One of the public’s unanswered questions about Russia’s attempts to break into election systems last year was which states were targeted. On Friday, states found out. The Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year that it had evidence of Russian activity in 21 states, but it failed to inform individual states whether they were among those targeted. Instead, DHS authorities say they told those who had “ownership” of the systems — which in some cases were private vendors or local election offices. State election officials were finally contacted by federal authorities on Friday about whether their election systems were among those targeted for attack last year by Russian hackers. State election officials have complained for months that the lack of information from the federal government was hampering their efforts to secure future elections. “We heard that feedback,” says Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. “We recognize that it is important for senior state election officials to know what happens on their state systems.”
National: Facebook to turn over thousands of Russian ads to Congress, reversing decision | The Washington Post
Facebook on Thursday announced it would turn over to Congress copies of more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements bought through Russian accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, reversing a decision that had frustrated lawmakers. The company has been struggling for months to address the steadily mounting evidence that Russians manipulated the social media platform in their bid to tip the presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump. Democratic lawmakers in recent days had demanded that Facebook be more open about what it knows and to dig more deeply into its troves of data to analyze the propaganda effort, which the company has acknowledged involved at least 470 fake accounts and pages created by a shadowy Russian company that spent more than $100,000 targeting U.S. voters.
Editorials: Can Washington Protect America’s Electoral Process from the next Cyber Attack? | John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon/The National Interest
When one of us, after a four-decade career in the Marine Corps including nineteen months in command in Afghanistan, had the chance to address the National Association of Counties earlier this year, this was the key message:
We in the military have always been the ones on the front lines in defense of this country and its democracy. Now, it is you as well—those who are manning the voting centers, maintaining the voter registries, tabulating the tallies. As Congress gets fully back to work this fall, the issue of how the federal government can help local and state election authorities secure the United States against an attack needs to be front and center on their agenda—because it has become a national-security issue of very high order. In particular, Congress needs to approve and appropriate funds for an initiative like that proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Lindsey Graham, and provide several hundred million dollars to make the country’s voting more secure. Last year, a hostile power reached straight past the most sophisticated military and intelligence services on the planet, across vast seas and over towering mountain ranges, and sought to affect the fundamental outcome of the American 2016 presidential election through a strategic-influence campaign, which included cyber intrusions into the heart of the American voting system. In essence, the Russians, apparently on the direct orders of Vladimir Putin, took direct aim at America’s ability to choose its own government and thus, ultimately, its own way of life—arguably with some success.
Editorials: Trump’s ‘election integrity’ group is waging war on the right to vote | Andrew Gumbel/The Guardian
The Trump presidency is opening up a new battlefront in the intense and controversial war over American voting rights. After a decade of wrangling between Democrats who have sought to expand voting opportunities and Republicans who have invoked the specter of voter fraud to restrict them, the focus is now on purging registration lists – even at the risk of kicking large numbers of eligible voters off the rolls. Both Trump’s justice department and his newly formed Presidential Commission on Election Integrity are involved in broad data collection and new policy proposals to “clean up” the voter rolls in ways that critics fear will have a disproportionate impact on blacks, Latinos and newly naturalized citizens. The justice department (DoJ) has also begun issuing legal opinions to support states that have passed restrictive new voting rules, even when they appear to contradict existing federal law. Voting rights activists say these efforts are kicking voter suppression into a higher gear at a time when federal courts are ruling that a flurry of strict new voter ID laws in several Republican-run states discriminate against minority voters and college students.
