If state officials want to perform a security or other audits of the local elections office, they may have to come to Palo Pinto to do it. Joey Fenley, head of Palo Pinto County’s Information Technology department, said allowing remote access to the county’s network through an offsite connection – such as software using a virtual private network – puts the county’s network at risk of receiving a virus or, worse, ransomware. He said it is a breach of the county’s network security protocols. Fenley questions why the state would perform a network security audit using an insecure method. “It’s done by a third party and you don’t know who they are,” Fenley told the Index.Full Article: Texas County to Block State Network Access for Security.
Articles about voting issues in Texas.
Texas: Ransomware Attack Hits 22 Texas Towns, Authorities Say | Manny Fernandez, Mihir Zaveri and Emily S. Rueb/The New York Times
Computer systems in 22 small Texas towns have been hacked, seized and held for ransom in a widespread, coordinated cyberattack that has sent state emergency-management officials scrambling and prompted a federal investigation, the authorities said. The Texas Department of Information Resources said Monday that it was racing to bring systems back online after the “ransomware attack,” in which hackers remotely block access to important data until a ransom is paid. Such attacks are a growing problem for city, county and state governments, court systems and school districts nationwide. By Tuesday afternoon, Texas officials had lowered the number of towns affected to 22 from 23 and said several government agencies whose systems were attacked were back to “operations as usual.” The ransomware virus appeared to affect certain agencies in the 22 towns, not entire government computer systems. Officials said that there were common threads among the 22 entities and that the attacks appeared not to be random, but they declined to elaborate, citing a federal investigation. It was unclear who was responsible. The state described the attacker only as “one single threat actor.”Full Article: Ransomware Attack Hits 22 Texas Towns, Authorities Say - The New York Times.
Election officials across the country are spending millions of dollars to replace their insecure voting machines ahead of the 2020 election. But America’s patchwork voting system is a long way from being secure. To understand why, take a look at Texas. More than a quarter of the state’s 254 counties are sticking with paperless voting machines that cybersecurity experts and intelligence officials have condemned as vulnerable to hacking, according to an extensive, first-of-its-kind POLITICO survey of state and local election offices. At least 14 of them are even buying new paperless machines as they replace devices that nearing 20 years old. In the nation’s second-largest state, the forces impeding the effort to secure the machinery of democracy are the same ones stalling this push for paper ballots nationwide. They include a lack of money, an absence of leadership from above, and a shortage of basic cybersecurity knowledge among the local election officials who make the technology decisions in much of the country.Full Article: How an election security push is running aground in Texas - POLITICO.
Hundreds of election administrators, county clerks, and voter registrars converged on a hotel ballroom in Austin for training with the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The theme of the week is election security and integrity. The nearly 800 election officials came from across the state to share best practices to prevent tampering with Texas elections. “I am getting a lot of information crammed into my brain in three days,” Archer County election administrator and voter registrar Christie Mooney said. Mooney is a one-person operation in Texoma, keeping track of approximately 6,270 voters in the county, and administering elections. “Every election official needs to learn the new laws that came out of the legislative session that just happened,” she explained.Full Article: Texas election officials train to spot vulnerabilities ahead of 2020 | KXAN.
The Taylor County Commissioners have approved $2.1 million in funding to replace Taylor County’s current voting machines, which have been in use since 2005. Taylor County plans on replacing their existing voting technology with a touch-screen option from Hart InterCivic’s Verity Voting system. “It’s time that we go ahead and get to the next level,” said Chuck Statler, the Taylor County Commissioner for Precinct 4. However, backlash is occurring as a result of the proposed upgrade of Taylor County’s voting technology. The Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues sent a letter to Taylor County on July 3, and in the letter, the center said that direct recording electronic systems, or DRE systems, have “numerous vulnerabilities.” “A number of vulnerabilities that computers are susceptible to can be exploited,” said Marian Schneider, the President of Verified Voting.Full Article: Taylor County approves funding for new voting machines amid backlash | KTXS.
Texas: Secretary of State David Whitley resigns as end-of-session deadline nears | Austin American-Statesman
Shortly before the Senate’s closing gavel ended his term as Texas secretary of state, David Whitley delivered his letter of resignation, “effective immediately,” to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday afternoon. Whitley needed Senate confirmation by the end of the legislative session to remain on the job but fell short of the required 21 votes despite expected support from all 19 Republican senators. All 12 Democrats, however, held firm in their opposition to Whitley over his handling of an error-filled investigation into the citizenship status of registered voters that prompted three federal lawsuits and an eventual court settlement that halted the probe and limited the scope of future investigations. Abbott, Whitley’s friend and mentor, was unable to dislodge opposition to the nominee in the 3½ months since Whitley’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Nominations Committee.Full Article: David Whitley resigns as end-of-session deadline nears - News - Austin American-Statesman - Austin, TX.
