Former high-level Obama administration officials appeared before congressional Democrats on Thursday to offer suggestions on how to secure future elections from cyber threats. Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of Homeland Security, and Suzanne Spaulding, a former high-level cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), faced a myriad of questions from lawmakers about what Congress can do to help states shore up the cybersecurity of their election systems. The meeting took place less than a week after Homeland Security officials notified 21 states of evidence that Russian actors targeted their networks ahead of the 2016 election. Among their recommendations, Spaulding encouraged lawmakers to provide more resources to states for cybersecurity, suggesting that the money could be allocated through a grant program that also mandates a full assessment of their systems.
National: Twitter, With Accounts Linked to Russia, to Face Congress Over Role in Election | The New York Times
After a weekend when Americans took to social media to debate President Trump’s admonishment of N.F.L. players who do not stand for the national anthem, a network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia seized on both sides of the issue with hashtags such as #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee. As Twitter prepared to brief staff members of the Senate and House intelligence committees on Thursday for their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, researchers from a public policy group have been following hundreds of accounts to track the continuing Russian operations to influence social media discourse and foment division in the United States. For three weeks, a harsh spotlight has been trained on Facebook over its disclosure that Russians used fake pages and ads, designed to look like the work of American activists, to spread inflammatory messages during and since the presidential campaign.
The latest reporting regarding the scope of attempted Russian cyber-interference in the 2016 presidential election suggests election officials made a mistake in ending efforts to recount the contest in key states. Those recounts offered the best opportunity to identify and resolve issues that are now coming to light. We should study our errors to avoid repeating them — and to make sure recounts in the future are better at detecting hacking and other threats. Post-election efforts to recount the 2016 presidential vote did not get far. For example, the Michigan recount was shut down after just three days; a federal judge rejected a request to recount paper ballots in Pennsylvania; and while Wisconsin did conduct a recount, in many counties, officials neglected to hand-count paper ballots and did not examine vulnerable software in electronic voting machines. Just as Donald Trump continues to resist the finding that Russia manipulated our democratic process, he furiously contested the need to investigate the vote. His campaign and the Republican Party engaged in court battles to block the recounts in all three states. The exact outcome varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the bottom line was the same.
Mississippi’s constitution bars its citizens from voting ever again after being convicted of certain felonies. Now a legal group wants the federal courts to remove what it calls an illegal vestige of white supremacy by striking down most of these restrictions. Attorney Rob McDuff, who filed suit Thursday in Jackson, estimates that more than 50,000 Mississippians have been disqualified from voting since 1994 due to these convictions. About 60 percent are African-American, in a state whose population is 37 percent black. The suit describes the disenfranchising crimes as “an integral part of the overall effort to prevent African-Americans in Mississippi from voting. Once you’ve paid your debt to society, I believe you should be allowed to participate again,” said plaintiff Kamal Karriem, a 58-year-old former Columbus city councilman who pleaded guilty to embezzlement in 2005 after being charged with stealing a city cellphone. “I don’t think it should be held against you for the rest of your life.”
On Sept. 12, a New Hampshire Superior Court judge allowed Senate Bill 3 — a bill that changes the proof of residency requirements for voters who choose to register same-day — to take effect but blocked a portion of the bill imposing fines on voters who are unable to produce the required documents. Hanover town clerk Betsy McClain said that before the bill, voters who chose to register same-day could verbally confirm their residency and sign a document on-site if they were unable to produce proper identification on voting day, swearing under penalty of perjury that they live in the town of Hanover. Now, these voters will need to fill out a different form and return to the clerk’s office within 10 days of registration to provide proof of residence. Acceptable proof of residence documents include a driver’s license, a utility bill or, according to McClain, “[proof of] residence at an institution of learning.”
Ohio: Should registered voters in Ohio who haven’t voted in six straight elections be purged from the rolls? | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed a lower court ruling that rejected the state’s policy of starting to purge the registration of voters who fail to vote over a two-year period. Registration is canceled if the voter does not cast a ballot during the subsequent four years or update his or her address. Repeated notices are sent to voters whose registration has been flagged. Organizations who challenged Ohio’s policy say targeting inactive voters for eventual registration cancellation amounts to “voter suppression” that violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. “It is common sense that eligible voters have the right to choose when, how, and how often to vote,” said a statement on the case from ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho. “They shouldn’t be disenfranchised for exercising that right.”
The Travis County Commissioners court rejected all proposals to build its custom-designed voting system that was supposed to improve security, turning it toward more traditional methods of finding a replacement for its current system. Officials made this decision after proposals to build STAR-Vote did not meet the requirements to create a complete system that fulfills all of the county’s needs. A request for proposals went out late last year, with vendors submitting their ideas early this year. Since 2012, Travis County and the county clerk invested more than $330,000 in time and resources to evaluate election computer security and compare various voting systems. Ultimately, it decided to try to invent its own.
This fall’s statewide elections in Virginia and New Jersey are the first big test of security measures taken in response to last year’s attempts by Russia to meddle with the nation’s voting system. Virginia was among 21 states whose systems were targeted by Russian hackers last year for possible cyberattacks. While officials say the hackers scanned the state’s public website and online voter registration system for vulnerabilities and there’s no sign they gained access, state authorities have been shoring up the security of their election systems. One of the most drastic steps was a decision by the Virginia Board of Elections earlier this month to order 22 counties and towns to adopt all new paper-backed voting machines before November. The board decided that the paperless electronic equipment they had been using was vulnerable to attack and should be replaced.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday that Kurds had voted “yes” to independence in a referendum held in defiance of the government in Baghdad and which had angered their neighbors and their U.S. allies. The Kurds, who have ruled over an autonomous region within Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, consider Monday’s referendum to be an historic step in a generations-old quest for a state of their own. Iraq considers the vote unconstitutional, especially as it was held not only within the Kurdish region itself but also on disputed territory held by Kurds elsewhere in northern Iraq. The United States, major European countries and neighbors Turkey and Iran strongly opposed the decision to hold the referendum, which they described as destabilizing at a time when all sides are still fighting against Islamic State militants.
A variety of intelligence gathered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including some that is secret, led to the conclusion that Wisconsin’s elections system had been targeted last year by Russia, state election leaders said Friday. Elections officials repeated, as they said last week, there’s no evidence that Wisconsin’s elections systems were compromised or that Russian scans of state websites resulted in a security breach. “These scanning attempts were unremarkable, except for the fact that (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) later identified their source as being Russian government cyber actors,” said Michael Haas, the state’s elections administrator, and Mark Thomsen, chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, in a joint statement. The commission’s update Friday was the latest effort to explain fully what happened with the reported Russian run at Wisconsin’s systems, and the first to cite intelligence as a foundation for the federal report.