Congress needs to boost funding to states to help them buy secure voting machines to prevent Russia and other hostile nations from hacking U.S. elections, election experts told a House panel Wednesday. “This is a critical need, and must be addressed immediately (to have an impact on the 2018 election),” said Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, which held statewide elections earlier this month. Experts also recommended that states stop using touchscreen voting machines and replace them with paper-based systems such as optical scanners that tabulate paper ballots and provide tangible evidence of election results. “In many electronic voting systems in use today, a successful attack that exploits a software flaw might leave behind little or no forensic evidence,” warned Matthew Blaze, an associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania. “This can make it effectively impossible to determine the true outcome of an election or even that a compromise has occurred.”
A Nov. 29 House hearing on the cybersecurity of voting infrastructure highlighted warnings about some machines used to cast votes and the software used to tally them, but officials were positive about the progress being made and the low likelihood that an attack could actually switch any votes. Several experts who testified at the hearing, held by the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittees on information technology and intergovernmental affairs, recommended that states should begin switching — if they haven’t already — away from direct-recording electronic voting machines. Matt Blaze, a computer science professor at University of Pennsylvania, said the complexity of DRE machines makes them very hard to secure. The vote tallies stored in internal memory, ballot definition parameters displayed to voters and electronic log files used for post-election audit are all subject to alteration.
National: The time to hack-proof the 2018 election is expiring — and Congress is way behind | Politico
Lawmakers are scrambling to push something — anything — through Congress that would help secure the nation’s voting systems ahead of the 2018 elections. But it might already be too late for some critical targets. By this point during the 2016 election cycle, Russian hackers had already been in the Democratic National Committee’s networks for at least three months. Members of both parties insist they can get something done before Election Day 2018, but concede that the window is rapidly closing. Voters in Texas and Illinois will take to the polls in the country’s first primaries in just over three months — a narrow timeline for implementing software patches, let alone finding the funds to overhaul creaky IT systems, swap out aging voting machines or implement state-of-the-art digital audits. “Not a lot of time, no question,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is leading an investigation of Russia’s election-year meddling, told POLITICO.
With the role of the dice, Colorado recently became the first state in the nation to conduct a post-election risk-limiting audit (RLA). It’s taken a while to get this point — the legislation requiring RLAs was first approved in 2009, but Secretary of State Wayne Williams said the result was worth the wait. “We’ve been preparing for this for a number of years,” Williams said noting the need to promulgate the rules for the audit, for new voting systems and training at the state and county level. “It required a lot of work and effort from my office and the county clerks and they all came through fabulously. I was thrilled with the success. The fact that every single county passed, I think gives everyone a very high level of assurance of elections in Colorado.” Williams said it’s important to note that Colorado didn’t begin the RLA process in response to recent concerns about the accuracy of elections, but it is very timely because of concerns being raised.
Georgia lawmakers are considering replacements for the state’s touch-screen voting machines that were adopted statewide 15 years ago and that have been criticized because they don’t produce a paper trail. The state House Science and Technology Committee heard on Thursday from representatives of three different voting technology companies. “We’re just trying to understand what options the state of Georgia has,” said state Rep. Ed Setzler, a Republican from Acworth who chairs the bipartisan panel. … Susan Greenhalgh with Verified Voting, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that pushes for measures to make elections accurate, transparent and verifiable, said after the hearing that system the state currently uses is old, has raised security concerns and has already been abandoned by other states for that reason. “The time is now for Georgia to fix their voting system,” she said. “It’s good the legislature is taking this up and we hope they move quickly.”
The advent of new voting technology has brought election-security threats that state officials are seeking to shore up with additional resources. At an Assembly hearing in Manahttan Tuesday, state Board of Elections officials said they would be seeking $27 million for the upcoming fiscal year — nearly $15.5 million more than the current year — to help enhance security as well as update the state voter registration and campaign finance systems. Election officials said at a similar hearing last year that the state’s three-tiered election systems are unlikely to be hacked, but they remain wary of threats. “We know we’re defending, but we don’t know what we’re defending against or what exact part they’re going to go (after),” state BOE Co-Executive Director Todd Valentine said.
