National: FBI in agreement with CIA that Russia aimed to help Trump win White House | The Washington Post

FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House, officials disclosed Friday, as President Obama issued a public warning to Moscow that it could face retaliation. New revelations about Comey’s position could put to rest suggestions by some lawmakers that the CIA and the FBI weren’t on the same page on Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s intentions. Russia has denied being behind the cyber-intrusions, which targeted the Democratic National Committee and the private emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Trump, in turn, has repeatedly said he doubts the veracity of U.S. intelligence blaming Moscow for the hacks. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” his first Sunday news-show appearance since the Nov. 8 election. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. . . . No, I don’t believe it at all.” At a “thank you” event Thursday night with some of her top campaign donors and fundraisers, Clinton said she believed Russian-backed hackers went after her campaign because of a personal grudge that Putin had against her. Putin had blamed Clinton for fomenting mass protests in Russia after disputed 2011 parliamentary elections that challenged his rule. Putin said Clinton, then secretary of state, had “sent a signal” to protesters by labeling the elections “neither free nor fair.”

National: U.S. Election Assistance Commission breached by hackers after November vote | Reuters

The U.S. agency charged with ensuring that voting machines meet security standards was itself penetrated by a hacker after the November elections, according to a security firm working with law enforcement on the matter. The security firm, Recorded Future, was monitoring underground electronic markets where hackers buy and sell wares and discovered someone offering log-on credentials for access to computers at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, company executives said. Posing as a potential buyer, the researchers engaged in a conversation with the hacker, said Levi Gundert, vice president of intelligence at the company, and Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collection. Eventually they discovered that the Russian-speaking hacker had obtained the credentials of more than 100 people at the election commission after exploiting a common database vulnerability, the researchers said.

National: 40 Electoral College members demand briefing on Russian interference | The Hill

Forty members of the Electoral College on Tuesday signed a letter demanding an intelligence briefing on Russian interference in the election ahead of their Dec. 19 vote. Ten electors originally signed the letter when it was published Monday, and 30 more have since added their names. The open letter — led by Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) — urged Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to give a detailed briefing on President-elect Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. “We further require a briefing on all investigative findings, as these matters directly impact the core factors in our deliberations of whether Mr. Trump is fit to serve as President of the United States,” the letter read.

National: Stymied vote recount exposed flaws in ballot integrity, Jill Stein says | Los Angeles Times

Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, conceded Tuesday that her three-state vote recount drive was “stopped in its tracks,” but said she’d illuminated the need to shore up the security of balloting nationwide. “While the count may have stopped, the movement for a voting system we can trust has been enormously energized,” Stein told reporters on a conference call. Stein raised more than $7 million to seek recounts of the presidential vote in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. President-elect Donald Trump narrowly won those states. Courts have blocked recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The Wisconsin recount that was completed Monday wound up widening Trump’s margin of victory there to 22,748 votes out of the 2,976,150 cast.

Editorials: Michigan recount reveals voting outrages | The Detroit News

With the move to recount Michigan’s presidential ballots still tangled up in the courts, we may never know for sure whether it might have changed the outcome of the election. But we did learn some outrageous things about the state’s electoral process. The key revelation is that the system in many places is rife with incompetence that results in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters who cast ballots that don’t get counted. In Wayne County, for example, one-third of the ballots cast on Nov. 8 would not have been eligible for recount because of handling irregularities; in the city of Detroit, it was half the votes. Had the recount been allowed to proceed, it would have been useless without those ruined Detroit and Wayne County ballots, and others from Genesee County and elsewhere.

North Carolina: Senate passes controversial merger of ethics, elections boards | WRAL

The state Senate has signed off on legislation that creates a single board to oversee the state’s ethics, lobbying and elections administration. Republican sponsors insist it is aimed at creating a bipartisan panel to oversee all decisions on lobbying, elections and ethics rules. But that eight-member board would need six votes to take any action, something critics say would bog it down and make it less able to act. Senate readies elections, ethics overhaul “That will require bipartisan cooperation,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union. The idea, he said, would be to encourage consensus decisions. The measure passed 30-16 and is now headed to the House for consideration. Deliberations were interrupted by protestors who at various times laughed, clapped or expressed disapproval. After a third interruption, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest ordered the visitor’s gallery cleared. That provoked an even louder outburst followed by chanting once the doors were finally locked.

