National: Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election | The Intercept

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept. The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light. While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

National: Comey Says Russian Hackers Targeted ‘Hundreds’ of Election-Related Entities, and the Real Number ‘Could Be More Than 1,000’ | Nextgov

At the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, committee Chairman Richard Burr asked James Comey to describe the scope of Russian-led “cyber intrusions” that took place during the 2016 election season. There was “a massive effort to target government and non-governmental—near governmental—agencies like nonprofits,” said Comey, the former FBI director. “What would be the estimate of how many entities out there the Russians specifically targeted in that time frame?” Burr asked. “It’s hundreds,” Comey said. “I suppose it could be more than 1,000, but it’s at least hundreds.”

Editorials: Russia’s attempt to hack voting systems shows that our elections need better security | Bruce Schneier/The Washington Post

This week brought new public evidence about Russian interference in the 2016 election. On Monday, the Intercept published a top-secret National Security Agency document describing Russian hacking attempts against the U.S. election system. While the attacks seem more exploratory than operational — and there’s no evidence that they had any actual effect — they further illustrate the real threats and vulnerabilities facing our elections, and they point to solutions. The document describes how the Russian GRU attacked a company called VR Systems that, according to its website, provides software to manage voter rolls in eight states. The August 2016 attack was successful, and the attackers used the information they stole from the company’s network to launch targeted attacks against 122 local election officials on Oct. 27, 12 days before the election. … This hack will certainly come up at the Senate hearing where former FBI director James B. Comey is scheduled to testify Thursday. Last year, there were several stories about voter databases being targeted by Russia. Last August, the FBI confirmed that the Russians successfully hacked voter databases in Illinois and Arizona. And a month later, an unnamed Department of Homeland Security official said that the Russians targeted voter databases in 20 states. Again, we don’t know of anything that came of these hacks, but expect Comey to be asked about them. Unfortunately, any details he does know are almost certainly classified, and won’t be revealed in open testimony.

Georgia: Ruling on paper-ballot suit in Georgia’s 6th District coming soon | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District will likely know by week’s end whether they can continue using electronic machines or will have to cast ballots on paper. A decision to go with paper ballots would all but void the state’s current voting system with less than two weeks to go before a key election. A Fulton County judge heard eight hours of testimony and arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit calling for paper ballots in the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Maine: Ranked-choice voting bills go to full Legislature for debate | Portland Press Herald

A committee of lawmakers was unable to reach a consensus recommendation Thursday on two ranked-choice voting bills submitted in response to legal questions about the first-in-the-nation system approved by voters in November. In an often confusing work session, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted 6-6-1 on the bills. One sought to send a constitutional amendment to voters, and one proposed an outright repeal of the measure. The division means the full Legislature will have to decide which of five different options it likes best.

Missouri: Civil rights groups sue to block Missouri’s new voter ID law | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The American Civil Liberties Union and another civil rights group filed suit Thursday seeking to stop implementation of Missouri’s new photo ID voting law in advance of a July 11 St. Louis special election, claiming the law is an attempt to disenfranchise voters. The suit, filed in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City, alleges the state has failed to provide adequate public education about the new requirements. “Voters were promised that this law was not about disenfranchising the most vulnerable in our state,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a written statement. “The state’s lack of funding and implementation of this law tells another story.”

North Carolina: US Supreme Court affirms North Carolina legislative districts as racial gerrymanders | News & Observer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that found 28 North Carolina legislative districts to be illegal racial gerrymanders that diluted the overall impact of black voters. But the justices did not agree with the panel of three federal judges who decided that new maps should be drawn and special elections should be held in 2017 to correct the district lines approved by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2011. The Supreme Court order states the panel had not provided a strong enough basis for why it took the extraordinary step of calling for special elections this year. The order sends the case back to the lower court for reconsideration.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico votes again on statehood but US not ready to put 51st star on the flag | The Guardian

The hall is a sea of pink and white. About 350 Puerto Ricans, mostly women, have come to hear their First Lady speak in what they hope will be the final push towards a new relationship between their island and the United States. When Beatriz Rosselló, the 32-year-old wife of the governor of Puerto Rico, finally appears at the rally outside the capital San Juan, the room erupts into a frenzy of flag-waving. The American Stars and Stripes with its 50 stars, and the Puerto Rican emblem, with its single one, intertwine amid the flurry, giving the illusion that they have fused: 51 stars in a single banner of red, white and blue. … Rosselló and her supporters of the governing Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) hope to take that spirit of unification to the polling stations on Sunday when Puerto Rico holds its fifth plebiscite on statehood in 50 years. The ambition is to deliver such a resounding cry from the island’s 3.4 million citizens that Washington will be forced to take Puerto Rico on board as the 51st state of the United States.

