Growing concerns about threats to U.S. election systems have put the heat on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its efforts to boost national cybersecurity. Homeland Security officials testified this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee that they have evidence that Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states as part of its wider effort to influence the presidential election. Now, lawmakers concerned about future foreign interference in U.S. elections are pressuring the department to offer more help to states and provide more details about what happened in 2016. “I’m deeply concerned about the danger posed by future interference in our elections,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the intelligence panel, said Wednesday. “We have elections in 2018, but in my home state of Virginia, we have statewide elections this year. So this needs a sense of urgency.”
This week, leaders from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testified to Congress that the Russian government hacked into electronic systems connected with the 2016 election in at least 21 states. Though they acknowledged that some systems had been breached and even altered, they also said that hackers were unable to change the vote counts. While it is certainly reassuring to know that vote counts weren’t tampered with (it’s a message they’ve stressed in light of previous leaks, too,) there’s one problem with the DHS’s proclamation: the agency hasn’t actually conducted any audits to confirm this belief. … With all due respect to the DHS, the government didn’t expect their systems to be as vulnerable to hacking as it has already proven to be. If hackers were able to get into voter systems, how can we be so confident that that’s as far as they got without – you know – actually checking?
National: Russia’s still targeting U.S. elections, King warns, and experts say we’re not prepared | Portland Press Herald
For weeks, U.S. Sen. Angus King has been telling anyone who’ll listen that the biggest, most worrisome thing about Russian interference in the 2016 election isn’t getting enough attention and has nothing to do with President Trump. King has warned in congressional hearings, television appearances and interviews with reporters that Moscow tried and is still trying to compromise American voting systems – and that if nothing’s done it might very well change the results of an election. … While intelligence officials say there is no evidence that vote counts were changed last November, a leading expert on security threats to voting machines said this possibility cannot be excluded without a forensic audit of the results. Even voting and vote counting machines that are not connected to the internet can be and could have been compromised when they received software programming them to display or recognize this year’s ballots, said J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society.
National: Vladimir Putin denied meddling in the U.S. election. The CIA caught him doing just that. | The Washington Post
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly — and often tauntingly — denied that his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Earlier this month he said that the cyber campaign might have been the work of “patriotically minded” Russian hackers he likened to “artists” who take to canvases to express their moods and political views. New details reported Friday by The Post reveal the extent to which the Russian meddling bore Putin’s own signature and brushstrokes. U.S. intelligence officials have been pointing at Putin since October, when the Obama administration released a statement declaring that the stream of embarrassing emails and other material being posted online by WikiLeaks and other sites were tied to Russian hacking efforts that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized.” A broader U.S. intelligence report released in early January went further, identifying Putin by name and concluding that one of the operation’s aims was to help elect Donald Trump.
The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump’s favor. Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage. The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.
Editorials: Paper ballots are hack-proof. It’s time to bring them back. | Glenn Harlan Reynolds/USA Today
I’ve been talking about the importance of protecting against voting-machine hacks since 2002. And now, finally, people are starting to take me seriously. The move to paperless voting started in response to the Florida “hanging chad” fiasco in the 2000 presidential election. Some people (like me) thought this was a mistake, but such concerns were often dismissed. Now, apparently, you can’t be paranoid enough. As Politico’s Bob King noted, while 10 years ago critics of paperless voting were called paranoid, now both parties are worried. It remains true that there is no actual evidence that a single vote was changed by hackers in the 2016 election. But even the possibility of hacking has served to promote the sort of conspiracy-mongering and political hatred that led to, for example, the shooting attack on Republican lawmakers last week. In a democratic polity, people have to believe that their votes are counted honestly, or the legitimacy of the system collapses.
Perhaps no part of California has thought more about the future of voting than Orange County. And yet when it comes to a sweeping change to state elections, the county has decided to take a pass. In fact, recent events serve as a cautionary tale that changing elections is hard, even when the plan is praised by “good government” advocates as the kind of reform that will make voting fit in better with the way we live and work. Less than two weeks ago, the Orange County Board of Supervisors quietly scrapped years of work by its elections officials on a plan to swap neighborhood polling places for universal absentee ballots and a limited number of all-purpose vote centers. There, voters could access a variety of election services — including last-minute registration, a few voting booths and a place to drop off absentee ballots. There would also be ballot drop boxes in heavily trafficked areas of the county.
A federal judge slapped Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach with a $1,000-fine Friday for misleading the court about the nature of the documents he was holding while photographed at a November meeting with President Donald Trump. The front page of the documents, widely scrutinized after the Associated Press published the photo, referenced possible changes to national voter laws. The ruling comes from the ongoing class action voting rights lawsuit Fish v. Kobach, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. The lawsuit alleges that Kansas law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship documents such as birth certificates violates the National Voter Registration Act.
