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National: DHS on elections systems as critical infrastructure: ‘It was already the law’ | Cyberscoop

A Homeland Security official gave some more insight into their efforts on designating election systems as critical infrastructure shortly after the 2016 presidential election, saying it helped the department streamline communication in the event of a incident. Neil Jenkins, from DHS’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, gave the first detailed account Wednesday of the process leading up to the controversial decision, which was made by departing officials in the final days of the Obama administration and widely panned by state and local authorities. DHS designated election systems in 30,000 jurisdictions as critical infrastructure to ensure there would be someone in regular communication with state and local election officials about cyber threats to national polls. Jenkins told NIST’s Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board that in August and September, when officials first became aware of Russian efforts to interfere with the election, the “started trying to catalogue the services we could offer to state authorities,” to help them shore up network security and protect the systems that tabulated and reported results.

Full Article: DHS on elections systems as critical infrastructure: ‘It was already the law’.

Editorials: How the White House and Republicans Blew Up the House Russia Investigation | Ryan Lizza/The New Yorker

The evidence is now clear that the White House and Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have worked together to halt what was previously billed as a sweeping investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election. “We’ve been frozen,” Jim Himes, a Democratic representative from Connecticut who is a member of the Committee, said. The freeze started after last Monday’s hearing, where James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, revealed that the F.B.I. has been investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia since last July. Comey also said that there was no evidence to support Trump’s tweets about being wiretapped. Today, the House panel was scheduled to hear from three top officials who had served under the Obama Administration: Sally Yates, the former Deputy Attorney General, who briefly served as acting Attorney General, before being fired by President Trump; John Brennan, the former head of the C.I.A.; and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. But last week Nunes cancelled today’s hearing.

Full Article: How the White House and Republicans Blew Up the House Russia Investigation - The New Yorker.

Arizona: New Republican Effort to Target Arizona Initiatives Appears | Associated Press

Just days after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law opponents said will make it harder for citizen initiatives to make the ballot, Republican Arizona lawmakers are reviving stripped parts of that legislation that will make it much easier for opponents to challenge initiatives in court. The new proposal changes the legal standard required to keep an initiative off the ballot. It says the language in the proposed measure is subject to a “strict compliance” standard rather than “substantial compliance.” That will allow citizen’s initiative to be thrown out for mere paperwork or language errors, even if the proposed law complies with other respects to the law. The “substantial compliance” standard now in place allows such minor errors if the intent of measure remains clear.

Full Article: New Republican Effort to Target Arizona Initiatives Appears | Arizona News | US News.

Florida: GOP-led House wants to limit challenges to redistricting | Palm Beach Post

A measure that would cut off one of the main avenues for challenging legislative redistricting plans was approved Wednesday by a House committee, alarming groups that fought maps struck down by the courts in recent years for political gerrymandering. The measure (HB 953), which was substantially broadened by an amendment filed Tuesday evening, passed the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee on a 14-3 vote. The Senate has already approved a much-narrower version of the legislation (SB 352) that would set guidelines for what happens when redistricting legal cases are unresolved in election years.

Full Article: Florida GOP-led House wants to limit challenges to redistricting.

Montana: Effort to use mail ballots in special election killed | The Missoulian

Following a move that killed — at least for Wednesday — a bill that would allow counties to choose a money-saving mail vote for the May special election to fill Montana’s empty seat in Congress, some Democrats are claiming the legislation was doomed to fail because of “partisan hijinks.” On Wednesday Rep. Virginia Court, a Democrat from Billings, tried to force a legislative committee to vote to advance Senate Bill 305, carried by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls. The bill would allow counties to choose to conduct the May 25 election to replace former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who resigned to become Secretary of the Interior, by mail. The bill had not been scheduled for a vote by House Judiciary Committee Chair Alan Doane, R-Bloomfield.

Full Article: Effort to use mail ballots in special election killed; expect efforts to revive it Friday | Montana & Regional | missoulian.com.

Serbia: Amid a Murky Media Landscape, Serbia Prepares to Elect a President | The New York Times

When he was Serbia’s information minister in the late 1990s, Aleksandar Vucic censored journalists, forced media critics out of business and served as chief propagandist for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian strongman reviled for the atrocities that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. Today Mr. Vucic is the prime minister of Serbia, having been elected in 2014 as a reformer on promises to lead Serbia into a democratic future and membership in the European Union. He has renounced the extreme nationalist views of his past. Western leaders rely on him as a partner to maintain calm within the Serbian minorities in Kosovo and Bosnia, to support their migration policies and to keep sufficient distance from Russia — even though Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has professed his support for Mr. Vucic.

Full Article: Serbia Prepares to Elect a President Amid a Murky Media Landscape - The New York Times.