Texas: Scrap new Texas voter ID law, plaintiffs tell federal judge | The Texas Tribune

A new law softening Texas’ strict voter identification requirements doesn’t absolve the lawmakers from intentionally discriminating against minority voters in 2011 — nor would it properly accommodate those voters going forward, the state’s opponents in a long-running lawsuit argued Wednesday. “Unfortunately, what the court is in the midst of is a larceny in progress,” Chad Dunn, a lawyer representing some of the challengers, told U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, accusing the Texas Legislature of trying to skirt responsibility for its sins of discrimination — reminiscent of state actions in the 1950s and 1960s. “It is a litigation strategy masquerading as a legislative function.”

Italy: Pressure builds for early Italy vote after electoral reform deal unravels | Reuters

A deal between Italy’s main political parties on electoral reform unraveled on Thursday, leading to calls for a snap election that could usher in more instability in the euro zone’s third largest economy. Two major opposition parties, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing Northern League called for an immediate vote, and the ruling Democratic Party (PD) said it now seemed hard for the government to carry on. An accord in favor of a proportional representation voting system based on the German model collapsed after the PD lost a parliamentary vote on a minor, proposed amendment.

Kosovo: Sunday’s general election poses headaches for the winner | Associated Press

Kosovars vote on Sunday to choose the new 120-seat parliament that will face some seemingly intractable problems. There is the thorny issue of the border demarcation deal with Montenegro that brought down the previous government; the continuation of fraught talks with Serbia, which denies Kosovo’s existence as a state; and potential war crimes trials of some senior political leaders. Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens’ initiatives, all promising to break the isolation and secure growth, have nominated candidates.

United Kingdom: Theresa May Loses Overall Majority in U.K. Parliament | The New York Times

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain suffered a major setback in a tumultuous election on Thursday, losing her overall majority in Parliament and throwing her government into uncertainty less than two weeks before it is scheduled to begin negotiations over withdrawing from the European Union. Mrs. May, the Conservative leader, called the snap election three years early, expecting to cruise to a smashing victory that would win her a mandate to see Britain through the long and difficult negotiations with European leaders over the terms of leaving the union. But according to results reported early Friday morning, the extraordinary gamble Mrs. May made in calling the election backfired. She could no longer command enough seats to avoid a hung Parliament, meaning that no party has enough lawmakers to establish outright control.

Venezuela: Maduro pushes new Venezuela vote, opposition calls for massive sit-in | AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday urged officials to schedule an election to pick a new constituent assembly for July 30, but an emboldened opposition immediately called for a nationwide sit-in to protest against the move. Maduro on Sunday insisted that electing a new assembly to rewrite the constitution was the only way to end weeks of deadly protests, and turn a corner on Venezuela’s worsening political and economic crisis. In a televised speech he hailed what he said was a record number of people who registered to run as candidates in the vote. “Never has there been such a level of petitions and participation as there is in this case,” Maduro said. However, opponents have called the process a farce. They believe it is skewed to favour Maduro’s leftist authoritarian government, and have promised to boycott the vote.

National: Leaked NSA hacking report ratchets up pressure on local election officials | Cyberscoop

Despite new evidence from a leaked NSA report that Russian hackers sought to compromise state and local election technology, the officials in charge are still vigorously opposing the federal designation of their polling systems as critical infrastructure. “It’s unclear how this situation would change anyone’s opinions about the [critical infrastructure] designation,” Kay Stimson of the National Association of Secretaries of State told CyberScoop. NASS represents the state-level officials responsible for certifying statewide election results. Stimson added that officials didn’t get any additional resources to defend their networks as a result of the January 2017 announcement by the Department of Homeland Security, which many saw as a federal power grab. Federal officials have stressed that state or local participation in any DHS programs is voluntary, and suggested that DHS expertise might be able to help election officials secure themselves against online attacks.

National: Experts Warned About Voting Vulnerability At Center Of NSA Leak | Vocativ

The leaked NSA document published by The Intercept on Monday revealed a report that Russian military actors attacked one of the most especially vulnerable aspects of the American voting system: online voting registration databases. The classified document was leaked to the press by a 25-year-old intelligence contractor who has been arrested by the Department of Justice. The five-page report, which the AP has yet to authenticate, details a cyberattack that began in August 2016. The document does not reveal whether or not the Russian attempts at were successful, nor does it address if it could have affected voting outcomes in the presidential election. It does, however, validate the concerns of cybersecurity experts who have long considered the possibility of this type of attack as a potential threat to our voting process’ security.

