The Voting News Weekly

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for May 14-20 2018

The Associated Press posted a widely published article raising concern that “an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will be casting their ballots on machines that do not produce a paper record of their votes.” While many election official defend the accuracy of direct recording electronic voting machines, there is a growing consensus that such machines should be replaced with machines that use voter marked paper ballots. The obstacle to replacing them is cost and the recent authorization of the remaining $380 million in HAVA funds, while welcome, is insufficient to upgrade to paper ballot systems nationwide.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida election supervisors have echoed complaints of election officials in many states that have not yet received any of the federal election security funding Congress sent states nearly two months ago. “We sure wish the money was available. It’s frustrating,” said supervisor Mark Earley in Tallahassee’s Leon County. “This is a big deal. There’s certainly room for improvement, especially in smaller counties.”

In a clear rebuke to Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters in the Republican Party and in the right-wing news media, Republican Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he saw “no reason to dispute” the intelligence assessment that the Russian government tried to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton by meddling in the 2016 election.

Experts and political leaders expressed concerns over the administration’s decision to eliminate the White House’s top cyber policy role, a key position created during the Obama presidency to harmonize the government’s overall approach to cybersecurity policy and digital warfare. “It’s frankly mindboggling that the Trump Administration has eliminated the top White House official responsible for a whole-of-government cyber strategy, at a time when the cyber threat to our nation is greater than ever,” says senator Mark Warner (D – Virginia), the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement.

The primary day cyberattack on the Knox County Tennessee election website has underscored the vulnerability of county level IT infrastructure. “Any web server by definition, is connected to the internet, so it’s directly vulnerable to attacks from the internet,” said Doug Jones, an elections cyber security expert at the University of Iowa. Elections websites can be especially vulnerable targets in voting districts that are more rural than Knox County, Jones says, because those counties often don’t have the resources to adequately monitor and secure their sites.

After a federal judge demanded that Texas officials detail how they will begin complying with the National Voter Registration Act, a decades-old federal law that aims to make it easier for people to register to vote, the state has made little efforts to comply. In a new filing the state’s legal adversaries have described the state’s actions as “bad faith foot-dragging.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R) announced that the state would pay the postage for all ballots in the 2018 general and primary elections. Officials said they hope that paying the postage will eliminate a barrier and make it easier for people to vote. Washington, Oregon and Colorado are the only three states that conduct all their elections by mail, but Washington will be the first state to pay for postage among them.

An international commission has formed to try to end meddling in elections in Western democratic nations by Russia and other autocratic countries. The Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity (TCEI), will be co-chaired by former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and will include former Vice President Joe Biden.

Burundians voted in a referendum that could keep the president in power until 2034 and threatens to prolong a political crisis that has seen more than 1,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries.

In the face of international condemnation and allegations of vote buying and electoral fraud, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has claimed a second six-year term after an election in which credible opponents had forced off the ballot.Henri Falcón, Maduro’s nearest rival, claimed widespread vote buying and electoral irregularities meant the election was “illegitimate”. “We do not recogonize this electoral process as valid,” he told reporters. “As far as we are concerned there has been no election. There must be new elections in Venezuela.”

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for May 7-13 2018

A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Russia was preparing to undermine confidence in the United States’ voting process when its hackers surveilled around 20 state election systems in the run-up to the 2016 elections. The report drew attention the lack of oversight of the cybersecurity practices of election technology vendors. As CyberScoop observes “[g]overnment agencies are not allowed to enter and defend private computer networks unless they’re given direct consent, which in turn limits the defensive support options immediately available to the election technology industry.”

NPR posted an extensive investigation into the continuing vulnerability of America’s elections infrastructure. At a meeting of election directors and secretaries of state at Harvard this Spring, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier laid out the problem, “[c]omputers are basically insecure. Voting systems are not magical in any way. They are computers. … This is the problem we always have in computer security — basically nobody has ever built a secure computer. … I want to build a robust system that is secure despite the fact that computers have vulnerabilities, rather than pretend that they don’t because no one has found them yet. And people will find them — whether it’s nation-states or teenagers on a weekend.”

 

The Department of Homeland Security has completed security reviews of election systems in only about half the states that have requested them so far. The government’s slow pace in conducting the reviews has raised concerns that the nation’s voting systems could be vulnerable to hacking.

