Louisiana never had sizable sums set aside to buy the thousands of new voting machines it needs. But the state has even less now, after the small amount socked away for the expense was shifted elsewhere in an election-year legislative scramble to boost spending on education, public safety and health care. Lawmakers previously had put $2 million in state financing into a voting technology fund, as a down payment on a machine replacement expected to cost tens of millions of dollars. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin had hoped millions more would be added this year. Instead, lawmakers reshuffled the money to help pay for Ardoin’s office operations as they built the $30 billion state operating budget that starts July 1. That will leave lawmakers in the new term beginning in 2020 to find dollars to pay for machines. “I did warn them. I said, ‘The bill is coming. The bill is coming.’ It was a hugely missed opportunity,” said Ardoin, Louisiana’s chief elections officer. A contract for the new voting machines hasn’t been settled, and the secretary of state’s office hasn’t begun seeking vendors for the work, after a previous solicitation effort was derailed by allegations of improper bid handling.Full Article: Lawmakers drain Louisiana voting machine replacement fund | Myrtle Beach Sun News.
The Voting News
Editorials: Russia’s election interference is no longer a surprise. It should still infuriate. | The Washington Post
Russia’s meddling with democracy no longer comes as a surprise. It should, nevertheless, continue to provoke anger, outrage and a determination to respond. Observers predicted that last month’s elections for European Parliament would offer a window on a new era of disinformation. Now, European Union officials have rendered a verdict that suggests the Kremlin kept itself busy — engaging not in any grand cross-border campaign but in sustained interference on a smaller scale that may be even harder to root out. Worse, others followed its lead. The E.U. report and concurrent outside research show that the enemy is evolving. Gone are the days when vast networks of false-identity accounts and their automated counterparts worked en masse to spread tales of events that never occurred or malicious lies about public figures. Now, operations are more localized and harder to detect. They feature what experts call narrative warfare, pushing polarizing and distorted variations of otherwise true stories, stripped of context, rather than outright fabrications. The tactic is tougher both for platforms to detect and for governments to legislate against.Full Article: Russia’s election interference is no longer a surprise. It should still infuriate. - The Washington Post.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza has agreed with President Rodrigo Duterte to replace vote counting machines (VCMs) provider Smartmatic in time for the next elections. In a Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum on Wednesday, Atienza said Duterte was right to call for the replacement of Smartmatic. “I’m happy with his statement, Smartmatic must go,” Atienza said. During Duterte’s visit in Japan last month, the President told the Commission on Elections to “dispose of” Smartmatic following numerous election irregularities, including computer glitches experienced by several VCMs.Full Article: Atienza agrees with Duterte to replace Smartmatic | Inquirer News.
Virginia: As Russia threat looms, Virginia silent on how much is spent on election security | Mike Valerio/wusa9
Hours after Virginia’s highest law enforcement officer warned Congress of continued and “persistent threats to our election systems,” state officials could not confirm how much Richmond has spent on Virginia’s election security. Virginia received a $9 million grant from the federal government in June 2018 – an investment designed to improve election security in the face of threats from Russia and malicious cyber actors. Yet after months of information requests from WUSA9, the Virginia Department of Elections failed to produce specific dollar amounts or current allocations for the federal funds. The latest online public documents report $0 of $9 million spent as of October 2018, with no recent 2019 filings available. In a letter to members of the U.S. Senate, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and 21 other state attorneys general asked for more election security funding, as well as bipartisan election security legislation.Full Article: As Russia threat looms, Virginia silent on how much is spent on election security | wusa9.com.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday announced a $5.1 million statewide initiative aimed at securing Florida’s voting systems against cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 elections. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and all 67 supervisors of elections throughout the state will participate in the program, with the goal of eliminating “any vulnerabilities in our elections infrastructure,” DeSantis said in a statement. The Florida Department of State will distribute $2.3 million to election supervisors to make security improvements, adding to the $2.8 million for election security efforts already approved by the state legislature as part of the fiscal 2020 budget.Full Article: Florida governor announces statewide plan to secure election systems | TheHill.