National: Experts surprised by extent of Russian election meddling, demand voting security for 2018 | SC Magazine

The leak of a classified NSA document confirming that Russian military intelligence interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential race has reinforced the need to fix vulnerabilities in America’s voting infrastructure before the next election cycle, say experts who expressed dismay over the reported intricacy of the Kremlin’s campaign. According to the leaked report, which was dated May 5 and published yesterday by The Intercept, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, launched a spoofing attack against an unnamed electronic voting vendor, in order to get access to that company’s data and internal systems. Next, the GRU hackers (often referred to as the APT Fancy Bear) sent various government employees spear phishing emails that appeared to be from this e-voting vendor, but in actuality contained attachments that infected machines with malware. … J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security & Society at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, said that Russia’s spearphishing plot “raises an enormous number of questions about how far they got [and] if other vendors were attacked that haven’t been detected or announced yet, about what they were trying to do, and about whether they succeeded” in their ultimate objective.

Editorials: Our election systems are at grave risk of cyberattacks. When will Congress take action? | Lawrence Norden/Slate

On Monday night, the Intercept published a leaked National Security Agency report that recounts a Russian military intelligence cyberattack against a voter registration software company. According to the report, Russian government hackers appear to have used “data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration–themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.” On one level, this story was not particularly surprising. Even before the Intercept article, we knew—based upon previous news reports, as well as a January report from American intelligence agencies—that hackers working on behalf of the Russian government were targeting state and local voter registration databases. And there is nothing in the NSA report or the Intercept piece that supports the idea that Russian hacks against election offices and registration system prevented anyone from voting or changed vote totals in any way. (It always bears repeating that the voter registration system and vote tallying systems are different. An attack against the registration system will not change vote totals on a voting machine.)

California: Humboldt County shores up voting systems after Russian hack | San Jose Mercury News

Election officials in Humboldt County are checking their voter data after a leaked National Security Agency document alleged that Russian operatives hacked one of the county’s voting software contractors. According to a NSA memo published Monday by the news website The Intercept, Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U., successfully hacked a Florida voting software company, VR Systems, last summer. That hack then led to a broader hacking attempt of local election boards around the country just days before the November election. Humboldt County, population 136,000, might not seem like a top target for the Russians. The far-north county, which includes the city of Eureka, is more famous for its redwoods, coastline and marijuana crop than its politics. But the county Office of Elections had a contract with elections company Hart InterCivic, and Hart used VR Systems for its electronic poll books — the devices poll workers use to check in voters at the ballot.

Florida: Election officials: Campaign year drew hacking attempts, other suspicious activity | USA Today

State and local election officials across the country reported numerous hacking alerts last year from suspicious emails sent to their systems. At least eight Florida counties received one tied to what U.S. intelligence officials said was a Russian effort to disrupt the presidential campaign. Election officials contacted by the USA TODAY NETWORK said there were no successful hacks into their voting systems or offices. But some noted that suspicious activity directed through a Tallahassee-based election software company came amid a flurry of other threats routinely blocked by election offices.

Voting Blogs: Iowa program provides tablets and accessibility app to all auditors | electionlineWeekly

It was like Christmas in April when Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate provided all 99 Iowa county elections office with computer tablets. But these weren’t your average tablet, each of the Acer Tablets included the ADA Checklist for Polling Places Program to help elections officials determine if their voting sites (1,681 statewide) are compliant with the American Disabilities Act. The checklist provides guidance to election officials to determine whether a polling place has the basic accessibility features needed by voters with disabilities, or can be made accessible on Election Day. Features of the app include the ability to take photos of polling place structures, and providing guidance for making temporary accommodations. Additionally, it helps counties with polling place layout, reports, and tracking supply needs for individual polling places. While the state could have just provided the app to each county, an important part of the program was also providing the tablets.

Massachusetts: Automatic registration pitched as ‘next step’ to improve voting access | The Berkshire Eagle

Registering to vote in Massachusetts could become an automatic process for people who renew their driver’s license or otherwise interact with a state agency under legislation supporters pitched Thursday as a way to boost participation in the democratic process. The Joint Committee on Election Laws heard testimony Thursday on bills that would create an automatic voter registration system for eligible citizens. Instead of the current process where people wishing to vote must first fill out a registration form with their local elections officers, the system would call on state agencies to transmit a person’s name, age, residence and citizenship information to municipal boards of registrars within five days of collecting it.

