Election Security News

Washington Post Cybersecurity 202: U.S. Voting Systems Vulnerable to Attack in 2020, Researchers Find

September 27, 2019

Joseph Marks with Tonya Riley review the events at an election security event in Congress on Friday where experts showed that virtually every voting system is open to hacking in the upcoming election. Researchers Matt Blaze and his co-founder of Nordic Innovation Labs, Harri Hursti, the leaders of the Def Con convention, are urging Congress to require states to use paper ballots whenever possible and to conduct post-election security audits.

Washington Post: Even Conservative Democrats Are Savaging GOP over Election Security September 13, 2019 Article about increased pressure on Sen. McConnell to allow votes on improving election security. Centrist is more apt than “conservative” to describe the Democrats in question. The open argument is why on earth would one not want free and fair elections after the 2016 hot mess? The subtext (earlier made explicit by Minority Leader Sen. Schumer) is that the Republicans are hoping that the Russians will pull Trump’s and his party’s chestnuts out of the fire in 2020, and that the Republicans, therefore, have an interest in preserving the currently inadequate election security measures in the US.

Political Campaigns Are the First Line of Defense in Election Security

August 29, 2019

This update from Elaine Kamarck of the Brooking Institute provides examples of interference in the 2016 elections and details what campaigns can and should do to protect the upcoming elections in 2020. It is a worthwhile read for anyone concerned about election security in the upcoming elections.

‘It Is Not Letting Me Vote for Who I Want’: Video Shows Electronic Machine Changing Ballot in Mississippi

August 28, 2019

Tim Elfrink of The Washington Post provides video of a machine in Mississippi changing someone’s vote in the Republican gubernatorial primary last week. Whether any vote alteration was intended, this clearly reveals the insecurity of outdated, electronic voting machines and reinforces the need for hand marked paper ballots in elections moving forward.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Mystery of Missing Votes Deepens as Congress Investigates Georgia August 28, 2019 Very serious evidence of massively failing voting machines and indications of ballor counting inconsistencies in last year’s Georgia elections for Lieutenant Governor. Implications for Governor and Secretary of State elections are not discussed, but some skeptics might be forgiven for wondering whether all state-wide elections in Georgia last year, under the aegis of Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State then “successfully” running for Governor, are dripping with illegitimacy. Would a rerun be the best thing to do?

MSNBC: Election Assistance Commission Reviews States’ Election Security Needs August 16, 2019 This article articulates, without mentioning the legislation directly, the reasons why the $600 million in EAC grants, contained in the House version of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill is so vital for election security.

Salon.com: What “Moscow Mitch” Wants: An Election Overrun by Trolls and Plunged into Chaos July 30, 2019 This opinion piece by Bob Cesca has useful references and links to background information on the topic of McConnell’s determined efforts to preserve the vulnerability of US elections to foreign meddling and possible control.

Washington Post: Mitch McConnell Just Made Sure Election Security Will Be key Senate Campaign Issue July 30, 2019 This is the reason McConnell has just been given the nickname “Moscow Mitch” by former conservative Republican congressman Joe Scarborough on his morning TV news show. McConnell has continually blocked all meaningful legislation to increase US election security against foreign interference. This, days after Special Counsel Mueller’s testimony regarding the continuing threat to the integrity of US elections. Such legislation has been aimed chiefly at Russian interference, because of the 2016 elections, but also would also protect against interference by others, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. Ground for McConnells opposition are specious: federal control over state elections and previous appropriations for improving election security. In fact, most states are begging the federal government for help in updating outmoded systems that resist things like computer hacking of ballots and registration databases, and foreign cyberattacks. By preventing minimal efforts to improve the integrity of our election systems and process, McConnell appears to welcome, indeed invite, attacks by foreigners (and domestic actors as well) on our freedom to choose our leaders. Note: he is up for re-election next year.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Awards New Contract for New Election System to Dominion Voting July 29, 2019 Perhaps there is hope yet for Georgians who would like to vote in an unrigged election. Previous huge state contracts with the ES&S vendor have been much discussed in the press because of close ties between Georgian state officials and that company. And there were real issues in the past, such as lack of any paper record to verify voting choices. A judge is Georgia is now considering whether to require hand-marked paper ballots immediately. So this contract does look like an improvement on the past, but not so fast, these new systems do leave a paper trail, but the ballots are not handmarked. While improved, and while responding to recent state legislation requiring paper trails, these machines, which use computer touch screens to mark a ballot, are not the nest option: hand-marked paper ballots with voter verification possible.

