National: New NASEM Report Suggests Blockchain And Online Voting Systems Are No-Go | BitCoinExchange

The United States National Academies of Sciences (NASEM) released a report which asserted that virtual voting systems ought to be shelved. The firm is supporting the use of paper ballots in the entire US electoral system by 2020. According to the report entailed in the 156 page document, NASEM insists that virtual systems of voting ought to be shelved until such a time that the system can be verified to be secure. Authors of the said report are of the view that making use of the blockchain as an irreversible ballot box may appear promising, however, the technology may not be in a position of addressing the essential issues of the electoral process. The report is in essence a conclusion of a study that lasted two years. The committee behind the research comprised of election scholars, cybersecurity experts, as well as social scientists. Over and above, the report campaigns for the use of human-readable paper ballots in the next US elections.

National: Redistricting reformers turn to ballot initiatives | The Hill

Nonpartisan redistricting proponents are turning to midterm election referendums in key states where legislative leaders have signaled no desire to give up their authority on drawing political boundaries. Voters in four states — Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and Utah — will weigh in on ballot measures this November that would radically reshape the way congressional or legislative district lines are drawn. In those states, legislative leaders have the power to draw state legislative and congressional district lines, authority critics say they have used to safeguard incumbents. The initiatives, placed on the ballot by good-government groups and, in some states, by Democratic activists, would vest the power to draw district boundaries in the hands of independent commissions.

National: On The Sidelines Of Democracy: Exploring Why So Many Americans Don’t Vote | NPR

Just in the past few months, elections in the U.S. have been decided by hundreds of votes. The 2016 presidential election tilted to Donald Trump with fewer than 80,000 votes across three states, with a dramatic impact on the country. Yet, only about 6 in 10 eligible voters cast ballots in 2016. Among the other 4 in 10 who did not vote was Megan Davis. The 31-year-old massage therapist in Rhode Island never votes, and she’s proud of her record. “I feel like my voice doesn’t matter,” she said on a recent evening at a park in East Providence, R.I. “People who suck still are in office, so it doesn’t make a difference.”

National: How Money Affects Elections | FiveThirtyEight

To quote the great political philosopher Cyndi Lauper, “Money changes everything.” 1 And nowhere is that proverb more taken to heart than in a federal election, where billions of dollars are raised and spent on the understanding that money is a crucial determinant of whether or not a candidate will win. This year, the money has been coming in and out of political campaigns at a particularly furious pace. Collectively, U.S. House candidates raised more money by Aug. 27 than House candidates raised during the entire 2014 midterm election cycle, and Senate candidates weren’t far behind. Ad volumes are up 86 percent compared to that previous midterm. Dark money — flowing to political action committees from undisclosed donors — is up 26 percent.

National: What election security funding means for state and local CIOs | GCN

For years, cybersecurity was considered an issue for IT teams and was often not prioritized when creating and executing policy. However, recent events have demonstrated the many ways that cyberattacks can impact a country’s critical infrastructure, bringing essential operations to a halt and even endangering citizens. These attacks have come in the form of ransomware at schools and hospitals, data breaches at major financial institutions and large-scale distributed denial-of-service attacks that have knocked organizations of all types offline. As a result, politicians and government bodies have come to recognize the critical importance of cybersecurity in protecting national infrastructure. As digital transformation increases technology use across public infrastructure, the attack surface continues to grow. Government CIOs and IT teams are working to deploy security measures that enable transformation, rather than slow it down. For instance, Fortinet’s latest Global Threat Landscape Report found that government agencies use, on average, 255 different applications a day on their networks.

National: Better cooperation between states and U.S. can help safeguard midterm elections, officials say | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a visit to the St. Louis area on Monday pledged the government’s assistance to states battling threats to election security, calling interference with elections one of the “principal national security threats.” Nielsen was a guest speaker at a two-day seminar on election security that began Monday at the headquarters of World Wide Technology in West Port Plaza. The event, hosted by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, was also attended by 10 other secretaries of state on Monday, and more were expected Tuesday. Nielsen has recently spoken about a growing need for cybersecurity in elections, reversing the course of an administration that has been criticized for not doing enough.