Ohio: Hackers hit Henry County voter database | The Courier

Attempts by computer hackers to hold Henry County’s voter database for ransom had county and state officials scrambling just days before the Nov. 8 general election. Voters were advised about the data breach in a letter sent by the Henry County commissioners earlier this month. Commissioner Glenn Miller said the voter database was restored from backups at the county and state level, and no ransom was paid. He said officials have no reason to believe the security breach compromised election results, or that voter registration information was extracted from the system. The ransomware attack occurred on Oct. 31. Ransomware is a malicious software used to deny access to the owner’s data in an effort to extort money. Miller said hackers that use ransomware are typically after money, not stealing data.

Pennsylvania: Judge rejects Green Party’s Pennsylvania recount case | Associated Press

A federal judge on Monday issued a stinging rejection of a Green Party-backed request to recount paper ballots in Pennsylvania’s presidential election, won narrowly by Republican Donald Trump, and scan some counties’ election systems for signs of hacking. In his 31-page decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond said there were at least six grounds that required him to reject the Green Party’s lawsuit, which had been opposed by Trump, the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The Green Party has been successful in at least getting statewide recounts started in Wisconsin and Michigan, but it has failed to get a statewide recount begun or ordered in Pennsylvania. Suspicion of a hacked Pennsylvania election “borders on the irrational” while granting the Green Party’s recount bid could “ensure that that no Pennsylvania vote counts” given Tuesday’s federal deadline to certify the vote for the Electoral College, wrote Diamond, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Editorials: The ticking time bomb in Pennsylvania’s election system | Dan Lopresti/Philadelphia Inquirer

Our state’s voting machines are inherently flawed, and they cannot be trusted to accurately record or reflect the votes cast by the people of Pennsylvania. Whether it happens this month or not, the electronic voting systems in our state must undergo a full forensic evaluation by independent computer security experts. Without that evaluation and subsequent changes both in the machines and the procedures for using them, votes cast for our local, state and federal government will always be at risk for error or manipulation, and we can never be fully certain that the outcomes of our elections reflect the will of the voters. A number of years ago, I acquired two different electronic voting machines (known as DREs) from government surplus sales – the type used in Philadelphia County and the type used in Montgomery County – and, with Lehigh students, dismantled and examined them. In my assessment, none of the DREs used in Pennsylvania are capable of retaining a permanent physical record of each vote cast, which is required by the Pennsylvania Election Code. Many of the voting machines used in Pennsylvania, including those used in Philadelphia, create no permanent, physical record of each vote cast – in other words, these machines leave no paper trail. As anyone with a computer knows, data stored electronically is easily lost or corrupted. It would be comforting to think that voting machines are more sophisticated or secure than home or office computers, but in many ways, they are not. They are computers running software like all other computers running software, and they are vulnerable to the same kinds of problems as all of our other computers. Computer memory, including the memory that stores the votes in the voting machines used throughout the last election across Pennsylvania, can be written or rewritten with incorrect data as a result of software, hardware and human error, or as a result of intentional interference.

Virginia: Voter ID law upheld by federal court after Democratic challenge | The Guardian

A federal appeals court has upheld a Virginia law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, rejecting a challenge from Democrats who argued that it suppressed voting by minorities and young people. A three-judge panel of the fourth US circuit court of appeals ruled on Tuesday that the law did not violate the Voting Rights Act or impose an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. The ruling comes just months after a different panel of the same court struck down a North Carolina law that required voters to produce a photo ID and also scrapped same-day registration and shortened early voting periods. But the panel that issued Tuesday’s ruling found that the facts in the North Carolina case “are in no way” like those in the passage of Virginia’s bill. Virginians can obtain free photo IDs at voter registrar offices, but Democrats argued that few people knew about that option because the state had done little to spread the word.

Europe: Governments brace for Russian hacking in upcoming elections | Politico

European governments are bracing for cyber-meddling by Moscow in upcoming national elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany. Amid uproar in the United States over CIA findings that Russian hackers interceded in the election to help President-elect Donald Trump, a series of incidents in Europe have led to stark warnings by high-level officials, particularly in Germany, and by cybersecurity experts who say online political and information warfare is certain to worsen. In a remarkable two-page warning late last week, Hans-Georg Maaßen, the head of Germany’s Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution, a domestic security agency, said there was a clear threat from Russian hackers seeking to sow “uncertainty in German society” and to destabilize the country. “In the political arena we see increasing and aggressive cyber-espionage,” Maaßen said. “We see a potential hazard to members of the German government, the Bundestag and employees of democratic parties through cyber-operations.” On Monday, German MEPs across the political spectrum echoed those worries.

