President Obama struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services. The administration also penalized four top officers of one of those services, the powerful military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the G.R.U. ordered the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations, with the approval of the Kremlin, and ultimately enabled the publication of the emails it harvested. The expulsion of the 35 Russians, whom the administration said were spies posing as diplomats and other officials, and their families was in response to the harassment of American diplomats in Russia, State Department officials said. It was unclear if they were involved in the hacking.
Jill Stein’s bid to recount votes in Pennsylvania was in trouble even before a federal judge shot it down Dec. 12. That’s because the Green Party candidate’s effort stood little chance of detecting potential fraud or error in the vote — there was basically nothing to recount. Pennsylvania is one of 11 states where the majority of voters use antiquated machines that store votes electronically, without printed ballots or other paper-based backups that could be used to double-check the balloting. There’s almost no way to know if they’ve accurately recorded individual votes — or if anyone tampered with the count. More than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians who voted Nov. 8 cast their ballots on such machines, according to VotePA, a nonprofit seeking their replacement. VotePA’s Marybeth Kuznik described the proposed recount this way: “You go to the computer and you say, ‘OK, computer, you counted this a week-and-a-half ago. Were you right the first time?'” These paperless digital voting machines, used by roughly 1 in 5 U.S. voters last month, present one of the most glaring dangers to the security of the rickety, underfunded U.S. election system. Like many electronic voting machines, they are vulnerable to hacking. But other machines typically leave a paper trail that could be manually checked. The paperless digital machines open the door to potential election rigging that might not ever be detected.
National: State election recounts confirm Trump win but reveal hacking vulnerabilities | The Guardian
The US presidential election was correct, according to a crowdfunded effort to recount the vote in key states, but the review also highlighted the unprecedented extent to which the American political system is vulnerable to cyberattack, according to two computer scientists who helped the effort to audit the vote. J Alex Halderman and Matt Bernhard, both of the University of Michigan, campaigned in favor of a recount of the US presidential election, which was eventually spearheaded by Jill Stein, the Green party candidate. Only the Wisconsin recount was substantially completed, with the recount in Michigan eventually stopped and a potential recount in Pennsylvania killed before it had even begun. But the researchers say the recounted counties and precincts were enough to give them confidence that Donald Trump is the genuine winner of the election. “The recounts support that the election outcome was correct,” Bernhard told the Chaos Communications Congress cybersecurity convention in Hamburg, where he and Halderman gave a talk summarising their findings.
Editorials: The Electoral College Doesn’t Work the Way the Founding Fathers Intended | Robert Schlesinger/US News & World Report
Regardless of whether you want to preserve the Electoral College as it is, tweak it (as I do) or scrap it entirely, you have to understand that it doesn’t function today the way the Founding Fathers planned. I think this is worth pointing out in light of the animated responses I’ve gotten from readers regarding my last column, which called for reform by adding a set of bonus electoral votes which would be rewarded to the winner of the national popular vote. People seem to make a couple of errors in their reverence for the Electoral College. First, they misunderstand its purpose, and concomitantly they misunderstand what it does and doesn’t constitutionally entail.
Alabama: Department of Transportation: Alabama to expand driver’s license office hours after probe | AL.com
U.S. Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday that Alabama has agreed to expand driver’s license office hours after determining that black residents in the state were disproportionately hurt by a slate of closures and reductions in 2015. The federal agency launched an investigation last year after Alabama, citing budget concerns, shuttered 31 part-time offices where examiners gave driving tests about once per week. The state said the closures were aimed at the offices that issued the fewest licenses each year, but the closures also came down hard on rural and heavily minority communities. It left more than a third of Alabama’s 67 counties without a license office, including eight of the state’s 11 counties with a majority African-American population.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said Wednesday her abbreviated recount effort showed the vote “was not carefully guarded” in Michigan and should spur legislative action to require automatic post-election audits. Republican President-elect Donald Trump was poised to maintain his 10,000-vote margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton when Michigan’s hand recount was halted more than two million ballots in, but Stein suggested the rare glimpse under the hood of the state election system served an important purpose. “What we discovered is we do not have a system that we can trust,” Stein said in a radio interview on Michigan’s Big Show, citing complaints from Detroit election officials who said 87 optical scanner voting machines failed on Election Day, along with other documented vote count and ballot handling irregularities.
North Carolina: Judge puts GOP elections board makeover on hold after Roy Cooper sues | News & Observer
Governor-elect Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the General Assembly’s special session law that revamps the state elections board. The lawsuit was the second filed in the waning days of Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration that challenge changes that were adopted by the General Assembly in a special session in December and signed into law by the Republican governor. On Thursday, the state Board of Education sued legislators over a law that would transfer their power to set education policy to the new state superintendent, a Republican. An attorney representing Cooper said at a court hearing Friday that more challenges could be filed next week by the new Democratic governor contesting other changes to his appointment powers – setting the stage for a contentious beginning between the state’s chief executive officer and the Republican lawmakers at the helm of both General Assembly chambers. Cooper is scheduled to be sworn in as governor as soon after midnight on Jan. 1 as possible, though his public inauguration is not taking place until Jan. 7.
Plaintiffs in an ongoing court battle over Texas’ 2011 district maps have filed a joint motion calling for the federal judges considering the case to issue a ruling by next month. The plaintiffs — including the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force and the League of United Latin American Citizens — sued the state in 2011, claiming the maps adopted for state House, Senate and Texas congressional districts were unconstitutional and harm minority voters.
The Gambia’s electoral commission building reopened on Thursday as the president said it had been shut for safety reasons rather than because of the country’s disputed presidential vote result. President Yahya Jammeh’s political party has lodged a legal complaint against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) triggered in part by a vote recount in the days following a December 1 election, which ultimately confirmed opponent Adama Barrow’s victory, 22 years after Jammeh took power. The commission buiding was sealed off without warning by security forces on December 13, the same day the complaint to have the result annulled was lodged.
The British government said Tuesday that it would begin rolling out mandatory identity checks for voters, prompting a backlash from those who say the move could effectively disenfranchise millions. The controversy, with strong echoes of one that played out across the United States this year, turns on the question of whether identity checks are a reasonable tool to combat electoral fraud or are merely an attempt at voter suppression by another name. Until now, voters in every part of Britain except Northern Ireland have been allowed to vote without presenting an ID. But that will change under a pilot program announced Tuesday by Britain’s Conservative government. A photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, will be required in up to 18 different areas across England for local elections in 2018. If the program is successful, it could be expanded nationwide. Britain is next expected to hold national elections in 2020.