National: For Older Voters, Getting The Right ID Can Be Especially Tough | NPR

Nearly three dozen states require voters to show identification at the polls. And almost half of those states want photo IDs. But there are millions of eligible voters who don’t have them. A 2012 survey estimated that 7 percent of American adults lack a government-issued photo ID. While some organizations have sued to overturn these laws, a nonprofit organization called Spread The Vote has taken a different tack: It helps people without IDs get them. And people over 50 years of age have presented some of their biggest challenges. On a recent Tuesday morning in Austell, Ga., 53-year-old Pamela Moon tried to get a replacement for an ID she had lost. She worked with a Spread The Vote volunteer at the Sweetwater Mission. The group sends volunteers to the mission every other Tuesday, so that people who come for food and clothes can get help obtaining a Georgia ID at the same time.

National: Report: Blockchain tech is not ready to be used for voting | CryptoNewsReview

Blockchain technology is unsuitable for use in voting systems until they are verified as secure, a scientific report has warned. The study, from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, concludes that internet-based voting systems are not ready for current use, although they “may seem promising” for use in the future. “Insecure internet voting is possible now, but the risks currently associated with internet voting are more significant than the benefits,” the report reads. “Secure internet voting will likely not be feasible in the near future.

National: State Supreme Courts Increasingly Face Partisan Impeachment Threats | Governing

Attacks on judicial independence are becoming more frequent and more partisan. The current effort to impeach the entire West Virginia Supreme Court, while not unprecedented, is taking place against a backdrop of political attacks against judges elsewhere. “There’s a kind of a war going on between the legislatures and the courts,” says Chris Bonneau, a political scientist at the University of Pittsburgh. “Absolutely, we’re seeing a new environment.” The West Virginia House last month voted to impeach all the sitting justices on the state Supreme Court. The state Senate is set to begin its impeachment trial Tuesday. There were legitimate reasons for legislators to go after justices, or at least some of them.

National: How can election groups get out the vote when just half of Americans say process is ‘fair and open’? | USA Today

Helen Butler carefully avoids mentioning Russian hacking or other threats to election systems when she tries to register voters in Georgia. She doesn’t want to scare off people already doubting their vote will count. “I’m concerned about anything that would dissuade voters from participating,” said Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda.  As midterms approach, Butler, election officials and others face the challenge of persuading  wary voters to go to the polls.  They’re right to be concerned. Only about half of American voters believe the nation’s elections are “fair and open,” according to a recent University of Virginia Center for Politics/Ipsos poll. And only 15 percent of those voters “strongly agree” with that.

National: This fall you may be voting with obsolete voting machines and ancient software | NBC

The state of Illinois has improved its cyber defenses since hackers broke into its voter database in 2016 — but the actual machines that will record votes in this fall’s midterms are another story. Most of the state’s voting machines need to be replaced, says Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. How many? “It depends on which counties you ask,” said Sandvoss, “but I would say 80, maybe 90 percent. That’s the figure I’m hearing.” Illinois is not alone. Despite compromises of election systems in seven states in 2016, NBC News has interviewed a wide variety of experts in the two years since that election who say a majority of both the nation’s voting machines and the PCs that tally the votes are just not reliable. Most of the nation’s voting machines, for example, are close to 15 years old.

National: US Elections Must Go Back to Paper — Report | Infosecurity Magazine

US voting infrastructure should return to paper ballots by the next presidential election, according to a major new report from the non-profit The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Commissioned by the non-profit Carnegie Corporation of New York and charity the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the two-year report concluded that online voting apparatus is too exposed to potential compromise. Citing Russian infiltration ahead of the 2016 presidential election, it warns that “aging equipment and a lack of sustained funding” have further undermined efforts to maintain resilience. Ideally by the mid-terms later this year but certainly by the next presidential election in 2020, all US local, state and federal elections should return to human-readable paper ballots, the report argued. Not only this, but marked ballots should also not be sent over the internet or any connected network, as no technology can currently guarantee their “secrecy, security, and verifiability.” These ballots could be made and counted by hand or machine, but any systems which don’t allow for independent auditing should be removed, the report continued.

National: Talks break down for bipartisan pledge to reject using hacked materials | CNN

The head of House Republicans’ campaign arm defended abruptly pulling out of late-stage negotiations with Democrats on a pledge to reject using hacked materials in election ads, citing an erosion of trust between the parties. But National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Steve Stivers, an Ohio congressman, on Friday also took his strongest public stance to date against using such illicit materials, telling reporters, “We are not seeking stolen or hacked material, we do not want stolen or hacked material, we have no intention of using stolen or hacked material.” Stivers and his Democratic counterpart, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, have been in talks since May to try to reach an agreement on a pact, which they hoped would send a strong message against election interference in the lead-up to the midterms.

