Election Integrity in Nevada: How Safe Is Safe?

We have a President of the United States of America who appears singularly uninterested in investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.  Nothing has originated from the Oval Office to indicate he is curious about (a) Russian intrusions into some 21 to 39 state election systems; (b) Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 elections; and (c) European efforts to blunt Russian cyber attacks on their elections.  Perhaps there’s nothing surprising about this, he’s shown precious little interest in:

(1) Bolstering NATO nation confidence in US support for their interests in addressing Russian incursions into Crimea, Ukraine, and the Baltic States; (2) Extending or enhancing sanctions on Russia for these incursions; (3) Maintaining the sanctions initiated by the Obama Administration including the removal of the Russians from two facilities used for intelligence purposes.   And, now the President wants to have something to “offer” the Russians during the upcoming meetings of the G20.

“President Donald Trump has asked National Security Council staff to come up with “deliverables” that he can offer to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany next week, The Guardian reported Thursday.”  [Business Insider]

At this juncture it would seem necessary for citizens in Nevada to multi-task.  On one hand we need to insure that the Administration isn’t encouraged to promote its voter suppression program, at present in the form of Chris Kobach’s extensive request for voter data which will be massaged into a report which will no doubt encourage more voter suppression legislation.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing the information any county chairperson can obtain from the voting registrar or the county clerk, but there’s all manner of things wrong with asking for military status,  Social Security numbers or portions thereof, voting history, and other personal data NOT previously part of the public record.  The Nevada Secretary of State has responded in the following press release:

“Many people have asked whether or not the Secretary of State’s office plans to comply with the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter registration information in Nevada.  Other than the previously identified confidential information, state law (NRS 293.558) prohibits election officials from withholding voter registration information from the public.  In addition, the state’s Public Records Act requires government entities to allow for inspection of public records.  As a result, the Secretary of State’s office will provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with only the publicly available voter registration information under Nevada law.”

Thus much for Kobach’s grand plan for a 50 state data accumulation of personal voting histories and “targets” for vote suppression.  However, we can reasonably predict that this will not be the end of Kobach and Von Spakovsky’s efforts to impede voting by the elderly, the young, and minority ethnic group members; in short, people who are likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

On the other hand, we need to watch out for insecurities in our own electoral systems.  One element, of course, is the integrity of our mechanical and electronic voting machines.  For those wishing to delve into the weediest of the weeds should refer to NAC Chapter 293B which specifies how these are to be maintained, tested, and audited, which led Verified Votin g.Org to declare Nevada’s overall performance as “generally good.”  Additional information concerning Nevada’s audit limitations can be found on this Verified Voting page.   We have some soft spots, but none of these seem like major issues at the moment, and most appear to be capable of repair by a legislature paying attention to the details.

Now, we need a third hand.  Since the intelligence agencies at the Federal level haven’t released the names of those states (21 to 39) which suffered Russian intrusion, we don’t know if Nevada is among the list.  The only ones which have self-identified to date are Illinois and Arizona.  This situation raises more questions:

(1)  Is the voter registration data maintained by the Secretary of State’s office fully secure and safe from hacking?  Is access to this information secured in such a way as to prevent unlawful or illicit compromise?  What tests are performed to verify the security, and by whom are the tests conducted?  To whom are the results reported? Are those receiving the test reports empowered to fix any and all issues discovered?

(2) Is the voter registration data maintained at the local level secure from unauthorized access?  Is there sufficient funding and expertise at the local level to conduct tests of access security?  Is the ‘calendar’ of security testing at the local level adequate to prevent unauthorized or illicit access?  Are there “gaps” in access security, such that some localities are more secure than others?

(3) Are local voting systems/machines secure from unauthorized access and tampering?  Is the State (or local agencies) doing adequate security testing and auditing of results? Are our present systems safe, or is there more we could be doing?  Do we need to consider more in the way of risk limitation auditing .

It’s now beginning to look like we need to have some more hands involved, rather more like an octopus to get a handle on all the questions.

There are some things that Nevada may not have the capacity to do on its own.  We probably shouldn’t be required to conduct our own “elves vs. trolls” in the manner of the Lithuanian government’s efforts to fight off disinformation campaigns.  Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Baltic nations, Sweden and the European Union have all devised national and cross-border efforts to publicize and blunt Russian efforts. [WP]

It would be extremely helpful to have a federal Executive Branch more engaged in countering Russian meddling than in vote suppression and declaring the obvious FACT of Russian cyber assaults to be Fake News.

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