The Voting News Weekly

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for August 7-13 2017

Writing in the New York Review of Books Daily, Sue Halpern points out that the hacking of voting machines at this year’s Defcon convention should come as no surprise. “Since computerized voting was introduced more than two decades ago, it has been shown again and again to have significant vulnerabilities that put a central tenet of American democracy—free and fair elections—at risk.” Her extensive examination of the background of electronic voting in the US comes to the conclusion that we should be voting on paper ballots and performing rountine post-election audits to verify the accuracy of election results.

A group of advocates including representatives of Common Cause and the League of Women Voters has called on the Delaware Elections Director to expedite the process of replacing the state’s aging voting equipment. First deployed in 1996, Delaware’s 1,600 Danaher Shouptronic 1242 voting machines are among the oldest in the nation and have outlived their expected lifespan, creating a growing list of potential problems. The computer operating system used to create electronic ballots, for instance, is no longer supported by Microsoft, meaning security updates are no longer available. Delay in the report of a state task force created last year to study the issue could push replacement back from 2018 to 2020.

An investigation by the Indianapolis Star suggests that state and local Republican election officials have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas. Democrats are challenging the state’s early voting system in a lawsuit alleging the secretary of state and legislative supermajority have launched a concerted effort to suppress the Democratic vote, a debate that is also playing out on the national front.

Facing a deadline for re-drawing 28 legislative districts found to be unconstitutional last year, North Carolina Republican legislators adopted rules for drawing new district lines. Federal courts found that the current lines were drawn in a way to unfairly disenfranchise black voters. As the News & Observer notes “[w]hile racial gerrymandering is illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court has so far allowed political gerrymandering, and one of the new rules is that legislators may consider past election results when drawing the new lines.” The Republicans insist that they are not including race as a factors in the new redistricting effort. Democrats were incredulous. Quoted on WRAL Rep. Mickey Michaux asked “[d]o you understand that, by not using race, you’re defeating your own purpose? The districts were declared unconstitutional because of race. If you don’t use race to correct it, how are you going to show the court that they’re not still unconstitutional?”

The question of partisan gerrymandering is at the heart of a Supreme Court case to be heard this Fall that challenges the redistricting plan passed by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. A federal court struck down the plan last year, concluding that it violated the Constitution because it was the product of partisan gerrymandering – that is, the practice of purposely drawing district lines to favor one party and put another at a disadvantage. This week Texas joined 15 other states in supporting Wisconsin in a high-profile Supreme Court case that chllenges limits on state lawmakers in drawing political maps to advantage one party.

In a closely watched voting case in Ohio, the Justice Department has reversed its previous position to side with the state in allowing the purging of voters from the rolls for not answering election mail and not voting in recent elections. Justice attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involved the state’s removal of thousands of inactive voters from the Ohio voting rolls. In New Zealand as many as 60,000 voters may be scrubbed from the rolls ahead of next month’s general election for failing to respond to a similar mailing.

In a party-line vote, the Texas House approved a bill that would increase penalties for mail-in election crimes that included an amendment that would repeal a recently signed overhaul of rules for absentee balloting at nursing homes. A bill with rare bi-partisan support, the nursing home bill was an attempt to simultaneously remove opportunities to commit ballot fraud while expanding ballot access to nursing home residents. Supporters of the nursing home bill suspect that it was precisely the bi-partisan support that led to the effort to repeal.

Widespread protests have led to dozens of deaths after Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed that results from last weeks elections had been manipulated to allow victory for the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga claimed hackers broke into election commission computer systems and databases overnight to “create errors”. International election observers as well as delegations from the EU, the African Union and the US have urged politicians defeated in Kenya’s fiercely contested polls to concede gracefully without taking their struggle to the streets.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for July 31 – August 6 2017

There were numerous article reporting on the Voting Machine Village at last weekend’s Def Con hacking convention posted at WIRED, Tech Target, IEEE Spectrum and elsewhere. The event proved to be significant in many ways. As Hacking Village co-ordinator and security expert Harri Hursti noted “These people who hacked the e-poll book system, when they came in the door they didn’t even know such a machine exists. They had no prior knowledge, so they started completely from scratch.” Nevertheless they were able to hack all the voting machines, leading Jake Braun, one of the convention organizers to observe “Anyone who says they’re un-hackable is either a fool or a liar.”

