defend Canadian electoral process from cyber threats – Minister of Democratic Institutions Mandate

In the mandate letter for Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould, she receives direction to discontinue electoral reform activities

Changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.

She is also directed to defend the current electoral system from cyber threats, by working with National Defence, Public Safety, and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).  In addition through her, CSE is directed to analyze security risks to Canadian political and electoral activities, and to offer advice to Canadian political parties and Elections Canada on cybersecurity.

In collaboration with the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, lead the Government of Canada’s efforts to defend the Canadian electoral process from cyber threats.  This should include asking the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to analyze risks to Canada’s political and electoral activities from hackers, and to release this assessment publicly.  As well, ask CSE to offer advice to Canada’s political parties and Elections Canada on best practices when it comes to cyber security.

(a copy of the mandate letter is also available in Archive.org)

Given the current cyber threat environment, with documented compromises of political party systems and elections-related systems, I consider this new emphasis on electoral process cyber security to be excellent.  Having CSE release its security assessment publicly is also a very important step.

Note that in addition to Canada and the US, the Australian Prime Minister also expressed his concern about foreign actors attacking political parties.

The [Australian] Federal Government is urging Australia’s political parties to steel themselves against potential foreign cyber attacks, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull prepares to announce an unprecedented cyber security briefing for political parties to be held in Canberra early next month.

from ABC News – Government urges political parties to ‘keep themselves secure’ ahead of cyber security briefing – January 23, 2017

video – An Uninvited Security Audit of the U.S. Presidential Election

Computer security researchers J. Alex Halderman and Matt Bernhard report on US voting computer security and the attempts to conduct comprehensive audits of the 2016 election results (recounts) in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Video also available (including for download) at https://media.ccc.de/v/33c3-8074-recount_2016_an_uninvited_security_audit_of_the_u_s_presidential_election#video

Halderman and Bernhard were presenting at the hacker conference Chaos Communication Conference (CCC) on December 28, 2016.

The slides may become available on the presentation page https://fahrplan.events.ccc.de/congress/2016/Fahrplan/events/8074.html

Matt Bernhard tweets @umbernhard

You can find more about J. Alex Halderman in my list of computer security experts https://papervotecanada2.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/internet-voting-and-computer-security-expertise/#JAlexHalderman

Election Infrastructure declared critical by US Dept of Homeland Security

Election infrastructure is vital to our national interests, and cyber attacks on this country are becoming more sophisticated, and bad cyber actors – ranging from nation states, cyber criminals and hacktivists – are becoming more sophisticated and dangerous.

Statement by [US Department of Homeland Security] Secretary Jeh Johnson on the Designation of Election Infrastructure as a Critical Infrastructure Subsector – January 6, 2017

There was also a joint statement from US intelligence agencies about  Foreign Cyber Threats to the U.S. issued on January 5, 2017

Despite ever-improving cyber defenses, nearly all information, communication networks, and systems will be at risk for years to come from remote hacking to establish persistent covert access, supply chain operations that insert compromised hardware or software, malicious actions by trusted insiders, and mistakes by system users. In short, the cyber threat cannot be eliminated. Rather, cyber risk must be managed in the context of overall business and operational risk. At present, however, the risk calculus some private and public sector entities employ does not adequately account for foreign cyber threats or systemic interdependencies between different critical infrastructure sectors.

(Emphasis mine.)
The report concludes that things are only going to get worse.

Over the next five years, technological change will only accelerate the intersection of cyber and physical devices, creating new risks. Adversaries are likely to further explore cyber-enabled psychological operations and may look to steal or manipulate data to gain strategic advantage or undermine confidence.

Joint Statement for the Record on Foreign Cyber Threats to the U.S. to the Senate Armed Services Committee – January 5, 2017

I am less interested in the details of specific events and specific actors, but nevertheless, on January 6, 2017 the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint CIA, FBI, NSA report: ICA 2017-01D “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”

We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.

(Emphasis mine.)
ICA 2017-01D Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections – January 6, 2017

New Brunswick Electoral Reform Commission meeting dates

It looks like the New Brunswick Commission on Electoral Reform will meet with the public in January 2017 only, as they work to producing a report for March 1, 2017.  Announced meeting dates are:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 4
  • Friday, Jan. 6
  • Monday, Jan. 9 (from 10am to noon)
  • Friday, Jan. 13
  • Monday, Jan. 16
  • Friday, Jan. 20
  • Monday, Jan. 23
  • Friday, Jan. 27

i.e. Monday and Friday each week in January, with the exception of the first week where the Monday meeting is moved to January 4.  Times and locations have not yet been announced. Unless there’s a media advisory otherwise, the meeting location is Council Chamber, Legislative Assembly (706 Queen Street, Fredericton).

