Germany: Germany on guard against election hacks, fake news |

As the clock ticks down to elections Sunday, Germany’s cyber defense nervously hopes it’ll be third time lucky after Russia was accused of meddling in the US and French votes. But even if Berlin avoids a last-minute bombshell of leaks or online sabotage, it sees Moscow’s hand in fanning fears of Muslim migrants that are driving the rise of the hard-right.
Forecasters say Chancellor Angela Merkel is almost certain to win. But she will also face, for the first time in German post-war history, a right-wing populist and anti-immigration party will have its own group on the opposition benches. The Alternative for Germany (AfD)—which calls Merkel a “traitor” for her 2015 welcome to refugees—has been promoted especially in internet echo chambers by far-right trolls and ultra-nationalists.

National: How Facebook Could Crack the Trump-Russia Case | Just Security

Facebook should be treated like a crime scene. The social media company likely has troves of data that could provide critical leads for the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The effort to investigate possible coordination between the Trump team and Russia has so far centered on the growing number of meetings and interactions between the campaign and Kremlin-linked figures. These meetings already tell us a lot about intent. For instance, with the revelation of the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; Paul Manafort, the chairman of the Trump campaign at the time, and a handful of Russians with various ties to the Kremlin, we now know that at the very least the Trump campaign at the highest levels were interested in working with the Russians during the election. And likewise, from the Jan. 6 Intelligence Community report, we know that Russians also wanted to help elect Donald Trump and effectively set up a campaign to do so.

National: Voter Fraud? A Trump Nominee Looks as if He Cast an Illegal Ballot | The New York Times

As President Trump’s voter integrity commission looks under rocks for possible voter malfeasance, its members might want to examine a presidential nominee awaiting confirmation by the Senate Finance Committee. Documents indicate that Jeffrey Gerrish, the president’s pick to be a deputy United States Trade Representative, moved from Virginia to Maryland last year, but opted in November to vote in the more competitive state of Virginia than his bright blue new home. The Senate Finance Committee, which has been considering Mr. Gerrish’s nomination, was briefed on the matter on Tuesday, including the fact that Mr. Gerrish had almost certainly voted illegally, according to three Democratic congressional aides familiar with the briefing. Public records back up that notion.

National: Can Geometry Fix Partisan Gerrymandering? | Bowdoin News

A mathematician and a political scientist joined forces this week to give a two-part talk at Bowdoin about gerrymandering, which is the practice of redrawing congressional districts to help ensure partisan outcomes. Though gerrymandering lands squarely in the political realm, math has always played a big role in congressional districting. Math determines how the U.S. counts voters in its Census and how those voters get divided up to apportion representatives to the government. And today, math could possibly lead the way to a more fair and just political system that is based on mathematically derived voting districts, according to an academic who visited Bowdoin this week. Moon Duchin, an associate professor of mathematics at Tufts University, gave a talk Monday evening about how she is applying her expertise in the geometry of groups and surfaces to gerrymandering. “We’re looking at aspects of this big mess that is US congressional and legislative redistricting, and trying to find places where math has something to say,” she said.

Editorials: The Electoral College Is a National Security Threat | Matthew Olsen & Benjamin Haas/Politico

In Federalist No. 68, his pseudonymous essay on “The Mode of Electing the President,” Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Electoral College could shield the United States “from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” Because of the “transient existence” and dispersed makeup of the electors, he argued, hostile countries would find it too expensive and time-consuming to inject “sinister bias” into the process of choosing a president. At the time, the new American leaders feared meddling from Great Britain, their former colonial master, or perhaps from other powers such as France, and they designed a system to minimize the prospect that Europe’s aging monarchies could seize control of their young democracy. Hamilton and his colleagues never could have envisioned a year like 2016, when an enemy state—Russia—was able to manipulate America’s election process with stunning effectiveness. But it’s clear the national security rationale for the Electoral College is outdated and therefore it should be retired. Simply put, it enables foreign powers to more easily pierce the very shield Hamilton imagined it would be.

Colorado: Only 531 of the 6,648 Colorado voters who unregistered since June have come back on the rolls | The Colorado Independent

Colorado voters have been in for a ride this summer, making national news for un-registering to vote by the thousands and switching their status to “confidential.” Between June 29 and Sept. 17 of this year, 6,648 Coloradans, most of them Democrats, unregistered according to numbers provided by the Secretary of State’s office. The kicker: Only 531 of them have re-registered, the office said today. That revelation drew rebuke from elections watchdogs in Colorado. “This is a direct result of a presidential commission whose creation was predicated on a false narrative,” said Denise Maes, the public policy director for the ACLU of Colorado. “I do hope all of these eligible voters eventually do re-register in time for the next election.”

