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.