Washington Post: Mueller Made a Case for Election Security, but Lawmakers Seemed Largely Uninterested July 25, 2019 A depressing summary of Mueller’s warnings and the apparent lack of interest in the topic among members of Congress, with a few exceptions. This article came out shortly before Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s reply to Mueller’s expressed warnings: he again openly blocked again all legislative efforts to strengthen US elections systems against foreign interference. This is widely considered a rather bizarre position to take for an American, rather than a Russian, politician (see article above from July 30, 2019).

Washington Post: Time ‘s Running Out if Washington Wants to Boost 2020 Election Security July 3, 2019 Discussion of current state of election security and prospects by 2020 elections. From annual conference of National Association of Secretaries of State. Things are better than 2016-7 but still not likely to be good enough. DHS is playing a role in pushing for paper trails in new equipment and in helping on cybersecurity assistance to states.

The Hill: Senate Democrats to Try to Force Additional Election Security Votes June 18, 2019 The article presents recent developments, in which Democratic Senators will push election security legislation beyond just appropriations legislation that would fund election security grants to states. Several bills to improve technical aspects of voting systems, including last year’s efforts by Sens. Klobuchar and Lankford, will be brought up again; in addition there will be yet other bills that try to block foreign interference on US elections. McConnell has announced that he is opposed to virtually all measures to improve election security before 2020 (when both he and Trump are up for re-election). Democrats can, in principle, circumvent his blockage by asking for unanimous consent to bring up such legislation over McConnell’s dictatorial machinations; these, however, can be stymied by just one Senator objecting. So this is not likely to happen; but the Democrats hope to gain points by forcing individual Republicans to take responsibility for blocking efforts to counter Russian and other foreign meddling in our electoral processes.

Washington Post: Even a Voting Machine Company is Pushing for Election Security Regulation June 10, 2019 A real first, indicating progress: ES&S (Election Systems and Software), one of the major voting machine manufacturers, has done a 180 and now endorses serious improvements in election security, including no longer selling paperless machines. The major obstacle now to improving security in the Nation’s election systems is Sen. McConnell, and behind him, the White House. This announcement might possibly weaken such opposition.

New York Times: New Election Security Bills Face a One-Man Roadblock: Mitch McConnell June 7, 2019 A good run down of where things stand now in terms of congressional legislation this year to improve election security. McConnell will almost certainly block authorizing legislation, but may be powerless to prevent at least some of the appropriations work, notably the $600M funding to states and localities for the purpose, due to its strong support in the House.

Washington Post: Stanford Group Calls for Major Overhaul on Election Security. Here Are Their Recommendations June 6, 2019 Stanford scholars just released a report that is a major response to the feeble federal government action to date regarding security of US election systems and their resistance to foreign manipulation. Their conclusions follow SEN’s policy development closely, including the need to revert to paper trails for all ballots, post-election audits, serious checking of election systems for cyber vulnerabilities, and “ensuring significant and regular funding for securing election infrastructure.” The report is entitled “Securing American Elections,” is over 100 pages long, and can be downloaded here.

The Hill: House Subcommittee Approves Funding Bill with $600 Million for Election Security June 4, 2019 The bill looks very good and, among other things, endorses paper ballots. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services of House Appropriations is chaired by Mike Quigley of Illinois, who is also a member of the Intelligence Committee. Bill now goes to full Appropriations Committee, chaired by Nita Lowey (D-NY). Sen. Kennedy (R-LA) is chair of corresponding Senate Subcommittee and is reserving comment. Kay Granger (R-TX) is Ranking Republican on the House Subcommittee and was unreservedly hostile to this Democratic effort to improve election security.