Texas: Senate Committee approves Texas voter ID overhaul | The Texas Tribune

A Texas Senate panel cleared legislation Monday that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, an effort to comply with court rulings that the current law discriminates against black and Latino voters. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-0 to send the legislation to the full chamber. Filed by Committee Chairwoman Joan Huffman, Senate Bill 5 would add options for Texas voters who say they cannot “reasonably” obtain one of seven forms of ID currently required at the polls. It would also create harsh criminal penalties for those who falsely claim they need to choose from the expanded list of options.

Full Article: Texas Senate Committee approves Texas voter ID overhaul | The Texas Tribune.

Wisconsin: Attorney General appeals redistricting case | Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a ruling that overturned the state’s Republican-drawn legislative districts. In a first-of-its kind decision last year, a panel of federal judges ruled Wisconsin’s legislative map was a partisan gerrymander that was “intended to burden the rights of Democratic voters” by making it harder for them to translate votes into legislative seats. In a separate order issued earlier this year, the court told lawmakers to redraw the map by Nov. 1 so it would be ready for the 2018 general election.

Full Article: Wisconsin AG appeals redistricting case | Duluth News Tribune.

India: Congress Complains of ‘faulty electronic voting machine’ as Video of VVPAT generating wrong receipt in trial goes viral, EC orders probe | India.com

Following the media demonstration of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), which allegedly printed a BJP slip when Samajwadi Party button was pressed, leaders from the Congress party demanded a through investigation into the matter alleging the EVMs are faulty and can be tampered with. The trial on the EVMs were being conducted before the Ater bypolls in Madhya Pradesh. The Congress leaders alleged that the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system generated a slip with the BJP’s lotus symbol when CEO Saleena Singh, who was checking the arrangements, had pressed the button for the Samajwadi Party candidate. The Election Commission has also ordered a probe into the matter. The Congress party leaders have also said that they would approach the Election Commission for an inquiry. The Congress also demanded that by-elections to Ater and Bandhavgarh should be held via ballot paper and not EVMs.

Full Article: EVM tampering row: Congress complains as SP vote goes in favour of BJP in trial before MP bypolls, Election Commission orders probe - India.com.

Paraguay: ‘A coup has been carried out’: Paraguay’s congress set alight after vote to let president run again | The Guardian

Protesters stormed and set fire to Paraguay’s Congress on Friday after the senate secretly voted for a constitutional amendment that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election. The country’s constitution has prohibited re-election since it was passed in 1992 after a brutal dictatorship fell in 1989. “A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us,” said Desiree Masi from the opposition Progressive Democratic Party. Firefighters managed to control the flames after protesters left the congress building late on Friday night. But protests and riots continued in other parts of Asuncion and elsewhere in the country well into the night, media reported. Earlier, television images showed protesters breaking windows of the congress and clashing with police, burning tires and removing parts of fences around the building. Police in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Full Article: 'A coup has been carried out': Paraguay's congress set alight after vote to let president run again | World news | The Guardian.

Venezuela: Opposition cries ‘coup’ as court seizes legislative powers | Miami Herald

In a move rejected throughout the region and decried as a “coup” by the opposition, Venezuela’s Supreme Court effectively shut down congress, saying it would assume all legislative functions amid its contention that legislators are operating outside of the law. The decision will undoubtedly increase tensions in the South American nation where the opposition-controlled congress was seen as a last bastion of dissent. The move is also a slap at the international community, which just this week was pressing the socialist administration to respect the role of the legislature and to hold new elections. As news spread about the ruling, condemnation was swift. Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro said it was tantamount to a “self-inflicted coup” and called for an emergency meeting of the permanent council. Peru broke off diplomatic relations, and the United States, Mexico and Colombia condemned the move.

Full Article: Venezuela opposition cries ‘coup’ as court seizes legislative powers | Miami Herald.

Serbia: An unexpected twist to Serbia′s election | Deutsche Welle

On a sunny morning in Belgrade as people rush to work, activists are hastily setting up mobile stands on the streets. “I have talked to citizens since the beginning of the campaign and am convinced we will win,” Jelena, a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), told DW while arranging flyers and supporter lists on a stand with the slogan “Faster, harder, better.” As the first round of voting approaches this Sunday, the campaign has become increasingly tense, with insults traded, biased media coverage and a clear division between supporters and opponents of the ruling SNS presidential candidate and acting Prime Minister Vucic. Nominally there are 11 candidates, but judging by realities on the ground there’s Vucic – and then the “others.”

Full Article: An unexpected twist to Serbia′s election | Europe | DW.COM | 31.03.2017.

Paraguay: Paraguay fears dictatorship as president moves to amend constitution | The Guardian

After months of behind-the-scenes preparations, Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes, has moved to amend the constitution to allow him to be re-elected in 2018, prompting warnings that the country where Alfredo Stroessner ruled for more than 30 years is once again sliding towards dictatorship. Members of the governing rightwing Colorado party – which has held power for all but four of the past 70 years – joined with several opposition legislators to propose changes to the senate’s procedural rules, a precursor to introducing a re-election bill after a similar attempt was narrowly defeated in August. “Paraguayans have to go out on to the streets to defend democracy, which is under attack,” Rafael Filizzola, a senator with the leftwing Democratic Progressive Party, told reporters.

