Russia’s Supreme Court on Saturday dismissed an appeal by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny against a decision by the country’s central election commission to bar him from taking part in next year’s presidential election. The commission this week barred Navalny from taking part in the March 18 vote because of a suspended prison sentence he says was trumped up. Navalny, who did not attend the Supreme Court hearing, wrote on Twitter that he and his supporters “will not recognize elections without competition” and renewed calls for a boycott of the vote.
States rushing to guard their 2018 elections against hackers may be on a waiting list for up to nine months for the Department of Homeland Security’s most exhaustive security screening, according to government officials familiar with the situation. That means some states might not get the service until weeks before the November midterms and may remain unaware of flaws that could allow homegrown cyber vandals or foreign intelligence agencies to target voter registration databases and election offices’ computer networks, the officials said. Russian hackers targeted election systems in at least 21 states in 2016, according to DHS. The scanning, known as a “risk and vulnerability assessment,” is the crème de la crème of security exams: DHS personnel come in person to do an intensive, multiweek probing of the entire system required to run an election. But department officials acknowledge that it’s of limited use if it doesn’t come soon enough for states to correct their flaws before voters go to the polls. The nine-month wait is “not a good metric” for states hoping to boost their security, admitted Christopher Krebs, one of the DHS officials leading election security efforts. ”We are working to prioritize.”
Two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of its report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It detailed the activities of a network of hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole documents from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It also issued a stark warning: “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes.” Since then, current and former officials, including former Pentagon official Michael Vickers and former CIA deputy director Michael Morell have said that the Russians will interfere in U.S. elections again, in potentially new and sophisticated ways.
The first primary of the 2018 midterm elections, in Texas, is barely eight weeks away. It’s time to ask: Will the Russian government deploy “active measures” of the kind it used in 2016? Is it possible that a wave of disinformation on Facebook and Twitter could nudge the results of a tight congressional race in, say, Virginia or Nevada? Will hackers infiltrate low-budget campaigns in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, and leak their e-mails to the public? Will the news media and voters take the bait? By most accounts, the answer is likely to be yes—and, for several reasons, the election may prove to be as vulnerable, or more so, than the 2016 race that brought Donald Trump to the White House. Part of the explanation is political: the 2018 midterms are shaping up to be extraordinarily competitive. Consider the spectacle currently unfolding in Virginia. Before the most recent election, on November 7th, Republicans controlled Virginia’s House of Delegates by a comfortable sixteen-seat majority. In a wave of Democratic wins, propelled by the state’s highest turnout in twenty years, the Republican majority nearly evaporated. Final control of the House now rests on the results of the 94th District, which is deadlocked at 11,608 votes apiece. The Virginia Board of Elections planned to draw the name of a winner out of a pitcher, a tactic unused in Virginia in more than four decades, but, on December 26th, the state postponed the plan, because of pending court challenges. If the Republican incumbent David Yancey loses to the Democrat Shelly Simonds, the House will be tied fifty-fifty, and the two parties will share power.
A pivotal Virginia legislative race — and control of the entire House of Delegates — almost came down to the luck of the draw this week. Initially, it seemed as though Democrat Shelly Simonds had won last month’s election by just one vote. Then Republican incumbent David Yancey successfully challenged one ballot, which led to an exact tie. The Virginia State Board of Elections had planned a drawing Wednesday to pick the winner, but Simonds filed a legal challenge against the ballot that had deadlocked the contest. If a court decides to include the ballot in question toward Yancey’s total, the race would remain tied and a drawing would take place after all to determine who wins the Newport News seat. If it’s Simonds, the Virginia House of Delegates would be split 50-50 and Democrats and Republicans would have to share power.
Social networks spent much of 2017 slowly coming to terms with the extent to which their platforms had been exploited to spread political misinformation. But the narrow focus of investigations over the last year is likely to cause further pain in 2018, as the US midterm elections create a new urgency for the problem to be solved. At the beginning of this year, Facebook was hostile to the suggestion that it may have played an unwitting part in a foreign influence campaign. After the election of Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, described the suggestion that his site may have swayed voters as a “crazy idea”, despite evidence that hoaxes and lies had been spread on the social network during the campaign. (He later apologised for the comment, saying it was “dismissive and I regret it”. By April the company had changed its tune, publishing the findings of a lengthy investigation into “information operations and Facebook” that described all the “subtle and insidious forms of misuse” that could occur on the site, “including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people”.