A handful of lawmakers began the discussion Friday about what it might take to move Georgia to a new election system, an important but incremental step toward replacing the state’s aging voting machines. The meeting of the state House Science and Technology Committee represents a start. Any decision will likely take a few years and, depending on the type of system officials pick, could cost more than $100 million. Cheaper options are available, but the state’s leaders all need to agree on what they want. “We all want to have a system that is best in class and does all the things technology can provide for us,” said committee Chairman Ed Setzler, R-Acworth. Beginning that conversation now, he added, means the “committee starts out of session to look at these things and to look at what technological options can serve our state well.” Georgia’s current system, considered state-of-the-art when it was adopted 15 years ago, is now universally acknowledged by experts to be vulnerable to security risks and buggy software. Only a handful of states still use similar electronic systems, which voters know for their digital touch screens. A majority — 41 states — either have or are moving toward voting done entirely on paper or on a hybrid system that incorporates some kind of paper trail.
Kansas: Judges question challenge to voting machines, but case could change state law | The Wichita Eagle
Appeals judges strongly questioned Tuesday whether there’s a legitimate legal question for them to decide in Wichita statistician Beth Clarkson’s quest to use audit tapes to test the accuracy of voting machines. But the case could lead to an effort to change state law to make it easier for citizens to do accuracy tests on election equipment. Clarkson, a statistician at Wichita State University, is asking the judges to order a recount of votes on ballot questions in the 2014 election, using the paper tapes generated by voting machines as voters cast their ballots. At a Court of Appeals hearing Tuesday in Wichita, the lead judge on the three-judge panel repeatedly pressed Clarkson’s lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Randy Rathbun, about whether a recount would have any effect, since the election was settled years ago.
The General Assembly has approved a bill to establish post-election audits to ensure that equipment and procedures used to count votes are working properly. “This will go a long way toward ensuring public confidence in election results,” said Sen. James C. Sheehan, D-North Kingstown, who introduced the legislation at the urging of Common Cause. “Without the constant scrutiny and examination of election procedures, the democratic system could be called into doubt.” The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence. The audit would be a partial recount to verify the accuracy of the voting system.
Wisconsin: Supreme Court case offers window into how representatives choose their constituents | The Washington Post
Behind the locked doors of a “map room,” in a politically connected law firm’s offices across from the historic Capitol, three men worked in secret to ensure the future of the state’s newly triumphant Republican Party. They were drawing the legislative districts in which members of the Wisconsin Senate and State Assembly would be elected. When the men — two aides to legislative leaders and a lobbyist brought in to help — finished in the early summer of 2011, they headed across the street to present their work. “The maps we pass will determine who’s here 10 years from now,” read the notes for the meeting, which were made public as part of a lawsuit. “We have an opportunity and an obligation to draw these maps that Republicans haven’t had in decades.” The maps are now at the center of a Supreme Court case to be argued next month that could change the dynamics of American politics — if the justices decide for the first time that a legislative map is so infected with political favoritism that it violates the Constitution.
The Supreme Court of Estonia rejected the appeal of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) of the National Electoral Committee’s Sept. 6 decision not to ban electronic voting at the local government council elections taking place next month. The Supreme Court explained that, according to the Local Government Council Election Act, the National Electoral Committee has the right not to start electronic voting if the security or reliability of the electronic voting system cannot be ensured in such way that electronic voting could be conducted pursuant to the requirements of the act. The National Electoral Committee is not, however, required to cancel e-voting if it receives information indicating the possibility of adverse consequences.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s summons to Germany’s top cabinet ministers and senior military and intelligence officials for a meeting of the Federal Security Council signaled trouble. Such gatherings are rare, typically occurring only when the country faces a grave threat like a terrorist attack. There was just one item on the agenda that day last spring: how to protect Germany’s upcoming parliamentary elections from Russian cyber attacks. At the time, it seemed almost inevitable that Germany would suffer the same fate as France and the United States, where, officials say, the Kremlin attempted to alter the results of presidential elections with “fake news” and spear phishing attacks. But on the eve of Sunday’s elections, the Russians have done something few expected: they have largely disappeared. The trolls who spread distorted and falsified information before earlier elections have failed to make much of a splash here. The websites of the campaigns and major news media outlets are operating like normal.
