A classified NSA report, leaked to the security-focused website The Intercept, described how Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election. While the report does not describe actual impacts on vote results from the November 2016 election it confirms the concerns of security experts and computer scientists that the highly decentralized, ageing U.S. election system remains profoundly vulnerable. The operation described in the document could have given attackers “a foothold into the IT systems of elections offices around the country that they could use to infect machines and launch a vote-stealing attack,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer scientist. “We don’t have evidence that that happened,” he said, “but that’s a very real possibility.”
A few days after the leak, recently-fired FBI director James Comey, responding to a question about Russian cyberattacks on the American election system in his closely-watched Senate testimony, referenced “a massive effort to target government and non-governmental—near governmental—agencies like nonprofits.” Somewhat lost in the partisan political battle that has followed Comey’s testimony is the chilling impact of Russian efforts to undermine Western democracy. In his testimony, Comey described Russia as the “greatest threat of any country on earth,” and he warned Thursday that Russia is “coming after America,” regardless of party, “to undermine our credibility in the rest of the world.”
Cyber security guru (and Verified Voting Board of Advisors member) warned in a Washington Post oped that Congress must act to protect our voting infrastructure from attacks. Schneier argues that “[d]emocratic elections serve two purposes. The first is to elect the winner. But the second is to convince the loser. After the votes are all counted, everyone needs to trust that the election was fair and the results accurate. Attacks against our election system, even if they are ultimately ineffective, undermine that trust and — by extension — our democracy. Yes, fixing this will be expensive. Yes, it will require federal action in what’s historically been state-run systems. But as a country, we have no other option.”
A Fulton County Georgia judge heard eight hours of testimony and arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit calling for paper ballots in the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Rocky Mountain Foundation and members of Georgians for Verified Voting are demanding that Fulton County Georgia argue that the state’s touch screen-based voting system is “uncertified, unsafe and inaccurate” and that the county officials must instead use paper ballots in the election to have a verifiable transparent election.
Following a recent advisory opinion from Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court that found parts of a voter-supported law introducing ranked choice voting in Maine was not in line with the state’s constitution, state legislative committees were unable to reached a decision about two ranked-choice voting bills submitted in response to the court decision. One bill sought to send a constitutional amendment to voters and one proposed an outright repeal of the measure. The stalemate in committee means the full Legislature will have to decide which of as many as five different options it likes best.
The ACLU and the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit seeking to stop implementation of Missouri’s new photo ID voting law in advance of a July 11 St. Louis special election, claiming the law is an attempt to disenfranchise voters. Under questioning, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft could name only one case of voter fraud that the new requirement would have prevented.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that redistricting by North Carolina Republican lawmakers was intended to dilute the power of black voters. The justices also threw out a ruling by the same federal judges ordering special elections by November to fill the state legislature seats at issue in the dispute.
Voters in Puerto Rico go to the polls today on a fifth referendum on US statehood. If statehood wins, as expected, the island will enact what’s known as the Tennessee Plan, an avenue to accession by which U.S. territories send a congressional delegation to demand to be seated in Washington. All opposition parties in the country have vowed to boycott the Sunday poll, further threatening its credibility as few expect that a vote in favor of statehood would in fact lead to statehood.
Arguing that it is the next logical step for a statute found to be discriminatory, lawyers for minority voters and politicians asked a federal judge to void the Texas voter ID law. The lawyers also said they will ask U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to require Texas officials to get U.S. Justice Department approval for any future changes to election law or voting procedures to guard against additional attempts to discriminate against minority voters.
After Italy’s lower house of parliament failed to reach agreement on a proposed new electoral law, there were renewed calls for early elections. However, President Sergio Mattarella has stressed that a new electoral law is needed before a new election can be called as the current law risks creating competing majorities in the two chambers of parliament, making the country ungovernable.
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a major setback in a tumultuous election, losing her overall majority in Parliament and throwing her government into uncertainty less than two weeks before it is scheduled to begin negotiations over withdrawing from the European Union. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday urged officials to schedule an election to pick a new constituent assembly for July 30, but an emboldened opposition immediately called for a nationwide sit-in to protest against the move.