during the November 6 election. The Johnson County Commissioners voted Monday to adopt Election Board recommendations that the county terminate its contract with Omaha-based Election Systems and Software. “We just want to ensure that we have a good election,” said Johnson County Clerk Trena McGlaughlin.  “We don’t want to have any issues this year.  And we want to make everyone happy.” An investigation by Ball State’s VSTOP team, for the Indiana Secretary of State, determined ES&S systems were not properly set up for the high voter turnout the county saw on election day.  A system slow-down quickly brought voting to a standstill at multiple voting sites across the county.  Thousands of voters were left waiting in line for several hours as election officials and technical advisors struggled to get e-poll books back up to speed.

Iowa: Democrats Propose `Virtual’ Caucuses for First Time in 2020 | Bloomberg

Democratic leaders in Iowa on Monday proposed a major change in the state’s presidential caucuses by allowing a form of absentee voting next year that aims to expand participation in the first 2020 nominating contest. It would let Iowa Democrats take part via telephone or online in one of six “virtual caucuses” during the week before the traditional Iowa caucuses. That would allow people to get involved even if they can’t attend the traditional gatherings in person because of a disability, work, parenting or another reason. If adopted it “will be the most significant changes to the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses since their inception in 1972,” Troy Price, the state party’s chairman, told reporters on a conference call.

Nevada: Republicans seek to tighten election rules | Las Vegas Review-Journal

A series of Republican-sponsored bills seek to tighten rules on elected officials running for another office and for minor-party office seekers who switch parties to run. A third item would make the registrar of voters in the state’s two largest counties, Washoe and Clark, an elected rather than appointed post. All three measures were heard Monday by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, which did not vote on them. A “resign-to-run” measure would require elected officeholders to resign their current office if they announce candidacy for a different elected office more than a year before their current term ends. They would be resigned automatically if they don’t resign on their own. Resulting vacancies would be filled under current procedures for vacant seats.

North Carolina: There’s at least one special election coming to North Carolina soon | Roll Call

The death of North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones over the weekend opens up a safe Republican seat on the state’s east coast. The governor must call a special election for the 3rd District. But there is no statutory time frame, so the timing will be up to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Further west, in the 9th District, voters are still waiting to hear whether there will be a special election for the vacant seat — the results of the 2018 election between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready have not been certified. The North Carolina State Board of Elections is holding an evidentiary hearing on allegations of election fraud on Feb. 18.

North Dakota: GOP-led Senate kills Dem plan for redistricting panel | Associated Press

The Republican-led Senate has killed a Democrat measure for an appointed non-partisan commission to draw a new map for North Dakota’s legislative districts. The Senate defeated the bill 36-10, along party lines on Monday. The measure was sponsored by Democratic legislative leaders. North Dakota now has 47 legislative districts, each of which is represented by a senator and two House members.

Editorials: As a Citizen Included on Texas’ Fake Voter Fraud List, I Call for the Resignation of Secretary of State David Whitley | Julieta Garibay/Texas Observer

I still remember the day of my citizenship exam. It was a cold Monday in November 2017, at the San Antonio office of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). I had relentlessly studied the 100 questions about the history and government of the United States that might be asked. I prayed I wouldn’t forget the answers. My heart was pounding and my stomach was in a complete knot. The USCIS agent asked: “Who is the governor of Texas?” “Abbott,” I responded. The officer sternly asked for the governor’s full name. My mind was running. A few months before, I had tweeted at Abbott when he signed SB 4 on Facebook and proudly boasted about criminalizing immigrants and making it easier for state and local police to work with the feds to detain and deport. But I could not remember his first name. I froze. The irony of my life: Would I fail my citizenship exam because I couldn’t remember the first name of the man who was hurting the immigrant community so much? The same man who is now calling into question my right to vote. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and tried to remember his Twitter handle. It came to me and I blurted, “Greg Abbott!” A few questions later, the USCIS officer said, “I am recommending you for the citizenship oath ceremony.”

