Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a multifaceted election cybersecurity bill Tuesday, including a bug bounty program for systems manufacturers and a grant program for states to upgrade technology. “While the Intelligence Committee’s investigation is still ongoing, one thing is clear: The Russians were very active in trying to influence the 2016 election and will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in democracies,” said Collins in a statement celebrating the bill. “The fact that the Russians probed the election-related systems of 21 states is truly disturbing, and it must serve as a call to action to assist states in hardening their defenses against foreign adversaries that seek to compromise the integrity of our election process.”
National: Fiery exchanges on Capitol Hill as lawmakers scold Facebook, Google and Twitter | The Washington Post
Senators from both parties took tech company officials to task in a hearing Wednesday for failing to better identify, defuse and investigate Russia’s campaign to manipulate American voters over social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. In the second of three Capitol Hill hearings this week on Russian’s online information operation, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee challenged Facebook, Google and Twitter in strikingly direct terms that, at times, seemed to carry the implicit threat of legislation that could rein in the nation’s wildly profitable technology industry. “I don’t think you get it,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), whose home state includes all three companies. “What we’re talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we’re talking about is the beginning of cyberwarfare. What we’re talking about is a major foreign power with sophistication and ability to involve themselves in a presidential election and sow conflict and discontent all over this country. We are not going to go away gentlemen. And this is a very big deal.”
Editorials: Beware: this Russian cyber warfare threatens every democracy | Natalie Nougayrède/The Guardian
Anyone in Europe and Britain worried about the state of US democracy should take time to watch the videos of this week’s congressional hearings over Russian online meddling in the 2016 presidential election. If the words “checks and balances” mean anything, this surely is it. My favourite moment is when senator Dianne Feinstein leans into the microphone and says sternly to the Facebook, Twitter and Google representatives (whose evasive answers have exasperated her): “You don’t get it! This is a very big deal. What we’re talking about is cataclysmic. It is cyber warfare. A major foreign power with sophistication and ability got involved in our presidential election.” We don’t yet know the full picture. In particular, we don’t know if Russian-promoted bots, trolls and online ads had an impact that in any way altered the outcome of the US election. At this stage, to claim they did may be crediting Vladimir Putin with more power than he actually wields. What emerged from the hearings is that Russia’s likeliest goal was to sow discord and confusion among citizens of the world’s most powerful democracy.
Georgia: Attorney General Quits Representing Election Officials In Lawsuit After Server Wiped | Associated Press
The Georgia attorney general’s office will no longer represent state election officials in an elections integrity lawsuit in which a crucial computer server was quietly wiped clean three days after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned. The lawsuit aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized touchscreen election technology, which does not provide an auditable paper trail. The server in question was a statewide staging location for key election-related data. It made national headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn’t fixed for six months after he first reported it to election authorities. Personal data was exposed for Georgia’s 6.7 million voters as were passwords used by county officials to access files. The assistant state attorney general handling the case, Cristina Correia, notified the court and participating attorneys Wednesday that her office was withdrawing from the case, according to an email obtained by the AP. Spokeswoman Katelyn McCreary offered no explanation and said she couldn’t comment “on pending matters.”
A government watchdog group is suing Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, accusing her office of allowing voters to be illegally purged from the state’s voting roles. Common Cause Indiana is asking a federal judge to put a stop to what it calls “discriminatory and illegal” practices the Republican secretary of state’s office adopted in the wake of a new state law that went into effect in July. Lawson’s general counsel has dismissed the allegations as “baseless.” At issue is how the election division in Lawson’s office allows local officials to remove voters from their rolls if it is believed that they have moved to another state. Common Cause says the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 allows voters to be removed only if they have confirmed in writing that they have moved, or if they fail to respond to a written notice and do not cast a ballot for at least two general election cycles. But Lawson’s office is allowing elections officials to purge registered voters if they show up as recently registered in another state in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.
Maine: Ranked-choice voting supporters prepare for ‘people’s veto’ as delay bill takes effect | Portland Press Herald
A bill delaying Maine’s switch to a ranked-choice voting system will apparently become law without Gov. Paul LePage’s signature. LePage, a vocal opponent of the ranked-choice voting ballot initiative passed by voters last year, told Maine Public on Friday that he will neither sign nor veto the bill that delays adoption of the new system until 2021. Instead, LePage indicated he will allow the bill to take effect without his signature. The governor’s communications office did not respond to a request for comment from the Portland Press Herald on Friday evening. But LePage’s decision to hold onto the bill for the full 10 days allowed under Maine’s Constitution could hamper supporters of ranked-choice voting from gathering signatures on Election Day for a “people’s veto” to implement the process without delay. Even so, LePage seemed to welcome the prospect of a people’s veto campaign.
