The Voting News Weekly

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for November 6-12 2017

The Christian Science Monitor concluded a three part series on voting issues with a focus on security. The wide-ranging article covers the security breach in Georgia, risk-limiting audits in Colorado, and the aging fleet of voting equipment fielded in many states. The article acknowledges the consensus among computer security experts that the best defense against the potential of election hacking, as well as computer malfunction, is the use of voter marked paper ballots coupled with robust routine post election audits.

The hurdles faced by election officials in ensuring addressing election security in an age of cyberattacks is the subject of a Slate article by Josephine Wolff, She notes that while the decentralized nature of election administration in the US offers some security benefits it also means that individual states, counties, or districts are also often free to make bad decisions about what kind of voting technology to use.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has filed a lawsuit against the Republican-led presidential voter fraud commission, claiming that he and other members of the panel are being shut out of the process. Dunlap’s lawsuit only the latest in a series of legal actions challenging the commission, though it is the first brought by a member of the commission.

The Atlantic posted a profile of Verified Voting Board of Director’s Chair Barbara Simons. The article highlights the tenacity and passion that have driven her nearly two decades of dedication to the cause of verifiable elections. It also offers a glimpse of the disarming frankness and intellectual clarity that have made Barbara such an effective advocate for paper ballots, post-election audits and best practices in ensuring election security in the digital age.

Since explosive accusations of sexual misconduct emerged about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore emerged this week, Republican leaders have been exploring extraordinary measures to remove their own nominee from the race. One option was taken off the table when Governor Kay Ivey announced that she does not intend to change the date of the Dec. 12 election. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill noted that absentee and overseas voters have been casting ballots since Oct. 18, complicating the question of whether the date could be changed. Alabama election law requires candidates to withdraw at least 76 days before an election in order to be replaced on the ballot.

Concerns about hacking and voting system security have led to calls for New Jersey to replace their paperless DREs. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would require that new voting machines use paper ballots, though the details of when the requirement would come into effect are still under discussion.

Under a law passed in 2013, North Carolina counties using DREs are required to replace them with paper ballot systems in 2018 but a legal battle over proposed changes to the makeup of election boards in the state has created difficulties for many counties. With the state election board vacant, there is no one to certify new voting machines for use in the state.

Overturning a lower court ruing, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the Commonwealth Court to decide a gerrymandering lawsuit by the end of the year. The lawsuit, brought by the League of Women Voters, challenges the constitutionality of districts drawn after the last census and argues that new boundaries should be in place before the 2018 mid-term elections. Lawyers representing the state’s General Assembly and its Republican leadership had asked the court to delay any ruling until after the US Supreme Court decision on a similar gerrymandering case from Wisconsin.

Three separate petitions challenging Kenya’s recent Presidential election have been filed with the Supreme Court. The petitions target all sides in the presidential election controversy — the electoral commission, opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta. The recent election was itself a re-run of a previous election that had been annulled by the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post examined how the unusual structure of Catalonia’s electoral system could give an advantage to separatists in December elections called by the Spanish central government following Catalonia’s declaration of independence last month. Similar to the American electoral college, Catalonia’s system makes it possible for a party to gain a majority while losing the popular vote, due to an unequal apportionment of delegates to districts.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for October 30 – November 5 2017

Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a multifaceted election cybersecurity bill that includes a bug bounty program for systems manufacturers and a grant program for states to upgrade technology. The Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act would designate elections systems as part of the US national critical infrastructure, task the Comptroller General of the United States with checking the integrity of voting machines, and sponsor a “Hack the election” competition to find flaws in voting machines.

Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared on Capitol Hill to publicly acknowledge their role in Russia’s influence on the presidential campaign, but offered little more than promises to do better. Senators from both parties took tech company officials to task in a hearing Wednesday for failing to better identify, defuse and investigate Russia’s campaign to manipulate American voters over social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède considered the impact of cyber interference on elections around the world.

Georgia’s attorney general announced that his office will not defend Secretary of State Brian Kemp against claims it knowingly used antiquated voting technology in recent elections despite knowing it was vulnerable to being hacked. In a move criticized by some Democrats, the law firm of former Gov. Roy Barnes’ as been engaged represent the state in a lawsuit that a national election transparency advocacy group filed to force the state to overhaul its election system. The Charlotte-based Coalition for Good Governance, led by Executive Director Marilyn Marks, has said that reported security lapses show the state’s system is “vulnerable and unreliable” and should not have been used for the 6th Congressional District runoff race in June — nor should it be used in next week’s election.