Bulgaria: Deputy PM: Bulgaria must be ready for malicious cyber attacks in elections | IBNA

Bulgaria must be ready for malicious cyber attacks, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said on February 11, warning that there was no election process exempt from attempts to “hit” it. Election processes are within Donchev’s portfolio as deputy head of government. Bulgaria is scheduled to go to the polls twice in 2019, in European Parliament elections in May and mayoral and municipal elections in the autumn. Donchev’s comment came a day after Tsvetan Tsvetanov, parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, said that he was sure that Russia would try to interfere in Bulgaria’s elections this year.

Nigeria: Election Brings Dual Crises Back to the Polls: Corruption and Boko Haram | The New York Times

Muhammadu Buhari won the presidency in a historic election in Nigeria four years ago by promising to crush two scourges that had plagued the nation for years: endemic corruption and a war with Islamist extremists. Back then, Mr. Buhari, a former military general, rode a wave of voter desire to impose greater accountability on the government, end a brutal war with the extremist group Boko Haram and bring back the hundreds of female students taken as captives. Now, as Mr. Buhari is in the final throes of a bruising re-election campaign, he stands accused of falling short on all fronts. Critics say Mr. Buhari has used his antigraft mantra to crush adversaries. Boko Haram is gaining ground, launching sophisticated attacks on weary, underequipped soldiers. And many of the captive students are still missing.

Russia: Russia to disconnect from the internet as part of a planned test | ZDNet

Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week. The reason for the experiment is to gather insight and provide feedback and modifications to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament in December 2018. A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet.

Spain: Premier Running Out of Options Amid Reports of Snap Vote | Bloomberg

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s budget plans are threatening to unravel amid reports that he’s considering calling a snap election for April. After his conservative rivals staged a show of strength by bringing tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Madrid, Efe news agency reported that Sanchez is considering calling elections for April 14. A press officer for the premier said the government is focused on getting its budget passed this week. Protesters in the heart of the Spanish capital on Sunday were demanding an election and accused the prime minister of being soft in talks with Catalan separatists. They waved Spanish flags and shouted “Long Live the Constitution, Long Live Spain.”

Switzerland: Left behind and locked out of Swiss democracy | SWI

Democracy bases its legitimacy on the promise to adequately and appropriately represent the population. However, a look at Switzerland’s system reveals some shortcomings: women, young people, foreigners and the low-qualified are often absent from political institutions. Democratic rights don’t fall from the sky. They are the achievement of brave people who demanded and fought for political rights for themselves and for their fellow citizens. Such efforts fighting for equality were also seen in Switzerland. Almost 100 years ago, the social and political situation in the country was explosive, and many were dissatisfied with living and working conditions; factory workers, in particular, felt politicians had abandoned them.

Ukraine: Ukraine wins fight to exclude Russian election observers | KyivPost

Ukraine looks to have faced down both the Kremlin and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe over the issue of Russian election observers at its presidential election in March. The OSCE was forced to change stance after Ukraine adamantly refused to accept Russian observers of the March 31 vote, and its parliament on Feb. 7 passed a law banning them from being accredited to the OSCE mission. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced a day later that Russia had decided not to send its observers to Ukraine. And the OSCE, while expressing regret over the Ukrainian authorities’ position, also backed down.

Editorials: There’s No Good Reason to Trust Blockchain Technology | Bruce Schneier/WIRED

In his 2008 white paper that first proposed bitcoin, the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto concluded with: “We have proposed a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust.” He was referring to blockchain, the system behind bitcoin cryptocurrency. The circumvention of trust is a great promise, but it’s just not true. Yes, bitcoin eliminates certain trusted intermediaries that are inherent in other payment systems like credit cards. But you still have to trust bitcoin—and everything about it. Much has been written about blockchains and how they displace, reshape, or eliminate trust. But when you analyze both blockchain and trust, you quickly realize that there is much more hype than value. Blockchain solutions are often much worse than what they replace. First, a caveat. By blockchain, I mean something very specific: the data structures and protocols that make up a public blockchain. These have three essential elements. The first is a distributed (as in multiple copies) but centralized (as in there’s only one) ledger, which is a way of recording what happened and in what order. This ledger is public, meaning that anyone can read it, and immutable, meaning that no one can change what happened in the past.