The conference organizers did not restrict the electoral hacking demonstration to voting machines. As reported in Mother Jones, voter registration database was also attacked, and defended, which experts say is just as worrisome. Hursti commented “[i]f you look at all of the reports about foreign actors, malicious actors attacking US election infrastructure in the last election, they were not attacking the election machines, they were attacking the back-end network, the underlying infrastructure.”

While examining an ExpressPoll 5000 electronic pollbook that had been purchased on eBay, hackers discovered the personal records of 654,517 people who voted in Shelby Country, Tennessee. The information included not just name, address, and birthday, but also political party, whether they voted absentee, and whether they were asked to provide identification. Verified Voting President Barbara Simons noted that there’s no formal auditing process for how many of the machines are properly wiped, and thus no way to estimate how many machines have been sold that inadvertently contain voter records. The fact that one of e-pollbooks at DEF CON had personal records that were so easily available doesn’t inspire confidence, said Matt Blaze, a renowned security researcher who has authored several studies on voting machine security and who helped organize the village. “How many other of these machines that also have data left on them have been sold to who knows who? There’s no way of knowing,”

The New York Times observed that the DEF CON exploits demonstrated once again that the best defence against hackers is more hackers. However, legal restrictions often hamper government cybersecurity efforts. According to a 2015 analysis, more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the United States currently sit unfilled. As the Times noted “[p]artly, that’s because private sector jobs tend to pay more. But it’s also because the government can be an inhospitable place for a hacker. Talented hackers can be disqualified for government jobs by strict background checks, and dissuaded by hiring processes that favor candidates with more formal credentials.”

A US district court judge declined to temporarily bar President Trump’s voting commission from collecting voter data from states and the District, saying a federal appeals court likely will be deciding the legality of the request. Theongoing lawsuit was joined by three others this week. As with the lawsuits against Trump’s travel bans, the challengers are using Trump’s own words and tweets to fight his administration’s actions, saying the commission was created to back up a spurious theory in the first place — that voter fraud is a massive problem in the US. Menawhile, the commission’s co-chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost a bid to avoid testifying under oath about his plans to change U.S. election law.

Four days after a panel of three federal judges issued an order calling for new redistricting maps by Sept. 1, North Carolina Republicans began to release details of their schedule for drawing new boundaries to correct legislative districts the court found unconstitutional. The General Assembly is tentatively set to vote on new maps on Aug. 24 or 25.

The Texas-based voting systems manufacturer Hart Intercivic filed suit in district court seeking to block the Texas Secretary of State from certifying rival machine makers whose devices produce a paper receipt of votes cast. The court filings are not yet publicly available but Hart’s argument appears to hinge on the state’s requirement that counties wishing to offer multi-precinct vote centers rather than traditional precinct-specific polling place must use direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs). While the market for DREs has essentially disappeared over the past decade, Hart has developed a new DRE as part of its Verity Suite, apparently specifically for the Texas market (though there are reports of the DRE being offered to Pennsylvania counties as well. Unlike Hart’s widely used eSlate, the new DRE apparenly cannot be equipped with a voter verifiable paper audit trail printer.

The Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission will review the Department of Elections after a series of technical problems that have raised questions about the reliability of the software that powers the state’s voter registration database. VERIS, the registration database has been criticized by users and has presented technical difficulties for registrars.

To the surprise of no one, Rwanda’s controversial President Paul Kagame has won a landslide victory and secured a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power. The election came after a constitutional amendment, reportedly approved by 98% of voters, which ended a two-term limit for presidents and theoretically permits Kagame to remain in power until 2034. In subsequent presidential election, the National Election Commission announced that Kagame won almost 99% of votes cast.

