A bipartisan Harvard University project aimed at protecting elections from hacking and propaganda will release its first set of recommendations today on how U.S. elections can be defended from hacking attacks. The 27-page guidebook shown to Reuters ahead of publication calls for campaign leaders to emphasize security from the start and insist on practices such as two-factor authentication for access to email and documents and fully encrypted messaging via services including Signal and Wickr. The guidelines are intended to reduce risks in low-budget local races as well as the high-stakes Congressional midterm contests next year. Though most of the suggestions cost little or nothing to implement and will strike security professionals as common sense, notorious attacks including the leak of the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, have succeeded because basic security practices were not followed.
With gerrymandering being one of the highest-profile cases to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this session , the issue has taken center stage as lawmakers prepare for another round of redistricting based off the 2020 census. Lawmakers across the country re-draw political district boundaries every decade, but gerrymandering happens when those lines are drawn to give themselves an unfair advantage. Redistricting is a normal and important element of U.S. government, but the line between redistricting and gerrymandering can be fuzzy. With technology drastically improving mapping software and the data behind it, there are more tools to effectively gerrymander districts than ever before. “Redistricting has always been a controversial issue because it’s political,” said Dr. Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “You really have to go back, some of the odd-shaped districts are the result of, actually, an order of the U.S. Supreme Court years ago.”
National: Top Russian Official Tried to Broker ‘Backdoor’ Meeting Between Trump and Putin | The New York Times
A senior Russian official who claimed to be acting at the behest of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried in May 2016 to arrange a meeting between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter. The news of this reached the Trump campaign in a very circuitous way. An advocate for Christian causes emailed campaign aides saying that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime, had proposed a meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. The subject line of the email, turned over to Senate investigators, read, “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” according to one person who has seen the message.
There were 140 confirmed crossover votes in the Sept. 26 Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate, and none will be investigated further for possible prosecution, Secretary of State John Merrill announced in a press release today. Last month, Merrill’s office had compiled a preliminary list of 674 crossover votes in 41 counties and sent them to probate offices for verification. Of those, 534 turned out to be mistakes by a poll worker, another election worker or the voter, Merrill said. Merrill said he called the probate judges from the 20 counties with 140 confirmed crossover votes. “After these reviews and the conversations were completed, there were no instances in which a local Probate Judge deemed it necessary to pursue additional investigations that could potentially lead to prosecution,” Merrill said. “Without new information being introduced in this review, this matter is now considered closed.”
When you cast your vote, do you ever wonder whether it’s being accurately counted? The League of Women Voters supports election integrity and public confidence in our electoral process. To that end, we applaud the State of Connecticut’s post-election audits and encourage citizens to be volunteer observers when these audits are conducted. For the election that took place on Nov. 7, audits will begin on Nov. 22. After each election in Connecticut, audit locations are chosen by lottery. For example, this October the results of the September primary elections were audited at 5 percent of the polling locations where voting took place. The polling locations were in various municipalities around the state: Bridgeport, Cheshire, Greenwich, New Haven, New London, Newtown, and Stratford. Audit results are analyzed by the University of Connecticut, the Secretary of the State’s Office, and the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
Saying there is a “growing threat” to Florida’s election systems, the state may spend nearly $2.4 million in the coming year on cybersecurity efforts designed to protect election-related software and systems from outside hackers. Gov. Rick Scott included the request, which initially came from state election officials, in budget recommendations he gave to the Florida Legislature last week. Scott asked for the money even though state officials have provided limited details behind efforts to infiltrate Florida’s election systems ahead of the 2016 elections. The Florida Legislature has also not held any hearings on what happened.
A Wayne County judge has thrown out a lawsuit against Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey, saying there’s “no evidence” her office mishandled absentee ballots or violated state law in last week’s general election. The lawsuit was brought by election challengers who said Winfrey’s office used copies of absentee vote envelopes, rather than original envelopes with ballots, to verify voter information for about 1200 absentee votes dropped off at the clerk’s office on Election Day. The plaintiffs said that violated the state manual for elections officials, as well as state law.
As Maine continues a legal struggle over the same issue, New Hampshire legislators will soon be discussing the possibility of reinventing the voting system with ranked-choice ballots. The proposal, House Bill 1540, would allow voters in a race with more than two candidates seeking a single office, such as in party primaries, to rank the candidates in order of preference rather than just choosing the one they want to win. The winner would emerge from a repeated calculation of all voters’ rankings. The prime sponsor of the bill, Ellen Read, D-Newmarket, noted that variations of this voting method are used in some cities around the country, including Cambridge, Mass., as well as in a number of professional organizations and even in a few national elections, notably for the Australian parliament. “It more effectively and accurately reflects the will of the voter,” she said. “It gives more choice.”
