WikiLeaks is helping to cast doubt on the conclusion of intelligence agencies that the Russian government was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, in what appears to be the latest disinformation campaign orchestrated by Moscow. The site leaked a trove of purported CIA hacking tools this week and zeroed in on what it called the agency’s effort to “misdirect attribution” of cyber attacks to other nations, including Russia. Fake accounts on Twitter seized on the claim to dispute that Russia sought to interfere in the U.S. election last year, noted Ryan Kalember, senior vice president for cybersecurity strategy at Proofpoint. He described the WikiLeaks release as playing into a larger “disinformation campaign” aimed at undermining the intelligence community’s attribution of cyber attacks, particularly those to Russia.
As congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election ramp up, so is the political division, raising questions about whether lawmakers’ work will be viewed as credible. The House this week scheduled its first public hearing, which some swiftly dismissed as political theater. Even as lawmakers began to review classified information at CIA’s headquarters, Democrats continued to call for an independent panel and special prosecutor. The dynamic underscored the escalating concerns about whether the Republican-led investigations will have the funding, focus and, perhaps most importantly, bipartisan buy-in to produce findings that are broadly accepted and definitive.
National: FBI examining Alfa Bank pinging Trump Organization servers during election | Business Insider
The FBI is examining why a computer server for a Russian bank led by oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin had a disproportionate interest in reaching a server used by the Trump Organization during the US presidential campaign. CNN reported on Thursday that last summer a computer server owned by the Russia-based Alfa Bank “repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization — far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all lookups to the Trump server.” Slate and The New York Times first reported on the unusual server activity, which was akin to looking up someone’s phone number thousands of times. The Times reported on October 31 that the FBI examined the server activity and “ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.”
You might be asking yourself, whatever happened to Vice President Mike Pence’s investigation into President Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally in November? It’s been over a month since the president said he would ask Pence to lead a “major investigation” into those claims and the overall issue of voter fraud. Well, apparently, not much has happened so far. A spokesman for Pence said in an e-mail this week that they’re “still doing the necessary groundwork.” And White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that the Vice President has been “talking to folks potentially to serve on” his task force and that several secretaries of state have expressed interest. But a spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) says they’re unaware of any of their members being approached to participate in the investigation. And when NASS representatives went to the White House Tuesday to get an update on the vice president’s plans, they were told there was “no information to share” at this time.
Amid concerns that Russia helped sway the 2016 presidential election, several states are considering legislation that would bar companies with significant foreign ties from contributing money in state campaigns. A long-standing federal statute bars noncitizens and foreign companies from donating directly to candidates or political parties at the federal, state and local levels. Another law prohibits businesses from directly donating to federal-level candidates or political parties. But the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case cleared the way for corporations and unions to pay for political ads made independently of candidates’ campaigns. The high court ruled that corporations and unions are associations of U.S. citizens with a First Amendment right to political expression.
A Palm Beach County commissioner and a state House member clinched their seats last year by stepping into voters’ homes and helping them fill out their mail-in ballots, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found. Commissioner Mack Bernard and Rep. Al Jacquet, both Democrats running in the August primary, took advantage of gaping holes in Florida’s vote-by-mail laws to pressure and cajole voters in their living rooms. In one case, a blind voter said Bernard filled out and signed his ballot. His vote counted, but Post reporters looked at the signature on the ballot envelope after the fact and found it didn’t match the one on file. Florida law requires that absentee voters sign their own ballot.
The Republican-controlled House on Thursday approved a voter identification bill, despite criticism from Democrats that the measure would suppress voter turnout among minorities, the elderly and the disabled. The bill by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate would make several changes to Iowa’s elections system, though most attention has been on a requirement that voters show approved ID at the polls. The measure is opposed by advocates for easier voting requirements such as the League of Women Voters of Iowa and elections officials including the Iowa State Association of County Auditors. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states had laws in 2016 requesting or requiring voters to show identification at the polls.
A state judge in Baton Rouge is slated to rule Monday on the legality of a four-decades-old Louisiana law that bars felons on probation and parole from voting. There are roughly 71,000 such persons in the state. Attorneys for eight individuals and a group called Voice of the Ex-Offender challenged the constitutionality of the 1976 law in a case that’s being heard by District Court Tim Kelley. In recently filed written arguments, lawyers for the plaintiffs and for the state Attorney General’s and Secretary of State’s offices have given Kelley plenty to chew on as he mulls his decision.
Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist are already campaigning in the special election to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke in Congress. But less than 80 days before that election is held, a bill that could change the way it’s conducted is still making its way through the Montana Legislature. County clerks and recorders around the state are already rushing to get ready for the May 25 special election.
The U.S. Supreme Court should dismiss the appeal of a ruling that struck down a North Carolina voting law based on racial bias, the state’s new Democratic attorney general says. Lawyers for Republican lawmakers still want the appeal considered. Attorney General Josh Stein’s office also rejected accusations made by the GOP’s lawyers that he had a conflict that disqualifies him in the matter. Stein was a state senator opposed to the 2013 law and testified in the trial for the groups and voters who challenged the law. It required photo identification to vote in person, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration during the early-vote period.
A panel of federal judges in San Antonio has ruled that a handful of Texas congressional districts drawn by the Republican-dominated state Legislature in 2011 discriminated against black and Hispanic voters and violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The ruling striking down the maps was made late Friday. It is the latest development in a long-running and racially charged redistricting case that locked Democratic lawmakers, minority groups, the Obama administration and the Texas Republican leadership in a legal battle for nearly six years. Democrats and civil-rights lawyers accused the majority-white Texas Republican leadership of drawing district maps in ways that diluted the voting power of Democratic-leaning minority voters, accusations that Republicans denied.
