Another piece of the messed-up puzzle that was the 2016 U.S. presidential election fell into place today, as the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that “Russian government cyber actors” targeted the voter registration system of a key battleground state. While U.S. officials had already claimed that the Russian government went after 21 states’ voter registration systems, this is the first time that names have been publicly named. And, sorry to say it Wisconsin, you have the dubious distinction of being the state in the spotlight. According to Reuters, the Department of Homeland Security notified all 21 states on Sept. 22, with Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas quickly identifying his specific state as being affected soon after.
Oops!… They did it again. For what seems like the billionth time, U.S. voter records have been exposed, this time targeting Alaska. A cache of voter records containing the personal information of nearly 600,000 voters in Alaska was inadvertently exposed online. The culprit? An unsecured CouchDB database. And just, you know, a giant oversight. The cause of the hack was discovered by researchers at the Kromtech Security Research Center, who determined that the database of about 593,000 voters (that’s every registered voter in the state of Alaska) was accidentally configured for public access. That means it was just out there, floating in the breeze without any sort of password protection or security wall, making it accessible to anyone who knew where to look. No logging in, no verification, nada.
Fifty-three allegedly forged voter applications are being referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution, a decision by the State Elections Board that effectively closes the Secretary of State Office’s 2014 fraud investigation involving an attention-grabbing registration drive by the New Georgia Project. The unanimous vote Wednesday came as the case’s lead investigator said he found no wrongdoing by the group, which was founded by then-state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams to increase the number of minorities on voting rolls. It allows Attorney General Chris Carr to decide whether to prosecute those involved: 14 people that investigator Russell Lewis said essentially acted as independent contractors registering new voters.
Guam residents who register to vote through a volunteer registrar get into the Guam Election Commission’s database faster than applicants using the agency’s online registration service, according to GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan. Prospective voters are advised when they click on the online registration link on GEC’s website that the application process requires about 12 minutes, giving the “illusion that the process is entirely automated,” according to Pangelinan. The process, however, is anything but. After applicants fill out the form, which requires them to input either their driver’s license or Guam ID information, the data is then printed onto a paper spreadsheet and sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles for validation.
Responding to a question about when there might be online voting in Idaho, Phil McGrane, chief deputy to the Ada County clerk, didn’t waste words: “Not in my lifetime.” In 2010, Washington, D.C., experimented with an electronic voting system, inviting hackers to interfere with a mock school board election. Within hours, a University of Michigan professor and two graduate students had broken into the system, elected Futurama character Bender to the D.C. school board, replaced the “Thank you for voting” message with “Owned,” and programmed it to play the University of Michigan fight song, “Hail to the Victors.” The changes went unnoticed for 48 hours. “Unless you want Bender as president—and some of you might want that right now—we won’t be voting online,” McGrane told a contingent from the League of Women Voters Sept. 13 at the Ada County Courthouse.
Missouri: Boone County’s aging election equipment comes with estimated $1 million replacement price tag | Columbia Daily Tribune
Boone County’s aging voting equipment will need to be replaced in the next couple of years, and the estimated $1 million expense — once covered in the past by the federal government — solely will be the county’s responsibility. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, which reformed the U.S. voting process, awarded Boone County $888,700 more than a decade ago to purchase new equipment, including software, ballot counting equipment known as M100 machines and iVote machines, or the touchscreen ballots accessible through the American Disabilities Act.
The county’s voting equipment, which has a 10-year lifespan, has experienced an increasing number of errors in recent years and needs to be replaced, said Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks. Burks, appointed to the position in late July by Gov. Eric Greitens, said his office did not have enough time to meet the 2018 budget request deadline on Sept. 30 to find funding for replacement equipment next year. But he expects to have a plan for 2019.
If the separation-of-powers undertones in the judicial redistricting process weren’t already obvious, state Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, left no doubt Tuesday. The General Assembly is exercising its authority to redraw district and Superior Court maps “not for the benefit of lawyers, but for the benefit of the people of this state,” Burr said after presiding over a meeting of the House Select Committee on Redistricting he chairs. Several lawyers and judges agreed during the 2 ½ hour meeting it’s a good idea to update and reconfigure the judicial districts. The most recent time that was done Dwight Eisenhower was president, “The $64,000 Question” was the top-rated TV show, and Mitch Miller and The Drifters were among the biggest pop music acts.
Thanks to Arizona, there is an alternative to allowing elected politicians – focused on their self-interests or those of their party – to draw the congressional district boundaries every 10 years. Arizona voters in 2000 approved a different way. They changed the state constitution to establish an independent commission to do the work. Challenged in the Supreme Court in 2015, the use of an independent commission is now established as a legal alternative. State legislatures do not have to be involved. Perhaps Ohio could learn something from Arizona – ideas that could help Ohio devise a system to draw maps by focusing on the interest of the citizens instead of politicians and their parties.
Colorado: Only 531 of the 6,648 Colorado voters who unregistered since June have come back on the rolls | The Colorado Independent
Colorado voters have been in for a ride this summer, making national news for un-registering to vote by the thousands and switching their status to “confidential.” Between June 29 and Sept. 17 of this year, 6,648 Coloradans, most of them Democrats, unregistered according to numbers provided by the Secretary of State’s office. The kicker: Only 531 of them have re-registered, the office said today. That revelation drew rebuke from elections watchdogs in Colorado. “This is a direct result of a presidential commission whose creation was predicated on a false narrative,” said Denise Maes, the public policy director for the ACLU of Colorado. “I do hope all of these eligible voters eventually do re-register in time for the next election.”
Florida: Nonprofit group files records request for info about online voter registration | Tampa Bay Times
A non-profit voter rights advocacy group, Access Democracy, founded by two veterans of Democratic politics, Hannah Fried and Alexis Prieur L’Heureux, has requested records related to online voter registration from the state of Florida. “With the implementation deadline just over a week away, we are concerned that Governor Scott and his administration may not be implementing the new system faithfully,” Fried said in a release. The group has asked for emails, audio files, photographs, communication records and other documents related to several aspects of Florida’s online voter registration system, including “technical readiness.”