Common Cause is suing Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, accusing her office of allowing voters to be illegally purged from the state’s voting roles. The lawsuit sees to end to what it calls “discriminatory and illegal” practices the Republican secretary of state’s office adopted in the wake of a new state law that went into effect last summer.

Crosscheck, a computer database system that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach frequently touts as a tool to prevent voter fraud is now the subject of a federal lawsuit and a new academic study that says it is wrong most of the time. The database compares voter lists between participating states in order to find people who are registered in multiple states and could try to vote twice. But the program has been found to generate thousands of false positives—flagging legitimately registered voters and threatening to remove them from the rolls. The false positives have also been used as proof of voter fraud. 

Maine’s Gov. LePage, an opponent of ranked-choice voting, announced that he will neither sign nor veto a bill delaying the state’s switch to a the new system until 2021. LePage’s decision to hold onto the bill for the full 10 days allowed under Maine’s Constitution could hamper supporters of ranked-choice voting from gathering signatures on Election Day for a “people’s veto” to implement the process without delay.

North Carolina Republican legislative leaders objected to a plan by federal judges to use Stanford professor Nathaniel Persilly to help them examine and possibly redraw General Assembly district lines, arguing that it’s premature to hire one and questioning the expert’s impartiality. The judges rejected a request by state lawmakers to give them another chance to draw the lines. “The State is not entitled to multiple opportunities to remedy its unconstitutional districts,” the judges said in their order.

Liberia’s Supreme Court will rule Monday on a petition asking to delay the runoff presidential election after a complaint said the National Election Commission failed to investigate claims of irregularities in the first round of the vote. All activity to prepare for Tuesday’s runoff has been halted until the court’s decision.

Catalonia’s ousted leader Carles Puigdemont agreed on Tuesday to a snap election called by Spain’s central government when it took control of the region to stop it breaking away, but he said the fight for independence would go on. After he refused to return to Spain from Belgium to appear before the national court on Friday, a Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant. The Spanish attorney general is seeking to prosecute Mr. Puigdemont and 19 other politicians for rebellion and on other charges for declaring Catalonia’s independence from Spain last month.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for October 23-29 2017

The Associated Press reported that a computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The erasure took place on July 7, just three days after the filing of a lawsuit questioning the security and accuracy of Georgia’s election infrastructure. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the chief state election official in the state has denied ordering the erasure and blamed “the undeniable ineptitude” at the Kennesaw State elections center. For their part, a spokesman for Kennesaw attributed the server wiping to “standard operating procedure.” SavannahNow called the erasure an “outrageous security lapse” and Slate questioned whether the move was evidence of “incompetence or a cover-up.”

The impact on the ongoing lawsuit is unclear nor is it clear why Georgia officials decided to wipe the server, but, as Gizmodo noted, choosing to do so in the midst of a lawsuit doesn’t look great. Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, which is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told the AP, “I don’t think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious.”

State election officials from Rhode Island and Virginia urged members of Congress to send more resources to states to bolster the security of their election IT infrastructure. Both states have recently scrapped old, outdated voting technology in favor of more secure systems to ensure voter confidence in election results. Virginia recently decertified all direct recording electronic voting machines and Rhode Island, aready using a statewide paper ballot voting system, will conduct post election risk-limiting audits.

According to a deposition unsealed tis week, Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the President’s fraud commission says he wants to change U.S. election law so states have an incentive to require proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote. ACLU lawyer Orion Danjuma was quoted by AP saying “[t]o me, they really confirmed what we always suspected: that there is this ready-made plan to gut the core voting rights protections of federal law and Kobach has been lobbying Trump and his top team from day one to execute that scheme.”

The Maine Senate voted 19-10 to delay a citizen-backed law that called on the first state to adopt a ranked-choice voting system until December 2021. If a constitutional amendment hasn’t been passed by then to address legal concerns raised by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court about the law by then, it would be repealed.

In a direct response to the Green Party recount effort last year, the Michigan House Elections and Ethics Committee approved a bill that would require “aggrieved candidates” to show that they could have won the election if not for fraud or error.

