Wyoming is about halfway there. In an omnibus appropriations bill passed by the U.S. Congress this spring, legislators designated $380 million in elections security grants to the states, and Wyoming will be getting a $3 million chunk of those funds. The grants require a 5 percent match from states, working out to $150,000 from Wyoming. A formula breaking down distribution by county has yet to be hashed out, but will likely factor in population and individual county needs. The funds will be provided through the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which last disbursed payments for upgrades nationally in 2010. The last time Wyoming saw any of that money was in 2005, however, when the current generation of machines were bought for the 2006 elections.
Sixteen states have formally applied for federal money to improve their election security in advance of the 2018 vote. Florida is not yet one of them. The state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, says: “We’ve been working on it daily.” The state hasn’t specifically said why up until this week it hasn’t sought the money. Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered Detzner to seek Florida’s $19 million share of a $380 million fund, part of a spending bill that President Donald J. Trump signed in March. Scott also directed Detzner to hire five cyber-security experts.
Florida: Rick Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections | Sun Sentinel
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered his top elections official to take advantage of $19 million of federal money for cybersecurity in time for this year’s elections. Scott’s decree reverses the decision made by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who said Tuesday he wanted to move slowly and preserve the money for long-term election needs. The governor’s announcement comes after news media coverage of Detzner’s position, which the secretary of state outlined to reporters during the spring conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in Fort Lauderdale. “We’re going to follow the governor’s directive. I think it’s well pointed, and we’re going to move aggressively based on his direction to submit a budget to the EAC and to try to draw down those dollars as soon as possible,” Detzner said Wedneday in an interview after the governor’s announcement.
Florida: Yesterday money wasn’t there for election cybersecurity. Now it is. What changed? | Miami Herald
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday overruled his chief elections official and ordered him to seek $19.2 million in federal money to help counties defend their voting systems against possible cyberattacks in the 2018 election. Scott’s intervention came hours after the Herald/Times quoted the official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, as saying the federal money would not be available before November because accepting it requires approval by the Legislature — even though that step is a formality that could be done at a brief meeting. “The answer is no,” Detzner said earlier this week when asked if the aid money could be used to improve election systems this year. “We don’t have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval.” That was unwelcome news for county elections officials, who are desperate for money.
Mississippi: Bennie Thompson and Delbert Hosemann spar on status of grant paperwork to U.S. EAC | Y’all Politics
On Monday, Congressman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann asking him to submit paperwork on behalf of the state so that grant funding from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission would be eligible to the state. … “Russian interference in the 2016 election was a watershed moment for our democracy,” Thompson wrote in the letter. “Russia’s efforts have affected public confidence in elections and its efforts have shown no signs of cooling. Mississippi currently uses a combination of paper ballots and direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).” … Just yesterday the Chairman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, sent a letter to the editor of POLITICO in response to a letter published on May 17, “So far, few states have sought federal money to secure elections.”
Since elections were declared critical infrastructure nearly 17 months ago, state and local officials have been working to protect the integrity of the 2018 elections, but security holes in elections systems and voting equipment still exist. As part of the omnibus spending bill passed in March, Congress authorized $380 million in new Help America Vote Act funds to the states to help them secure elections systems in their counties and local jurisdictions. On April 17, the Elections Assistance Commission distributed the award packets to states along with instructions on how to apply for funding. States have 90 days to respond, and the funds must be used within five years. However, the new funding did not stop elections officials from asking for more support ahead of the 2018 elections at an April 18 EAC public forum.
As part of the omnibus spending law passed on March 23, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories are getting funding to improve their elections infrastructure prior to the 2018 elections. On March 29, the Elections Assistance Commission announced how the $380 million will be distributed. An extension of the 2002 Help America Vote Act that distributed funds to states to improve voting systems and voter access issues identified following the 2000 election, the 2018 HAVA Election Security Fund will give states additional resources to secure and improve their election systems. The funds will be made available by the EAC as grants to make it easier for states to access the funds ahead of the 2018 federal elections. States will receive grant award notification letters in April. With primary elections already underway, however, states will be allowed to incur costs against forthcoming grant awards with EAC approval.
National: After GOP is criticized over election security, key official goes to Homeland Security | The Hill
The official recently replaced atop the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is joining the Department of Homeland Security to protect elections from cyber threats, The Hill has learned. Matthew Masterson was replaced as chairman of the EAC in February as a result of a decision made by Republican leadership. The move opened up House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to criticism. Masterson has now signed on to work as a senior cybersecurity adviser at Homeland Security’s main cyber wing and to assist the department’s election security mission. A Homeland Security official confirmed that Masterson will work at the National Protection and Programs Directorate, which spearheads efforts to protect critical infrastructure from cyber and physical threats.
