A year before the midterm elections, state election administrators are racing to plug vulnerabilities and update software ahead of an expected wave of cyberattacks from foreign actors. In interviews, state officials and elections experts said they are working to bolster internal security at both the state and local levels. At the same time, many said they hope Congress will act to update federal election law, in part to provide them with the resources they need to secure the democratic process. “No matter what steps we take today, cybersecurity and the cyber risk evolves and changes daily, and we just have to be vigilant and diligent going forward,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D). “Anybody that thinks, ‘today I’ve got it covered,’ and washes their hands of it is fooling themselves.”
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has filed a lawsuit against the Republican-led presidential voter fraud commission, claiming that he and other members of the panel are being shut out of the process. Dunlap, who is a Democrat, says GOP leaders on the commission are excluding him from discussions aimed at shaping the group’s agenda. Dunlap says he has heard nothing about the activities of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for nearly two months. After his repeated attempts to contact the commission’s leadership, Dunlap says he decided to file a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Dunlap says the Republican-led freeze-out is a clear violation of federal transparency laws. “I guess the real question for me is: Why I didn’t do it sooner,” he says.
National: CIA director ‘stands by’ belief Russia hacked DNC after meeting skeptic at Trump’s urging | Washington Examiner
CIA Director Mike Pompeo still believes Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, the agency said Tuesday amid reports that Pompeo met a skeptic at President Trump’s urging. William Binney, who worked more than three decades at the National Security Agency before stepping down as technical director in 2001, met with Pompeo on Oct. 24 to discuss a July report he co-authored suggesting DNC emails were leaked, rather than hacked. “I thought it was a pretty good hourlong meeting,” Binney told the Washington Examiner. “He said that the president said I should talk to you for facts.” Binney believes U.S. spy agencies “took a wild ass guess” in January when they blamed Russia for hacking the DNC and that “if they had any evidence, they would show it.” The report he co-authored says download speeds make it likely someone leaked DNC files after downloading them locally, rather than hacked them over the internet.
National: Where hackers haven’t directly influenced polls, they’ve undermined our faith in democracy | The Register
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Twitter pooh-poohed any suggestion that Russian agents ran accounts on its platform for purposes of subverting the US election. A month ago, it was forced to eat its words, owning up to maybe just a few paltry 201. Last week, in the course of a Congressional grilling, that estimate ticked upward a magnitude to more than 2,700. Facebook, too, upped the ante, admitting that Russian-backed content may have reached not 10 million users, as previously claimed, but 126 million. Some of this, as analysis of the @TEN_GOP Twitter account suggests, was influential. But did it influence the election? That is the $64,000 question. Or, given how much Donald Trump appears to be profiting from his election as US president, perhaps the $64m question. Not to be outdone, the UK may, finally, be asking some of the same questions. A petition politely asking the UK government to “investigate covert foreign interference in the EU referendum” was cancelled earlier this year when the general election was called. Now it is back and has hit 10,000 signatures, an official (written) response is required. 100,000 signatures means the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.
As the Supreme Court considers Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to the practice of partisan gerrymandering that may rewrite the rules used to draw congressional districts, a team of computer scientists has come up with a new algorithmic approach to redistricting that’s less political and more mathematical. In a paper posted on arXiv.org, the researchers describe a computerized method for dividing state populations evenly into compact polygonal districts that average six or fewer sides. The neatly arrayed districts are a stark contrast to gerrymandered districts, which are stretched and contorted to provide an overall congressional advantage for one political party or another. “What we’re trying to do is come up with a system that makes it hard to engineer districts for political gain,” said Philip Klein, a computer scientist at Brown University and a coauthor of the paper. “It doesn’t give the user much freedom in deciding how the lines are drawn, which we view as a good thing because that freedom can be abused.”
Editorials: How Democrats may use election wins to re-draw voter districts | Joshua A. Douglas/Reuters
Most political observers say that Tuesday’s elections were a referendum on Donald Trump or a signal of what will happen in 2020. “The results across the country represent nothing less than a stinging repudiation of Trump on the first anniversary of his election,” wrote The Washington Post, in a typical statement of the conventional wisdom. True, the Democrats did well, picking up state legislative seats from Georgia to New Hampshire, including a massive swing of at least 15 seats in Virginia, as well as the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey. But politics can change quickly: Democrats lost the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia in 2009 and took heavy losses in the 2010 congressional midterms, yet Barack Obama won reelection in 2012. Yesterday’s wins may portend Democratic gains in Congress in 2018. But maybe they won’t. The true implication of the 2017 elections is what they mean for redistricting and electoral reforms in the years to come.
