At an Election Assistance Commission hearing, a DHS official made the case for his agency’s designation of voting systems as critical infrastructure, emphasizing the designation did not undermine the autonomy of state election administration. Robert Hanson, DHS’ director of the prioritization and modeling at Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis, noted that many state and local governments have turned to DHS for such support and warned that new security flaws could be introduced if the replacement systems aren’t properly vetted. State and local officials, however, reiterated their concerns on the critical infrastructure designation and the National Association of Secretaries of State will continue to ask the administration to rescind the critical infrastructure designation for election systems.
Under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, Devin Nunes has stepped down “temporarily” from his role in leading the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation relates to statements Nunes made last month regarding U.S. surveillance operations aimed at foreign targets had incidentally collected communications involving members of President-elect Trump’s transition team, of which he was a member. His recusal leaves the inquiry in the hands of other rightwing Republicans and it is unclear how much effect, if any, his absence would have on an investigation stalled by deep partisan infighting.
An FBI investigation has determined a “security researcher” was behind data breaches at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems and that researcher’s activities was not in violation of federal law. In what seems to be a “white hat” hack, a researcher at least twice breached the KSU system apparently in an attempt to demonstrate its vulnerability. A closely watched special election this month in Georgia will be conducted using unverifiable direct recording electronic equipment maintained and programmed at the KSU Election Center.
A federal magistrate judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to hand over for review the documents that he took to a meeting with President Trump outlining a strategic plan for the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., will determine whether the documents are relevant to two federal lawsuits seeking to overturn a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock reignited a debate over all mail ballot elections when he inserted language specifying that “the 2017 special election to fill the vacancy in the office of the United States representative for Montana may be conducted by mail,” into an unrelated election bill that had reached his desk. Republican legislators, fearing that an all mail ballot election would result in higher turnout therefore diminish their party’s chances, had defeated similar legislation in the state Senate last week. Montana State law allows the governor to issue such “amendatory vetoes” to bills he generally supports but will only sign with his suggested changes. The amendments must be approved by both legislative chambers for the bill, including the originally passed language, to become law.
On a party-line vote the North Carolina House has approved a bill that would merge the state’s ethics and election boards and significantly diminish the power of the political party of the governor. Roy Cooper, the Democratic Governor has threatened to veto the bill, which has been fast-tracked in Senate. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, so the Governor may pursue legal action to stop the bill as he did successfully with a similar proposal passed before his inauguration in January.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos will wait until after the Texas legislative session is over to order remedies to its voter identification law, but does not believe current legislative action will affect a pending lawsuit against the state. Gonzales Ramos had ordered temporary fixes to the law ahead last November’s presidential election and Republicans had introduced legislation this year that resembled the judge’s measures. They argue that the changes in the bill, which has passed in the Senate and is pending in the House, would have an impact on the judge’s ruling in the lawsuit but Gonzales Ramos disagreed. In the same ruling, the judge also allowed the Justice Department to withdraw from the case, a request made after President Donald Trump took office in January.
The ruling Liberal government in Canada has rejected calls for internet voting. A special parliamentary committee report issued last month expressed concern about the security of online voting and recommended against pursuing it until those concerns could be addressed. In a formal response to the committee’s report, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould said the government agrees with the committee. “While Canadians feel that online voting in federal elections would have a positive effect on voter turnout, their support is contingent on assurances that online voting would not result in increased security risks,” Gould wrote. “We agree.”
In a rare development, both the winning and losing parties in Ecuador’s presidential election are supporting a recount to verify the accuracy of he announced results. Country Alliance, the incumbent party, accepted the challenge of conservative challenger Guillermo Lasso, who has alleged fraud and vote rigging. Observers from the Organization of American States reported that they had “found no discrepancies between the observed records and the official data”. The recount is already underway.
As Indian politicians debate the accuracy and reliability of electronic voting machines, Russia has expressed interested in observing India’s technology with goal of using it in their presidential election in 2018. In return, Russia would assist India in developing a “state-of-the-art tabulation system” for counting of votes. Since by-elections earlier this year, allegations of voting machine tampering have been a significant issue in the Indian Parliament, with various opposition leaders disrupting proceedings to protest the issue.