The Voting News

National: State officials demand voting system vendors reveal owners after Russian hacks and investments | Ben Popken/NBC

Election officials in North Carolina and Maryland are scrutinizing top voting system vendors for potential foreign ownership, demanding more transparency after revelations of Russian penetration into 2016 election systems and a Russian oligarch’s majority investment in an election data firm used by Maryland. In April, the report by special counsel Robert Mueller revealed that Russian-backed hackers inserted malware into a company’s system for voting registration in Florida during the last presidential election as part of the Kremlin-backed disruption campaign. The company name was redacted but executives for VR systems have said it was probably them, the AP reported. VR Systems disputed it was hacked. VR systems was also the vendor in Durham County, North Carolina, that experienced Election Day glitches and slowdowns. The federal Department of Homeland Security announced in early June that it will audit the laptops used that day, the government’s first forensic audit of equipment that malfunctioned during the election. Read More

National: U.S. Sees Russia, China, Iran Trying to Influence 2020 Elections | Alyza Sebenius/Bloomberg

A Trump administration official said that Russia, China, and Iran are trying to manipulate U.S. public opinion ahead of the 2020 elections but that none has successfully corrupted physical election infrastructure, which remains a potential target for state and non-state actors. China has primarily used conventional media outlets to advocate for certain policies, including trade, while Russia and Iran have been more active on social media platforms, a senior U.S. intelligence official told reporters on Monday, speaking on the condition of not being identified. The administration has previously named the three countries for attempting to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections and the 2018 midterms. The official didn’t provide specific examples of interference, saying it could compromise efforts to stop them. A second official on the call said the administration wouldn’t necessarily disclose all foreign influence efforts over concern doing so would hamper enforcement. Read More

National: Security officials tracking 2020 election interference by Russia, China, and Iran | Rob Crilly/Washinton Examiner

Intelligence and law enforcement officials say they are tracking efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to influence voters ahead of the 2020 elections and do not believe hackers have been able to disrupt election infrastructure — so far. Government agencies are under intense pressure to avoid a repeat of 2016 amid the continuing fallout from Russian attempts to sway the outcome of the presidential election. Analysts warn that America’s election infrastructure needs an overhaul to prevent foreign interference while social media companies, such as Facebook, are under intense pressure to ensure that their platforms cannot be used to spread false or misleading information. Although intelligence agencies believe influence efforts were not responsible for President Trump’s shock win, this time around officials say they are tracking efforts that could affect the outcome. Read More

National: Clemson professors warn Russian trolls coming for 2020 | Bristow Marchant/The State

Many Americans think they know what a Russian troll looks like. After the 2016 election, voters are more aware of bad actors on social media who might be trying to influence their opinion and their vote on behalf of a foreign government. But Clemson University professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren warn that picture may not be accurate. “People I know — smart, educated people — send me something all the time and say ‘Is this a Russian? Is this foreign disinformation?’” said Linvill, a communications professor at the Upstate university. “And it’s just someone saying something they disagree with. It’s just someone being racist. That’s not what disinformation looks like.” Linvill and Warren, who teaches economics, would know. The two compiled a database of roughly 3 million tweets identified as the products of Russian government-backed accounts both before and after the 2016 election. Now, the researchers say there are no signs Russia — and even other countries — have slowed their efforts to manipulate social media for their own ends, and are getting more sophisticated about how they use it. Read More

National: US Public Might Not Be Told About Foreign Efforts to Alter Next Election | Jeff Seldin/VoA News

Senior U.S. officials say they are already busy buttressing the nation’s defenses against foreign interference for the 2020 presidential election. Only they admit the public may be kept in the dark about attacks and intrusions. Intelligence and election security officials have warned repeatedly that Russia, among other state and nonstate actors, remains intent on disrupting the upcoming elections and that the Kremlin may even have gone easy on the U.S. during the 2016 midterm elections, seeing the ability to impact the 2020 presidential race as the bigger prize. At the same time, election and security officials have come under increased scrutiny for failing to reveal the size and scope of Russia’s efforts to hack into voter databases and other critical systems. In April, special counsel Robert Mueller released his report into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as allegations of obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Read More

