Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Officials fear Kobach’s voting fraud panel could create an easy target for hackers

Vice President Mike Pence, left, accompanied by Vice-Chair Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, speaks during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Vice President Mike Pence, left, accompanied by Vice-Chair Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, speaks during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

August 9, 2017


CHERRY HILL, N.J. — Officials from both parties had a consistent answer last year when asked about the security of voting systems: U.S. elections are so decentralized that it would be impossible for hackers to manipulate ballot counts or voter rolls on a wide scale.

But the voter fraud commission established by President Donald Trump could take away that one bit of security.

The commission has requested information on voters from every state and recently won a federal court challenge to push ahead with the collection, keeping it in one place.

By compiling a national list of registered voters, the federal government could provide one-stop shopping for hackers and hostile foreign governments seeking to wreak havoc with elections.

"Coordinating a national voter registration system located in the White House is akin to handing a zip drive to Russia," said Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat who has refused to send data to the commission.

Trump appointed the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence, to examine the integrity of the voting system, including practices that "could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting." The president has asserted repeatedly and without evidence that several million fraudulent votes were cast in last year's election. Voting experts say that there is not widespread election fraud in the U.S. But Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, as well as Russian attempts to meddle with state election systems, have raised concerns about U.S. election security.

In June, commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas, asked state election officials for information about registered voters. The request included details such as driver's license and partial Social Security numbers — if they're considered public in the states. Several officials interpreted the request as saying that all the data would be made available publicly; the commission has since said that individual voters' information would be kept private.

Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia say they won't hand over the information, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Those that are complying have said that not everything on the commission's checklist could be shared under their state laws. Social Security numbers are widely off limits; in several states, birthdates and political party registrations are, too.

The IRS, Social Security Administration, banks and internet companies, among other entities, have far more information about many citizens. Political parties and other organizations have access to some voter registration information — though that permission often comes with restrictions on how they can use it and how widely they can share it.

Still, security experts and fair election advocates say that any records stored on computers are susceptible to attacks.

"It's creating more security vulnerabilities in our election system that don't seem to be necessary," said Barbara Simons, president of Verified Voting, an organization that advocates for transparent, accurate and verifiable elections.

Still, Bruce Schneier, the chief technology officer at the online security firm IBM Resilient, said hacking into a federal database can't affect voters' information in their home states. He said having a copy of data that's already on a federal hard drive "doesn't make it that much worse, assuming the federal government isn't idiotic about it."

A massive database of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was hacked in 2015, compromising the personnel records of millions of federal employees as well as the security clearance information for many of them, which included personal information about their friends and relatives. The hack compromised the information of up to 21 million people. U.S. officials have said there were attempts by Russians to hack into election systems in 21 states. The FBI has confirmed intrusions into voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican, said last month that "the release of private information creates a tremendous breach of trust with voters who work hard to protect themselves against identity fraud." But in a statement this week, the Republican said he is not deeply worried about how the data the state is sharing will be guarded. "Because this data is public information, we have limited concerns regarding sharing it with the commission in terms of how it is housed," he said.

Andrew Appel, a Princeton University computer science professor who studies voting technology, said a new federal voter information database probably would not allow a hacker to manipulate data to make it look like some eligible voters are ineligible. "If someone hacked their database, they could come to believe things that aren't true," Appel said.

Commission spokesman Marc Lotter said states will send the data through a secure connection and it will be encrypted and kept on a White House system "designed to handle sensitive information."

Appel said states have all made some efforts to protect their own voter registration data from hacks. "At least initially," he said, "the president's commission didn't seem to have in place any organized way to secure this data."

In Maine, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat who is a member of Trump's voting commission, is not handing over the information.

Dunlap said the information the commission is getting from other states "isn't wicked intimate" and may be too sparse to identity ineligible registered voters. Another commission member, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, said in a statement that the commission is aware of limitations of the data. But Lawson, a Republican, said the commission's work using the information could help find ways to help states improve the "quality and integrity" of their voter rolls.

But it could still be hacked, Dunlap said.

"The best way to protect people's private information," Dunlap said, "is not to have it in the first place."


Richard Heckler 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The hackers would be Kobach and associate conservatives who already purge voters based on their narrow minded guidelines.

Thus far any problem with illegal voters is largely made up much like fake news from Breibart and FOX.