In an optimistic headline, WHYY announced that New Jersey would be replacing their aging voting machines and indeed this may eventually be one of the results of hearings held this week on voting system security. New Jersey is one of just five states that exclusively uses paperless machines that record votes directly into computer memory without an independently verifiable paper trail.

After tackling partisan gerrymandering in October, the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the controversial issue of voter purges in a November case that could have major implications for the 2018 mid-term elections. Scheduled for oral argument on Nov. 8, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute will determine whether failure to cast a ballot in recent elections, or “voter inactivity,” can lawfully trigger efforts to remove a person from the voter registration rolls.

The Czech Statistics Office says the web sites it used to publish results from a parliamentary election were hacked. The office made the announcement after two sites the office maintains with an outside provider were unavailable for some period of time. Needless to say spokesmen for the agency assured the public that “the attack did not in any way affect either the infrastructure used for the transmission of election results or the independent data processing.”

Kenyan opposition supporters clashed with police and threw up burning barricades on Thursday to challenge the legitimacy of an election rerun likely to return Uhuru Kenyatta as president of East Africa’s chief economic and political powerhouse. A boycott by supporters of opposition candidates led to low turnout that many are concerned will undermine the credibility of the election.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for October 16-22 2017

At a Congressional hearing, local election officials responsible for election-data rolls called for swift, bipartisan action on legislation offering new requirements and funding for states to upgrade and secure the nation’s election system from foreign and other malicious hacks. Susan Greenhalgh, an election specialist with the non-profit group Verified Voting, said the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security are meeting with the Election Assistance Commission to promote use of the NIST cybersecurity framework by state officials. 

The untimely death of former Arkansas state Rep. David Dunn, a member of President Trump’s voter fraud commission, was only one of the crises facing the fraud commission this week. Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap complained of a lack of communication from the commission and said it was “frustrating” to learn from reporters this past weekend that a man described as a researcher for the commission — Ronald Williams II — was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

A New York Times editorial called on Congress to assist state’s in securing the nation’s election infrastructure from cyber threats. The editorial notes that Colorado and Rhode Island are introducing risk-limiting post election audits, West Virginia has hired a computer security expert, and Delaware is planning to get rid of it’s Shouptronic direct recording electronic voting machines.

Te Verified Voting Foundation announced that it has named voting rights lawyer and former Pennsylvania election official Marian K. Schneider as its new president. A lawyer with expertise in voting rights and election law, Schneider has extensive experience with state government administration as well as in the nonprofit social justice sector. 

Georgia took a first step toward replacing their aging Diebold touchscreen voting machines with voters in some early voting centers casting paper ballots using ES&S DS200 optical scanners and Expressvote ballot marking devices. The pilot program comes as advocates have sued to force the state to dump its all-electronic system amid fears of hacking and security breaches. And it could pave the way for the first elections system reboot in Georgia since 2002.

A panel of lawmakers decided that same day voter registration and expanded voting by mail should be considered by next year’s Indiana General Assembly. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 other states don’t allow no-excuse absentee voting. A few states send ballots by mail to every citizen. The majority of studies on Election Day voter registration found that such policies increase turnout, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Arguments concluded in a North Carolina lawsuit that targets partisan gerrymandering in general and North Carolina’s current congressional map in particular. A similar case out of Wisconsin has already been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the court’s decision is pending. In Pennsylvania, advocates are trying to fast-forward court action on changing Pennsylvania’s congressional map before the 2018 elections.

After his fellow commissioner fled the country, citing threats to her life, Kenya’s top election official on Wednesday accused the nation’s political parties of undermining the country’s stability and warned that he was not confident that next week’s presidential election would be credible. Kenyans are scheduled to vote — again — for president on Oct. 26.

Venezuela’s opposition presented evidence Thursday of possible ballot tampering in gubernatorial elections, seeking to bolster its claim that its shock loss at the polls was the result of fraud. The Democratic Unity Roundtable’s claim rests on results from a single race, in industrial Bolivar state, where pro-government candidate Justo Noguera was declared the winner by just 1,471 votes over opposition candidate Andres Velasquez.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for October 9-15 2017

The voting news was dominated this week by the release of a report detailing the events at the Voting Machine Village at this year’s DEFCON hacking convention. Numerous articles considered the implications of the security vulnerabilities revealed in voting equipment that remains in use in American elections. The headline of a WhatWhereWhy article asks whether the American public in general are paying attention to voting technology more that at any time since the 2000 recount. An extensive article in WIRED, along with many others, reported on an event presented by the Atlantic Council where the report was made public and note that “hackers, researchers, diplomats, and national security experts are pushing to effect real change in Washington.”

