We need to hack-proof our elections. An old technology can help.

By Michael Chertoff and Grover Norquist
Washington Post, February 14, 2018

The nation’s top intelligence officers warned Congress this week that Russia is continuing its efforts to target the 2018 elections.

This should come as no surprise: A few months ago, the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states that hackers had targeted their election systems in 2016. Yet Congress still has not passed legislation to meaningfully address election cybersecurity.

Time is running out. Lawmakers need to act immediately if we are to protect the 2018 and 2020 elections.

New Bill Could Finally Get Rid of Paperless Voting Machines

The bill reads like a computer security expert’s wish list.

TIMOTHY B. LEE -  Ars Technica

A bipartisan group of six senators has introduced legislation that would take a huge step toward securing elections in the United States. Called the Secure Elections Act, the bill aims to eliminate insecure paperless voting machines from American elections while promoting routine audits that would dramatically reduce the danger of interference from foreign governments.

America’s voting systems need security upgrades: It’s time to beef up cybersecurity

By R. James Woolsey, Tony Shaffer
Fox News, May 12, 2017

There’s no evidence that hacking had any impact whatsoever on the results of the 2016 election.

But—in an age of rapidly rising cybersecurity threats and quickly aging voting infrastructure—there’s no guarantee that elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond will be safe.  While alleged Russian hacking has received huge attention this year, the cyber-threat to American electoral democracy could come in the future from Russia, China, North Korea, ISIS, Anonymous, or any of a number of potential players with cyber capacities.

Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference

By Morgan Chalfant
The Hill, January 16, 2018

A pair of senators from each party is introducing legislation meant to deter foreign governments from interfering in future American elections. 

The bill represents the latest push on Capitol Hill to address Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and counter potential threats ahead of the 2018 midterms. 

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Tuesday introduced the “Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act,” which lays out specific foreign actions against U.S. elections that would warrant penalties from the federal government. 

Van Hollen said in a statement to The Hill that the bill would send “an unequivocal message to Russia and any other foreign actor who may follow its example: if you attack us, the consequences will be severe.” 

Elections security is national security

The Washington Times
By Bruce Fein - - Monday, August 28, 2017

The U.S. Senate should enthusiastically pass the Graham-Klobuchar amendment to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018.

The amendment would enormously strengthen defenses against cyber attacks that could compromise the integrity of elections in the United States and undermine legitimacy of government.  Public confidence in the reliability of elections is a cornerstone of national security—the willingness of the people to fight and die for their country.  Experts agree that the Vietnam War was lost because the South Vietnamese Army would not risk that last full measure of devotion on behalf of a corrupt, fraudulently elected government.   To the extent citizens lose confidence in electoral results, to that extent military morale diminishes.

Here’s how to keep Russian hackers from attacking the 2018 elections

By J. Alex Halderman and Justin Talbot-Zorn

Washington Post, June 21, 2017

“They’re coming after America,” former FBI director James B. Comey told the Senate intelligence committee this month. “They will be back.”

In a highly politicized hearing, this bold statement drew strikingly little partisan disagreement. Senators on both sides of the aisle have seemingly reached consensus that foreign agents did try to tamper with the 2016 election and that they are extremely likely to do so again.

The question is: What do we do about it?

The Conservative Case for Election Security Reform

The Hill,  March 7, 2017

Good news: Most Americans still have at least some degree of confidence in our voting system. We have not devolved to the level of a third-world banana republic — yet.

But Americans' faith in elections has diminished considerably, and I believe justifiably. Now, only four in 10 citizens have "strong confidence" that their votes are counted as cast. Among Republicans, the proportion of people with faith in voting has fallen to just about a third.

Just the mere perception of a rigged system undermines the most basic foundations of our republic. America's incoming government has an obligation — and an opportunity — to restore the faith in our voting systems.

Report: Russia Launched Cyberattack On Voting Vendor Ahead Of Election

June 5, 2017

Heard on All Things Considered

Russia's military intelligence agency launched an attack days before Election Day on a U.S. company that provides election services and systems, including voter registration, according to a top-secret report posted Monday by The Intercept.

The news site published a report, with redactions, by the National Security Agency that described the Russian spear-phishing scheme, one it described as perpetrated by the same intelligence agency — the GRU — that the Obama administration imposed sanctions on for the 2016 cyber mischief.

