Mike Conaway, the Republican who replaced Devin Nunes as head of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, has described his mission simply: “I just want to find out what happened,” he’s said. The more urgent question elsewhere in the world, however, isn’t confined to the past. It concerns what is happening—not just in the United States but in European democracies as well. In the Netherlands, Dutch authorities counted paper ballots in a recent election by hand to prevent foreign governments—and Russia in particular—from manipulating the results through cyberattacks. In Denmark, the defense minister has accused the Russian government of carrying out a two-year campaign to infiltrate email accounts at his ministry. In the United Kingdom, a parliamentary committee reports that it cannot “rule out” the possibility that “foreign interference” caused a voter-registration site to crash ahead of Britain’s referendum on EU membership. And in France, a cybersecurity firm has just discovered that suspected Russian hackers are targeting the leading presidential candidate. “We are increasingly concerned about cyber-enabled interference in democratic political processes,” representatives from the Group of Seven—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.—declared after meeting in Italy earlier this month. Russia, a member of the group until it was kicked out for annexing Crimea, wasn’t mentioned in the statement. It didn’t need to be. The subtext was clear.
National: Russian hackers heavily targeted news outlet in days before U.S. election, researchers say | Cyberscoop
Hackers working for the Russian government sent a barrage of targeted phishing emails between 2014 and 2016 to employees of major news outlets, and they focused particularly on Al Jazeera in the days before and shortly following the U.S. presidential election, according to new research by cybersecurity firm Trend Micro. It’s unclear exactly why the elite team of hackers — known as APT-28, Fancy Bear or Pawn Storm — focused so heavily on the Qatar-based, state-funded global broadcaster during that short window. Like other news agencies targeted over the longer two-year span, including the New York Times and Buzzfeed, the award-winning outlet covered the election in detail and dedicated a section of its website to election-night coverage.
Rep. Mike Conaway, the House’s new top Russia investigator, is telling lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee that they should expect to be in Washington more than usual as the beleaguered probe gets a reboot, panel members said after a closed-door meeting Wednesday. Committee Democrats welcomed Conaway’s remarks, describing the Texas Republican as a “straight-shooter” who was committed to a thorough, bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, including the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign.
Alabama voters would not have to give a reason for voting absentee under a bill that passed the state Senate last week. Current law requires voters to sign an affidavit attached to the ballot that affirms their identity and gives one of the following reasons for voting absentee: out of town on election day; physically incapacitated; working all day while the polls are open; attending college in another county; being an armed services member or the spouse or dependent of one. The bill, by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, would eliminate the requirement to give a reason and the requirement to have two witnesses or a notary public sign the identifying affidavit.
If Gov. Doug Ducey signs legislation headed to his desk, Arizona won’t see a repeat of a controversy that erupted last October after Secretary of State Michele Reagan set the last day for voter registration on a legal holiday. Reagan’s decision cost at least 2,000 citizens their vote in November and led to a federal lawsuit by state and national Democratic parties. A federal judge ruled the Democrats likely would have won but waited too long to file the lawsuit. Reagan refused to extend the Oct. 10 voter registration deadline even though it fell on Columbus Day. The Democrats noted there’s no mail service and state motor vehicle offices were closed that day and sued on Oct. 19.
Colorado: Secretary of State on 2016 Electoral College vote: ‘They’re investigating’ | The Colorado Independent
“They’re investigating.” That’s what Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said this week about the state attorney general’s office and a probe into what happened during Colorado’s Electoral College vote last year— four months after it took place. On Dec. 19, 2016, during a traditional ceremony where the state’s nine national electors cast their official votes for president, one of them, Micheal Baca, did not cast his for Colorado’s popular vote-getter Hillary Clinton, and was stripped of his duties and replaced.
Proposals to restore the voting rights of more than 70,000 Louisiana ex-felons on probation or parole got a chilly reaction from some state lawmakers Wednesday. A House committee rejected one such proposal and convinced a lawmaker to delay action on a similar bill until next week. Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat, pulled her proposal from a vote after her colleagues expressed concern about giving the vote back to people who have been on parole or probation for five years. Similar proposals have died before in the conservative Louisiana Legislature.
Michigan: Civil Rights Commission urges U.S. Supreme Court to review emergency manager law | Michigan Radio
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case against Gov. Snyder. That’s what commissioners decided with a 5-0 vote Tuesday. They ordered the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to file an amicus brief urging the high court to review the issues raised in the case Bellant v. Snyder. The case makes the claim that Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 436, violates the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of people in certain communities, particularly African Americans.
