It is rare for a U.S. president to face a major political stand-off before his own inauguration. But that was the history-making environment we saw playing out as president-elect Donald Trump, members of the U.S. intelligence community and Congress scuffled over the degree to which a Russian influence campaign, played out through cyber activity, shaped an election for the ages. While U.S. political and diplomatic interests await reports and hearings, “election hacking” is already a global phenomenon, according to concerns out of Germany, Montenegro, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Despite alarming headlines, focused cyber operations against elections are in their relative infancy – meaning it’s crucial for us in the security industry as well as those affected to define what’s happened and marshal broad defenses. … The most volatile attack scenario is compromising voting machines, agencies and other polling infrastructure.
On November 9 at around 8.30 AM., Michal Kosinski woke up in the Hotel Sunnehus in Zurich. The 34-year-old researcher had come to give a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) about the dangers of Big Data and the digital revolution. Kosinski gives regular lectures on this topic all over the world. He is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. When he turned on the TV that morning, he saw that the bombshell had exploded: contrary to forecasts by all leading statisticians, Donald J. Trump had been elected president of the United States. For a long time, Kosinski watched the Trump victory celebrations and the results coming in from each state. He had a hunch that the outcome of the election might have something to do with his research. Finally, he took a deep breath and turned off the TV. On the same day, a then little-known British company based in London sent out a press release: “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. He is always immaculately turned out in tailor-made suits and designer glasses, with his wavy blonde hair combed back from his forehead. His company wasn’t just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK’s Brexit campaign as well. Of these three players—reflective Kosinski, carefully groomed Nix and grinning Trump—one of them enabled the digital revolution, one of them executed it and one of them benefited from it.
Did 3 million people vote illegally in the 2016 election? There’s no evidence that’s true, but President Trump certainly believes so, making news his first week in the White House by ordering an investigation into that allegation. Even if only partly substantiated, it would probably be the single largest instance of voter fraud in American history. The source for Trump’s convictions seems to be a Twitter account run by Texan businessman and former public official Gregg Phillips, the founder of VoteStand, a mobile app designed to allow users to report incidents of voter fraud. Using data from conservative nonprofit True the Vote, Phillips claimed that he identified millions of illegal votes. Those claims went viral when published, were amplified by the conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, and ultimately reached the president himself. But those data have not yet been released, and questions about the credibility of their purveyor and his methods and claims abound. Even Phillips himself is now backing off the original 3 million number that sparked the president’s demand for an investigation, explaining that he needs more time before he’s willing to provide final numbers or release his raw data. “Over a hundred million people voted. Impacting a presidential election is probably less likely than impacting anything down-ballot,” Phillips said. “I’m not gonna be goaded into going faster than I want to. I’m not a government official, I don’t have protections, and if I accuse somebody of voter fraud, we have to be sure that what we’re saying is right. While I believe I’m right, it’s in my best interest and everybody else’s best interest to make sure this is right.”
National: Trump’s voter fraud unicorn could pose grave threat to voting rights | Philadelphia Tribune
Of the many conspiracy theories presented by President Donald Trump last week, none carried as much gravity as his crusade on voter fraud. “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD,” he posted on Twitter earlier in the week, “including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” How those “voting procedures” would be strengthened remained unclear. Yet, the hint of an exhaustive federal investigation into voter fraud rattled civil rights leaders who are already bracing for a wholesale rollback of key provisions in the Voting Rights Act.
National: The tale of a Trump falsehood: How his voter fraud claim spread like a virus | The Washington Post
The falsehood took root a week ago, when President Trump claimed in a private Jan. 23 meeting with top congressional leaders that between 3 million and 5 million undocumented immigrants illegally voted in November’s election. From there, the infection spread, strengthened with faulty evidence and scattered anecdotes: A congressman offered his own estimate of 2.4 million illegally registered voters. The White House press secretary misrepresented the findings of a study and suggested, with no evidence, that fraud happens in “big states, very populous states and urban areas.” Other Republicans pointed to an investigation of a small batch of voter registrations in Virginia, convictions for vote-buying in local races in Kentucky and a false statistic about voter turnout in Pennsylvania being suspiciously high in 2012. Within days, the stray comment at a reception — a variation on a false claim Trump had been making for months — led to the president’s call for an investigation, plans for an executive order and a promise from Vice President Pence to Republicans that the administration would “initiate a full evaluation of voting rolls.”
