Jon Huntsman, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Russia, took a firm stance against Russia and its interference in the 2016 presidential election during his confirmation hearing Tuesday. “There is no question — underline no question — that the Russia government interfered with the U.S. election last year and Moscow continues to meddle in processes of our friends and allies,” Huntsman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in his opening statement. Trump has at times questioned the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the interference in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and ultimately help him win the White House.
Candidates are quizzing prospective campaign managers on anti-hacking plans. Democratic committees like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which was breached last year, have switched internally from email to encrypted messaging apps. And both parties are feverishly trying to spread advice and best practices to new campaigns before they become targets. The political world is officially obsessed with cybersecurity in 2017 — especially the Democrats burned by the hacking of their committees and operatives during the 2016 election. Much of the Democratic Party’s permanent apparatus has already changed its day-to-day operations as a result, while beginning the slow process of persuading its decentralized, startup-like campaign ecosystem to follow suit.
In yet another case of the cosmic satire in which we live hitting its mark a little too hard on the nose, the Trump administration last week nominated Texas lawyer Trey Trainor to a seat on the Federal Election Commission, an agency that’s supposed to enforce and interpret campaign finance laws. Trainor is notable mainly for his general opposition to campaign finance laws, so his nomination makes sense, in that most of Trump’s appointees so far either hate or are ignorant of the thing they’re expected to oversee. But Trainor’s nomination also provided an opportunity to make note, once again, of the similarities between Texas’ screwed-up politics and the nation’s increasingly screwed-up politics. If you haven’t heard of Trainor, you’re not alone — he’s well-known around the Capitol, but he’s a behind-the-scenes guy. His name rarely pops up in news stories.
U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters. Following Reuters exclusive report on Tuesday, CNN reported that the Republican National Committee paid in August more than $230,000 to cover some of Trump’s legal fees related to the probe. RNC spokesperson Cassie Smedile confirmed to Reuters that Trump’s lead lawyer, John Dowd, received $100,000 from the RNC and that the RNC also paid $131,250 to the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, the law firm where Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s lawyers, is a partner. The RNC is scheduled to disclose its August spending on Wednesday. The Trump campaign is due for a disclosure on Oct. 15.
Among true believers on the right, there is no sturdier fiction — no fairy tale more popular — than the one that insists American elections are plagued by voter fraud. “Election integrity” is the hallmark of GOP activists, and stories that purport to show voter fraud are a staple in the right-wing media-sphere. Every now and then, conservative pundits come up with an actual case of ballot-box shenanigans. But as numerous studies have shown, the incidence of voter fraud is infinitesimal. The real problem in American elections is that so few citizens trouble themselves to cast a ballot. Still, the myth has been circulating for decades now, having gained popularity around the same time that the Voting Rights Act guaranteed black citizens access to the ballot. (Wonder why?) The truth is that the GOP has long practiced the political art of intimidating voters of color at the ballot box, using tactics both subtle and not-so-subtle.
When George Washington gave his Farewell Address in 1796, he urged the American people “to be constantly awake” to the risk of foreign influence. In the wake of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 United States election, the president’s warning has a fresh, chilling resonance. The debate in the United States about foreign interference concentrates on who did what to influence last year’s election and the need for democracies to strengthen their cybersecurity for emails, critical infrastructure and voting platforms. But we need to pay far more attention to another vulnerability: our adversaries’ attempts to subvert our democratic processes by aiming falsehoods at ripe subsets of our population — and not only during elections. In the Cold War era, Soviet attempts to meddle in American democracy were largely unsuccessful. In 1982 Yuri Andropov, then the K.G.B. chairman, told Soviet foreign intelligence officers to incorporate disinformation operations — the so-called active measures meant to discredit adversaries and influence public opinion — into their standard work. They had an ambitious aim: preventing Ronald Reagan’s re-election.
Proposed rules for Iowa’s new voter identification law will add unnecessary complications that could make it harder for people to vote, according to several voting advocacy groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the League of Women Voters of Iowa and six other groups offered a joint statement on the proposed administrative rules as part of a public comment period. They believe the rules could hurt people of color, low-income individuals, the elderly and the disabled. “We know that when it’s harder and more complicated for people to vote, that essentially disenfranchises them,” said Daniel Zeno, policy council for ACLU of Iowa.
Judges called on state legislators Tuesday to pump the brakes on a plan to redraw judicial and prosecutorial districts around the state, but the man behind the plan said he’s aiming for an October vote. They also raised the possibility that some of the currently proposed districts, drawn in part to favor Republican election chances, won’t have enough lawyers living in them to produce strong candidate pools. “They are Republican-leaning without many lawyers living in them,” Judge Athena Brooks, who described herself as a Republican and spoke for the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges, said of the proposed new map.
