National: New efforts to ensure election data is secure | Insights

The U.S. presidential election is just weeks away, and concerns have been raised about the security of election data. There have already been isolated incidents of voter registration databases being hacked in Illinois and Arizona. According to the nonprofit group, which lobbies for voting systems, there are substantial vulnerabilities with voting machines used in the U.S., with many running on the Windows XP operating system, for which support was ended in early 2014. A spokesperson for the organization states that this makes them susceptible to malware and denial-of-service attacks that could leave voters unable to cast their votes. The state of Virginia has decertified huge numbers of voting machines due to the ease with which they can be hacked remotely by people with little expertise.

National: How Hackers Could Affect the Presidential Election |

America’s presidential election is not only a constitutional right, it’s a symbol of the country’s freedom. But in the wake of data breaches that have pimpled the last few years–in both corporate America and political campaigns–government intelligence and cybersecurity experts are warning that November’s presidential election is next on the list for a large-scale hack. In late August, Yahoo broke news that foreign hackers had breached the state Board of Elections websites in Illinois and Arizona, which the FBI’s cyber division followed up with an alert to election officials across the nation to increase voting system security. Earlier this year, hackers breached the Democratic National Committee’s network, leaking emails that led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz the night before Hillary Clinton accepted the presidential nomination. And last month, hackers released emails belonging to Colin Powell, the Republican former secretary of state under George W. Bush.

National: A Voice Cuts Through, and Adds to, the Intrigue of Russia’s Cyberattacks | The New York Times

Living anonymously, down a winding road in the wilderness of western Siberia, not far from the Mongolian border, the only person so far implicated in the flurry of Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political sites was obviously enjoying the moment. “We have the information, but nobody contacted us,” said Vladimir M. Fomenko, a tattooed 26-year-old who snowboards in his free time and runs a business out of a rented apartment. “It’s like nobody wants to sort this out,” he added with a sly grin. Mr. Fomenko was recently identified by an American cybersecurity company, ThreatConnect, as the manager of an “information nexus” that was used by hackers suspected of working for Russian state security in cyberattacks on democratic processes in several countries, including Germany, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as the United States. Rather than issuing blanket denials, Mr. Fomenko is apparently eager to discuss his case, lending another, if still cryptic, dimension to the intrigue, restricted before now to digital codes and online fingerprints.

National: Voter Registration Emerges as Key Political Flash-Point | NBC

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day, when a network of thousands of voting rights and civic engagement groups will aim to add tens of thousands of Americans to the rolls. But despite the day’s non-partisan message, it comes at a time when voter registration has emerged as a major political and legal flash-point. Several red states have run into legal trouble for restrictive policies that make it harder to get or stay registered to vote, while other states, mostly blue, are dramatically expanding access. Coming off a well-received debate performance, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged supporters in Raleigh, North Carolina—where absentee voting has already begun—to register. “You may or may not know today is National Voter Registration Day,” Clinton said. “I hope you all will, and hope you tell everybody that you know to do the same because we want to make sure people are registered.”

National: Social networks drive tens of thousands of voter registrations | The Hill

Top social media platforms steered hundreds of thousands of users to voter registration websites over the weekend in an effort several states said set new records for registration activity. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media networks began reminding users over the age of 18 to register to vote on Friday, ahead of Tuesday’s National Voter Registration Day. Users on Facebook were directed to a federal website that would then direct them to sites in their home states. Twitter will roll out a similar voter registration tool Tuesday, a company spokesman said. Facebook reminded users to sign up by placing reminders at the top of newsfeeds and by allowing users to declare to their friends that they had registered. SnapChat ran in-house advertisements featuring celebrities like actors Jared Leto, Jimmy Fallon and Dwayne Johnson and the singer Ciara.