Whether or not the US Congress can provide guidance and funding for effective change, many states are already making efforts to enhance the security of their voting systems by moving to paper ballot systems and post election audits. Earlier this year the Virginia Board of Elections prohibited the use of direct recording election voting machines and Rhode Island recently adopted a measure calling for risk-limiting post election audits. These are positive signs, but as a post on the Verified Voting Blog points out there is sill plenty of work to be done.

Virginia and New Jersey will each hold gubernatorial elections next month and while Virginia will now be using paper ballot systems statewide, New Jersey still be using some of the oldest voting equipment in the country. looked into the security of voting equipment in the state and reported that18 out of the state’s 21 counties use the Sequoia AC Advantage voting machine, one of the machines recently decertified in Virginia. The machine designed in the early 1990s, uses outdated technology that would be easy to hack. Princeton University computer scientist Andrew Appel noted that “[i]f you put a fraudulent program that adds up the votes a different way, you can install it in the voting machine by prying out the legitimate chip in there now and installing this fraudulent chip in the socket.”

A Tallahassee Democrat editorial calls on the a Florida Constitution Revision Commission to correct a “write-in” loophole that they contend denies registered Democrats a chance to vote in primary elections. 20 years ago a similar commission decided that when only Republicans or only Democrats run for an office, everybody should be allowed to vote in the primary in that race. But then the Division of Elections issued a legal opinion decreeing that write-in candidates are real contenders for a public office. That means if someone registers as a write-in candidate in a primary with only candidates from one party, their write-in status closes the primary and only voters from that party can vote in the primary. That invites bogus write-in candidates to file. Sometimes, a lobbyist or close friend of a candidate — even a family member — will offer as a write-in, just to keep non-party members from voting in the primary, effectively disenfranchising all other voters.

A panel of three federal judges heard arguments over North Carolina’s redrawn legislative district maps. The judges must decide whether to force another redrawing of the boundaries approved by Republicans over the summer or allow them to be used in the 2018 elections. In a written order the panel asked lawyers to offer by next week names of at least three possible special masters to avoid delays should the panel favor the voters.

In a 10-4 ruling, a federal appeals court Tuesday declined to have all 14 judges participate in the appeal over the Texas voter ID law — a decision that will keep the issue unresolved heading into the 2018 elections, one judge said. Civil rights groups, Democrats and minority voters who challenged the voter ID law as discriminatory had asked for the entire court to hear the appeal as a way to speed the case toward resolution.

Voters are heading to the polls today in Kyrgyzstan in a presidential election with observers predicting no outright winner and a close runoff between two pro-Russian candidates, one of whom is backed by the outgoing leader. One of Liberia’s largest political parties called for a halt to counting of election results alleging voting irregularities and fraud, as the country awaited the announcement of the first provisional results. Angry supporters gathered to protest at Liberty Party headquarters, claiming polls in the West African nation opened late and that ballot-tampering occurred in at least one location in the capital, Monrovia.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting New Weekly for October 2-8 2017

The Intercept posted an article examining reactions from state election officials to the Department of Homeland Security notification that Russian actors had targeted elections systems in 21 states in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Balancing the necessity to prepare for potential attacks in the future through a thorough examination of last years experience with a desire to reinforce confidence in the election process has proven difficult. Warning that most states lack the mechanisms to deal with large-scale changes to voter registration, Bruce Schneier, a cybersecurity specialist at Harvard’s Berkman Center advised that “[t]he time to create a plan is before the battle lines are drawn, before we know who the hack favored, before we know who won and who lost.”

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden called on six of the main voting machine manufacturers in the U.S. to provide details about their cybersecurity efforts. The request comes as details have emerged of Russia’s successful attempts to hack election systems in many states. In his letter, Wyden asked a series of questions about cybersecurity efforts, requesting answers from Dominion Voting, Systems Election Systems & Software, Five Cedars Group, Hart InterCivic, MicroVote and Unisyn Voting Solutions, as well as voting system test labs V&V and SLI Compliance.