In an oped in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Audrey Malagon argues that West Virginia’s plans to allow internet voting for military voters puts their votes at risk. “Blockchain technology addresses only part of the security process currently used by those administering U.S. elections. It’s like installing a high-tech lock and alarm system in your home, and then leaving a front door key and the alarm pass code under the doormat. The alarm system may work perfectly, but until the keys and pass codes are also secure, your home won’t be secure, either.”

According to documents obtained by the Anchorage Daily News through a public records request, a hacker gained unauthorized access in 2016 to the server that hosts Alaska’s public elections website. The incident drew the attention of federal law enforcement but had not been publicly revealed by Alaska election officials.

The Washington Post lauded Colorado’s effort to secure their voting system through risk limiting audits. “In Colorado, even if something happens, I don’t have to worry about it because there’s a process in place,” said Marian Schneider, president of the nonprofit organization Verified Voting. “It’s almost like a disaster recovery plan for elections — that if a disaster were to befall the vote count, we could recover from it.”

Following a similar (successful) legal effort in New York, an expedited lawsuit argues that Ohio counties violate federal law when they destroy ballot images shortly after election.“You may have the original ballot, but that’s not what the machine counted: it counted the picture,” John Brakey, director of AUDIT-USA, a nonpartisan advocacy group involved in the Ohio case, told WhoWhatWhy. “How can you destroy the evidence that you used to count the votes?”

Cyber-security experts hired by Knox County Tennessee to analyze the denial of service cyberattack on election night, found evidence of a “malicious intrusion” into the county’s elections website from a computer in Ukraine during a concerted cyberattack, which likely caused the site to crash just as it was reporting vote totals in this month’s primary. They noted “a suspiciously large number of foreign countries” accessed the site as votes were being reported on May 1.

Amid fears of overseas organizations taking advantage of loopholes in campaign funding laws to target voters before polling day, Google has banned all as relating to the Irish abortion referendum from its platform. The decision will mean an end to advertisements relating to the referendum appearing alongside Google results and on YouTube in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that it is impossible to incorporate an electronic voting system for the upcoming general elections in the country. The justices stressed that an experimental phase to test the system was necessary, to which the counsel for PTI suggested that the top court seek a written report from the concerned authorities.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 30 – May 6 2018

CSO posted an extensive investigation that asked the question “Online voting is impossible to secure. So why are some governments using it?” The article features University of Melbourne researcher and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Vanessa Teague.

AdAge reported that at CampaignTech East, a two-day conference in Washington, D.C., the consensus among technology professional was that “tech-enabled shenanigans—whether masterminded by Vladimir Putin and friends or other bad hombres—are only going to further infect the U.S. political system.”

In a Salon oped, Aaron Sankin asked why so many states continue to send sensitive voter data through Crosscheck, a system with serious cybersecurity vulnerabilities that has the potential of opening up millions of American citizens to identity theft.

By a 6-1 vote, the Arkansas’ Supreme Court put on hold a lower court decision that had blocked implementation of the state’s voter identification law and declared the measure unconstitutional.

The Coalition for Good Governance is asking a district court for a preliminary injunction to stop Secretary of State Brian Kemp from using Georgia’s current Diebold AccuVote TSX voting system in the November elections. The complaint asserted that there is an “incompatibility between the functioning of the current electronic voting system and the voters’ right to cast a secret ballot and have that vote accurately counted.”

A New York appeals court has ruled that scanned images of election ballots are subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Law. In making the ruling, the court analyzed the impact of the state’s optical scan voting system and determined that the images generated by the scanners contain no information that would reveal the voter’s identity.

In an oped in the Philadelphia Inquirer, David Hickton & Paul McNulty call on members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security “to make an honest assessment of Pennsylvania’s election security architecture, to diagnose and discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and to plan for a better, more secure future.”

Officials in Knox County Tennessee is dealing with the aftermath of a cyberattack, with the county’s mayor is calling for an investigation. As polls were closing for the colunty’s primary races for the mayoral election, the county’s website displaying the results crashed. The page was down for about an hour starting around 8 p.m. before officials were able to restore it.

Iraq plans to use a new electronic system in next month’s national elections that the election commission maintains will limit fraud and allow for the announcement of results within hours of polls closing. But officials in Kurdistan were quick to point out the new vulnerabilities posed by software based vote counting. “This technology can be used in the interest of one party or more. There is a possibility that some people would devote the votes from one party to another when they electronically send it to the main server in Baghdad because those who are on the server are not neutral or independent people. Thus, the result of the elections can be changed easily,” said the head of the Kurdistan Election Commission.

