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Election Security

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Posted on June 27 2019

 

The “system is rigged”...well maybe.

 

In true Trump- fabrication - I mean fashion, of course Trump used twitter screaming about the “rigged” election system. Because that’s exactly what a functioning sociopath would do. Essentially blame everyone else for your inadequacies and abject failure. This link will take you to the forty-seven (albeit not all of his screeds were in all caps) unique tweets where Trump feigned the “system is rigged” - I limited the search perimeters to April 2, 2015 thru January 20, 2017 so that time frame would solely be when he was a candidate.

 

 

 

I should also disclose that for a fleeting moment I was willing to accept Donald Trump as a “duly elected” president on one clear condition. If Trump had looked directly in to the camera on the morning of January 20, 2017 and said something on the lines of: 

 

Russia I know what you did. My Intelligence Community knows how you did it. As long as I’m president of these United States of America - I will not allow your continued attacks on America stand. If you keep up your cyber information warfare - I will direct my Government to levy such crushing sanctions on you and your oligarchs. That you’ll beg me to stop. Rest assured I won’t stop untimimlmow for certainty You’ll answer to me.

 

Meaning as an American I don’t want any president to fail. Because that would mean I want my country to fail. Which is a completely foreign concept to me. The irony is if Trump had said anything remotely close to the previous statement maybe he wouldn’t be unside down in poll

In the past there have been considerable and sometimes “passionate” debates surrounding our Election System. While I’m not an elections expert I can parlay some of my own personal experience(s). Fundamentally I’m in the camp that: every American, who is eligible to vote should be required to “volunteer” at least once as an election officer. This would provide said voter with a deeper understanding of how our Democratic process works. In my State we vote every year. In 2017 there was significant cause and warranted concern that my State opted to go exclusively with paper ballots.

 

As someone who’s volunteered on numerous occasions as an elections official. I sat 2016 out because I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the decisions made by the registrar or the State Board of Elections. I had very specific concerns about the volunteers, their safety and the security of the process. I truly believe every American should volunteer at least once, as it might actually motivate more Americans to actually vote, if they understand the process - although the DHS has a decent chart  about the electoral “process”. 

 

For now I’m going to set aside the lack luster voter turn out because it is maddening. As in the voters who turn out and those who simply do not vote. Perhaps I’m alone when I say: if you didn’t vote, then you don’t get to complain. If you are curious see the data of voter turn out, I’ve provided a few links below:

 

The voter turn out data from 1789 - present can be found on ElectProject.org website, they aggregated data collected and then created the following graphic. This organization and data project is headed by Michael P. McDonald, Associate ProfessorUniversity of Florida, Department of Political Science.

 

Elect Project Data tables

 

Year Election  
2018 General   
2016 General Primary
2014 General  
2012 General Primary
2010 General  
2008 General Primary
2006 General  
2004 General Primary
2002 General  
2000 General Primary

 

This will take you to the PEW Research project. Which uses the ElectProject derivative data sets and drills down even further. It then compared the data subset to how America’s voter turn out ranks among other Countries:

 

Nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, representing a slight uptick compared with 2012 but less than in the record year of 2008. While most Americans – 70% in a recent Pew Research Center survey – say high turnout in presidential elections is very important, what constitutes “high turnout” depends very much on which country you’re looking at and which measuring stick you use.

 

The United States House of Representatives also collects datasets of Presidential Elections. You can find the House Historians dataset on Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.

Since 1920, the Clerk of the House has collected and published the official vote counts for federal elections from the official sources among the various states and territories.

 

2018 Election “official” tallies found here
2016 Election “ “ tally found here.
You can access the full dataset 1920 thru 2018 here.

 

 

This is the “certified” Federal Election Commission 2016 election report. This is not be re-litigating the 2016 election. This is me providing you original documents and datasets. Because the information and embedded links will help lay a strong fact-base predicate for the rest of this discussion. Accordingly there are a few states that, in my opinion (largely based on the voluminous public reporting and data) that should be scrutinized, both in terms of election security and protocols.

