California: Worried about election hacking, L.A. County officials are turning to hackers for help | Los Angeles Times

Local election officials are looking for some good hackers. As part of an effort to create a new voting system, Los Angeles County computer specialists are headed this week to Defcon, one of the world’s largest hacking conventions, where attendees will try to compromise a new target — voting equipment. County Registrar-Recorder Dean C. Logan said he hopes Defcon’s new Voting Village will give his staff more to worry about as they work to revamp the way Los Angeles County votes. Defcon, which draws 20,000 participants to Las Vegas yearly, has set aside a space this year for hackers to pick apart voting machines, assail voter-registration databases and carry out mock attacks on various voting processes from around the country.

National: Hackers plan to break into 30 voting machines to put election meddling to the test | USA Today

Think of it as a stress test for democracy. Hackers plan to spend this weekend trying to break into more than 30 voting machines used in recent elections to see just how far they can get. U.S. election officials have consistently said that despite Russian attempts to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, no votes were tampered with. … However, experts in election voting software say no states routinely perform post-election vote audits to ensure that the reported vote count tallies with ballots, Singer said. Moreover, there were no forensic examinations of any of the voting machines used in the 2016 presidential election, in part because many election-machine vendor contracts prohibit it, Singer said. That’s a red flag for hackers at DefCon.

National: Top hacker conference to target voting machines | Politico

Hackers will target American voting machines—as a public service, to prove how vulnerable they are. When over 25,000 of them descend on Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas at the end of July for DEFCON, the world’s largest hacking conference, organizers are planning to have waiting what they call “a village” of different opportunities to test how easily voting machines can be manipulated. Some will let people go after the network software remotely, some will be broken apart to let people dig into the hardware, and some will be set up to see how a prepared hacker could fiddle with individual machines on site in a polling place through a combination of physical and virtual attacks. … With all the attention on Russia’s apparent attempts to meddle in American elections—former President Barack Obama and aides have made many accusations toward Moscow, but insisted that there’s no evidence of actual vote tampering—voting machines were an obvious next target, said DEFCON founder Jeff Moss. Imagine, he said, what a concerted effort out of Russia or anywhere else could do.

National: Lawmakers reach deal for Senate Russia sanctions vote | Reuters

U.S. lawmakers reached an agreement on Wednesday paving the way for the U.S. Senate to pass a bill as soon as this week to impose new sanctions on Russia and bar President Donald Trump from easing sanctions on Moscow without Congress’ approval. Earlier on Wednesday, Russia warned it was edging closer to retaliation against Washington after the House of Representatives backed new U.S. sanctions on Moscow, while the European Union said the move might affect its energy security and it stood ready to act too.

National: Facebook funds Harvard group trying to fight election hacking | The Hill

Facebook said on Wednesday that it will give funding to a nonprofit at Harvard that is trying to curb cyberattacks aimed political groups and election systems. The social media giant’s money will go to Defending Digital Democracy, a group led by former campaign chairs for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, based at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Though Facebook is providing the initial funding for the center, it said that it hopes other participants will help the organization transition into a group with several members who share information and analysis in “critical areas of the democratic process.”
At Black Hat, an IT security conference, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said the project was born out of the company realizing that no one was taking responsibility for issues of election hacking. “A huge amount of harm falls outside what we considered to be our problem,” Stamos said. “The real problems is that those issues is generally not anybody else’s problem either.”

Editorials: Will Republicans ever get serious about Russian sabotage of the next election? | Sarah Posner/The Washington Post

In testimony this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, issued a dire warning. The United States, Priestap told lawmakers, “is under relentless assault by hostile state actors and their proxies” and “our economy, our national security and our way of life are being actively threatened by state actors and their proxies today and every day.” Today’s hearing was about enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a federal statute that requires agents of foreign actors to disclose, via public filings, their relationship with the foreign actor and the financial relationship between them. It’s like a lobbying disclosure form for people who are advocating on behalf of foreign individuals or entities. Although Priestap has previously warned the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia’s capabilities for interfering in future elections, today’s testimony was about far more extensive efforts by foreign actors to undermine every facet of public life — including upcoming elections.

