Wisconsin: Authorities didn’t tell Wisconsin about Russian hacking for a year | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin officials for a year were not told about specific attempts by the Russian government to gain access to the state’s voter registration database, the leaders of the state Elections Commission said Friday. Friday’s statement from the commission comes after a week of conflicting reports about what Russian agents attempted to do and when state and federal officials knew about it. Wisconsin systems were targeted in July and August 2016. Wisconsin officials were aware of the attempts but not that Russian government actors were behind them, according to Friday’s statement and public records. In one of the incidents, the attack was targeted at a different state agency, not the Elections Commission.

Wisconsin: State has made progress heading off hackers but more could be done | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Russian hacking attempts grabbed headlines this week, but they weren’t the Wisconsin elections agency’s first cyber attack with an international flavor. For a day in August 2011, an older version of the state’s elections website and several other state sites were knocked out of commission by a cyber vandal. The elections site had its homepage plastered with the phrase “hacked by sovalye” — a phrase that appeared to refer to the Turkish word for “knight.” Since then, the state government as a whole has gotten more serious about protecting itself from internet attacks — efforts that may have paid off last year amid Russian attempts to influence, or undermine confidence in, the November elections. 

Germany: Far right’s Frauke Petry plans new political party in Germany | Politico

Frauke Petry said she plans to form a new political group in the German parliament after leaving the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Petry, the party’s former leader who quit following the group’s stunning election results last week, told newspaper Welt am Sonntag in an interview Sunday that she wants to form a new party in the Bundestag, but would not reveal what it would be called. She also said that she and her colleagues would “soon form a group and perhaps a faction” with the goal of running in the 2019 Saxon regional parliament election. Still, Petry said she does not hope to see members leaving the AfD en masse along with her.

India: Tibetans living in exile to vote first time in Himachal assembly elections | Times of India

It is for the first time that Tibetans living in India will participate in assembly elections in India. They are all set to cast their vote for new government in Himachal Pradesh. Tibetans started registering themselves as voters during parliamentary elections. This time too new voters have registered for upcoming polls in the state. Officials said that about 300 new voters have been registered this time. This hill town is considered as the global capital of the Tibetan residents across the world. Voting rights to Tibetans were granted in 2014. There are mixed reactions from the community on the move. Majority of the Tibetans believe that Indian citizenship would affect their freedom movement. Tibetan government in exile has not put any restrictions on Tibetans in this regard stating that it’s a matter of personal choice.

Russia: “No rules”: Russian activist’s death a symbol of pre-election violence | Reuters

Russian opposition activist Ivan Skripnichenko died after being attacked by a man angry he opposed Vladimir Putin. Over a month later, nobody has been arrested, his family can’t see his autopsy, and authorities say he probably died of heart disease. The assault on the 36-year-old father-of-two is one of a growing number of vicious attacks on opposition figures in the run-up to a presidential election in March which Putin, the incumbent, is widely expected to contest. Most activists do not believe that Putin or the Kremlin have a hand in the attacks, which have included caustic liquid being thrown in a victim’s eyes, a car being set alight, and, in one case, an activist being bashed over the head with an iron bar. But critics say the way the authorities have handled the cases – it’s rare for anyone to be arrested and a nationalist group which says its carries out such attacks openly boasts about its activities – shows that they are at best turning a blind eye, and at worst tacitly condoning the violence.

Spain: Chaotic, violent referendum in Catalonia shows landslide support for secession from Spain | The Washington Post

The results of a controversial and chaotic referendum in the Catalonia region of northeast Spain on Sunday showed landslide support for independence for the restive but affluent area, a lopsided vote sure to be vigorously challenged by the constitutional court and central government in Madrid as illegitimate and illegal. According to the Catalan government, 90 percent of the ballots cast were for independence — with 2,020,144 voting yes and 176,566 no. Minutes after the first few thousand votes were posted, the regional president and leading secessionist, Carles Puigdemont, appeared on stage to announce that Catalonia had won “the right to independence” and called on Europe to support its split from Spain. But nothing about the vote was regular — or orderly, transparent or peaceful. Images of police beating voters in stylish, cosmopolitan Barcelona fueled a widespread perception that Europe, in particular, and the West, in general – far from cheering on the breakup of Spain – face yet more tensions and dislocation. And it is far from clear that Catalonia is any closer to independence. The vote left the region and nation deeply divided.