 

Florida: Clinton 4,504,975 v. Trump 4,617,886 = 112,911 in favor of Trump

Michigan: Clinton 2,268,839 v. Trump 2,279,543 = 10,704 in favor of Trump

Minnesota: Clinton 1,367,716 v. Trump 1,322,951 = 44,765 in favor of  Clinton

Pennsylvania: Clinton 2,926,441 v. Trump 2,970,733 = 44,292 in favor of Trump 

 

 

Because  the July 2018 IRA/Concord Indictment Case 1:18-cr-00215-ABJ - the entirety of this Indictment centered around the underlying conspiracy to hack - exfiltrating data by stealing it.  . See page 

 

The object of the conspiracy was to hack into protected computers of persons and entities charged with the administration of the 2016 U.S. elections in order to access those computers and steal voter data and other information stored on those computers.

 

 

Some might argue that the Center for American Progress (CAP) is a “liberal” organization, I tend to look at the data. After all secure elections really should not be a partisan food fight - pitting Americans against each other and States fighting the Federal Election Commission. That said I’d highly recommend you that you read their February 2018 Report. CAP assigned a Grade per State.

 

 

 

 

Unsurprisingly both Florida and Pennsylvania received relatively poor scores. But then again that’s not new, per se. Again I should emphasis that CAP’a Data was published in February of 2018 - so its not the “freshest” dataset but in my opinion it is still an important factual landing point.

 

Trump-GOP Election Security

 

So so let’s take a closer look at the Trump Administration’s Actions with respect to ensuring our Elections are SECURE. As many of you might recall on my twitter accounts I typically had a thread or dozen where I pointed you to The Washington Post PAS tracker (PAS - means Senate Confirmation Required). Trump has been in office for 878 days, 125 weeks and he has failed to nominate FIVE of the six Federal Elections Commissioner positions. Let that sink in 878 days these positions still do not have a nominee:

 

Let’s take a look at the Government Agency who’s the “lead” for Election Security, Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Tiny tiny details - such as the DHS Election Security homepage has not been updated since March 9, 2019 also Nielsen resigned on April 7, 2019 yet the DHS-Election Security Page still has her quote and is still listed as the DHS Secretary. That’s not my opinion that is a fact which you can verify in the embedded DHS link. 

 

 

To be fair - because I do try to give you as much original sourced document(s) as possible, while the DHS Election Security is horribly outdated, to DHS credit they are (by all appearances) attempting to keep their digital library up to date.

 

This May 2019 Election Infrastructure Security Resource Guide, states in part:

 

Election infrastructure security is a priority for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), based in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As the lead agency for securing the Nation’s homeland, DHS, through CISA, is responsible for maintaining public trust and confidence in America’s election system. CISA works directly with election officials throughout the United States to help them protect election systems by sharing timely and actionable threat information and offering cybersecurity services to safeguard their election systems.

 

The USA Patriot Act of 2001 (42 U.S.C. 519c(e)) - allowed the DHS to classify our Election System as Critical Infrastructure - which reads in part:

 

“...systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” 

 

However beyond the May 2019 Resource Guide - the vast majority of data available  is circa 2018. It is almost as if no one wants to talk to Trump about securing our electoral system. Because Trump will rage on them like a drug addled junkie who’s undeniably insecure about his “victory”...of which he is still obsessed about his crowd size and his (not) landslide “historical” win. It’s almost like Trump doesn’t think he’s supporters are smart enough to comprehend basic math and can easily discern facts over his vacuous lies. I mean did you forget about the “fake” Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity which was disbanded in January of 2018

 

 The Ransomware Executive One-Pager and Technical Document Published July 8, 2019 
 Election Infrastructure Security Funding Considerations Published June 13, 2018
Securing Voter Registration Data Published June 28, 2018
 Best Practices for Continuity of Operations Published June 26, 2018

 

 

Not the belabor the point DHS Election Security homepage shows the last time it was updated was March of 2019. Again that’s not my opinion those are verifiable facts that you can confirm:

 

When the Trump-Republicans controlled both Chambers of Congress and the White House they repeatedly voted down or out right blocked any legislation that would replenish funds to assist States with securing their election voting machines, software and other proactive measures to secure our elections. To that end, even Trump’s own May 2018 White House Published a CyberRisk Report that indicated more than three quarters of all Government Agencies are not prepared for a Cyber-attack.