The voting system manufacturer Smartmatic announced that turnout figures in Venezuela’s Constitutional Assembly election were manipulated up by least 1 million votes. The London-based company has provided voting equipment for Venezuela since 2004. In a London news conference, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said “We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated.”

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for July 24-30 2017

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.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for July 17-23 2017

Facing at least seven legal challenges, the President’s voter fraud commission held it’s first public meeting this week. The commission is widely recognized as a forum set up to validate the President’s unsubstantiated claims that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election. The most recent lawsuits comes from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, alleging among other things that with Trump’s creation of the commission by executive order in May, he “appointed a commission stacked with biased members to undertake an investigation into unfounded allegations of voter fraud.” The complaint also points to the “virulently racist rhetoric” of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a group associated with two of the commission’s members, Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams.

The New York Times Editorial Board warned that the commission’s efforts to disenfranchise citizens has been reinforced by the significantly more powerful Justice Department, which sent a letter to 44 states demanding extensive information on how they keep their voter rolls up-to-date. As the Times notes “[t]he letter doesn’t ask whether states are complying with the parts of the law that expand opportunities to register. Instead it focuses on the sections related to maintaining the lists. That’s a prelude to voter purging.”

A single member of the commission Judge Alan King of Jefferson County, Alabama, observed that he’d never seen a single instance of voter fraud in all his years as an election official and instead emphasized the issue of outdated voting technology. As quoted in WIRED, King remarked “[t]hese voting machines are outdated. There’s no money there. Counties don’t have money. States don’t have money. We need money,” King said. “We can discuss a lot of things about voting, but … unless the technology is keeping up with voting, then we’re not using our time very wisely in my opinion.” In a USA Today editorial Jason Smith highlighted the vulnerability of the America’s aging and outdated voting equipment and insecure election infrastructure.

The state of Colorado announced that election security firm Free & Fair will design auditing software to help ensure that electronic vote tallies are accurate. The software will allow state and local election officials to conduct “risk-limiting audits,” a method that checks election outcomes by comparing a random sample of paper ballots to the accompanying digital versions.

In the waning days of the legislative session, a Maine lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow ranked-choice voting for party primaries only. Over 51% of voters last November approved a ballot initiative calling for ranked choice voting in all elections. Earlier this year the state Supreme Court ruled that the initiative was unconstitutional but an effort to repeal the law in its entirety failed last month.

The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to take up a case filed by Governor Roy Cooper, challenging a law adopted by the General Assembly this spring calling for the merger of the state Board of Elections and the state Ethics Commission. The court froze any further action on the merger pending the outcome of the Governor’s lawsuit, leaving the state’s election process in an ambiguous state ahead of municipal elections this Fall.

In a post-election report, the South Carolina Election Commission disclosed that on election day 2016, its firewalls blocked nearly 150,000 attempts to access the state’s voter registration database. According to the report it is likely that most of the hacking attempts came from automated computer bots.

In a striking contrast to the previous Administration’s actions, the current Justice Department filed a brief that argues Texas should be allowed to fix its voter ID rules without federal intervention or oversight. The filing also argues that the courts should simply trust Texas to educate voters on the voter ID law, despite widespread criticism of Texas’ voter education efforts ahead of the 2016 election.

The Moldovan parliament’s electoral overhaul, including a move to a first-past-the-post system has been met with strong opposition. Opponents say the new system would disadvantage smaller parties and benefit the two main political players.

The leader of Papua New Guinea’s National Party has accused the electoral commissioner of election fraud. They accuse the Electoral Commission of creating nearly 300,000 ‘ghost voters‘ in electorates controlled by the ruling party, allowing for double voting and ballot fraud.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for July 10-16 2017

Despite widespread concern about the security of the election process in America, it is nevertheless difficult to reach a consensus on how to address those concerns. In a WIRED article, Lily Hay Newman explored the complex net of intrelated stakeholders – voting officials, cybersecurity experts, national security agencies – that collectively must secure the integrity of future elections. And those upcoming election are certainly under threat as described from different perspectives in editorials by Joseph O’Neill and Richard Hasen

The Administration’s controversial Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is facing three new lawsuits. In separate court actions Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the American Civil Liberties Union accuse the commission of violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets standards for openness and accountability by such committees. A third suit, by the advocacy group Public Citizen, argues that the commission is violating the federal Privacy Act by designating the Army to collect data on voters’ registrations and voting histories and other identifying data, including partial Social Security numbers and birthdates. A similar suit, filed a week ago by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the commission’s request violated the 2002 E-Government Act.

Free & Fair,  has announced that they have been chosen to build a risk-limiting audit (RLA) system for the State of Colorado. Set to be used beginning with the November 2017 general election, this will be the first time in the United States that risk-limiting audits will be conducted on a regular, statewide basis. RLAs promote evidence-based confidence in election outcomes by comparing a random sampling of paper ballots to their corresponding digital versions.

Georgia has decided to move all its elections work in-house after a series of security lapses forced it to step away from its longtime relationship with the beleaguered elections center at Kennesaw State University. The move follows a reports of cyberattacks that the Center failed to report in a timely manner. In a related and welcome development, Georgia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed on social media to work together on a voting system update.

Civil rights groups and minority lawmakers opened a redistricting trial arguing that the GOP-controlled Legislature illegally diluted the minority vote when it adopted temporary, court-ordered maps in 2013. Eight months ahead of the 2018 primaries, the trial is only the latest round in a long-running Texas saga over gerrymandering and race.

Wisconsin’s legislature is preparing to vote on a pair of bills that would enact stricter standards for election recounts. The impetus for this legislation was Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s successful recount petition after her distant finish in last year’s presidential election. The effect of the new provisions will make it even more difficult to get a recount.

Amid fears of vote rigging and violence, Kenyans will elect a president, a parliament and local politicians next month. A recent court decision to nullify the tender to print ballot papers, which had been awarded to a Dubai-based firm, has heightened tensions with the opposition claiming corruption and the preparation for the election cast in doubt.

International election observers have said problems with the electoral roll in Papua New Guinea that prevented thousands of people from voting are “widespread”. In its interim statement, the Commonwealth Observer Group called for an urgent review after the election to improve the accuracy of the roll.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for July 3-9 2017

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block a request controversial request for voter information made by a commission President Donald Trump says will root out voter fraud. EPIC said “that the Commission’s demand for detailed voter histories violated the Constitutional right to privacy,” and “by seeking to assemble an unnecessary and excessive federal database of sensitive voter data from state records systems, (the commission) violated the informational privacy rights of millions of Americans.”

In a Washington Post oped, former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff raised concern about security issues posed by the Trump commission request for voter data. Echoing the recommendation of computer security experts, a New York Times editorial calls for regular threat assessments of voter registration systems, the replacement paperless electronic voting machines, and routine post-election audits.

Several Georgia voters together with the Coalition for Good Governance have filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the results of last month’s 6th Congressional District special election and scrap the state’s voting system. The plaintiffs allege that state and local election officials ignored warnings for months that Georgia’s centralized election system — already known for potential security flaws and lacking a paper trail to verify results — had been compromised and left unprotected from intruders since at least last summer.

A Massachusetts lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of he state’s requirement that eligible voters register at least 20 days ahead of an election was heard in court this week. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the requirement is arbitrary and unconstitutional and disproportionately affects low-income people, elderly people, students, younger people and people of color. The lawsuit notes that15 states, including more than half of New England states, currently allow same-day registration for voters on Election Day.

North Carolina lawmakers say they might have to change 116 of the state’s 170 state legislative districts to correct the illegal racially gerrymandered districts used to elect General Assembly members for the past six years. The private attorneys representing the legislators who were sued over the 2011 district lines offered that detail in federal court documents this week as one reason for opposing special elections this year.