Spain: Clashes during Catalan independence vote injure hundreds | The Washington Post

Just minutes after the first boisterous voters entered the polling station at an elementary school here on Sunday, dozens of National Police officers in riot gear smashed through the front window and began searching for the ballot boxes. But the activists who organized this controversial vote on independence for the Catalan region were two steps ahead. As the police forced their way through shouting crowds into the polling station, the organizers spirited away the ballots and hid them in the classrooms amid coloring books and crayons. An hour later, after police had driven away in their big black vans, under a hail of insults, the ballot boxes reemerged and the voting recommenced. The pattern was repeated again and again across hundreds of polling stations Sunday in the Catalan region of northeast Spain, where a secessionist movement is pushing ahead with a disputed referendum on independence that the central government in Madrid, backed by the courts, has called illegitimate and illegal.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for September 25 – October 1 2017

In a public hearing of an election security task force, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that Russian probes and attempted hacks of state election systems in the last election are “a wake up call” for upcoming state and congressional elections in 2018. Johnson said that as his department initially uncovered the Russian probes he worried about the ramifications. “Last year, when we saw these voter registration databases being targeted, I was very worried it was the run-up to a huge catastrophic attack,” that would result in the deletion of voter registration information, he said. “We were very worried about that and we continue to worry about the ability of bad cyber actors to compromise voter registration data.” Johnson also suggested that Congress could institute “federal minimum standards” for cybersecurity election-related systems — though he encouraged lawmakers to tread lightly, given that states are responsible for administering elections and regard it as “their sovereign process.”

Twitter briefed staff members of the Senate and House intelligence committees for their investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election amid disclosures that the social media network may have been used even more extensively than Facebook in the Russian influence campaign last year. In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using “bot” accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about emails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers.

In a CNN oped, President Obama’s ethics czar Norm Eisen suggests that 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.”

A lawsuit in federal court is challenging the Mississippi constitution’s lifetime disenfranchisement of citizens convicted of certain felonies. “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.”

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has 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. 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.

Travis County Texas has rejected proposals to build Star-Vote, a 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. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir collaborated with experts to design of STAR-Vote — with the STAR standing for “Secure, Transparent, Auditable, Reliable.” It came in response to security concerns, but was supposed to also be quick, accurate and accessible for voters with disabilities. It would also create a paper trail, which could be used if a recount becomes necessary.

Election security watchdogs say they’re encouraged by Virginia’s recent decision to get rid of its paperless voting machines. Still, Susan Greenhalgh, election specialist for Verified Voting, says using paper ballots is only the first step, and that they need to be counted to detect tampering. “We need to use them to audit the election results. It’s like we can have a seatbelt in our car but unless we actually strap in, that seat belt doesn’t give us any safety,” she says.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said 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. Gohdar Jadir Ibrahim, Director of Awrosoft Company, the website developer responsible for the Kurdistan Referendum e-voting portal, confirmed there were hacking attempts to prevent people of the Kurdistan Region in the Diaspora from voting, but that they were unsuccessful in compromising the vote.

In another independence vote, tensions were high as voters defied the Spanish government to participate in today’s referendum on Catalonian independence. The pro-sovereignty administration of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says that as many as 5.3 million people are eligible to vote in the unilateral poll and has vowed to declare independence within 48 hours of a victory for the yes campaign.

Kenya’s main opposition coalition walked out of negotiations on how a rerun of last month’s annulled presidential election will be managed and threatened street protests, setting back preparations for the Oct. 26 ballot. The officials quit the talks because of plans by the ruling Jubilee Party to remove powers from the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission.