Election Integrity News

Drawn from various sources and updated frequently by our editorial team, the Election Integrity News is a compilation of the latest developments in the area of election integrity. That means stories covering everything from the administration of elections, the security of the vote, voter suppression, gerrymandering, money in politics, and much more.

If a story catches your eye that you think would make for an interesting item, send it to us at FairElectionTips@whowhatwhy.org.

September 29 – October 7

  1. This week in election integrity: Maryland judges push for independent redistricting, while Georgia purges voters by the hundreds of thousands and brings paper ballots to federal court.

    Georgia came under fire after records revealed election officials had removed 700,000 voters from the rolls. Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) reportedly oversaw the process. Kemp is running for governor against Stacey Abrams, the first black woman to win a Georgia primary for that position. Several voting rights groups filed a lawsuit last week. The secretary of state’s office failed to notify voters that their names had been removed from the registration rolls. In June, the Supreme Court decided a case that greenlit such purges, which supporters of these measures claim protect elections from supposed voter fraud.

    Meanwhile, activists in Georgia took to federal court a revised version of their case for using paper ballots statewide in the November elections. Last month, a local judge rejected their proposal for a wholesale transition to paper ballots. The new case proposes simpler changes like implementing audits and letting counties decide independently if they want to transition to paper.

    Also in federal court, a three-judge panel proposed that Maryland remove politicians from the redistricting process. The suggestion echoes the demands of several organizations nationwide that want to see independent redistricting commissions. The maps in Maryland and Wisconsin were the subject of an undecided Supreme Court case in June. No changes have been made to the district lines since the cases were initially filed — and nothing is likely to shift before the November elections.

    Elsewhere, election officials, techies, and politicos concur that little will be done to improve election security in advance of the upcoming midterm elections. Between a lack of federal funding and the bureaucracy of managing infrastructure on a county-by-county basis, some experts think we might not even see significant change before the 2020 presidential election.

    And in several states, organizations are turning toward ballot initiatives to address a host of election integrity issues — from gerrymandering to Election Day voter registration to campaign finance. Some see ballot initiatives as a means to push beyond partisan politics, address key issues, and maybe get more people to show up to vote.

  2. Further reading:

    Black Rural Voters Could Be Key to Democrats Eyeing Georgia

    In 2016, McConnell Threatened to Frame Pre-Election Intelligence About Russians as a Partisan Attack, New Book Reveals

    Cell Phones Can Make Elections Fairer

    Why Does the White House Suddenly Care About Election Interference?

    Legislator, State NAACP Propose Voting Changes Post-Florence

    No Right to Vote Hurts Communities, Study Shows

    Texas Rejects 2,400 Online Voter Registrations as October 9 Deadline Looms

    A Justice Kavanaugh Could Rule on Cases Where He Has a Major Conflict of Interest

    ‘Nobody Should be Denied’: Homeless Residents Have a Voice in Upcoming Election

    Mike Pence and the Trump Administration’s Complicity in Downplaying Russian Election Interference

    Elections Officials: Preparations Made to Secure Voting Computer Systems

    Twitter’s ‘First Priority’ Is Election Integrity, and They Have Their Work Cut Out for Them

    Keep Calm and Trust the Feds on Election Day, National Security Officials Tell States

Latest News: September 22 – September 29

  1. This week in election integrity: Election equipment vendors are up to no good, and have been for some time. So who should shell out to fix the problem … besides the voters who pay the price at the ballot box?

    The greater threat to cybersecurity in the United States may well be an old homegrown problem: consolidation and deregulation. A handful of companies manufacture most of the voting machines that counties nationwide use to cast or tabulate ballots. And the industry — which brings in about $300 million dollars a year — operates by and large without oversight. Congress has repeatedly failed to legislate on the issue. As a result, little has changed since the 2016 elections.

    Most voters will cast their ballot on machines with fundamental vulnerabilities, an issue that a new report highlights. The opportunities for intrusion or manipulation are numerous. Despite knowledge and evidence of the issues, in some cases dating back ten years, nothing has been done to improve some equipment. A team of researchers involved with the Voting Village at this year’s DEFCON conference in Las Vegas coordinated the report. Reportedly, neither election equipment vendors nor the National Association of Secretaries of State is particularly happy with the study’s findings. Some hope, though, that the evidence might push Congress to, finally, do something.

    Georgia’s election infrastructure illustrates many of the issues endemic on a national level: electronic machines that don’t keep a paper record, rendering audits impossible, a lack of transparency, and voter suppression. A district judge recently shot down a move to switch to paper ballots for the midterm elections now people are asking who should pay to address the critical problems the state faces. Many are pushing the state to cover costs of new equipment and poll worker training, rather than dumping the burden on local jurisdictions.