Maine: Constitutional amendment to fix ranked-choice voting falters in Maine House | Portland Press Herald
A potential fix to the constitutional concerns raised about Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system faltered in the Maine House on Friday. The 78-68 House vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to present voters with a proposed constitutional amendment on a ranked-choice voting process that fundamentally changes the way Maine voters elect legislators, governors and members of Congress. Lawmakers voted largely along party lines, with Democrats supporting sending the constitutional amendment to voters and Republicans opposing the measure. Although 52 percent of Mainers voted to approve switching to a ranked-choice system last November – making Maine the first state to do so – the Supreme Judicial Court issued a unanimous advisory opinion last month that said the process would violate Maine’s Constitution. That has left lawmakers with two major options: either repeal the ranked-choice voting law approved by voters, or give voters a chance to change Maine’s Constitution to address the court’s concerns.
In spring 2011, the six Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegations tasked Eric Hawkins with two key jobs: Draw new district lines that get us re-elected easily for another five terms, while also taking direct aim at the state’s last two Republicans. Behind closed doors, Democratic insiders and high-ranking aides referred to it as “the 7-1 map.” Hawkins—an analyst at a Beltway data firm called NCEC Services—not only made it happen, but imagined an 8-0 map that might have shut Republicans out of power altogether. That, however, would have required spreading Democratic voters a little too thin and made some incumbents slightly less safe; these congressmen were partisans, sure, but they were also reluctant to risk their own seats.
“We don’t want to be another Florida.” Those words from Delaware County Elections Director Karla Herron are being echoed across Ohio — indeed, throughout much of the country — as elections officials grow increasingly worried about the growing necessity to replace aging voting equipment. Virtually no one disagrees with the need. Problem is, virtually no one wants to pay for a new voting setup. The statewide tab could top $200 million, judging by central Ohio cost estimates. Tim Ward has a ready retort for such reluctance: “You think having a good election is expensive? Try having a bad one.” The president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials and Madison County elections director said, “We don’t want to be sitting there saying I told you so.”
Nearly 9 million Texans headed to the polls in November to weigh in on the fierce battle for the White House — and many stumbled upon roadblocks while trying to cast their votes. Texas voters faced long lines, equipment glitches, intimidation — and confusion over the state’s Voter ID law and whether photo IDs were still required — according to a new report, Texas Election Protection 2016. “Unfortunately, through the state, voters faced numerous obstacles that complicated the process,” said Beth Stevens, voting rights director at the Texas Civil Rights Project that compiled the report. “We heard directly from thousands of voters about the barriers they faced in our electoral system. “Texans deserved better.”
Albanians are tensely awaiting election results which will be announced only on Monday after the long process of transporting votes from the polling station to the counters has taken place. On Sunday voting for the general elections began at 7am local time and continued until 8pm – one hour later than expected as polling station closures were postponed on account of the low turnout. The Central Electoral Commission, CEC, announced at 9pm that the turnout was around 45 per cent. Calculation shows that more than 1.5 million people voted out of a potential 3.4 million in the electoral rolls. In 2013 electoral turnout stood at around 53 per cent, and more than 1.7 million people cast their ballot.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila has committed to unlocking the impasse over the staging of the national elections in his country. This emerged following a meeting between Kabila and President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Sunday. The postponement of the DRC presidential election scheduled for December 2016, led to protests in September last year, which left some 50 people dead. The opposition has accused the government of delaying elections to keep President Joseph Kabila in power. The government says vote preparations, including a census need about 18 months. After holding private talks with Kabila, President Zuma called for the resumption of negotiations to resuscitate stalled talks over elections timelines.
Mongolians on Monday cast their votes in a divisive presidential election that pits traditional politicians against a feng shui master in the resource-rich nation. Mieygombo Enkhbold of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) is seen as the favorite to win the election. He’s up against Khaltmaa Battulga from the outgoing president’s Democratic Party, which is currently in opposition in parliament. The election has been viewed as a bellwether for popular support for Enkhbold’s MPP, which swept up 65 seats in the 76-seat unicameral parliament in last year’s parliamentary elections.
Voting began in Papua New Guinea (PNG) elections Saturday with the Pacific nation’s leader urging peaceful polling to show it has “come of age”, as he seeks another term to fix an economy under siege. Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress won the last election in 2012, and he has campaigned on delivering key infrastructure and providing free education and health to a country that remains mired in poverty. He also points to more stability in a sprawling crime-ridden land where elections have been marred by violence in the past.