Which now brings us to the June 25, 2019 Hearing - full disclosure I didn’t watch the entire Hearing because how dare my real job get in the way. Needless to say I’m playing catch up but I do think this Hearing should have garnered far more attention.

 

Election Security:

 

Voting Technology Vulnerabilities

 

The purpose of the hearing is to review the security of US election system technologies, such as e-poll books, voter registration systems, and voting machines, and the maintenance and operations activities that support them.

The Subcommittees will discuss research and other activities being carried out under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA - which was established in 2002), which directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop voluntary voting systems guidelines in collaboration with the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). If EAC sounds remotely familiar, well it should because while Trump-Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress they repeatedly blocked, voted down or moved appropriations in an overt attempt to shutter EAC. It’s almost like Republicans really do not want Fair or Open elections.  To help you further understand the scope and responsibility of the various agencies you might find the following informative:

 

U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 and charged with developing Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG).

These guidelines, which are voluntary for states, outline specifications against which voting systems can be tested. They address all the requirements listed below—security, functionality, privacy, usability and accessibility. The EAC relies on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to write the detailed technical guidelines, and on the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a group of volunteer stakeholders—vendors, academics, advocates, election officials, etc.—to review the guidelines. The TGDC makes recommendations to the EAC, which then formally adopts them.

 

The Subcommittees stated that their collective intentions are to explore policy strategies which would allow for protecting the full technology enterprise associated with election systems and recommendationsively  from the 2018 National Academies report, Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy - I was able to source an Open Source Link via the Carnegie Corp because I do not like using my work resources - as in paid databases to provide you with original document sources- weird its an ethical demarcation that I refuse to cross. Below are the following key questions that the June 25th hearing intend to answer or at the minimum create a larger and open discussion to address the ongoing election security issues. Trump and his actions have proven he does not plan to proactively and assertively address potential issues within our election system.

🔹What are the technology components associated with conducting a secure election?
🔹What types of voting technology vulnerabilities were seen during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles?
🔹What are the roles of NIST and other science agencies in developing technologies and best practices for secure elections?
🔹What are some of the barriers that election officials face as they seek to enhance the security of their systems?
🔹Are legislative changes needed to adapt existing programs to modern technology?

As with nearly all House Committees and subcommittees Members are allowed a few moments for their opening statements. Below I’ve embedded each member who provided a written statement:

 

  

As a general rule, typically subcommittee members statements are banal and sadly I tend to actually read them. Except because of the subject matter of the June 25, 2019 Hearing I opted to break with my standard practice and read each members statement. For your edification I’ve taken the liberty of literally highlighting what seems relatively important. For example in Rep Johnson’s statement there are significant disclosures made (perhaps this was well known and it slipped my radar), nonetheless it seems pretty important given there’s a lot of data within the second paragraph of the first page of Rep Johnson’s statement:

The 2018 election cycle saw a terrible episode in Texas in which malfunctioning electronic voting machines ended up changing some voters’ selections from Democrat to Republican, and deleted some voters all together. This occurred across at least 78 counties. And the machines where this happened were paperless, which means it was impossible to go back and compare the voters’ intent with what the device actually recorded. To underscore the gravity of what happened in 2018, the Texas Civil Rights Project issued a statement that this event “is threatening to call into question the entire election in Texas.” To wit, in a court case that resulted from a similar episode in the state of Georgia, a judge ultimately decided that continued use of paperless systems can harm our constitutional rights to a free and fair election.

 

What that paragraph tells us, should alarm all of us. These facts certainly convey a substantial predicate of why there should be some standardization and best practices of our elections. Meaning Texas as a whole had 254 countries, of that “at least 78 countries” experienced malfunctioning electronic voting machines malfunctioning - which ranged from changing a voter’s vote or deleting their vote all together. That is hugely problematic, especially since the Texas Secretary of State did not have paper-ballot back ups. 