Texas has spent years defending its voting laws in court, regularly appealing rulings that found state lawmakers violated the rights of their voters. So when a federal appellate court in August ruled against the state’s restrictions on language interpreters at the ballot box, it was easy to assume an appeal would follow. But more than three months later, Texas appears to be conceding the case. “We have not heard anything from Texas,” said Jerry Vattamala, director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s democracy program, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case. “It appears that they are not appealing.” At issue in the case was an obscure provision of the Texas Election Code that required interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help.
A proposal up for a hearing Tuesday in an Assembly committee would allow the use of electronic voting machines for early voting in Wisconsin. Right now, early voting is done by paper ballot. Those ballots are either mailed or turned in to clerks’ offices and stored until Election Day. Under the proposal, local governments would have the option of adding electronic voting machines for early voting. The machines would be fed paper ballots and store the votes electronically until they can be counted on Election Day.
Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales on Wednesday hailed a decision by the country’s highest court to allow him to run for another re-election as “a great surprise for the people, for the revolutionaries, for the anti-imperialists.” The opposition said it would march against the ruling announced on Tuesday by the Constitutional Court, which paved the way for Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019. The court decision was final and cannot be appealed. The ruling “guarantees a democratic continuity, but also guarantees stability, dignity and work for the Bolivian people,” Morales said during a news conference.
After a week of upheaval and uncertainty, Chancellor Angela Merkel turned to her old coalition partners in hopes of returning stability to Germany’s political scene by raising the prospect of giving the country the same government that has led since 2013. In an overture to the Social Democrats, Ms. Merkel, leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union, moved away from her previous talk of possible new elections. Instead she welcomed the chance to accept an invitation from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to sit down to talks, and pledged to work toward opening formal coalition negotiations as quickly as possible. “We need to create stability; the people expect that of us,” Ms. Merkel said on Monday after a meeting of her party’s leadership. “Consequently, we are ready to open talks with the Social Democrats.” She pledged that the talks would be conducted “honestly and of course with a view to their success.”
A 35-year-old federal court order prohibiting the Republican National Committee from engaging in voter verification and other “ballot security” measures is set to expire Friday, something the GOP says is long overdue but voting rights advocates argue is still needed to prevent intimidation at the polls. Lawyers for the Republican National Committee said in court filings that the organization has been in compliance for years, even going beyond what is outlined in the consent decree. It opts against participating in poll-watching activities, for example, even though they are allowed under the order. “The RNC has worked hard to comply with its obligations under the Consent Decree,” lawyers wrote in documents filed with the court.
President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end. “It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’” Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”
Staffers for Senate Republicans’ campaign arm seized information on more than 200,000 donors from the House GOP campaign committee over several months this year by breaking into its computer system, three sources with knowledge of the breach told POLITICO. The unauthorized raid on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s data created a behind-the-scenes rift with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to the sources, who described NRCC officials as furious. It comes at a time when House Republicans are focused on preparing to defend their 24-seat majority in the 2018 midterm elections. And it has spotlighted Senate Republicans’ deep fundraising struggles this year, with the NRSC spending more than it raised for four months in a row. Multiple NRSC staffers, who previously worked for the NRCC, used old database login information to gain access to House Republicans’ donor lists this year.
Alabama: The Supreme Court once said Alabama’s denial of criminals’ voting rights was racist. Now ‘Fox & Friends’ says felons are Democrats’ ‘secret weapon’ to beat Moore. | The Washington Post
“Purposeful racial discrimination” is the phrase Justice William H. Rehnquist used in 1985 when the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the Alabama state constitution that stripped voting rights from people who commit crimes of “moral turpitude” and other offenses. Nevertheless, the Alabama legislature in 1996 passed a law that similarly denied voting rights to people convicted of felonies “involving moral turpitude,” a problematically vague term that gave local registrars discretion to determine who belonged on the rolls and, thus, opened the door to bias. With the state facing another lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, the legislature in May passed a Republican-sponsored bill that clearly stated which criminal convictions would cost felons the right to vote and which would not. For example, crimes such as murder, rape and “enticing a child to enter a vehicle for immoral purposes” would result in the loss of voting rights; offenses such as drug possession or third-degree burglary would not.
