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.
December 11, 2017
Alabama Supreme Court Allows Digital Ballots to be Destroyed
Just when you thought the courts might defend democracy by ordering election officials to preserve digital ballot images in the event of a recount, the Alabama Supreme Court ensured this was not the case. The court’s decision to block the lower court’s ruling to preserve the images came down just hours before the polls opened, leaving no time for a pre-election appeal — although there will be a hearing on December 21st (allowing more than enough time for all digital ballots to be destroyed). The current voting system in Alabama includes digitally scanned paper ballots, with the image replacing paper, as the official ballot. While paper ballots are kept for 22 months, it’s thought that they would only be consulted in the (rare) case of a state-wide recount.
December 10, 2017
New Hampshire Enmeshed in Voting Rights Controversy
The definitions of seemingly simple words like “resident,” “inhabitant,” “domicile” and “residency” could change the future of voting in New Hampshire. Last week, the state Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee approved an amendment that would change the statutory definitions of these common terms, and some fear, reduce voter participation. Republicans see the amendment as a way to clarify the status of transient residents like military members and college students, while Democrats argue the measure is a direct attempt to increase barriers for voters.
December 9, 2017
Major Reform Could Come to Democratic Caucuses in Iowa
Absentee voting and public vote totals are slated to change the face of the Iowa caucus come 2020. Currently, Iowans vote in person in local caucuses, which mark the beginning of the presidential election cycle. Results are reflected in the number of delegates each candidate would send to the party’s state convention, not the raw vote totals, a protocol that these reforms would upend. The Unity Reform Commission panel of the Democratic National Committee has pushed for the reforms to voting procedure, citing hopes to encourage participation and bring increased transparency into the process.
December 8, 2017
White House Rejected Anti-Doxing Deal with Russia
Back in July, when Congress first learned about the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov arrived in Washington with a radical proposal for both sides to cease meddling in future races. Facing re-election next March, Russian President Vladimir Putin may have orchestrated the agreement to deflect the US-backed mass democracy protests that dogged his victory in 2011. The Trump administration, however, repudiated the deal out of skepticism toward Moscow’s compliance and pressure to conform with the anti-Putin sentiment in the Capitol. Some analysts consider the decision a lost opportunity that could prove devastating come the 2018 midterm elections, as the US still has not developed robust safeguards to a renewed Russian offensive of last year’s magnitude. In addition to disseminating propaganda and fake news through an army of troll accounts, hackers also breached voter registration databases in 21 states.
December 7, 2017
Jury Finds Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Guilty of Voter Fraud
Steve Curtis, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, and now a Denver Tea Party board advisor, was found guilty by a jury of voter fraud and forgery after he signed and submitted his ex-wife’s mail-in ballot. Curtis’ ex-wife, a resident of South Carolina, discovered her ex-husband’s crimes when she tried to register to vote with the county clerk in her new state.
November 30, 2017
Can Automated Registration Help Get Millions of Voters to the Polls?
In Close Elections, Missing Voices, and Automatic Voter Registration Projected Impact in 50 States, the Center for American Progress predicts that nationwide Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) could result in 22 million people joining the voter rolls in the first year of a program. AVR has the potential to shift close electoral contests; however, it remains to be seen whether the convenience and security offered by AVR drives people to the polling stations to cast their votes.
November 29, 2017
DHS Offers State Election Officials Federal Security Clearances
With just a few more months to go before the first state primaries begin in March 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun offering security clearances to senior state election officials. Three dozen state election officials, whose identities are being withheld, are now in the process of getting clearance to receive classified information about cyber threats by foreign adversaries. After much acrimony between the National Association of Secretaries of State, the body representing state election officials, and federal DHS officials, a constructive dialogue is underway allowing state officials to call upon federal help, shedding much of the initially perceived federal overreach of state election systems as “critical infrastructure.”
Congress Gets Briefed (Again) on Insecure Voting Machines
A full year since the 2016 election, Congress is still gathering testimony about insecure voting machines. On November 29, two House subcommittees held a joint hearing on the current state of cybersecurity of voting machines. Congress heard testimony from Christopher Krebs, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary National Protection & Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security; Tom Schedler, Secretary of State of Louisiana; Edgardo Cortés, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Elections; Matthew Blaze, Associate Professor, Computer and Information Science University of Pennsylvania; and Susan Klein Hennessey, Fellow in National Security Law, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution and General Counsel of Lawfare Institute. Blaze advocated to eliminate vulnerable direct recording electronic voting machines, outdated technology that offers no auditable paper trail. Hennessey told lawmakers that any attempts to use a top-down, federally imposed solution to make voting systems more resilient will not be warmly received by state and local election administrators. Instead, Hennessey recommended increased federal funding to states for election security and regulation of election technology vendors.