The Justice Department submitted a brief in support of the Texas’s voter ID legislation, which is currently facing a challenge in US District Court that claims the law discriminates on the grounds of race. Under former President Barack Obama, the Justice Department was a party in the lawsuit against the bill and filed key briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs. The department argued then that the law not only had a discriminatory effect, but that its passage after Texas state lawmakers scrutinized racial differences in access to identification also constituted a discriminatory intent.

The Indian Election Commission has decided to conduct post-election audits for all state and federal elections, in which voter verifiable paper audit records will be hand counts in 5% of polling stations in each assembly seat will be compared to electronically-generated totals. While welcoming the Election Commission’s decision, Aam Aadmi Party leader Saurabh Bhardwaj said that increasing the percentage to 25 would enhance public trust in electronic voting machines.

Counting is under way in Papua New Guinea’s sprawling elections but voting has been marred by claims of rigging, electoral roll flaws and ballot paper shortages. The last polling stations closed Saturday after two weeks of voting for the 111-seat parliament across the vast and remote country where previous elections have been tarnished by violence.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for June 26 – July 2 2017

Though they have raised concerns about election cybersecurity and drawn the criticism of state election officials with the decision to designate the nation’s voting systems as “critical infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security has steadfastly maintained that there has been no indication that “adversaries were planning cyber activity that would change the outcome of the coming US election.” Computer scientists have been critical of that decision. “They have performed computer forensics on no election equipment whatsoever,” said J. Alex Halderman, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week about the vulnerability of election systems. “That would be one of the most direct ways of establishing in the equipment whether it’s been penetrated by attackers. We have not taken every step we could.”

The DHS inspector general’s Digital Forensics and Analysis Unit was involved in reviewing computer data from the federal agency, and from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, in an investigation stemming from Kemps’ claim that the federal government tried to hack his state’s election systems last Fall. In a letter delivered this week, the agency’s inspector general John Roth dismissed allegations that DHS attempted to scan or infiltrate the Georgia computer networks,” and that “the evidence demonstrated normal and appropriate use of Georgia’s public website.”

Citing reports compiled by US intelligence agencies investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers believed to be Russian discussed how to steal Hillary Clinton’s emails from her private server and transfer them to Michael Flynn via an intermediary, named as Peter Smith, a veteran Republican operative. One of the people Smith appears to have tried to recruit, a former British government intelligence official named Matt Tait, related in a first person blog post that he was approached last summer by Smith to help verify hacked Hillary Clinton emails offered by a mysterious and most likely Russian source. According to Tait, Smith claimed to be working with Trump’s then foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn, and showed documentation suggesting he was also associated with close Trump aides including Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and the vice chairman of the newly-formed Election Integrity Commission wrote a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state. The backlash from state election officials and voting rights advocates alike was immediate and more than half the states, including many with Republican Secretaries of State, have refuse to comply with the request. In a statement released Friday, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman, a Republican, suggested that the commission “can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”

In a Slate oped, election law specialist Richard Hasen suggests that the commission’s “focus on noncitizen voting makes sense, and the endgame is about passing federal legislation to make it harder for people to register and vote. The noncitizen focus fits in with Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric as well as the rhetoric of Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who has been advising Trump on voter fraud issues.” The ultimate goal of the commission could be dismantling the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which has long been in Republican crosshairs.

Following two unsuccessful repeal efforts in the Maine legislature, a voter-approved measure calling for ranked choice voting in the state’s election will remain in force. Needing a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature, lawmakers are likely to wait until the second half of the current session, which starts in January 2018. As the first statewide election scheduled that would use ranked-choice voting would be the party primary races set for June 2018, it is still uncertain if the new voting procedure will ever be implemented.

Republican legislative efforts to redraw judicial districts in North Carolina will not advance this session. Democrats and some court officials had argued that the bill was too significant to be rushed through at the end of session. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian law firm has challenged Seattle’s “democracy voucher” program. In 2015 voters agreed to a new $3 million tax in exchange for four $25 vouchers that they could sign over to candidates to foster engagement in politics and to benefit lesser-known candidates.