    Elsewhere, the ACLU found that 36 counties in Texas may be in violation of the Voting Rights Act for failing to provide ballots in English and Spanish  an issue that isn’t unique to the state. Virginia election officials report an uptick in voter registration, perhaps thanks to aggressive on-the-ground efforts from the NAACP. And you can now purchase a necklace to fund the fight against racial and partisan gerrymandering  call it an independent expenditure.

  2. Further reading:

    NAACP Focuses on November Election

    Trump Accuses China of Interfering in Midterm Elections

    Inside the Grassroots Fight to End Gerrymandering in Michigan

    Maker of Voting Machines Takes Aim at Cook County Contract

    Report: Pennsylvania’s Voting Machines Need to Be Replaced Now

    Virginia Republicans Advance New Legislative Map Aimed at Fixing Gerrymandering

    How Is North Carolina Faring Under Republican Control? Depends on Who You Ask

    Partisan Redistricting Means Democrats Need a Surge to Win Majorities

    5 Things to Know About the Voting Rights Ballot Initiative

    South Carolina Election Leaders Tightening Cyber Security Ahead of Election Day

    Administrator Talks About Help for Disabled Voters

    We Dig into Your Questions on the Candidate Debates, Party Registration, and Voter ID

    Wisconsin Expands Use of Post-Election Audits

    As Gerrymandering Fight Continues, Ruling Expected Soon on Wake County Political Maps

    New Congressional Map Proposed for Ohio as Part of Gerrymandering Lawsuit

Latest News: September 16 – September 22

  1. This week in election integrity: Paper ballots go up in smoke in Georgia, vote-by-mail falls short, and Band-aid solutions for cybersecurity.

    Activists want paper ballots in Georgia. The courts don’t. A federal judge ruled this week that the state won’t have to switch to paper ballots in advance of the 2018 midterm elections, now a matter of weeks away. Georgia is one of four states that uses direct record electronic voting machines, or DREs. The machines don’t keep a record of ballots cast, making it impossible to accurately audit election results. The security of the state’s registration rolls and voting equipment itself has come under fire this year. Local organizations sued the state to switch to paper ballots and paper audits for the midterms. Though sympathetic to the arguments about vulnerability, particularly in light of the threat of foreign interference, the court decided that a last-minute switch would risk causing chaos and confusion at the ballot box.

    But even paper has its problems. Vote-by-mail might not be the worry-free solution to Election Day woes after all. A new study from the Florida chapter of the ACLU found a host of issues across the state. Overall, election officials reject vote-by-mail ballots at a rate that is ten times higher than that for ballots cast in person at early voting sites or on Election Day. That has put over 20,000 votes in jeopardy in past elections. Often, officials reject ballots because of a mismatched signature or unsigned ballot. In Florida, they don’t necessarily have to give voters the opportunity to address any issues. Earlier this year, California ruled that election officials must notify people before tossing out their vote-by-mail ballots, a move that some support in Florida, too. Local boards of election manage their own incoming vote-by-mail ballots — and practices are not uniform across the state. As a result, the rates differ substantially county-to-county. Moreover, the report found that vote-by-mail ballots cast by young voters and African American voters appear more likely to face rejection.

    Election security experts have spoken to the risks of digital voting equipment as states began to adopt new voting technologies over the past 15 years. Now, people are paying close attention. The New York Times took an in-depth look at what the issues are, and how states and localities might think about addressing security in both the short and long-term. Much of the voting equipment in use nationwide is vulnerable to cyber attack or manipulation; some machines don’t keep any record of votes cast, making audits impossible. There isn’t much consensus about what to do next: replacing voting equipment costs money and takes time. Meanwhile, voters keep voting using vulnerable machines. Security experts warn that a false sense of security permeates the system and has weakened election infrastructure across the board. One expert says that a quick fix in many states could be to address how they use modems — which are relatively easy to target — to transmit information about votes cast.

    Elsewhere, voter purges are (still) on the rise in response to the unsubstantiated threat of voter fraud. A handful of “chief architects” continue their crusade, despite little evidence of an actual problem. Still in Florida, Governor Rick Scott (R) wants to appoint state supreme court justices before his term runs out in January. Voting rights groups have sued out, as many expected they would given Gov. Scott’s record on the issues. And Arizona won’t be sending out voter registration mailers. A US District judge rejected a request that would have forced the secretary of state to send out information to thousands of voters whose registrations may be out-of-date.

