Russian hacking of the 2016 election went deeper than breaking into the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — the Russians also hacked their way into getting information about election-related hardware and software shortly before voting began. The Intercept published a top-secret National Security Agency document that shows exactly how the Russians did their dirty work in targeting election hardware and software. At the heart of the hack is a giant Microsoft security hole that has been around since before 2000 and still hasn’t been closed. And likely never will. Before we get to the security hole, here’s a little background about how the Russian scheme worked, spelled out in detail by the secret NSA document. Allegedly, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, launched a spearphishing campaign against a U.S. company that develops U.S. election systems. (The Intercept notes that the company was likely “VR Systems, a Florida-based vendor of electronic voting services and equipment whose products are used in eight states.”) Fake Google Alert emails were sent from firstname.lastname@example.org to seven of the company’s employees. The employees were told they needed to immediately log into a Google website. The site was fake; when at least one employee logged in, his credentials were stolen.
Despite assurances from the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hacking only influenced the 2016 U.S. election—and didn’t change vote tallies—there was never actually a formal federal audit of those systems, the Department of Homeland Security said. And while DHS offered free security scans to any state that wanted them, many states—even ones that took up the DHS offer, like Michigan and Maine—either use audit procedures that are considered inadequate or don’t audit their election results at all. “I think there’s a presumption amongst both the general public and lawmakers that DHS did some sort of investigation,” said Susan Greenhalgh, who serves as Elections Specialist at Verified Voting, a nonprofit devoted to U.S. election integrity. “It didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that something happened, but it also means it wasn’t investigated.”
The Florida elections vendor that was targeted in Russian cyberattacks last year has denied a recent report based on a leaked National Security Agency document that the company’s computer system was compromised. The hackers tried to break into employee email accounts last August but were unsuccessful, said Ben Martin, the chief operating officer of VR Systems, in an interview with NPR. Martin said the hackers appeared to be trying to steal employee credentials in order to launch a spear-phishing campaign aimed at the company’s customers. VR Systems, based in Tallahassee, Fla., provides voter registration software and hardware to elections offices in eight states. “Some emails came into our email account that we did not open. Even though NSA says it’s likely that we opened them, we did not,” Martin says. “We know for a fact they were never opened. They did not get into our domain.”
National: ‘The mother lode of all leaks’: A massive data breach exposed ‘information that can be used to steal an election | Business Insider
A data analytics firm hired by the Republican National Committee last year to gather political information about US voters accidentally leaked the sensitive personal details of roughly 198 million US citizens earlier this month, as its database was left exposed on the open web for nearly two weeks. Deep Root Analytics, a conservative data firm contracted by the RNC as part of a push to ramp up its voter analytics operation in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election, stored details about approximately 61% of the US population on an Amazon cloud server without password protection for those two weeks.
Facebook and Google aren’t the only companies hoovering up every kilobyte of our digital lives—our late-night shopping habits, social-media posts, travel plans, and celebrity obsessions—and turning that personal data into dollar signs. As the recent leak of nearly 200 million voter profiles shows, political analytics companies are major players in the Big Data space, too—and their methods, if not their security protocols, are getting ever more sophisticated. The terabyte of data that Gizmodo reports Deep Root Analytics left on a cloud server, without password protection, included “home addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers,” along with “advanced-sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem-cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity.” Even more worrying, some of the firm’s voter-registration data was cross-referenced against Reddit users’ profiles, suggesting a wide-ranging, multi-platform effort to build psychological profiles of American citizens. None of this is illegal, nor is it clear whether such information is particularly useful. Gizmodo reports show that the Republican National Committee paid Deep Root $983,000 last year, and that other conservative groups paid millions more. But as The New York Times revealed last year, preference-prediction software peddled by companies like Cambridge Analytica is still an imperfect science.
Just how extensively Russia penetrated state election systems across America last year and how to prevent a repeat will be the focus of an extensive public hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. “We’re trying to focus on all aspects — the aggressive nature of Russia’s attempt to hack all the way down to the state level,” the committee’s chairman, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, told VOA. The panel will hear from cybersecurity and counterintelligence officials at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as state election officials and a representative of America’s secretaries of state for all 50 states — officials who are tasked with certifying elections.
