The Voting News Weekly

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weey for December 4-10 2017

The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee has suggested that the committee’s forthcoming report on Russian interference in the 2016 election will include little in the way of legislative proposals. Rather, the report will recommend best practices for state and local election officials.

An amicus brief signed by more than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials including former national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr. urged a federal court to halt the collection of voter information for a planned nationwide voter database. Filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the brief supports a lawsuit by Common Cause, a nonprofit government watchdog group, that seeks to halt the commission’s collection of a wide array of sensitive data about American voters.

A lawsuit was filed against Alabama’s Secretary of State and the state’s election director seeking to preserve electronic ballot images of paper ballots cast in next week’s high-profile special U.S. Senate election between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. “As a result of Defendants’ failure to comply with Alabama’s public records law, digital ballot images used for tabulating votes and possible post-election adjudication will be destroyed following the December 12, 2017, special election for United States Senate in Alabama,” the suit said. “The issue continues to be ripe through all elections scheduled in 2018.”

In a Congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to answer questions about whether the bureau retained data on a Georgia election server before it was wiped clean by state election officials. He also declined to state whether there was an ongoing investigation into the erasure. Joe Kiniry, CEO of Free and Fair, a company that tests election systems for cybersecurity vulnerabilities, said the combination of Georgia’s reliance on paperless voting, outsourcing of election operations to a third-party and “really bad security processes” by KSU created a perfect storm that inevitably led to lawsuits but also opportunity.

The Supreme Court has added a second case this term to determine whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.  Having already has heard a challenge from Wisconsin Democrats, who challenged a legislative redistricting drawn by the state’s Republican leaders, the court accepted a case in which Maryland Republicans challenge districts drawn by the state’s Democrats.

In a Pennsylvania lawsuit, a group of voters claim they have been harmed by partisan gerrymandering and are calling for a new map in time for the 2018 congressional midterm elections. The trial wrapped up in a Philadelphia courtroom on Thursday with a string of stirring closing arguments before a three-judge panel.

Texas officials hoped to persuade a federal appeals court that the latest version of the state’s voter ID law should be allowed to take effect. The hearing centers on a law re-worked in May by the Texas Legislature after years of court battles.

Verified Voting President Marian Schneider penned an oped in the Virginia-Pilot arguing for manual recounts of state legislative races in Virginia rather than simply re-scanning the ballots. “The only way for Virginia to mitigate the possibility of a risk of error in recounts is for the state to pass legislation calling for manual recounts. Retabulation is not enough to provide confidence in election outcomes. Not in this state election, and not at any point in the future.”

Verified Voting’s Board Chair Barbara Simons and Advisory Board member Mark Halvorson were interviewed about electronic voting, voter verified paper audit trais and post-election audits in India by the National Herald.

Liberia’s Supreme Court told the electoral commission to proceed with organizing the final round of presidential elections that was initially scheduled Nov. 7 but put on hold to probe allegations of fraud during the first round.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for November 27 – December 3 2017

The House Oversight Committee’s subcommittees on information technology and intergovernmental affairs heard testimony from voting experts and election officials about efforts underway to secure vote tabulation devices from potential hacking in the 2018 mid-term elections. While acknowledging efforts underway in many states, the witnesses called on Congress to appropriate funds to help states  buy upgrade voting technology. The witnesses provided a number of recommendations for how to secure election infrastructure in their testimony, including paper ballot voting systems, post election audits, federal certification for voting equipment and training for election officials, and the regulation of voting systems manufacturers.

Politico warned that it may already be too late to make necessary changes. “It’s high-time we got started, and it will be too late soon if there isn’t action,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer scientist and a leading expert on digitally securing elections. Halderman said it’s probably already too late for the midterms to make many hardware upgrades to voting equipment — such as replacing paperless, touch-screen machines with ones that produce a paper trail — and that there’s only a window of about six to nine months to make the switch in time for 2020, due to the winding procurement process involved.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap wrote an oped for the Washington Post explaining why he was suing the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Dunlap observes that what’s remarkable about my lawsuit seeking to obtain the commission’s working documents, correspondence and schedule is that he is a member of the commission.

ElectionlineWeekly published a report on Colorado’s recently-competed risk-limiting post election audit. EAC Chairman Matthew Masterson, who observed the audit, noted “Colorado’s risk-limiting audit provided great insights into how to conduct more efficient and effective post-election audits. The EAC is eager to share some of the lessons learned with election officials across America.”