I say the expert hackers are in USA backyards. Our electronic voting machines can be programmed to vote wrong and print out a receipt looking like the machine voted correctly.

I say the expert hackers are in the USA. May I suggest the devil is in our own backyard.

What about the new voting machines? Where did they come from? Conservatives own voting machines. Which is to say the machines can be corrupted to vote wrong.

Corrupt voting machines fit with the conservative and illegal voter suppression movement.

ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters — including the elderly and the poor — who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID.

By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to very conservative Republicans while undermining the right to vote.

In addition, ALEC wants to make it easier for corporations to participate in the political process.

Their Public Safety and Elections taskforce is co-chaired by Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, one of the most vociferous pro-corporate election groups, and promotes model legislation that would devastate campaign finance reform and allow for greater corporate influence in elections.

Larry Sturm 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Too much of our personal information is already public why would we want it all in one place. Trump and Koback and Pence are the fraud's. The swamp has been drained into the White house.

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Voter databases are already public information.

You can get the entire state list on CDROM for $200. Just fill out a CVR form

The data can also be specified to the precinct level.

Where do you think candidates get names and addresses for their mailings?

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Not social security numbers.

Much was made about Kobach not wanting to give the list to the commission with the SSN.

Richard Heckler 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Have you been purged from the voting rolls or not? This can be fixed however it takes time. Check your status frequently.

Voters ORGANIZING A VOTING DAY PACKET might be a preventive measure which could include:

--- a birth certificate

--- a drivers license or state ID card

--- proof of voter registration etc etc etc.

--- Military Discharge Papers

--- Keep this packet close to protect your right to vote

Do it today in case it is discovered one or more of the above cannot be found. None of these are difficult to replace. But will take time.

Some believe voter suppression is effective :

Bob Summers 9 months, 2 weeks ago

As long as it is not as bad as when Obama allowed hackers into the WH. The fantasies posted by the complex critical thinkers at Huff Po, dailykos, truth-out, think progress will be just that. Fantasies.

The Obama Administration has admitted that a cyberattacker was able to gain access to the US government's systems


Steve Hicks 9 months, 2 weeks ago

LOL, Bob. Good one ! Nobody would EVER have seen that one coming: "anything Trump does, Obama did worse." LOLOLOLOLOL.

There's the kind of "thinking" that guarantees you'll always be a perfect dupe for liars and fools.

You don't HAVE to be a complete tool, Bob. Do you realize that ? It's your choice.

Bob Summers 9 months, 2 weeks ago

At least you admit the maybe, possible, what-if hack of Kobach is not as bad as the actual devastating hack of Obama.

Steve Hicks 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, the news-story you cite seems to be from a credible source, so kudos to you for that. (Recognizing that even sources with an established record for credibility make errors, and shouldn't be accepted uncritically.) But there's really nothing in the story that makes it out to be a "devastating hack."

Quite the opposite. The story says an "unclassified" White House network was hacked: and that the "unusual network activity" by the hackers was "spotted and dealt with." It also says the hackers purpose "did not appear to be based on stealing information or destroying systems, but rather probing and potentially mapping the unclassified White House network, or to simply conduct some kind of surveillance." (It also says the hackers were thought to be Russians: go figure.)

That all makes it seem not a big deal. In the nature of things, I doubt that the White House' summary of the incident was entirely candid: or that all the facts were known to the reporters at the time. It would be interesting to see what's come out since, and if more details make the incident seem more serious that originally reported.

It's interesting to see who covered the story at the time: CNN, Fox News, Time magazine, the BBC, The Washington Post, the Atlantic magazine: with the exception of Fox, "lying liberal media" that "conservatives" always claim are hiding the truth.

It's interesting that Breitbart...which some "conservatives" believe is the only "news" organization telling the truth that other media won't...didn't report the story at the time. Their only hacking story that month was that hackers broke into Dairy Queen's corporate computer-system. (Though in 2016 and 2017 Breitbart frequently cited the 2014 hack: as you did: to claim Russians were doing much worse stuff in the Obama White House than the Trump White House.)

Some followup stories in 2015 (by various "mainstream media" and Fox) did confirm that later investigation pointed strongly to Russian hackers; and admitted that some "non-classified but sensitive information, including the president’s non-public schedule" was hacked.

