National: Cybersecurity firm finds evidence that Russian military unit was behind DNC hack | The Washington Post

A cybersecurity firm has uncovered strong proof of the tie between the group that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Russia’s military intelligence arm — the primary agency behind the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. The firm CrowdStrike linked malware used in the DNC intrusion to malware used to hack and track an Android phone app used by the Ukrainian army in its battle against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine from late 2014 through 2016. While CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC to investigate the intrusions and whose findings are described in a new report, had always suspected that one of the two hacker groups that struck the DNC was the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, it had only medium confidence. Now, said CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch, “we have high confidence” it was a unit of the GRU. CrowdStrike had dubbed that unit “Fancy Bear.” The FBI, which has been investigating Russia’s hacks of political, government, academic and other organizations for several years, privately has concluded the same. But the bureau has not publicly drawn the link to the GRU. CrowdStrike’s fingering of the GRU helps to deepen the public’s understanding of how different arms of the Russian government are carrying out malicious and deeply troubling cyber acts in the United States.

National: U.S. government loses to Russia’s disinformation campaign: advisers | Reuters

The U.S. government spent more than a decade preparing responses to malicious hacking by a foreign power but had no clear strategy when Russia launched a disinformation campaign over the internet during the U.S. election campaign, current and former White House cyber security advisers said. Far more effort has gone into plotting offensive hacking and preparing defenses against the less probable but more dramatic damage from electronic assaults on the power grid, financial system or direct manipulation of voting machines. Over the last several years, U.S. intelligence agencies tracked Russia’s use of coordinated hacking and disinformation in Ukraine and elsewhere, the advisers and intelligence experts said, but there was little sustained, high-level government conversation about the risk of the propaganda coming to the United States.

Verified Voting Blog: A Democracy Worth the Paper — Ballot — it’s Written on | Mark Halvorson and Barbara Simons

As the CIA digs deep to investigate foreign influence on our election, we should recognize that we don’t need cybersecurity experts to tell us if our votes have been accurately counted. Citizen observers can do the job, if we fix the way we vote and the way we verify those votes.

Our democracy is in crisis because we have introduced computers into our voting systems without proper safeguards. First and foremost, every vote must be cast on a paper ballot marked by the voter. In addition, we must require that at least a random sample of those paper ballots be counted by hand to determine if the electronically reported election results are correct.

About 25 percent of the 2016 votes, including almost all of Pennsylvania, were cast on paperless, computerized voting machines. Since software can contain bugs, programming errors, and even malware, we never should have allowed paperless voting machines to record and count our votes, because there is no way to verify that votes are properly recorded and counted inside the machines. Voting on a paperless electronic voting machine is like speaking your vote to a stranger behind a screen and ­­­­­trusting him to cast it for you, without ever seeing the person or how he marked your ballot.

Furthermore, even states with paper ballots tabulate almost all of them using computerized optical scanners. Paper ballots provide no protection unless they are manually checked after the election to verify or correct the computer-declared results. There are only two ways to independently verify electronic tallies (that is, to confirm whether or not the person behind the screen was honest and accurate): post-election audits and recounts done by hand by examining the original paper ballots.

Editorials: Why the Green Party Continues to Demand Presidential Recounts | David Cobb/The Nation

Presidential recounts are not about changing election results. At least, that is not their primary purpose. At their core, recounts are about ensuring confidence in the integrity of the voting system. It is unfortunate, if not all that surprising, that the two largest corporate-controlled political parties have chosen to stand in the way of these grassroots-demanded recounts—in the case of Republicans, actively blocking them in the courts; in the case of Democrats, capitulating in their refusal to push for them. In an election marked by so many irregularities, public distrust and outright evidence of hacking, Americans deserve to know now more than ever that the election was accurate and secure. That is the ultimate goal of this and every recount: to restore confidence in our elections and trust in our democracy. Consider the 2004 recount, for example. As the Green Party candidate for president that year, I led efforts to organize recounts in Ohio and New Mexico, in the wake of widespread complaints about the obstruction of legitimate voters, mostly in majority-black precincts, and tampering with computer voting machines on Election Day. The Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik supported our efforts, but the Democrats, led by nominee John Kerry, were silent. The investigations sparked by that recount did not change who won the electoral votes in New Mexico or Ohio. They did, however, uncover glaring problems with our voting system. A report published by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, spearheaded by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers, found conclusive evidence that more than 100,000 voters—many concentrated in communities of color—were disenfranchised during the election. Among the irregularities caused by the intentional, illegal behavior included some 90,000 spoiled ballots, the improper purging of tens of thousands of voters by election officials, and improbably high turn out in certain counties, even surpassing 100 percent in some cases.