Spanish police on Wednesday seized millions of ballot papers in Catalonia due to be used for an independence referendum which has been banned by Madrid, a source close to the case said. The source, who requested anonymity, told AFP that officers were currently counting them again, but that the number of ballots confiscated in Bigues, about 45 kilometres (28 miles) north of Barcelona, could reach nine million. The seizure comes as thousands took to the streets in Barcelona on Wednesday over the detention of 13 Catalan government officials as the wealthy northeastern region presses ahead with preparations for the October 1 vote.
Mark Zuckerberg marked his return from paternity leave Thursday with a concerted effort to put lipstick on the pig of Facebook’s role in swaying the 2016 presidential election. In a Facebook live address from an earth-toned, glass-walled office, the chief executive laid out a series of steps the company will take to “protect election integrity and make sure that Facebook is a force for good in democracy”. This proactive approach to a growing public relations problem is par for the course for Facebook. The company has a tendency to respond to negative press, and with US lawmakers making noise about the $100,000 in Facebook ads purchased by a Russian influence operation during the election, Zuckerberg may hope that he can pre-empt regulation. But the problem for Zuckerberg is not just that pigs don’t look good in lipstick. The problem is that more and more people are waking up to the fact that Facebook is less little piggy than it is out-of-control Tyrannosaurus Rex whose creator thought he was building a fun and profitable theme park until it was too late.
Oops!… They did it again. For what seems like the billionth time, U.S. voter records have been exposed, this time targeting Alaska. A cache of voter records containing the personal information of nearly 600,000 voters in Alaska was inadvertently exposed online. The culprit? An unsecured CouchDB database. And just, you know, a giant oversight. The cause of the hack was discovered by researchers at the Kromtech Security Research Center, who determined that the database of about 593,000 voters (that’s every registered voter in the state of Alaska) was accidentally configured for public access. That means it was just out there, floating in the breeze without any sort of password protection or security wall, making it accessible to anyone who knew where to look. No logging in, no verification, nada.
Fifty-three allegedly forged voter applications are being referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution, a decision by the State Elections Board that effectively closes the Secretary of State Office’s 2014 fraud investigation involving an attention-grabbing registration drive by the New Georgia Project. The unanimous vote Wednesday came as the case’s lead investigator said he found no wrongdoing by the group, which was founded by then-state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams to increase the number of minorities on voting rolls. It allows Attorney General Chris Carr to decide whether to prosecute those involved: 14 people that investigator Russell Lewis said essentially acted as independent contractors registering new voters.
Guam residents who register to vote through a volunteer registrar get into the Guam Election Commission’s database faster than applicants using the agency’s online registration service, according to GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan. Prospective voters are advised when they click on the online registration link on GEC’s website that the application process requires about 12 minutes, giving the “illusion that the process is entirely automated,” according to Pangelinan. The process, however, is anything but. After applicants fill out the form, which requires them to input either their driver’s license or Guam ID information, the data is then printed onto a paper spreadsheet and sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles for validation.
Responding to a question about when there might be online voting in Idaho, Phil McGrane, chief deputy to the Ada County clerk, didn’t waste words: “Not in my lifetime.” In 2010, Washington, D.C., experimented with an electronic voting system, inviting hackers to interfere with a mock school board election. Within hours, a University of Michigan professor and two graduate students had broken into the system, elected Futurama character Bender to the D.C. school board, replaced the “Thank you for voting” message with “Owned,” and programmed it to play the University of Michigan fight song, “Hail to the Victors.” The changes went unnoticed for 48 hours. “Unless you want Bender as president—and some of you might want that right now—we won’t be voting online,” McGrane told a contingent from the League of Women Voters Sept. 13 at the Ada County Courthouse.