Rhode Island: House OKs bill to empower Board of Elections to conduct post election audits | Providence Journal
A bill that would give the board of elections power to perform “post-election risk-limiting” audits aimed at improving the accuracy of election results passed the House. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Edith Ajello D-Providence, will allow the Board to create a board in 2018 that would conduct audits of statewide primaries, general, and special elections. In 2020 the board would also analyze the results of the presidential race. It passed unanimously, and awaits action by the Senate.
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson announced last week that his office has uncovered 54 instances of what could be voter fraud during Oregon’s November 2016 election. The announcement comes at a time when the nation still is dealing with unproven allegations that millions of people voted illegally during the election, a claim that led to the establishment of a presidential commission on electoral integrity. We still think that commission is pursuing a not-so-secret agenda to impose tighter restrictions on voting, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it will simply run out of steam.
The numbers aren’t there. Those who are convinced that widespread voter fraud is affecting the outcome of elections — including the unsubstantiated claim by President Trump that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally in last year’s presidential election, costing him the popular vote — will frequently point to anecdotes and hearsay to support their claims. But they can’t come up with the verified statistics to back those allegations. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the Republican who won her second term in November, announced Friday the results of a five-state review of the 2016 General Election that checked for instances of potential voter fraud, including people who voted in this state and another, those who voted twice in Washington state and those who voted using the registration of a deceased individual.
Claims of stolen same-sex marriage ballots, weather-damaged postal survey envelopes and other anomalies have prompted a stern warning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and calls for the entire process to be scrapped. The survey has been marred by anecdotal complaints since the ABS began mailing out ballot papers, including that some had been sent to residents’ former addresses, sparking concerns that they could be filled out illegally. At the weekend, survey envelopes at seven Canberra apartment blocks were reportedly found left out in the rain rather than delivered to individual letter boxes, while a Senate committee on Friday heard claims that some people had received postal packs without reply paid envelopes.
One afternoon in early September, a small group of journalists, policy makers, and visitors in Berlin gathered for a lunch panel discussion, titled “Who’s hacking the election—how do we stop the attackers?” Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic-security agency, was the guest of honor. In his remarks, he warned of the dangers of what’s known as “white propaganda”: information illegally collected and disseminated by hackers with the intent of manipulating public opinion against the German government and disrupting its upcoming parliamentary elections. “We and our partners are of the opinion that the background [of the hack on the Democratic National Committee] in the U.S. was Russian,” he said. Russian military intelligence, his office alleged, was very likely responsible for hacking and leaking top DNC officials’ emails during the 2016 campaign season, exposing sensitive internal-party communications that drove a wedge through the party. Maassen warned that a cyber attack on the German government now, so close to the country’s vote on September 24th, remained a possibility.
New Zealand’s jet fuel crisis is worsening by the day with airlines restricting ticket sales, politicians limiting travel to essential flights only on some routes in the final days of the election campaign and all but the most critical exports halted. Rationing is set to continue for another week after a digger on Thursday struck the sole jet fuel, diesel and petrol supply pipe to Auckland, the country’s biggest city and major transport hub for international visitors. Three thousand people a day are being affected by cancelled domestic and international flights. Another 6,000 people will be impacted by delays or disruptions to normal service, Air New Zealand said, and it had taken the “unusual” step of restricting ticket sales to all but essential or compassionate travel to try and manage the shortage.
Spanish police officers have raided three Catalan regional government departments and arrested 12 senior officials as Madrid steps up its battle to stop an independence referendum being held in less than two weeks’ time. On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the regional government said Guardia Civil officers were searching the Barcelona offices of the presidency and the ministries of economic affairs and foreign relations. He also confirmed that Josep Maria Jové, the secretary general of economic affairs and an aide to the Catalan vice-president, was among those detained – apparently in connection with the launch of web pages related to the referendum. Catalan ministers are due to hold an emergency meeting. Police and judicial authorities gave no details on the operation, saying a judge had placed a secrecy order on it.
Togo’s opposition stayed away from parliament on Tuesday, blocking the passage of the government’s bill for political reform and forcing a referendum. The bill was published last week on the eve of protests calling for a revision of the constitution that developed into demands for President Faure Gnassingbe to step down. A four-fifths majority was needed for it to be approved but the opposition no-show meant it only secured 62 out of 91 votes, with one abstention. Eric Dupuy, spokesman for the main opposition National Alliance for Change (ANC) party, called the National Assembly session a “sham”.