The Gambia: Military takes over offices of electoral commission | The Guardian

Yahya Jammeh, the autocratic ruler of the Gambia, has moved to resist his presidential election defeat, sending armed soldiers to take control of the electoral commission headquarters and filing a petition to the supreme court as a delegation of African leaders urged him to stand down. The petition said the electoral commission had “failed to properly collate the results” of the election, which Jammeh lost to challenger Adama Barrow. It came after the president of the electoral commission was thrown out of his office shortly before the leaders’ delegation arrived in the country.

National: Obama promises retaliation against Russia over hacking during US election | The Guardian

Barack Obama has warned that the US will retaliate for Russian cyberattacks during the presidential election. According to extracts of an interview due to air on National Public Radio on Friday morning, the US president said he was waiting for a final report he has ordered into a range of Russian hacking attacks, but promised there would be a response. “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action,” Obama said. “And we will – at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicised; some of it may not be.” The CIA has judged that the Russian cyber attacks, including the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee, were intended to influence the election in Donald Trump’s favour. The FBI agrees that there was Russian hacking but has not as yet concluded it was intended to favour the Republican contender. Senators from both parties have called for a congressional enquiry, while Trump himself has rejected the reports and his office has derided the CIA.

National: Beleaguered Federal Election Commission enters 2017 as marginalized as ever | Public Radio International

Donald Trump panned “pay-to-play” politics, blasted “rigged” elections and vowed to “drain the swamp” that is Washington, D.C. But Trump has so far forsaken the very government agency Congress created after Watergate to work as the nation’s campaign season Roto-Rooter. The Federal Election Commission’s six commissioners, including the agency’s three Republicans, say neither Trump nor his transition team has contacted them. Trump, meanwhile, appointed Don McGahn, a former FEC chairman and preeminent enemy of campaign finance regulations, as his top White House lawyer. Representatives for the Trump transition declined to answer questions from the Center for Public Integrity about the FEC. The developments together are evidence that the FEC — once a reasonably robust and bipartisan judge of political misdeeds — heads into 2017 even more marginalized than ever before by the very politicians it’s supposed to advise and police.

Editorials: Jill Stein has done the nation a tremendous public service | Jonathan S. Abady & Ilann M. Maazel/The Washington Post

As lead counsel in Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s quest to have votes recounted in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, we have been in court for the past two weeks trying to verify the integrity of the election and make sure that no one hacked our democracy. Some have cast Stein as a spoiler, or alleged that the recounts were futile, because they didn’t change who won the election. But the recount would only be futile if we, as Americans, ignored the lessons of the past weeks and preserved the status quo that is our broken voting system. To start, we must recognize that what we saw in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were recounts in name only. Though more than 161,000 people across the nation donated to the effort — and millions more demanded it with their voices — every imaginable financial, legal and political obstacle was thrown in the way of the recounts. In Michigan, a state court shut down the recount after only three days. In Wisconsin, instead of hand counting all paper ballots — the “gold standard” of election auditing — many ballots were fed into the same electronic machines used on Election Day, producing the same potentially faulty results.

Editorials: Jill Stein Pulls Back the Curtain on America’s Voting Chaos | The American Prospect

Let’s acknowledge that Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s now-halted bid to recount the vote in three Rust Belt states served principally to earn her a lot of free media and fatten her political fundraising email list. Stein failed to furnish any evidence of the “hacking” and “security breaches” that her many press releases and public comments alleged, but she did scoop up $7.3 million from more than 160,000 donors in less than three weeks. Nevertheless, Stein’s arguably self-serving drive to recount votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin performed an important public service. As Stein noted this week in a press call to mark the end of her recount effort, she did spotlight some troubling weaknesses in the nation’s election system. Voting in America continues to be plagued by malfunctioning machines, byzantine rules, and insufficient cross-checks and audits to ensure that ballots are properly tallied. Stein’s recount bid captured the paradox of this year’s super-charged debate over voting. The most sensational claims and counter-claims about this year’s election—that the system was “rigged” and riddled with fraud, as Donald Trump alleged, or that voting machines may have been tampered with, as Stein herself declared—lacked any empirical evidence to back them up. But there was plenty of evidence that the more-pedestrian, nuts-and-bolts basics of election administration, particularly when it comes voting machines, are still not up to snuff. The system produced no major crisis this year, as Florida’s hanging chads did in the 2000 contested election, but that may simply be because the country dodged a bullet. Competing allegations of voter suppression, voter fraud, and Russian hacking—albeit of emails, not voting machines—have also damaged public confidence, making the need for a well-functioning, credible system all the more urgent.