Legislative hearings were held in Georgia to consider replacements for the state’s aging Diebold touchscreen voting machines. Lawmakers heard from representatives of three voting system manufacturers, who presented paper ballot systems and ballot marking devices. Verified Voting’s Susan Greenhalgh recommended that Georgia follow the lead of other states in opting for systems that use paper ballots marked by hand and rather than ballot marking devices for al voters.

At an Assembly hearing in Manahttan the New York Board of Elections officials said they would be seeking $27 million for the upcoming fiscal year — nearly $15.5 million more than the current year — to help enhance security as well as update the state voter registration and campaign finance systems.

Texas appears to have decided not to appeal an August federal appellate court ruling against the state’s restrictions on language interpreters in polling places. At issue in the case was an obscure provision of the Texas Election Code that required interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help.

A Wisconsin legislative panel heard arguments on a proposal to allow in person early voting in the state. Until now the state has allow voters to deliver absentee ballots to a county election office in advance of election day, but new legislation would give counties the option of providing optical scanners to scan paper ballots and store the votes electronically until they can be counted on election day.

Bolivia’s highest court ruled against the country’s presidential term limits allowing Evo Morales to run for fourth term. The court decision, which is final and cannot be appealed, spared protests from opposition supporters.

After a week of upheaval and uncertainty, German Chancellor Angela Merkel turned to her old coalition partners the Social Democrats raising the prospect of another “Grand Coalition” like the one that has led the country since 2013.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for November 20-26 2017

Last month, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to ___ voting systems manufacturers with a series of questions asking how their organizations were structured and what steps they have taken to ensure their machines are protected from cyber threats. FCW obtained the responses from five of the companies. All maintained that they had no evidence of security breaches, though overall Wyden indicated in a statement that he was not impressed with the company’s response. “These responses suggest the voting machine industry has severely underinvested in cybersecurity. It’s cause for alarm that [ES&S] refused to answer a single question about whether it is securing its systems,” Wyden said. “Given what happened during the 2016 election, voting technology companies must move aggressively to secure their products.”

Leaders of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security called on House appropriators to fund state efforts to secure voting infrastructure. In a letter, two members of the House Appropriations Committee, U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Robert Brady (D-PA) called for the $400 million that remains available under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 be used to secure state voting systems.

A U.S. District Court judge said a Justice Department attorney told the court Friday that the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity “will not meet in December.” The news fueled more questions about the panel’s future and its viability.

A New York Times report investigates the purging of voter rolls. They notes “[c]onservative groups and Republican election officials in some states say the poorly maintained rolls invite fraud and meddling by hackers, sap public confidence in elections and make election workers’ jobs harder. Voting rights advocates and most Democratic election officials, in turn, say that the benefits are mostly imaginary, and that the purges are intended to reduce the number of minority, poor and young voters, who are disproportionately Democrats.”

Colorado became the first state in the nation after this month’s election to complete a risk-limiting election audit. Matt Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who witnessed the audit. “Colorado’s risk-limiting audit provided great insights into how to conduct more efficient and effective post-election audits. (The commission) is eager to share some of the lessons learned with election officials across America.”

Following a successful trial of paper ballot voting systems in Georgia, ES&S is attempting to convince the state to spend additional funds needlessly by purchasing ballot marking devices for all voters, rather than allowing voters to mar their votes by hand. Susan Greenhalgh, the vice president of programs for Verified Voting said an election system lthat requires voters to mark ballots by hand before they’re scanned by a machine could cost Georgians as little as $30 million, saving tens of millions of dollars. “It would be unnecessarily costly for the state to spend all that money,” she said. “If you’re physically marking a ballot, there’s a pretty good chance it will be counted as the voter intended.”

More than 2,900 double votes were cast during municipal elections in York County due to a voting machine programming error. County officials said at first that the issue did not appear to affect the outcome of any races. But if vote tallies provided by the county are correct, the West York Borough Council contest might have been impacted.

A federal judge in Alexandria rejected Democrats’ emergency bid to halt the State Board of Elections from certifying the vote totals in House District 28, increasing pressure on state elections officials to act in the Fredericksburg-area contest. The elections board was scheduled to meet to certify the results on Wednesday morning, but the elections officials announced late Tuesday that they had postponed the meeting until next Monday.

After the FDP walked away from coalition talks with CDU/CSU and the Greens last weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the prospect of talks on a “grand coalition” with her Social Democrat (SPD) rivals and defended the record of the previous such government. The Guardian considered echoes of the troubled Weimar government of the 1920s in Germany’s current difficulties in coalition-buiding.