Conversely the three Republican Members of the subcommittee had a very odd and interesting counter point. And it largely echoes what the Republicans have pivoted in the aftermath of the 2016 election: “that no votes were changed” - which has always struck me as odd. As in “really that’s what you’re going with” because saying “no votes were changed” does not adequately address the underlying issue. If “hackers” infiltrated voter rolls. Nor does Rep Lucas’ statement comport with his colleague from Texas who unequivocally stated that in Texas during the 2018 mid-terms electronic voting machines changed votes or simply deleted votes.

Although there is no evidence to date that a single vote was changed in the 2016 or 2018 elections due to a cyberattack or foreign interference, we know that our adversaries are looking to erode public confidence in elections....Although these attacks did not result in actual votes being changed, they served as a warning to Federal, State, and local officials that we must be vigilant about securing our elections.

 

Rep Lucas (found on page two of his written statement) decided to pound his chest and prove how easy an average person can (fairly quickly) blast holes in his specious assertion that:

“Was Oklahoma, we have an election system that is secure, reliable, and provides timely results...Oklahomans can trust in the results of our State’s elections...how the Federal government can best support states like Oklahoma in their work, without creating mandates that are one-size-fits all....Unfortunately, that partisan bill goes far beyond securing elections – setting mandates on State and local governments for the administration of elections that have nothing to do with security or
election integrity.

If Rep Lucas doesn’t understand that if his great state of Oklahoma would like to refund the American Tax Payers the $5,445,818.00 of Federal HAVA funds his state received then he should go ahead and turn down any future Federal Largesse his state freely takes to “help fund” Election Security.

Because according to the “certified” FEC 2016 Election results only 1,542,992 Oklahomans voted. Whereas in 2018 Oklahoma accepted >$5.45Million in Federal Funding from EAC who dispensed appropriations earmarked under HAVA.

 If you are curious to know how much federal HAVA funding your state received, this EAC link will take you to each state. You might want to bookmark it for future reference. Given this is all public information, you just need to know where and what to look for.  Overall I tend to loath hypocrisy. Meaning if you are a member of Congress and you opt to use your position to trash talk and spread rancid disinformation, you should expect that someone will do the research, provide original documents and then call you out. You can not accept millions of dollars in “federal aid” to help fortify your election Infrastructure and then feign outrage when there are (appropriate) terms and conditions placed on those funds.

 

Further in March of 2019 The Brennan Center Published this phenomenal research white paper entitled: Voting Machines at Risk: Where We Stand Today - and specifically noted the following:

We used this information to confirm that seven states (Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina)  are using exclusively discontinued voting machines

 

I would encourage you to read the expert witness testimony for the hearing that occurred earlier this week - the subcommittee had an excellent panel of expert witnesses and you’ll find their statements both informative and addresses the critical need to ensure our election system is in fact secure. Otherwise what’s the point, right?

Dr. Charles H. Romine - Director, Information Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology  Witness Statement, PDF

Mr. Neal Kelley - Registrar of Voters, Orange County, California Witness Statement, PDF

Dr. Latanya Sweeney Professor of Government and Technology in Residence, Department of Government, Harvard University, Institute for Quantitative Social Science Witness Statement, PDF

Mr. Paul Ziriax - Secretary, Oklahoma State Election Board  Witness Statement PDF

Dr. Josh Benaloh - Senior Cryptographer, Microsoft Research Witness Statement PDF

Of all the witness statements I personally found Dr. Benaloh Statement the most informative. Rightfully so he directed subcommittee members to Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy Program” - specifically Dr. Benaloh and Microsoft’s approach is wholistic versus mono-e-mono and it makes a lot of sense that  not one agency/entity can address the security of our Elections. It’s a rare instance where I fundamentally believe Public-Private partnerships are warranted and busting through that wall is for the greater good. Not only do Voters need to trust the election but they need that trust maintained. As it relates to cyber-Darwinism complacency can have catastrophic ripple effects and affects.

