On Friday, the 25-year-old Def Con conference’s first “hacker voting village” opened with an invitation to hackers break into voting machines and voter databases. Within 90 minutes, the first vulnerabilities began to be exposed, revealing an embarrassing low level of security. Co-organizer Matt Blaze told Forbes Magazine “[o]ne of the things we want to drive home is that these things are ultimately software-based systems and we know software-based systems have vulnerabilities, that just comes with the territory.” Blaze has previously highlighted serious weaknesses in machines. We want to make the problems public, so they can be fixed, so the public will know what the problems are and will be able to demand their systems be improved. Anything that helps informs the public qualifies as good faith here.”
The Los Angeles Times published an in-depth report on the state of voting system security across the country. The article obseves that more than 40 states use voting systems that date back to the modernization push following the 2000 presidential election debacle. The vulnerabilities of the dated equipment are chilling, according to J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security and Society at the University of Michigan. “As a technical matter, it is certainly possible votes could be changed and an election outcome in a close election could be flipped,” he said, explaining that even voting equipment disconnected from the Internet can be corrupted by compromised software that is ultimately distributed to elections officials online. “The technical ability is there and we wouldn’t be able to catch it. The state of technical defense is very primitive in our election system now.”
Commenting on the first public meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity Michael Halpern and Michael Latner noted “[t]he most remarkable thing about the first meeting is not who was there and what was said, but rather who was not there and what was not said.” The lacks election scientists who could most effectively evaluate data on elections and voter fraud: election scientists, and instead is packed with with attorneys like J. Christian Adams, Hans von Spakovsky, and Christy McCormick, all of whom have specialized in bringing unsupported allegations of voter fraud, and are outspoken advocates for more restrictive voter eligibility requirements.
The Campaign Legal Center sparred in federal court with lawyers for the State of Alabama over issues related to the state’s felony disenfranchisement law. The voting rights advocacy group seeks to force the state to take steps to educate thousands of convicted felons that they may be eligible to vote under a new state law.
U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson rejected Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request that she overturn a $1,000 fine levied on him by a U.S. magistrate judge. In upholding the original finding, Robinson became the second federal judge to deem Kobach at the very least misleading in his court appearances. Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, continued that “these examples… demonstrate a pattern, which gives further credence to Judge O’Hara’s conclusion that a sanctions award is necessary to deter defense counsel in this case from misleading the Court about the facts and record in the future.”
Two federal judges told lawyers for the North Carolina legislature that they are concerned that legislative leaders have taken few if any steps to draw new election maps since they were struck down last year. U.S District Judge Catherine Eagles asked, “You don’t seem serious. What’s our assurance that you are serious about remedying this?” The legislative leaders have argued that they need until November to draw new maps for use in the next regular election in the fall of 2018. Plaintiffs including voters and civil rights groups, however, say the maps must be redrawn immediately and that a special election should be held before the legislature convenes its next regular work session in May 2018.
In a response to voting irregularities in Dallas County, the Texas Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would increase penalties on mail-in ballot fraud. Several Democrats said they initially planned to back it, but they voted against the proposal due to a section that appeared to criminalize certain political discussions between family members “in the presence of” a mail-in ballot. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kelly Hancock confirmed the fraud definition would apply to voters filling out ballots at home, the same as it would for voters being influenced at the polls.
In a closely watched court challenge, lawyers defending Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting plan filed their opening brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs argue that the 2011 plan was designed to heavily favor Republican candidates in state legislative races, giving them a built-in advantage to retain a large majority of seats in Wisconsin’s legislative houses, despite statewide vote totals in presidential races that typically split nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
According to a report published Thursday, Russian spies tried to use fake Facebook accounts to spy on French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign. Three sources briefed on the effort, including a U.S. congressman, told Reuters that the intelligence officials created about two dozen accounts to monitor Macron’s campaign officials and others close to the centrist French politician. About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election.
At least five people were killed in the week leading up to today’s controversial vote in Venezuela to elect a 545-member constituent assembly with the power to rewrite the constitution and dissolve state institutions. Critics at home and abroad have warned the election will lead to the demise of the nation’s democracy.