Kenya’s supreme court has upheld the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in last month’s controversial re-run of presidential elections, clearing the way for the 55-year-old leader to be sworn in for a second and final term next week. The country’s first attempted election was annulled by the supreme court over voting irregularities and a re-run was held earlier this month.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for November 13-19 2017

Buzzfeed took a look at improvements to the security of the nation’s voting system and found, while some efforts have been made, it is unclear that enough has been done to make sure a future hacking effort won’t succeed. “We’re not doing very well,” Alex Halderman, a renowned election security expert, told BuzzFeed News. “Most of the problems that existed in 2016 are as bad or worse now, and in fact unless there is some action at a national policy level, I don’t expect things will change very much before the 2018 election.”

One bright spot is Colorado’s decision to conduct post-election risk-limiting audits. Audits of the November 7th election are underway and are drawing attention from around the country. “It’s a huge deal in the election world,” said Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which is implementing the audit. Rhode Island will also be conducting risk-limiting audits next year. Reflecting on the importance of post election audits, Susan Greenhalgh, vice president of programs for Verified Voting, observed “[t]his is providing transparency in the election process, verifiability for the voters and increasing voter confidence that … their votes were counted correctly. Considering the new world that we live in, it is very important that we implement these types of programs.”

With Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore facing numerous accusations of child sexual abuse, national party leaders have explored various options to avoid the special election scheduled for December 12. Gov. Kay Ivey, who has proclaimed her steadfast support for Moore, has rejected various proposed schemes, including re-scheduling the election and forcing a new special election through the resignation of appointed interim Senator Luther Strange.

In a letter sent tis wee, the ACLU warned Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan that state agencies are systematically violating the National Voter Registration Act, burdening and impeding voter registration among minorities. The 15-page letter, a required precursor to a lawsuit under the NVRA, cites ACLU analysis of voter registration and public assistance data, policies, and practices, and interviews with public assistance employees and recipients.

Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily filed preliminary House and Senate redistricting plans, as the first step in a court-ordered  process to redraw some North Carolina legislative districts that were determined to be unconstitutional. Persily also requested formal responses from Republican legislative leaders who originally drew the boundaries and from voters who successfully sued over them.

A federal appeals court on Monday revived a lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that was filed by blind voters claiming the state’s paper absentee ballots illegally force them to rely on others to vote. Overruling a District Court decision, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a district court judge must consider factual claims contending that Ohio deprives them of their equal opportunity to vote privately and independently.

A federal judge denied a motion from Democrat Josh Cole on Friday that would have forced the county’s electoral board to count 55 late-arriving absentee ballots in a tightly contested House of Delegates race in the 28th District. Republican Bob Thomas leads in the race by 82 votes, and the contest is one of three around the state that could head to a recount and determine control of the House — Republicans are currently holding onto a 51-49 majority.

Kaspersky, the Russian cybersecurity company accused of helping the Kremlin spy on the U.S. intelligence agencies as part of its 2016 election meddling, has launched an internet voting system. Not surprisingly, the systems, called Polys, is not being marketed in the US.

A Swiss lawmaker with experience in computer science has proposed offering financial rewards to hackers who are successful in breaching the country’s internet voting system. Radical Party parliamentarian Marcel Dobler is calling on the government to subject online voting systems to stress tests, in a structured process open to public view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More than ten months after the election, the Department of Homeland Security notified the 21 states that it says Russian government hackers tried to breach during the 2016 election. NPR reports that State election officials have complained for months that the lack of information from the federal government was hampering their efforts to secure future elections. “We heard that feedback,” says Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. “We recognize that it is important for senior state election officials to know what happens on their state systems.”

Following weeks of scrutiny surrounding Facebook’s potential role in influencing the 2016 election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network will provide Congress the contents of 3,000 advertisements purchased by Russians during the 2016 campaign. The acknowledgment of Facebook’s possible role in affecting the elections is a major shift from the CEO’s initial statements on the subject. Zuckerberg had previously said that the idea that “fake news” on Facebook had played a role in the election of Donald Trump was “a pretty crazy idea”. Facebook’s sales teams, however, have touted the company’s ability to “significantly shift voter intent” through ads.

The Federal government’s ability to protect against future cyberattacks on election infrastructure and processes was questioned by John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute. They endorsed a bipartisan amendment to the annual defense authorization sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would help states block cyber-attacks, secure voter registration logs and voter data, upgrade election auditing procedures, and create secure and useful information sharing about threats.