Alabama: Ban on felon voting rights target of lawsuit: Law called unconstitutional, racist |

Alabama’s policy of stripping convicted felons’ of their right to vote is unconstitutional and steeped in a history of racial injustice, a group of plaintiffs say in federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the law. The Greater Birmingham Ministries and 10 Alabamians who are not allowed to vote because of a past felony conviction filed the lawsuit Monday in Montgomery federal court. They argue that the blanket ban is an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote, unfairly punishes people long after their sentences are complete and disproportionately impacts minority communities. “It is inextricably tied to Alabama’s long history of denying black citizens voting rights and equal access to the polls, using the criminal justice system to achieve those goals,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the suit. The lawsuit quoted 2014 statistics from the Sentencing Project that estimated more than 260,000 people were blocked from voting in Alabama. Nearly half of those were African-American and equated to 15 percent of the adult black population. Ten individual plaintiffs are named in the suit but they are asking the court to declare it a class action.

District of Columbia: DC Council considers rush on New Columbia statehood constitution | WTOP

One step closer to statehood, the D.C. Council heard and discussed what could be the state constitution for “New Columbia.” “The question is not why statehood, but what it should look like,” said D.C. council member Mary Cheh during Tuesday’s hearing. To create the state of New Columbia, the citizens of the District are following what’s called the “Tennessee Plan.” “The citizens, of in this case of the District, get their proposal together before they petition Congress for admission into the union,” Council Chair Phil Mendelson explained at the hearing’s outset. But there’s little time to waste to get the referendum to voters by Nov. 8. It will need to be approved by voters in November to be sent to Congress. It’s a big job to be done in a small window of time.

Illinois: Judge blocks Election Day registration at Illinois polling places | Chicago Tribune

A federal judge Tuesday blocked Election Day voter registration at polling places in Illinois, declaring a state law allowing the practice unconstitutional because it created one set of rules for cities and another for rural areas. Voters will still be able to register Nov. 8 and cast a ballot for president but only at a limited number of sites, including the county clerk’s office, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The ruling, handed down on National Voter Registration Day, is the latest front in a broader battle between Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republicans led by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Democrats pushed through the same-day registration law in the lame-duck session that followed the November 2014 election, weeks before Rauner took over from then-Democratic-Gov. Pat Quinn. It was billed as a way to get more people involved in the democratic process after a trial program resulted in long lines, particularly in Chicago, where it was used at five sites by nearly 2,900 people, some who waited hours to vote.

Kansas: Judge extends voting rights for those registered at motor vehicle offices | Reuters

A Kansas judge extended voting rights through the Nov. 8 election of about 17,500 people who registered to vote at motor vehicle offices, court documents showed on Tuesday in one of the cases highlighting a political battle over identification laws enacted in Republican-led states. The ruling impacts people who submitted voter applications through Kansas motor vehicle offices but failed to provide proof of U.S. citizenship. The ruling by Judge Larry Hendricks of the third judicial court in Shawnee, Kansas, extends the temporary injunction he issued last month. Under a state law that took effect in 2013, they were required to present a document such as a birth certificate. The judge’s ruling made on Friday said that the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, must instruct election officials to allow the around 17,500 residents to “…vote for all offices on the ballot and to count all the votes cast on that ballot.”

Maine: New accessible voting machines available at all Maine voting sites | Bangor Daily News

Representatives from the Maine secretary of state’s office and Disability Rights Maine were at the Bangor Public Library on Tuesday to spread the word about Maine’s new accessible voting machines. First introduced during the June primary elections, the ExpressVote machines essentially are stand-alone units, each with a video display screen, a built-in ballot printer and attached controllers with colored buttons in various shapes with braille labels. The machines also are equipped with headsets for those who are not able to see or read ballots. “It allows people to vote independently and privately,” Jon Monroe, elections management analyst for the secretary of state’s office, said Tuesday while demonstrating how the machines work.

Missouri: State Makes Grants Available to Local Election Authorities | KBIA

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander announced $1 million in grant funding that will go towards improving Missouri’s election process. Kander made the announcement at the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities annual conference held Sept. 20-23, 2016. The grant will help local election authorities make improvements to the voting polling places’ Internet service, voter registration, poll worker training and voting equipment.