A trial of voter ID has seen people in England turned away from polling booths for the first time for not carrying the necessary documents, with other issues reported including abuse of voting staff and some confusion over what evidence needed to be shown.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 23-29

Department of Homeland Security official Jeanette Manfra defended the agency’s work to help secure voting systems before midterm elections. DHS has “adopted an aggressive posture” to help state officials secure their voting infrastructure and will do all it can ahead of Election Day, Questioning the DHS assessment that 21 states had been targeted by Russian hackers prior to the 2016 election, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pointed out that number reflects only the number of states that had sensors or tools in place to capture the scanning activity. Manfra largely agreed with that interpretation. DHS will use the $26 million in additional election-security funding provided by the March omnibus to increase vulnerability assessments and other services it offers states.

Despite these efforts and newly appropriated funds provided by Congress to states for election security, the US remains vulnerable to attack and election interference according to an editorial in The Washington Post. “[M]ost states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016.”

Signatories of an open letter to election officials in all 50 states include subject matter experts from think tanks and universities, former state election officials and former federal government officials. State and local election officials have been deliberating over how to make the best use of a $380 million election improvement fund that Congress included in an omnibus spending bill last month.

An Arkansas judge blocked a voter ID law that’s nearly identical to a measure the state’s highest court found unconstitutional about four years ago. State lawyers immediately appealed the decision citing the fact that early for primary election begins in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, a Texas voter ID law considered one of the strictest in the country will stay in effect for the 2018 elections after an appeals court upheld the law.

An 188 member panel was appointed by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to review options for the state’s voting system, including hand-marked paper ballots and electronic machines with a voter-verified paper trail.

Following a mandate from Governor Tom Wolf that all Pennsylvania counties upgrade their election equipment by the end of next year, a voting equipment demonstration at the state Farm Show complex this week offered election officials and the public to view new equipment from ClearBallot, Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software, Hart Intercivic, and Unisyn Voting Solutions. How counties will pay for the new equipment has not been resolved.

A federal lawsuit challenging the inability of residents of Guam and other U.S. territories to vote for president has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2016 when a federal judge ruled that former Illinois residents who live in the territories do not have the right to cast absentee ballots in Illinois. There is no fundamental right to vote in the territories, the judge stated, citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions called the “Insular Cases.” The Insular Cases state constitutional rights do not necessarily apply to places under U.S. control.

Dog sleds carried some ballots to polling stations for Greenland’s election on Tuesday, in which economic issues and independence from Denmark were among the most pressing issues for Greenland’s 54,000 residents in the election.

Campaigning for Malaysia’s May 9 general election began on Saturday, pitting Prime Minister Najib Razak against his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad in a contest marred by claims of sabotage and a skewed electoral system.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 16-22

Sue Halpern contributed a wide ranging essay to The New Yorker examining the vulnerability of America’s voting systems. Happern noted that “the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency that certifies the integrity of voting machines, and that will now be tasked with administering Congress’s three hundred and eighty million dollars, was itself hacked.” While acknowledging the recent appropriation of $380 million by Congress to assist states in stregthening voting system security she concludes that “[w]ithout a commitment from the federal government, the states, and counties to do whatever is necessary to establish and maintain secure elections, our greatest strength as a nation, the regular accounting of the vox populi, will remain susceptible to abuse, subversion, and other dark arts.”

Harvard Fellow and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Bruce Schneier raised similar concerns in an oped posted in The Guardian. Schneier observed that “[i]t shouldn’t be any surprise that voting equipment, including voting machines, voter registration databases, and vote tabulation systems, are that hackable. They’re computers – often ancient computers running operating systems no longer supported by the manufacturers – and they don’t have any magical security technology that the rest of the industry isn’t privy to. If anything, they’re less secure than the computers we generally use, because their manufacturers hide any flaws behind the proprietary nature of their equipment.”

State election officials c\gathered at an EAC public forum echoed the assessment that the Congressional funding, while welcome, was not sufficient to allow states to adequately address security vulnerabilities. Cook County Illinois election director Noah Praetz commented “[e]lections officials deploy a variety of network-connected digital services such as informational websites, poll books, voter registration systems and unofficial elections results displays that are all ripe targets for adversaries, if we fail to get experts into local offices to shore up our defenses, then we will regret it.”