In a Guardian oped, Andrew Gumbel warns about efforts of the Trump Administration and the President’s Election Commission to justify new barriers to voting. He observes that “[t]o counter the mainstream studies dismissing many of Kobach’s assertions, his supporters have begun generating a research trail of their own. One rightwing thinktank called the Government Accountability Institute (cofounded by Steve Bannon with money from Robert and Rebekah Mercer) recently turned to data companies using questionable fuzzy matching to postulate the existence of more than 8,000 double voters in the 2016 election. (Only a handful of instances of actual double-voting have emerged, on a statistically insignificant scale.)”

Lawmakers in Georgia have begun discussing the move to replace the state’s fleet of Diebold touchscreen voting machines. The state will conduct a pilot program in the use of paper ballots this November for a municipal election but a move to a statewide paper ballot system is not expected before 2020. The bills are expected to be signed into law, as Governor Raimondo has already voiced support for vote auditing. Championed in Rhode Island by Verified Voting, Common Cause and the ACLU risk-limiting auditshave been piloted in several states, including California and Ohio, though currently only Colorado requires them.

While appeals court judges questioned whether there’s a legitimate legal question for them to decide if Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson is allowed to use audit tapes to test the accuracy of voting machines, the case could lead to an effort to change state law to make it easier for citizens to do accuracy tests on election equipment. Clarkson is asking the judges to order a recount of votes on ballot questions in the 2014 election, using the paper tapes generated by the county’s ES&S iVotronics as voters cast their ballots.

The Rhode Island General Assembly has approved a bill requiring the State Board of Elections to conduct post-election risk-limiting audits to ensure that equipment and procedures used to count votes are working properly. With the a Supreme Court case challenging Wisconsin redistricting to be argued next month, Robert Barnes examined how congressional districts are drawn in the state. As Barnes notes “extraordinary developments in Wisconsin have given the public an inside look at what usually is a top-secret process — and confirmation of the adage that in redistricting, legislators choose their constituents, not the other way around.”

The Supreme Court of Estonia rejected the appeal of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) of the National Electoral Committee’s Sept. 6 decision not to ban electronic voting at the local government council elections taking place next month. The court explained that while the National Electoral Committee has the right not to start electronic voting if the security or reliability of the electronic voting system cannot be ensured, it is not, however, required to cancel e-voting if it receives information indicating the possibility of adverse consequences.

As German voters head to the polls today, the Russian internet trolls who spread distorted and falsified information before earlier elections in the US, France and elsewhere have failed to have much effect and the websites of the campaigns and major news media outlets are operating like normal. The New York Times reported on the (thusfar) absent cyberattack on the German parliamentary election.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for August 28 – September 3 2017

The New York Times published an extensive article focusing on problems on Election Day 2016 in Durham County North Carolina, a blue-leaning county in a swing state. The problems involved electronic poll books — tablets and laptops, loaded with check-in software, that have increasingly replaced the thick binders of paper used to verify voters’ identities and registration status. She knew that the company that provided Durham’s software, VR Systems, had been penetrated by Russian hackers months before. “It felt like tampering, or some kind of cyberattack,”Verified Voting Election Specialist Susan Greenhalgh said about the voting troubles in Durham.

In a Times companion story, researcher Nicole Perlroth describes how she and her colleagues Michael Wines, Matthew Rosenberg attempted to find out how government officials so quickly determined that, while attempts had been made to penetrate US elections systems, no actual vote totals were affected and all hacking attempts failed to influence the results. Typically a significant breach like those experienced in 2016 would be followed by deep and lengthy digital forensics analysis before any conclusions would be accepted but in this case, almost immediately, “government officials, the Clinton campaign, intelligence analysts, and civic and legal groups all appeared to calmly accept claims that votes had not been hacked.” However, as the researchers dug more deeply they discovered that “[t[he more places we looked, the worse things looked.”

In South Carolina, state officials assurance that despite millions of cyber attempts to gain access to the state voter registration system in the past year, none has succeeded has faced challenges from experts. University of South Carolina computer science professor and elections analyst Duncan Buell is not convinced by the highly-redacted report released by the state election commission. An earlier assessment revealed that every county regularly transfers election data without using secure communications channels, not encrypting information or reusing flash drives. “That’s the most damaging,” Buell said. “That’s the software that actually counts the votes at the end of the day.”