National: Senate Democrats to try to force additional election security votes | Jordain Carney/The Hill
Senate Democrats will try to force votes on additional election security legislation as they aim to pressure Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) into taking action on the issue. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that Democrats will go to the floor to try to bring up the bills by unanimous consent, a move that will force a GOP senator to come to the floor and block the bills or let them pass. “We’re going to hold stand-alone votes on the many bills that already exist on election security,” Schumer told reporters, outlining the Senate Democrats’ strategy. The New York senator added that Democrats would push for additional election security funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations negotiations. House Democrats included $600 million for the Election Assistance Commission in an appropriations bill.Full Article: Senate Democrats to try to force additional election security votes | TheHill.
National: State attorneys general demand that Congress take action on election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill
Twenty-two Democratic state attorneys general demanded Tuesday that Congress take action to secure election systems ahead of the 2020 vote. The group of attorneys general, led by Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, sent a letter to the leaders from each party of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Rules Committee begging them to work together to bolster election security in the states, including passing legislation. “Our state and local election officials are on the front-lines of the fight to protect our election infrastructure, but they lack the resources necessary to combat a sophisticated foreign adversary like Russia,” they wrote. The group of attorneys general asked the senators for “sustained” federal funding to secure election infrastructure against potential interference, for updating the equipment itself and for information technology and cybersecurity training for election officials.Full Article: State attorneys general demand that Congress take action on election security | TheHill.
In his public remarks stepping down as special counsel, Robert Mueller reminded Americans not to overlook a crucial finding from his investigation: Russia’s “multiple and systematic” efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. After the Special Counsel’s warning, some lawmakers have sought to reintroduce election security bills. And while election security has wide bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has blocked several election security measures, arguing that the federal government is already doing enough to protect elections. In his speech declaring “case closed” on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, McConnell said the United States was ready for the 2020 race. “Thanks to this administration’s leadership, all 50 states and more than 1,400 local election jurisdictions focused on election security like never before,” McConnell said at the time. The problem predates the special counsel’s warning; election security legislation has been facing roadblocks for over a year in Congress, and little activity on the issue is expected in the coming months.Full Article: How the U.S. is trying to improve election security ahead of 2020 | PBS NewsHour.
National: Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation | Maggie Miller/The Hill
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Monday said the White House is blocking election security legislation from moving through the Senate. Warner said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations that multiple measures he has introduced to secure U.S. elections against foreign interference are not receiving a floor vote in the Senate because of objections from the White House. Warner and several Democrats last week tried to pass the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act by unanimous consent but were blocked by Republicans. The bill would require campaigns to notify the FBI about any attempts by foreign government to interfere in U.S. elections. The topic has gained traction in Congress following President Trump’s recent comments to ABC News that he would consider accepting information on a political opponent from a foreign government. Warner on Monday described Trump’s comments as “utterly outrageous.”Full Article: Democratic senator accuses White House of blocking election security legislation | TheHill.
National: Lisa Murkowski joins Mitch McConnell’s opposition to election security proposals, setting up clash with House | Manu Raju and Ted Barrett/CNN
Senate GOP resistance is building over Democratic measures to bolster security around US elections, setting the stage for a partisan clash with the House over imposing tougher safeguards ahead of 2020. In the latest sign of the escalating standoff, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska dismissed calls Monday for election security legislation, while also rejecting a push by Democratic lawmakers to require campaigns to disclose to federal authorities if foreign nationals offer them help in presidential elections. It’s the latest sign of how the topic of election security has suddenly become a flashpoint in Congress amid President Donald Trump’s all-out assault on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. “I’m not sure why we need to have one,” Murkowski said when asked if she believed the Senate should advance an election security bill. “I know there are some who believe we have to do more election reform. I think some of it is calculated to add, I think, additional fuel to the Mueller report and the aftermath of that.” Murkowski also said she expected campaigns to voluntarily report offers of foreign interference to federal authorities, saying legislation to mandate such disclosure would amount to “political fodder.”Full Article: Lisa Murkowski joins Mitch McConnell's opposition to election security proposals, setting up clash with House - CNNPolitics.
