Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday that states that aren’t asking Washington for help in protecting their election systems from hackers are “nuts.” But while Kelly said he supported the Obama administration’s decision to designate U.S. election systems “critical infrastructure,” given threats from Russia and other entities, he also acknowledged that elections remain the domain of the states. “All of the input I get from all of the states are ‘We don’t want you involved in our election process,’” he said. “I think they’re nuts if they don’t [seek help. But] If they don’t want the help, they don’t have to ask.” Kelly spoke during the opening session of this year’s Aspen Security Forum; he’s one of several officials in President Donald Trump’s administration slated to speak at the gathering, which runs through Saturday.
The Voting News
National: This anti-voter-fraud program gets it wrong over 99 percent of the time. The GOP wants to take it nationwide. | The Washington Post
At the inaugural meeting of President Trump’s election integrity commission on Wednesday, commission Vice-Chairman Kris Kobach of Kansas praised a data collection program run by his state as a model for a national effort to root out voter fraud. States participating in the program, known as the Interstate Crosscheck System, send their voter registration files to Kansas. Kansas election authorities compare these files to those from other states. Each participating state receives back a list of their voter registrations that match the first name, last name and date of birth of a voter in another state. States may act upon the findings as they wish, although Crosscheck provides some guidelines for purging voter registrations from the rolls. In theory, the program is supposed to detect possible cases of people voting in multiple locations. But academics and states that use the program have found that its results are overrun with false positives, creating a high risk of disenfranchising legal voters. A statistical analysis of the program published earlier this year by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Microsoft, for instance, found that Crosscheck “would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.” Kobach’s championing of Crosscheck is one reason many voting rights advocates are concerned that President Trump’s voter fraud commission may be a vehicle for recommending mass voter purges.
The first meeting of the Trump administration’s new advisory committee on election integrity consisted mainly of voter-fraud fear-mongering. … Hans von Spakovsky, a committee member and senior legal fellow at the right-learning Heritage Foundation, pointed to his organization’s database of 1,071 documented cases of voter fraud over the last several decades, neglecting to mention that figure constitutes just .0008 percent of the people who voted in the 2016 election alone. Together, they painted a picture of a pervasive and insidious threat to free and fair elections, despite the mountains of research showing that actual voter fraud is scarce. But amid all the conjecture came one nugget of actual truth, offered by Judge Alan King of Jefferson County, Alabama. Not only did Judge King, one of the committee’s few Democrats, state that he’d never seen a single instance of voter fraud in all his years as head of elections in Jefferson County, he was also the lone member of the committee to use his opening remarks to raise the critically important issue of outdated voting technology. Unlike phantom zombie voters, that issue poses a real, and well-documented, threat to people’s voting rights.
Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin was at his desk on June 7, 2016, when the calls started coming in. It was the day of the California presidential primary, and upset voters wanted the county’s top prosecutor to know that they had been prevented from casting their ballots. “There were people calling our office and filing complaints that they had tried to vote and that their registration had been changed unbeknownst to them,” says Hestrin. Soon there were more than 20 reports of trouble, and Hestrin, a 19-year veteran of the office and a graduate of Stanford Law School, dispatched investigators to county polling places to see what was going on. At first what they found was reassuring. Everyone who had been blocked from voting had been offered a provisional ballot, and most had cast their votes that way. But as the investigators dug deeper, things looked less innocuous. In the days after the vote, more people started coming forward to say they’d also had problems with their voter registration on primary day. In at least half a dozen cases, Hestrin and his investigators concluded, the changes had been made by hackers who had used private information, like Social Security or driver’s-license numbers, to access the central voter-registration database for the entire state of California. There the trail went cold.
National: Read the Previously Undisclosed Plan to Counter Russian Hacking on Election Day | Time.com
President Obama’s White House quietly produced a plan in October to counter a possible Election Day cyber attack that included extraordinary measures like sending armed federal law enforcement agents to polling places, mobilizing components of the military and launching counter-propaganda efforts. The 15-page plan, a copy of which was obtained by TIME, stipulates that “in almost all potential cases of malicious cyber activity impacting election infrastructure, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments” would have primary jurisdiction to respond. But in the case of a “signifcant incident” the White House had several “enhanced procedures” it was prepared to take. The plan allowed for the deployment of “armed federal law enforcement agents” to polling places if hackers managed to halt voting. It also foresaw the deployment of “Active and Reserve” military forces and members of the National Guard “upon a request from a federal agency and the direction of the Secretary of Defense or the President.”