  2. Further reading:

    Texas Voting Equipment Tested Ahead of November Midterms

    State Hosts ‘Schools’ to Educate Election Candidates About Cybersecurity

    First Pennsylvania County Buys Voting Machines Under New State Standards

    New Potential Voting Machines for Shelby County on Display Thursday

    New Mail-in Ballot Law Could Cause Confusion at the Polls

    Delaware’s First New Voting Machines in Decades Are on Their Way

    5 States Will Vote Without Paper Ballots; Experts Want That to Change

    Many Young People Don’t Vote Because They Never Learned How

    Foreign Hackers a Legitimate Concern for Ballot Machines, Says Cybersecurity Expert

    One Republican Official Challenged Thousands of Voter Registrations in His County. It Could Happen Elsewhere.

    Can Georgia’s Electronic Voting Machines Be Trusted?

    The Plot to Subvert an Election

    Michigan’s Proposal to Stop Gerrymandering May Not End Rancor

Latest News: September 8 – September 16

  1. This week in election integrity: Chief Justice Roberts protects dark money, reported voter suppression in New York’s primaries, and Wisconsin Democrats sue over partisan maps, again.

    Many voters arrived at the ballot box in New York State last Thursday, only to find that their names were no longer on the voter registration rolls. This is not the first instance of widespread surprise on Election Day in the Empire State. The state has a deep history of deploying tactics to make it harder for people to vote  among them one of the earliest registration deadlines nationwide and a complex primary system. Just two years ago, advocates sued the state for purging 120,000 Brooklyn voters from the rolls in the 2016 election. The problem is part logistics New York struggles to maintain both digital and paper registration records but also a reflection of the lack of political mobility on the issues. The state assembly has failed to enact the New York Votes Act, which includes practices like automatic voter registration and same-day registration.

    Chief Justice John Roberts halted a ruling that would have required greater transparency in campaign finance — a move that demonstrates the Supreme Court’s continued commitment to protecting financial influence in politics. At issue is a provision in FEC regulations that protects the identity of donors who make anonymous contributions to groups that make independent expenditures on the behalf of a campaign. A three-judge panel at a district court in Washington, DC, ruled against the regulation in a case filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group filed a lawsuit against Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which has kept many of its donors a secret. Whether further discussions on the matter will continue before the midterm elections remains unclear.

    In lower courts, Wisconsin Democrats have filed two new lawsuits related to the state’s district maps. Following the Supreme Court’s punt on gerrymandering in its June 2018 session, many hope the new cases might produce a definitive legal outcome before both the 2020 presidential election and the decennial redistricting process. Given the pace of court proceedings, few expect results in advance of the November ballot.

    Elsewhere, Georgia’s electronic voting machines, the kind that produce no paper record of ballots cast, are still under fire weeks before the election. A federal judge is currently considering whether or not the state ought to return to tried-and-true paper ballots for the midterms, a move Secretary of State Brian Kemp  who is running for governor in the election at issue does not support.

    Then, in the latest instance of Koch money showing up in unexpected places, a group backed by the billionaires has come out in support of a ballot measure pushing for voter restoration for people with past felony convictions.

    And lastly, President Donald Trump’s executive order on election interference appears to gloss over the fundamental issues at stake, instead providing a “band-aid” solution with limited potential.

  2. Further reading:

    Protection of Voting Rights for Minorities Has Fallen Sharply, a New Report Finds

    Voting Rights Groups Urge Court to Force Arizona to Act on Voter Registrations

    Nation’s Eyes Turn to Florida’s Felon Voting Rights as State Holds Final Clemency Board Hearing Before Election

    US Judge Rejects Challenge to Texas Court Elections

    Civil Rights Groups Pressure Miami-Dade County for Early Voting on College Campuses

    Attorneys: Voting Rights Case Verdict Will Likely Come After November Election

    Weary of Court Drama, Gerrymandering Opponents Shift Their Strategy

    The Call to Ditch Electronic Voting in Georgia Gets Its Day in Court

    An End to Gerrymandering in the Mountain West? Possibly

    Looking to Prevent People From Voting? Make It Hard to Get Drivers’ Licenses

    Make Voting Easier in New York

    Kansas Voting System Would Allow Undetectable Tampering

Latest News: September 2 – September 8

  1. This week in election integrity: ICE goes after voting records, Michigan maintains ban on straight-party voting, and Democrats begin to recognize the momentum behind voting rights issues.

    North Carolina made headlines again this week when the US Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District demanded election officials hand over a slew of voting records, reportedly at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The statewide office and 44 counties have been asked to hand over eight years of records — among them “executable ballots” that can be traced back to the individuals who cast them. Local election authorities don’t welcome the request, which demands a hefty amount of additional administrative work. Following an outcry from Democrats and voting rights activists, the prosecutors delayed the request until after the election.