The Texas secretary of state’s office has sent 443 allegations of voter fraud to the state attorney general’s office for investigation since 2002. Just don’t ask about them. To the dismay of some state lawmakers, the secretary of state’s office will not release what one Democratic senator called “basic information” on allegations of voter fraud. Just down the road, however, the Attorney General’s office makes much of the information public. Now, an Austin lawmaker has filed a bill to require the secretary of state’s office to divulge additional information about voter fraud allegations. “The idea that you can’t tell the public the number of complaints requires some really contorted logic,” Sen. Kirk Watson said.
To varying degrees, the post-Soviet states of Central Asia are governed by autocrats. These ruling elites have little to no interest in democratic governance, monopolising politics helping those in power to stay in power – in some cases, for life. Last month, Turkmenistan’s president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was re-elected with 97% of the vote. In neighbouring Uzbekistan, acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev won elections held in December 2016 with 89% of the vote. In cementing his position, Mirziyoyev slammed the door on hopes for a more pluralist approach to politics than his late predecessor, Islam Karimov who has ruled the state since it had started to exist. These political systems concentrate lawmaking and executive powers in the office of the president. From Tajikistan to Turkmenistan, political parties represented in parliaments are pro-regime and far from providing political alternatives. Any form of meaningful opposition has been extinguished by a policy of intimidation by powerful state security apparatuses. Consequently, the public mostly remains passive, and with no democratic structures, elections are a sham.
Georgia says legislative elections held by Russia-backed separatists who control the breakaway Abkhazia region were illegal. The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the March 12 voting in the Black Sea region as “yet another attempt to legitimize the ethnic purge, military intervention, occupation, and results of Russian aggression being carried out against Georgian statehood.”
The Election Commission (EC) has refuted the allegations of tampering of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), as levelled by BSP supremo Mayawati on Saturday. The EC said that the EVMs could not be tampered with and that candidates are allowed to randomly check the machines before the actual voting. “The machine is both mechanically and electronically protected to prevent any tampering/manipulation. The programme used in these machines is burnt into a one time programmable chip so that it cannot be altered or tampered with,” the EC said in its reply to Mayawati.
How important is it for political parties to know how many people have voted for them in each polling booth? Not much, felt the Election Commission and the Law Commission, which recommended that votes polled in 14 booths be counted together with the help of a Totaliser machine developed by Bharat Electronics and Electronic Corporation of India, manufacturers of Electronic Voting Machines. Putting an end to booth-wise counting would help enhance secrecy and prevent the harassment of voters, felt the two Commissions. “Using a totaliser would increase the secrecy of votes during counting, thus preventing the disclosure of voting patterns and countering fears of intimidation and victimisation,” said the Law Commission in its recommendation. It could also have made counting faster and eventually reduced cost.
Spokesmen for Iran’s Guardian Council ruled out the possibility that the presidential election, slated for May 19, will be held with electronic voting machines in the whole polling stations, citing security issues. In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency on Friday, Abbasali Kadkhodaei said the upcoming presidential election will definitely not be held fully electronically. An “all-electronic” election requires the Interior Ministry to make arrangements to ensure the security, quality and health of the polls, he noted, adding that given the short time remaining until the polls, the May 19 presidential election will not be held fully electronically.
A referendum on granting Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in Irish presidential elections is to be held the Taoiseach has announced. Speaking in Philadelphia, Enda Kenny said the proposed change, which will also apply to those living in Northern Ireland, will mark a “historic recognition of the strong and enduring links between Ireland and all our citizens, wherever they are in the world.” … The decision to hold a referendum, which was taken by the cabinet last week, builds on the findings of the convention on the constitution in 2013 which recommended that the constitution be amended to provide for citizens resident outside the State, including Northern Ireland, to have the right to vote at presidential elections.
Russian election interference is all the rage these days — just ask the United States, France, or Germany. Now the Netherlands is grappling with some new unwelcome meddlers: Americans. Several wealthy Americans bankrolled the campaign of Geert Wilders, the country’s far-right, anti-EU, and anti-immigrant candidate according to new campaign finance records the Dutch government released this week. One right-wing activist, David Horowitz, donated $150,000 to Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) between 2015 and 2017. It’s a drop in the bucket in American terms, but the money goes much further in a small western European country that relies heavily on public funds for elections. Horowitz’s 2015 donations to PVV — $120,000 — was the country’s largest individual political donation that year, the record shows.
Swiss citizens of some cantons who live abroad have a choice of two systems with which to vote online in votes in their home country. One of these is offered by Swiss Post. It has now put a demo version online, which people can use to simulate their participation. More than just an advertising stunt? A trial goes smoothly: First, I can download a digital voting card from Swiss Post’s special websiteexternal link (in the country’s four national languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh) which I would usually have received by post. This has three codes.
Spies at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have called an emergency summit with Britains political parties after warning them that the next general election is vulnerable to cyber attacks by the Russians. Ciaran Martin, chief executive of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has written to leaders of all the main political parties offering expert help to strengthen network security, reported the Sunday Times. In his letter, Martin said: “You will be aware of the coverage of evnts in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system.” He called a “technical seminar” on cyber-security for politicians.
Zimbabwe must not rush to implement nationwide biometric voter registration (BVR) before a pilot project, given the threat of hacking on technological infrastructure and the financial pitfalls that could plague the process, political analysts have warned. The analysts noted that developed countries like France had since cancelled electronic voting, while Kenya and Ghana that conducted it went through serious challenges that spawned disputed outcomes. The analysts spoke in the wake of a spirited call from opposition parties for the introduction of electronic voter registration and voting, which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has since started putting in motion.