The Democratic National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, alleging a widespread conspiracy to help swing the 2016 US presidential election. Saying the DNC was “protecting our democracy” DNC Chairman Tom Perez defended the decision to sue. “During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

At a Georgia Tech demonstration this week, University of Michigan computer scientist and Verified Voting Advisory Board member Alex Halderman demonstrated how to rig an election by infecting voting machines with malware that guaranteed a chosen candidate would always win. “Voting is not as safe as it needs to be,” said Halderman. “The safest technology is to have voters vote on a piece of paper … [a]ny technology can be hacked, but hand-marked paper ballots provide a way to recount and audit elections to ensure they delivered fair results.”

A federal judge ruled that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated a court order that required his office to inform certain people that they were eligible to cast a ballot while a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship worked its way through the courts. Kobach announced plans to appeal the ruling and the American Civil Liberties Union responded by submitting an ethics complaint against Kansas’ chief election officer.

Maine’s highest court ruled that a law that moves Maine’s primary elections to a ranked-choice voting system should stand for the pending primary elections in June. the court had taken up the case based on a complaint from the Maine Senate, which argued that the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, did not have the constitutional authority to spend money on a ranked-choice election without specific direction to do so from the Legislature.

The League of Women Voters led a group of voting advocacy organizations in filing a federal lawsuit against the state of Missouri for not following federal voter laws. The lawsuit accuses the state of not automatically updating voter registration after address changes and not providing required registration information to some voters. \

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to restore voting rights to about 35,000 New York felons on parole who previously were barred from casting a ballot until they completed their parole. Cuomo will issue an executive order to restore voting rights to those felons already on parole as well as those who enter the parole system each month, a spokesman said.

After IT experts objected to e-voting software prepared by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections, a committee was formed to conduct a technical audit of the proposed system. Taha Ali from the National University of Sciences and Technology expressing his concerns over the voting software, observed that “[i]t’s not difficult to hack an e-voting system. Even if it is not hacked, stealing data is not a big deal. Different countries, including the United States, Australia and Norway, tried such software only to withdrew them later.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called snap elections, bringing forward parliamentary and presidential elections to June 24, almost 17 months earlier than scheduled. Scrambling to prepare foir the surprise decision, the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 9-15 2018

Colorado and Texas carried out tests this week to see how election officials respond when cyberattacks hit. The program, running for the sixth time, involves three days of simulations. Seven states are taking part, according to Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary of Homeland Security.

The US Copyright Office held a hearing on expanding the exemptions to Section 1201 of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to allow “white hat” hacking of voting systems. Such exemptions allow hackers the ability to research the security of consumer devices, such as cell phones, tablets, smart appliances, connected cars and medical devices. At the hearing, security experts and voting system vendors voiced their disagreements about the value of expanding those exemptions to a broader array of technology, including voting machines, to allow researchers the ability to test for vulnerabilities and report them without fear of legal retribution.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced two days of grilling on Capitol Hill, facing sharp questions about the tech giant’s ability to track its users’ movements, shopping habits and browsing histories. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, reading questions from her constituents at a hearing of the House energy and commerce committee, asked Zuckerberg whether his data was “included in the data sold to the malicious third parties”. After a brief hesitation, the Facebook CEO replied: “Yes.”

At Medium, Kai Stinchcombe questioned the ultimate value of blockchain technology, including it’s purported potential use in internet voting systems. “Keep your voting records in a tamper-proof repository not owned by anyone” sounds right” , Stincombe observes, “yet is your Afghan villager going to download the blockchain from a broadcast node and decrypt the Merkle root from his Linux command line to independently verify that his vote has been counted?”

After legislative efforts to replace Georgia’s aging touchscreen voting machines stalled, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced the formation of a bipartisan commission of lawmakers, political party leaders, election officials and voters to recommend a new voting system for the state. The group will review options for the state’s voting system, including voter marked paper ballot systems and DREs with a voter-verified paper trail. A primarily paper-based system would cost $35 million or more, while a touchscreen-and-paper system could cost well over $100 million.

A series of legal challenges and disputes in the state legislature over the implementation of ranked choice voting have clouded preparations for Maine’s June 12 primaries. The primary will be the first statewide elections in the nation to use the system, which was approved by voters in a 2016 referendum. In a last minute legal effort by state senators to delay implementation, the state’s supreme court justices seemed skeptical about arguments against implementation.