    The courts had less sympathy in Michigan, where a several-years-long debate over straight-party voting came to a head. The US Supreme Court denied a request to keep the option on the November ballot. For much of its history, Michigan has allowed voters to vote for all candidates in a political party with the check of a single box. The Republican-led legislature passed a ban on the practice in 2015. Thanks to lengthy court battles that kept the option on the 2016 ballot, the November election will be the first time the ballots will not include a straight-party option. Advocates of the option claim this will cause mass confusion, slow down the voting process, and as with most changes to electoral process, have a disproportionate impact on African American voters.

    That ongoing onslaught of attempts to keep people from the ballot box, however, might be just the rallying cry that Democrats need to motivate voters. Traditionally the domain of non-partisan advocacy groups like Demos, Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, and others, voting rights may well be positioned to occupy the center stage of party politics. A new generation of organizations has embraced a partisan approach to talking about voting rights. Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee is among the organizations working to mobilize voters around gerrymandering in particular — an issue whose effect outpaces the often sluggish legal process. By casting an end to gerrymandering as a progressive issue, the hope is to bring more voters out and shift the balance.

    Elsewhere, the California DMV fessed up to having sent as many as 23,000 inaccurate voter registration records to the Secretary of State’s office. The problem stems from entry errors on the part of technicians working there. The California DMV has been known of late for increasingly long lines and outdated technology. And panel of experts from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics issued a 156-page report outlining much-needed reforms to American election infrastructure. They agree with many advocates that the safest way to protect American elections is the oldest: paper ballots.  

  2. Further Reading:

    Russia Will Interfere in US Midterm Elections and Sweden Can Show Us How to Respond, Experts Say

    DuPage Election Officials Deny Records Request

    Voting Rights Proposal Certified for Michigan’s November Ballot

    Speaker Cox Formally Appeals ‘Racial Gerrymandering’ Case to State Supreme Court

    6 Ways to Fight Election Hacking and Voter Fraud, According to an Expert Panel

    Supporters of Election Security Bill Warn Delay Could Embolden Russia in 2018 Election

    Are We Making Elections Less Secure Just to Save Time?

    Elections Will Proceed With Gerrymandered Congressional Districts in North Carolina

    Racine County Board Passes Nonpartisan Anti-Gerrymandering Resolution

    This Fall You May Be Voting With Obsolete Voting Machines and Ancient Software

    How Government Can Help Save the Future of Voting

    The Republican Approach to Voter Fraud: Lie

    For Older Voters, Getting the Right ID Can Be Especially Tough

    Hundreds of Illegally Rejected Ballots Gave Kris Kobach Primary Win, Voting Activist Says

Latest News: August 29 – September 2

  1. This week in election integrity: Inside shortcomings at the Election Assistance Commission, the fight over partisan redistricting in North Carolina, and what just happened with that election security bill.

    Republican legislators in North Carolina learned, again, this week that they can’t have their cake and eat it too — when a district court struck down their latest attempt to draw obviously partisan district maps in the state. Though it is certainly a battle won for democracy, the war is far from over. The state has yet to clarify if it will use the partisan maps in the upcoming midterm elections — now just two months away. If the court orders new maps, legislators will have a mere three weeks to draw the boundaries. But the invalidated maps have already defined several elections in North Carolina, and current representation reflects the district lines’ partisan intent, which is likely to have an impact on the upcoming election.

    Back in Washington, DC, elected officials skirted measures to address cybersecurity issues head-on, leaving many to ask: then who? The White House blocked the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, which would have boosted cybersecurity nationwide by encouraging increased communication and coordination between states and the federal government. The White House reportedly justified its actions by arguing that election infrastructure is the business of state and local bodies. Part of the problem could be the Election Assistance Commission itself. Created by the 2000 Help America Vote Act, the agency — built to handle issues like election security — has been fraught with conflict for years, constantly pulled between the partisan agendas of its commissioners.

    Given the lack of leadership on election security issues at the federal level, the Brennan Center explores how to better equip local officials with the resources (and equipment) to execute secure and interference-free elections. Others are asking if Silicon Valley is up to the task. Executives at companies like Facebook and Google would like to think so — they met behind closed doors to talk strategy.

    Elsewhere, Texan Crystal Mason has been sentenced to five years in prison for unintentionally casting an illegal ballot in a 2016 election. Mason has a prior felony conviction, but no one had told her that meant she couldn’t vote, underscoring the lack of communication and excessive complication of disenfranchisement laws in many states.

