The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked election officials in 21 states to make public information about Russian efforts to hack their elections systems during the 2016 elections, the panel’s top Democrat said Wednesday. The request was made in a letter sent last week “to all relevant state election officials” from Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the panel’s chairman and vice chairman, respectively, Warner revealed in his prepared remarks before a hearing on global election interference. “I do not see how Americans are made safer when they do not know which state elections systems Russia tried to hack,” Warner said.
The United States will get hit again by Russian cyberattacks if the country doesn’t pay closer attention and work more closely with European allies who are also victims, international elections experts warned on Wednesday. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, experts described extensive Russian interference in European elections and encouraged more awareness among the American of how Russians are trying to undermine U.S. candidates and faith in government. One witness, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, criticized both former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump for not doing more to publicize the problem and combat it.
Attempts to hack elections will continue in the future, the secretary of Homeland Security said Wednesday — so election officials better prepare. Secretary John Kelly was speaking about the difficult balance his agency must strike — on the one hand protecting the nation from cyber intruders while on the other, respecting state and local governments’ autonomy. Kelly said at an event at the Center for a New American Security that his agency will offer to help states and localities on an entirely “voluntary basis” — but strongly encouraged officials to get help from somewhere. “I would say that if they don’t want our help, and even if they do want our help, they’d be well advised to hire some very, very, very good hired cyber guns, if you will, to help protect, because this is the way of the future,” Kelly said.
The 2020 Census — a once-a-decade effort by the federal government to count every person in the U.S. — is still three years away, but recent developments at the Census Bureau have raised concerns about the accuracy of the upcoming count. The agency recently received $164 million less than what it requested from Congress in the 2017 fiscal year, despite a traditional jump in funding for critical preparation in the years leading up to the nationwide count. The Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget doesn’t give it much more. And in May, Census Bureau Director John Thompson announced he would resign at the end of June, leaving a major gap in leadership at a critical time. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has put the 2020 Census on its “High Risk List,” as it did the 2000 and 2010 Census, and cited the Bureau’s failure to implement strategies and technologies to cut Census costs, which hit a record $12.3 billion in 2010. “Over the past 3 years, we have made 30 recommendations to help the Bureau design and implement a more cost-effective census for 2020,” the GAO observed; “however, only 6 of them had been fully implemented as of January 2017.”
President Trump’s commission on voter fraud and suppression likely will hold its first meeting next month after a “painstakingly” slow vetting of its members, one of the panel’s co-chairmen said Tuesday. Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach said he expects the commission to meet in Washington sometime in the second half of July to begin its work. Some commission members have complained of not having heard anything about a timetable since being appointed weeks ago. “The wheels have been turning for several months now. It’s just the process of getting members through the clearance hurdles is painstakingly long,” Mr. Kobach told The Washington Times. “We have almost all of our commissioners through the approval process, but we still have a few more remaining.”
National: A top Trump ally admits Russia will try to strike again. Does Trump care? | The Washington Post
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a close Trump ally, is concerned that Russia could hack our next election. He told reporter Allison Kaplan Sommer in Tel Aviv earlier today that he’s “very worried” that there could be “cyber-interference” of a more serious nature than there was in 2016 — meaning interference that could alter vote totals and effect the election outcome. Giuliani’s admission is significant, and not just because it’s an admission — from someone so sympathetic to Trump — that the ongoing threat of Russian hacking is real and not “fake news.” Giuliani, who serves as the Chair of the Cybersecurity, Privacy and Crisis Management Practice at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, is also an informal advisor to Trump on cybersecurity issues.
Editorials: The Supreme Court is in no hurry to protect voters from gerrymandering | Richard Hasen/The Washington Post
When it comes to assuring fair elections, the Supreme Court has a new message: Voters can wait. Its recently completed term featured two key redistricting votes in which the court turned away temporary relief for voters as the court considered each case — not because these voters would eventually lose, but because the justices refused to put voters’ interests first. And these rulings build upon the court’s troubling “Purcell principle,” the idea that courts should not make changes to voting rules close to the election, even if those changes are necessary to protect voting rights. Last December, North Carolina appealed to the Supreme Court a three-judge court decision holding that the drawing of certain state legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The lower court also ordered that the state conduct special elections this year to cure the defect. North Carolina appealed that order, too, and it asked the Supreme Court to put the special elections on hold pending a decision on its underlying appeal.
Voting Blogs: Russian Intrusion and Partisan Pressures: Aspects of Election Administration Reform After 2016 | More Soft Money Hard Law
In 2016, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson found that state election officials were suspicious of federal offers of assistance in defending their voting systems from cyber attack. He tried to persuade them to accept DHS designation of those systems as “critical infrastructure,” which would have given states access on a priority basis to a range of protections. The response he received ranged from “neutral to negative.” DHS concluded that, in the middle of an election, it was best not to have a protracted, politicized fight over this step. It focused on providing assistance where it could, and a large number of jurisdictions requested help. In January 2017, even with officials remaining skeptical about the designation, Secretary Johnson proceeded to issue it.
Amid the array of investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 election, the director of the Illinois State Board of Elections testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Illinois was the target of a hack that exposed thousands of voters’ names, addresses, birthdays and partial social security numbers. Since the attack was detected, officials have moved to strengthen security around the voter database. But nationwide, concerns about election cybersecurity are on the rise – especially since Illinois was one of at least 21 states that were successfully hacked.
Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said Tuesday he’d oppose any effort to allow Montanans to change absentee ballot votes that are cast before Election Day. Most states, like Montana, do not allow early voters to change their minds. That became an issue last month when then-candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter a little over 24 hours before his election as Montana’s sole representative in the U.S. House. Reaction to the assault sparked questions by those who had already voted if they could change their ballots. By then 259,558 of the 383,301 who would cast a ballot had already voted, or nearly 68 percent. “I would be very much opposed to letting people change their vote,” Stapleton told a legislative interim committee Tuesday in response to a question about if he would support a change in the law. “I think it’s much better to wait until Election Day and (vote) once.”
In this community center turned polling place, Juan Sanchis stands near an electronic ballot reader with a smile on his face, waiting. Many of the voters filing into the Willston Community Center, in a diverse pocket of Fairfax County, don’t speak English very well. When it seems like the voters don’t understand, Sanchis switches over to Korean or Spanish, or gets a worker who speaks Vietnamese. Around him on the tables and walls, pamphlets and signs are translated into all three of those languages. “If they need help understanding, that’s what I try to do,” Sanchis said earlier this month, as Virginia primary voters went to the polls to choose candidates for a variety of state and local offices. As the country grows more diverse, more local governments like Fairfax County, a Washington, D.C., suburb, are falling under a federal election law that requires them to provide language assistance — including translators and translated election materials — to certain minority groups that are heavily represented in their communities. Dozens of communities were added to the list for the first time in December, sending local officials in those communities scrambling.
Albania’s left-wing Socialist Party has secured a second mandate in a general election, winning a majority of seats in parliament, election results showed Tuesday. The election was seen as a key benchmark in the country’s bid to launch membership negotiations with the European Union. The Central Election Commission said that with all the ballots counted, the governing Socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama had won 74 places in the 140-seat parliament.
In an alternate universe, Justin Trudeau wasn’t standing before the cameras on Tuesday, trying again to explain why he had walked away from a campaign commitment to pursue electoral reform. Because during June 2015 in that alternate universe, Trudeau had stood before the cameras and vowed that a Liberal government would implement a ranked ballot for electing MPs. Alas, in reality, Trudeau made an open-ended commitment to reform and vowed it would be in place for 2019. A committee was struck to study the issue, dozens of town hall forums were convened, an online survey was conducted and postcards were mailed to millions of households inviting Canadians to participate. Only then did Trudeau’s government walk away. But only then did Trudeau publicly confront the actual possibilities for reform. And, as it turns out, his preference for a ranked ballot and his opposition to proportional representation, first stated in 2012, were left standing.
Amid the backdrop of a fight against the Islamic State, the Kurdistan region of Iraq plans to hold an important vote to determine its direction on statehood. Earlier this month, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani announced that a long-awaited referendum on independence would be held Sept. 25, 2017. Importantly, the vote will not only take place within the borders of the Kurdistan region, but also within disputed territories that are now under de facto Kurdish control since their liberation from the Islamic State. Barzani has called for a referendum many times before, but this time an official date has been set and the vote will probably take place. An informal referendum passed overwhelmingly in the Kurdistan region in January 2005, and there is good reason to believe a positive result will be replicated in this year’s official process.
On Saturday the Bierger-Centre in Luxembourg City will open its doors especially for foreigners to register to vote in October’s local elections. The cut-off date to be able to register is July 13. In a bid to encourage as many of the near 47 per cent of foreigners living in Luxembourg to register to go to the polls, the Bierger-Centre on Place Guillaume is allowing people who may not be able to go to register during the week to complete the three-step process on a Saturday. People of any nationality worldwide and who will be at least 18 years old on the day of the election, October 8, can register to vote if they have lived in Luxembourg for at least five years on the date of registration. The five years of residency do not have to run concurrently and can be an accumulation of a total of five years.
Mongolia’s first-ever presidential runoff has been brought forward by two days to July 7 due to a traditional sporting festival, the country’s electoral authorities said Thursday. The three candidates in Monday’s first-round poll fell well short of the absolute majority needed to secure the presidency, extending the drama of an election marked by corruption scandals. Former judoka Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party and speaker of the parliament Mieygombo Enkhbold of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) were the top two finishers and will contest the runoff. Both parties asked for the date to be brought forward due to the start of the long national Naadam holiday a few days later — Mongolia’s biggest festival featuring wrestling, archery and horse-riding.
Montenegro: Planned coup in Montenegro shows Russian efforts to hinder elections, Senate panel hears | McClatchy
By the time Montenegro’s police got wind of the plans, the 2016 election-day coup plot was about to launch. Disguised as police, the plotters would storm the Parliament in Podgorica, firing at citizens awaiting election results and generally creating chaos. They would declare their favored candidates the real winners of the elections, and would detain and perhaps assassinate the prime minister. If breaking up a plotted coup at the last minute wasn’t shocking enough, when Montenegrin officials investigated the plan it quickly became clear that the source of this planned chaos wasn’t even local. The plan began with Russia. At the same time in the United States, voters were hearing the first warnings about what would come to be known Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Later, the notion of possible collusion by members of the campaign of President Donald Trump would be added.
As polling continues in Papua New Guinea’s general election, the Electoral Commissioner is under more pressure to resign. This followed a string of controversies early in the two-week polling schedule. Wild inconsistencies and flaws in the electoral roll, scheduling changes and delayed polling were already a bad way to start. The pressure then piled on the Commissioner, Patalias Gamato, after the sudden decision to defer polling in the capital from Tuesday to Friday. But then three electoral officials were detained for police questioning after they were found carrying marked ballot papers, suspicious documents and in one case US$57,000 in cash. A group of candidates from the capital have formed a petition urging Mr Gamato to stand down to restore integrity to the election.