Editorials: U.S. cyber attacks raise oversight questions | Gregory D. Vuksich/Albuquerque Journal

Media reports … (June 17, CNN) revealed that “the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia’s electric power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system.” Presumably in response to Moscow’s apparent cyber efforts to influence this country’s 2016 presidential election, this action is apparently “intended partly as a warning and also to put the U.S. in a position to conduct cyber attacks should a significant conflict arise with Russia.” The obvious first question is whether pre-positioning a physically destructive offensive capability inside another country’s critical national infrastructure is an appropriate escalatory step in the cyber relationship between the world’s two most highly armed nuclear powers. While this country certainly must address the evident Russian attempt to influence America’s 2016 electoral outcome via fake internet plants – a manifestation in which Americans themselves indulged – is the threat of physical destruction of Russia’s critical infrastructure credible, excessive and/or dangerous? And, one now wonders where the next steps along this escalatory path might go given the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure understood to have been executed by the U.S. and Israel. Does this suggest that the escalatory threshold for further cyber violence between nuclear powers may not be as high as currently thought? Read More

Editorials: Florida must double down on vote security | The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The growing recognition in state government that more must be done — and soon — to secure Florida voting systems from tampering and disruption is a promising thing to see. But so much more remains to be done. Last week Gov. Ron DeSantis announced new plans for assessment, monitoring and training to help both the state Division of Elections and Florida’s 67 county supervisors of elections. They included a welcome do-over for getting federal funds to the beleaguered elections supervisor. Some $2.3 million that had gone unspent now will go to local programs for enhancing election security. And that’s in addition to the $2.8 million just appropriated by the Florida Legislature. Which means more help is on the way. “This has become an issue in the last couple of months in a way that I did not, and really nobody, appreciated,” the governor said at a press conference. Read More

Georgia: Lawsuit aims to restore federal oversight of Georgia elections | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A lawsuit alleging widespread voting problems in Georgia is pursuing an ambitious solution: restoration of the Voting Rights Act and federal oversight of elections. After notching an initial court victory last month, allies of Stacey Abrams will now attempt to prove through their lawsuit that Georgia’s election was so flawed that it prevented thousands of voters from being counted, especially African Americans.The lawsuit links civil rights and voting rights with the aim of showing that elections are unfair in Georgia because racial minorities suffered most from voter registration cancellations, precinct closures, long lines, malfunctioning voting equipment and disqualified ballots. More than 50,000 phone calls poured into a hotline set up by the Democratic Party of Georgia to report hurdles voters faced at the polls.If successful, the case has the potential to regain voting protections that were lost because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in a case involving the Voting Rights Act, the landmark legislation approved in 1965. The court decided that several states with a history of discriminatory practices, including Georgia, no longer had to obtain federal clearance before making changes to elections. Read More

North Carolina: Russian hacking in Durham? DHS looking into machines used in 2016 election | Mona Tong and Rose Wong/The Chronicle

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the equipment—provided by a company allegedly targeted by Russian hackers—used in Durham County during the 2016 election. On Election Day in 2016, certain voting machines malfunctioned by incorrectly telling voters they had already cast their ballot, leading affected polling stations to switch to paper poll books, according to the Washington Post. The equipment also asked some people for photo identification, which was not legally required at the time. This snafu created lengthy delays and led some precincts to extend voting hours. Durham County then tapped the cybersecurity company Protus3 to conduct an investigation into the situation in 2016. The firm concluded that poll workers caused the error for several voters, but it was inconclusive about the other issues and offered ideas for further investigation, leading North Carolina to deem the findings inconclusive. Read More

Australia: ACT to introduce limited online voting next year | Justin Hendry/iTnews

The ACT Electoral Commission is planning to introduce limited online voting in time for next year’s territory election to allow Canberrans to cast their ballot if travelling overseas. The electronic voting system, which could bear resemblance to NSW’s iVote system, will be developed as part of a refresh of the commission’s election management system. The refresh of the commission’s existing custom-made TIGER system was handed $1.5 million in this month’s territory budget, with separate funding for electronic voting also set aside. The core system has been in place since 1995 and is used to support all administrative tasks associated an ACT election every four years. TIGER, which contains the the electoral role information on around 300,000 ACT electors in a Microsoft Access 365 format, is also used to “support referendums, interstate elections and small external fee-for-service elections”. Read More