 

 

 

 

June 21, 2017 Senate Intelligence Committee

The fact this Hearing was two years ago and it really is unclear to me what the Trump Administration has done to not only secure our Election Infrastructure but equally important there’s nothing in the public domain that discloses proactive policies that trap and trace attacks. Perhaps this is an actual Trump Policy and for now the public shouldn’t know but I get the sense that the Trump-Republicans are completely fine with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea continuing to launch unrelenting cyber attacks. 

When asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee about the, who, why, how and when of the 21+ states that the Russians hacked - there’s zero equivocation, like none it was Russia. But the reality is Trump is so insecure about his (not) “landslide” and (not) historical “victory” that Cabinet Level Officials and close Senior Advisors do not Brief Trump on Actions or Cyber Attacks - specifically on our electoral Infrastructure. To me that’s a huge dereliction of duty, on the Commander in Chief...  

 

It is as if, Trump has verbally beaten the Congressional Republicans is to silent decomposition. That Trump’s unhinged rage and equally thin skin on his election results in his staff “not wanting to upset the boss” try to hide or contain critical information from him. Or that there’s been a growing concern that Trump can not be trusted with highly sensitive intelligence - therefore he’s not briefed. What ever the reason is - the bottom line is Trump’s “feelings” continue to be our Country’s biggest National Security Threat. Don’t you think that’s a significant problem? Because I do and it’s kind of stomach turning that the tyrant in the White House continues to be a Clear and Present Danger to our homeland - and the Republicans enable this grotesque behavior.

And lastly one really has to wonder if anyone in the White House or EEOB fully comprehends that the use of personal aka consumer grade electronics is a huge security when traveling internationally. As this FEC December 2018 Advisory Opinion clearly notes.

Which is one of the main reasons when the Trump-Republicans decided to spend our Country’s Independence Day - holding court with Putin, found here and here if you’ll  recall a few members of Congress twitter Accounts started tweeting really weird things and almost implausible as in at one point I believe twitter rhetorically asked: did you buy a burner phone before you departed for Russia and did you leave your personal electronics in America.

In semi-related news, I’m certain you’ve all read the House Intel & Judiciary Committee Letter & Subpoena to Former Special Counsel Mueller - who subsequently agreed to testify in open session on July 17, 2019

 Which also gives another opportunity for you to review the Indictments

U.S. v. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, et al

(1:18-cr-215, District of Columbia)

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on July 13, 2018, against 12 Russian nationals for their alleged roles in computer hacking conspiracies aimed at interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. The indictment charges 11 of the defendants with conspiracy to commit computer crimes, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money. Two defendants are charged with a separate conspiracy to commit computer crimes. Indictment

U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al

(1:18-cr-32, District of Columbia)

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on Feb. 16, 2018, against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes. The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft. Indictment

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, Russia,

EDVA- Alexandria Case No. 1:18-mj-464.

served as the chief accountant of “Project Lakhta,” a Russian umbrella effort funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering. Project Lakhta includes multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in the United States, members of the European Union, and Ukraine, among others. Complaint

 

 See October 2018 WADA Indictment, it was a global take down. See July 2018, XAgent and Xtunnel entry, I attempted to explain in a broader context the July 13th Special Counsel Mueller’s indictment, entry found here and here. Yahoo Hack, found here. Nikulin extradition found here

 

At any rate I’m still working on yesterday’s hearing concerning social media and deep fakes and how the big tech companies are “address” the persistent and pervasive threat this has on our 2020 elections. My day is super slammed tomorrow and by slammed I do not mean sitting on my chaise lounge shoving bonbons in my calorie hole while binge watching Lifetime - I have a pretty big work project which will put me out of pocket for most of the day. So it might be until the weekend for me to finish up the research on the Social Media Hearing. 

And as a tiny token of my appreciation for you managing to read this incredibly long entry - I swear this never ever gets old.

 

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1 comment

  • Marie G: July 10, 2019

    Great entry, Spicy. This with Jennifer Cohn’s stuff is truly calling out all of the risks we seem to be ignoring.

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