    Back in North Carolina, Apple is considering a move to Raleigh, but some ask whether the state’s restrictive voter ID laws will keep the tech giant from moving to town. Progressive groups have pushed the company to set its sights elsewhere, but Apple executives are hungry for the local tech talent.

    Nationally, Democrats have come to rely more on online donations. Digital contributions, by and large through the nonprofit group Act Blue, will likely reach $1.5 billion by the November elections — much of the total represents small dollar donations.

  2. Further Reading:

    In Florida, the Governor Is Running for Senate (and Gets to Pick His Own Voters)

    State Department Team Fighting Russia Election Interference Still Waits for Funds

    Low Voter Turnout as Troubling as Possible Hacking

    Voting Equipment Takes a Toll on Elections

    Lack of Campus Early Voting Sites Stuns League of Women Voters

    Extensive Justice Department Investigation Accidentally Proves Voter Fraud Is Still Not a Thing

    Proposal to Pay $50 Million for Better Voting Machines at South Carolina Polls

    Voting Group Behind Mystery Requests in Michigan

Latest News: August 16 – August 20

  1. With a Tough Midterm Season Ahead, Democrats Fight Back

    Democrats are preparing for battle this November, and addressing voter suppression is their first line of attack. As WhoWhatWhy has consistently reported, efforts to keep voters from the polls have only intensified in the past five years through measures like voter purges, voter challenges, and voter ID laws. The Democrats have struggled to keep up with the onslaught of restrictive measures which tend to have an outsized impact on people of color in districts that lean left from Republican lawmakers and statesmen.

    The upcoming midterm elections will be pivotal to the future of the Democratic Party. Party officials plan to execute a bevy of lawsuits in battleground states like Arizona and Texas in an attempt to dilute the potency of strict voting laws. But issues abound: voter purges in Ohio, eliminating early voting centers in Indiana, removing voters who skipped two or more elections, and voter ID laws in an increasing number of states all of which keep people from the ballot box.

  2. Florida Fails to Translate Election Materials, Lawsuit Follows

    Thirty-two counties in Florida have failed to provide voters with bilingual ballots, leaving many Spanish-speakers unable to cast a ballot — an issue that WhoWhatWhy has investigated. Advocates filed a lawsuit this week arguing that the lack of available materials violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which stipulates that the ability to speak English cannot be required of voters.

    The suit is one among several that addresses controversial practices by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R). Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed the lawsuit on behalf of a range of civic groups and individuals. They hope to secure translated voting materials in advance of the November 6th midterm elections. The arrival of Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria has only intensified the need for bilingual election materials — many people have arrived only to find they are unable to exercise their right to vote.

  3. Voter Registration and Accessibility Priorities for New Jersey Election Infrastructure

    New Jersey joins a growing group of states to invest in election security, drawing mostly on the federal funds made available earlier this year. The state is one of several that rely on direct record electronic machines, or DREs, which leave no paper trail. Officials intend to improve both cyber security and physical security while also addressing potential vulnerabilities in voter registration databases, according to WNYC. Moreover, the state will spend a portion of the funds making sure polling sites are wheelchair accessible, as WhoWhatWhy recently highlighted.

  4. Georgia’s Randolph County Proposes Closing Seven of Its Nine Polling Stations

    Election officials in Randolph County, Georgia, suddenly proposed closing seven of nine local polling stations months before the upcoming midterm election, in which Democrat Stacey Abrams has a chance of becoming the nation’s first African American governor. The county is more than 60 percent African American and over 30 percent of its residents live in poverty. The county’s two-person election board a third official recently stepped down submitted the proposal in conjunction with a state-hired consultant.

    Officials have stated these polling stations do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act because they are not wheelchair accessible. With limited time to fix this issue, they turned to outright closure instead. However, the buildings were used as recently as the May primaries and statewide runoffs in July.

    The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union points to the county’s demographics as a possible explanation: One of the polling stations recommended for closure is in an area that is 96.7 percent black; the nearest polling station is a three-hour walk away; most residents don’t own cars; and there is also no public transportation in the county. The ACLU has threatened a lawsuit should the recommendation be approved at a public meeting on August 24th.

    Both Abrams and her opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, have condemned the decision and urged the election board to rescind the proposal before next Friday’s vote. New Georgia Project — a voter registration and education group originally launched by Abrams although she no longer has any formal role with them began collecting signatures in an effort to block the proposal. State law requires a polling station stay open if more than 20 percent of the registered voters object to its closure.

    Traditionally, Randolph County supports Democrats. Barack Obama carried it in both 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 11 points in 2016. The county could play a central role in Abrams’s election strategy, which focuses heavily on the “new American majority”: progressive whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, and black voters especially black women.

