The Voting News

National: Security Seals Used to Protect Voting Machines Can Be Easily Opened With Shim Crafted from a Soda Can | Motherboard

Voting machine vendors and election officials have long insisted that no one can manipulate voting machines and ballots because tamper-evident seals used to secure them would prevent intruders from doing so without anyone noticing. But a security researcher in Michigan has shown in videos how he can defeat plastic security ties that counties across his state use to protect ballot bags, the cases that store voting machines and the ports that store the memory cards on optical-scan machines—electronic voting machines that record paper ballots scanned into them. He can do so without leaving evidence of tampering. If an intruder obtains physical access to the machines and this port, it’s possible to alter software in the machines using a rogue memory card—something that security researchers at Princeton University demonstrated in the past is possible. Matt Bernhard, a grad student at the University of Michigan and voting machine security expert, posted two videos online last week showing how he can open different types of plastic tamper-evident ties used in Michigan in just seconds, using a shim crafted from an aluminum Dr. Pepper can. By simply curling a small piece of the aluminum around a plastic zip tie and slipping it into the channel that encases the tie, he’s able to open the security device and re-close it, while leaving no marks or damage to indicate it was manipulated. He demonstrated the technique on smooth plastic ties as well as zip ties. Read More

National: US voter records from 19 states sold on hacking forum | ZDNet

The voter information for approximately 35 million US citizens is being peddled on a popular hacking forum, two threat intelligence firms have discovered. “To our knowledge this represents the first reference on the criminal underground of actors selling or distributing lists of 2018 voter registration data,” said researchers from Anomali Labs and Intel471, the two companies who spotted the forum ad. The two companies said they’ve reviewed a sample of the database records and determined the data to be valid with a “high degree of confidence.” Researchers say the data contains details such as full name, phone numbers, physical addresses, voting history, and other voting-related information. It is worth noting that some states consider this data public and offer it for download for free, but not all states have this policy. Read More

National: DHS finds increasing attempts to hack U.S. election systems ahead of midterms | NBC

The Department of Homeland Security says it’s working to identify who — or what — is behind an increasing number of attempted cyber attacks on U.S. election databases ahead of next month’s midterms. “We are aware of a growing volume of cyber activity targeting election infrastructure in 2018,” the department’s Cyber Mission Center said in an intelligence assessment issued last week and obtained by NBC News. “Numerous actors are regularly targeting election infrastructure, likely for different purposes, including to cause disruptive effects, steal sensitive data, and undermine confidence in the election.” The assessment said the federal government does not know who is behind the attacks, but it said all potential intrusions were either prevented or mitigated. Read More

National: U.S. Still Hasn’t Finalized Election Security Plans—and the Midterms Are Weeks Away | Daily Beast

The midterms are less than a month away. But working groups inside the intelligence community charged with overseeing election security are still trying to finalize plans for countering foreign interference in the 2018 elections, three senior officials involved with the efforts told The Daily Beast. The issue came up in a meeting this month that included current senior intelligence officials and former officials who were asked to attend and provide advice. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency were pinpointed as two of the departments that had made the most progress. The Department of Homeland Security, however, is lagging behind, according to officials inside the meeting. Read More

National: How hackable are American voting machines? It depends who you ask | ABC

To hear Alex Halderman tell it, hacking the vote is easy. The University of Michigan professor is on a crusade to demonstrate how vulnerable American voting machines are, and some of his arguments are quite compelling. He has rigged mock elections. He has testified to the machines’ vulnerabilities in Congress and in court. He has even managed to turn a commonly used voting machine into an iteration of the classic arcade game Pac-Man. “They’re just computers at the end of the day,” said Halderman, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that states should move back to paper ballots. “Often with voting machines, when you open it up, it’s not that different from a desktop PC or mobile device. The only difference is that it’s going to be 10 years out of date, or sometimes 20 years.” Read More

National: November Elections and the Art of Voter Suppression | Union of Concerned Scientists

Voting rights violations are emerging across several states with less than a month before the conclusion of midterm elections in the United States. As a result of discriminatory election laws and procedures, representation and policy making power could be distorted in favor of powerful, entrenched interests, against the will of a majority of the electorate. The threat of such democratic dysfunction illustrates the need for meaningful electoral reform and the protection of voting rights for all citizens. Early voting is underway in seventeen states, including at least two states where voting rights have already become a flashpoint in pivotal elections. In North Dakota, Senator Heidi Heitkamp and challenger Kevin Cramer is in a race that Cook Political Report rates as a “toss up.” The election could determine control over the US Senate—but the Supreme Court of the United States just refused to block the state’s discriminatory practice of requiring voter identification from a residential street address. Read More

National: Facebook to ban misinformation on voting in upcoming U.S. elections | Reuters

Facebook Inc will ban false information about voting requirements and fact-check fake reports of violence or long lines at polling stations ahead of next month’s U.S. midterm elections, company executives told Reuters, the latest effort to reduce voter manipulation on its service. The world’s largest online social network, with 1.5 billion daily users, has stopped short of banning all false or misleading posts, something that Facebook has shied away from as it would likely increase its expenses and leave it open to charges of censorship. The latest move addresses a sensitive area for the company, which has come under fire for its lax approach to fake news reports and disinformation campaigns, which many believe affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, won by Donald Trump. Read More

Editorials: Bill to reform government, elections should be the top item on the agenda in 2019 | Tiffany Muller/The Hill

Americans don’t believe that their government works for them. And they’re right. They also know that all of the money spent in politics affects every decision made in Washington – and it’s not to the benefit of everyday, working families. Instead, mega donors and special interests have access and influence to lawmakers, members of the administration, and other decision makers that the rest of us don’t.  At best, there’s an uneven playing field stacked in favor of the biggest donors. At worst, this corrupt pay to play system means that politicians are doing the bidding for the individual and corporate special interests who fund and support their campaigns at the expense of the American people.  Read More

Georgia: High rate of absentee ballots thrown out in Gwinnett County | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Nearly one in 10 vote-by-mail ballots have been rejected by Gwinnett County election officials, alarming voting rights groups. Gwinnett is throwing out far more absentee ballots than any other county in Georgia, according to records from the Secretary of State’s Office. Ballots were discarded because of allegedly mismatched signatures, incomplete forms or missing residential addresses. The county rejected 390 absentee ballots through Sunday, which represents 8.5 percent of all mailed ballots received in Gwinnett so far, according to state figures. Across Georgia, less than 2 percent of absentee ballots have been rejected. Gwinnett accounts for about 37 percent of all rejected ballots in Georgia. Read More

Georgia: Fulton County has technology problems on first day of early voting | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On the first day of early voting in Georgia, election precincts in Fulton County encountered technology issues that created long lines. A spokesperson for the county, April Majors, said the issue was with the machine used by poll workers to verify voter registration. Because the machine wasn’t working, poll workers had to verify voters’ information manually, which took much more time than the machine would have. In an emailed statement at 12:40 p.m., the county’s department of registration and elections said, “Fulton County’s early voting polling locations at libraries are experiencing network technical issues. Unfortunately, they are unable to quickly verify voter’s registrations.” They county followed up with another emailed statement about an hour later, saying all early voting locations were back to “normal operations.” Read More