The head of the National Security Agency said Tuesday that the potential for Russia to harm the U.S. electoral process in the upcoming general election is a concern. Cybersecurity officials have become increasingly worried about the issue in the wake of revelations that Russia-based hackers were behind two recent hacking attempts into state voter registration databases. One incident included stealing information from roughly 200,000 Illinois voting records. In another attempt in Arizona, cyber criminals used malware to try and breach voting records, forcing state officials to disable online voting registration for nine days as they investigated the unsuccessful hacking.
Top U.S. defense officials insist they are not turning a blind eye to fears that Russian hackers are trying to hijack upcoming U.S. presidential and local elections. Still, the scope of the threat and just how the U.S. plans to respond remain unclear. “This continues to be an issue of great focus,” said Adm. Michael Rogers, who serves as both National Security Agency Director and chief of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command. “I’m not going to characterize this activity,” Rogers told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, but added “I think there are scenarios where you could see capability applied.” The question was first raised by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, a long-time Republican senator from Arizona who is running for reelection … “They need not attack every county in every state,” said Rice University Professor Dan Wallach. “It’s sufficient for them to go after battleground states where a small nudge can have a large impact.”
The hacker persona Guccifer 2.0 has released a new trove of documents that allegedly reveal more information about the Democratic National Committee’s finances and personal information on Democratic donors, as well as details about the DNC’s network infrastructure. The cache also includes purported memos on tech initiatives from Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s time as governor of Virginia, and some years-old missives on redistricting efforts and DNC donor outreach strategy. DNC interim chair Donna Brazile immediately tied the leak to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. “There’s one person who stands to benefit from these criminal acts, and that’s Donald Trump,” she said in a statement Tuesday night, adding that Trump has “embraced” Russian President Vladimir Putin and “publicly encouraged further Russian espionage to help his campaign.”
As more Californians skip the polls to mail in their ballots, a Bay Area county will become the first in the state to make voting-by-mail accessible to the blind. Under a Monday settlement in Federal Court, San Mateo County has set an “ambitious goal” of making its mail-in ballots fully accessible to visually impaired voters by…
The Illinois Supreme Court has rejected a request to reconsider its split decision that removed from the Nov. 8 ballot a proposed state constitutional amendment aimed at removing much of the politics from the redrawing of state legislative district boundaries. Without comment, the high court’s 4-3 Democratic majority reaffirmed its decision that the proposed amendment was unconstitutional because it did not conform to the narrow legal window for petition-driven citizen initiatives to appear before voters. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who backed the proposal, said Tuesday that the decision was “not unexpected.” He urged lawmakers this fall to move on their own to put before voters a pair of proposed amendments he has adopted as part of his “turnaround agenda.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach claimed Tuesday night to be a national leader in voter security by championing adoption of laws requiring proof of citizenship to register, photograph identification to cast a ballot and mail-in ballot restrictions. Lawyer Mark Johnson, sitting to Kobach’s right at the Dole Institute of Politics, said the Republican secretary of state was a central advocate for reform of voting law, undoubtedly popular, that ought to be declared unconstitutional for serving as a deterrent to participation in elections. With the legal adversaries eager to joust, the point-counterpoint on U.S. election law was set in motion during a Constitution Day program inspired by allegations of voter suppression and claims of newfound election integrity. “
Three federal appeals court judges showed skepticism on Tuesday on how a 2014 New Hampshire law banning voters from taking selfies with their ballots on election day does not violate the U.S. right to free speech. The judges repeatedly asked a New Hampshire official to explain how the law could prevent a replay of scandals that rocked many U.S. states in the late 19th century, when politicians paid for votes, in cash or alcohol. “It’s well known that in the late 1800s, buying votes was a huge problem,” Stephen LaBonte, the state’s associate attorney general, told a three-judge panel of the First Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston. “What year is it now?” Judge Sandra Lynch shot back. “In the late 1800s there was a huge problem that obviously didn’t involve ballot-selfies, which did not exist at the time.”
