Verified Voting Blog: Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots | J. Alex Halderman

You may have read at NYMag that I’ve been in discussions with the Clinton campaign about whether it might wish to seek recounts in critical states. Thatarticle, which includes somebody else’s description of my views, incorrectly describes the reasons manually checking ballots is an essential security safeguard (and includes some incorrect numbers, to boot). Let me set the record straight about what I and other leading election security experts have actually been saying to the campaign and everyone else who’s willing to listen. 

How might a foreign government hack America’s voting machines to change the outcome of a presidential election? Here’s one possible scenario. First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, do its dirty business during the election, then erase itself when the polls close. A skilled attacker’s work might leave no visible signs — though the country might be surprised when results in several close states were off from pre-election polls.

Could anyone be brazen enough to try such an attack? A few years ago, I might have said that sounds like science fiction, but 2016 has seen unprecedented cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the election. This summer, attackers broke into the email system of the Democratic National Committee and, separately, into the email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, and leaked private messages. Attackers infiltrated the voter registration systems of two states, Illinois and Arizona, and stole voter data. And there’s evidence that hackers attempted to breach election offices in several other states.

In all these cases, Federal agencies publicly asserted that senior officials in the Russian government commissioned these attacks. Russia has sophisticated cyber-offensive capabilities, and has shown a willingness to use them to hack elections. In 2014, during the presidential election in Ukraine, attackers linked to Russia sabotaged the country’s vote-counting infrastructure and, according to published reports, Ukrainian officials succeeded only at the last minute in defusing vote-stealing malware that was primed to cause the wrong winner to be announced. Russia is not the only country with the ability to pull off such an attack on American systems — most of the world’s military powers now have sophisticated cyberwarfare capabilities.

[caption id="attachment_108182" align="aligncenter" width="800"]The pink counties predominately use optical scan paper ballots, which can be examined to confirm that the computer voting machines produced an accurate count. Blue counties use paperless voting systems, which require forensic analysis. The pink counties predominately use optical scan paper ballots, which can be examined to confirm that the computer voting machines produced an accurate count. Blue counties use paperless voting systems, which require forensic analysis.[/caption]

Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.

National: Jill Stein raises $6 million for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania | CS Monitor

Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has raised almost $6 million to petition the states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to recount votes in order to determine if hacking skewed the election away from the expected victor, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In all three states, President-elect Donald Trump won an upset victory with a tiny margin. If the trio had gone blue, as was expected, Mrs. Clinton would have earned enough electoral votes to secure the election. Proponents of the recount have compared it to instant replay in a sporting event, but critics say it undermines confidence in the electoral process. While Clinton supporters are holding on to their last hope to see her in the White House, the Obama administration has announced that the election was not hacked, by Russians or anyone else. “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect,” the Obama administration wrote in a statement. “Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

National: Hillary Clinton’s Team to Join Wisconsin Recount Pushed by Jill Stein | The New York Times

Nearly three weeks after Election Day, Hillary Clinton’s campaign said on Saturday that it would participate in a recount process in Wisconsin incited by a third-party candidate and would join any potential recounts in two other closely contested states, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The Clinton campaign held out little hope of success in any of the three states, and said it had seen no “actionable evidence” of vote hacking that might taint the results or otherwise provide new grounds for challenging Donald J. Trump’s victory. But it suggested it was going along with the recount effort to assure supporters that it was doing everything possible to verify that hacking by Russia or other irregularities had not affected the results. In a post on Medium, Marc Elias, the Clinton team’s general counsel, said the campaign would take part in the Wisconsin recount being set off by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, and would also participate if Ms. Stein made good on her plans to seek recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Clinton lost those three states by a total of little more than 100,000 votes, sealing her Electoral College defeat by Mr. Trump.

Voting Blogs: Listening and Responding To Calls for an Audit and Recount | Marc Elias/Medium

Over the last few days, officials in the Clinton campaign have received hundreds of messages, emails, and calls urging us to do something, anything, to investigate claims that the election results were hacked and altered in a way to disadvantage Secretary Clinton. The concerns have arisen, in particular, with respect to Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — three states that together proved decisive in this presidential election and where the combined margin of victory for Donald Trump was merely 107,000 votes. It should go without saying that we take these concerns extremely seriously. We certainly understand the heartbreak felt by so many who worked so hard to elect Hillary Clinton, and it is a fundamental principle of our democracy to ensure that every vote is properly counted. Moreover, this election cycle was unique in the degree of foreign interference witnessed throughout the campaign: the U.S. government concluded that Russian state actors were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the personal email accounts of Hillary for America campaign officials, and just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the “fake news” propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election. For all these reasons, we have quietly taken a number of steps in the last two weeks to rule in or out any possibility of outside interference in the vote tally in these critical battleground states.