New Jersey: State lawyer sees fraud in ’16 Paterson election | The Herald

Evidence in the marathon trial over alleged voter fraud in Paterson’s 2nd Ward election last year raised doubts about the validity of some of the mail-in ballots, according to the deputy state attorney general who is monitoring the case. In a 38-page legal brief, Deputy Attorney General Alan Stephens cited apparent violations in New Jersey’s vote-by-mail rules as well as instances in which people who were listed as voting through the mail-in process testified that they do not believe they cast ballots. But Stephens did not say whether he thought the problems were extensive enough to nullify a hotly contested election that Shahin Khalique won by a 1,401-1,381 margin over the incumbent, Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.

North Carolina: Redistricting special session: House votes to cancel Gov. Roy Cooper’s call to draw new legislative maps | News & Observer

The legislature on Thursday canceled Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for a special legislative session for redistricting, making the case that the governor’s move a day earlier was unconstitutional. The state House voted 71-44. The Senate followed suit without holding a vote, and Republicans cut off Democrats who sought to debate it on the floor. Cooper had issued a proclamation calling a 2 p.m. special session Thursday in an effort to pressure lawmakers to redraw state House and Senate election maps within the next two weeks. The proclamation called for the special session – running at the same time as the current legislative session – to run for 14 days or until new maps are passed.

North Carolina: Lawsuit seeks board seats for unaffiliated voters | WRAL

A well-known North Carolina election-law attorney has filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s new Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, arguing that it is unconstitutional because it discriminates against unaffiliated voters by denying them the same right to serve on elections boards as voters who are registered with a political party. The case was filed Tuesday in the Middle District of North Carolina. Under the legislation passed in April by state lawmakers and recently upheld by a three-judge panel, the new state board will consist of four Republicans and four Democrats, appointed by the governor from list of nominees submitted by the two state party chairs. In turn, the new board will select two Democrats and two Republicans, also nominated by their respective parties, to serve on each of the 100 county elections boards.

Editorials: New hurdles for Ohio citizen-initiated constitutional amendments must be resisted | Matt Lynch/Cleveland Plain Dealer

The people’s right to amend the Ohio Constitution through the ballot initiative is under attack. The right of citizens to propose and pass amendments to the Ohio Constitution through the ballot initiative process was wisely added to our constitution by the people over a century ago, but some politicians now think they know better. The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission was created by the General Assembly in 2012 to recommend constitutional amendments for the legislature to place on the ballot, but, problematically, the commission is filled with politicians and lobbyists. Thus, commission recommendations must be scrutinized for fidelity to the public good versus the special interests of political insiders.

Canada: Senators: Canada needs stronger protections from foreign elections influence | CityNews

The Liberal government should toughen up Canada’s election law to better protect the voting process from foreign influence — and money — in time for the 2019 campaign, senators argue in a new report. “The (Canada Elections Act) does not sufficiently protect Canadian elections from improper foreign interference,” said a report released Thursday by the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs. “The existing regime that regulates third-party advertising requires modernization in order to better ensure transparency and electoral fairness.” There have been growing concerns about foreign influence in the electoral process, especially after the French and U.S. elections and the investigation into alleged Russian interference to help ensure the victory of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Japan: Diet finally enacts electoral redistricting law to correct vote weight disparities across Japan | The Japan Times

After years of stalling, the Diet enacted a law Friday to revise Lower House electoral districts to reduce voting weight disparities between densely and sparsely populated precincts that had marred the credibility of national elections. Based on population projections for 2020, the law will bring the maximum vote weight disparity between districts down to 1.999 to 1 — just under the 2-to-1 threshold that the Supreme Court has said would undermine the Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all under the law. It will do this by cutting 10 seats from the House of Representatives and redrawing district boundaries. The changes will take effect on July 16 after a monthlong period to notify the public about the changes. The amendment to the public offices election law will shrink the Lower House to a postwar low of 465 seats.

Nepal: House endorses 1st amendment bill of local level election act | The Himalayan Times

The Legislature-Parliament session today endorsed ‘Local-Level Election Act (first amendment) Bill- 2017’. The bill was passed by majority after going through clause-wise deliberations, accepting the proposal presented by Home Minister Janardan Sharma. Taking part in the clause-wise deliberations on the bill, lawmaker Prem Suwal said the act required to operate the local bodies, which, according to him, would help strengthen democracy was yet to be formulated. He demanded the government to come up with a bill towards that end.

Venezuela: U.S. denounces Venezuela for repression, demands free elections | Reuters

The United States denounced the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday for suppressing protests and called for free elections, saying that he must not be allowed to follow a “dictatorship” path like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The Maduro government calls the protesters violent coup-mongers, supported by the United States. “This is an economic, political and humanitarian crisis that demands the world’s attention,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a U.S.-hosted panel of Venezuelan activists and experts held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.