More than ten months after the election, the Department of Homeland Security notified the 21 states that it says Russian government hackers tried to breach during the 2016 election. NPR reports that State election officials have complained for months that the lack of information from the federal government was hampering their efforts to secure future elections. “We heard that feedback,” says Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. “We recognize that it is important for senior state election officials to know what happens on their state systems.”
Following weeks of scrutiny surrounding Facebook’s potential role in influencing the 2016 election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network will provide Congress the contents of 3,000 advertisements purchased by Russians during the 2016 campaign. The acknowledgment of Facebook’s possible role in affecting the elections is a major shift from the CEO’s initial statements on the subject. Zuckerberg had previously said that the idea that “fake news” on Facebook had played a role in the election of Donald Trump was “a pretty crazy idea”. Facebook’s sales teams, however, have touted the company’s ability to “significantly shift voter intent” through ads.
The Federal government’s ability to protect against future cyberattacks on election infrastructure and processes was questioned by John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute. They endorsed a bipartisan amendment to the annual defense authorization sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would help states block cyber-attacks, secure voter registration logs and voter data, upgrade election auditing procedures, and create secure and useful information sharing about threats.
In a Guardian oped, Andrew Gumbel warns about efforts of the Trump Administration and the President’s Election Commission to justify new barriers to voting. He observes that “[t]o counter the mainstream studies dismissing many of Kobach’s assertions, his supporters have begun generating a research trail of their own. One rightwing thinktank called the Government Accountability Institute (cofounded by Steve Bannon with money from Robert and Rebekah Mercer) recently turned to data companies using questionable fuzzy matching to postulate the existence of more than 8,000 double voters in the 2016 election. (Only a handful of instances of actual double-voting have emerged, on a statistically insignificant scale.)”
Lawmakers in Georgia have begun discussing the move to replace the state’s fleet of Diebold touchscreen voting machines. The state will conduct a pilot program in the use of paper ballots this November for a municipal election but a move to a statewide paper ballot system is not expected before 2020. The bills are expected to be signed into law, as Governor Raimondo has already voiced support for vote auditing. Championed in Rhode Island by Verified Voting, Common Cause and the ACLU risk-limiting auditshave been piloted in several states, including California and Ohio, though currently only Colorado requires them.
While appeals court judges questioned whether there’s a legitimate legal question for them to decide if Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson is allowed to use audit tapes to test the accuracy of voting machines, the case could lead to an effort to change state law to make it easier for citizens to do accuracy tests on election equipment. Clarkson is asking the judges to order a recount of votes on ballot questions in the 2014 election, using the paper tapes generated by the county’s ES&S iVotronics as voters cast their ballots.
The Rhode Island General Assembly has approved a bill requiring the State Board of Elections to conduct post-election risk-limiting audits to ensure that equipment and procedures used to count votes are working properly. With the a Supreme Court case challenging Wisconsin redistricting to be argued next month, Robert Barnes examined how congressional districts are drawn in the state. As Barnes notes “extraordinary developments in Wisconsin have given the public an inside look at what usually is a top-secret process — and confirmation of the adage that in redistricting, legislators choose their constituents, not the other way around.”
The Supreme Court of Estonia rejected the appeal of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) of the National Electoral Committee’s Sept. 6 decision not to ban electronic voting at the local government council elections taking place next month. The court explained that while the National Electoral Committee has the right not to start electronic voting if the security or reliability of the electronic voting system cannot be ensured, it is not, however, required to cancel e-voting if it receives information indicating the possibility of adverse consequences.
As German voters head to the polls today, the Russian internet trolls who spread distorted and falsified information before earlier elections in the US, France and elsewhere have failed to have much effect and the websites of the campaigns and major news media outlets are operating like normal. The New York Times reported on the (thusfar) absent cyberattack on the German parliamentary election.