Advocates Call for Paper Ballots in Georgia Amid FBI Review

By KATHLEEN FOODY, Associated Press
March 14, 2017

ATLANTA (AP) — A group of technology experts said Tuesday that Georgia's top elections officials should stop using electronic voting machines as the FBI reviews a suspected data breach.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Kennesaw State University this month confirmed a federal investigation focused on the school's Center for Election Systems. The center tests and certifies Georgia's voting machines and electronic polling books used to check in voters at polling locations. Employees also format ballots for every election held in the state.

There's No Way to Know How Compromised U.S. Elections Are


Atlantic Magazine, June 16, 2017

It’s not really all that hard to hack American democracy.

That fact should be driven home by a recent article from The Intercept detailing the contents of a highly classified NSA report that found evidence of a massive Russian cyberattack on voting software and against over 100 election officials. While the NSA concluded the attack was carried out by the most sophisticated of hackers—the Russian military—their entry methods were relatively vanilla. They gained access to the credentials and documents of a voting system vendor via a spear-phishing attack, and then used those credentials and documents to launch a second spear-phishing attack on local elections officials, which if successful could have compromised election officials’ systems and whatever voter data they possessed.

The "Shocking" Truth About Election Rigging in America

Monday, 05 September 2016

By Victoria CollierTruthout | News Analysis

RICK: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
POLICE CAPTAIN RENAULT: I'm shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
CROUPIER (handing Renault a pile of money): Your winnings, sir.
CAPTAIN RENAULT: Oh, thank you, very much... Everybody out, at once!
(Scene from Casablanca.)

If there is anything positive to say about the 2016 elections, it's that they have finally forced an end to the official denial of computerized election rigging. In the past month, the fact that our voting technology is a hacker's paradise has been validated by no less than all the major TV news networks: NBCABCCBSReutersThe Washington PostThe New York TimesThe Boston GlobeThe AtlanticUSA Today,The HillThe GuardianMother JonesPolitico, and a dozen other outlets.

Of course, the corporate media and political parties are now professing "shock" at the very prospect that US elections can be manipulated, and yes, even stolen. 

Yet it has long been an open secret that game-changing races have been decided not by voters, but by insiders; from the presidential race of 1960, appropriated for John Kennedy by Democratic muscle in Chicago, to the two victories secured for George W. Bush by GOP fixers in Florida and hackers in Ohio. Among other suspect elections in recent years are key Congressional races hijacked by combinations of voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money and the ugly little secret of American elections: rigged voting machines.

Congress and Activists Mobilize to Fight Voter Suppression

  June 23 voting rights press conference; Rep. Veasey, (D-Texas), Rep. Sewell, (D- Alabama) Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow -- PUSH, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus, Barbara Arnwine, chair of the Voting Rights Alliance, Terry O'Neill, National Organization For Women and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York). (Photo: Ben Ptashnik)

June 23 voting rights press conference; Rep. Veasey, (D-Texas), Rep. Sewell, (D- Alabama) Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow -- PUSH, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus, Barbara Arnwine, chair of the Voting Rights Alliance, Terry O'Neill, National Organization For Women and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York). (Photo: Ben Ptashnik)

Sunday, 03 July 2016
By Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik,
Truthout | Op-Ed

The voting rights struggle led by Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, marked the beginning of a steady march of progress toward true electoral democracy. Yet 50 years later, we see that progress reversing dramatically since the Shelby v. Holderdecision of June 25, 2013. In that decision, the Supreme Court gutted the "pre-clearance" provisions of the Voting Rights Act and legitimized discriminatory and anti-democratic policy changes in 33 states.

The Shelby decision strengthened and codified a multi-pronged assault on voting rights already underwayby legislatures since 2010 -- not just in the South but also in red states in every other region of the country. These attacks, a coordinated political coup led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Tea Party, are a thinly veiled conspiracy to suppress progressive and liberal voters, especially voters of color. In the 2016 primaries we began to see the results as discriminatory voter roll purges and ID laws suppressed voting in Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Wisconsin, Arizona and many other states, portending a highly manipulated result in the November elections.