Thomas Hicks has been tapped to chair the Election Assistance Commission, an agency that is considered central to protecting the U.S. election infrastructure from cyberthreats, the commission announced on Friday. Reuters reported on Thursday that Republican House Speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, decided not to recommend former chairman Matthew Masterson for a second term as one of the EAC’s four commissioners. Commissioners are recommended by congressional leadership, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. According to Reuters, some state officials were surprised that Masterson was not considered for a second term as commissioner, given that he has focused much of his tenure on cybersecurity.
The U.S. agency charged with ensuring that voting machines meet security standards was itself penetrated by a hacker after the November elections, according to a security firm working with law enforcement on the matter. The security firm, Recorded Future, was monitoring underground electronic markets where hackers buy and sell wares and discovered someone offering log-on credentials for access to computers at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, company executives said. Posing as a potential buyer, the researchers engaged in a conversation with the hacker, said Levi Gundert, vice president of intelligence at the company, and Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collection. Eventually they discovered that the Russian-speaking hacker had obtained the credentials of more than 100 people at the election commission after exploiting a common database vulnerability, the researchers said.
Editorials: Don’t believe the hype. Foreign hackers will not choose the next president. | Thomas Hicks, Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick/The Washington Post
Recent reports regarding the ability of foreign hackers to change the outcome of the U.S. presidential election are overstated. Foreign hackers will not pick our next president — Americans will. To be sure, malicious actors may be looking at the U.S. election system as a possible target. While headlines on this conversation may be new, election officials have been working to secure our voting systems for years. As threats emerge and evolve, those of us who work in elections are responding, adapting and constantly improving. Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson commended this work and expressed confidence in the election process, saying: “It is diverse, subject to local control, and has many checks and balances built in.” At the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), we use research, voting system testing information, and reports from state and local officials about the performance of their systems to improve our certification of voting systems. We work with state and local officials across the country to identify and share best practices regarding cybersecurity, including information on testing systems, auditing the results and creating contingency plans. Election officials use this information to better prepare and secure their systems.
When Brian Newby took the helm of a federal election agency, he left behind an unfolding scandal in Kansas in which he was having an affair with a woman he promoted in his previous job and used her to skirt oversight of their expenses, prompting a local prosecutor to investigate, according to e-mails obtained by the Associated Press. The affair and resulting fallout were revealed in hundreds of e-mails ordered released after the AP sued Johnson County, where Newby was the top election official before leaving to become executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The e-mails – coupled with hundreds more obtained from the Kansas secretary of state’s office through a separate open records request – portray an election official who berated employees and deliberately bypassed supervision. They also document a toxic workplace created by his affair with then-Assistant Election Commissioner Jessica White, an apparent violation of county policy on intimate relationships with subordinates. In a June 2015 exchange from his work e-mail to her personal address, the then-married Newby told White: “You, my little lover, are so wonderful.” Newby and White did not respond to numerous phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
The audit is looking at how South Dakota had used hundreds of thousands of dollars received through the federal Help America Vote Act program established after the 2000 presidential election. Documents from the past needed for the audit aren’t available in some instances and some past spending is under question whether it was allowable, according to Krebs. Kristin Gabriel now is the HAVA coordinator on Krebs’ staff. Gabriel told state Board of Elections members during their meeting Thursday that HAVA is undergoing an audit that reaches back 13 years to the initial funding period. “We did our best and provided them what we had and what we could find,” Gabriel said.
Election officials say they’re ready with backup plans in case a natural disaster — like the recent flooding in Louisiana or another storm like Hurricane Matthew — threatens to keep voters away from the polls on Election Day. “We all may have different kinds of disasters, but you still have to hold elections,’’ said Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the Louisiana secretary of state’s office. “What we have done and what we tell folks is, as long as you’ve got a power source, even if it’s a generator, and a tent, you can hold an election. All of these things are mostly lessons learned from (Hurricane) Katrina.’’ Federal and state election officials said Superstorm Sandy, which struck the Northeast in late October 2012, also schooled them in holding elections following torrential rain, flooding and power outages. One lesson: Have paper ballots ready just in case. “We all have contingency plans,’’ Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “We just hope the good Lord doesn’t make us use them.’’ Most election officials also have prepared for potential cyber attacks, said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, which held a public meeting last month on Election Day contingency plans.
Nine states have shortened the time still allowed for voters to register for the November election, in some cases designating as the last day to register the Columbus Day federal holiday when government offices are closed. Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) said that the states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Washington — could be in violation of the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to accept registration forms if they were postmarked 30 days before Election Day, because their deadline is on a weekend day without postal service or on a holiday. In a Sept. 30 letter to the federal Election Assistance Commission, the senators urged the EAC to take action to ensure that the states change voter-registration deadlines that fall before Oct. 11 to comply with federal law. The EAC was established in 2002 to help states run elections and to disseminate the federal online voting form. “We know that every day of voter registration in the month before the election is an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country to get registered to vote or update their voter registration information,” the senators wrote.