Michigan: State preparing for potential hand recount of 4.8M presidential votes | Detroit Free Press

Just in case, the State of Michigan is preparing for a recount of nearly 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential race. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, has raised more than $5 million to pay for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. She filed a formal recount request Friday afternoon with the Wisconsin Elections Commission and faces a Monday deadline in Pennsylvania and Wednesday in Michigan. A recount won’t be cheap, and it will be a monumental task for the Secretary of State and 83 county clerks around Michigan. She can’t request a recount in Michigan until the vote is certified, which is scheduled to happen at 2 p.m. Monday, when the Board of Canvassers meets to make the results — which show Republican Donald Trump with a 10,704-vote lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton — official. After the certification, she has until Wednesday afternoon to make the recount request.

North Carolina: Governor requests vote recount in tight race | Reuters

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced on Tuesday he has officially requested a recount of votes from the Nov. 8 election with official results showing him trailing his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, by one-tenth of a point. The gubernatorial race in the ninth largest U.S. state remained undecided two weeks after Election Day. Officials with the State Board of Elections were continually updating results as they arrived from the state’s 100 counties. A recount is mandatory if the margin is less than 10,000 votes once all 100 counties have finished their canvasses, a spokesman for the election board said. As of Tuesday afternoon, Cooper’s lead was 6,187 out of 4.7 million votes cast.

Virginia: Lawmakers propose stricter rules for third-party voter registration drives | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Republican chairman of the House of Delegates elections committee has introduced a bill to tighten rules governing voter registration drives after multiple cases of potential fraud leading up to the presidential election. Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, pre-filed a bill that would add stricter paperwork and reporting requirements for non-governmental groups that canvass neighborhoods and events to register Virginians to vote. Cole’s legislation, which will be considered when the legislature reconvenes in January, would require every individual employee or volunteer working with outside groups to register with the state and submit logs of their activity. The state would assign each worker a unique identifying number and keep a record of each person’s name and contact information. The bill would prevent voter registration groups from paying employees on a per-application basis, which some have speculated could create a financial incentive for phony applications. Del. Hyland F. “Buddy” Fowler Jr., R-Hanover, pre-filed the same bill.

Wisconsin: Election recount will take place in Wisconsin, after Stein files petition | The Washington Post

An election recount will take place soon in Wisconsin, after former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed a petition Friday with the state’s Election Commission, the first of three states where she has promised to contest the election result. The move from Stein, who raised millions since her Wednesday announcement that she would seek recounts of Donald Trump’s apparent election victories in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, came just 90 minutes before Wisconsin’s 5 p.m. Friday deadline to file a petition. Now it will keep some hope alive for many Hillary Clinton supporters for another few weeks while Wisconsin recounts ballots before a Dec. 13 deadline. Trump scored upset victories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and seems on the path to declare a victory in Michigan as well, though the result of the election in that state will not be certified officially until Monday. Had Clinton won those three states, previously seen as part of the Democrats’ “firewall,” she would have secured enough electoral votes to win the election.

Haiti: Tensions mount as Haiti waits on re-run election results | Reuters

Election tensions spilled onto Haiti’s streets on Monday with shots fired outside the presidential palace as various candidates claimed victory in a re-run vote in the impoverished Caribbean country. Haitians are counting on their next president to lift the country out of political limbo and repair damage from Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the country last month, killing up to 1,000 people and leaving 1.4 million needing aid. With paper ballots counted laboriously by hand, election results typically take a week to be announced in Haiti. But less than 24 hours after polling centers had closed, some candidates and their supporters claimed they had won, leading to chaotic scenes in the capital where guards were forced to shoot into the air to clear a celebrating crowd. The provisional electoral council (CEP) released a statement urging the public to disregard any premature victory announcements. “We call on the population not to believe or transmit any pseudo-result, even partial, that has reached them,” it said. “Any result circulating on the internet or social media is not attributable to the CEP.”

Mali: Local elections marred by boycotts, kidnapping | Reuters

Malians burned ballot boxes and one candidate was kidnapped during local elections meant to fill posts left vacant in the north since Islamist militants hijacked a 2012 Tuareg rebellion and ousted the government. The jihadists were driven out a year later by a French-led military operation, but have continued to launch strikes on army and U.N. targets from their desert bases and have intensified their insurgency in recent months and spread further south. Polls were canceled in at least seven districts for security reasons in elections widely criticized by opposition parties as well as armed groups participating in a U.N.-led peace process, pointing to the ongoing fragility of the former French colony three years after the war. While locals formed orderly lines outside polling booths in the southern capital Bamako, ballot boxes were burned by armed men in Timbuktu and the PRVM-FASAKO party said its candidate for a commune near the central town of Mopti had been kidnapped.