National: US wages ‘cyber combat’ to protect elections, could ‘do more’ | NBC

Behind a locked steel door somewhere in northern Virginia, America’s fight in cyberspace never shuts down. On the eve of the National Election Security Summit in St. Louis, where elections officials from across the country will meet with homeland security and cyber experts, the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit is taking viewers inside the secure center outside the nation’s Capitol where the United States wages “cyber combat” to protect the voting process. “This is the place where we coordinate everything,” explained DHS Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Jeanette Manfra while giving Hearst Television a one-on-one tour of the watch floor of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).

National: US inmates mark end of prison strike with push to regain voting rights | The Guardian

Inmates within America’s overflowing prisons are marking the end of a 19-day national prison strike on Sunday with a new push to regain the vote for up to 6 million Americans who have been stripped of their democratic rights. The strike was formally brought to a close on the anniversary of the 1971 uprising at Attica prison in upstate New York. Though details of the protest have been sketchy since it was launched on 21 August, hunger strikes, boycotts of facilities and refusal to carry out work duties have been reported in many states, from Florida and South Carolina to Washington. Now that the strike has ended, organisers hope its momentum can be sustained as they attempt to fulfill their demands including the restoration of the vote. Not only does the US have the world’s largest incarcerated population – 2.3 million are behind bars – it also harbors at state level some of the harshest felony disenfranchisement laws in the world.

National: Scientific collective calls for paper-based voting machines, no more internet voting | StateScoop

The United States should stop holding elections conducted without human-readable paper ballots as soon as possible, urges a report published Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In a press release announcing the NASEM report, Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University and co-chair of the committee that produced the report said “this is a critical time for our country” and called on all levels of government to prioritize the use of paper ballots. NASEM’s recommendations are all oriented around ensuring that election infrastructure is not vulnerable to tampering and that results can be verified. Chief among the recommendations is that all voting machines that do not create a paper trail allowing for independent auditing be “removed from service as soon as possible.” The report follows two years of federal and state activity centered on protecting election systems from foreign meddling, specifically groups linked to Russian intelligence agencies. State chief information officers first got a warning from the Department of Homeland Security in August 2016 about potential outside attacks, and federal agencies have increased their attention on the issue throughout 2018.

National: 6 Ways to Fight Election Hacking and Voter Fraud, According to an Expert Panel | The New York Times

Amid a chorus of warnings that the American election system is ground zero for foreign attackers, a panel of leading scholars and election experts issued a sweeping set of recommendations on Thursday for how to make elections more secure. Several similar reports have been issued lately, but this one is different. It not only carries a blue-ribbon pedigree from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, but it also suggests ways to address allegations of domestic voter fraud, which Republicans have leveled for years. The report notes the significant challenges of securing elections. In 2016, Americans voted in 178,217 precincts and 116,990 polling places. Under the Constitution, each state controls its own election procedures, and officials jealously guard their authority against federal interference. The rules vary so wildly that uniform standards are almost impossible. Still, many of the report’s proposals can be applied nationwide. Here are six ways the panel says that election security can be improved:

1. Use paper ballots to establish a backup record of each vote. Even if voter databases and other equipment aren’t connected to the internet, experts said, it will be hard to protect computer systems from cyber threats. As a result, they recommend that by 2020, every voting machine nationwide should generate a backup paper record of each vote. Currently, five states — Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Delaware and New Jersey — and portions of several others do not maintain a paper trail.

National: The Best Way To Secure US Elections? Paper Ballots | Dark Reading

Voting machines that do not provide a paper trail or cannot be independently audited should immediately be removed, concludes a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is recommending the use of human-readable paper ballots as the best way to protect the security and integrity of US elections, at least in the immediate future. In fact, the committee behind the report wants election officials to consider ditching voting methods that do not provide a reliable paper-verifiable audit trail as early as the upcoming 2018 midterms and for all local, state, and federal elections by 2020. It also does not want jurisdictions to permit the use of the Internet and Internet-connected systems to return marked ballots until “very robust guarantees” of security and verifiability are developed. Other recommendations include the need for states to mandate risk-limiting audits prior to the certification of election results and routine assessments of the integrity of voter registration systems and databases.

National: Online-only voting? Don’t do it, experts say in report on election security | GeekWire

Chastened by Russian interference and hacking attempts in the 2016 election, academic experts on voting technology say electronic voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail should be phased out as soon as possible. “Every effort should be made to use human-readable paper ballots in the 2018 federal election,” the experts write in a report issued today by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. “All local, state and federal elections should be conducted using human-readable paper ballots by the 2020 presidential election.” That’s already the case for Washington, Oregon and Colorado, where mail-only voting has become the norm. (The report notes that “vote-by-mail” is something of a misnomer, since most ballots are still returned by hand. “Ballot delivery by mail” comes closer to the mark.)