Alabama: ES&S caught up in Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s allegations of ‘election fraud’ | Omaha World Herald
An Omaha company on Thursday was caught up in an Alabama Senate candidate’s unsuccessful attempt to stop the state from certifying the results of a special election. Late Wednesday, Republican Roy Moore filed a legal complaint alleging “election fraud” and asked the state to consider holding a new election. The complaint was rejected by a judge, however, and a state board Thursday officially declared Doug Jones the winner of the Dec. 12 election. The complaint, filed in state court, mentions Election Systems & Software, an Omaha-based company that provides equipment, software and services for election support.
A federal judge has ruled that President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission must share correspondence and other documents with one of its Democratic members, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. Dunlap sued the panel in November after asserting that its conservative members had stopped providing him information about its work. The ruling is a big victory for Dunlap, who was criticized by fellow Democrats and voting rights advocates for agreeing to join a commission that some worry will be used to nationalize voter suppression efforts. Dunlap says he has no idea what his conservative colleagues on the president’s election fraud panel have been up to for the past several months. And he says he’s not sure what documents may come his way now that a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the commission to provide full access to its working papers.
A federal judge has approved the creation of a three-judge panel to hear a lawsuit alleging Michigan’s political districts are unconstitutionally drawn to favor strong Republican majorities in the Legislature and Congress. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood signed an order Wednesday allowing a three-judge panel to hear the case after former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer filed the lawsuit last Friday on behalf of the League of Women Voters and other Democrats, including former state Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Fred Durhal Jr. of Detroit.
Democrats filed a lawsuit Wednesday in hopes of stopping a special election that could oust an incumbent Democratic state senator, claiming election officials failed to follow the law and that the effort is well short of the needed signatures. The move was an expected response after the Nevada Secretary of State’s office last week deemed that the recall effort against Cannizzaro could move forward to a special election after skimming by the needed tally by just 43 signatures. The lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court, argues that the Secretary of State’s office and Clark County Registrar of voters failed to verify all the submitted signatures, and said both “have completely and inexplicably” ignored the law regarding the state recall process.
Several members of an American Indian tribe in North Dakota have filed an amended lawsuit challenging the state’s voter identification laws, saying the law remains a “form of voter suppression.” Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation in April that reworked the ID laws after members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued the state in January 2016. The lawsuit alleged the ID requirements violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act and discriminated against Native Americans.
It was the electoral nightmare Virginia never wanted to experience: being host to a high-profile mess like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, with officials obsessing over questionable ballots as political power hangs in the balance. So 17 years ago, the state began writing a guidebook on how to handle such situations. The latest edition includes pictographs of ballots marked in unconventional ways — names crossed out, several boxes checked, “My guy” scrawled over a candidate’s name. Despite the best intentions to avoid a Florida-style snafu, that is where Virginia now finds itself, with lawyers fighting over how to interpret one questionable ballot. And at stake is possible control of the Legislature.
China will donate ballot boxes and voting booths for Cambodia’s 2018 election, an official said Thursday, weeks after Western democracies pulled their support in protest over a crackdown on opposition politicians. The US and the European Union withdrew their backing after a Phnom Penh court dissolved the main opposition party in November — a move they said stripped next year’s election of any legitimacy. The ruling all but guarantees a victory for premier Hun Sen, an authoritarian leader who has been methodically sweeping out rivals as he looks to extend his 32-year run in office. Western powers and rights groups have warned that the unprecedented crackdown could spell the death of democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
Tallinn Administrative Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by ID card manufacturer Gemalto AG against Estonia’s Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), which will allow the latter to continue with preparations for the manufacture of new electronic ID cards. “Today’s decision by Tallinn Administrative Court not to satisfy the complaint of Gemalto AG regarding the procurement procedure for the contract to manufacture ID cards means certainty for the PPA that we can move forward with preparations for the fulfilment of the agreement on the manufacture of ID-cards concluded in spring,” said Margit Ratnik, head of the Development Department of the PPA. The police authority is planning to begin issuing electronic ID cards with new security elements and a new design, manufactured by the company Idemia, in fall 2018.
The Honduras opposition said Wednesday they filed an appeal with election officials demanding that President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s re-election be annulled because the recent vote was marred by fraud. Election officials declared Hernandez the victor after narrowly defeating leftist opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla in the controversial November 26 vote. Nasralla conceded on December 22 shortly after Honduras’ key ally Washington endorsed Hernandez’s re-election, following a month of deadly street clashes. Former president Manuel Zelaya, coordinator of the leftist alliance opposed to Hernandez, filed the appeal with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal late Tuesday.