“We have got to fix that.” On Election Night in 2012, six words by newly re-elected President Obama set a chain of events in motion. He was talking about the long lines at many polling places. A little over a year later the Presidential Commission for Election Administration (PCEA) presented their recommendations to help local and state elections officials improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots. There were many amazing things about the PCEA. That it existed at all. Most of the time, the roughly 8,000 election administrators around the country do their jobs with little fanfare and little public attention. It was pretty exciting to see so many people working on fixing problems and offering best practices to support these officials as they support the voter. That it was bipartisan. In fact the chairs had been general counsel to opposing candidates in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. But most of all, that their recommendations — a set of practical, useful guidelines addressing real issues — have made a real and measurable difference, upping the game of election officials around the country.
The Arkansas House approved a plan Tuesday to reinstate a voter ID law that was struck down more than two years ago, with Republicans counting on a new state Supreme Court makeup to uphold the measure this time. The proposal approved by a 74-21 vote is nearly identical to a law the Republican Legislature enacted in 2013 requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. The state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the measure in 2014, with the majority of the court ruling it unconstitutionally added a new qualification for voting. The latest proposal is aimed at addressing a concern three of the court’s seven justices raised that the prohibition didn’t pass with enough votes in the Legislature when it was enacted in 2013. The proposal will need two-thirds support in both chambers, a threshold it easily cleared in the House. It now heads to the state Senate.
California: Judge says San Diego County must change vote counting procedures in future elections | The San Diego Union-Tribune
A judge has determined that San Diego County didn’t follow proper procedures in an audit of the June primary election and must use a different process when verifying future contests. In a Jan. 10 judgment, San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil determined that state election law says all mail-in ballots need to be included in a manual count of votes from 1 percent of precincts. Previously the County Registrar of Voters only used mail-in ballots received by Election Day in its manual count, while excluding mail-in votes received after polls closed. All ballots – including votes cast by mail, at polling places and accepted provisional ballots – are counted toward election results, but only a small portion are used in an audit used to double-check that votes are accurately counted by automated tabulation systems. Ray Lutz, the head of government watchdog organization Citizens Oversight Inc., said in his lawsuit that all types of ballots cast, including mail-in votes received by the registrar before and after Election Day as well as provisional ballots, should be included in the manual tally to ensure that election fraud has not occurred.
If President Donald Trump wants a good gauge of how much voter fraud he will find if he launches a federal investigation, one of his campaign advisers, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is a good person to ask. Kobach, you might remember, became a national hero among conservatives by championing restrictions on voting, with the avowed purpose of battling the scourge of voter fraud. During Trump’s presidential transition, he was photographed meeting Trump while holding a document listing plans to bar foreigners and deal with “criminal aliens.” Illegal immigration and voter fraud are intimately linked in conservative mythology, where dusky undocumented immigrants are forever handing election victories to Democrats by voting illegally. Kobach is a smart lawyer and a skillful salesman. “Voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal after becoming Kansas’s secretary of state in 2011.
Early voters in some Utah counties would be allowed to cast ballots on the day before an election under a bill a House committee approved Tuesday. State law permits early voting to start two weeks before Election Day, but not on the Monday before a Tuesday election. Salt Lake County turned away hundreds of voters in November who showed up to vote on Monday. HB105, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, would give counties the option to extend the last day of early voting to the day before the election.
Voting Blogs: Virginia Election Bill Could Stop Thousands of Eligible People From Voting | Project Vote
Project Vote submitted testimony in opposition to Virginia’s “no match, no vote” bill, SB 1581. The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee is scheduled to hear it today. The bill proposes an unpredictable, costly, and burdensome process as a prerequisite to voter registration that is prone to errors. In essence, SB 1581 would reject any voter application if the name, Social Security number, and date of birth do not match information on file with the Social Security Administration or other database approved by the State Board of Elections, and would subject existing voters’ registrations to the same scheme.