National: From encryption to deepfakes, lawmakers geek out during Facebook and Twitter hearing | The Washington Post

Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg relentlessly practiced before taking hot seats on Capitol Hill, engaging in role play and panels of questioning with colleagues and consultants. But the tech executives weren’t the only ones who came prepared for class on Wednesday. Senators on the Intelligence Committee clearly did their homework on a wide range of technical topics, and they peppered the executives with questions on issues ranging from doctored videos known as “deepfakes” to encryption. The grilling marked a stark departure from hearings earlier this year with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, when senators on the Judiciary and Commerce committees were panned for their technical illiteracy. 

National: Why the Midterm Elections Are Hackable | BankInfoSecurity

With the midterm elections just around the corner, Barbara Simons, author of the election security book “Broken Ballots,” explains why some voting computers remain inherently flawed. The genesis of problems with today’s voting machines was the controversy involved in counting certain paper ballots in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Simons explains. “What we really have are voting computers, and anybody who has been reading the news for the past few years understands that computers are vulnerable to attack by hacking; they’re also vulnerable to software bugs and other unintentional errors that can occur,” Simons says in an interview with Information Security Media Group. “And yet as a result of this early, wrong perception that paper was not a good technology to use for voting, many of these initial voting computers that came out were paperless, which meant that it was impossible to do a recount.”

National: DHS ramping up election security coordination | Politico

DHS will boost coordination and information sharing efforts on election security threats later this month in the run-up to the midterms, a senior agency official said Tuesday. The “heightened operational posture” will take effect Sept. 21, as absentee ballots begin streaming in, Bob Kolasky, director of DHS’s new National Risk Management Center, told reporters after a panel discussion at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in National Harbor, Md. The agency’s Election Task Force “continues to be the hub of DHS election activity,” according to Kolasky. But there will be “enhanced coordination” and “heightened information sharing” among the department’s various agencies and partners, including the Defense Department, 45 days before voters go to the polls, Kolasky explained. He noted that while the increase is in part time-driven, there are no plans “to change the nature of how we work with states in the run-up to the elections.”

National: Phishing for political secrets: Hackers take aim at midterm campaigns | CBS

The best hacks are always the simplest. When Russian hackers successfully attacked Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta in 2016, they didn’t need to use crippling ransomware or a complex zero-day exploit. Instead, the Russians used one of the oldest tricks in the hacker playbook: Email phishing. “Phishing is all about the bad guy — the attacker — sending a malicious email to a victim and fooling that person either to click on a link within the email or open up an attachment,” said hacker and computer security consultant Kevin Mitnick in an interview with CBS News. “When the victim [clicks the link or opens the attachment] their computer ends up being compromised and malware is installed so the bad guy has full control.” The goal of phishing attacks like those aimed at the Clinton campaign in 2016, says Mitnick, is to swipe sensitive information or to implant malware that will give the attacker access to the entire network. Once inside, hackers can move laterally across the computer system and swipe information from multiple email accounts, copy intellectual property, and cause irreparable damage.  

National: Upcoming redistricting is a backstory of 2018 midterms | Associated Press

The task of drawing new boundaries for thousands of federal and state legislative districts is still about three years away, yet the political battle over redistricting already is playing out in this year’s midterm elections. North Carolina’s congressional elections were thrown into a week of uncertainty when a federal judicial panel raised the possibility that it would order new districts before the fall elections to correct what it had ruled was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. It opted against doing that on Tuesday, conceding there was not enough time. In Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah, campaigns are underway for November ballot initiatives that would change the redistricting process so it’s less partisan and creates more competitive districts. National Democratic and Republican groups are pouring millions of dollars into state races seeking to ensure they have officeholders in position to influence the next round of redistricting.