The countdown to Europe’s next pivotal election began on Thursday, when Italy’s president dissolved the Parliament and effectively opened the campaign for the first national elections in five years, scheduled for March 4. The move by President Sergio Mattarella now places Italy’s always tumultuous politics in the spotlight after a year in which populist forces, while beaten back in elections in several other countries, continued to reshape the political landscape across Europe. The general election will be Italy’s first since 2013, when the government led by the center-left Democratic Party succeeded the caretaker administration of Mario Monti, a technocratic who stepped in after Silvio Berlusconi, then prime minister, resigned in the midst of Italy’s debt crisis.
It’s hard to write about the Russian Presidential election, not because it is particularly difficult to understand but because the normal language of such things can’t describe it. There are candidates, but their names can appear on the ballot only if the Kremlin allows it. There is a campaign, but candidates are allowed to appear on television only if the Kremlin O.K.s it. There are, usually, debates, but Vladimir Putin, who has been in power in Russia for eighteen years and is running for another six-year term, doesn’t deign to take part in them. There are opinion polls, but their results are adjusted to fit the probable result of the vote. And then there is the vote, but its outcome is preordained. In other words, the event scheduled for March 18, 2018, is not an election, but it is called one.
I wear a lot of hats as the Montpelier, Vermont City Clerk, and in my capacity as election administrator for the state Capital for six years now, it should come as no surprise that a frequent topic of conversation has been the security of our elections systems. In an attempt to respond to concerns expressed by my constituents, I decided to brush off my IT credentials (I have served as a network and database administrator for political parties and non-profits in the past ) to get a first-hand sense of the threats rather than just tacking to the winds of either the doomsayers or the nothing-to-see-here crowds. Now a CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) and looking at security for the first time from the outside in, I can respond with a smidge more authority on the question “should we be worried?” The answer is yes and no.
A new bipartisan Senate bill seeks to boost the level of federal support to state local officials in order to protect the nation’s election infrastructure from foreign cyber interference. The Secure Elections Act would authorize block grants for states to upgrade their voting machines, direct the Department of Homeland Security to “promptly” share election cybersecurity threat information with state and local governments and empower state and local election officials with the necessary security clearances to review classified threat information. The bill is sponsored by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).
National: Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options | The Washington Post
The first email arrived in the inbox of CounterPunch, a left-leaning American news and opinion website, at 3:26 a.m. — the middle of the day in Moscow. “Hello, my name is Alice Donovan and I’m a beginner freelance journalist,” read the Feb. 26, 2016, message. The FBI was tracking Donovan as part of a months-long counterintelligence operation code-named “NorthernNight.” Internal bureau reports described her as a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions. Her first articles as a freelancer for CounterPunch and at least 10 other online publications weren’t especially political. As the 2016 presidential election heated up, Donovan’s message shifted. Increasingly, she seemed to be doing the Kremlin’s bidding by stoking discontent toward Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and touting WikiLeaks, which U.S. officials say was a tool of Russia’s broad influence operation to affect the presidential race.
A jailed Russian who says he hacked into the Democratic National Committee computers on the Kremlin’s orders to steal emails released during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign now claims he left behind a data signature to prove his assertion. In an interview with Russia’s RAIN television channel made public Wednesday, Konstantin Kozlovsky provided further details about what he said was a hacking operation led by the Russian intelligence agency known by its initials FSB. Among them, Kozlovsky said he worked with the FSB to develop computer viruses that were first tested on large, unsuspecting Russian companies, such as the oil giant Rosneft, later turning them loose on multinational corporations.
The Roy Moore campaign filed a complaint Wednesday to have the election certification delayed “until a full investigation of voter fraud is conducted,” according to a statement from his campaign. The complaint includes affidavits from three “national election integrity experts” who claim election fraud occurred and a statement from Moore saying he successfully completed a polygraph test confirming the representations of misconduct made against him during the campaign are “completely false.” Moore has not conceded the election more than two weeks after he was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones. “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” Moore said. “We call on Secretary of State Merrill to delay certification until there is a thorough investigation of what three independent election experts agree took place: election fraud sufficient to overturn the outcome of the election.”