According to documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge, Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of a voter fraud panel set up by President Trump, began soon after the election to draft legislative changes that would allow states to require voters to prove their citizenship when registering. In one memo Kobach recommended eliminating a provision of the NVRA that doesn’t allow officials at motor vehicles agencies to ask for any information on a voter registration application beyond what is required on a driver’s license application and suggested adding a provision in the law clarifying that it didn’t prevent states from asking about a proof of citizenship requirement.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging Wisconsin redistricting that could determine the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering – the process of redrawing electoral districts in order to favor one party over another. In a Guardian editorial that examines the recent history  and impact of political gerrymandering, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold called on the court “to invalidate the practice of hyper-partisan gerrymandering, and force state legislatures to redraw the districts and maps that make voters irrelevant and our elections a rubber stamp.”

Members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission have taken initial steps toward loosening restrictions on felon voting rights. The Atlantic examined the history of the provision in Florida’s constitution that prohibits voting by convicted felons. While the effect of the provision has been to disproportionately affect blacks and other minority citizens, the provision punishes people of all races who have served their debt to society, been released from prison, and asked to fully assume all the duties of citizenship, from paying taxes to participation in a draft.

A group led by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. has filed suit in Federal District Court in Georgia that accuses the state of flouting the Voting Rights Act, claiming that Georgia Republicans reshaped two state legislative districts to minimize the electoral influence of African-American voters. The complaint charges that race was the “predominant factor” in adjusting two districts — the 105th and 111th — in the Atlanta area where white lawmakers had faced spirited challenges from black Democrats.

Electionline Weekly featured an article on the disappointing demise of Travis County Texas’ plans to develop a voting system that would  improve the security of the county’s voting system and provide a verifiable paper trail.

Hacking attacks on the web platform used by Italy’s 5-Star Movement to select representatives and shape policy threaten to dent confidence in its methods before a parliamentary election it is well placed to win. Internet-based direct democracy, in which members vote online, is a hallmark of the anti-establishment group that first entered parliament in 2013.

After a vote on independence marred by scenes of police brutality, Catalonia has announced it’s intention to declare independence from Spain after on Monday. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said he favored mediation to find a way out of the crisis but that Spain’s central government had rejected this. The New Yorker featured an article describing tense political situation following the disputed poll last Sunday.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for September 25 – October 1 2017

In a public hearing of an election security task force, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that Russian probes and attempted hacks of state election systems in the last election are “a wake up call” for upcoming state and congressional elections in 2018. Johnson said that as his department initially uncovered the Russian probes he worried about the ramifications. “Last year, when we saw these voter registration databases being targeted, I was very worried it was the run-up to a huge catastrophic attack,” that would result in the deletion of voter registration information, he said. “We were very worried about that and we continue to worry about the ability of bad cyber actors to compromise voter registration data.” Johnson also suggested that Congress could institute “federal minimum standards” for cybersecurity election-related systems — though he encouraged lawmakers to tread lightly, given that states are responsible for administering elections and regard it as “their sovereign process.”

Twitter briefed staff members of the Senate and House intelligence committees for their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election amid disclosures that the social media network may have been used even more extensively than Facebook in the Russian influence campaign last year. In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using “bot” accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about emails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers.

In a CNN oped, President Obama’s ethics czar Norm Eisen suggests that election officials made a mistake in ending efforts to recount the contest in key states. “Those recounts offered the best opportunity to identify and resolve issues that are now coming to light. We should study our errors to avoid repeating them — and to make sure recounts in the future are better at detecting hacking and other threats.”

A lawsuit in federal court is challenging the Mississippi constitution’s lifetime disenfranchisement of citizens convicted of certain felonies. “Once you’ve paid your debt to society, I believe you should be allowed to participate again,” said plaintiff Kamal Karriem, a 58-year-old former Columbus city councilman who pleaded guilty to embezzlement in 2005 after being charged with stealing a city cellphone. “I don’t think it should be held against you for the rest of your life.”