Editorials: How the Kansas Legislature can take up where statistician has been stopped | The Wichita Eagle
Much good can come from Beth Clarkson’s 2 1/2-year quest to solve an unexplained pattern of voting results, but only if the Kansas Legislature can see the bipartisan importance. Clarkson, chief statistician for Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research with a Ph.D. in statistics, has tried since April 2015 to examine paper results from the 2014 general election. She wanted to answer why results tended to increase Republican votes in large precincts. Polling didn’t reflect the tally, which Clarkson reasoned could be caused by unseen demographic trends or fraud within the vote count. She sued Sedgwick County elections commissioner Tabitha Lehman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for paper results. Representing herself, Clarkson lost when her case was framed more as an open-records filing than a recount request. Her new lawyer called her “a brilliant statistician but a horrible lawyer” in a Kansas Court of Appeals hearing Tuesday.
Missouri: Boone County’s aging election equipment comes with estimated $1 million replacement price tag | Columbia Daily Tribune
Boone County’s aging voting equipment will need to be replaced in the next couple of years, and the estimated $1 million expense — once covered in the past by the federal government — solely will be the county’s responsibility. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, which reformed the U.S. voting process, awarded Boone County $888,700 more than a decade ago to purchase new equipment, including software, ballot counting equipment known as M100 machines and iVote machines, or the touchscreen ballots accessible through the American Disabilities Act.
The county’s voting equipment, which has a 10-year lifespan, has experienced an increasing number of errors in recent years and needs to be replaced, said Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks. Burks, appointed to the position in late July by Gov. Eric Greitens, said his office did not have enough time to meet the 2018 budget request deadline on Sept. 30 to find funding for replacement equipment next year. But he expects to have a plan for 2019.
If the separation-of-powers undertones in the judicial redistricting process weren’t already obvious, state Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, left no doubt Tuesday. The General Assembly is exercising its authority to redraw district and Superior Court maps “not for the benefit of lawyers, but for the benefit of the people of this state,” Burr said after presiding over a meeting of the House Select Committee on Redistricting he chairs. Several lawyers and judges agreed during the 2 ½ hour meeting it’s a good idea to update and reconfigure the judicial districts. The most recent time that was done Dwight Eisenhower was president, “The $64,000 Question” was the top-rated TV show, and Mitch Miller and The Drifters were among the biggest pop music acts.
Thanks to Arizona, there is an alternative to allowing elected politicians – focused on their self-interests or those of their party – to draw the congressional district boundaries every 10 years. Arizona voters in 2000 approved a different way. They changed the state constitution to establish an independent commission to do the work. Challenged in the Supreme Court in 2015, the use of an independent commission is now established as a legal alternative. State legislatures do not have to be involved. Perhaps Ohio could learn something from Arizona – ideas that could help Ohio devise a system to draw maps by focusing on the interest of the citizens instead of politicians and their parties.
The question reads, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” Ballots asking it have been posted to Australia’s 16m registered voters. They have until early November to return them; the result will be announced on November 15th. Rallies for and against are being held around the country. Earlier this month 30,000 supporters of gay marriage gathered outside Sydney’s town hall, waving placards with slogans like, “It’s a love story baby, just say yes.” One of those saying yes is Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister. But many Australians criticise him for calling the vote at all. Opinion polls consistently show that most Australians support gay marriage. Proponents say a simple vote in parliament, which also has a majority in favour, would have saved money and avoided a divisive campaign.
Canada: Government ‘fell short’ in protecting privacy during electoral reform consultation, privacy commissioner finds | National Post
The government “fell short” and “should have been more prudent” in preventing users’ personal information from being shared with third parties as they interacted with a much-maligned online electoral reform survey, Canada’s privacy commissioner has found. MyDemocracy.ca employed third-party scripts that could disclose users’ personal information to Facebook without their consent as soon as they loaded the website, according to the commissioner’s investigation. The responsible Privy Council Office also never conducted a privacy impact assessment related to the initiative. About 360,000 people had participated in the survey in December and January. An investigation from the privacy commissioner’s office says information retrieved about individuals could lead to “a fairly accurate picture of one’s personal activities, views, opinions, and lifestyle” and “be quite revealing about an individual’s Internet-based activities.”