Editorials: What We Learned from the Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania Recounts | Marc Elias/Medium

Two weeks ago I published a Medium post outlining how the Clinton campaign would respond to Jill Stein’s plan to seek recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. I explained that we had not planned on seeking recounts because we had not uncovered actionable evidence of hacking or tampering with voting systems, equipment or results. However, I made clear that we would participate in any recount initiated by others to ensure the process proceeded in a manner that was fair to all sides. Though many have mischaracterized our efforts, I acknowledged in my Medium post (and subsequently in a Washington Post Q&A) that the results were not likely to change materially and that “the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states — Michigan — well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.” With the recounts no longer in process, and the electoral college safe harbor date now upon us, I wanted to write to update our supporters and detractors on how the process worked (or did not work) and what we learned.

Georgia: Two more states say same DHS computer accessed their websites | Atlanta Journal Constitution

The National Association of Secretaries of State wants federal officials to help resolve concerns that a Department of Homeland Security computer made questionable visits to a number of state computers in recent months. The organization, based in Washington, “wants to make sure that we help the states in question get a quick resolution of this matter from the Department of Homeland Security and that there is a way to resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction,” Kay Stimson, spokeswoman for the association, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. The organization surveyed its members after Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s staff traced what it considered a cyber threat against its network to a DHS-owned computer. The agency has denied any attempt to penetrate Georgia’s protected systems. Two states — Kentucky and West Virginia — discovered visits to their systems by the same computer involved in the Georgia incidents. Both of those states, however, said the visits did not appear to be malicious.

Editorials: The Case For Automatic Voter Registration In Hawaii | Honolulu Civil Beat News

With Hawaii’s voter turnout in the 2016 election at only 55 percent (down from 66 percent in 2012) of registered voters, it’s time to look at new ways to add voters to the voter rolls. Democracy works better when more people participate, and with such dismal participation rates, a law that puts the onus on the citizenry to decline to participate further may be called for. Online voter registration is now available, and same-day registration will be an option in 2018. But one action the Legislature can take in its next session is to allow automatic voter registration when you apply for or renew a driver’s license or state ID. Currently when eligible citizens apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID, they have to fill out a voter affidavit in addition to the standard application form in order to be registered to vote. Automatic voter registration reverses this. Instead of having to opt into the registration program, all eligible citizens are registered to vote by default, except for those who choose not to be.

Michigan: Records: 95 Detroit poll books missing for several days | The Detroit News

Detroit elections officials waited several days to deliver nearly 100 poll books to Wayne County officials charged with certifying the presidential election, newly released documents show. County clerk officials on Thursday released a memo to State Elections Director Chris Thomas that said 95 poll books from the 662 precincts weren’t available at the start of the canvass, which began the day after the Nov. 8 election. Five of those poll books, which contain the names of voters and ensure the integrity of elections, were never delivered to county canvassers and presumably remain missing. The revelation comes atop other irregularities that have prompted a state audit. Among other issues, The Detroit News reported this week that voting machines registered more votes than they should have in one-third of all city precincts.

Michigan: Detroit to get new voting machines as city clerk blames state, human error | Detroit Free Press

Five weeks after a national scandal involving broken Detroit voting machines and ineffective poll workers, state Elections Director Chris Thomas said Wednesday evening that the city will get all new voting machines in time for the 2017 mayoral and City Council elections. But broken machines were not the biggest problem Detroit endured election night. Citing a memo he just received, Thomas said there were dozens of other problems that occurred Nov. 8. “I got an e-mail yesterday from Wayne County showing me what the issues were on (Detroit) polling places and precincts, and quite frankly, it was somewhat shocking,” he said. Thomas said his staff soon will head to Detroit to get a better understanding of why the city has such problems running elections and to find ways to help. Among the problems cited in the memo, he said: Ninety-one precinct reports were not delivered on time. County officials had to re-create missing poll books. Five precincts had no poll books, so Detroit election officials had to find voter applications and re-create the books — and hundreds of poll worksheets had either too few or too many ballots.