When Wisconsin Republicans last redrew the State Legislature’s district boundaries, in 2011, they set off a multimillion-dollar legal battle over accusations of gerrymandering that this week was granted a potentially historic hearing by the Supreme Court. Then there is California, which redrew its state legislative and congressional districts the same year with far less rancor. California is the largest of a handful of states that are trying to minimize the partisanship in the almost invariably political act of drawing district lines. California has handed that task to the independent and politically balanced California Citizens Redistricting Commission, and Arizona has a somewhat similar commission. Florida has amended its Constitution to forbid partisanship in drawing new districts. Iowa has offloaded the job to the nonpartisan state agency that drafts bills and performs other services for legislators.
The Supreme Court on Monday stepped, somewhat hesitantly, into the long-standing constitutional controversy over partisan gerrymandering, accepting a major test case for review but giving itself several ways to avoid deciding it. At issue is the question of whether the process of drawing new election district boundaries is unconstitutional if one political party specifically creates maps giving its own candidates a distinct advantage in getting elected, directly limiting the other party’s chances at the polls. It is a political act that is as old as the American Republic, drawing its name as a “gerrymander” from a member of the Founding generation, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, for his infamous state senate districting map so misshapen that it resembled an awkward salamander. In its modern form, it is sometimes blamed for the deep partisan polarization of Congress and other legislative bodies, because modern computer science and detailed census data makes it so much easier for those in charge of drawing new maps to place individual voters into districts to make them decidedly Republican or Democratic so as to achieve unequal electoral power.
A new Alabama law now allows some convicted felons to earn back the right to vote. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed he bill into law in May, reversing the more than century-old rule. While state lawmakers could not decide how to spend nearly $1 billion on prison reform, they could all agree on one thing. After 116 years, Alabama lawmakers decided it was time to let several criminals have a second chance to make their voices heard. The defining, unanimous push behind state Sen. Mike Jones’ (R-AL, District 92) bill ultimately changed a law dating back to 1901. Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-AL, District 80) says the new law specifically lists more than 40 felonies that would automatically strip criminals of voting rights.
Florida: Security threats on voting system loom as Florida’s elections officials gather in Polk County | Tampa Bay Times
Voting experts in Florida, the national epicenter of electoral suspense, have one concern above all others as they prepare for the 2018 election. Click. Cybersecurity. Efforts by Russian hackers to attack computers in Florida last fall failed, but shed light on potential vulnerabilities of an election system managed locally and in mostly small counties with limited technological resources. “It’s the main topic of conversation,” Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said at a conference of election supervisors. “I just don’t think you can have too many people looking at this stuff.” As Clark and dozens of her colleagues mingled at the Omni Champions Gate near Walt Disney World on Tuesday, they said they are more security-conscious than ever. On Thursday, officials will attend a seminar titled “Election Integrity in the Current Political and Media Environment.”
Maine lawmakers are overhauling or set to repeal each of the four citizen-initiated laws that passed in November. Those actions have left some wondering if the voice of the voters is as sacrosanct as it once was. It also reveals the tension between activists and voters frustrated with the pace of change and elected officials who believe the citizen initiative has undercut their role as lawmakers. “The effort to repeal ranked choice voting is a slap in your face from politicians who think they know better than you. It’s time to tell the politicians in Augusta that we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” says Kyle Bailey to his fellow ranked-choice voting supporters at a rally in front of the State House last month.
Editorials: I voted against ranked-choice voting. But I don’t support repealing the law. | Michael Carpenter/Bangor Daily News
Last November, I voted “no” on Question 5, the referendum that asked voters whether they wanted to enact ranked-choice voting for primary and general elections. I did so because, as a candidate for the Maine Senate, I shared concerns with voters in my district about the potential for confusion and depressed turnout, as well as the possibility of chaos taking hold in a disputed election caused by the system. In addition, as a Maine former attorney general, I concurred with the legal opinion presented by Attorney General Janet Mills that ranked-choice voting raised constitutional concerns.
After the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s unanimous advisory opinion last month that ranked-choice voting would be unconstitutional for use in three statewide elections, I decided to co-sponsor legislation — LD 1625 — to repeal the law in its entirety. But after listening to testimony and reviewing the facts, I changed my mind. I have always appreciated the importance and necessity of constitutional compliance, which is why I now support preserving all constitutional parts of this law. Lawmakers should not overrule the more than 388,000 Maine people from across the political spectrum who voted last November to enact ranked-choice voting, the second largest referendum vote in our state’s history. As I heard from some of these voters in public testimony, I realized they were rightfully astonished and offended by the prospect of full repeal. There is an opportunity for middle ground.