National: U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid | David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times
The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States. But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow. The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world.Full Article: U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid - The New York Times.
Florida: State has $5.1 million to spend on election security ahead of 2020 voting | Ana Ceballos/Miami Herald
A month after learning Russian hackers breached elections systems in two Florida counties in 2016, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said his administration is focused on identifying “any vulnerabilities” ahead of next year’s elections. The Republican governor announced he is redistributing $2.3 million in election-security money that went unspent by county elections supervisors last year. The funds are in addition to $2.8 million for elections cybersecurity that Florida lawmakers earmarked in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1. “This has become an issue in the last couple of months in a way that I did not, and really nobody, appreciated,” the governor told reporters at a Monday press conference. The unspent money from the 2018 election cycle will be redistributed to 61 of the state’s 67 counties. The additional $2.8 million will be given to those with the most critical needs, according to Secretary of State Laurel Lee.Full Article: Florida to spend $5.1 million on voting security | Miami Herald.
Georgia: New voting machines will come before Georgia sets primary date | Mark Niesse and Greg Bluestein/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia election officials won’t set the state’s presidential primary election date until new voting machines are in place. The delay raised concerns from some county election directors who said they might have to move polling places if churches and other facilities get booked before an election date is announced.The uncertain timing also creates the possibility that the presidential primary won’t take place until after many other states have already weighed in, potentially diminishing Georgia’s relevance in deciding each party’s candidate. The Georgia primary was held on Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday in March — in each of the past two presidential election years.Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is holding off on deciding a date for the 2020 primary until the government completes its $150 million purchase of new statewide voting equipment, likely in July. At least four companies are bidding for the state’s $150 million contract to provide touchscreen voting machines that print out paper ballots, replacing Georgia’s 17-year-old electronic voting system.Full Article: New voting machines will come before Georgia sets primary date.
To most people, the mundane sound of typing on a computer keyboard does not have any special significance. But in the computer server room of the Sangamon County, Ill., Board of Elections, the tapping signals the defense of our democracy. The county’s computers, like those in state and local election offices across the country, are the new battlefield against foreign attacks on our election system. Don Gray, the Sangamon County Clerk, likens the fight to a war. “We are at the frontlines of ensuring that the protections to the integrity of our elections is first at hand. We are working hard, we are staying focused, we are staying out in front, I spend the majority of my time analyzing and staying in proper positioning to thwart these type of attacks,” Gray told Fox News. “Cyber threats are a reality and we take it seriously. What happened to us was bad, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse,” said Steve Sandvoss, the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. “The threat is ongoing and it is very serious.”Full Article: Illinois says it's prepared for another election hack | Fox News.
It took more wrangling with lawmakers than expected, but the state’s chief election official now has access to $6.6 million in federal funds to implement his plan for warding off hackers and potential cyberattacks. “We were the very last state to get that money,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. Minnesota received its share of the federal election security money from the Help America Vote Act over a year ago. But political maneuvering at the State Capitol delayed the authorization Simon needed to put the money to use. He didn’t get it until last month’s special session. “It still puts us behind other states,” Simon said. “Every other state not only had it but had it some time ago in time for the last election. So, we are behind, but we can now use that money.” Simon said most of the money will go toward short-term projects that can be done ahead of the presidential primary next March. The rest will go toward a four-year project to modernize the state’s voter registration system. With the help of cybersecurity experts, local election officials and legislators, Simon put together a detailed plan months ago for spending the money.Full Article: Minnesota finally working on long-promised election security improvements | MPR News.
Editorials: We still have questions about whether Russia meddled in North Carolina. That’s a bad sign. | The Washington Post
Since it became clear that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election, intelligence officials have warned regularly that the United States remains vulnerable to another cyberattack. If the aftermath of an Election Day fiasco in North Carolina is any indication, the Trump administration and Congress still have much to do to prepare the nation for next year’s vote. A Post investigation detailed how North Carolina officials have desperately sought information and help from the Department of Homeland Security following a possible Election Day 2016 breach, in which Durham County’s electronic poll books, which provide information on eligible voters, improperly rejected people at their polling places. Election officials resorted to using paper-based poll books, creating massive delays. If a malicious foreign actor wanted to promote havoc on Election Day or call election results into question, this is one way it might happen.Full Article: We still have questions about whether Russia meddled in N.C. That’s a bad sign. - The Washington Post.