California: President Trump’s voter fraud panel asks again for data from California – and again the answer is no | Los Angeles Times

For the second time in less than a month, California’s chief elections officer has refused to hand over data to President Trump’s voter fraud commission, arguing on Wednesday that the inquiry is still part of an “illegitimate” exercise. “I still have the same concerns,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “I can’t in good conscience risk the privacy of voters in California with this commission.” The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which met for the first time last week, originally asked for the information from California and other states on June 29. A federal court refused last week to block the commission’s request, though as many as 21 states have insisted they won’t hand over details on voter names, addresses and political party affiliations.

Georgia: Latino groups push for more Spanish voter info in Gwinnett County | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Two Latino advocacy groups sent letters last week to Gwinnett County and several cities therein, alleging varying levels of noncompliance with a new mandate to provide Spanish-language voting materials to their constituents — and threatening litigation if they don’t change things quickly. Leaders from the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and New York-based LatinoJustice believe the county and multiple cities are not yet fully in line with the requirements of a U.S. Census Bureau designation handed down in December. They cited government websites that provided plenty of election information in English but little or no such information in Spanish.

Editorials: Kris Kobach and Kansas’ SAFE Act | Chelsie Bright/The Conversation

If you want to understand President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, it helps to study what happened in Kansas. Six years before Trump was tweeting about stolen elections and unsubstantiated claims of millions of fraudulent votes, Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, was promoting the idea that widespread voter fraud threatens the integrity of our electoral system. It should come as no surprise that Trump chose Kobach to be the vice chairman of Vice President Mike Pence’s new Commission on Election Integrity. This appointment gives Kobach a national platform by which to pursue his agenda. Kansas’ voter ID law went into effect when I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas. The pervasive campaign promoting the new law piqued my interest. My co-author and I set out to assess the impact advertisements – specifically, the “Got ID?” campaign – had on voter turnout during the 2012 election.

Minnesota: State to provide funds to counties for election equipment | Park Rapids Enterprise

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon stopped in Hubbard County last week as he toured the state talking about the need to replace aging election equipment. Simon was seeking $28 million from the Legislature to help counties pay for the project. In May, a bill was signed into law that created a $7 million grant fund to help replace the aging equipment by 2020. The fund provides up to a 50 percent match between the state and counties for mandatory equipment and up to a 75 percent match for electronic poll books. Grant applications are expected to be made available in September, with an expected submission deadline in mid-December, according to Secretary of State’s office.

Massachusetts: Court ruling renews push to streamline voter ballot access | Associated Press

Efforts to streamline access to the ballot in Massachusetts are picking up steam after a court tossed out a state’s 20-day voter registration cutoff deadline. Voting right advocates say they’re renewing their push for two measures, including one that would let eligible voters register on Election Day and a second that would create a new automatic voter registration system. The rekindled interest comes after Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled Monday that the requirement that voters register at least 20 days before an election violates the Massachusetts Constitution and potentially disenfranchises thousands of would-be voters.

North Carolina: Judges to Hear Arguments on North Carolina Redistricting | Associated Press

Judges deciding when North Carolina must redraw its state legislative districts will hear Thursday from voting rights activists calling for special elections and Republican lawmakers urging a slower pace. Democrats are hoping new electoral maps will help erode the GOP’s veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly and give first-term Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper a stronger hand. Districts must be redrawn after the federal court ruled 28 House and Senate districts are illegally race-based. That ruling was upheld this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, which returned the case to U.S. District Court to decide the next steps. The plaintiffs are seeking a special election before next year’s legislative session, while GOP lawmakers argue they should have until later this year to draw new maps for use in 2018’s regularly scheduled elections. They will present their cases Thursday to a panel of three federal judges in Greensboro.