National: Jill Stein raises over $4.5m to request US election recounts in battleground states | The Guardian

Jill Stein, the Green party’s presidential candidate, is preparing to request recounts of the election result in several key battleground states. Stein launched an online fundraising page seeking donations toward a multimillion-dollar fund she said was needed to request reviews of the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The drive has already raised more than $4.5m, which the campaign said would enable it to file for recounts in Wisconsin on Friday and Pennsylvania on Monday. The fundraising page said it expected to need around $6m-7m to challenge the results in all three states. Stein said she was acting due to “compelling evidence of voting anomalies” and that data analysis had indicated “significant discrepancies in vote totals” that were released by state authorities. “These concerns need to be investigated before the 2016 presidential election is certified,” she said in a statement. “We deserve elections we can trust.” Stein’s move came amid growing calls for recounts or audits of the election results by groups of academics and activists concerned that foreign hackers may have interfered with election systems. The concerned groups have been urging Hillary Clinton, the defeated Democratic nominee, to join their cause.

National: Hacked or Not, Audit This Election (And All Future Ones) | WIRED

After an election marred by hacker intrusions that breached the Democratic National Committee and the email account of one of Hillary Clinton’s top staffers, Americans are all too ready to believe that their actual votes have been hacked, too. Now those fears have been stoked by a team of security experts, who argue that voting machine vulnerabilities mean Clinton should demand recounts in key states. Dig into their argument, however, and it’s less alarmist than it might appear. If anything, it’s practical. There’s no evidence that the outcome of the presidential election was shifted by compromised voting machines. But a statistical audit of electronic voting results in key states as a routine safeguard—not just an emergency measure—would be a surprisingly simple way to ease serious, lingering doubts about America’s much-maligned electoral security. “Auditing ought to be a standard part of the election process,” says Ron Rivest, a cryptographer and computer science professor at MIT. “It ought to be a routine thing as much as a doctor washing his hands.” … While there’s no indication that polling places in the three states Halderman calls out were hacked, it’s well established that electronic voting machines are vulnerable to malware that could corrupt votes. Many US voting machines today scan a paper ballot that the voter fills out by hand, and many electronic systems produce a paper record as well. In fact, Halderman notes, about 70 percent of Americans live in voting districts that leave a paper trail. record exists that can be used to check its digital results. But all too often, no one ever does, he writes. “No state is planning to actually check the paper in a way that would reliably detect that the computer-based outcome was wrong,” Halderman says.

National: Clinton Being Pushed to Seek Vote Recount in 3 States | Associated Press

A group of election lawyers and data experts has asked Hillary Clinton’s campaign to call for a recount of the vote totals in three battleground states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — to ensure that a cyberattack was not committed to manipulate the totals. There is no evidence that the results were hacked or that electronic voting machines were compromised. The Clinton campaign on Wednesday did not respond to a request for comment as to whether it would petition for a recount before the three states’ fast-approaching deadlines to ask for one. President-elect Donald Trump won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by razor-thin margins and has a small lead in Michigan. All three states had been reliably Democratic in recent presidential elections. … Many election experts have called for routine post-election audits designed to boost public confidence in vote outcomes, by guarding against both tampering and natural vote-counting mistakes. These could involve spot-checks of the voting records and ballots, typically in randomly selected precincts, to make sure that votes were accurately recorded.

National: Clinton camp remains mum as 3-state recount urged over hacking questions | The New York Times

Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is growing. She is roughly 30,000 votes behind Donald Trump in the key swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin, a combined gap that is narrowing. Some of her impassioned supporters are urging her to challenge the results in those two states and Pennsylvania, grasping at the last straws to reverse Trump’s decisive majority in the Electoral College. In recent days, the supporters have seized on a report by a respected computer scientist and other experts suggesting that Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the keys to Trump’s Electoral College victory, need to manually review paper ballots to ensure the election was not hacked. “Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack?” J. Alex Halderman, a computer-science professor at the University of Michigan who has studied the vulnerabilities of election systems at length, wrote on the online-publishing platform Medium on Wednesday as the calls based on his conclusions mounted. “Probably not.” More likely, he wrote, pre-election polls were “systematically wrong.” But the only way to resolve the lingering questions would be to examine “paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states,” he wrote.