The Ohio Senate voted 32-1 to provide $114.5 million for the replacement of voting machines across the state. Counties will choose from a list of certified voting equipment. They initially would get a payment of between $205,000 and $406,000 to help with start-up costs. The rest of the money would be given to counties on a per-voter basis. And $10 million would be set aside to pay counties that have bought new voting machines since 2014.

Pennsylvania’s Department of State has announced that all counties will be required to have a voting system that creates a paper trail for each individual ballot that is cast before the 2020 elections. The state will receive $14.2 million from the federal government in newly appropriated HAVA funds, and the Secretary of State is relying on the state legislature to provide further financial help to the counties.

It is the first election since joining NATO, Montenegrins voted in a presidential election Sunday that is expected to be won by former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. The election is a test for Djukanovic, who favors European integration over closer ties to its traditional ally, Moscow.

IT experts in Pakistan raised objections over an e-voting software prepared by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 2-8 2018

Verified Voting Technology Fellow Alex Halderman teamed up with the New York Times to demonstrate the vulnerability of direct recording electronic voting machines in a powerful video. McClatchy reflected on the decade-long process that left the nation with over a dozen states continuing to use these voting machines that have been repeatedly demonstrated to be vulnerable to hacking and software error.

17 States, 7 Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have filed a a lawsuit against the Census Bureau and Commerce Department to seeking to remove a new citizenship question from the 2020 census questionnaire. The lawsuit argues that adding the citizenship demand to the 2020 census questionnaire was arbitrary and will “fatally undermine the accuracy of the population count.”

Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s three Cabinet members are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that they must overhaul Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with a remedy by April 26. According to the Tampa Bay Times “the state’s appeal all but ensures that a new restoration system won’t be in place by the November election, when Scott, Putnam and Patronis are all expected to be on the ballot. An estimated 1.5 million Floridians have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions.”

The Portland Press-Herald reports that “[a] last-minute attempt by Maine lawmakers to resolve some of the issues surrounding ranked-choice voting failed Thursday, leaving it up to the courts to decide the fate of the first-in-the-nation system. A 17-17 vote on a joint order in the Maine Senate scuttled attempts by Democrats to resolve concerns that Republicans had raised about the ballot-box law adopted in a statewide referendum with 52 percent of the vote in 2016.”

For the eighth year running Nebraska’s unicameral legislature defeated a proposal to require phot identification at the polls. Stripped of the id requirement, the bill that passed included provisions for the use of electronic pollbooks.

A Federal judge has granted summary judgment to a group of voters who argued that the voter registration measures of Texas’ online driver’s license registration system are unconstitutional under “motor voter” provisions of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Texas Civil Rights Project filed suit in 2016 on behalf of four Texans who said they were denied the opportunity to cast a ballot because their voter registration had not been updated.

Statescoop posted a revealing article profiling the venture capitalist who is paying for West Virginia to offer a small group of voters the ability to cast their ballots over the internet, using software that runs on blockchain. University of South Carolina computer scientist warns that this project is yet another “instance of faith-based voting,” which transfers authority from government elections officials to software firms with proprietary code. Buell continued “[a] vote without a paper trail also makes it difficult to challenge potentially corrupted ballots, or for voters accused of corruption to defend themselves. And a successful hack could potentially influence thousands of ballots in an instant.”

South Korea’s government has officially distanced itself from a firm providing electronic voting machines to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where tensions are running high ahead of a presidential poll in December. A South Korea firm called Miru Systems Co Ltd is providing the machines for the December 23 poll, which also combines legislative and local elections.

Mexican news site Nacion321 has reported last month that between September 2017 and the beginning of March, 58 political figures, including mayors, deputies, and candidates, were killed. Now Bishop Salvador Rangel, who has a record of reaching out to drug kingpins in hopes of curbing violence, has negotiated a deal with gangs of Mexican drug traffickers, who have agreed to end their murder spree targeting political candidates ahead of the July 1 elections.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 26 – April 1 2018

Election officials and voting advocates alike welcome the appropriation of the remaining $380 million authorization from Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to help fund states’ efforts to enhance voting systems security. But, as WIRED wrote “[o]bservers note, though, that the HAVA money has crucial drawbacks and limitations. Both the spending bill and HAVA allow states to use the money for a broad range of election system-related projects, so there’s no guarantee it will go toward critical defense upgrades. And the way HAVA allocates money means not every state will wind up with enough to meet their need. “This is a great first step, but it’s not going to solve the problem,” said Verified Voting President Marian Schneider, “[j]ust the heightened awareness of what is the threat model and what are best practices for dealing with that threat model makes me hopeful and optimistic that those steps will be taken. But I would like to see the vulnerable systems replaced, and the clock is ticking. The farther we get into the year, the less likely it is. That’s just a reality.”