Washington: Republicans and Democrats offer competing voting-rights bills in Legislature | The Seattle Times
Republicans and Democrats have introduced competing voting-rights bills that have rekindled debate over efforts aimed at making local elections more hospitable to minority candidates. The four bills would remove a 1994 state restriction that prevents most Washington cities from replacing an at-large voting system with district elections. At-large voting means candidates run citywide for the office. In districted voting, candidates are picked by voters within a smaller geographic area. In Seattle, seven of the nine City Council members are elected by districts while the other two are picked by voters citywide. The current proposals come in the wake of a 2012 federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the city of Yakima. In that case, a judge found that Yakima’s at-large system violated the federal Voting Rights Act and ordered the city to elect its council members by district, giving the city’s large Latino population a better chance of being represented.
The Wyoming House on Monday killed a bill that would have extended the period for counting absentee ballots. House Corporations Committee Chairman Dan Zwonitzer (R, HD-43, Cheyenne) sponsored HB68 that would have required county clerks to count absentee ballots received by the clerk after polls closed. Under existing law, clerks count only ballots delivered to them before polls close. Zwonitzer said the measure would have required the clerks to count absentee ballots postmarked the day before an election, provided they were received before a county’s canvassing board met to certify election results the following Friday. County clerks had expressed their dissatisfaction with the bill in a committee hearing last week. Their opposition came through during floor debate Monday. Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R, HD-54, Lander), said his clerk had lobbied him to vote against the bill. When she calls, he listens, he said. Other representatives said they likewise had been called by their county clerks.
A committee of Wyoming lawmakers on Monday voted down a bill creating a presidential primary election, instead opting to study the issue during the interim. The vote in the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee came after concerns were raised by county clerks as to the specifics of how such an election would work, as well as a need by the state Republican Party to change its bylaws to allow for a primary. As proposed, House Bill 201 would have set a separate presidential primary election in April, in addition to the regular primary in August and the general election in November. Although not written into the bill itself, Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, said the intent is for the political parties to foot the cost of the presidential primary.
Using a combination of diplomacy and muscle, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) forced longtime Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to cede power this month to challenger Adama Barrow, who won the nation’s general election. Neighboring Senegal amassed troops and threatened to remove Jammeh by force. Regional powerhouse Nigeria threatened to help. The presidents of Mauritania and Guinea conducted shuttle diplomacy between Gambia’s capital of Banjul and Senegal, where Barrow had fled. Jammeh finally agreed to go into exile on January 20. Despite the successful outcome, some question the wisdom of ECOWAS intervening on behalf of the people of the Gambia.
International monitors commended Haitian authorities on Monday for finishing an electoral cycle that started in 2015 but expressed concern over the low participation rate by voters. The Organization of American States had 77 observers monitoring a final round of legislative contests as well as long-overdue municipal elections held Sunday. In a preliminary report, the mission said holding local elections after 10 years was “an important milestone for the consolidation of democratic institutions in Haiti.”
Punjab’s strong non-resident community has arrived in hordes from Canada, Britain, the US and other countries for the February 4 assembly elections in the state.
All major parties are paying special attention to the diaspora — or non-resident Indians (NRIs) — who have arrived here as the community is believed to have an influence on voting prospects in Punjab. In the past over one year, not only have NRIs extended support to the three major parties in the fray — the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal — but are also believed to have made major financial contributions to the parties.
It is no longer news that Nigerians have a huge distrust in the country’s electoral process. The former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega in a statement before the 2015 general elections, listed insecurity, funding, apathetic and inactive citizenry among others as a few of the many challenges the election process in Nigeria faces. However, the citizens cannot be blamed. The inability of the country to run a transparent, free and fair election has made many Nigerians indifferent and inactive. During the 2015 general elections, INEC, in an attempt to run a transparent election introduced the use of digital card readers and electronic fingerprint readers. But that was only possible because the Section 52 of the electoral act of 2010, which had prohibited the use of technology in voting was reformed in 2015. INEC chose the electronic readers as its first step in the introduction of technology into the voting process. Although that was advantageous to the election process, it had many flaws, which eventually led to the extension of the election dates.