Millions of dollars in new Butler County voting machines that must be operational by November are arriving this week, and the board of elections now also has a six-month deadline to implement comprehensive security measures. Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued an edict last week that includes criminal background checks on all full-time county board of elections employees and any vendors who work with the voting systems, cybersecurity training, changing email domain names and performing various security checks on their systems, among other items. “Although the list of tasks that we’ve given them looks intimidating initially, once you start working through them in many cases they’ll find they’ve already complied,” LaRose told the Journal-News. “We’re confident they’re going to be able to work through this, we’ll be there to support them every step of the way.”Full Article: Background Checks to Supplement Voting Tech in Ohio County.
Russian interference in the 2016 election was not limited to spreading political discord via social media. It also involved hacking.
And election officials across America, Democrats and Republicans, continue to voice concern about future hacking of computer systems used for voting.
Perhaps they need to visit Washington state for some tips. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, has been focused on preventing fraud for years.
Wyman has been beefing up security. She has been working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to beef up cyber security for voter registration and emailed ballots from service members stationed out of the country.
But what makes Washington state’s vote-by-mail election system extremely secure is paper. When it comes to conducting elections, paper ballots are the gold standard. Those ballots can’t be tampered with through a cyber attack and can always be recounted when necessary.
Washington mostly uses paper ballots because its statewide elections are conducted via (snail) mail.
In Walla Walla County, for example, the vote count data is not put on a network where other computers could have access. County Elections Supervisor Dave Valiant said in 2016 that results are put on a Zip disk and then carried to a Zip drive (introduced in 1994) to be loaded onto a computer.
Since there is no internet involved — only the old fashioned sneaker-net (as in walking) — computer hackers can’t access or change the information.
While paper ballots are at the core of our local and state election system, computers are involved. Over time, as new equipment and technology are introduced into conducting elections, the need for the best cybersecurity will increase.
Still, paper ballots should remain at the core of the election system and elsewhere in the nation. Sure, there might be faster and flashier ways to vote, but having a paper record (carefully tracked each step of the way) is critical to ensuring confidence in elections.
At some point, computer-based voting might become so secure that it could replace vote-by-mail voting. That day isn’t here.
Until then, paper ballots should be preserved as a way to ensure our election results aren’t hacked by Russia or any other foreign power.
Europe: EU leaders gear up to counter Moscow on hacking threat | Lauren Bishop and Jacopo Barigazzi/Politico
European leaders are expected to call for a tougher “security culture” in the bloc to counter cyber threats, according to draft European Council conclusions dated Monday and seen by POLITICO. Days after news broke of a cybersecurity breach at the EU delegation in Moscow, the draft says that the EU needs more cooperation with international actors and institutions and a “coordinated response” to cyber threats. It backs the creation of a new strategy to deter and respond to cyberattacks. Earlier this month, news broke that the EU was investigating an apparent hack of its IT networks in its delegation offices in Moscow. An EU spokesperson said then it had “observed potential signs of compromised systems connected to our unclassified network.” Buzzfeed News reported on a leaked analysis of the hack that said information was stolen from at least two computers.Full Article: EU leaders gear up to counter Moscow on hacking threat – POLITICO.
Europe: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections | Irene Kostaki/New Europe
The European Commission revealed that Russian sources attempted to suppress turnout and influence voters during last month’s EU elections that employed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russia that covered a broad range of topics ranging from challenging the European Union’s democratic legitimacy to exploiting divisive public debates on issues such as migration and political sovereignty. Online platforms will need to do more to combat disinformation, including sharing data, which will assist in tracking even more suspected attempts by a Russian or Chinese attempt to influence the democratic processes both in the EU and the US, particularly after Western intelligence agencies continue to uncover evidence of a sustained effort by Moscow to promote extremist views and polarise local debates through disinformation.Full Article: Russian disinformation campaign targeted voters during EU elections.