The Department of Homeland Security continues to work with state and local governments to protect election systems as critical infrastructure. At an Aug. 16 public meeting of the federal Election Assistance Commission, however, officials made clear that risks still remain. EAC Vice-Chairman Thomas Hicks pointed to a recent planning exercise in Albany, N.Y., as an example. That exercise, conducted in July, resulted in some surprising results that remain classified. “I found the meeting very informative, enlightening and frightening,” Hicks said. “I would encourage every state to hold a similar meeting with election officials, emergency management folks and IT officials.”Full Article: Election officials: 'We are going to need more assistance' -- FCW.
Election Assistance Commission
Even with the widespread attention and federal protections provided to election systems, state and federal officials alike have concerns that U.S. election systems remain vulnerable to digital meddling. In the final days of the Obama administration, then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson formally designated state election assets as U.S. critical infrastructure in response to digital floods of misinformation, as well as Russian cyber espionage on an election software vendor and spear-phishing attempts against local election officials during the lead-up to the November 2016 presidential election. The move allowed state governments to ask DHS for help on a voluntary basis in securing their election infrastructure, but was met with resistance from many state officials and some members of Congress. Amid this resistance — and the current shuffle in DHS leadership — Johnson expressed fear on CBS’s Face the Nation Aug. 6 that voting systems remain vulnerable to digital meddling. “I’m concerned that we are almost as vulnerable, perhaps, now as we were six, nine months ago,” he said.Full Article: Amid DHS leadership shuffle, voting systems remain vulnerable -- FCW.
Editorials: Republicans Want To Defund The Commission That Fights Voting Machine Hacking | Steny Hoyer/HuffPost
This past weekend, hackers gathered in Las Vegas with a simple mission: break into America’s electronic voting machines and take control. Within minutes, some had already succeeded – but that’s a good thing. These hackers were part of a workshop held to identify vulnerabilities so they can be fixed well before any Americans cast actual votes next election. This exercise underscores the very real danger posed by outdated and insecure voting-machine software – as well as the important mission our government must continue undertaking to close these vulnerabilities and safeguard our elections. However, in their FY2018 funding proposal, Republicans are going after the small but highly successful agency that protects the integrity of our voting systems: the Election Assistance Commission. In June, House Republicans included a provision in their Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would abolish the Election Assistance Commission.Full Article: Republicans Want To Defund The Commission That Fights Voting Machine Hacking | HuffPost.
This week, hackers from across the globe are gathering in Las Vegas at the annual DEF CON conference for an exercise ripped straight from news headlines — trying to hack U.S. election systems. It’s a unique exercise that has raised a lot of eyebrows in the election community. For me, it’s yet another moment to focus on the topic of election system security and the need for constant vigilance. For all of the hype surrounding the DEF CON exercise and beyond the 2016 election system hacking attempts shaping news headlines these days, attempts to hack into government-controlled systems isn’t exactly a new concept or exercise. There were 10 federal agency cyber breaches in 2014, including targets such as the White House, State Department, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In fiscal 2016, OPM found federal agencies faced 31,000 “cyber incidents” that led to “compromise of information or system functionality.”Full Article: Election hacking requires better vigilance - Washington Times.
House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary. A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks. … Democrats introduced an amendment at the markup to save the agency, arguing that its role was more important than ever given the attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. Republicans rejected that line of thinking, noting the Homeland Security Department, and not EAC, has jurisdiction over election-related cybersecurity issues.Full Article: House Republicans Want to Eliminate Federal Election Assistance Agency - Management - GovExec.com.
At the same moment watchdogs are calling out a new White House panel’s massive request for voters’ personal data, Congress is trying to slash funding for a small bipartisan agency that’s supposed to improve the way elections run. The notation, buried at the bottom of page 69 of the House Financial Services Appropriation Bill for spending in Fiscal Year 2018, would yank the entire $4 million budget of the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC was created in 2002 thanks to the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed “to make sweeping reforms to the nation’s voting process.” The commission’s job includes certifying the hardware and software used to conduct elections.Full Article: The House wants to put America's independent election watchdog out of business.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill on Thursday to fund the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC provides services to state elections officials, including playing a role in election cybersecurity. The EAC is currently slated to be entirely defunded by the end of 2018. “In order to prevent future attacks against our democratic process, we must harden our defenses,” Quigley said in remarks launching his amendment. “Eliminating the EAC, the federal government’s only independent direct line of communication to state and local election officials, would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve election systems and provide states with the support they need to hold accurate and secure elections.”Full Article: House Dem seeks to restore funding to the Election Assistance Commission | TheHill.
Editorials: EAC’s 2016 survey provides a deep dive into a wealth of election, voting data | Sean Greene/The Hill
I love baseball. As a researcher, I am fascinated by the endless stream of statistics it generates, data that provides a detailed picture of the rhythms and pace of any given game or season. Coaches, players and general managers use the data to tweak everything from how to set their infield defense to planning team finances and roster decisions years down the road. And fans use the data in their own way to better understand and enjoy the game. This is exactly how I’d like Congress, election administrators and the American people to view the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive nationwide data about election administration in the United States. It’s a treasure trove of data collected to paint a picture of the administration of the 2016 Federal Election and to give us indicators about ways we can improve election administration and voter experience. And it allows anyone to use the data to dive into what they think is important to better understand how elections work in our country.Full Article: EAC’s 2016 survey provides a deep dive into a wealth of election, voting data | TheHill.