India: Satara MP demands re-election using ballot papers | Anagha Deshpande/The Hindu

Nationalist Congress Party MP from Satara Udayanraje Bhosale on Monday voiced support for the ballot paper voting system as against the Electronic Voting Machine, which has been mired in controversy following multiple allegations of rigging. Mr. Bhosale’s statement comes days after Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi president Prakash Ambedkar announced he would be taking the issue to court. Saying that the EVM process was ‘manipulative’, Mr. Bhosale said that a difference of 672 votes was observed between the votes cast and votes counted in constituencies like Wai, Koregaon, Karad, Patan and Satara. “The statistics are there for everyone to see. It is clear that something was wrong with the entire election process. I don’t know why they call the EVMs fool-proof,” Mr. Bhosale said. Read More

Editorials: Venezuela’s insecure elections have caused political uproar | Kristen Nyman/The Detroit News

Venezuela uses what has been referred to as the most secure voting system in the world. Its Smartmatic voting machines are theoretically tamper-proof, requiring biometric voter authentication twice during the process. The system operates offline during the time votes are cast, so any direct attempts by hackers to change votes are rendered ineffective. The machines generate paper copies of votes, which are placed in a secure lockbox and counted manually multiple times for verification. Voter-verified paper trails are generated in the form of take-home receipts. Finally, the system is auditable at every stage of the vote. On the surface, it is difficult to see how the voting process could be more secure. Yet despite this impressive level of security, Venezuelans are violently protesting in the streets less than a year after the vast majority apparently elected President Nicolas Maduro using these highly secure Smartmatic machines. This begs the question: How did Maduro go from winning with almost 70 percent of the vote one year to hanging onto his presidency by a thread the next? The short answer is that Maduro never had the support of the people to begin with, and that his second term was the result of a fraudulent election. Read More

National: House panel backs election security bill in wake of Russian interference in 2016 | Hailey Fuchs/The Washington Post

A House panel on Friday backed legislation to improve election security ahead of next year’s contests as Democrats press for shoring up the nation’s voting system after Russia interfered in the 2016 election. On a party-line vote of 6 to 3, the House Administration Committee endorsed the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act of 2019, whose provisions would include mandating paper ballots that could be verified, providing $600 million in grant money to update voting equipment and establishing cybersecurity requirements for elections. The full House is expected to consider the bill next week. However, the Senate is unlikely to act on the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposes such a measure, casting the legislation as unnecessary while pointing to the millions of Americans who voted in the 2018 midterm elections. Nevertheless, Democrats are pressing ahead in the House. Read More

National: Group sues for records on US election hacking vulnerability | Tom Davies/Associated Press

A voting security advocacy group is trying to force a leader of a state election officials association to release documents on whether she wrongly asserted that U.S. election systems are safe from hacking. The National Election Defense Coalition filed a lawsuit Thursday against Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson alleging she’s violated state law in denying public record requests since September for her communications about election security with the National Association of Secretaries of State. Lawson was the bipartisan association’s 2017-18 president and is currently co-chair of its cybersecurity committee. The coalition argues that Lawson’s public statements have downplayed the vulnerability of election systems. It pointed to her testimony for a 2017 U.S. Senate intelligence committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election during which she said it was “very important to underscore that voting machines are not connected to the internet or networked in any way.” Read More

National: GOP senators divided over approach to election security | Jordain Carney and Maggie Miller/The Hill

A renewed push to pass election security legislation ahead of the 2020 vote is putting a spotlight on divisions among key Republicans. GOP senators say they want to protect U.S. election infrastructure from a repeat of Russia’s 2016 meddling, but they are deeply split over how far the federal government should go to try to secure the ballot box and what, if any, new legislation that requires from Congress. On one side of the divide are Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who have backed passing additional legislation. On the other side are powerful figures including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who have signaled election security bills are going nowhere anytime soon in the Senate. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 GOP senator, argued that while Republicans support secure elections, most of the caucus believes the issue has been handled by previous bills and state action. Read More