National: Closer Look Punches Holes in Swing-State Election Hacking Report | Scientific American

This year’s election faced an unprecedented kink: hacking. Wikileaks published hacked emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, for example, and Russian hackers were accused of compromising state election systems. Now some wonder whether hackers targeted the actual Nov. 8 vote results, shifting them in favor of Donald Trump in swing states where the vote was expected to be close. New York Magazine reported Tuesday that experts were urging the Clinton campaign to challenge the results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The report, which cited an unnamed source, said a group including a computer scientist and a voting rights attorney had raised questions as to whether the election results in these states could have been hacked. Group members reportedly discussed their findings in a conference call with Clinton campaign staff last Thursday. Clinton’s camp has until this Friday to call for a Wisconsin recount, until Monday in Pennsylvania, and until next Wednesday in Michigan, the report notes. It also says that Clinton would only be able to claim a victory should all three of these states overturn their results, which would take Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes and Wisconsin’s 10 away from Donald Trump’s 290. Clinton would also have to tack on Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, which have unofficially been assigned to Trump but have yet to be finalized, to clinch the victory. After the Nov. 8 tallies, Clinton lags Trump by 58 electoral votes. But a number of experts contend that the New York Magazine piece contains some incorrect numbers.

Editorials: U.S. elections are a mess, even though there’s no evidence this one was hacked | Bruce Schneier/The Washington Post

Was the 2016 presidential election hacked? It’s hard to tell. There were no obvious hacks on Election Day, but new reports have raised the question of whether voting machines were tampered with in three states that Donald Trump won this month: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The researchers behind these reports include voting rights lawyer John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, both respected in the community. They have been talking with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but their analysis is not yet public. … Further investigation of the claims raised by the researchers would help settle this particular question. Unfortunately, time is of the essence — underscoring another problem with how we conduct elections. For anything to happen, Clinton has to call for a recount and investigation. She has until Friday to do it in Wisconsin, until Monday in Pennsylvania and until next Wednesday in Michigan. I don’t expect the research team to have any better data before then. Without changes to the system, we’re telling future hackers that they can be successful as long as they’re able to hide their attacks for a few weeks until after the recount deadlines pass.

Editorials: E-Voting Machines Need Paper Audits to be Trustworthy | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Election security experts concerned about voting machines are calling for an audit of ballots in the three states where the presidential election was very close: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We agree. This is an important election safety measure and should happen in all elections, not just those that have a razor-thin margin. Voting machines, especially those that have digital components, are intrinsically susceptible to being hacked. The main protection against hacking is for voting machines to provide an auditable paper trail. However, if that paper trail is never audited, it’s useless. EFF worked hard, alongside many others, to ensure that paper trails were available in many places across the nation. While there are still places without them, we have made great strides. Yet this election was a forceful reminder of how vulnerable all computer systems are. We not only need elections to be auditable, we need them to be audited. We should use this opportunity to set a precedent of auditing electronic voting results to strengthen confidence—not only in this election, but in future ones.

California: Get ready for a new voting system debuting in 2018 | The Orange County Register

If you voted this fall in a neighborhood garage or the clubhouse of a park or a school auditorium, remember the experience well. It may not be repeated anytime soon. If you saw American flags flying at your precinct polling place, that sight may also disappear. A whole new election system is about to begin in California, complete with “vote centers” and a big expansion of early balloting. The new system will start phasing in 2018 in 14 counties and should be operative by 2020 everywhere in the state. One thing for sure, losing candidates and those who expect to lose will have new fodder for the “rigged election” cry taken up so vocally this fall by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. With more mail-in ballots involved than ever before, same-day voter registration and personnel in place to provide language assistance, charges of fraud will be common at least while the new system is being broken in. The hope behind the new system, pushed hard by Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, is to increase voter turnout drastically.

North Carolina: 2004 race may have set precedent for governor’s outcome | News & Observer

It was a statewide race that wasn’t decided for 10 months, and then not by a vote of the people but by 114 legislators. Now, with North Carolina’s governor’s race still undecided after two weeks, political observers are taking another look at the disputed 2004 election for state superintendent of public instruction. The race tested a little-known provision of the state constitution, came close to a showdown with the state Supreme Court and set a precedent for deciding contested elections – perhaps including this year’s gubernatorial race. Since trailing Democrat Roy Cooper by around 5,000 votes on election night, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has seen his allies file protests in more than half the state’s counties. Meanwhile Cooper’s lead has risen to what more than 7,700 votes, according to the state elections board. Cooper puts the margin at more than 8,500. McCrory has officially asked for a recount even as election officials are still counting votes and reviewing challenges. And whoever ends up trailing after the official count could appeal the results – directly to the General Assembly. That’s what happened in 2004.