North Carolina: Proposal to split elections boards between political parties moves ahead | News & Observer

A proposal to combine North Carolina’s elections, ethics and lobbyist regulation, among other provisions, was approved in the Senate on Thursday. Republican legislators who wrote Senate Bill 4 describe it as an effort to make elections oversight bipartisan. But the result would be to deprive the incoming Democratic administration of control of state and county elections boards. After Senate Republicans won a 30-16 vote along party lines, the bill was sent to the House. The Republican-led General Assembly called itself into special session on Wednesday and has been considering major changes to state government operations. SB 4 would replace the current State Board of Elections with the current eight-member State Ethics Commission. The new board would assume lobbying regulation duties from the Secretary of State. It would be run by the current director of the state elections office, Kim Strach, until a new board is seated in July and choses a director.

Editorials: Virginia Cracks the Code on Voter ID Laws | Noah Feldman/Bloomberg

One of the most remarkable things about voting where I do, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is that no one asks you for identification: Who you are is based on trust. But that charming civic experience may not be long for this world. Although several voter ID provisions were struck down before the 2016 election, an appeals court has now upheld Virginia’s law — and in essence provided a road map for how states can require ID without violating the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution. The law upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit resembles the laws struck down by other courts. Enacted in 2013, the law, known as S.B. 1256, requires voters to show ID, allowing them to cast provisional ballots if they don’t have it with them and to “cure” their ballots by presenting valid ID up to three days later. The state also accepts many forms of ID. What makes the law a little different from some others is that, if a voter lacks ID, the state board of elections has to issue one free — even if the voter shows up to the board without any documentation.

Bulgaria: Prime Minister Makes U-Turn on New Govt over ‘Referendum Results’ | Novinite

Forming a new Bulgarian government within the current Parliament should not be deemed impossible anymore, main ruling GERB party leader and outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has said. Speaking after a European Council session in Brussels, he has cited the results of a referendum showing Bulgarian voters’ preference for a first-past-the-post electoral system (over the currently enforced proportional representation) and the complex political situation in the region. Borisov, who by now has only shown skepticism about the Reformist Bloc’s effort to forge another cabinet after his resignation, has told reporters it is “worth scaling forward the [resignation] time just so little as to accept [a] new election law in accordance with the [results of the] referendum.”

The Gambia: The Real Reason Gambia’s President Isn’t Stepping Down | Foreign Policy

One of the gentler techniques that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has used to stay in power for the last 22 years is sacking his staff members seemingly at random, before any of them could conspire against him. From cabinet ministers to diplomats to army chiefs, it wasn’t unusual to serve just months or even weeks in office before getting the bullet — hopefully in the metaphorical sense. But as Jammeh tries to wiggle out of a resounding defeat in this month’s presidential election, the habit of keeping his government in a permanent state of reshuffle has come back to haunt him. Two weeks after he conceded defeat to Adama Barrow, a property developer who once worked as a security guard in Britain, the president had a sudden change of heart, vowing to challenge the election result before the country’s Supreme Court. But Jammeh had sacked so many Supreme Court justices over the last year that the body is legally unable to hear the case unless he appoints four new justices. And as the Gambia Bar Association pointed out in a Dec. 12 statement: “Any Supreme Court empanelled by the outgoing President Jammeh for the purpose of hearing his election petition would be fundamentally tainted.”

Macedonia: Government Supporters Pile Pressure on Election Commission | Balkan Insight

As Macedonia’s state election commssion, DIK, convened on Thursday evening in Skopje to decide opposition complaints about the general election, thousands of supporters of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party arrived by bus from smaller towns on a mission to “protect” its election victory. VMRO DPMPE politicians and prominent supporters heated up the crowd, accusing the main opposition party of plotting “treason” to Macedonia. “We won’t allow the country to be run by people who are prepared to commit the greatest treason against Macedonia,” VMRO DPMNE MP Ilija Dimovski told the protesters. “The DIK members should know that they carry the greatest responsibility and will decide whether this country will be normal and prosperous,” he added. “They should know that these people have no more strength to tolerate things. We respect democracy and the voice of the people. There is no turning back,” Dimovski continued.