According to Udo Schneider, a security expert for cyber security consultants Trend Micro, the cost of influencing a national election in Germany would be around $400,000. That’s the sum it takes to buy followers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, hire companies to write and disseminate fake news postings over a period of 12 months, and run sophisticated web sites to influence public opinion.

Voters in Mongolia will return to the polls next week for a presidential run-off election. Former martial arts star Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party, who won the most votes but failed to secure the majority required, will face ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, who came second. The third-place finisher,Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), has challenged the first round results and demanded a recount.

 

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for June 19-25 2017

On the heals of a Bloomberg News report alleging that the Russians had infiltrated voter registration systems in 39 states, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence heard testimony from cybersecurity experts and national security officials about past and ongoing threats of cyberattacks on the American voting system. Also this week, Time Magazine reported that the hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers.

One of the Senate Committee witness, University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman contributed an oped to the Washington Post describing the severity of the threats and advocating the replacement of direct recording electronic voting equipment with paper ballot systems and routine risk-limiting post election audits of all elections. Verified Voting echoed these concerns and recommendation in commentary submitted to the Senate Committee following the hearing.

A McClatchy article described how state and local election officials, concerned about impacting voter confidence,  habitually downplay the vulnerability of voting equipment and processes. Commenting on revelations last week that voter registration technology vendor VR Systems has been the victim of cyberattacks, Verified Voting’s Susan Greenhalgh commented “[i]f attackers wanted to impact an election through an attack on a vendor like VR Systems, they could manipulate or delete voter records impacting a voter’s ability to cast a regular ballot. Or, they could cause the E-Pollbooks (electronic databases of voters) to malfunction, hampering the check-in process and creating long lines.”

This week it was also revealed that a data marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee had left personal data gathered on more than 198 million Americans, i.e. 61% of the population, exposed on the internet for almost two weeks earlier this month. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery discovered more than a terabyte of data from Deep Root Analytics, a conservative data firm that identifies audiences for political ads, stored on a cloud server without the protection of a password and therefore accessible by anyone who found the URL.

Following the most expensive congressional election in American history, voters went to the polls in a special election run-off Tuesday in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District amid controversy over the state’s unauditable voting equipment. Even without considering reports of multiple cyberattacks on Kennesaw State University’s Election Center, where all of Georgia’s voting machines are programmed and the state’s voter data is maintained, the concern in Georgia is not necessarily associated with any specific hacking threat. Rather as noted by Verified Voting President Pamela Smith “You have an un-provable system. It might be right, it might not be right, and that absence of authoritative confirmation is the biggest problem. It’s corrosive.”

Responding the a ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that a voter-passed initiative requiring a statewide ranked choice voting system was constitutional, the state senate gave initial approval to a bill that would amend the Maine Constitution to resolve the issues with the initiative. If the constitutional amendment receives the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature it will be placed before the voters. Facing pressure for contradicting the will of the voters, legislators earlier in the week had tabled a bill that would have repealed the original ballot initiative.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an Ohio voting rights case on a technical challenge to the state’s right to reject a voter registration application on the basis of an error or omission unrelated to the voter’s qualifications. On the same day the court agreed to hear a case that found Wisconsin Republicans overreached in 2011 by drawing legislative districts that were so favorable to them that they violated the U.S. Constitution. In the same ruling, the justices issued a stay that blocked a lower court ruling that the state develop new maps by Nov. 1. The case is being watched nationally because it will likely resolve whether maps of lawmakers’ districts can be so one-sided that they violate the constitutional rights of voters. The question has eluded courts for decades.