For years, states have been sounding the alarm about voter fraud and pushing laws to prevent it. One such law would require voters to prove their citizenship, with a birth certificate, passport, or the like, before casting a ballot. This month a federal court slapped down proof-of-citizenship laws, but not for good. The opinion leaves wiggle room, and state lawmakers are not giving up. They are, however, wasting their effort. Anti-fraud measures can make elections safer in some circumstances, but usually they either have no effect (other than creating red tape) or make matters worse. My research proves it. Let’s get up to speed. In 2004, Arizonans approved an initiative requiring voters to prove their citizenship before they could vote. In 2013, the Supreme Court held [PDF] that federal law—specifically, the National Voter Registration Act—preempted the initiative. That Act requires states to use a form, developed by the federal Election Assistance Commission, to register voters for federal elections. The form requires would-be voters to swear, under penalty of law, that they are US citizens. States can ask the EAC to add state-specific instructions to the federal form, including additional requirements on citizenship, but they cannot demand it. Other states—Alabama, Georgia, Kansas—adopted laws like Arizona’s, and they worked many channels to get them enforced. But their efforts failed. States courts, federal courts [PDF], and the EAC [PDF] put proof of citizenship on ice.
Two Democratic senators say nine states are violating federal law with their mail-in voter registration deadlines for the November election, potentially disenfranchising thousands of people by blocking applications as many as three days earlier than other states. U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to intervene and work with election officials in those states to ensure compliance with the National Voting Rights Act. The states cited in their letter Thursday are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. “The right to vote is too precious to have something so simple to fix potentially prevent so many Americans from participating in the upcoming Election,” the senators wrote. The calendar appears to be the culprit. The deadline for registering by mail under federal law — 30 days before the election — falls on a Sunday this year. The next day happens to be Columbus Day, when there will be no postal service, preventing registrations from being postmarked. All other states have adjusted their deadlines to account for the long holiday weekend, accepting registration applications postmarked by Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Here’s the background of the Newby case. Kansas, Georgia and Alabama have been trying to make voting harder for voters through a series of restrictive voter ID laws. Another approach of these states has deployed is forcing voters to produce documentary evidence that they are American citizens when they register to vote. Asking for documentary proof of citizenship may sound reasonable enough, at first blush, but this runs afoul of the federal “motor voter” law which bars states from asking for additional information when voters register to vote using a standard federal form. The whole point of the motor voter law (whose formal name is National Voter Registration Act of 1993), was to make it easier for eligible Americans to register to vote when they were at the local DMV. While the legislators who pass these restrictive voting laws may think they are barring non-citizens from voting, instead these laws can disenfranchise regular Americans, especially those who were born at home instead of a hospital. These Americans may find it difficult, or well neigh impossible, to produce documentation of their birth proving that they are who they know they are: American citizens.
National: U. S. appeals court leaves proof-of-citizenship voting requirement to federal panel | The Washington Post
A U.S. appeals court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a federal voter registration form wrote Monday that federal law leaves it to a federal elections agency — not the states — to determine whether such a change is necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The panel wrote that although the document requirement “unquestionably” hinders voter registration groups ahead of the November elections, there was “precious little” evidence of voter fraud by noncitizens, the problem the states said the measure is intended to fight. The Kansas secretary of state had told the court that “between 2003 and 2015 eighteen noncitizens had tried to or successfully registered to vote. Only one of them attempted to use the Federal Form,” the judges wrote.
High-ranking congressional Democrats are raising more serious concerns about a move by the director of a federal voting agency that made it easier for several red states to require documentary proof of citizenship from people registering to vote. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Robert A. Brady and Rep. James E. Clyburn urged the Election Assistance Commission in a letter sent Wednesday to formally rescind a change made in January to the instructions on the federal voter registration form for Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, which allowed those states to require citizenship proof. A federal court found this month that the move, which was carried out unilaterally by the agency’s executive director, Brian Newby, could disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters. Ruling that the move may violate federal voting law, the court blocked it from being enforced pending a resolution of the case. The letter outlines what the lawmakers called “troubling findings” from their probe into the issue — among them, that Newby conducted no written analysis of the impact of the change, and that he himself may no longer be certain that it was legal.
America’s presidential election is not only a constitutional right, it’s a symbol of the country’s freedom. But in the wake of data breaches that have pimpled the last few years–in both corporate America and political campaigns–government intelligence and cybersecurity experts are warning that November’s presidential election is next on the list for a large-scale hack. In late August, Yahoo broke news that foreign hackers had breached the state Board of Elections websites in Illinois and Arizona, which the FBI’s cyber division followed up with an alert to election officials across the nation to increase voting system security. Earlier this year, hackers breached the Democratic National Committee’s network, leaking emails that led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz the night before Hillary Clinton accepted the presidential nomination. And last month, hackers released emails belonging to Colin Powell, the Republican former secretary of state under George W. Bush.