Pennsylvania: Wolf’s administration increases voter registration options | York Dispatch

When Gov. Tom Wolf took office, Pennsylvania was already behind many states in allowing online voter registration, but the state is now an early adopter of a texting service designed to increase registration awareness. Wolf often cited a need for more accessible voter registration during his campaign for office, and about seven months into his first term as governor, Pennsylvania became the 23rd state to allow online registration, according to Secretary of State Pedro Cortes. Cortes said he had been pushing for online voter registration when he served under previous Gov. Ed Rendell because it’s “more convenient and accessible.” Last week, online voter registration services surpassed 500,000 users in the state, he said.

Azerbaijan: Vote lengthens Aliyev’s time in office, boosts his powers | Reuters

Azerbaijan has voted in favor of extending the presidential term from five to seven years, election authorities said on Tuesday, a step that critics say will hand unprecedented powers to President Ilham Aliyev who has led the country since 2003. The state election commission said a vast majority of the 91.2 percent of voters who turned out in a referendum in the Caspian Sea oil-producer had backed the move. “The referendum was conducted in a transparent manner,” Mazakhir Panakhov, commission head, said before reading out the result of Monday’s plebiscite. Aliyev, 54, who succeeded his father as president, can seek re-election indefinitely after a maximum number of terms in office was scrapped via a similar referendum seven years ago.

Gabon: Bongo sworn in as Gabon president after disputed election | France 24

Ali Bongo was sworn back in as Gabon’s president Tuesday, calling for unity after a disputed election win that sparked deadly unrest and revealed deep divisions in the oil-rich country. The 57-year-old used the ceremony to appeal for unity after the deadly violence that followed the announcement of his victory last month. He pledged to ensure “equal opportunities” for all in the new government “which I will name in a few days.” Government spokesman Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze said Bongo wanted to install “a unity government by this week or the start of next week”.

Haiti: Haiti Rattled by Pre-Election Violence | teleSUR

A spate of violence is characterizing the lead-up to Haiti’s general election, with several people injured despite increased security just two weeks ahead of the much-anticipated vote. The campaign officially closes on Oct 7., two days before the presidential and legislative elections. In Miragoane, province of Nippes, protestors threw stones at the political platform Pitit Dessalines, injuring three people, reported local media. The party’s leader and presidential candidate Jean-Charles Moise said he and his supporters were attacked by three different parties over the weekend, including one attack that broke his car’s window. Moise called the government to guarantee the protection of the candidates during the campaign.

Hungary: Days before referendum, Amnesty criticizes Hungary over treatment of migrants | Reuters

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Hungary of mistreating refugees and migrants on purpose to deter them from seeking to cross into the European Union from Serbia, days before the country holds a referendum on EU migrant quotas. The Hungarian government had no immediate comment on the report in which the human rights organization accused Prime Minister Viktor Orban of replacing “the rule of law with the rule of fear.” Critics say Hungary has been heavy-handed in answer to the migrant crisis that saw about 1.3 million people reaching the European Union last year. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Hungary should be expelled from the bloc for breaching European values, including erecting a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia.

Iceland: Pirate Party ready to sail Iceland’s government into uncharted waters | CS Monitor

Icelanders are casting apprehensive looks at two volcanoes this fall – a real one on the southern coast named Katla, and a metaphorical one also known as Althing or parliament in the capital – each of which has been rumbling ominously. The difference is that while Icelanders are unsure if and when Katla will blow, they know the exact date, Oct. 29, when the latter will erupt. That is the date of the next election for the 63-seat parliament. Although the election itself promises to be an orderly affair, the outcome does not, especially if the insurgent Pirate party, which is channeling the imminent explosion, has its way. For while Pirate parties are not unusual – such political groups started appearing in 2005, focused on digital rights and Internet-reliant democracy, and now exist in countries around the world – this once conservative Nordic nation is set to be the first to vote such a party into power. The Icelandic Pirate Party looks to garner just under a quarter of the vote, according to the latest Gallup poll, which would make them one of the two largest parties in the new parliament.