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders on Monday opposed a plan by federal judges to use an outside expert to help them examine and possibly redraw General Assembly district lines, arguing that it’s premature to hire one and questioning the expert’s impartiality. An attorney for GOP mapmakers objected to the judicial panel’s intentions — announced last week — to appoint a Stanford University law school professor as what’s called a “special master.” The same three judges last year struck down nearly 30 districts originally drawn in 2011 by the GOP-controlled legislature, determining they unlawfully relied too heavily on race. The General Assembly approved new lines in August, but the judges wrote last week they remained concerned that seven House and two Senate districts “either fail to remedy the identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legally unacceptable.”
Liberia’s Supreme Court will rule Monday on a petition asking to delay the runoff presidential election after a complaint said the National Election Commission failed to investigate claims of irregularities in the first round of the vote to replace Africa’s first elected female president. All activity to prepare for Tuesday’s runoff has been halted until the court’s decision. A delay of the vote is almost certain, as the electoral commission has said it would be hard to meet deadlines now. The court heard arguments Friday. Charles Brumskine, the Liberty Party candidate who placed third, has asked the court to grant an Oct. 27 petition to halt the runoff vote until the claims of irregularities are investigated. He argued before the packed court that the Oct. 10 first round was marked by fraud. His party petitioned the court to compel the election commission to investigate the complaints.
Catalonia’s ousted leader Carles Puigdemont agreed on Tuesday to a snap election called by Spain’s central government when it took control of the region to stop it breaking away, but he said the fight for independence would go on. Spain’s High Court issued a summons for Puigdemont and 13 members of his sacked administration to testify in Madrid on Thursday and Friday as the court starts processing charges of rebellion, sedition and breach of trust against them. Under Spain’s legal system, a judge will then decide whether Puigdemont should go to jail pending a comprehensive investigation and potential trial.
National: Lawyers’ Committee spearheading election protection efforts in communities across U.S. | Wisconsin Gazette
With Election Day in many states less a week away, Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, is ramping up its efforts to safeguard voting rights across the country. Multiple states have attempted to impose severe restrictions on the right to vote. While courts have batted down many of these efforts to limit the franchise, the confusion surrounding recent rulings and the lack of accurate information could disrupt voting this election cycle. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is spearheading Election Protection’s efforts to protect voters this election cycle, using hotlines, field monitors and voter education, as well as its expansive network of national partners and state advocates, to respond to any questions or concerns voters may have.
Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed Thursday said just 34 of over 15,000 votes were flagged as possible crossover voters in last month’s Republican Senate runoff, and that the actual numbers might be far lower. “To say this is much ado about nothing would be a dramatic understatement,” Reed said in a phone interview. “I’m not even sure why this is being discussed. That’s not a major issue at all.” The Alabama Legislature earlier this year banned voters who cast ballots in one party’s primary from voting in another party’s runoff. The new law made such crossover voting a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The law only applies to primaries and runoffs. All registered voters can cast ballots in the Dec. 12 general election for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat.
Two senators introduced a new election security bill with the aim of providing assistance to states in order to protect against cyberattacks on voting infrastructure. The bipartisan bill — the Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act — was put forward by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). The aim of the bill, according to Collins, is to “assist states in protecting the integrity of their voting systems. “Our bill seeks to facilitate the information sharing of the threats posed to state election systems by foreign adversaries, to provide guidance to states on how to protect their systems against nefarious activity and, for states who choose to do so, to allow them to access some federal grant money to implement best practices to protect their systems,” Collins said on the Senate floor. Collins said that she knew of “no evidence to date that actual vote tabulations were manipulated in any state” during the 2016 U.S. election, but noted that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found 21 states had election systems probed by Russian hackers.
Fewer than one in five polling places were fully accessible to voters with disabilities during the 2016 general election, a government report shows — a finding that has prompted federal officials to recommend the Justice Department adopt stricter compliance rules. The report released Thursday by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office comes less than a week before mayoral elections in Atlanta and New York, elections for governor in New Jersey and Virginia and a special U.S. House election in Utah, and gives a window of only a year to address problems before the 2018 congressional elections. The bottom line in the report, provided to The Associated Press in advance of its publication, is that accessibility for voters with disabilities has not kept pace with the increase in early voting that has occurred in many states since the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Both early voting and the disabilities access improvements are top goals in making it easier to vote.