Beyond that, I doubt we have the full story yet. But we can probably rest assured it will eventually come out. And probably in the "mainstream media" first.

John Brazelton 9 months, 2 weeks ago

In a 50-50 nation, each state should be required to keep their voter rolls clean by removing the dead, illegal aliens, voters who have left the state and voters who haven't voted for several years. Both parties that dominate a certain state want dirty voter rolls to stuff the voter booths in close elections.

Michael Kort 9 months, 2 weeks ago

What a picture !

Notice that Kobachs name is displayed more prominently that Mike Pence's ........ha, ha, ha .

So who gets blamed if they can't find 3 million phony Clinton votes ? MIke or Kriss ?

And what happens if they find out that the Electoral College vote was fixed by Trump and the Republicans somehow ?

Who would have thought that Kobach would have caught a bunch of Republicans in Kansas that cheated the vote ?


Richard Aronoff 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Meanwhile, eleven counties in California have more people on the voter rolls than live in those counties. History footnote: On the official Atchison, Kansas website, there is a video about the history of the town. I recommend it. It seems that during the slave state / free state vote there were 500 voters in Aitchison. One thiousand votes were cast.

Ken Lassman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

In today's world of 10% primary turnout and bumping 60% of registered voters and huge numbers not even bothering to register, let alone vote, this is not the issue, Richard. Seems to me the low turnouts and poor registration makes it easier to manipulate elections with stupid witch hunts looking for boogeymen fraudulent voting schemes that are primarily voter suppression in practice.

The best insurance against voter fraud is very high registration rates of legitimate voters, along with high participation in the election. The goal of reliable registration and participation should be the goal of any legitimate Secretary of State as well as any federal investigations about our elections.

Steve Hicks 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Sam, I think most rational people are well aware there is fraudulent voter-registration and fraudulent voting. That's never been the question.

The question has always been if fraudulent registration and voting is a significant enough problem that it seriously comprises our voting system, and justifies the time and money spent making it a top priority for government action.

When Kobach seized on voter-fraud as the "issue" he could ride to national fame, his immediate predecesors as Kansas Secretary of State, Democrat and Republican, all said it was NOT a significant issue in Kansas. The fact that in the 6 years since the "conservative" legislature gave "conservative" Kobach extra law-enforcement powers (unique among American Secretaries of State), and extra money to deal with voting fraud he's caught and prosecuted (I think it's now) 10 illegal voters, shows his predecesors were right.

Now, if Kobach caught 10 illegal voters, and the Virginia story you cite says a guy put in fraudulent registrations for 18 people there...that means, by the figures Trump and Kobach give for fraudulent voters, there are 2,999,972 to 4,999,972 illegal voters still out there.

The money and time spent on the "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" has so far yielded not a single apprehension of a fraudulent voter. Seems to me the take-away has to be that either the Trump-Kobach effort is criminally incompetent: or that the Trump-Kobach claim about the magnitude of the problem is a complete damned lie.

In either case: why should our government resources of time and money be wasted on this Commission ?

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Researchers from Old Dominion University ( 26,000 students) and George Mason University (37,000) did an exhaustive study on elections.

Richman et al. published their extensive findings “Do non citizens vote in U.S. Elections ?” in the journal Electoral Studies, 36 (2014).

Among other things from the data intensive paper, they estimate a minimum of 620,000 non citizens illegally registered to vote in 2008.

Further, they estimate a statistical minimum of 38,000 to a maximum of 2.8 million non-citizens actually voted in the 2008 election. Those would have all been illegal votes.

They wrote, “Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress”

Steve Hicks 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Snopes has some interesting research on various non-factual claims about what Richman's study says, Sam.

Among others, author Richman publicly refuted some of the "conservative" fact-twisting claims about what the study says and means...such as those you cite.

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

No Steve.

The study I cite was about the 2008 election, and published in 2014.

The snopes crap you refer to is about projecting Richmans previous data from 2008 to the 2016 election.

Clinton is obviously not even mentioned in the journal published data.

Steve Hicks 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The Snopes article clearly says the original studies were in 2008 and 2010, summarized in a 2014 article by Richman: and extrapolated by fact-twisters such as Sean Spicer and the Washington Times to the 2016 election.

That dishonest extrapolation (or as you say, "projecting") was what Snopes found false.