Editorials: Like it or not, the far right is heading for Germany’s Bundestag | Alan Posener/The Guardian
On the face of it, Sunday’s general election will be the most boring in Germany’s history. The only question seems to be: will chancellor Angela Merkel continue her “grand coalition“ with the Social Democrats (SPD), or will she rule with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) or the Greens, or both? One thing, however, seems as certain as Merkel’s continued premiership, and it’s more important: the far-right populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party will enter the Bundestag. Polls put it at 10% or more. For the first time since the Reichstag fire of 1933, a nationalist, reactionary, racist party will sit in the building where the republic was proclaimed in 1918, where Nazis and communists helped destroy the democracy of Weimar, where the red flag was raised by Soviet soldiers in 1945, and which – redesigned by British architect Norman Foster – has come to represent the modern, multicultural and friendly Germany the world saw during the football World Cup in 2006, when Merkel had been in office for just one year.
Relations between the United States and the Iraqi Kurds, strong allies over decades of intermittent war, are on a collision course that weeks of strenuous U.S. efforts have failed to prevent. On Monday, Iraq’s Kurdistan region plans to hold an independence vote that the Trump administration says has already undermined the fight against the Islamic State, threatens next spring’s hoped-for reelection of the current Iraqi government and may ultimately destroy the self-sufficient Kurdish region itself. The rare U.S. inability to sway the Kurds — despite promises of more aid and the quick convening of U.S.- and U.N.-sponsored negotiations with Baghdad over long-standing Kurdish grievances — is a reminder that American influence over even its closest partners in the Middle East has always been limited.
Kenya’s Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it had nullified last month’s presidential election because the voting may have been hacked, and accused the electoral commission of failing to verify results before announcing them. It stopped short, however, of calling the vote rigged, and rejected the opposition’s assertion that President Uhuru Kenyatta had used state resources and undue influence to sway the outcome. The commission had declared Mr. Kenyatta the winner of the Aug. 8 vote, with 54 percent of the ballots, to 44 percent for the opposition leader, Raila Odinga — a margin of about 1.4 million votes. Mr. Odinga challenged the result, and said that the last two elections had also been stolen from him.
The European Union Mission to Liberia has reportedly deployed ten long-term Election Observer Teams across the country ahead of next month’s elections scheduled for October 10. The EU said the group of election experts consists of one woman and one man each. They are part of the EU Election Observation Mission to Liberia that will observe the Presidential and Legislative Elections. After three days of intensive briefings and preparations in Monrovia, the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Liberia deployed all 20 long-term-observers and drivers into the regions of the country. Ten woman and ten men from 20 different European countries are observing the Presidential and legislative elections in all 15 Liberian counties.
A record 806,043 New Zealanders have already voted, two days ahead of Saturday’s election. The advance voting statistics from the Electoral Commission show that by this day three years ago, 717,579 people have been to the polls. And by this stage in the election run-up in 2011, a total of just 334,558 votes had been cast. The numbers do not include overseas votes. A staggering 133,781 people voted yesterday alone, in what has been one of the most hotly-contested general elections in years. The release last night of the latest 1 News Colmar Brunton poll, conducted from September 16-19, saw National arrest a slide in the polls to rise six points to 46 per cent. Labour was down seven points to 37 per cent.
The Spanish police detained more than a dozen people in the region of Catalonia on Wednesday, drastically escalating tensions between the national government and Catalan separatists. The episode occurred less than two weeks before a highly contentious referendum on independence that the government in Madrid has vowed to block. With the backing of the constitutional court, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been stepping up efforts to prevent the referendum, scheduled for Oct. 1. The police raided the offices of the Catalan regional government early Wednesday and arrested at least 14 people, including Josep Maria Jové, secretary general of economic affairs. The arrests were not expected, but hundreds of mayors and other officials in Catalonia had been warned that they would be indicted if they helped organize a referendum in violation of Spanish law.