Utah: After unusual election, lawmakers draft pile of bills seeking to make changes | The Salt Lake Tribune

After one of the most unusual elections in history, Utah legislators are busy drafting numerous bills seeking to make changes in election law. Proposals include a variety of schemes to help shorten voting lines — which were up to four-hours long this year. Some lawmakers want to force winners to achieve a majority of the vote, not just a plurality. And some want to ensure that, unlike this year, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote wins the election. … Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, stood in line for more than two hours to vote at Hunter Library on Election Day. Others lined up there for up to four hours. “What really drives me crazy is how many people I saw that simply turned around and went home when they saw those lines,” Thatcher says.

Wisconsin: Stein campaign raises enough money to fund a recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election | Wisconsin State Journal

Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign reported Thursday morning that it raised enough money to fund a recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election. Citing concerns of results legitimacy, Stein had warned Wisconsin state officials her campaign would request a recount in the state. The campaign also said Wednesday it would request recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Since the Stein campaign launched online drives Wednesday to raise the millions of dollars required for recounts in the three states, it has gathered more than $4 million. The campaign estimates a recount in Wisconsin would cost $1.1 million. “The fact that in 24 hours we raised $4 million says that people are lacking confidence and want someone to take a look,” said Michael White, co-chairman of the Wisconsin Green Party. He added that the Green Party is in the best position to call for a recount because the results won’t favor them. Preliminary results show Stein with 30,980 votes, just 1.1 percent of presidential votes cast on Nov. 8.

Canada: Bill introduced to expand voting rights to expatriates | Reuters

Canada moved on Thursday to expand the ability to vote to citizens that have lived out of the country for more than five years, making good on part of the Liberal government’s campaign promise to reform election laws. The bill, introduced by Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, will also allow voter information cards to be used as identification at the polls and allow a voter to vouch for someone else without ID, measures Monsef said will improve voter participation. The proposed changes would roll back measures that were brought in under the previous Conservative government. With the one-year-old Liberal government controlling the majority in the House of Commons, the bill was all but guaranteed to pass, though Monsef said she looked forward to working with opposition parties on any improvements.

Ghana: Opposition Expresses Concern About Credibility of Election | VoA News

Three Ghanaian opposition candidates who were disqualified from running in next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections say they are concerned the vote is unlikely to be fair or credible. Edward Mahama of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings of the National Democratic Party (NDP) voiced their concerns about the December 7 vote recently in a joint statement. They blamed the Electoral Commission for what they called poor prevailing conditions that could undermine the integrity of the polls. “If the rules of the game can be twisted and turned by the referee as and when it pleases, can we then say that the elections will be free and fair, when we do not know what illegal steps will be taken in the process leading up to the elections? Some of our parliamentary candidates have been disqualified without due process,” they said.

Haiti: Police clash with protesters awaiting poll results | BBC

Police in Haiti have clashed with supporters of presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse, as the country awaits results of Sunday’s elections. Both Ms Narcisse’s party and that of another presidential candidate, Jovenel Moise, are claiming victory.
But official results are not expected before the end of the week. Vote counting in elections is often slow but has been further delayed this time due to widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti voted in presidential, parliamentary and local elections on Sunday.

Mali: Ruling party loses in 10 of the 19 urban communes of the country | Africa News

Reports say president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s party, the Rally for Mali, has won only nine of 19 urban communes, according to provisional results released. Of the 6 communes in Bamako, RPM won 3. It lost its stronghold in the capital in commune 4, which was claimed by the Yelema party of former prime minister Moussa Mara. The biggest disappointment for the RPM came from its defeat in the urban commune of Sikasso which is one of the most important electoral strongholds in the country. The Yelema party managed to retain the town hall of commune 4 for a second consecutive term.

Somalia: In Somalia, voting under way but democracy delayed | AFP

With its security-sealed plastic boxes and cardboard polling booths, Somalia’s election –- under way since last month and still ongoing –- has the trappings of democracy, but few of the functions. Last week in the western city of Baidoa, 51 handpicked representatives of the Reer Aw Hassan clan took an hour to vote unanimously for Abdiweli Ibrahim Ali Sheikh Mudey, a current minister and the only candidate to show up on the day. Among Mudey’s backers were 15 enthusiastic female voters. “We selected the most beautiful man!” cheered one as Mudey smiled in his dark aviator sunglasses, a garland of purple tinsel round his neck. Just 14,025 of the Somalia’s perhaps 12 million citizens are voting for 275 MPs, who will join 54 appointed senators in voting for a new president, in an election described as “limited”.