The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for October 9-15 2017

The voting news was dominated this week by the release of a report detailing the events at the Voting Machine Village at this year’s DEFCON hacking convention. Numerous articles considered the implications of the security vulnerabilities revealed in voting equipment that remains in use in American elections. The headline of a WhatWhereWhy article asks whether the American public in general are paying attention to voting technology more that at any time since the 2000 recount. An extensive article in WIRED, along with many others, reported on an event presented by the Atlantic Council where the report was made public and note that “hackers, researchers, diplomats, and national security experts are pushing to effect real change in Washington.”

Whether or not the US Congress can provide guidance and funding for effective change, many states are already making efforts to enhance the security of their voting systems by moving to paper ballot systems and post election audits. Earlier this year the Virginia Board of Elections prohibited the use of direct recording election voting machines and Rhode Island recently adopted a measure calling for risk-limiting post election audits. These are positive signs, but as a post on the Verified Voting Blog points out there is sill plenty of work to be done.

Virginia and New Jersey will each hold gubernatorial elections next month and while Virginia will now be using paper ballot systems statewide, New Jersey still be using some of the oldest voting equipment in the country. NJ.com looked into the security of voting equipment in the state and reported that18 out of the state’s 21 counties use the Sequoia AC Advantage voting machine, one of the machines recently decertified in Virginia. The machine designed in the early 1990s, uses outdated technology that would be easy to hack. Princeton University computer scientist Andrew Appel noted that “[i]f you put a fraudulent program that adds up the votes a different way, you can install it in the voting machine by prying out the legitimate chip in there now and installing this fraudulent chip in the socket.”

A Tallahassee Democrat editorial calls on the a Florida Constitution Revision Commission to correct a “write-in” loophole that they contend denies registered Democrats a chance to vote in primary elections. 20 years ago a similar commission decided that when only Republicans or only Democrats run for an office, everybody should be allowed to vote in the primary in that race. But then the Division of Elections issued a legal opinion decreeing that write-in candidates are real contenders for a public office. That means if someone registers as a write-in candidate in a primary with only candidates from one party, their write-in status closes the primary and only voters from that party can vote in the primary. That invites bogus write-in candidates to file. Sometimes, a lobbyist or close friend of a candidate — even a family member — will offer as a write-in, just to keep non-party members from voting in the primary, effectively disenfranchising all other voters.

A panel of three federal judges heard arguments over North Carolina’s redrawn legislative district maps. The judges must decide whether to force another redrawing of the boundaries approved by Republicans over the summer or allow them to be used in the 2018 elections. In a written order the panel asked lawyers to offer by next week names of at least three possible special masters to avoid delays should the panel favor the voters.

In a 10-4 ruling, a federal appeals court Tuesday declined to have all 14 judges participate in the appeal over the Texas voter ID law — a decision that will keep the issue unresolved heading into the 2018 elections, one judge said. Civil rights groups, Democrats and minority voters who challenged the voter ID law as discriminatory had asked for the entire court to hear the appeal as a way to speed the case toward resolution.

Voters are heading to the polls today in Kyrgyzstan in a presidential election with observers predicting no outright winner and a close runoff between two pro-Russian candidates, one of whom is backed by the outgoing leader. One of Liberia’s largest political parties called for a halt to counting of election results alleging voting irregularities and fraud, as the country awaited the announcement of the first provisional results. Angry supporters gathered to protest at Liberty Party headquarters, claiming polls in the West African nation opened late and that ballot-tampering occurred in at least one location in the capital, Monrovia.

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