  5. FBI Investigating Hack of California Democrat

    The FBI is investigating a potential cyberattack on a computer belonging to the congressional campaign of David Min (D-CA). This apparent hack follows a Rolling Stone story about the hacking of California Democrat Hans Keirstead. Investigators don’t know who carried out the attack or its intended purpose.

    As both of the candidates went on to lose their primaries, the breaches expose the major security concerns heading into the midterms in November. Although national parties supply training and security software tools, local campaigns often lack the financial support necessary to prevent an attack or respond effectively. Following the hack, Min’s campaign attempted to hire a security firm to investigate the attack but was put off by the minimum $50,000 cost estimate. The short term nature of an election campaign also doesn’t allow for a full security program to be set up and perfected over time.

    Thanks to an alert from its internet provider, the Min campaign discovered the attack. His four-person staff then enlisted the help of the software developers who share their workspace but have no ties to the campaign to figure out the issue. They discovered software that recorded and transmitted keystrokes, along with software that made the infiltration undiscoverable by off-the-shelf anti-virus programs.

  6. More News:

    What Do Voter ID Laws Look Like in Other States?

    NAACP Official Says Current Voter System Is ‘Designed to Create Barriers’

    New Insights on US Voters Who Don’t Have Photo ID

    The Real Price We Pay for Gerrymandering

    Resident Sues City of Lakeway Claiming Voting Rights Violation

    Lawsuit Forces Delaware to Release Details on Voting Machine Bids

    To Make the House of Representatives Work Again, Make It Bigger

    How Prison Gerrymandering Strips Power From Communities of Color

    ACLU Lawsuit Accuses Arizona Election Officials of Voter Rights Violations

    Bolton Says Four Foreign Adversaries May Try to Interfere in US Midterms

    President Trump Renews Attacks on Voter Rights

Latest News: August 12 – August 15

  1. Election Security Gets Political as States Lack — and Refuse — Funds to Upgrade Infrastructure

    It isn’t enough for people to expose the vulnerabilities in election equipment nationwide — states need the money to fix them. Such was the lesson from the second annual Voting Machine Hacking Village at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas last week. An 11-year-old shocked audiences as he hacked a machine at breakneck speed. Some reportedly were close to hacking a voter registration database, too. Nevertheless, some election officials resisted any serious implications of the hacks, arguing that they amounted to unrealistic scenarios of what could reasonably occur on Election Day. Naturally, voting machine vendors agreed.

    But the lack of funding to address problematic equipment has repeatedly surfaced since the federal government appropriated funds to facilitate security upgrades. This year in Las Vegas, more experts focused on a fundamental problem: it’s one thing to find vulnerabilities, but another altogether to fix them. Few states — many of which have used the same equipment for two decades — have the resources to address the array of security and infrastructure issues.

    And in Georgia, cybersecurity has gotten political after Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) rejected federal funding to address vulnerabilities. Kemp saw the funds as evidence of federal overreach into that state’s election administration. He’s now the Republican nominee for governor, and his position on these issues could prove pivotal. Georgia Democrats have both expressed concern about Kemp’s record and called for “immediate changes” to election proceedings in the state. A group of voters filed a lawsuit to push a transition to paper ballots in the upcoming midterm elections — a move Kemp appears unlikely to initiate on his own.

  2. Ex-Felons Charged for Voting Despite Not Knowing They Couldn’t

    Nine people in North Carolina have pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor after being charged with voter fraud — for casting a ballot while on probation. They were not aware they were not allowed to vote. Since in most cases this is simply a misunderstanding — even the North Carolina State Board of Elections admitted the pamphlets they give to felons on voting could be improved — charges are very rarely brought. In 2017, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement opened investigations in 562 cases of felons voting, but just 227 were referred to district attorneys and only 17 of them were indicted. Of those, 12 were charged by Alamance County District Attorney Patrick Nadolski, a Republican. While he says the charges were necessary to preserve the integrity of elections, there appears to have been a race element; nine of the 12 were African-American despite Alamance being two-thirds white.

    Nicknamed the Alamance 12 by some, there is a concern this will reduce the number of voters within the county: Ebonie Oliver, Keith Sellars, Robert Chase Wade — three of the 12 — have all said they’ll never vote again despite being informed it’s legal for them to do so once their probation is completed.

    Debbie Smith, 64, a volunteer for Down Home NC — a group which has organized protests for the 12 and traveled the county registering people to vote — has said she’s seen a hesitancy to vote from residents since the charges. Seeing that a simple misunderstanding can lead to a year of unsupervised probation, 24 hours of community service, and over $700 in court-related fees has scared many people away from voting. It’s disenfranchisement by confusion.