Editorials: US campaign finance laws resemble legalized bribery. We must reform them | Russ Feingold/The Guardian
When powerful lobbyists work hard over the coming weeks to convince Republican lawmakers to change their tax package to please them, it would probably be of interest to know exactly how much campaign cash these so-called stakeholders and their industries have given or spent in recent years for the members of Congress who are writing tax laws. But because federal disclosure laws need to be updated, it’s probably too difficult to ever really know the complete answer. An opaque system of legalized bribery and legalized extortion is not an outrageous way to characterize the state of our nation’s federal campaign finance laws. Over the past few years, real campaign finance reform has gone the way of voting rights and gun control. There is no longer a bipartisan starting point where discussion and negotiation could begin. The Republican party has caved in to its right flank and put party interests ahead of the country’s.
Editorials: Voting Rights Could Be the Biggest Winner in Tuesday’s Democratic Victories | Ari Berman/Mother Jones
Brianna Ross of Richmond, Virginia, lost her right to vote at 19 when she received a felony conviction for stealing diapers for her newborn son. Now 53, she voted for the first time in her life in Virginia’s statewide elections yesterday. “I remember way back in 1993, when the judge told me, ‘You can’t ever vote,’” she told Sam Levine of the Huffington Post. “I didn’t know what that meant, but it made me feel empty, it made me feel unimportant. But I voted today.” … Virginia was one of four states that blocked ex-felons from voting—disenfranchising 1 in 5 black Virginians—until Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to 168,000 ex-felons over the past year and a half. Ross was among them. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie sharply criticized McAuliffe and his lieutenant governor, Ralph Northam, for this policy. But Northam’s victory in the governor’s race on Tuesday means that Virginia will continue to restore voting rights to ex-offenders. It’s just one way that Democratic victories in Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington yesterday could lead to an expansion of access to the ballot.
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a week after apologizing for insulting a voter, flubbed an election place rule Tuesday as he was trying to promote Election Day. Fontes, a lawyer and Democrat who took office this year following voting-day problems with his predecessor, recorded a Facebook Live video promoting Election Day within 75 feet of the Surprise City Hall ballot center. Arizona law restricts photography and video recording within that area at voting locations. Fontes downplayed the apparent violation, and a Republican election law expert said no harm was done. Voting otherwise appeared to be going smoothly at ballot centers across the Valley for school-district and city bond and override measures, a year after former Recorder Helen Purcell came under fire for long lines at too few polling locations. And this year’s voter participation seemed on track to exceed previous low-profile elections.
After years of the State of Georgia operating with an unverifiable and fundamentally flawed E-voting system, a pilot program to test a new E-voting system with a voter-verifiable paper trail, is going smoothly and to rave reviews by voters in Rockdale County. Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s Office invited Rockdale County to participate in the pilot, as Kemp’s office is considering recommendations for implementing a new statewide system. The pilot is taking place in two precincts in Olde Towne in Rockdale County, and within the City limits of Conyers, for the General and Special Election on today, November 07, 2017. The pilot lasted for all of early voting and continues today, Election Day. Computer scientists have advocated for this type of system in Georgia since 2002, when then-Secretary of State Cathy Cox and the Georgia Legislature first installed the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines, which are without a paper trail to independently verify the voters’ intents.
Maryland: AG’s office argues against Supreme Court review of 6th District gerrymandering claim | Frederick News-Post
Maryland’s attorney general is asking the Supreme Court to reject the appeal of 6th District Republicans challenging the state’s congressional district map. In a filing last week, Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) asked the Supreme Court to affirm a U.S. District Court decision not to impose a preliminary injunction that would have required a new statewide map before the 2018 election. A three-judge panel at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore ruled in August that the need for the “extraordinary remedy” of a preliminary injunction had not yet been proved by the plaintiffs. The judges also issued a “stay” in the case, postponing further filings until the Supreme Court’s decision on a different gerrymandering case from Wisconsin.
As Republican-backed recalls targeting a trio of Nevada state senators near the end of the signature-gathering period, Democrats are asking a federal court to halt the efforts before any special elections can be held. And while Democrats take the recall challenge to court, Republicans have accused anti-recall petitioners of using dirty tactics. Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic Party attorney who served as general counsel to former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and Bradley Schrager, former counsel for the Nevada Democratic Party, filed a request for a preliminary injunction in federal court in Las Vegas on Monday night asking the judge to stop the efforts to to oust state Sens. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas, and Nicole Cannizzarro, D-Las Vegas. The motion asked the court to hold an expedited hearing before Nov. 30.
On the eve of Election Day 2017, a state Assembly member from Brooklyn held a press conference focused on voter engagement and turnout, but it wasn’t in support of his own candidacy — he’s not up for reelection until next year — or anyone else’s. Instead, Assemblymember Robert Carroll was talking about his push to allow 17-year-olds to vote. In the state capital of Albany, Carroll recently introduced a bill, the Young Voter Act, that would allow 17-year-olds to cast ballots in state and local elections. The voting age is currently 18 for national elections and within New York. The legislation would also require that all students in public high schools receive at least eight hours of formal civics education, and that schools provide voter registration forms to students when they turn 17.