Taking Colorado’s plan for risk-limiting audits as a starting point, Madelyn Bacon at TechTarget made the case for universal routine post-election audits as essential to confidence in the accuracy of election results. She reviews some historical elections that have relied on recounts to confirm outcomes and emphasizes the importance of voter-marked paper ballots as a fundamental requirement for trustworthy elections.

Facing aging Diebold voting equipment and budget deficits, Alaska is weighing options for future elections in the State. In addition to considering various options for replacement equipment, election officials are also discussing the possibility of all mail ballot elections like those in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Georgia is also considering new voting equipment after security breaches led to lawsuits challenging the result of a closely-watched special election. Polling places in the state have exclusively used Diebold touchscreen DREs since 2002, but election officials are considering the ES&S ExpressVote/DS200 paper ballot system for the future.

The North Carolina General Assembly approved new House and Senate maps for review by the judges who struck down the current maps. With little incentive to diminish their hols on legislative power, the Republican-led effort has faced sustained criticism for voting advocates and Democrats. Rep. Deb Butler, a Democrat from Wilmington, said the new maps are so unfair to Democrats that it would be as if a baseball team had to start every game down 6-0 and forced to bat with their non-dominant hands. Meanwhile, responding to an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the US Supreme Court put a temporary hold on a unanimous lower court ruling that nine Texas legislative districts needed to be redrawn because lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in drawing them.

Opposition parties in Angola have rejected provisional results from an Aug. 23 election that gave the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola a majority of votes. The official results of the election, which International observers described the election as reasonably free and fair the ruling MPLA party won just over 61 percent of the votes cast. But the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) has accused the government of manipulating the vote, for example by depriving opposition groups of media access.

After a stunning decision that found that last month’s re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta was tainted by irregularities, the Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the election and ordered a new vote to be held within 60 days. The judges said: “[The election commission] failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.” They did not place blame on Kenyatta or his party.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for August 21-27 2017

An NBC News investigation revealed that election officials in the most heavily populated counties of three crucial swing states – Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan – still haven’t received formal training on how to detect and fight attacks. Election security experts stress the importance of training local election officials on how to avoid cybersecurity risks noting in particular “spearphishing” emails that appear to be legitimate, perhaps from Google or an internet service provider, but are meant to extract passwords and other private information from the victim. “Phishing attacks are a form of social engineering,” said University of Michigan election security expert J. Alex Halderman. “The one very important thing is to train people about what they are, how to recognize them, and how not to fall for them.”

A bill passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee contains key provisions designed to defend the electoral process from Russian meddling and other foreign interference. The bill, introduced by Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) states that within 90 days of the legislation’s passage, theDirector of National Intelligence must coordinate with other relevant officials and agencies to develop “a whole-of-government strategy for countering the threat of Russian cyberattacks and attempted cyberattacks against electoral systems and processes in the United States, including federal, state, and local election systems, voter registration databases, voting tabulation equipment, and equipment and processes for the secure transmission of election results.”

Computer security expert Matt Bishop responded to a New York Times op-ed by James Woolsey and Brian Fox that proposed using “open-source systems that can guard our votes against manipulation.” Bishop cautions out that in fact, “open-source systems are only one step towards guarding our votes against manipulation—and the hypothesis that using open source software will by itself improve security is questionable at best.”

As revelations mount about the vulnerability of the U.S. election system and Russian attempts to infiltrate it, lawsuits like the one seeking to overturn the special election run-off in Georgia’s 6th District may become more common. The bi-partisan plaintiffs contend that fact that the state’s voter database was exposed to potential hackers for at least eight months should invalidate the results. Cybersecurity researcher Logan Lamb, who discovered the security flaws on the Secretary of State’s website, said in an interview that he believes the website was also vulnerable to a well-known hack and the server was not secure.

According to data collected by the Election Assistance Commission, Kansas discarded at least three times as many provisional ballots as any similarly sized state did. Critics of Kansas’ election system argue its unusually high number of discarded ballots reflects policies shaped over several elections that have resulted in many legitimate voters being kept off voter rolls in an effort to crack down on a few illegitimate ones. There is particular attention on Kansas now because its secretary of state, Kris Kobach, is co-chairman of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

A federal district court rejected a claim by seven Maryland Republicans that the state’s 2011 redistricting violated their First Amendment rights, setting up another Supreme Court fight over the heavily litigated maps. The 2-to-1 decision allows the state to maintain the current voting boundaries for the 2018 election and puts the lawsuit on hold until after the Supreme Court has ruled in a similar partisan gerrymandering case from Wisconsin scheduled for October.