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has appealed a lower court ruling that rejected the state’s policy of starting to purge the registration of voters who fail to vote over a two-year period. Organizations who challenged Ohio’s policy say targeting inactive voters for eventual registration cancellation amounts to “voter suppression” that violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Travis County Texas has rejected proposals to build Star-Vote, a custom-designed voting system that was supposed to improve security, turning it toward more traditional methods of finding a replacement for its current system. Officials made this decision after proposals to build STAR-Vote did not meet the requirements to create a complete system that fulfills all of the county’s needs. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir collaborated with experts to design of STAR-Vote — with the STAR standing for “Secure, Transparent, Auditable, Reliable.” It came in response to security concerns, but was supposed to also be quick, accurate and accessible for voters with disabilities. It would also create a paper trail, which could be used if a recount becomes necessary.

Election security watchdogs say they’re encouraged by Virginia’s recent decision to get rid of its paperless voting machines. Still, Susan Greenhalgh, election specialist for Verified Voting, says using paper ballots is only the first step, and that they need to be counted to detect tampering. “We need to use them to audit the election results. It’s like we can have a seatbelt in our car but unless we actually strap in, that seat belt doesn’t give us any safety,” she says.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said that Kurds had voted “yes” to independence in a referendum held in defiance of the government in Baghdad and which had angered their neighbors and their U.S. allies. Gohdar Jadir Ibrahim, Director of Awrosoft Company, the website developer responsible for the Kurdistan Referendum e-voting portal, confirmed there were hacking attempts to prevent people of the Kurdistan Region in the Diaspora from voting, but that they were unsuccessful in compromising the vote.

In another independence vote, tensions were high as voters defied the Spanish government to participate in today’s referendum on Catalonian independence. The pro-sovereignty administration of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says that as many as 5.3 million people are eligible to vote in the unilateral poll and has vowed to declare independence within 48 hours of a victory for the yes campaign.

Kenya’s main opposition coalition walked out of negotiations on how a rerun of last month’s annulled presidential election will be managed and threatened street protests, setting back preparations for the Oct. 26 ballot. The officials quit the talks because of plans by the ruling Jubilee Party to remove powers from the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting New Weekly for September 18-24 2017

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.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for September 11-17 2017

There was plenty of controversy surrounding the meeting of President Trump’s “election integrity” commission over an unfounded assertion by vice chairman Kris Kobach that the result of New Hampshire’s Senate election last year “likely” changed because of voter fraud. E,J. Donne examined Kobach’s claims in a Washington Post oped. But the real event was the panel of cybersecurity experts Andrew Appel, Ron Rivest and Harri Hursti. The trio presented a powerful case for voter marked paper ballots, risk-limiting post election audits and best practices in cyber hygiene.

Appel, a professor at Princeton University, said it would be easy to write a program that cheats on election results and deletes evidence of the hack as soon as the results are reported and all the experts observed that hackers likely would leave fingerprints only if they wanted to be spotted and hurt confidence in the U.S. electoral system. “To ignore the fact that the computers are completely hackable and to try to run elections, as some states do, where they entirely rely on the word of a computer program on who won is entirely irresponsible,” Mr. Appel said. A video of the entire hearing can be viewed here, with the cybersecurity panel beginning around 6:30.

A bipartisan amendment to the annual defense authorization measure aimed at enhancing election security is being offered by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Among the possible uses of grant funds to states authorized under the amendment would include paper ballot voting systems and post-election audits.

Lost amid the news of the Equifax breach, security researchers at the Kromtech Security Research Center found an unsecured database containing records on all 593,328 registered voter in the state of Alaska. The records were stored in a misconfigured CouchDB database, which was accessible to anyone with a web browser — no password needed — until Monday when the data was secured and subsequently pulled offline.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced that he had ordered the removal of Kaspersky antivirus software that was being used in three counties after hearing concerns over the company’s possible ties to the Russian government. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on intelligence agencies efforts to determine whether Kaspersky’s software could contain back doors that would allow access to computers. This week acting secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke ordered federal agencies to develop plans to remove Kaspersky software from government systems in the next 90 days.

A New Hampshire judge has allowed the state to use new voting registration forms and impose new tightened ID requirements as called for in a law passed earlier this year, but blocked the penalties called for in the law from taking effect. The ruling set the stage for a deep review that is expected to take many months to resolve. Legislators on both sides of the aisle praised the decision, which will allow more time to sort out controversial issues surrounding residency requirements.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill next week that would allow the state Board of Elections to perform post election risk limiting audits of paper ballots as a way to ensure voting machines have not been hacked. The bill that was moved out of committee and sent to the floor where it is expected to pass next week. Rhode Island Governor Raimondo is on the record as supporting the legislation. 