The Hill: Warner: “The Height of Irresponsibility” that Congress Hasn’t Improved Election Security June 3, 2019 Sen. Warner, Ranking Democrat on Senate Intelligence Committee attacks lack of government action to protect our election systems in 2020 and beyond. According to Warner, “Congress should back bipartisan election security legislation that ensures measures such as a paper ballot trail and add further ‘guardrails’ to social media against election interference.”

Washington Post: Democratic Base Fired up by Effort to Ban Internet-connected Voting Machines May 30, 2019 Internet connections to voting machines represent a vulnerability to hacking, which is focusing attention of voting security activists. Presidential candidates Harris and Klobuchar are making strong points about election security on the campaign trail, although they are mainly zeroing in on paper ballots and post-election audits. Daily Kos successfully asked subscribers to comment on Election Assistance Commission regarding new requirements for voting machines. Aquene Fairchild of Public Citizen, one of SEN’s favorite contacts and source of expertise, is quoted in the article.

The Hill: Democrats Push Election Security Regulation after Mueller Warning May 29, 2019 Following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s finding that Russia certainly meddled in the 2016 elections with the purpose of affecting the outcome, Democrats in the Senate are once more pushing election security legislation that has passed the House, but that Senator McConnell refuses to put to a vote.

New York Times: In Push for Election Security, Top Official Was Warned: Don’t Tell Trump April 24, 2019 This story recounts how former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was repeatedly rebuffed by the White House, when trying to focus attention and action on improving US resistance to foreign manipulation of our elections. Direct blame was placed on Acting White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney, who denied the allegations. In sum, however, since 2016, there has been little coordinated US government effort to protect our elections infrastructure for the 2020 elections, although DHS has been pushing for such an effort for months. The question is why. Not included in article is why the White House has been so opposed to improving US defenses against interference in our elections. Last year, the White House also torpedoed, at the last minute, the bipartisan Senate effort to improve election security through the Election Security Act. (Following is our comment, not from the article) Naturally, one could ask whether Trump prevents major improvements in election security because our low resistance to such attacks in the past helped him gain the White House and, he hopes, may help him again. In any case, it is clear that this sabotaging of efforts to improve election security is weakening and damaging our freedom to choose our political leaders.

Dailykos Elections: Voting by mail is growing in popularity. These reforms would help ensure each vote gets counted April 19, 2019 A good summary of recent progress in vote-by-mail’s expansion across the country and why this regime could solve many issues of voter suppression and election security.

Politico: Georgia Likely to Plow Ahead with Buying Insecure Voting Machines March 28, 2019 Recently elected Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, is expected to go forward with just-passed legislation, supported by Republican allies in both Houses, to purchase new voting machines for use in future elections. These particular machines are devices recognized as highly vulnerable to hacking by a malign force wishing to affect the outcome of any election in the state. Democrats in the legislature tried to change procurement requirements to mandate the use of hand-marked paper ballots, rather than machines that can be altered by outside forces after votes are cast. This would be the most secure way to hold an election, as is universally recognized by experts. However, in the bill passed by Republicans, it is true that a paper record will be kept for each voter, but the voting choices will be read by counting machines in such a way that the voter will not be able to verify if the barcode that is read and recorded truly represents the vote cast. The voter has no way to check that the barcode is accurate. This is better than the system that was used in the election for Governor in 2018, which had no paper trail at all. In that election, Brian Kemp, then Secretary of State, was in charge of it and happened to win narrowly; was after disenfranchasing tens of thousands of voters over the previous two years, many of them from minority groups. Strangely, the corporation that appears to be in line for this high ticket order from Georgia is ES&S, whose former lobbyist to the state is now Governor Kemp’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Surprise.