Maryland: Supreme Court picks up gerrymander case with potential implications for Maryland | Baltimore Sun
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a major challenge to partisan gerrymandering in a case that could have implications for Maryland, where the state’s contorted congressional maps are being contested in a separate but similar federal case. The challenge to the Wisconsin legislative map, to be heard by the high court in the fall, could yield one of the most important rulings on political power in decades. The separate Maryland case is pending before a three-judge federal court.
Sara Deloach. Patricia Brooks. Judy Lewis. Candidates in Columbus and Lowndes County the past 40-plus years likely know at least one, if not all, of these women and might have used their services. The three, and others, have built a loyal among elderly and residents with disabilities for whom they provide witness signatures on absentee ballots — election after election. State law allows voters who are 65 and older, or will otherwise be unavailable to vote on election day, to cast absentees through the mail or in person at a city registrar’s office for municipal elections or circuit clerk’s office for all others. Most absentees must be signed and witnessed by a notary public or court clerk. But in cases where voters are illiterate or temporarily or permanently disabled, anyone at least 18 years old can provide a witness signature on their mail-in absentee ballots.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Tuesday asked for a review of the cybersecurity of the state’s voting infrastructure amid growing concern over the extent of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Cuomo announced that he has directed the state’s cybersecurity advisory board to work with state agencies as well as the state and county boards of election to evaluate cyber threats to New York’s election infrastructure and make any recommendations for additional security measures. The governor’s announcement noted, however, that there have yet to be any “credible reports” about disruptions of election infrastructure in the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place a lower court’s ruling that barred private citizens from suing Ohio for allegedly impeding their ability to vote by requiring ballot forms to be filled out perfectly. The justices declined to review the ruling that dismissed claims by Ohio’s Democratic Party and homeless rights groups that the state’s “perfect form” law, which invalidates ballots for even minor errors, deprived thousands of people of their right to vote, violating the federal Voting Rights Act. Such suits must be filed by the federal government, not private citizens, that court held. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the state Democratic Party challenged a pair of 2014 laws.
Poll workers would be able to trade their paper and pens for laptops and printers by next year’s fall elections under a plan Wisconsin election officials approved Tuesday to develop electronic poll books. The state Elections Commission voted unanimously to have its staff develop e-poll book software and offer it to local election clerks on a pilot basis beginning in February. The commission plans to offer the software to clerks statewide by the August 2018 primaries. The project is expected to cost about $124,865 in staff time. Municipalities that decide to use the system would have to purchase hardware such as laptops and printers at a rate of $475 to $970 per voter check-in station at the polls.
If you haven’t decided whom to vote for in the upcoming election for the next President of India – to be held on July 17 – don’t worry. Unless you’re an MP or an MLA, you don’t get to vote. Unlike most of India’s elected representatives, who must battle it out for citizens’ votes, the President of India is instead chosen by an electoral college. The electoral college comprises the elected members of the Parliament (MPs) and state legislative assemblies (MLAs). Nominated members are, like the rest of us, unable to vote. There are 4,986 electors in the electoral college: 4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs. In normal elections, everyone’s vote is counted equally. In a presidential election, however, electors’ votes are worth more or less depending upon their job titles. In general, MPs’ votes are worth more than MLAs’, and MLAs from bigger states count more than those from smaller ones. The total value adds to10,98,903.
Mongolia: Ahead of Presidential Election, Mongolia Corruption Scandal Has a New Twist | The Diplomat
On June 26, Mongolia’s presidential election will take place. It is set to be a controversial one, marked already by corruption, scandal, media censorship, and insurmountable distrust among the constituencies. On May 9, 2017 an audio recording was released to the public. It appeared to be a recording of a 90-minute conversation between the chairman of the Parliament, M. Enkhbold, who is running for president as the candidate of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP); the chairman of the Office of People’s Committee, Ts. Sandui; and A. Ganbaatar. This audio, allegedly recorded in 2014, preceded Mongolia’s parliamentary elections of June 2016. The recording became famous for discussion of the MPP’s “60 billion tugrik” ($25 million) deal to take bribes to shuffle government positions as part of a plan to empower its party grip.