National: Trump and Sessions Denied Knowing About Russian Contacts. Records Suggest Otherwise. | The New York Times
Standing before reporters in February, President Trump said unequivocally that he knew of nobody from his campaign who was in contact with Russians during the election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told the Senate the same thing. Court documents unsealed this week cast doubt on both statements and raised the possibility that Mr. Sessions could be called back to Congress for further questioning. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, unsealed his first charges Monday in a wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to disrupt the presidential election and whether anyone close to Mr. Trump was involved. Records in that case show that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser, had frequent discussions with Russians in 2016 and trumpeted his connections in front of Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions. For months, journalists have revealed evidence that associates of Mr. Trump met with Russians during the campaign and the presidential transition. But the court documents represent the first concrete evidence that Mr. Trump was personally told about ties between a campaign adviser and Russian officials.
National: Researcher discovers over 250 of Trump’s web domains are communicating with Russian servers, sharing weird files | BGR
The US Presidential election is almost a full year in the rear view mirror, but many are still working diligently to determine whether or not everything that happened during the course of the campaigns and voting process was above board. A new report from researchers at Unhack The Vote alleges that Donald Trump’s various web properties could hold a clue as to the President’s communication ties with Russia, and the evidence is quite substantial.
Editorials: Florida should help protect Puerto Ricans’ voting rights | Katherine Culliton-González/Miami Herald
Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico 2 weeks ago, creating devastating damage and a humanitarian crisis for 3.5 million U.S. citizens. Today, 88 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents lack electricity, 43 percent lack water, the health care and school systems are in shambles, and over 58 citizens have died, while the president has been throwing paper towels at people and tweeting racist diatribes. All this is exacerbated by 100 percent of Puerto Ricans lacking equal access to voting rights. Under the 1917 Jones Act, Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million U.S. citizens do not have voting representatives in Congress, and cannot cast votes for president. The Jones Act was in the news recently, as it restricted non-U.S. ships from docking in Puerto Rico. After being temporarily lifted, the Act’s colonialist shipping restrictions are back in place, limiting access to life-saving supplies.
Georgia’s attorney general announced Wednesday his office will not defend the state against claims it knowingly used antiquated voting technology in recent elections despite knowing it was vulnerable to being hacked. The Coalition for Good Governance and Georgians for Verified Voting, both of which advocate for voting transparency, sued Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in Fulton County Superior Court on July 3. The case was removed to federal court in August. The proceedings are pending. However, it was recently revealed that a computer server crucial to the lawsuit was erased four days after the suit was filed in state court, according to Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, “there’s conflicting information between what the attorney general has stated and what defendants have stated regarding the destruction of records.” “It suggests there’s something very troubling and serious happening,” Marks said. Earlier this week the state attorney general’s office notified U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg that Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr is stepping down from the case.
Seizing on a national spotlight about the drawing of political maps, Louisiana residents trying to rework the state’s system for divvying up electoral districts on Wednesday (Nov. 1) announced a January summit they hope will bring about changes. “We have a problem with the current structure,” said Stephen Kearny, chairman of the event and co-founder of a grassroots, bipartisan group called Fair Districts Louisiana. “No matter how virtuous our politicians are, the conflict of interest in being able to choose your own voters in itself provokes bad behavior.” Fair Districts Louisiana is working with LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs on the daylong summit on Jan. 19. The event aims to start talks about revamping Louisiana’s current map-drawing method ahead of the next redistricting cycle tied to the 2020 Census.
Concerned that Russian efforts to interfere with American elections “continue to this very day,” Sen. Susan Collins said Thursday that the nation must beef up security to fend off cyberattacks by foreign hackers. The Maine Republican said if an adversary succeeded in compromising a U.S. election, it would “undermine public confidence in free and fair elections, a bedrock of our democracy.” Collins and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, introduced legislation this week they hope can stave off foreign meddling with American election systems. Collins told colleagues on the Senate floor Thursday that foreign hackers with ties to Russia were probing voter databases during last year’s presidential election in many states and succeeded in accessing them twice.
Republican leaders in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put on ice a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s congressional districts approved after the 2010 census. House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati asked Justice Samuel Alito in a filing for a stay of the lawsuit by five Pennsylvania voters against the governor and elections officials. The request said a trial in the case could occur in about a month, as the justices are considering a Wisconsin gerrymandering case with what they call “substantively identical claims.” A lawyer for the plaintiffs said Wednesday they oppose the request to Alito and said they were prepared to respond.
Wisconsin: Report: Robin Vos confronted John Kasich over Wisconsin redistricting position | Wisconsin State Journal
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos confronted 2016 presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in September over his stance on partisan redistricting in Wisconsin, according to a report published Sunday in New York magazine. During a meeting of national statehouse leaders in Columbus, Ohio, Kasich “got into a tussle” with Vos after the Republican from Rochester brought up the U.S. Supreme Court case involving redistricting in Wisconsin, the report said. According to the report, Vos “amicably” approached Kasich, who is also a Republican, during the meeting and then swore at him for supporting the challenge to Wisconsin’s legislative districts, which opponents say unfairly benefit GOP candidates.
