The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 16-22

Sue Halpern contributed a wide ranging essay to The New Yorker examining the vulnerability of America’s voting systems. Happern noted that “the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency that certifies the integrity of voting machines, and that will now be tasked with administering Congress’s three hundred and eighty million dollars, was itself hacked.” While acknowledging the recent appropriation of $380 million by Congress to assist states in stregthening voting system security she concludes that “[w]ithout a commitment from the federal government, the states, and counties to do whatever is necessary to establish and maintain secure elections, our greatest strength as a nation, the regular accounting of the vox populi, will remain susceptible to abuse, subversion, and other dark arts.”

Harvard Fellow and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Bruce Schneier raised similar concerns in an oped posted in The Guardian. Schneier observed that “[i]t shouldn’t be any surprise that voting equipment, including voting machines, voter registration databases, and vote tabulation systems, are that hackable. They’re computers – often ancient computers running operating systems no longer supported by the manufacturers – and they don’t have any magical security technology that the rest of the industry isn’t privy to. If anything, they’re less secure than the computers we generally use, because their manufacturers hide any flaws behind the proprietary nature of their equipment.”

State election officials c\gathered at an EAC public forum echoed the assessment that the Congressional funding, while welcome, was not sufficient to allow states to adequately address security vulnerabilities. Cook County Illinois election director Noah Praetz commented “[e]lections officials deploy a variety of network-connected digital services such as informational websites, poll books, voter registration systems and unofficial elections results displays that are all ripe targets for adversaries, if we fail to get experts into local offices to shore up our defenses, then we will regret it.”

The Democratic National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, alleging a widespread conspiracy to help swing the 2016 US presidential election. Saying the DNC was “protecting our democracy” DNC Chairman Tom Perez defended the decision to sue. “During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

At a Georgia Tech demonstration this week, University of Michigan computer scientist and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Alex Halderman demonstrated how to rig an election by infecting voting machines with malware that guaranteed a chosen candidate would always win. “Voting is not as safe as it needs to be,” said Halderman. “The safest technology is to have voters vote on a piece of paper … [a]ny technology can be hacked, but hand-marked paper ballots provide a way to recount and audit elections to ensure they delivered fair results.”

A federal judge ruled that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated a court order that required his office to inform certain people that they were eligible to cast a ballot while a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship worked its way through the courts. Kobach announced plans to appeal the ruling and the American Civil Liberties Union responded by submitting an ethics complaint against Kansas’ chief election officer.

Maine’s highest court ruled that a law that moves Maine’s primary elections to a ranked-choice voting system should stand for the pending primary elections in June. the court had taken up the case based on a complaint from the Maine Senate, which argued that the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, did not have the constitutional authority to spend money on a ranked-choice election without specific direction to do so from the Legislature.

The League of Women Voters led a group of voting advocacy organizations in filing a federal lawsuit against the state of Missouri for not following federal voter laws. The lawsuit accuses the state of not automatically updating voter registration after address changes and not providing required registration information to some voters. \

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to restore voting rights to about 35,000 New York felons on parole who previously were barred from casting a ballot until they completed their parole. Cuomo will issue an executive order to restore voting rights to those felons already on parole as well as those who enter the parole system each month, a spokesman said.

After IT experts objected to e-voting software prepared by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections, a committee was formed to conduct a technical audit of the proposed system. Taha Ali from the National University of Sciences and Technology expressing his concerns over the voting software, observed that “[i]t’s not difficult to hack an e-voting system. Even if it is not hacked, stealing data is not a big deal. Different countries, including the United States, Australia and Norway, tried such software only to withdrew them later.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called snap elections, bringing forward parliamentary and presidential elections to June 24, almost 17 months earlier than scheduled. Scrambling to prepare foir the surprise decision, the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks.

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