As part of a court-ordered redrawing of district lines, North Carolina lawmakers released proposed maps that met with fierce criticism at public hearings. Many speakers were critical of the redistricting committee’s use of Tom Hofeller, a veteran mapmaker for the Republican Party, to draw the new maps after the ones he drafted in 2011 included districts ruled unconstitutional by the federal courts. Nevertheless the maps were approved by committees in both the House and Senate with more votes scheduled for next week.

For the fourth time in two weeks a federal judge has determined that the Texas legislature discriminated against black and Hispanic voters by drawing up electoral maps or voter-ID requirements that—by design, effect or both—reduce minority influence in the voting booth. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the state’s new voter id law, passed in June, is still invalid, because its predecessor law was passed with discriminatory intent. And on Thursday a three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Texas must address violations that could affect the configuration of House districts in four counties, where lawmakers diluted the strength of voters of color.

Angola’s ruling party won the most parliamentary seats in Angola’s election, the electoral authorities said Friday, empowering it to replace the longtime president who is stepping down after nearly four decades. But the main opposition party disputed the results in the election held this week, asserting the vote had been marred by illegal actions that were “more than irregularities.”

Kenya’s opposition will argue before the Supreme Court that technology enabled rather than curbed election fraud, as it seeks to overturn a vote this month won by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) said in a petition filed on Friday that results from more than a third of polling stations were “fatally flawed”, in some cases because of irregularities in electronic transmission of paper results forms.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for August 14-20 2017

The security news site The Parallax posted an in depth examination of the security challenges facing US elections. Addressing the types of vulnerabilities hackers uncovered at DefCon—and plugging related holes across the United States’ election systems—would require a far more complex process than patching outdated software. It would also require years of concentrated work.

The New York Times ran a front page story on an anonymous Ukrainian hacker, who apparently wrote a program that American intelligence agencies publicly identified as one tool used in Russian hacking in the United States. Ukrainian police say that”Profexer”, as he is called, turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I. While there is no evidence that he worked for Russia’s intelligence services, it would appear that his malware apparently did.

The editorial board of the Washington Post argues that protecting voting rights is the foremost civil rights issue of our time. “The events in Charlottesville and the president’s apologia for the right-wing extremists there should mobilize anyone passionate about civil rights. There would be no better target for their energies than the clear and present danger to the most fundamental right in any democracy: the vote.”

The ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked a California law that would delay a recall election targeting a Democratic senator. While the court did not rule on the legality of the changes, they did rule that the law cannot be enforced while the court considers arguments from lawyers for all sides.

A lawsuit seeking to invalidate the results the special election run-off in Georgia’s 6th district has left thousands of Diebold touchscreen voting machines off-limits for future elections. This has created concerns for Atlanta officials who say they could be short of spare machines to run municipal elections in November.

Voter registration data belonging to the entirety of Chicago’s electoral roll—1.8 million records—was found last week in an Amazon Web Services bucket configured for public access. ES&S confirmed in a statement that the copy of the backup file, a .bak or Microsoft SQL backup file, contained 1.8 million names, addresses, dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers and in some cases, driver’s license and state identification numbers. In addition to the voter information, the bucket included some information on ES&S security procedures that included the hashed email passwords of ES&S employees.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has intervened in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a civic group that alleges discrimination in access to early voting. Hill cited a 2001 statute that requires a unanimous vote of a three-member board — comprising of a Democrat, a Republican and the county clerk — to expand early voting. Earlier this month, an Indianapolis Star investigation showed how the law has been used by state and local Republicans to restrict early voting in predominantly Democratic areas while expanding voting access in Republican-held areas.

Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts approved by state Republican lawmakers, ruling that they illegally discriminate against Hispanic and black voters. But it appears that the Governor has no plans to devote time to redistricting in a special session the legislature. On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to keep the boundaries intact for the 2018 elections.

Over the past month, five members of Australia’s 226-member parliament have admitted that they may have unwittingly held dual citizenship — a condition that, under Australia’s 1900 constitution, disqualifies them from political office in Canberra. The latest blow on Monday ensnared Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, putting into jeopardy the government’s one-seat majority in the governing House of Representatives. Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, accused New Zealand’s opposition party of colluding with the Australian Labor party in an attempt “to try and bring down the government”.

Ignoring calls by some election observers for him to concede, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he will go to court over last week’s presidential election results. Odinga said he he was challenging the results in the Supreme Court, not in the hopes of overturning the outcome but as a way to expose evidence of widespread vote-rigging.

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.