In May, a group of Congress members organized to fight back, launching a newVoting Rights Caucus, the first official congressional organization devoted to the cause of defending electoral democracy. Now 71 Representatives strong, the caucus is made up predominately of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

A main objective of the new caucus is to force Congress to take up the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 2867). Introduced in 2015 by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Alabama), the bill seeks to restore pre-clearance Section 5 provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Regions with ugly histories of racial discrimination -- nine states and more than 60 counties -- previously had to seek preclearance from the Department of Justice for any changes to their voting laws. The conservative Supreme Court majority struck down pre-clearance on the bizarre proposition that it was no longer needed because the Voting Rights Act had been "working well." 

In her sharp dissent of Shelby, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that destroying preclearance is like "throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

The Voting Rights Act had been renewed under the Reagan administration and both Bush administrations with overwhelming bipartisan support. Yet it has become clear that the new GOP majority in Congress has no intention of continuing to uphold this essential defense against discrimination: GOP leaders have refused to hold one congressional hearing on voting rights in the three years sinceShelby. Representative Terri Sewell, who was born in Selma, spoke passionately at the press conference explaining that in the Shelby decision the Supreme Court had challenged Congress to modernize the Voting Rights Act, but all efforts to do so were obstructed by the GOP. It’s now clear that any movement for voter protection will require both a serious, broad-based, people-powered protest movement for democracy, and also a change in the leadership of the Congress.

At the grassroots level, citizens are also organizing in profound ways to educate the population and inspire action. The new Voting Rights Alliance was formed in June to support the Voting Rights Caucus. On June 23, Alliance members from across the country came to DC for a rally and press conference. Speakers included Representatives Sewell and Veasey, Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, Terry O’Neill of the National Organization For Women, Rev. Lennoxx Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Barbara Arnwine, Chair of the Voting Rights Alliance.

At the same time thousands of callers flooded the Congressional Switchboard, demanding the House Speaker and Judiciary Committee Chairs hold hearings on the Voting Rights Act. 

That day, the Alliance also held a Twitter town hall and a Twitter storm using the hashtag #ProtestShelby2016. The social media conversation included thousands of participants helping to launch a national campaign to push for the Voting Rights Advancement Act’s remedial legislation needed to restore voting rights, and to build a resistance movement to voter suppression.

Further efforts to fight the racist attack on voting rights include a new bill (H.R. 5557) called the Poll Tax Prohibition Act. Introduced by Representative Veasey, co-chair of the Voting Rights Caucus and nineteen co-sponsors, it pushes back against the slew of new voter ID laws byprohibiting the requirement that an individual present a piece of identification that has an associated cost. Currently, millions of voters in dozens of states face costly new identification demands that force them to chase documents in order to vote, even if they have already been voting for 50 years.

Women are most affected, especially elderly women of color, since many now have the onerous task of proving why the maiden names on their birth certificates do not match their married names. They are also less likely to be able to drive themselves on the chase for newly required documentation, as are would-be voters with disabilities.

Another piece of legislation promoted by the Voting Rights Caucus is the VOTE Act (H.R. 5131), which focuses on the security of future elections, calling for transparency of election tabulation and for addressing the reliability of aging voting machines, which often wind up in minority districts, breaking down and causing long lines at the polls. The VOTE Act was introduced by Hank Johnson (D-Georgia), who believes that "non-proprietary, open source software is imperative for next generation voting."

Currently, the majority of the United States' voting technology is owned and programmed by private companies. Their expensive voting machines, particularly the Touch Screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE), are prone to breakdowns, and their vulnerabilities to fraud and hacking are also well documented in studies by John Hopkins, Princeton, Rice and Stanford Universities, as well as by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Government Accountability Office and Argonne National Laboratory.

Last year, Virginia decertified 3,000 voting machines used in about 30 counties after determining that there were severe security problems with the systems, including a poorly secured Wi-Fi feature for tallying votes that would have allowed someone to alter election results without leaving a trace.

These machines had been used in hundreds of elections since 2003. Similarly insecure voting systems are in use throughout the country.

Through the VOTE Act, states will be able to apply for federal funds to develop new, more transparent "open-source" technology for vote tabulation that can be publicly owned.

The VOTE Act also aims at making ballot recounts and audits more transparent. It states that, "upon passage of the VOTE Act, jurisdictions and parties to a recount, or election contest proceeding, would have access to the voting system software used in the election being contested."

As the Voting Rights Caucus and the Voting Rights Alliance gear up to fight voter suppression and manipulation of elections, organizers are seeking to build broad-based participation in the actions and educational campaigns being planned for August 10, the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and in the weeks leading up to the elections in November.

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