UPDATE 2017-01-07: The main website is NOT listed under Legislative Assembly / Special Committees.  You have to find it under Consultationshttp://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/corporate/public_consultations/ElectoralReform.html

The only channel for meeting updates appears to be Media Advisories.  Note that the media advisories expire from the web page quickly (basically once the event has passed the advisory is gone).  I am unable to find any meeting agendas or list of stakeholders being invited.

The January 9, 2017 meeting will be from 10am to noon according to an advisory.

ENDUPDATE

UPDATE 2017-01-05: Time and location for upcoming meetings Jan 6-16 will be 9:30am to 4pm, in Council Chamber, Legislative Assembly (706 Queen Street, Fredericton).  ENDUPDATE

UPDATE 2017-01-03: January 4, 2017 meeting has been postponed.  ENDUPDATE

I have submitted my briefing about online voting to the commission. The deadline was November 30, 2016 but in a CBC News report they say you can still submit in January.

The commission invited the public to share thoughts and concerns on its website up until Nov. 30, but Passaris said that deadline is one that is “movable.”

“As long as the commission will be holding its public sessions, we would like the public to continue to send in their comments,” he said.

You can submit by email to Consultations.ECO-BCE@gnb.ca

Previously:
November 20, 2016  New Brunswick electoral reform consultation including Internet voting

Eurasia Review – Democracy In The 21st Century – comment

My comment on December 9, 2016 Eurasia Review article Democracy In The 21st Century – Analysis.

COMMENT

In support of Antony Hodgson’s point, British Columbia does not have Internet voting at either the provincial or municipal level. The BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting recommended against online voting in 2014 and there has been no change from Elections BC since then. A small number of First Nations communities in British Columbia have offered Internet voting. Those are small elections however, with a few hundred votes cast in total.

ENDCOMMENT

The Hill Times – Electoral reform will not happen in this Parliament – comment

Here is the comment I posted on The Hill Times article Electoral reform will not happen in this Parliament – December 12, 2016

COMMENT

“online voting would definitely entice more millennial and younger generation citizens to the polls”

With respect, no it wouldn’t. Evidence from all over the world shows that online voting doesn’t increase voter turnout. The people who vote online are the same people who would have voted offline. Youth turnout is low with online voting, because it is low with paper voting. In the PEI Plebiscite, with ten days of online voting, turnout for ages 18-24 was the lowest of any age range, at 25.47%.

Here are four reports that include the topic of online voting and turnout:

Gosse, R. (2012, December 10). FCS-12- 191 – Alternate Voting – Internet Voting. Retrieved from City of Kitchener – Laserfiche WebLink: https://lf.kitchener.ca/WebLinkExt/DocView.aspx?id=1235356&dbid=0

Archer, K., Beznosov, K., Crane, L.-A., King, V., & Morfitt, G. (2014, February 12). Recommendations Report to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Retrieved from British Columbia Independent Panel on Internet Voting: http://www.internetvotingpanel.ca/docs/recommendations-report.pdf

Goodman, N., & Stokes, L. C. (2016, October 6). Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections. Retrieved from Social Science Research Network (SSRN): https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849167

McLeod, G. B. (2016, November 9). Interim Report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the 2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal. Retrieved from Elections Prince Edward Island: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/elec_demrefpleb.pdf

For over a dozen references on this topic you can see https://papervotecanada2.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/online-voting-doesnt-increase-turnout/

ENDCOMMENT

Online voting doesn’t increase turnout

I wish I didn’t have to say this again and again, but I do.  Here’s what I wrote for the New Brunswick consultation

The City of Kitchener’s 2012 report on Internet voting finds that “There is clear evidence that, regardless of geography internet voting does not attract younger voters.” (Gosse, 2012) Similarly, the 2014 BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting finds in their report that “research suggests that Internet voting does not generally cause nonvoters to vote. Instead, Internet voting is mostly used as a tool of convenience for individuals who have already decided to vote.” (Archer, Beznosov, Crane, King, & Morfitt, 2014)

The paper “Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections” by Nichole Goodman and Leah Stokes reviews extensive evidence from online voting in Ontario municipalities and finds that “internet voting is unlikely to solve the low turnout crisis”. (Goodman & Stokes, 2016) A recent demonstration of the reality of Internet voting turnout was the 2016 Prince Edward Island Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal which had 10 days of online voting in addition to two days of in-person voting. Not only was the overall turnout low at 36.5%, but the turnout for ages 18-24 was the lowest of any age range, at 25.47%. (McLeod, 2016)