Democratic state lawmakers are introducing a plan to halt Illinois’ participation in a controversial multi-state voter registration database. It’s the latest move after efforts to persuade the State Board of Elections failed. The plan unveiled Thursday would remove Illinois from the Kansas-run Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. Voter groups argue Crosscheck isn’t secure and could lead to voter suppression elsewhere. They also raise questions about Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who oversees Crosscheck and is a chairman of President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission.
The recall effort against three state senators is tied up in a couple of court battles. First an update: The effort against State Senator Patricia Farley has failed, as the petitioners didn’t get enough signatures. Enough signatures – roughly 17,500 – were gathered to force State Senator Joyce Woodhouse into a recall election. But she and her attorneys say about 5,500 of those signatures are invalid. A state lawsuit has been filed on this issue. Bradley Schrager is an attorney who filed two lawsuits on behalf of Woodhouse and some of her voters to stop the recall.
Virginia: Democrat Joshua Cole to request recount in key Fredericksburg-area House election | The Free-Lance Star
Democratic House of Delegates candidate Joshua Cole confirmed Thursday that he will request a recount in the closely contested 28th District race that could determine control of Richmond’s lower chamber. Cole said he plans to file the request Friday in Stafford County Circuit Court, joining two other Democratic House candidates who asked for recounts earlier in the week. He lost to Stafford Republican Bob Thomas by 82 votes on Nov. 7, but Democrats have disputed the outcome amid revelations that voters in Fredericksburg and Stafford received ballots for the wrong House race. Because the race was so close, the state will foot the bill for the recount.
For the first time, the EU is setting aside funds to tackle the alarming Russian fake news. The money is not huge, around 5 million, but it means the bloc has officially recognised that Russian disinformation or propaganda is a serious threat that needs to be tackled in the long run. No policymaker will publicly admit that there are concerns about the EU elections in 2019. But we have all read reports about the alleged impact of Russian fake news on the US election, the Brexit referendum and Catalonia. Everyone is focusing on Russia’s growing political meddling in the Balkans or on the renewed fears among Eastern European countries, including Ukraine. Interestingly enough, sources in Brussels stress that North African countries which happen to be under Russian influence will also be part of that new anti-fake news project.
The Czech center-left government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stepped down on Wednesday, making way for billionaire Andrej Babis, who won an election last month, to take power in time for an EU summit in December. “The government approved its resignation, the resignation will be delivered to the president today,” Sobotka told reporters after a regular government session. Sobotka’s coalition government was the first in 15 years to complete a full four-year term and presided over robust economic growth that helped cut unemployment to the lowest level in the EU and push up wages at the fastest pace in a decade.
Germany’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) are holding high-level meetings on Friday to discuss how to move forward after party leaders held talks in Berlin last night about possibly renewing their government partnership. German Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkeljoined Horst Seehofer, the leader of her Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), in a meeting with the leader of the center-left SPD Martin Schulz on Thursday night. The talks, held at the invitation of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, lasted for two hours as the party leaders probed whether they are ready — or willing — to start negotiations on forming Germany’s next government.
Honduran police fired tear gas at rock-hurling protesters on Thursday after a contentious presidential election that looks set to drag on for two more days without a clear winner, deepening the political crisis in the Central American nation. Both center-right President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his rival Salvador Nasralla, a television game show host allied with leftists, claimed victory after Sunday’s election. The vote tally at first favored Nasralla, but then swung in favor of the incumbent after hold-ups in the count, fueling talk of irregularities.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland has narrowly averted the collapse of his government, but he emerged from a political crisis badly weakened on Tuesday, just weeks before a crucial European Union meeting about Brexit and the country’s border with Britain. Mr. Varadkar’s deputy prime minister, Frances Fitzgerald, resigned on Tuesday over her role in a policing scandal. Her resignation was announced hours before a no-confidence vote was due in Parliament, averting a snap election. “I believe it is necessary to take this decision to avoid an unwelcome and potentially destabilizing general election at this historically critical time,” Ms. Fitzgerald said in a statement posted on Twitter.