Texas: Embattled elections chief on brink of losing job | Paul J. Weber & Jim Vertuno/Houston Chronicle
Texas’ embattled elections chief who wrongly questioned the U.S. citizenship of tens of thousands of voters was on the brink of losing his job Sunday, while Republican lawmakers prepared to head home hoping to save their own in 2020. Secretary of State David Whitley appeared set to go down without a public fight in the final hours of an unusually quiet session of the Texas Legislature, where a weakened GOP majority this year showed little appetite for partisan battles over signs their grip on the Capitol is slipping. Whitley, a former top aide of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, can’t stay in office unless the state Senate confirms his nomination before the session ends Monday. But his prospects were dimming by the minute as Democrats continued blocking a vote on his confirmation, as they have done since February. That was after Whitley’s office rolled out a bungled scouring of voter rolls that flagged nearly 100,000 voters as potential noncitizens. President Donald Trump seized on the news out of Texas to renew his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, but within days, it became clear the data used was deeply flawed.Full Article: Texas' embattled elections chief on brink of losing job - HoustonChronicle.com.
Texas: Senate Bill Is Meant To Improve Election Security But Will It Discourage Voting? | Texas Public Radio
When Texans head to the polls on Super Tuesday in 2020, the act of voting could be very different. Texas lawmakers are looking at bills to cut property taxes and boost school spending, and they’re also looking at ways to secure elections in the state, particularly with Senate Bill 9. Omar Escobar, the Starr County district attorney, said rigging elections is a business in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. “Elderly people, many of whom receive a food bank’s distributions are approached by workers,” he explained, “and being told, ‘hey, here’s the application for a ballot by mail. You need to sign this thing. And as soon as you get the ballot … we’re going to prepare it for you.’ So the practice as we have seen it was that they’d go in, and … as soon as that ballot came they swoop in and help them sort of vote ‘the right way.’ Escobar was testifying before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs. He said the vote harvesters were paid to collect those ballots. He said voters who handed over their mail ballots to campaign workers had little awareness that their votes were altered and that they were victimized. “Our investigation showed that we had one person — just one person — assist 230 voters,” he said. “Now this is just [the] application of ballot by mail. On this other side, on the in-person voting, you have people who are going to assist, and, of course, the assistant is watching this voter vote and sometimes marking the ballot for them.”Full Article: Senate Bill Is Meant To Improve Election Security But Will It Discourage Voting? | Texas Public Radio.
East Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes’ signature bill on election security won passage Monday in the Texas Senate and moves to the House of Representatives for debate. Senate Bill 9 creates a paper trail for electronic voting. It also takes aim at voter fraud that can occur when people who help disabled voters try to influence how they vote. It enhances the penalty for making a false statement on a mail ballot application from a misdemeanor to state jail felony and requires those who help voters who are not family members to sign a form documenting their role. The bill also would require people who help disabled voters cast a mail-in ballot officially certify that the voter they help is physically unable to enter a poll without risk to harm. In addition, it allows poll watchers to accompany both the voter and helper into the voting area. “The heart of the bill is that paper ballot, that paper backup,” Hughes, R-Mineola, said as he urged passage of the measure. “This is not a partisan issue. … It says if you’re going to bring someone to the polls and help them cast their ballot … then, yes. We want to know your names.” Hughes chaired a Select Committee on Election Security last summer in preparation for the legislative session that opened in January. Many of the provisions in his Senate Bill 9, he told senators, came from sworn testimony from Democrats and Republicans. The bill passed on a 19-12 vote along party lines. “For whatever reason, the national Democrats made this a lightning rod,” he said. “Election integrity is important to all of us.”Full Article: Hughes' election security bill passes in Senate | Elections | news-journal.com.
The next time Texans vote in a stateside election will be Super Tuesday, on March 3, 2020. Ten states are expected to hold their primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, including three big ones: Texas, California and Virginia. There will be a lot on the line for the national and local primary races in Texas, and voting could look very different on that day … if Senate Bill 9 is passed. SB 9 is also known as the Omnibus Elections Integrity Bill. It’s sponsored by Republican State Sen. Bryan Hughes. And in there is a long list of proposed fixes to the way elections are held and ballots are counted in Texas. Some of the big changes would include a requirement for counties to have a paper-vote receipt trail. Critics of the bill say it does nothing to address the biggest problem with voting in Texas. They say it’s too difficult to register and vote. They complain SB9 would make it even harder to vote.Full Article: Texas Matters: SB9, Election Integrity And Voter Rights | Texas Public Radio.