Editorials: Promising news on dearth of voter fraud in Colorado | Denver Post

During the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump infamously sought to cast doubt on the integrity of voting systems by arguing that if he lost his supporters should interpret the defeat as proof of a rigged election. He even said he wouldn’t concede unless he won. After his surprising victory, Trump argued that as many as 5 million votes cast illegally during the 2016 presidential election cost him the popular vote. Numerous fact checkers have judged the statement to be false, and the country’s secretaries of state have certified their elections and found no evidence of widespread wrongdoing, but questions about voter fraud persist. No doubt, such questions will live on for some time, and they will do so even if Trump’s commission on voter fraud doesn’t find the massive wrongdoing the president is looking for. Against this worrisome backdrop, it’s good news to read that a recent study by Colorado’s secretary of state, Wayne Williams, in conjunction with counterparts in four other states, found scant evidence of fraud.

Florida: Nonprofit group files records request for info about online voter registration | Tampa Bay Times

A non-profit voter rights advocacy group, Access Democracy, founded by two veterans of Democratic politics, Hannah Fried and Alexis Prieur L’Heureux, has requested records related to online voter registration from the state of Florida. “With the implementation deadline just over a week away, we are concerned that Governor Scott and his administration may not be implementing the new system faithfully,” Fried said in a release. The group has asked for emails, audio files, photographs, communication records and other documents related to several aspects of Florida’s online voter registration system, including “technical readiness.”

Kansas: ACLU moves from defense to offense, starting in Kris Kobach’s home state | McClatchy

Flush with cash and a newfound demand for activism, the American Civil Liberties Union next month will launch a new effort to expand voting rights in all 50 states that top officials hope will finally let liberals play offense on an issue that has long bedeviled them. Rollout will start on Oct. 1 in Lawrence, Kansas — and that location is no accident. It’s the home state of Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state and a prominent Republican advocate of restricting voter access. He is co-chair of President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate so-far unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. The ACLU campaign, called Let People Vote, will forgo a federal approach to expanding voting rights; indeed it ignores Congress altogether. Instead, it will pressure each state to adopt individually tailored plans, including proposals such as creating independent redistricting commissions and restoring voting access for convicted felons.

Pennsylvania: System glitch let non-citizens register to vote | Associated Press

Some people who are in the U.S. legally but who are not citizens were mistakenly allowed to register to vote in Philadelphia because of a glitch in Pennsylvania’s electronic driver’s licensing system, a city election official said Wednesday. Al Schmidt, a Republican who sits on Philadelphia’s three-member election commission, said that since 2006 at least 168 noncitizens registered to vote in the city through the motor voter driver’s licensing system. In some cases, they voted, and some of them voted in more than one election, Schmidt said. Schmidt said he became aware of those people because they had contacted his office. Many more noncitizens could have mistakenly registered through the system in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania, he said.

U.S. Territories: The Trump administration’s attack on territorial voting rights | Slate

Over the last eight months, the Trump administration has launched an assault on voting rights designed to limit access to the ballot. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department has defended voter ID laws and state efforts to purge voters from the rolls, and the president’s voter fraud commission has peddled falsehoods to lay the groundwork for a rollback of voting rights laws. This month, the administration has urged a court to strip voting rights from an entire class of people. This latest gambit involves the rights of United States citizens who relocate from a state to a U.S. territory. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), states must allow citizens to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections when they relocate anywhere outside the U.S. The law is meant to be global, even cosmic: Citizens retain their right to vote absentee for federal offices if they move to a foreign country, a research station in Antarctica, or the International Space Station. But bizarrely, the statute does not require states to let citizens vote absentee if they move to four U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, or American Samoa. It does compel states to let citizens vote absentee if they move to a fifth permanently inhabited territory, the Northern Mariana Islands.

Virginia: Voting machines to be replaced due to security worries | The Progress-Index

Colonial Heights and Hopewell are among 22 localities in Virginia that have received a last-minute order from the State Board of Elections to replace their voting machines in time for the election coming up on Nov. 7. At its Sept. 8 meeting, the board voted to “decertify” all voting machines using direct recording electronic (DRE) technology, also known as “touchscreen” machines. The board took the step in response to concerns raised by Department of Elections staff over the machines’ potential vulnerability to hackers and the lack of a paper trail to verify the accuracy of the votes they record. In particular, reports from an annual conference of computer hackers known as DEFCON, held last summer, showed that hackers had successfully breached the security of DRE voting machines, including one report that disclosed the password for a machine that was in use somewhere in Virginia.