  3. New Website Puts Voting Rights a Few Clicks Away for Felons

    A new website created by The Campaign Legal Center helps felons maneuver through the legal maze and restore their vote. After answering brief questions on their location, status of their sentence, and specific questions based on state laws, the website informs them whether they can register. If they can’t, it explains their next step, such as contacting the state registrar or connecting with an advocacy group. Having all the information in one place makes it easier for felons to get answers, rather than fighting through legal jargon and endless phone calls to government officials.

    There are an estimated 23 million felons in America, with 17 million of them eligible to vote. The remaining six million are disenfranchised despite the completion of their jail sentence. Although changes to laws are a must, this website is a great resource for restoring voting rights to felons. It has become a civil rights issue and pivotal in local races as it predominantly affects African-American voters. Making the legal system easier to navigate will go a long way to curtailing this problem.

  4. More News:

    Kansas Governor Concedes Primary to Secretary of State

    Judge: Absentee Ballot Signature Law ‘Fundamentally Flawed’

    Voters Not Politicians: Citizens-Led Campaign Scores Victory in Anti-Gerrymandering Fight

    An 11-Year-Old Changed Election Results on a Replica Florida State Website in Under 10 Minutes

    White House’s Draft Order Imposing Sanctions for Election Interference Lacks Teeth

    An Assault on Minority Voting Continues in North Carolina

    New Mexico Local Districts to See Election Cost Jump

    US Bracing for Russian Midterm Election Disruption

    Can Hackers Tamper With Your Vote? Researchers Show It’s Possible in Nearly 30 States

Latest News: August 9 – August 12

  1. Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Move to Shorten Early Voting

    The Iowa Supreme Court reached a speedy decision in a lawsuit brought by organizations and individuals concerned with the details of a new set of voting laws. A judge ruled last week to shorten the state’s early voting period, overriding one portion of an injunction that a lower court issued previously. The order from the state’s Supreme Court only addressed the early voting portion of the injunction, which also addressed requirements to provide an ID number to apply for an absentee ballot and stringent signature matching measures.

    The new procedures came as part of a much-contested voter identification law that Iowa implemented in 2017, which made a host of changes to election administration. Earlier this summer, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Taylor Blaire, a student at Iowa State University, filed a lawsuit, contending that the law violated the state constitution. The state Supreme Court decision was not unanimous — one justice dissented while another abstained.

  2. Election Security Experts Don’t Like Blockchain

    Many election security experts are wary of voting-by-smartphone — especially when the software relies on blockchain technology. West Virginia is the first state to permit such a system, allowing some voters, by and large people serving in the military overseas, to cast a ballot from their smartphones.

    West Virginia piloted the program in May, working with a startup called Voatz. Reportedly, third party audits left election officials confident enough to move forward with the option for overseas voters. The convenience is clear, but many doubt that the system can be secured against manipulation. Other approaches, some contend, are simpler.

    In the Voatz system, the company controls access to the ballot through biometrics. It stores records of ballots cast on a private blockchain, which it then verifies through computers that it controls. Algorithms ensure the data is valid, according to the company. Few cybersecurity experts are convinced.

  3. White House to Impose Sanctions on Foreign Election Meddling

    Under pressure to prove that he is serious about addressing cybersecurity threats, President Donald Trump plans to draft an executive order that will impose sanctions on foreigners who tamper with US elections. Trump has faced mounting criticism from both parties after the Helsinki summit, in which he appeared to back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conclusion that the Kremlin was not behind the hacking of Democratic emails.   

    Some experts, however, felt that the order lacked teeth and would not discourage Moscow from interfering in future races. Since the most severe sanctions are discretionary, they express skepticism at the prospect of Trump actually enforcing punishment on Russia. Former Pentagon official Michael Carpenter called the measure a “cover-your-behind exercise to show the administration is doing something when in fact it doesn’t oblige them to do much of anything.”

  4. More News:

    On Voting Rights, We Have Much More to Lose With Brett Kavanaugh

    Colyer Wants Kobach to Stop Advising Counties

    Irregularities Discovered in WinVote Voting Machines

    Democracy by Numbers

    A Fight Over Voter Rights in California

    US Census Citizenship Question Panned by Scientists, Civil Rights Groups

    Facebook Fight Over Florida Felon Voting Rights Restoration Ends in Shooting

    Kobach’s Take-No-Prisoners Style at Forefront in Kansas Race

    ACLU Raises Election Interference Concerns in St. Louis County

    Plaintiffs Say Texas Voter ID Fight Is Over

Latest News: August 5 – August 9

  1. Foreign Adversaries May Attempt to Confuse Voters

    Confusion could be among the most effective tools for foreign interference, and voter registration rolls among the most vulnerable targets, experts say. By intentionally confusing voters, foreign adversaries can encourage mass confusion about the process to keep people from voting. Changing votes is a much more intensive process than publicizing incorrect information about polling places or causing chaos at the ballot box.