Verified Voting and Brennan Center released a report that consider the extent to which the new appropriations could help states to begin deploying paper ballots, post-election audits, and other essential cybersecurity improvements. The report concluded by urging Congress to  complete its work on the Secure Elections Act (SEA), a bipartisan bill that has been gaining momentum in the Senate. The SEA would establish cybersecurity guidelines, facilitate crucial information sharing, provide grants for states to fully replace DREs with paper ballots, and encourage states to implement robust statistical auditing.

In an editorial critical of administration efforts to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census questionaire, the New York Times explained that “[a]sking about citizenship would reduce responses from immigrant families, which are already less likely than others to answer government surveys and are terrified by President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and statements.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee ordered Florida Gov. Rick Scott to dismantle Florida’s “fatally flawed” system of arbitrarily restoring voting rights to felons and to replace it by April 26. The court order was part of an injunction issued by Walker in favor of the Fair Elections Legal Network, which successfully sued Florida over the state’s system for restoring voting rights to convicted felons.

Acknowledging resistance from many voting advocates and organizations, including Verified Voting, the Georgia Senate declined to approve a bill that would have begun the process for replacing the state’s Diebold touchscreen voting machines. Language added to the House version of the bill would have allowed the tabulation of software generated barcodes rather than voters’ marks on paper ballots. Meanwhile, a bill was introduced in the Missouri Senate that would phase out the use of direct recording electronic machines in the state.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has abandoned an appeal of a special elections lawsuit challenging his decision to delay calling special elections in Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District. The seats — one in the state Senate and one in the Assembly — have been vacant since December, when Walker appointed the Republican incumbents to his administration. State law requires the Governor to call special elections to fill legislative vacancies that occur before May in regular election years, but Walker planned to leave the seats vacant until the November general election.

With his main rivals in jail or forced from the contest, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi headed for a landslide victory with 92 percent of the vote. The margin was hardly a surprisie in a race where he eliminated all serious opposition months ago. The New Yorker notes that President Trump has embraced Sisi and making no mention of the human rights abuses under his regime. “Under Sisi, the government has arrested at least sixty thousand people, handed down hundreds of preliminary death sentences, and tried thousands of civilians in military courts, according to human-rights groups. Torture, including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape, has been systematically employed.”

After the lifting of an interim injunction that had stalled preparations for Sierra Leone’s presidential run-off-election, the country’s Supreme Court has approved the election commission’s request to delay until today. The vote had been set for Tuesday but was delayed after a ruling party member filed a court challenge alleging irregularities in the first round and a temporary injunction was issued, stalling preparations. It was lifted early this week and the election commission asked for a few more days to prepare.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 19-25 2018

Congress has included $380 million to address elections and cybersecurity in a massive omnibus funding bill passed this week. The funds had been originally authorized in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 but had not been appropriated until now. The bill priorities the replacement of aging voting machines, with equipment that provides a paper trail and the conducting of post-election audits.

Earlier in the week the Senate Intelligence Committee released preliminary recommendations on election security, the first of several documents the committee will release on Russia’s meddling in the country’s elections. As pointed out in a Washington Post oped “[t]he committee concluded, therefore, that “states should rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems,” recommending machines with “a voter-verified paper trail and no WiFi capability.” States replaced many voting machines after the 2000 election controversy, a generation of systems that is showing its age. States should also begin conducting routine post-election audits designed to detect fraud.”

Verified Voting joined other voting advocates in criticizing amendments made to Georgia Senate Bill 403, which would replace the state’s direct recording electronic voting machines. As re-written, the bill would allows the state to by new DREs, albeit with paper trail printers. “It’s really important that Georgia gets this right,” said Marian Schneider, the president of the Verified Voting Foundation, a Philadelphia-based organization whose mission is to safeguard elections. ”The voting system that Georgia chooses has to have a voter-marked paper ballot that’s retained by the system and is available for recount and audit.”