Europe: EU agency to fight election hacking | EU Observer

A more robust EU cyber agency could help member states defend their elections against “hybrid attacks”, the European Commission has said. Speaking at the launch of new cybersecurity proposals in Brussels on Tuesday (19 September), Julian King, the Commission’s security chief, said some hacker attacks had “political objectives”. “They can target our democratic institutions and can be used with other tools, such as propaganda and fake news, in hybrid attacks,” he said. “We need to be as serious about security online as we are offline,” he said. He also hailed Finland’s new “centre of excellence” on hybrid warfare, which is designed to help EU countries fight novel assaults. King did not name Russia, but Russian hackers and media recently attacked the French and US elections.

Germany: Could hackers derail one of the most important elections in Europe? | The Daily Dot

There’s one shadowy figure that will likely linger in the minds of Germans on Sunday as they head to the voting booths to elect the country’s government: the hacker. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party are expected to retain their position in government with a coalition of other parties. It’s the third high-profile election on mainland Europe in 2017, following the Netherlands and France. Both staved off far-right contenders to bring some stability to the European Union, which is contending with Brexit negotiations and relations with U.S. President Donald Trump. After last November’s U.S. presidential election and talk of Russian interference, German officials have repeatedly issued warnings about maintaining the election’s security. As election day approaches, the specter of hacking threats still looms.

Iraq: Manafort Working on Kurdish Referendum Opposed by U.S. | The New York Times

Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq. The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election. In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.

Kenya: Election annulled after result called before votes counted, says court | The Guardian

Kenya’s supreme court has said it annulled presidential elections held in August because the polls were “neither transparent nor verifiable” and blamed the country’s electoral commission for the shortcomings. Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent president of the east African state, won a second term by a margin of 9%, defeating his long-term rival, Raila Odinga, in the election last month. The country now faces new elections in October, and possible lengthy political instability. The court’s majority decision to annul the poll – the result of which was announced three weeks ago – surprised many observers and embarrassed local, African and western observers who said they had found no major problems with the election. On Wednesday, the court offered a detailed explanation of why it annulled the 8 August election – the first decision of its kind in Africa.

National: Paper ballots are back in vogue thanks to Russian hacking fears | USA Today

Once about as newsworthy as water meters, the voting machines and computers used to record and tally the nation’s ballots are suddenly a hot button issue due to mounting evidence Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. According to the FBI, as many as 39 states had their election systems scanned or targeted by Russia. There’s no evidence of votes changed. But given the stakes, some state agencies that run elections are trying to curb any further interference prior to mid-term elections in November. Their tool of choice: Ensuring systems can’t be hacked, and if they are, making those breaches immediately obvious. To do this, some are taking the unusual move of rewinding the technological dial, debating measures that would add paper ballots — similar to how many Americans voted before electronic voting started to become widespread in the 1980s. 

Kenya: Court blames election commission for botched vote | AFP

Kenya’s Supreme Court on Wednesday placed the blame for last month’s annulled presidential vote firmly on the country’s election committee, in its full ruling detailing the judges’ decision. Deputy chief justice Philomena Mwilu described “disturbing, if not startling, revelations” about the conduct of the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and singled it out for ignoring a Supreme Court order to open up its computer servers after opposition allegations of hacking. “Our order of scrutiny was a golden opportunity for the IEBC to place before the court evidence to debunk the petitioner’s claim,” Mwilu read from the court’s detailed judgement on Wednesday.

Spain: ‘Stop this radicalism and disobedience,’ Prime Minister tells Catalan leaders | The Guardian

Spain’s prime minister has called on Catalan separatist leaders to end their “escalation” as several thousand people took to the streets of Barcelona to protest at Madrid’s attempts to stop a banned referendum on independence. “Stop this escalation of radicalism and disobedience once and for all,” Mariano Rajoy said in a televised statement on Wednesday night as protesters remained in the centre of the city after a day-long demonstration. Catalonia’s president earlier accused the Spanish government of suspending the region’s autonomy after police intensified efforts to stop a vote on independence that has sparked one of the worst political crises since Spain’s return to democracy four decades ago.

Togo: Internet slowdown in Togo ahead of another presidential limits protest | Africanews

Internet connection has been intermittent in Togo hours ahead of another planned protest for the reinstatement of the 1992 constitution that stipulates a two-term presidential limit. The internet slowdown started last night after the boycott of a constitutional reform vote by the opposition in parliament who described it as a sham, and called for another round of demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday. Bandwidth has been reduced and WhatsApp has been totally blocked in the country creating difficulties in accessing the internet, Togolese journalist Emmanuel Agbenonwossi told Africanews.