    Two cases have demonstrated just how effective the tactic can be. Both Maryland and California recently struggled with computer glitches that deleted thousands of voter records. In California, some people showed up to vote only to find out that they couldn’t, inciting not only confusion, but anger. Maryland notified 80,000 people the night before they were to vote that there was an issue with their registrations. Turnout was low in both states.

    Moreover, targeting voter registration rolls could prove an efficient means to manipulate elections. Something as simple as a name or address change can keep a voter from casting a ballot. Many experts expect that Russia will not only attempt to hack voter registration systems, but use other strategies to spread misinformation about elections.

  2. Kris Kobach Wants to Manage the Recount for His Own Election

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has refused to recuse himself from a recount of the primary race for governor that he ran in. Kobach ran alongside seven other Republicans in the state’s primary this week. He secured a majority, but by a sufficiently small number 191 votes to call a recount. As secretary of state, Kobach’s office administers elections and recounts. But, despite the apparent conflict of interest, Kobach announced he would not step aside. Critics were outraged by the decision, but hardly surprised given Kobach’s record on election integrity issues. He co-chaired the now defunct Election Integrity Commission and despite ample evidence of its shortcomings has championed Crosscheck, a system used to purge millions of voters from the rolls in several states even though many of them should not have been.

  3. New Voting Machines in Michigan Don’t Work for Blind Voters

    Michigan recently upgraded its voting equipment, spending $40 million in state and federal funds. But the new equipment doesn’t meet the needs of blind voters. Michigan is home to 221,000 people who are visually disabled. Equipment that facilitates independent voting for blind voters exists, but the new machines fall short. Unlike the older versions, the keypads on the recently installed models don’t have braille and the audio instructions guide voters to buttons by referencing color, rather than location on the handset. Voters have complained about a lack of privacy with the new equipment, among the many issues that people with disabilities face at the ballot box.

  4. Top Republican Invites Russian Officials to Discuss National Security in US

    A week after the Senate introduced another sanctions bill against the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 US election, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) invited top Russian officials to Washington to discuss critical national security issues. The timing is strange, to put it mildly, given the fevered backlash President Donald Trump faced following the summit in Helsinki — where he seemingly agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia did not tamper with the electoral process.   

    Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met this week with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of an equivalent panel in Russia. Kosachev backed Putin’s claim that Russia is innocent, and deemed the report from US intelligence agencies — which concluded the opposite — a cynical ploy for “political gain.”

    However, whether Russia influenced the election doesn’t seem to matter to Paul. “We all do it,” he said last month about foreign influence campaigns. “What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected.”

  5. Top Democrat ‘Very Concerned’ About Russian Hacking Threat

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said she fears Russia may have successfully hacked into the US election system, after reports of failed attempts in the past few weeks. “You have 21 states that were hacked into, they didn’t find out about it for a year,” she said in an interview with NBC. With the midterms elections just three months away, Klobuchar has pushed forward a bipartisan bill to bolster the country’s election security defenses.

  6. More News:

    Courts Must Protect Iowans’ Voting Rights

    A Paper Trail Could Help Secure Elections — and Democracy

    Iraq Reportedly Ignored Concerns Over Electronic Voting Machines

    The Voting Rights Act Was Signed on This Day in 1965 and Now Trump Is Trying to Destroy It

    Securing Election Infrastructure Against Foreign Interference

    Trump Called for All Voters to Present Photo ID, a Rule Critics Say Is Unnecessary and Damaging

    GOP Fears Steep Losses in State Legislatures

    Missouri’s Voter ID Law Will Be in Effect During Tuesday’s High-Profile Primaries

    Do the Challenges to North Carolina’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments Have a Chance?

    Election Security a Top Priority As Early Voting Gets Underway in Arizona Primaries

    A New Congress Could Restore the Promise of the Voting Rights Act

    Vote By Smartphone? This State Is Introducing It

    Florida’s Voting Rights Quandary

    DHS Launches a New Cyber Hub to Coordinate Against Threats to US Infrastructure

    Trump Administration Has Voting Rights Act on Life Support

    Local Officials Call Federal Election Funds ‘A 10-Cent Solution to a $25 Problem