National: ‘Our House Is on Fire.’ Elections Officials Worry About Midterms Security | Time

Greasing the machinery of democracy can be tedious business. Aside from the occasional recount or a hanging chad, the bureaucrats who run state elections don’t usually see much drama in their work. But this year’s all-important midterms are no ordinary election cycle. So it was that election administrators from all 50 states received rarified, red-carpet treatment outside Washington earlier this year, as federal intelligence gurus granted them secret clearances for the day, shuttled them to a secure facility, and gave them eye-opening, classified briefings on the looming threat. The message, participants said, was chilling. Officials from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and other agencies warned that the Russians had already shown they could hit hard in the 2016 presidential campaign, and they have been preparing to hit even harder — and no doubt in different ways — this time around. “This was a first for me,” Steve Sandvoss, who heads the Illinois elections office and attended the briefing, said in a recent interview. “I came out of there with the understanding that the threat is not going to go away.” The midterms will determine control of Congress, where a flip to the Democrats in the House or the Senate would no doubt intensify the pressure Trump is already facing from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

National: No Let Up in Cyberattacks, Influence Campaigns Targeting US | VoA News

Top U.S. intelligence and defense officials caution the threat to the U.S. in cyberspace is not diminishing ahead of November’s midterm elections despite indications that Russia’s efforts to disrupt or influence the vote may not match what it did in 2016. The warnings of an ever more insidious and persistent danger come as lawmakers and security officials have increasingly focused on hardening defenses for the country’s voter rolls and voting systems. It also comes as top executives from social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google prepare to testify on Capitol Hill about their effort to curtail the types of disinformation campaigns used by Moscow and which are increasingly being copied by other U.S. adversaries.

National: Are We Making Elections Less Secure Just to Save Time? | The Intercept

Something strange happens on election night. With polls closing, American supporters of both parties briefly, intensely align as one: We all want to know who’s going to win, and we don’t want to wait one more minute. The ravenous national appetite for an immediate victor, pumped up by frenzied cable news coverage and now Twitter, means delivering hyper-updated results and projections before any official tally is available. But the technologies that help ferry lightning-quick results out of polling places and onto CNN are also some of the riskiest, experts say. It’s been almost two years since Russian military hackers attempted to hijack computers used by both local election officials and VR Systems, an e-voting company that helps make Election Day possible in several key swing states. Since then, reports detailing the potent duo of inherent technical risk and abject negligence have made election security a national topic. In November, millions of Americans will vote again — but despite hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid poured into beefing up the security of your local polling station, tension between experts, corporations, and the status quo over what secure even means is leaving key questions unanswered: Should every single vote be recorded on paper, so there’s a physical trail to follow? Should every election be audited after the fact, as both a deterrent and check against fraud? And, in an age where basically everything else is online, should election equipment be allowed anywhere near the internet?

National: Polling Places Remain a Target Ahead of November Elections | Stateline

In the five years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act, nearly a thousand polling places have been shuttered across the country, many of them in southern black communities. The trend continues: This year alone, 10 counties with large black populations in Georgia closed polling spots after a white elections consultant recommended they do so to save money. When the consultant suggested a similar move in Randolph County, pushback was enough to keep its nine polling places open. But the closures come amid a tightening of voter ID laws in many states that critics view as an effort to make it harder for blacks and other minorities to vote — and, in Georgia specifically, the high-profile gubernatorial bid by a black woman. The ballot in November features Stacey Abrams, a Democrat trying to become the first black woman elected governor in the United States, versus Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state who has led efforts in Georgia to purge voter rolls, slash early voting and close polling places.

National: Tech mobilizes to boost election security | The Hill

Private companies are stepping up to offer cybersecurity programs for midterm campaigns as Congress stalls on passing election security legislation. Microsoft is the most prominent name, unveiling a free cybersecurity program in August after the company revealed it had detected Russian hackers who appeared to target a pair of conservative think tanks. The company is joining a broad list of firms providing free or discounted security services, such as McAfee, Cloudflare and most recently Valimail, which is offering its anti-fraud email service to campaigns. Officials at companies said they felt obligated to step up to the plate and offer services that election officials or campaigns might otherwise not have access to — shortcomings that have been widely highlighted ahead of November’s midterm elections.

National: Once Bipartisan, an Election Security Bill Collapses in Rancor | The New York Times

The purpose of the bill seemed unassailable: to ensure that state officials could protect their elections against the kind of hacking or interference that has clouded the 2016 campaign. Although it started out backed by election integrity advocates and powerful senators from both parties, the Secure Elections Act has now all but collapsed. Lawmakers modified one of the bill’s key provisions after hearing relentless complaints from state officials, prompting many of its advocates to pull their support. Then last week delivered what one of the bill’s co-sponsors called “the gut punch” — the formal meeting to draft the bill before sending it to the floor was abruptly postponed, and the White House offered a statement critical of the legislation later that same day. No timetable has since been offered to reschedule it, and the election is two months away.