National: Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing | Morgan Chalfant/The Hill

A House Judiciary Committee hearing turned heated on Thursday as Republicans accused Democrats of wasting time examining special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, with one GOP lawmaker labeling the hearing a “farce.” Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the hearing to get expert testimony on the first volume of Mueller’s report, which describes Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and catalogues well over 100 contacts between Moscow and members or associates of the Trump campaign. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) gave a sharp rebuke of the hearing during his questioning, suggesting Nadler was wasting time by inviting witnesses without any direct knowledge of the investigation. Gaetz asked Nadler whether he is going to subpoena Mueller, who has telegraphed a reluctance to testify publicly before Congress despite Democrats’ efforts to bring him in. “Chairman, are you going to subpoena Robert Mueller?” Gaetz asked. “I’m not going to answer that at this time,” Nadler replied. Read More

National: Will A Trump Trade Move Create An Election Mess For Overseas U.S. Voters? | Tierney Sneed/TPM

The Trump administration has supported plenty of moves to make it harder to vote. But an under-the-radar action President Trump took last year, as part of his trade war with China, may be a case of him just stumbling into that outcome, election experts fear. Trump is threatening to withdraw from the international body that oversees global mail delivery, putting at risk the stability and reliability of the current system of sending and receiving mail internationally. Any disruption to the international postal service, voter advocates say, could make an already difficult process of casting ballots for Americans abroad even more complicated. Among those who stand to be affected are members of the military overseas, whose ability to vote while serving their country has always been a politically sensitive issue. The White House told TPM it’s working “diligently” to make sure that if the United States exits the 145-year-old international postal alliance, the withdrawal would be “seamless.” But the administration wouldn’t provide details about its planning, particularly as it pertains to elections, or about who exactly has been working on it. The lack of clarity is prompting anxiety in the election policy world. If the United States leaves the global mail delivery organization, it will happen just a few months before the 2020 primaries begin. Read More

Kansas: Former Johnson County Election Commissioner’s leadership of federal agency draws scrutiny | Jay Senter/Shawnee Mission Post

The former Johnson County Election Commissioner who left a string of financial and human resources scandals in his wake here after he accepted an appointment with the federal Election Assistance Commission is now drawing scrutiny for his direction of that agency. A lengthy investigative piece published by POLITICO this month details concerns with Brian Newby’s leadership of the EAC, which is charged with helping local voting operations across the country adhere to the requirements of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. According to the report, elections officials and federal employees have been disheartened by actions from Newby that have stymied efforts to address election security issues. Read More

North Carolina: Bill to spare DRE voting machines advances | Taft Wireback/Greensboro News & Revord

State legislators approved a bill Wednesday that could delay an estimated $8 million expense for Guilford County by giving its voting machines a temporary reprieve. The state House voted unanimously for HB 19, which would open the door for Guilford, Forsyth, Alamance and other counties to keep using “Direct Record Electronic” voting machines through the next general election. The current deadline for using such machines is December, which Guilford election officials estimate could cost the county about $8 million in the midst of a lean budget year. The new measure does not name Guilford specifically — or any other county — but it gives local officials statewide the option of asking their county election staff to seek a reprieve from the state Board of Elections in Raleigh. Read More

North Carolina: State wants to know who owns voting-machine makers | Emery P. Delesio/Associated Press

North Carolina won’t clear voting-machine makers to sell their systems to county elections boards until it learns more about who owns them, the state’s elections board chairman said Friday. The decision comes amid worries of foreign election interference that have grown since special counsel Robert Mueller’s April report into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election. Mueller’s report “essentially says everybody should be concerned about this and everybody should be looking harder at a lot of these things to make sure we’re protected as best we can be,” said Robert Cordle, the head of the state elections board. “It’s just a matter of doing our due diligence now to make sure there are no problems.” The state board is giving the three companies that have already passed several rounds of screening until June 21 to disclose anyone holding a 5 percent or greater interest in their company, their parent company or any subsidiaries. Read More