Texas: Secretary of state apologizes for how he rolled out voter citizenship review. But he still supports the effort. | The Texas Tribune
Facing an uncertain path to confirmation after ordering a deeply flawed voter citizenship review that seemingly focused on naturalized citizens, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley is apologizing to state lawmakers for the way his office bungled its rollout of the review — but he is still holding firm behind the overall effort. In a letter sent to state lawmakers late Wednesday, Whitley largely defended the review efforts as a legally sound exercise, and he did not admit that his office had erred when it mistakenly threw into question the eligibility of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens or when it sent counties lists of voters it knew very likely included naturalized citizens. Instead, Whitley vaguely admitted there were some shortcomings to the data his office used to flag almost 100,000 registered voters for citizenship reviews and noted his office should have devoted more time to “additional communication” with local and state officials to “further eliminate anyone from our original list who is, in fact, eligible to vote.”Full Article: David Whitley delivered Texas lawmakers an apology over citizenship review | The Texas Tribune.
Warning that the “likelihood of severe harm is high,” civil rights organizations asked a federal judge to order an immediate halt to a state-initiated process that questions the citizenship of thousands of registered voters in Texas. The MOVE Texas Civic Fund, the Jolt Initiative, League of Women Voters of Texas and Texas resident Nivien Saleh filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Wednesday, seeking to prevent any Texans from wrongly being removed from the voter rolls while the groups’ lawsuit against the state and five county elections officials proceeds. The request focuses on a Jan. 25 advisory sent by Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, asking local election offices to look into the citizenship of 95,000 people on the voter rolls. Whitley recommended that counties send notices to people the state flagged as possible non-citizens, giving them 30 days to prove they’re eligible to vote by presenting proper documentation. If they don’t respond, their registrations would be canceled by the county voter registrar. Even if a notice is returned as undeliverable, the advisory instructs the county to cancel the registration.Full Article: Civil rights groups ask court to halt 'voter purge' during lawsuit - Houston Chronicle.
Texas: David Whitley could face a tough confirmation for Texas secretary of state | The Texas Tribune
The governor’s appointments for secretary of state typically sail through the Texas Senate. But against the backdrop of a flawed voter citizenship check that risked the votes of tens of thousands of naturalized citizens, Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest pick finds himself in need of Democratic support. And the minority party’s doubts about — if not outright opposition to — his confirmation are growing. A longtime Abbott aide appointed to the post in December, David Whitley is set to face the Senate Nominations Committee on Thursday after almost two weeks of intense scrutiny of his decision to question the citizenship status of almost 100,000 voters using flawed data that seemingly singled out naturalized citizens for review. He’s since been named as a defendant in three lawsuits alleging the review was unconstitutional and violated federal safeguards for voters of color, who are more likely to support Democrats. And he’s facing questions from Democratic lawmakers about why he handed that list of voters to the attorney general’s office for possible prosecution even before the names were reviewed by local elections officials.Full Article: David Whitley could face a tough confirmation for Texas secretary of state | The Texas Tribune.
The recent eye-popping claim by the Texas secretary of state’s office – that 95,000 registered voters in Texas may be ineligible because they’re not U.S. citizens – grabbed quick headlines and sprang into President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, rekindling fears of rampant voter fraud by non-U.S. citizens. Within a week, however, three lawsuits challenging the move and state officials erasing tens of thousands of names from that list have since raised questions about the validity and methodology of the claim. The clash over Texas voters comes amid allegations by voting rights’ activists of nationwide efforts to purge voters of color from rolls and influence elections, including aggressively going after alleged non-citizens registered to vote. Since 2013, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Virginia have conducted illegal purges, according to a recent study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. The report also found that between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls – or 4 million more than what was removed between 2006 and 2008. Many of those were improperly removed, the report said.Full Article: Activists: Texas voter purge is latest effort to target voting rights.
Civil rights groups have launched lawsuits accusing Texas officials of compiling a flawed list of voters that could see thousands of naturalized citizens wrongly expunged from electoral rolls, sparking a fierce political fight over alleged voter suppression. Four Texas-based organisations are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed on Monday that asks a federal court to stop the state from enacting an “unlawful purge” based on the flagging of about 95,000 people as potentially illegally registered to vote. It follows legal action initiated last week by Hispanic rights groups who contend the state is pursuing a voter suppression tactic that is likely to have a strong impact on minorities’ democratic rights. “This list is simply a way to target US citizens who are foreign-born as opposed to being any genuine effort to identify non-US citizens on the voter rolls,” said Nina Perales, vice-president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.Full Article: Texas: civil rights groups sue to stop 'unlawful purge' of thousands of voters | US news | The Guardian.