The state Assembly on Thursday plans to to challenge Gov. Chris Christie’s recent veto of a bill that would automatically register people to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s license – a measure the governor claims would invite fraud. None of Christie’s vetoes has been overidden by the Democratically-controlled Legislature. Neither the Senate or Assembly holds a veto-proof majority. The legislature came close last October when three Republicans in the Senate voted with the 24 Democrats to challenge a bill that would have included police in the judicial process of deciding whether a person with a documented mental illness can get a gun permit. But the override failed in the Assembly. This Assembly may have enough votes this time. There were 54 “yes” votes in the Assembly when it passed in June – the veto-proof majority necessary in the 80-seat house. “We had 54 votes last time, and the governor’s veto offers no valid reason for anyone to change their votes,” said Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), a prime sponsor of the bill.
In a pair of court decisions that could help Donald Trump, Ohioans’ voting rights were pared back Tuesday for the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review an appeals court panel’s 2-1 ruling throwing out Golden Week, the period in which Ohioans could both register to vote and cast an early ballot. Several hours later a separate but equally divided panel of that same Cincinnati-based appellate court largely upheld restrictions enacted by the GOP-dominated legislature in 2014 and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. All that reshaped the Ohio electoral landscape to one less favorable to minority and Democratic voters — and thus presumably more to Trump’s liking.
Texas officials will be back in federal court next week to defend the state’s voter ID law, this time against accusations that they have failed to comply with judge-ordered changes for the November election. Monday’s hearing comes at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a complaint last week arguing that Texas was misleading voters and poll workers about acceptable voting procedures and who will be eligible to cast a ballot on Nov. 8. Obama administration lawyers say Texas is violating U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’ Aug. 10 order requiring state officials accept a wider array of identification — and spend at least $2.5 million informing voters of the changes — after a federal appeals court ruled that the Republican-favored voter ID law, enacted in 2011, discriminated against minority voters. “That order is of limited use if Texas refuses to train poll workers and educate voters accurately on its plain language and scope,” Justice Department lawyers told Ramos in the complaint.
Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) revoked the registration of the Industrialist-Our Homeland bloc for the upcoming October 8 parliamentary elections, according to an announcement published on the CEC’s website. According to CEC Head Tamar Zhvania, the bloc missed the deadline for submitting its list of parliamentary candidates. The leadership of the Industrialists slammed the CEC’s decision, saying it was an unfounded decision aimed at marginalizing the party. The party’s leaders said they have already appealed to Tbilisi’s City Court.
In Moscow there have been fewer election posters and banners on view than in previous years. Last week one Russian newspaper joked that the Duma election had been classified “Top Secret”, since voters did not know the names of the candidates. And yet, in theory, this election should have been more exciting than previous polls. A change to the law has permitted more parties to participate than in 2011 and even a handful of Kremlin critics have been allowed to run.
What’s more, this time half of the 450 Russian MPs will be elected – not by party lists – but in single-mandate districts: the return to a system in which Russians can vote for a candidate of their choice in their own constituency. However, the timing of this vote has kept public interest low. The Duma election had been scheduled for December. Instead the authorities brought it forward by three months, closer to the summer. As a result, Russians have been more concerned with holidays, harvesting fruits and vegetables on their allotments and preparing for the new school year than with electing a new Duma.
As competition heats up, the Geneva cantonal government has launched an e-voting promotional campaign in a bid to win additional partners and clients for its system of electronic voting. Currently, only six of Switzerland’s 26 cantons offer remote online voting to a limited number of their citizens. The long-term trials with e-voting suffered a severe setback last year after the Swiss government stopped the use of an American system on security grounds. Since then, there has been a head-to-head contest between two technologies licensed by the national authorities: a home-grown e-voting system, developed by the authorities of canton Geneva, and Swiss Post, which cooperates with the private Spanish company Scytl.
Russia will elect a new parliament Sunday, after an election campaign declared the “most sluggish” for a decade, according to the main, independent monitor of national votes. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia is expected to win, without a major contender even close. Meanwhile, the handful of liberals competing for seats face a stiff challenge to enter parliament at all. Despite the potentially predictable outcome, at least 14 parties, not counting independent candidates, are running and the vigor of the campaigning has produced some shocking moments. … Maria Baronova is running for a seat in one of Moscow’s constituencies as an independent candidate; she made headlines last month after her application to participate in the election was approved. Baronova, a former anti-government protester, is backed by one of Putin’s fiercest dissident rivals, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose organisation has frequently complained of harassment by authorities.