National: Security Experts Uneasy as US Barrels Into 2020 Election | Courthouse News

Cautious about the government’s efforts to safeguard the 2020 presidential race, election-security experts worry that the job is too formidable to finish in the time that remains. One issue at stake is outdated voting machines and technology, but Maurice Turner, a senior technologist with the Center for Democracy and Technology, warned that equipment updates require legislatures to make funding appropriations. With the first 2020 primaries scheduled for February, the process of issuing, receiving and evaluating proposals along can take months. After that comes testing and configuration, another months-long process, before the machines can be delivered on a large scale. “No election official wants to be rolling out new equipment 30 or 60 days before the general election,” Turner said in a phone interview, “so they’re going to need to identify other races, other contests they can test this equipment on.”

Editorials: The House Takes on America’s Voting-Rights Problem | Jelani Cobb/The New Yorker

The crisis of democracy that has attended Donald Trump’s Presidency has visibly manifested itself in challenges to the free press, the judiciary, and the intelligence agencies, but among its more corrosive effects has been the corruption of basic mathematics. Since the 2016 election, Trump has periodically rage-tweeted about an alleged three million non-citizens whose ballots delivered the popular-vote majority to Hillary Clinton. His fulminations were a fanciful extension of the Republican Party’s concern, despite all evidence to the contrary, that American elections are riddled with voter fraud. The math does, however, support a different number—one that truthfully points to how American democracy is being undermined. Nearly two million fewer African-Americans voted in the 2016 election than did in 2012. That decline can be attributed, in part, to the fact that it was the first election since 2008 in which Barack Obama was not on the ballot and, in part, to an ambivalence toward Clinton among certain black communities. Civil-rights groups and members of the Congressional Black Caucus point to another factor as well: 2016 was the first Presidential election since the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, which eviscerated sections of the Voting Rights Act. Suppressive tactics, some old, some new, ensued—among them, voter-roll purges; discriminatory voter-I.D. rules; fewer polling places and voting machines; and reductions in early-voting periods. After an election in which some two million Americans went missing, the Administration concluded that three million too many had shown up at the polls. (The equation here is: reality minus delusion equals three million.)

Connecticut: Merrill wants constitutional amendments for early voting, registration | Journal Inquirer

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced her legislative proposals Thursday, two of which require constitutional amendments allowing for a minimum of three days of early voting before Election Day and allowing 16-year-olds to register early to vote. The proposal to allow 16-year-olds to register two years before their 18th birthday would require them to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, but Merrill said she envisions allowing them to register at school, their town hall, or anywhere voters can register. Merrill, a Democrat, said 16-year-olds usually have their first interaction with the DMV when getting their driver’s licenses, and her proposed amendment would make it more likely that younger people are involved in the voting process as soon as they turn 18.

Georgia: US appeals court ruling allows paper ballots lawsuit to move ahead | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a judge’s ruling that said Georgia’s electronic voting system poses a “concrete risk” to secure elections. The decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows the voting system lawsuit to move forward. The plaintiffs, who are election integrity advocates and concerned voters, want U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to switch Georgia’s statewide voting system to hand-marked paper ballots. Totenberg ruled in September that the plaintiffs will likely succeed in the lawsuit, but she denied their request to immediately switch to paper ballots so close to November’s midterm elections. “Now we can get past the defendants’ delays and move forward with the case on the merits and get the relief Judge Totenberg already ruled we’re entitled to,” said David Cross, an attorney for Georgia voters who sued. “This appeal was meritless from the start.”

Idaho: Democrats walk out as redistricting plan advances | Associated Press

Three Democrats on a House panel considering a change to the Idaho Constitution involving redistricting walked out in protest on Friday at what they called a clear attempt at gerrymandering before the 10 Republicans voted unanimously to send the legislation to the full House. A short time later, the Democratic House Minority Leader, Mat Erpelding, continued the protest by requiring the full text of three bills be read before debate could begin. Democrats have said the redistricting legislation made public Wednesday followed by the hearing on Friday happened too fast to allow adequate public participation. “If they want to speed up the process, I can slow down the process,” Erpelding said after the House adjourned.