North Carolina: GOP mapmaker Tom Hofeller to help draw new legislative districts | News & Observer

Republican leaders have tapped a familiar consultant to help with the drawing of new districts for electing General Assembly members after maps he drew six years ago were found by the federal courts to include illegal racial gerrymanders. Tom Hofeller, a seasoned GOP mapmaker and a chief architect of the 2011 N.C. maps, is working with legislative leaders again on how to create new districts that will pass muster. Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and House redistricting leader, informed a group of legislators on Wednesday of Hofeller’s return to a process that could determine how the state is divided into political districts for the rest of the decade. Hofeller was profiled in The Atlantic magazine in 2012 in an article titled “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers.”

Utah: Counties seek state’s help with special election cost | Deseret News

County officials are asking the state to help cover the $1.5 million in primary and general election costs associated with filling the U.S. House seat in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. State lawmakers, elections officials and a representative from the Utah Association of Counties discussed the cost expectations for the upcoming special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, during a Wednesday meeting at the Capitol. Running the special election simultaneously with municipal elections should keep the overall price tag down, officials said, but much of the costs will still fall on the counties. “Money can be saved if you run multiple elections at the same time,” said Justin Lee, deputy director of elections with the lieutenant governor’s office. “We are saving quite a bit of money, but we’re not saving all the money.”

Congo: UN urges Congo to hold elections by Dec. 31 deadline | Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council urged Congo’s government on Wednesday to swiftly implement an agreement to hold presidential elections by the end of the year, warning that failure to do so will increase the risk of insecurity and instability in the country and the region. The head of Congo’s electoral commission announced July 7 that it would not be possible to organize a presidential ballot by the Dec. 31 deadline. Congo law bars President Joseph Kabila from seeking another term but allows him to remain in power until another election can be held. A presidential statement approved by all 15 council nations insists that the deadline be kept and urges key players “to organize peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely elections” leading to a peaceful transfer of power.

East Timor: Elections a significant milestone | The Interpreter

For a nation that only won its hard-fought battle for independence 15 years ago, Timor Leste has travelled a long way fast. On 22 July, the Timorese people voted for the fourth time in parliamentary elections to elect the 65 members of the National Parliament. As the first election administered solely by the Timorese themselves, without the guiding hand of UN officials, Saturday’s poll was a significant milestone and a remarkable success. After all, this is a nation that has had to more or less build its democracy from scratch. Former revolutionary leaders exchanged their fatigues for business attire, drafted a constitution and created democratic institutions and governance. Of course there was help from the international community but there is no taking away from what has been achieved on the ground.

Kenya: How Kenya will announce presidential election results | The Star Kenya

The IEBC has outlined the votes tallying process right from polling stations to the final announcement of presidential results. Jubilee Party leader Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA principal Raila Odinga are the main opponents in the elections that is 12 days away. After results are tallied and announced at polling stations, chairman Wafula Chebukati said, Presiding Officers will type them, as captured in Form 34A, into KIEMS tablets. The POs will then scan the forms using the tablet and confirm that the typed results and those on the scanned form are accurate. They will then transmit the results electronically to the constituency tallying centre and the national tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. Form 34A will then be made available on the IEBC’s online portal, Chebukati said in a statement to the media on Wednesday.

Liberia: U.N. tasks Liberia to deliver ‘credible and transparent’ 2017 polls | Africanews

The United Nations (U.N.) Security Council, has called on stakeholders in Liberia to ensure that upcoming presidential polls are ‘free, fair, credible and transparent.’ The 15-member Council tasked the government to put in place an election security plan for the October 2017 elections which will see a transfer of power from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to a new leader. The statement also commended the government and its forces who are currently in complete charge of the security after the U.N. team exited in June last year. They also called for the full participation of women in the upcoming process.

Russia: Congress’s retaliation over Russian election hacking prompts stark response from Moscow | The Washington Post

Senior Russian officials and lawmakers on Wednesday attacked new financial sanctions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, saying they ended hopes for the detente between Moscow and Washington that President Trump promised during his campaign.  The new sanctions, which passed the House on Tuesday evening by an overwhelming vote of 419 to 3, targeted key Russian officials in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. Iran and North Korea were also targets. The sanctions’ passage cemented views in Moscow that Trump’s election has provided few deliverables for the Kremlin and that the American president is being held hostage by a foreign policy establishment that seeks conflict with Russia.