Voting Blogs: EAC Commissioners Divided on Authority Over Proof of Citizenship Documents | Brennan Center for Justice
Officials on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission announced in a federal court filing today that they’re split along partisan lines over whether the panel’s executive director acted within his authority last year when he allowed three states to include documentary proof of citizenship requirements on federal voter registration forms. The disagreement means that the September 2016 injunction against the burdensome registration requirements stills stands. The memo, filed by commissioners in federal district court today, discussed Executive Director Brian Newby’s decision to grant the federal form requests at issue in the case. Two commissioners, Chair Matthew Masterson and Christy McCormick, both Republicans, found that Newby had the authority to do so. One, Thomas Hicks, a Democrat, found that he did not and wrote separately to that effect.Full Article: EAC Commissioners Divided on Authority Over Proof of Citizenship Documents | Brennan Center for Justice.
National: Trump Says Voter Fraud Is a Huge Problem. A Top Republican Election Official Disagrees | Time
As voters began selecting their next president, Donald Trump repeatedly warned that Election 2016 was “rigged.” Millions of people, Trump said, are registered in two states and may therefore vote twice. Others would steal identities from the dead. Voting machines would malfunction. In January, less than a week into his presidency, Trump told lawmakers that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote — though not the election itself — to Democrat Hillary Clinton. He told senators a tale about ineligible voters being bussed into New Hampshire from Massachusetts. Trump then tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead an investigation into voter fraud. … That’s not how Matthew Masterson sees it. Masterson, the newly minted Republican chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission, ranks Election 2016 among the most trouble-free elections ever.Full Article: Voter Fraud Not Widespread Says Republican Election Official | Time.com.
Whether they think they are, want to be, or were trained to be, the Election Official of 2017 is also an Information Technology (IT) Manager. IT management requires a unique set of attitudes, knowledge and skills, all of which are necessary to plan, direct and control contemporary elections. The Election Assistance Commission recognizes this challenge and now has resources available for local election administrators wishing to hone their IT management skills. After the adoption of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, election officials were forced, in a matter of just a few years, to move from managing voluminous paper poll books, paper voter registration application forms and (often) paper ballots to managing electronic statewide voter registration databases, e-poll books and either DRE or optical scan voting systems with their accompanying computer-based election management and ballot building systems. The ramifications of the shift from managing paper to managing computer based systems cannot be underestimated. In less than a decade, election administration posed new demands on its practitioners, who were asked to understand and successfully implement increasingly complex technologies. A few election officials with sufficient resources were able to hire skilled computer technicians and engineers to augment their staff. The vast majority, however, were forced to become more dependent upon systems vendors to integrate new technology into their local election environment while trying as best they could to effectively manage this new paradigm.Full Article: Blog Details U.S. EAC Offers Election Technology Training Course.
Last week, Matt Masterson became the new Chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. On Friday, Chairman Masterson posted a blog entry at the EAC website (with a similar but shorter op-ed in the Hill) that lays out the priorities for the EAC in 2017 and beyond:
Today I was elected Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission. This is an honor and responsibility I do not take lightly. In their respective terms as Chair, both Commissioners McCormick and Hicks propelled the EAC towards fulfilling our mission set forth by HAVA, to better serve election officials and American voters. I hope to build on the momentum they created and push the EAC even further. In my year as Chairman, much of the EAC’s work will be influenced by two key things. First, the lessons learned and feedback from election officials as a result of the 2016 Presidential Election. The EAC’s #BeReady16 campaign received a great deal of praise from election officials from around the country and I want to build off that success with a new effort, #GamePlan17. The focus of #GamePlan17 will be to provide election officials with tangible planning strategies and information for the 2018 mid-term election and then to help turn those planning strategies into concrete actions to be taken heading into 2018. The goal being to help election officials protect their most valuable resource… time.Full Article: New EAC Chair Matt Masterson on Priorities in 2017 and Beyond | Election Academy.
A federal judge has asked the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to say whether its executive director had the authority to unilaterally require people to prove their citizenship in order to register to vote using a federal form in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon put the question to the commission on Saturday and gave it until June 1 to respond.
Editorials: Want Secure Elections? Then Maybe Don’t Cut Security Funding | Dan S. Wallach and Justin Talbot-Zorn/WIRED
Last Week, the House Administration Committee voted on party lines to defund the Election Administration Commission, the leading federal agency responsible for helping states run smooth elections and preventing hacking. Republicans justified the move as a way to save money and shrink the size and scope of government: “We don’t need fluff,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the committee chairman, explaining his vote. But the move wasn’t just Capitol Hill budget politics as usual. It’s evidence of a radical disconnect between a handful of influential House Republicans and nearly everyone else—including the scientific community, leading cybersecurity experts, and even the White House—who contend that voting vulnerabilities are a serious problem. On the morning of the election, Donald Trump called Fox News to give his views on the state of voting in the United States: “There’s something really nice about the old paper ballot system—you don’t worry about hacking.” Trump wasn’t going rogue. While his “voter fraud” comments have gotten serious attention of late, he has also, like many conservatives, expressed concern about the vulnerability of voting systems.Full Article: Want Secure Elections? Then Maybe Don't Cut Security Funding | WIRED.