November 28, 2017
The FBI Asleep at the Wheel
The FBI knew for at least a year that about 80 current and former US government officials were phished by Fancy Bear, the Russian government-aligned hacking operation that targeted their personal Gmail accounts. The nation’s top law enforcement agency failed to inform all but two targeted officials, until the Associated Press revealed the cyber intrusion. Now Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) wants to know why the Bureau remained mum and whether its agents are prepared to deal with ongoing advanced persistent threats.
November 27, 2017
District Court Makes Room for More Minority Voter Suppression
A long-standing court-ordered consent decree prohibiting the Republican National Committee (RNC) from engaging in illegal voter verification and “ballot security” protocols was lifted by a US District Court judge on December 1. The consent decree arose during the 1981 election for New Jersey governor when the RNC and the New Jersey Republican State Committee were accused of intimidating black voters, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Rather than fight the charges, the Republicans, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to refrain from any attempts to suppress the vote. Judge John Michael Vazquez, a US District Court judge in New Jersey, lifted the consent decree, but left open the possibility of reinstating it if voter suppression violations are found to have occurred in the 2016 elections.
November 26, 2017
Congress Quickly Running Out of Time to ‘Russia-Proof’ Next Election
For all the hand-wringing of Republicans and Democrats about Russia’s apparent interference in the 2016 election, Congress has done very little to make the voting process more secure, and time is running out to fix vulnerabilities for next year’s midterms. So far, it’s all talk and no action and, with the tax reform battle and a budget fight looming, it doesn’t look like lawmakers are going to address this issue anytime soon. At a recent Council on Foreign Relations event, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted that it’s up to states to determine how they run their elections. In other words, if you’re waiting for major federal legislation to “Russia-proof” elections, don’t hold your breath.
November 22, 2017
Trolled by a Russian? Enquiring Facebookers Want to Know
Bowing to public pressure, Facebook will launch a portal that allows you to see if you inadvertently collaborated with the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm responsible for posting propaganda (aka “fake news”). The new tracking feature, to be launched by year-end, will show users which Russian-trolled Facebook pages they “liked” or “followed” during the 2016 elections and will alert users when they’ve been trolled.
Civil Rights Groups Help Stop Voter Suppression Attempt
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and Demos, a public policy group, are helping state and county election officials to stick to their voter list-maintenance obligations under the National Voter Registration Act. The civil rights groups urged hundreds of election officials to reject threatening and misleading letters from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a group attempting to launch a wide-scale voter purge effort by removing voters from registration lists.
November 21, 2017
Preventing Political Campaign Hacking—the “Harvard Way”
Bipartisan bedfellows Robby Mook (Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager) and Matt Rhoades (Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager) teamed up to write a 26-page “playbook” for political campaign operatives to deter cyber attacks in future elections. After Mook and Rhoades experienced firsthand the fallout from hacking of their operations, they joined Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where they intend to defend digital democracy.
October 26, 2017
GAO to Investigate Possible Fraud by Voter Fraud Commission?
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a/k/a the Pence-Kobach Voter Fraud Commission, has ignored several congressional requests for information about its motives and operations since its inception by President Trump’s executive order in May. Now, prompted by a recent letter from Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the US Government Accountability Office — a nonpartisan, independent watchdog agency — has agreed to investigate the Voter Fraud Commission. However, “staff with the required skills will be available to initiate an engagement,” it says — “in about five months.”
October 14, 2017
Zealously Guarded Election Officials Begin to See the Light
State and local election officials, who zealously guard control of state-administered elections, are implementing security measures for shoring up antiquated voting equipment, systems and protocols before the midterm and 2020 elections. West Virginia added a National Guardsman to its staff; Colorado and Rhode Island will use audits to verify that voters’ ballots were cast and counted in the way they intended; and Delaware will replace its outdated paperless voting system and move its digital voter list off its mainframe computer server.