Federal courts struck down Texas’s original voter-ID law, which would have required certain forms of government-issued identification in order to vote, deeming it intentional discrimination against minorities. But GOP officials who lead the state argued that the passage and implementation of the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, and last year Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accepted the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold a slightly revised version of the law that would allow other forms of identity verification for people who can’t get the proper government-issued documentation. Yet Republicans still don’t think the regulation has done the job. Last week, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s office sent an advisory to counties involving a list of people who’d been identified as potential noncitizens with a matching voter-registration record. Activists and media criticized the list as inaccurate and misleading. But that didn’t stop GOP officials from using the list as definitive proof of rampant voter fraud, despite having no evidence that anyone had voted illegally. Their fervor seemed to add to the suspicion that the party has an endgame well beyond “ballot security,” and to the fear that new forms of voter suppression are just on the horizon.Full Article: Why Trump Is Talking About Voter Fraud in Texas - The Atlantic.
Texas: “Someone did not do their due diligence.” How an attempt to review Texas’ voter rolls turned into a debacle | The Texas Tribune
State Rep. Rafael Anchia had been alarmed by the actions of the Texas secretary of state’s office for days by the time the agency’s chief, David Whitley, walked into the Dallas Democrat’s Capitol office on Monday. The Friday before, Whitley’s staff had issued a bombshell press release calling into question the citizenship of 95,000 registered voters in Texas. Soon after, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups were raising serious questions about how many people on that list were actually non-citizens who are ineligible to vote. But before those doubts emerged, Whitley, the top election officer in the state, had handed over information about those registered voters to the Texas attorney general, which has the jurisdiction to prosecute them for felony crimes. So as Anchia sat at the end of his green, glass-topped conference table, he wanted to know: Did Whitley know for sure that any of the names on his list had committed crimes by voting as noncitizens? “No,” Whitley answered, according to Anchia.Full Article: Texas went looking for voter fraud. Then everything fell apart. | The Texas Tribune.
Texas: Civil rights group sues Texas over order to investigate potential noncitizen voters with flawed data | Dallas Morning News
A civil rights group has sued Texas for advising counties to review the citizenship of tens of thousands of eligible voters in the state with flawed data, claiming it violates the voting rights of U.S. citizens and legally registered Texas voters who are foreign-born. The lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleges the state has “singled out for investigation and removal” the names of U.S. citizens who are registered voters because they were born outside the United States. It asks for an injunction to prevent recently naturalized citizens from being investigated and a rescission of the state’s advisory to comb through a list of 58,000 people whom state officials said had potentially voted while not citizens.Full Article: Civil rights group sues Texas over order to investigate potential noncitizen voters with flawed data | Politics | Dallas News.
Last Friday afternoon, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton took to Twitter to blast out alarming news. “VOTER FRAUD ALERT,” the tweet said. “The @TXsecofstate discovered approx 95,000 individuals identified by DPS as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in TX, approx 58,000 of whom have voted in TX elections.” The tweet ricocheted across the internet for two hours before the state sent notice of the explosive number of suspected non-citizen voters to county election officials, who are charged with verifying the initial findings and purging any ineligible voters. The state had been working on the analysis since March 2018, but it took the elections officials less than a day to spot glaring errors. By Tuesday, the original list of 95,000 had been cut to roughly 75,000 names. “I can’t speculate as to why the original list had mistakes,” said Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis, who is President of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators and was among the first to notify the state of inaccuracies. “We weren’t, my county, wasn’t consulted on search parameters or methodology.”Full Article: Texas officials launched voter purge with big splash, little accuracy - HoustonChronicle.com.
Texas: Abbott sticks by flawed list of non-citizen voters, says review should continue | Dallas Morning News
Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday said the flawed list of tens of thousands of non-citizens who had potentially voted released by his secretary of state is a “work in progress” and that state and local officials should continue their reviews. “This is a list that we need to work on together to make sure that those who do not have the legal authority to vote are not going to be able to vote,” he said. “This is what you would categorize as a process, a work in progress. They’ll get it right.” On Friday, Secretary of State David Whitley, who was appointed by Abbott in December, sent an advisory to counties saying that about 95,000 people who received driver licenses — while legally in the country, but not U.S. citizens — also appeared on Texas voter rolls. Of them, 58,000 voted in one or more elections between 1996 and 2018, Whitley’s office said. It asked counties to review the eligibility of people on the list.Full Article: Abbott sticks by flawed list of non-citizen voters in Texas, says review should continue | Politics | Dallas News.