In Texas, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos gave lawyers two weeks to file legal briefs in a case challenging the state’s vote ID requirement, with a final round of response briefs due July 17. Ramos also said she wants to receive arguments about whether Texas should be placed under pre-clearance — meaning the U.S. Justice Department would have to approve changes to voting laws or practices in the state to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

In spite of news of the exposure of voter data by Deep Root Analytics, Canadian Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould says it’s not the time to implement basic privacy and security rules for political parties’ collection of Canadians’ personal data. There are virtually no rules governing how Canada’s political parties collect, store and use information about individual voters gleaned from door-to-door outreach efforts, e-mail campaigns and Elections Canada data.

Voters in Papua New Guinea began a two voting period yesterday with election officials and government authorities calling for calm. Historically, tensions during polling, vote counting and the announcement of winners in PNG has erupted into widespread violence.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for June 12-18 2017

As new reports revealed that Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system was far more widespread than has been publicly disclosed, Pam Fessler at NPR asked the critical question: “If Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know?” Noting that the phishing campaign that has been described is just the kind of attack someone would launch if they wanted to manipulate votes, University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman explained that “before every election, the voting machines have to be programmed with the design of the ballots — what are the races, who are the candidates.” Access to the election management software that is used to program ballots would allow an attacker to infect it with malicious software that could “spread to the individual machines on the memory cards, and then change votes on Election Day.”

Adding to information a classified National Security Agency document leaked earlier this month, three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation detailed a wave of attacks in the summer and fall of 2016, hit voting systems in as many as 39 states. This week, Maryland’s State Board of Elections revealed that it had detected “suspicious activity” on the computer system it uses for online voter registration before last fall’s election and called in cybersecurity experts to evaluate it, The newest disclosures of potentially deep vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s patchwork of voting technologies comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that Moscow isn’t done meddling. “They’re coming after America,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election. “They will be back.”

Days before a closely-watched special election run-off in Georgia’s 6th District, a security researcher disclosed a gaping security hole at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems, where the state’s election technology is programmed. The security failure left the state’s 6.7 million voter records and other sensitive files exposed to hackers, and may have been left un-patched for seven months. Georgia still uses the un-auditable Diebold AccuVote touchscreen DREs statewide (yes, the same machines that researchers at Princeton hacked over a decade ago) – and of course there is no paper trail.

In a Washington Post oped, Patrick Marion Bradley described the personal stories of disenfranchisement resulting from restrictive voter id requirements. Such individual stories are all too easily lost in rhetoric and political calculations.

In the latest effort to combat partisan redistricting, voting-rights advocates filed suit in Pennsylvania state court to nullify the state’s congressional-district map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The decision to challenge the maps in state court means that if the plaintiffs prevail, the ruling would set no precedent for challenges in other states. Plaintiffs inMaryland, North Carolina and Wisconsin have current challenges to partisan redistricting pending in federal courts.

After an overwhelming vote in favor of statehood in a boycott-plagued referendum, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded that the U.S. government recognize his commonwealth as the 51st state. There is little chance that his demands will be acknowledged however given the current political environment in Congress.

The Texas Monthly reported on Travis County’s project to create STAR-Vote (Secure, Transparent, Auditable, and Reliable), an end-to-end encrypted electronic voting system. The Travis County Clerk’s office, the Texas elections office, Rice University professors Dan S. Wallach and Michael D. Byrne, and other academics came together to create the system, which encrypts votes cast and stores them in a database. It is the hope of Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County this new approach could reinvent electoral technology security.

Expatriate Canadians, who lose their voting rights after five years abroad, are questioning whether the Liberal government is deliberately allowing legislation aimed at restoring their voting rights to expire. Just before a scheduled hearing in February, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to a government request for an adjournment given the introduction of Bill C-33 in late November of 2016. However, as Gill Frank, one of two expats spearheading the constitutional battle, “Nothing has happened since.”

Responding to a series of cyberattacks on government internet systems, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is calling for a law that would allow Germany to “hack back” and wipe out attacking servers. Germany’s education ministry is backing a new cybersecurity school where politicians and IT officials are taught to spot and react to hacking. In April the armed forces set up a cyberdefense unit that will soon employ 12,000 soldiers and 1,500 civilians.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for June 5-11 2017

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.