Experts raised questions Wednesday about the constitutionality not only of proposed new judicial districts in North Carolina, but the state’s current ones as well. Years of inattention, preceded by decades of political tinkering, left the districts North Carolina uses to elect judges with unbalanced populations in faster-growing urban areas. That opens them to constitutional attack, a pair of attorneys with a long history in state government told state senators gathered to discuss controversial judicial reforms. The state addressed this issue years ago in Wake County, but similar issues linger in Mecklenburg County and, potentially, in other areas, according to Michael Crowell, the former executive director of North Carolina’s Commission for the Future of Justice and the Courts, and Gerry Cohen, an attorney who worked with the legislature for more than 30 years.
The York County voting machine programming error that allowed voters to vote twice in some races for the same candidate on Tuesday — once on the Republican ballot and once on the Democratic ballot — has left some office seekers in limbo. The county election board is to meet next week on that matter, and at this time it’s not clear what options the county may have to resolve the issue. The problem was limited to certain races where candidates cross-filed and appeared on both ballots, including the four-candidate judicial race for the York County Court of Common Pleas. The error did not affect the race for York mayor. Although the county is looking to the Pennsylvania Department of State for legal guidance, county spokesman Mark Walters said Wednesday that the problem is the county’s, and the county’s alone. The Department of State, which oversees state level elections, “doesn’t have a lot of authority over county elections,” a state department spokesman said. It is each county’s responsibility to purchase, program and test voting machines.
Virginia: Potential chaos ahead as control of Virginia House of Delegates hangs in balance | The Washington Post
Whether Virginia’s deep-red House of Delegates turns blue, or an awkward purple, comes down to a few dozen votes and potential handshake deals. Republicans, who held 66 of 100 seats in the lower house of the state legislature, saw their majority melt away Tuesday in a Democratic wave that felled at least 12 GOP incumbents and flipped three open seats to the Democrats — an unprecedented shift. With four races still too close to call, both parties are bracing for the messiest of all outcomes: a dead-even 50-50 split that requires power-sharing and a potentially ugly fight for the speakership. That would be triggered if Democrats pick up one of the four races that are close enough for a state-funded recount. Republicans have leads difficult to overcome in three of them, including Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax), who narrowly pulled ahead of his challenger after unofficial results were tallied. Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) is just 12 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds, with provisional ballots still being counted through Monday.
President Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Wednesday that she pressed her polling place on voting machine security when she voted in Virginia this week. Kirstjen Nielsen, the nominee for Homeland Security secretary, made the comments during her confirmation hearing Wednesday morning when asked about the department’s role in protecting election infrastructure from cyberattacks. “When I went to vote this week in the Virginia election, I was quite concerned with the scanning machine and started asking a variety of questions on what the security was on the scanning machine for the ballot. I think we all have to be very aware and work with the state and locals,” Nielsen said.
Estonia has suspended its digital ID cards for residents and overseas “e-residents” after discovering a security flaw that could lead to identity theft. It is estimated that about 760,000 people in Estonia were affected, or about half of the nation’s population. According to Reuters, the eID chip was manufactured by German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies. For security reasons, Estonian authorities immediately blocked access to the digital services of the eID card until owners can update to a new security certificate, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported. They have until March 2018 to do so.
Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been confirmed by no fewer than 17 U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Widespread evidence exists that Moscow’s spy services also sought to influence contests held in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Many worry out loud about possible Russian machinations in Italy’s general election next May. Yet if Russia truly wants to damage the U.S. and weaken the western world order, Mexico’s elections next year offer a more rewarding and more vulnerable target. No other country influences the U.S. as much as its southern neighbor. Mexico remains one of America’s largest trading partners, exchanging nearly $600 billion in goods that support millions of U.S.-based jobs and communities. It is the ancestral home to some 37 million Mexican-Americans and immigrants, and the place of residence for the largest U.S. diaspora.
Just when many Kenyans thought they had seen the end of the country’s long election season, three petitions to contest the process were filed with the Supreme Court ahead of a Monday night deadline. The petitions target all sides in the presidential election controversy — the electoral commission, opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Former lawmaker Harun Mwau filed a petition against the electoral commission, known as the IEBC, as well as its chairman and President Kenyatta. Mwau is challenging the validity of the October 26 re-run presidential election, which he argues was held in violation of Supreme Court directions, the Constitution and relevant electoral laws.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Tuesday said democracy in the West African country was being threatened, a day after the Supreme Court put a presidential runoff on hold over fraud allegations. Former footballer George Weah was initially set to face Vice-President Joseph Boakai on Tuesday to determine who will replace the term-limited Nobel Peace Prize laureate. A successful vote would be Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades. But on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the elections commission to fully examine allegations levelled by Charles Brumskine, who finished third in last month’s first round poll.