Editorials: Investigate Russian Hacking the Right Way | The New York Times

President-elect Donald Trump will assume office next month dogged by the question of whether a covert ploy by the Russian government had a decisive effect on his election. While a conclusive answer is likely to remain elusive, American voters deserve as many details as can be ascertained about Russia’s role in the campaign, to better protect the political process from similar interference in the future. The assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Russian government stole and leaked Clinton campaign emails has been accepted across the political spectrum, with the notable exception of Mr. Trump. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, called Russian meddling “unacceptable,” and said that under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow “has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.” Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said in a recent interview that the fact that the “Russians were messing around in our election” is a “matter of genuine concern.” Addressing the issue properly will require a bipartisan congressional investigation led by people with the authority and intent to get to the truth, however disturbing that might be for the incoming administration and the Republican Party. The intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian hacking was meant to help elect Mr. Trump.

Editorials: A dangerous gambit: The failed electoral-college rebellion bodes ill for future elections | Steven Mazie/The Economist

The last-ditch effort by some Democrats to thwart a Donald Trump presidency ended in a fizzle on December 19th. The 538 members of the electoral college—the body that officially elects America’s chief executive, as ordained by Article II of the constitution—handed the real-estate magnate 304 votes, two shy of the total he was projected to win after the people voted on November 8th but a comfortable 34 votes more than the 270 he needed to win a majority. Mr Trump is set to be inaugurated as America’s 45th president on January 20th. The ill-fated Hail Mary was lobbed by a number of liberal intellectuals, including Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and short-lived 2016 presidential candidate. In an opinion piece for the Washington Post last month, Mr Lessig observed that Hillary Clinton handily won the national popular vote. Since electoral-college electors are “citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel”, they should feel free to ignore the popular vote totals in their home states. Electors should then stand up for the principle of “one person, one vote”, Mr Lessig suggested, and switch their allegiance to Hillary Clinton. Other advocates called on Trump electors to use their independent judgment to vote for another, more savoury Republican. If 38 electors would opt for the likes of John Kasich or Mitt Romney, Mr Trump would fall short of 270 and the House of Representatives would get to pick the president from among the top-three vote getters. The House would then be free to send a Republican other than Mr Trump to the White House.

Alabama: 1985 civil rights voting-fraud case may follow Sessions during confirmation hearing |

A failed voting-fraud prosecution from more than 30 years ago could re-emerge as a contentious issue during Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for attorney general. Sessions was dogged by his handling of the case as U.S. attorney during his 1986 confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, when he tried to fend off complaints of a wrongful prosecution. He devoted more space to that case than any other in a questionnaire he submitted this month to the Senate Judiciary Committee for the attorney general post, suggesting the matter is likely to come up again during his Jan. 10-11 confirmation hearing before the panel. The 1985 prosecution involved three black civil rights activists, including a former adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., who were accused of illegally tampering with large numbers of absentee ballots in rural Perry County, Alabama. The defendants argued that they were assisting voters who were poor, uneducated and in some cases illiterate, and marked the ballots with the voters’ permission. A jury acquitted the three after just a few hours of deliberation. Howard Moore Jr., a member of the defense team, said he didn’t think it was a legitimate prosecution. “That’s why we defended the case so vigorously,” he said in an interview. “We felt that it would have had a chilling effect, if they had been convicted, throughout the south.”