North Carolina: ‘Race-based redistricting’ imposed on NC ‘against its will,’ lawmakers say | News & Observer
Lawmakers and the challengers of maps proposed for electing North Carolina’s General Assembly members waited until the 11th hour to respond to districts suggested by an unaffiliated mapmaker. Lawmakers were critical of the process, saying the federal judges who tapped a Stanford University law professor to draw maps for them had done so prematurely and allowed him to consider race as he looked at election districts in Cumberland, Guilford, Hoke, Mecklenburg, Wake, Bladen, Sampson and Wayne counties. The three federal judges presiding over the case that will determine what districts North Carolina’s state Senate and House members come from in the 2018 elections have yet to rule on maps the lawmakers adopted in August. The judges — James Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Catherine Eagles and Thomas Schroeder, both of the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina — ordered new lines after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed their ruling last year that found 28 of the state legislative districts were longstanding unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
Ohio: Supreme Court schedules January oral arguments for Ohio voter purge case | Washington Examiner
The Supreme Court on Friday scheduled oral arguments in a case involving Ohio’s voter registration lists for Jan. 10. The justices in Husted v. A Philip Randolph Institute will look to determine whether Ohio’s maintenance of its voter registration list is lawful, a decision that could have lasting impact on the outcome of future elections. Ohio gives voters who have been inactive for two years a confirmation notice that requires a response. If no response is obtained and the voter remains inactive for four years, Ohio removes the voter from its lists. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Help America Vote Act of 2002 both prevent states from stripping names off its voter registration rolls because a person is not voting.
The head of Wisconsin elections wants the Legislature to approve hiring three additional staff, with two focused on bolstering security following news that the state’s voting systems were targeted by Russian hackers. A 28 percent reduction in staff since 2015 weakened the ability of elections workers to address voter safety and eroded fulfilling all other state and federal law requirements, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas said in a memo released Friday. “The agency for an extended period of time has been operating with less than optimal staffing,” Haas said in an interview. “We are falling behind with just our regular day-to-day responsibilities so we can be prepared for the 2018 election.”
Canada: Head of NATO tells Canada to gear itself up for Russian cyber threats in 2019 federal election | CBC News
Canada and other NATO countries must do more to counter Russia’s growing and ever-evolving cyber threats, says the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. ”This is a constantly evolving threat, and we have to constantly adapt,” NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg told CBC Radio’s The House at the Halifax International Security Forum. Stoltenberg says the digital threats come in many forms, and can target anybody. “In some ways, every country is a neighbour of Russia because [a] cyber [threat] recognizes no borders, so you might also say that Canada is a neighbour of Russia,” Estonia’s Defence Minister Jüri Luik told The House in Halifax. That digital proximity, Luik argued, means Canada should not be surprised if Russia attempts to interfere in the 2019 federal election.
Billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera held a big lead late Sunday in returns from Chile’s presidential election, buoyed by support from Chileans who hope the former president can resuscitate a flagging economy, though he didn’t get enough votes to avoid a runoff. With just under 92 percent of ballots counted, Pinera had nearly 37 percent of the vote, against almost 23 percent for Sen. Alejandro Guillier, an independent center-left candidate, and 20 percent for Beatriz Sanchez, who ran for the leftist Broad Front coalition. Five other candidates shared the remainder.
Exploratory talks to form Germany’s next coalition government collapsed shortly before midnight on Sunday when the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) walked out of marathon negotiations. “The four discussion partners have no common vision for modernisation of the country or common basis of trust,” the FDP leader, Christian Lindner, announced after the four parties involved missed several self-prescribed deadlines to resolve differences on migration and energy policy. “It is better not to govern than to govern badly.” The euro slid in Asian trade overnight thanks to the uncertainty in Europe’s powerhouse nation. Against the yen, the euro was down 0.6% on the day to a two-month low and slipped 0.5% against the US dollar. It was down 0.43% against the pound at €1.125.
Voters in Kosovo are heading to the polls for the second round of local elections that are seen as another step in the young republic’s effort to solidify its democratic credentials. The November 19 runoffs are taking place in half of the country’s 38 municipalities – including in the capital, Pristina — where mayors and councilors were not elected in the first round last month. People are also voting in the Serb-majority municipality of Partes, where the Central Election Commission (CEC) annulled the results of the first round following vote manipulations. After casting her ballot in Pristina, CEC chief Valdete Daka urged all registered voters to go to the polls.
New investigations released this week suggest the Russians meddled in Britain’s historic referendum last year to leave the European Union, placing an already weakened Prime Minister Theresa May in a most awkward position — just when she needs to be her strongest in Brexit negotiations. The evidence that the Russians, with possible support from the Kremlin, bombarded British targets with social media tweets and posts was splashed on the nightly news and front pages in Britain. Even so, the prime minister and her office stressed that Russian propaganda had “no direct successful influence” on the Brexit vote. Critics of May say an admission that Russia tried to dupe British voters could raise questions about the Conservative Party’s mandate to extricate Britain from the European Union.