The Nebraska Legislature gave initial approval Thursday to a measure that could let appointed state senators serve more than two and a half years before they face an election, but several lawmakers say the bill needs more work to ensure voters can choose their representative. Vacancies that occur earlier than 60 days before an election now are filled during the election. A proposal by Sen. John Murante of Gretna would instead require that vacancies occur before Feb. 1 of an election year to be filled in the next election.
The Nevada Senate approved a bill Tuesday extending voter registration before Election Day, in some cases allowing same-day registration, and expanding voting hours in some jurisdictions. Senate Bill 144 was one of several election-related bills voted on as the Nevada Legislature faced a deadline Tuesday to pass bills out of their house of origin.
SB144 was approved on a 12-9 partisan vote, with state Sen. Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas, voting with Democrats to approve it. Specifically, the bill extends voter registration until the last day of early voting, which is the Friday before a Tuesday election. Under existing law, voter registration closes on the third Tuesday before the election.
North Carolina: In 2016, in-person voter fraud made up 0.00002 percent of all votes in North Carolina | Vox
One in nearly 4.8 million. That’s how many fraudulent votes North Carolina’s voter ID law would have stopped in the 2016 election had it not been halted by the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based on a recent audit from the State Board of Elections. After all this time, the court battles, and the protests that the law would disproportionately hurt minority voters, it turns out the push for voter ID was all to stop just one potentially fraudulent vote out of 4,769,640 cast last November. North Carolina’s voter ID law imposed strict voter ID standards, as well as restricted the amount of early voting days, to stop in-person voter impersonation. A judge halted most of the law last year after concluding that it “target[ed] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The audit’s findings expose the lie behind voter ID laws: Republican lawmakers say (in public) that their voter ID laws are meant to stop voter fraud, but actual voter fraud is vanishingly rare. Instead, these laws are seemingly geared — by some Republicans’ admission, in fact — toward making it harder for minority and Democratic voters to cast a ballot.
North Carolina: Literacy requirement for voter registration could be removed from state constitution | News & Observer
Decades have passed since any North Carolina voters have been forced to take a literacy test to vote, but the requirement is still in the state constitution today. “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language,” Article VI, Section 4 says. The N.C. House voted unanimously Tuesday night to start the process to repeal that line, which was often used to prevent African-American residents from registering to vote.
Editorials: Texas’ redistricting methods discriminate against minorities while politicians shrug | Dallas Morning News
Three times in a matter of weeks, federal courts have found that Texas is intentionally discriminating against minority voters. Yet fixing problems with its voter identification law and its congressional and statehouse district maps isn’t on the Legislature’s front burner. In fact, it isn’t anywhere near the stove. This could come back to burn Texas. In the absence of legislative courage, the state could face a court-ordered redistricting or even a return to a requirement that it gain federal approval before changing any voting regulations.
As France braces for the second round of its election, security researchers try to figure out if Russia was really behind the alleged hacking attempts against frontrunner Emmanuel Macron. After months of speculation on whether dreaded Russian hackers would try to meddle with the French elections the same way they did last year in America, cybersecurity researchers finally pointed the finger earlier this week.
Germany: Russian hackers are conducting cyber attacks on German think-tanks ahead of national elections | Tech2
Two foundations tied to Germany’s ruling coalition parties were attacked by the same cyberspy group that targeted the campaign of French presidential favourite Emmanuel Macron, a leading cyber security expert said on Tuesday. The group, dubbed “Pawn Storm” by security firm Trend Micro, used email phishing tricks and attempted to install malware at think tanks tied to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Feike Hacquebord said. Hacquebord and other experts said the attacks, which took place in March and April, suggest Pawn Storm is seeking to influence the national elections in the two European Union powerhouses. “I am not sure whether those foundations are the actual target. It could be that they used it as a stepping stone to target, for example, the CDU or the SPD,” Hacquebord said.
Iraqi lawmakers voted yesterday to express their lack of acceptance in the answers provided by the Iraqi High Electoral Commission, who were being accused of helping some candidates to gain an unfair advantage over others seeking election. The chief executive of the Electoral Commission, Miqdad Al-Sharifi, now faces a no confidence vote that could see him lose his job, paving the way for a new commissioner. 119 lawmakers voted to express their dissatisfaction in the commissioner’s answers to the charges that the Commission was responsible for technical failures, counterfeit votes and fraud as well as corruption whilst administering previous elections, Al Jazeera reported.
Paraguay’s lower house of Congress on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for presidential re-election, ending a month-long political crisis that aroused violent protests. Under the measure, center-right President Horacio Cartes could have sought re-election in 2018. But last week, the former soft drinks and tobacco mogul who took office in 2013 said he would not run regardless of whether the amendment was approved.