Voting rights advocates are accusing a Washington bureaucrat of helping Republican-led states enforce tight restrictions on voter registration, a move they say turned a federal voting agency into a de facto ally of state officials looking to make voting harder. A progressive group on Wednesday called on the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to conduct an internal investigation into the actions taken by Brian Newby, the agency’s executive director. The group, Allied Progress, charged that Newby had improper private communications with his former boss, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and perhaps other election officials, about their requests to change the federal voter registration form to require applicants to show proof of citizenship. Patricia Layfield, the inspector general of the EAC, said no decision had yet been made on whether to open an investigation into Newby’s actions. “I continue to consider the various options available,” Layfield told NBC. “I’m taking the concerns expressed in the letter very seriously.”
Kansas: DC group wants inspector general to examine Brian Newby’s voter decision | The Kansas City Star
A Washington group has renewed its call for an investigation of Brian Newby, the former head of the Johnson County Election Office and now in charge of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, or EAC. Allied Progress has written the EAC’s inspector general, asking her to examine Newby’s decision to approve applications from three states, including Kansas, to modify their federal registration forms in order to require documentary proof of citizenship to register. Newby made the decision to allow the changes despite the absence of formal approval from the EAC’s board of comissioners. Newby said he had the authority to make the decision on his own. Several groups sued to stop implementation of the requirement. In September, a federal appeals court blocked Kansas and the other states from changing their federal forms to require citizenship proof.
Kansas county election offices are sorting through thousands of records to identify voters affected by a recent federal court order, according to Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring proof of citizenship from people who register to vote using the federal form. Kobach said the state’s voter database does not differentiate between people who register with the federal form and the state form, so local election officers will have to physically go through paper records of people who tried to register since January to determine which voters were affected by the ruling. He estimated the number of people affected would be between 200 and 400 statewide. The state began requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote in 2013. Before this year, federal form registrants were allowed to cast ballots in federal elections regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.
The EAC is pleased to announce the Fors Marsh Group (FMG) will administer the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). The biennial survey, which has been administered since 2004, collects election administration data from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The biennial Statutory Overview is also being administered by FMG and will provide an overview of state laws and procedures governing federal elections. To prepare for administering the survey, in late August FMG hosted a webinar including EAC Commissioner Matt Masterson, Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) director Matt Boehmer, former San Diego County, CA Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler, and FMG subject matter expert Thad Hall to discuss the 2016 survey with the states. More than 30 states joined the webinar along with more than half-a-dozen counties. A video of this webinar is now available on the EAC’s website.
A federal court has blocked Kansas and two other states from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship if they register using the federal form. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission approved a controversial rule in late January to allow Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof of citizenship from voters who register using the federal form. The League of Women Voters brought a lawsuit against the rule, and the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction Friday by a 2-1 decision. Under the order, Kansas can no longer require people to show proof of citizenship when they register using the federal form and must allow anyone who registered after Jan. 29 to vote regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.
National: Appeals Court Blocks Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement for Voters in 3 States | Associated Press
A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. The 2-1 ruling is a victory for voting rights groups who said a U.S. election official illegally changed proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal registration form at the behest of the three states. People registering to vote in other states are only required to swear that that they are citizens, not show documentary proof. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia acted swiftly in the case, issuing a two-page, unsigned ruling just a day after hearing oral arguments. A federal judge in July had refused to block the requirement while the case is considered on the merits.
National: U.S. appeals court to hear challenge to proof-of-citizenship voting requirement | The Washington Post
U.S. appeals court to hear challenge to proof-of-citizenship voting requirement | The Washington Post
A federal appeals court on Thursday seemed likely to side with voting rights groups seeking to block Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form. Judges hearing arguments in the case considered whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form’s proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice. The dispute is part of a slew of challenges this year that civil rights groups have brought against various state voting laws they claim are designed to dampen turnout among minority groups that tend to favor Democrats. Those challengers have already succeeded in stopping voter ID requirements in North Carolina and Texas and restrictions elsewhere. In the citizenship case, a coalition including the League of Women Voters and civil rights groups say the requirement to show proof undermines efforts to register new voters and deprives eligible voters of the right to vote in federal elections.
When Americans vote for president in November, many of the 1.4 million active-duty U.S. military personnel stationed or deployed overseas will not know whether their absentee ballots have reached their home states to be counted. The federal Election Assistance Commission, charged with monitoring their votes, may not know either. Under the Help America Vote Act, the ballots of military and overseas voters are supposed to be tallied by their home states and sent to the EAC, which reports them to Congress. But a News21 analysis of the EAC’s data found at least one in eight jurisdictions reported receiving more ballots than they sent, counting more ballots than they received or rejecting more ballots than they received.