Estonia plans to block access to the country’s vaunted online services for 760,000 people from midnight on Friday to fix a security flaw in some of the Baltic country’s identity smartcards that was identified earlier this year. Estonia is seen as a leader in providing government services online and has championed the issue within the European Union in recent years, and the security issue leaves it with its much-touted digital IDs in an awkward position. A nation-wide online identity system allows citizens access to most government and private company services via the web, including banking, school reports, health and pension records, medical prescriptions and voting in government elections. But Estonia’s online ID service ran afoul of an encryption vulnerability identified by researchers earlier this year that exposes smartcards, security tokens and other secure hardware chips made by the German company Infineon.
Estonia: A test case for Russian hacking threat – e-voting grows despite tampering concerns | Global Journalist
Tiny Estonia might seem an unlikely place to see the future of technology. With just 1.3 million people, the country has fewer people than San Diego and is just three decades removed from Soviet rule. But “E-stonia,” as its known, has also brought the world Skype as well as up-and-coming startups like robotics firm Starship Technologies and payments provider TransferWise. Yet Estonia’s technology prowess has also made it something of a laboratory for the dangers of the threats posed by hackers backed by neighboring Russia. In a country where 90 percent use online banking, 95 percent file taxes online and 30 percent cast their ballots from a computer, Estonia is a target-rich environment for cyberattacks. Indeed the NATO-member country is the site of what may have been the world’s first politically-motivated digital attack in 2007. In that year, Estonia angered Russia by relocating a World War II era memorial to Soviet troops. Soon, the networks of government ministries, banks and leading Estonian newspapers went down, the result of a massive and sophisticated botnet attack.
Some 1,000 Tibetan in India have registered themselves with the Election Commission ahead of the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. This has left many in the Tibetan community apprehensive about how this will affect their ongoing struggle for a free Tibet.
Information accessed by TOI from Tibetan settlements in McLeodganj, which is the capital of Tibetan government-in-exile, the Nanchen Tibetan division, Bir Tibetan division and Dege division in Bir Billing area of the state has seen most of the Tibetan voters registered for the upcoming polls. The total population of Tibetan refugees in this area is around 22,000, which is second highest in India after Karnataka’s Bylakuppe town. “Our only aim is to struggle for regaining our country. If we mingle with local political systems, there are chances that our people may be diverted from the main aim. There is no doubt that India has done more than enough for us but we can’t afford to deviate from our purpose”, says Sonam, head of Nangchen division of Tibetan settlement in Bir Billing.
Liberia’s supreme court has delayed until Friday a hearing on the country’s disputed presidential election, increasing the likelihood that an impending runoff vote will be delayed. A court spokesman told AFP late Wednesday that the hearing, which will challenge the electoral commission’s handling of the first round of the elections on October 10, would not take place on Thursday as planned for procedural reasons. It will now take place on Friday at 2pm (1400 GMT), the spokesman said on Thursday. Former international footballer George Weah and incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai face each other in the November 7 runoff. Neither gained more than 50 percent of votes in the first round.
It wasn’t just Hillary Clinton’s emails they went after. The hackers who disrupted the U.S. presidential election last year had ambitions that stretched across the globe, targeting the emails of Ukrainian officers, Russian opposition figures, U.S. defense contractors and thousands of others of interest to the Kremlin, according to a previously unpublished digital hit list obtained by The Associated Press. The list provides the most detailed forensic evidence yet of the close alignment between the hackers and the Russian government, exposing an operation that went back years and tried to break into the inboxes of 4,700 Gmail users — from the pope’s representative in Kiev to the punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow. The targets were spread among 116 countries. “It’s a wish list of who you’d want to target to further Russian interests,” said Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Cambridge, England, and one of five outside experts who reviewed the AP’s findings. He said the data was “a master list of individuals whom Russia would like to spy on, embarrass, discredit or silence.”
MPs are to debate a bill aiming to reduce the voting age to 16, with the cross-party supporters of the measure arguing it is a long-overdue idea which would boost involvement in politics. The proposal is a private member’s bill, introduced by Labour MP Jim McMahon, and thus has relatively little chance of finding enough parliamentary time to become law, not least as the government does not back the idea. But it has not just official support from Labour, but also backing from the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens, with the hope that McMahon’s bill could further push the idea on to the political landscape. The bill, officially titled the representation of the people (young people’s enfranchisement and education) bill, will receive its second reading on Friday, the initial opportunity for MPs to debate an idea.