National: Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats | The Hill
Democratic senators are asking a federal agency that helps certify and secure voting systems for a “full account” of its work to secure the 2016 election from Russian hackers. The senators, led by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), also want the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to detail cybersecurity challenges facing state and local officials as they look to safeguard future elections. The intelligence community concluded in an unclassified report released in January that Russia engaged in a cyber and disinformation campaign during the election to undermine U.S. democracy and damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Intelligence officials determined that “Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards,” though they found no systems involved in voting tallying were breached.Full Article: Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats | TheHill.
National: How Politics Could Put the Reliability of Future Elections at Risk | MIT Technology Review
Thanks to a lack of political will in Washington to fix election security problems, we’ll likely have the same fears that hackers will target our voting machines and voter databases on election day in 2020 that we had last fall. Advocates for election security and reliability say a bill that Republican leaders recently advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives would make it unlikely that a crucial nationwide upgrade of voting technology can be completed in time for the 2020 election. The House Administration Committee voted earlier this month to approve a bill that would eliminate the Elections Assistance Commission. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi, said the agency has “outlived its usefulness,” and that terminating it would save taxpayers $14 million. (Congress provided $9.6 million to the EAC in fiscal year 2016, according to the Congressional Research Service.) The bill’s opponents say that in fact the EAC has never been more necessary. They say eliminating the agency will create uncertainty and confusion among vendors and state election officials and delay the replacement of aging machines.Full Article: How Politics Could Put the Reliability of Future Elections at Risk.
National: The Election Assistance Commission – The Federal Voting Agency Republicans Want to Kill | The Atlantic
Every odd-numbered year since 2011, Republicans in the House have tried to kill the Election Assistance Commission—the tiny federal agency responsible for helping states improve their voting systems. None of their previous efforts made it very far, and with Barack Obama in the White House, the 15-year-old commission had little to fear. This year, the same fight has taken on much greater urgency. Congressional committees are investigating whether a foreign power tried to hack the U.S. election. The new president is convinced that widespread fraud cost him millions of votes. And with an ally in the Oval Office, House Republicans have begun moving faster than ever before to eliminate an agency they say is unnecessary and wastes taxpayer money. “I’m more worried this time,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s a belief that this has more legs than it did in the past.” The House Administration Committee has a new chairman, Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who has led the opposition to the EAC, and last week the panel made his bill ending the agency the first piece of legislation it approved in the new Congress. “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” Harper said shortly before the committee’s six Republicans voted down objections from its three Democrats to approve the legislation.Full Article: House GOP Moves to Kill Election Assistance Commission - The Atlantic.
Voting Blogs: H.R. 634 puts EAC on the block, again – Despite bill, bipartisan support remains | electionlineWeekly
Like Sisyphus and his rock, Mississippi Congressman Gregg Harper has once again introduced a resolution to dissolve the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Under H.R. 634, the EAC would terminate 60-days after the enactment of the resolution. Some functions of the Commission would transfer to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The bill was introduced on Jan. 24 and approved by a 6-3 party line vote in the House Administration Committee. In a statement, Harper says that the existence of the EAC is not necessary to conduct federal elections is a “waste of taxpayer funds.” Despite Harper’s insistence that the Commission has run its course of usefulness, bipartisan support for the EAC remains. “In the days leading up to the mark-up and in the days since, we’ve receive notes from election officials and voters across the nation thanking us for our work and validating the important role we play,” said EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks. “We’ve also received widespread, bipartisan support from advocacy groups within the beltway and beyond. Anyone with questions about our value should speak directly with the election officials and voters we serve.”Full Article: electionlineWeekly.
Russian hackers tried to destabilize our election, and even if the actual damage is undetermined, it is a national security crisis that requires all patriotic hands on deck. The president says there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes in the last election, and even if it is an assertion that makes strangers back away warily, he has the power to set up a commission to look into it. And all this happened 21/2 years after a commission warned of “an impending crisis” in voting technology. So exactly what sense does it make for a congressional committee to terminate the only federal agency that is responsible for testing and certifying our voting system? Pause here for cognitive dissonance.Full Article: Elections need oversight, not GOP deceit | Editorial | NJ.com.
While President Trump is promising to launch an investigation into his belief that millions of illegal ballots were cast in 2016, the Republican-led House Administration Committee voted Tuesday to shut down the federal agency set up to help states improve their election systems. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, said the Election Assistance Commission has “outlived” his usefulness. … “This is the time when we should be focusing on strengthening” the EAC, said Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Brady, the top Democrat on the committee. Brady argued the EAC helps states run fair, accurate and efficient elections. He said the agency provided key support to states in the last election.Full Article: House panel votes to close Election Assistance Commission.