The New York Times commented on the significance of the Kris Kobach’s trial in Kansas. The ACLU has challenged a 2013 state law that requires prospective voters to prove their citizenship before they can register. For two weeks Kobach and others have struggled to support their assertions that thousands of fradulant votes have been cast in Kansas elections. As the Times notes Kobach “has won plenty of converts, even though he has failed to identify more than a tiny handful of possible cases of fraud. In his eight years as secretary of state, he has secured a total of nine convictions, only one of which was for illegal voting by a noncitizen; most were for double-voting by older Republican men.”

Following a directive from the Michigan Secretary of State, the state will hand-count ballots for all precincts selected in the post-election audit, during this year’s May election and November general election. But the reforms don’t fully reassure Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. He noted that under Michigan procedure, post-election audits occur after the results are already certified, rendering the practice moot when it comes to disputing a race outcome. “It severely limits the utility of an audit if you do it months after an election and creates more opportunity for pieces of paper to be lost or tampered with,” he said.

According to a release issued by the organization Equally American, the fact that U.S. citizens living U.S. territory being denied the right to vote for president of the United States is not just morally wrong, it is a violation of international law.  A case brought by former Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosselló before the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights argues that by denying U.S. citizens in the territories voting representation in the federal government, the United States is violating its international law obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other international agreements.

A judge ruled that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker must call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature. Walker had declined to call those elections after two GOP lawmakers stepped down to join his administration in December, choosing instead to leave the seats vacant until the next general election.

According to reports this week Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), have worked in more than 200 elections across the world, including Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic, India and Argentina. The right-leaning digital marketing firm targets voters with propaganda to influence their voting decisions.

The Washington Post reported on their investigation into election administration the Russiuan Presidential election. According to the Post, “[o]n the basis of data about poll workers that we collected and analyzed, a number of reasons exist to be doubtful that Russia’s election commissions were balanced and unbiased. We spent several months monitoring the composition of precinct commissions before the 2018 election. We used official data disclosed by the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation.

 

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 12-18 2018

Cyberscoop reported on the move many states and counties are making to paper ballot voting systems. Verified Voting president Marian Schneider is quoted emphasizing “the ability to recover,” from hacking malfunction. “When you talk about voting systems, the way you have the ability to recover is that you have a voter-marked paper ballot, and you have a human process that checks that paper ballot against the software-driven process.”  of the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage takes a valuable international perspective in dvocating the importance of pre-election planning nd non-partisanship in countering election interference.

Duncan Buell, Richard DeMillo and Candice Hoke posted an extensive op-ed in USA Today recommending  rapid conversion from “paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections.”

An Arkansas judge is weighing whether to block enforcement of a voter ID law that’s nearly identical to a measure struck down by the state’s highest court about four years ago. Judge Alice Gray didn’t say when she would rule on a request to block the law’s enforcement in Arkansas’ May 22 primary.

The Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill that would replace the state’s 16-year-old electronic voting machines with a system that provides a paper backup. While many of the bill’s supporters suggest that the legislation would require paper ballots, voting advocates are concern that language in the bill could allow equipment that counted barcodes rather than marks made by voters. Verified Voting president Marian Schneider said the legislation needs to be clarified to ensure that “human readable ballots” — not bar codes — are the official ballot. The current version of the bill could be interpreted as saying that the bar codes are official because they’re part of the paper ballot. “A bar code is insecure because it’s generated by software,” Schneider said. “A software-created process can be altered by software. Those software-generated items should not control in the case of a discrepancy.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced he will appoint members to a long-delayed new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, allowing the board, which has staff but no appointed board, to clear a backlog of work ahead of this year’s elections. Cooper will continue to fight the Republican-mandated changes to the board in court.

Conor Lamb’s razor-thin margin of victory in this week special election has provoked calls for a recount. But, as Buzzfeed points out there is no way to do a meaningful recount of the voting equipment used in the 18t Congressional District. In a Reuters article election experts agreed that the election highlighted the importance of replacing Pennsylvania’s aging voting machines with paper ballots voting systems ahead November’s midterm elections.

With opposition calls to for a boycott of Egypt’s presidential election, The Washington Post considered the impact and effectiveness of election boycotts. And in another election in which the is not in doubt, Russians go to the polls today to elect Vladimir Putin to another six year term.