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

But it doesn't degrade the findings of the original study as published.

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

In 2008 Obama gave the liberal activist group ACORN $800,000 for a voter registration drive.

That year, in Lake County, Indiana, ACORN turned in 5000 new registrations the day before the deadline. After it was discovered the first 2100 of them were phony, the country quit processing the rest. It was first discovered when an election worker saw a dead friend registering to vote. Jimmy John also registered with a store address. From CNN Oct 10, 2008.

In Nevada, again in 2008, ACORN had submitted thousands of phony voter registrations at the last minute. It was discovered when someone in the elections office noticed that the Dallas Cowboys football players had registered to vote in the state. The state director was fined $5,000 and given a two year suspended sentence.

Ken Lassman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Sam, Sam, Sam. Are you purposefully throwing out diversionary "research" to intentionally throw people off the real issue, which is low eligible voter turnout? I honestly think the Kobach and Trump approach has been consistent with the long-term goal of the GOP: reduce participation by as much as you can, because that makes it easier to control the outcome of an election. Some of the biggest names in the party got their start running voter suppression campaigns, and Mr. Kobach seems intent on following that path to national recognition.

Here are some numbers to consider: there are approximately 218.9 million citizens who are eligible to vote, and only 146.3 million are even registered. That's 72.6 million folks who are not participating at all. If you include those registered but still didn't vote, that number rises to almost 100 million voters who didn't participate in 2016's elections. Those numbers make the supposedly "scientific" projections of your study fade away in relative insignificance, even if they were true, which is definitely questionable according to many.

The US is a sad 27th in the percentage of eligible voters who don't register or vote when compared to other countries. See the Pew Research study for more details:

That, in a nutshell is the issue, and if there are problems with our registration and participation, these are issues that we need to be addressing with clear, sound solutions, not the anecdotal-ridden scare tactics that are all too often used to justify voter suppression. Isn't it interesting that the focus of many of these efforts at detecting voter fraud takes place in places where a swung election could make a big difference at the national level or in close races? Why could that be???

Until a more coordinated effort is made to get better registration numbers and participation, I refuse to see Kobach and his ilk as anything other than voter suppression, plain and simple.

Sam Crow 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The article and discussion is about voter fraud.

You are trying to change the subject to turnout. This, because of low voter partipation in the Lawrence primary for city commission.

Nice try.

Ken Lassman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Actually the article is about the security weakness and vulnerability of the system being set up to monitor the pseudo-problem of voter fraud: nice try yourself.

Which is why I brought up the issue of voter participation nation-wide, not locally, tho the issue manifests locally, too, of course. If you had read my comments more closely you would have seen that they refer to the national issue, not the local manifestation of that issue. And here's how it relates to the voter fraud issue: if there was a much bigger fraction of eligible voters who actually registered, and then voted, then the numbers you brought up in your pseudo-research would be much less relevant because if you add in the almost 100 million extra legitimate votes into the election, the numbers you quoted would not nearly have the impact. So the real way to reduce the impact of voter fraud is by getting more eligible voters to vote, not less. All that less does is make elections easier to manipulate.

Richard Heckler 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't know why anyone in the nation without proper documents would register to vote much less attempt to vote?

Purge a voter for not voting is not acceptable. It is BS.

Once again put together a voter packet with more than enough proof of who you are to include voter registration.

Using immigrants as reason for VOTER SUPRESSION to me is not the truth rather it is a distraction to purge voters selectively in order for radical ALEC Conservatives and Fundamentalist Conservatives to win elections.

Sorry voters we cannot ignore this unethical conduct because Kobach and ALEC associates have this down to a science meaning they know how many of which voters to purge in order to win elections.

Seems our Kansas drivers licenses have become a tool for these law breakers as state officials are demanding more proof of ID in order to secure a new license. Kansas City Star covered this matter today.

Obviously these radicals are assuming enough people will not put out the effort to secure documents. Of course this whole voter suppression process is probably illegal. Then again Iran-Contra and Watergate were illegal yet conservatives moved forward anyway.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This is more GOP hypocrisy. The states, and counties within the states have taken care of registering voters. Now some may have been lax about keeping up with their records, but it's still their job. If Obama or any Democrat had done this, conservatives would be calling it federal overreach.

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