Inexplicably, though American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, over five million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress. Six former Illinois residents living in these territories filed suit over this allegedly arbitrary distinction between the territories, seeking the right to cast absentee ballots in their former state. The Trump Administration Justice Department opposes the lawsuit and is predictably arguing for even greater restrictions on voting rights in the territories.

The Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) has submitted an appeal to Estonia’s National Electoral Committee challenging the committee’s decision to allow e-voting in the local elections this October despite a detected security risk that could affect 750,000 ID cards. In a press release the party noted “that nobody can ensure that manipulation will not take place, especially now, when information about the security risk with substantial explanations has spread across the world.”

A pro-democracy start-up led by a former municipal representative and a former operative for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, has developed an app that significantly reduces the notorious bureaucracy involved in running for local office in Russia. The program called MunDep (for Municipal Deputy) is credited with contributing the unexpected strong showing of anti-Putin candidates in Moscow during elections last weekend.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for September 4-10 2017

In a welcome development, the Virginia State Board of Elections has decertifying all remain direct recording electronic voting systems in the state effective immediately. This leave 22 localities rushing to replace their equipment before November’s gubernatorial record. Virginia had already begun to phase DREs and had decertified the AVS WinVote in 2015.

According to an extensive Politico article, the U.S. needs hundreds of millions of dollars to protect future elections from hackers — but neither the states nor Congress is rushing to fill the gap. Instead, a nation still squabbling over the role Russian cyberattacks played in the 2016 presidential campaign is fractured about how to pay for the steps needed to prevent repeats in 2018 and 2020, according to interviews with dozens of state election officials, federal lawmakers, current and former Department of Homeland Security staffers and leading election security experts.

A study headed by Harvard Professor of Government and Technology in Residence Latanya Sweeney shows how online attackers may be able to purchase – for as little as a few thousand dollars – enough personal information to potentially alter voter registration information in as many as 35 states and the District of Columbia.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff wrote a Washington Post oped on election cybersecurity that advocated a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would limit access to election systems to qualified vendors, secure voter registration logs, help ensure proper audits of elections, create more-secure information sharing about threats, and establish proper standards for transparency.a federal judge has sent two lawsuits challenging the state’s controversial new Republican-backed law tightening voter registration requirements back to the state Superior Court, where the claims were initially filed.

Facebook is facing intense political fallout and thorny legal questions a day after confirming that Russian funds paid for advertising on the social media platform aimed at influencing voters during last year’s presidential election. The New York Times looked at some of the fake Americans created to influence the US election.

In what is likely the first step toward a statewide switch to a new voting system, Georgia will pilot the use of paper ballots this November in a local municipal election. The state last overhauled its system in 2002, at a cost of at least $54 million, when it committed to Diebold touch-screen direct-recording electronic voting machines, or DREs, that were still in use for the controversial 6th special election earlier this year.

A federal judge has sent two lawsuits challenging the New Hampshire’s controversial new Republican-backed law tightening voter registration requirements back to the state Superior Court, where the claims were initially filed.

A week after a federal court ruled the Texas needed to redraw their congressional maps before the 2018 midterms, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily blocked the ruling. The developments put Texas in a court-ordered holding pattern on voting laws and districts, forcing political candidates to wait before filing paperwork and launching campaigns and laving voters uncertain about where they can vote, who they’re voting for and what documents they’ll need, if any, to cast a ballot.

An international team of researchers has informed the Estonian authorities of a vulnerability potentially affecting digital use of Estonian ID cards issued since October 2014; all the cards issued to e-residents are also affected. The news caused some Estonian politicians to call for a postponement of upcoming local elections, due to take place on 16 October. In Estonia, approximately 35% of the voters use digital identity to vote online.

Hackers from the Chaos Computer Club have revealed that Germany’s election results are vulnerable due to poorly protected software using an older encryption method with a single secret key, rather than newer and more-secure “asymmetrical” combinations. Germans vote on paper ballots, which are hand counted at the polling place on election night but the results are aggregated electronically, including with a software called PC-Wahl that can be manipulated.