The Washington Post, Cybersecurity 202 DARPA Has a Plan to Making Voting Machines Far More Secure

March 15, 2019

The Pentagon research agency that played a key role in inventing GPS and the Internet has a plan to make voting machines far more secure against hackers The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) intends to re-engineer voting machines’ hardware – basically the machines' physical components, such as computer chips and circuits – so that many of the tricks hackers use to undermine the software become impossible. That’s a fundamentally different approach from most cybersecurity efforts, which focus on updating and patching software each time a new bug is discovered.

Politico: Deny, Defy, Disdain: Georgia Election Chief Adopts Familiar Voting Security Strategy March 9, 2019 More on the Georgia election security situation, giving the impression that the newly-elected Secretary of State is about as dishonest as his predecessor, (now governor) Kemp. The main point is his rejection of hand-marked paper ballots in favor of systems that record choices and count them using barcodes, which make it impossible for the voter to verify that his/her choices are properly recorded. Secretary of State Raffensperger is a political hack with no expertise in computers or cybersecurity, yet attacked the election security study of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine as being “out of the mainstream.” That report, released a few months ago, urges the use of hand-marked paper ballots.

A blog written on January 11, 2019 may provide some explanation of the behavior of the current Georgia administration: Jennifer Cohn, writing in Who, What, Why, noted that Kemp’s Deputy Chief of Staff has lobbied for Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which wants to sell its barcode ballot systems to the State for tens of millions of dollars. ES&S has also contributed significantly to Republican candidates in Georgia. Further information and details on this apparent corruption may be found in an article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution from January 30, 2019. Welcome to Atlanta (rather than DC, this time).

NBCChicago Channel5: As 2020 Nears, Pressure Grows to Replace Voting Machines March 5, 2019 Good article on voting machine issues, nationwide. Brennan Center liberally quoted.

Washington Post: Georgia Election Security Fight Tees Up National Debate on Paper Ballots March 1, 2019 Georgia’s State House, responding to a judicial order in 2018, has passed a bill that improves the state’s voting system. There has been absolutely no paper trail of ballots in Georgia, which cast grave doubts on any case of a recount or of questions raised about election fraud or fairness. Now, at least, there will be a paper record of votes, if the bill becomes law. However, the broad use of BMDs allowed in the bill (and also in the bill drafted by Democrats in the US House of Representatives) still leaves open the possibility of fraud, because voters’ own verifications of ballots, after marking with a BMD, is not easy. (Not in article: in fact, voter verification is not even possible when ballot choices are encoded in a barcode, which is not readable by the voter. Such is often the case with BMDs.)

Politico: State Election Officials Opt For 2020 Voting Machines Vulnerable To Hacking February 28, 2019 This is a much better piece than the Post article that follows, above. Essentially about the same topic but explains the issues with BMDs and the fact that many states, including those with Democratic governors, are making the same mistake in relying on BMD devices for everyone, rather than restricting them to persons with disabilities who need that technology for better access to voting.

Washington Post: Election Security is Going To Be the Hot New Campaign Issue in 2020 February 21, 2019 Formerly a topic only for nerds and wonks, election security has become a key talking point for Democrats, having some resonance among voters. Free and fair elections go to the core of our freedom to choose our leaders; this realization has grown as a result of the 2016 attack on our process.

Washington Post: “We’re Doubling Down.” DHS Insists It’s Not Reducing Election Security Efforts February 15, 2019 DHS denies Daily Beast report.

Washington Post: Key Republican Open to Mandates on States for Election Security February 13, 2019 Maybe this dam has broken: Mike Rogers, Ranking Minority Member of House Committee on Homeland Security appears to be walking back last year’s Republican (and White House) opposition to federal requirements on states regarding election security.

Daily Beast: Trump administration guts DHS election security defense February 13, 2019 White House allegedly acts to make further foreign meddling in US elections easier, in the 2020 timeframe.

Washington Post: Cybersecurity 202 For the People Act
January 7, 2019
House Bill HR 1 on election security: description, details, and progress of legislation