Maine: Judge backs Maine secretary of state in lawsuit against Trump fraud panel | Portland Press Herald
A federal judge has ruled that Maine’s Secretary of State can’t be excluded from participating in the work of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, on which he serves. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling Friday in Washington, D.C., largely agrees with Matthew Dunlap’s argument that as a member of the commission he must be given access to substantive commission documents. The opinion says Dunlap should have been granted access to documents such as a request for voter data sent to U.S. states and meeting agendas. Dunlap said in a statement that the ruling is “a clear vindication of what I have fought for.”
DMV Director Terri Albertson said a letter sent to her office late Friday by Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske came “as a complete surprise.” In a written response to Cegavske, Albertson said, “you and your office have reviewed, contributed to, and approved the processes you are expressing concerns about.” The Republican secretary of state late Friday announced an investigation into alleged voter fraud, saying her office has uncovered evidence that noncitizens had cast ballots in the November election. Non-U.S. citizens who are in the country legally and live in Nevada can obtain a state driver’s license. Those without legal status can obtain a driver authorization card, which cannot be used as formal identification. Neither are eligible to vote.
The 2020 Census is about two years away, but researchers already fear that not every person will be accurately counted. The Census Bureau, which every 10 years conducts its actual count of people as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, has been plagued with problems ranging from budget issues, cancelled tests and a leadership vacuum that has become unusually politicized. It is especially worrisome in New Jersey, which has growing communities of color and immigrant populations that could effectively be disenfranchised, experts say.
Five years ago, few people in Ohio were paying close attention to the claim that political consultants – armed with partisan power, increasingly sophisticated computer technology and big data – were in a position to hijack democracy. Critics like Carrie Davis of the League of Women Voters looked at Congressional maps, drawn largely in secrecy by Republican state lawmakers, and issued a warning. “Voters are ignored and made to feel as if their voice doesn’t count,” Davis said. “Communities are carved up so that they don’t have a Congress-person who truly represents them. Members of Congress are frequently threatened with being ‘primaried’ by the extremes of their own party.” But voters repeatedly turned down proposals to change the system. That may be changing – not just in Ohio, but around the country.
San Juan County is asking a federal court to finalize a recent decision on voting districts. County leaders want to appeal the ruling, as the county’s Native American majority applauds it. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued his decision a few days before Christmas. It basically requires San Juan County to hold a special election next year using new district boundaries for three commission seats and five school board posts. And it’s aimed at reflecting the Navajo majority. “People are very excited,” says Mark Maryboy, who was talking about the decision with other Navajos on Wednesday in Monument Valley. “They want to try to get some Navajo candidates to run for the county commission, school board and other county positions.”
A lottery drawing to settle a tied Virginia legislative race that could shift the statehouse balance of power has been indefinitely postponed, state election officials said on Tuesday, after the Democratic candidate mounted a legal fight. The decision to put off the high-stakes lotto, originally scheduled for Wednesday, marks the latest twist in a dramatic election recount that at one point showed Democrat Shelly Simonds beating Republican incumbent David Yancey by a single vote. A victory by Simonds would shift Republicans’ slim control of the 100-member House of Delegates to an even 50-50 split with the Democrats, forcing the two parties into a rare power-sharing arrangement.
Virginia’s House of Delegates 94th District captured America’s attention last week after a dramatic saga of vote counts and recounts culminated in a perfectly tied election. Both three-term Republican incumbent David Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds received 11,608 votes, a rare feat that had electoral enthusiasts across the country ecstatic about democracy in action. On the surface, this race is a testament to the power of the American electoral system. A historically important election came down to a single citizen’s vote, and yet every citizen was an essential part of the outcome. The symmetry somehow implies harmony, evoking images of Smalltown, USA, where politics exist in perfect balance. But this bizarre fluke of democracy is no reason to celebrate. This outcome should leave Americans feeling deeply uncomfortable.
The opposition in Democratic Republic of Congo said Wednesday it had garnered enough signatures to challenge a new electoral reform, which it says is buttressing the ruling party of President Joseph Kabila. Opposition spokesman Christophe Lutundula said the reform “automatically” banned certain hopefuls from running against Kabila in the next election, scheduled for December 23, 2018. The opposition says the law automatically excludes certain candidates by setting a minimum threshold of the share of the national vote that a candidate must win in order to obtain a seat. They also dispute the use of voting machines in ballot stations and the high deposit that candidates must pay, equivalent to several hundred dollars.