Full Article: Paraguay fears dictatorship as president moves to amend constitution | World news | The Guardian.

National: Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity | Wall Street Journal

Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter. As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the White House, Mr. Flynn was privy to some of the most sensitive foreign-policy deliberations of the new administration and was directly involved in discussions about the possible lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He has made the offer to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees through his lawyer but has so far found no takers, the officials said.

Full Article: Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity - WSJ.

National: Three White House officials tied to files shared with House intelligence chairman | The Washington Post

At least three senior White House officials, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved in the handling of intelligence files that were shared with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and showed that Trump campaign officials were swept up in U.S. surveillance of foreign nationals, according to U.S. officials. The White House role in the matter contradicts assertions by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and adds to mounting concerns that the Trump administration is collaborating with the leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Though White House officials have refused to answer questions about the documents shared with Nunes, the White House said in a letter to the House committee Thursday that it had “discovered documents” that might show whether information collection on U.S. persons was mishandled and was prepared to show them to lawmakers.

Full Article: Three White House officials tied to files shared with House intelligence chairman - The Washington Post.

National: Russian deception influenced election due to Trump’s support, senators hear | The Guardian

Donald Trump’s willingness to embrace Russian disinformation was one of the reasons Russia’s interference in the 2016 election worked, the Senate panel investigating the president’s alleged ties to the country heard on Thursday. Decades of Russian covert attempts to undermine confidence in western institutions, including planting or promoting false news stories or spreading doubt about the integrity of elections, will accelerate in the future unless the US confronts so-called “active measures”, several experts testified to the Senate intelligence committee. “Part of the reason active measures have worked in this US election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian active measures at time [sic] against his opponents,” said Clint Watts of George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. Those active measures have migrated online with alacrity in recent years. Watts, a former FBI special agent and army officer who came under personal siege from Russian-backed hackers, told the panel’s first public hearing that social media accounts associated with spreading pro-Russian fake news were visible as far back as 2009.

Full Article: Russian deception influenced election due to Trump's support, senators hear | US news | The Guardian.

California: Report: State Still Short-Changing Counties for Election Costs | KQED

California’s state government should pick up the tab for more local election costs, according to a report released Thursday by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. California’s 58 counties currently shoulder the costs for federal and state elections, but don’t receive reliable payments to cover those costs. Towns, cities and school districts typically reimburse counties for carrying out their local elections. “The state has a clear interest in secure, timely, and uniform elections,” the LAO report says. “While the state reaps regular benefits from county elections administration, it only sporadically provides funding to counties for election activities.”

Full Article: Report: State Still Short-Changing Counties for Election Costs | The California Report | KQED News.

Florida: Bannon won’t face voter fraud charges in Florida | Orlando Sentinel

President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon will not face charges related to his registration to vote in Miami despite spending most of his time elsewhere, South Florida prosecutors said Thursday. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office concluded in a memo that there was not enough evidence to prove any crime. Bannon registered to vote in the county on April 2, 2014, after leasing the first of two houses in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood, then switched his registration to the Sarasota area last year. Bannon never voted in Miami-Dade County, the prosecutors said. They also said there was insufficient evidence to prove Bannon falsely claimed to reside in Florida on a voter registration form, which is a felony.

Full Article: Bannon wont face voter fraud charges in Florida - Orlando Sentinel.

Georgia: A bipartisan attempt to force Trump to file tax returns | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a measure that would require President Donald Trump and future White House candidates to file their federal income tax returns with the state. Let’s be clear: This measure is going nowhere this year. The legislative session wraps up with a marathon session Thursday and Republican leaders have little appetite for tweaking the president. But House Bill 640 gives Democrats – and other Trump skeptics – a bit of red meat to take home with them when they depart the statehouse and return to their districts sometime early Friday.

Full Article: A bipartisan Georgia attempt to force Trump to file tax returns | Political Insider blog.

Kansas: WSU statistician: New voting machines more tamper-resistant, but not perfect | The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson says Sedgwick County’s new voting machines leave less room for vote tampering than the old ones did, but still aren’t perfect. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Clarkson, who has a doctorate in statistics and works as chief statistician at WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research. “If we would audit (the machines), that would be another step in the right direction.” On the plus side, she said, the new machines do print paper ballots with the voters’ choices printed on them. That allows voters to review their ballots and verify their selections before they feed the cards into a separate counting machine. It also will make it possible to do a hand recount in future races if problems are suspected with the machine counts, she said. On the downside, Clarkson said, the votes are still counted by computerized machinery, which creates the possibility of hacking or tampering with the software to change the outcome. Clarkson is a leading skeptic of the vote counting in recent south-central Kansas elections, citing what she says have been statistical anomalies between precincts and conflicts with the results of exit polling she oversaw last year.

Full Article: WSU statistician: New voting machines more tamper-resistant, but not perfect | The Wichita Eagle.