Gosse, R. (2012, December 10). FCS-12- 191 – Alternate Voting – Internet Voting. Retrieved from City of Kitchener – Laserfiche WebLink: https://lf.kitchener.ca/WebLinkExt/DocView.aspx?id=1235356&dbid=0

Archer, K., Beznosov, K., Crane, L.-A., King, V., & Morfitt, G. (2014, February 12). Recommendations Report to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Retrieved from British Columbia Independent Panel on Internet Voting: http://www.internetvotingpanel.ca/docs/recommendations-report.pdf

Goodman, N., & Stokes, L. C. (2016, October 6). Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections. Retrieved from Social Science Research Network (SSRN): https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849167

McLeod, G. B. (2016, November 9). Interim Report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the 2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal. Retrieved from Elections Prince Edward Island: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/elec_demrefpleb.pdf

But there’s more, much more than that.
Halifax has online voting. Turnout dropped by more than 10,000 in the 2016 Halifax election.

In the last municipal election in 2012, 66,272 people voted by e-vote and phone (22.2 per cent of the entire vote). At the close of e-voting Thursday, the HRM registered 55,788 electronic and telephone votes.

Evidence again and again shows that online voting does not increase participation, by youth or by any voting group.  All that happens is that (mostly middle-aged) people who would have voted at a polling station anyway vote online.
Evidence:

Young ontario voters (aged 18-24) more likely to use paper ballots than internet voting

above from Internet Voting Project Twitter – https://twitter.com/ivotingproject/status/660551650000699392 – 31 October 2015

  1. 3.100  Advocates also cite current Estonian and Swiss internet voting as improving equality and voter turnout, convenience and timely vote counting. However, these examples have either been consistently undermined in security analyses (in the case of Estonia) or have not been proven in a general election (in the case of Switzerland).

above from Parliament of Australia – Inquiry into and report on all aspects of the conduct of the 2013 Federal Election and matters related thereto Second Interim Report Chapter 3: National and international experience – Committee Comments
For more on Estonian Internet voting, see subsequent blog post (in legacy blog) Estonian Internet voting and turnout myths.

there was no impact on turnout, which actually decreased very slightly

above from UK Electoral Commission – Official report on internet voting pilot at Rushmoor elections published – June 3, 2008

Internet voting is seen by some as a potential solution to this trend of declining voter turnout. … While there have been some Internet voting elections where voter turnout has increased, when other factors such as the apparent closeness of the race and interest in particular contests (e.g., a mayoral election without an incumbent) are taken into consideration, research suggests that Internet voting does not generally cause non-voters to vote. Instead, Internet voting is mostly used as a tool of convenience for individuals who have already decided to vote.

above from BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting report (PDF) page 12 – February 2014

However, it said, there was no evidence that the trial led to a rise in the overall number of people voting nor that it mobilised new groups, such as young people, to vote.

above from BBC – E-voting experiments end in Norway amid security fears – 27 June 2014

At best, [Michael] McGregor said, the evidence is mixed. He sees internet voting as no different than advanced polls in that “it’s not increasing turnout, it’s just people who are already voting.”

[Nicole] Goodman’s data from municipal elections in the Toronto-area municipality of Markham, which has had internet voting since 2003, found that “those aged 35–64 are the strongest internet voting users in all election years and suggest that online ballots are growing in popularity among older voters while use is waning among younger voters.”

above from CBC News – Why hi-tech voting has low priority for Canadian elections – September 9, 2015

  • Statistics indicate that internet voting does not increase voter turnout or youth participation.

above from City of Mississauga report on Internet Voting – Potential enhancements for the 2018 Municipal Election: Internet Voting, Ranked Choice Elections and Vote Anywhere. (PDF) – June 20, 2016

Some content above adapted from legacy blog post evidence about online voting (particularly turnout).

In the Special Committee on Electoral Reform report Strengthening Democracy in Canada, they quote Harold Jansen

Harold Jansen posited that introducing online voting would not have any appreciable impact on voter turnout:

I also am suspicious of how great the gains would be in terms of voter turnout. I think most of the issues lie around motivation, not opportunity. I’m suspicious of a lot of things when people say on surveys, “Oh, I was too busy to vote”. Often, it just means, “There are other things more important to me than voting.” Okay, citizens can make those kinds of determinations. Voting is not that onerous, and I think Elections Canada has done a pretty good job in the last 20 years of improving the accessibility of the vote. There are more ways to vote than ever before.

I don’t think we should expect realistically huge gains in voter turnout. I don’t think that should be a motivation. It would be more convenient for some people, but these are people who would likely vote anyway. What I found was that the people most likely to say they were very likely to cast a vote in our survey were people who had already voted. They would just switch to doing it online.412

412ERRE, Evidence, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 22 August 2016, 2005 (Harold Jansen).