Illinois: Democrats critical of DuPage merger plan | Daily Herald

The DuPage Democratic Party chairman says he wants the county to revise its proposal to consolidate the election commission and county clerk’s office to make the move “truly bipartisan.” DuPage officials plan to ask state lawmakers to return election oversight power to the clerk’s office by merging it with the election commission. If approved, the commission would become a division of the clerk’s office. In addition, a five-member board of election commissioners would be created to set policy, hold meetings and receive public comment. The county clerk would serve as the panel’s chairman. Supporters say the plan keeps the election commission board, which currently has three seats and must have representatives from both major political parties. Republicans hold two of the three seats. But Robert Peickert, the DuPage Democratic Party chairman, says he’s concerned about increasing the election commission board to five members because county board Chairman Dan Cronin, a Republican, still would have the power to appoint four of them. “Bipartisan means you have the participation of the Democratic Party, which he has ignored,” Peickert said. “This is not bipartisan.”

Michigan: Fact check: No proof in story of mass voter fraud in Michigan | Detroit Free Press

A widely shared story that claimed in headlines that Michigan had mass Democratic voter fraud and that more than half of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s Detroit vote faces disqualification is false. State election officials say there is no proof to back up either claim. The story posted by Higgins News Network on Dec. 6 is headlined: “Michigan Recount: Over 1/2 of Hillary Clinton’s Detroit Vote Faces Disqualification,” with an updated headline on Dec. 7: “Michigan Recount Halted After Mass Voter Fraud Discovery,” with a subhead: “Federal Judge Officially Stops Michigan Recount After Discovery of Widespread Democrat Vote Fraud.”

Missouri: St. Louis prosecutor uncovers ‘important evidence’ in voter fraud probe, turns case over to feds | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The city’s top prosecutor said her office “uncovered important evidence” in a voter fraud investigation dealing with an August primary statehouse race that has since been reversed by voters. The case — which centered on the validity of absentee ballots — has now been turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office. In an email with the subject line “Fraud,” a spokeswoman for Circuit Attorney Jennifer M. Joyce said Tuesday that based on prosecutors’ findings, “the U.S. attorney’s office has agreed to expand the investigation at Joyce’s request.” U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan confirmed his office had been monitoring the investigation since it began in late August. “But in recent weeks, they asked us if we would assume responsibility for the main role, and we agreed,” Callahan said. Callahan declined to offer any specifics about when the investigation might conclude.

Editorials: Virtually no fraud found in voting — no surprise | News & Observer

Despite their considerable victories in November’s elections, Republicans have lost badly on one issue – voter fraud. Republican-led states, most notably North Carolina, have passed laws preventing people from voting in the name of another or registering people who are not eligible to vote, even as those restrictions made it harder or impossible for thousands of eligible voters to cast a vote. It’s a necessary protection, Republicans maintain. Indeed President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that “millions” of people voted illegally.More than a mont h after the general election, a fine-combing of the results shows what opponents of restrictive voting laws have always contended: voting fraud is a myth used to justify the suppression of voters likely to vote Democratic. The New York Times reported this week that elections officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia had no cases of voter fraud. Eight other states said they had one allegation. This dearth of evidence comes out of an election in which 137.7 million Americans cast ballots and results in several states were closely examined through recounts. In North Carolina, where the Republican-led General Assembly passed the one of the strictest Voter ID laws in the nation, supporters of Gov. Pat McCrory combed through returns trying to overturn his narrow loss to Attorney General Roy Cooper. Almost all of the challenges were dismissed by Republican-controlled county election boards. Of 4.7 million votes cast, 25 were found to be wrongly cast by ineligible felons, most of whom may not have realized that their restriction voting extended not only to their time in prison, but through the duration of their post-release limitations.