There was a surreal quality to the presidential “election integrity” commission’s first meeting on Wednesday, which was streamed live from a government building next to the White House, but was not open to the public. President Trump strode in to declare that “this is not a Democrat or Republican issue” and hail the “bipartisan” nature of a commission that’s headed by two Republicans and dominated by GOP members. He pledged a “very transparent process” that “will be open for everybody to see,” on a commission that’s already been sued for violating the disclosure and open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The commission’s official chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, quoted Ronald Reagan calling the right to vote “the crown jewel of American liberties,” then yielded the floor to commissioners who laid out an agenda focused on chasing down and prosecuting supposed voter fraud—a problem that repeated studies have found is virtually nonexistent.
Editorials: Trump-Kobach election commission designed to intimidate | Chris Carson/The Kansas City Star
On Wednesday, the task force known as the Election Integrity Commission met for the first time. Despite their claims of having no preconceived agenda, we know their end goals are clear: to perpetuate unsubstantiated myths of widespread voter fraud and to lay groundwork to suppress voting rights. Unfortunately, they might already be succeeding. Since commission vice-chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach requested personal voter information from all 50 states, we have seen thousands of voters cancel their registration. Kobach’s request for private information — including Social Security numbers, party affiliation and voter history — is not even legal in his own home state. And although many secretaries of state have rejected the over-reaching request, many Americans are unsettled. And that’s exactly what he wants.
Kobach has devoted his career to using false claims of voting fraud to suppress voters. Kobach has been brought to court — and lost — several times for suppressing the constitutional rights of citizens to vote in his home state of Kansas. Most recently, Kobach was fined by a federal magistrate judge for “patently misleading representations to the court.”
The League of Women Voters is no stranger to Kris Kobach’s suppressive efforts.
In 2013 the League joined as defendants in the case Kobach, et al v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In this case Kobach was seeking to enforce requirements on Arizona and Kansas voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in mail-in voter registration application forms. Ultimately, the court found that these barriers were illegal.
Editorials: The first public meeting of Trump’s voter fraud panel was a parade of lies | Mark Joseph Stern/Slate
On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission held its first public meeting, allowing each participant to voice his or her utterly unjustified belief that fraudulent voting is a rampant problem in the United States. (The commission has already held a private meeting that may have violated federal law.) During his remarks, Kris Kobach—Kansas’ Republican secretary of state and vice chairman of the commission—asserted that more than 18,000 noncitizens may have registered to vote in Kansas. He also alleged that the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which compares states’ voter rolls, has uncovered “literally millions of people” who are registered in at least two states. Both of these claims are completely false. Let’s start with the Kansas lie. When running for secretary of state in 2010, Kobach repeatedly insisted that voter fraud in the state, particularly noncitizen voting, was “pervasive” and “massive.” Then–Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh—a Republican who served in that position for 16 years—responded that “the voter fraud Kris Kobach speaks of does not exist.” Researchers found that, over the previous decade, the government had uncovered just seven instances of unlawful voting in Kansas, none of which involved noncitizens. Yet Kobach persisted, as this crude nativism was central to his campaign. A week before the election, he said he’d found a smoking gun: A deceased man named Alfred K. Brewer, Kobach claimed, had likely cast a vote in the August primary. Reporters found Brewer in his yard, alive. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” he explained. Kobach had confused Brewer with his father, who was deceased, and who had not cast a vote since he’d shuffled off this mortal coil.
As Los Angeles County prepares for the procurement and manufacturing stage of its nationally-recognized Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP), Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan is focusing resources on election security. “Amid continuous investigation of attempted nation-state hacking of voter data and ongoing concerns about the age and technical vulnerability of the voting equipment used in the United States,” said Logan, “it is imperative that next generation voting systems like the one we are developing in Los Angeles County are equipped to deliver voters a secure, usable and transparent voting experience.”
California: A new suit says lawmakers broke the law when they changed California’s recall election rules | Los Angeles Times
Republican activists and an anti-tax organization filed a lawsuit Thursday to scrap a new law that revised the rules for California’s recall elections, accusing Democrats of a blatant attempt to help an embattled state senator keep his job. The court challenge to the law, enacted as part of last month’s new state budget, comes after critics of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) submitted some 85,000 voter signatures to force a special election on whether he should be removed from office. “For them to come in and try to pass a law undercutting a legitimate exercise of direct democracy, we feel that the court’s not going to like that very much,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.