US Virgin Islands: St. Croix District Election Board Ends Year in Chaos | St. Thomas Source

The St. Croix District Board of Elections meeting Wednesday ended in chaos, with multiple motions made to unseat the chairwoman current at the beginning of the meeting and the subsequent chairman apparently seated during the session. Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal was board chairwoman as the meeting got underway. Glenn Webster, who initially was board secretary, moved that Belardo de O’Neal be removed from heading the board because, he said, of collusive action with her husband she had tried “to deliberately defraud the people of the Virgin Islands.” After the motion was seconded, Belardo de O’Neal said, “Hearing no objection, the motion passes.” Having no discussion on the motion seemed to upset board member Adelbert “Bert” Bryan, who said, “We cannot tell what we are talking about.” Other board members argued that there was no sense having a discussion on the motion since it passed.

West Virginia: Secretary of State, Incoming Successor Quarrel Over Hacking Claims | Government Technology

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Secretary of State-Elect Mac Warner are sparring over claims that the Department of Homeland Security attempted to “hack” into West Virginia election records. Warner encouraged President-elect Donald Trump to pursue an immediate investigation into “recorded hacking attempts” of voter files in West Virginia, according to a statement released early Sunday morning. Warner said the attempts were recorded by firewall protection software Nov. 7 and Oct. 29. “Upon taking office, this issue will be at the top of our list to investigate and respond appropriately,” Warner wrote. “DHS holds a responsibility to be transparent with the hacking details, objective and intent of action with the information.” Tennant said Warner’s statements were false in a statement Sunday afternoon. On Oct. 29 an invalid website address was used in an attempt to reach West Virginia’s Statewide Voter Registration System. She said the DHS IP address Warner is questioning viewed public election night results on Nov. 7.

Europe: Europe Braces for Russian Cyber Assault Before 2017 Elections VoA News

Amid ongoing accusations that Russia attempted to influence and subvert the U.S. presidential election, Europe is bracing for a similar operation by Moscow before a series of elections. France, Germany and the Netherlands go to the polls in 2017, and analysts say Russia is already attempting to influence the outcomes, a charge Moscow denies. As the chief European architect of sanctions against Russia, analysts say German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the European leader Moscow would most like to see voted out of power. In a speech this month Merkel warned of the dangers of external attempts to hack the election, adding that German leaders must inform people, and express their political convictions clearly. The chancellor is running for a fourth term. But she does have an Achilles heel. Nearly a million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015 and analysts say Russia will likely use this to try whip-up anti-immigrant feeling.

The Gambia: Defiant Gambian president refuses to step aside | Al Jazeera

Gambia’s president has reiterated he will not step down despite losing the December 1 election, as West African leaders and Western powers urge him to hand over power peacefully. Yahya Jammeh initially conceded defeat on state television after 22 years in power, but a week later, reversed his position, denouncing the election results and demanding a new vote. “Unless the court decides the case, there will be no inauguration on January 19,” Jammeh said on Tuesday. His political party has lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court to overturn the December 1 vote result. Last week, Gambian troops took over the Independent Electoral Commission office in the capital, Banjul, and instructed its chairman to leave while barring other employees from entering.

Russia: Moscow’s cyber warriors in Ukraine linked to US election | Financial Times

CrowdStrike, a cyber security firm, has found evidence of alleged Russian government hacking in Ukraine that boosts its confidence that Russia orchestrated the hacking of Democratic National Committee servers in the US before the presidential election. The firm, which was hired by the DNC to rebuild its cyber defences after the attack, said Fancy Bear — a code name it assigned to hackers that it believes are associated with Russian military intelligence, the GRU — had implanted malware in an Android mobile phone application used by anti-Russian forces operating in eastern Ukraine. Dmitri Alperovitch, the co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, said it had concluded that the hackers who installed the malware were the same perpetrators of the hack that siphoned the DNC emails and penetrated the personal email account of John Podesta, who was the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton. Identifying the perpetrators of cyber intrusions is notoriously difficult as sophisticated attackers can conceal their identity or make it appear that other parties are behind the activity. But Mr Alperovitch said his confidence level that the DNC hack was the work of the GRU had risen from “medium” to “high” because of the actions that appeared to occur in eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2016.