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.
Initial results were expected Thursday in Liberia’s landmark presidential poll, the country’s first democratic transfer of power in decades, pitting former footballer George Weah against Vice President Joseph Boakai. Whoever wins will succeed Africa’s first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over at the helm of the small west African nation in 2006. Sirleaf’s predecessor Charles Taylor fled the country in 2003, hoping to avoid prosecution for funding rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone, while two presidents who served prior to Taylor were assassinated. The tumultuous events of the past seven decades in Liberia, where an estimated 250,000 people died during back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, means a democratic handover has not taken place since 1944.
Russia has rejected concerns that a decision to bar the government critic Alexei Navalny from running against Vladimir Putin in next March’s presidential election could undermine the vote’s legitimacy, as the Kremlin hinted at reprisals in response to opposition calls for a boycott of the polls. Russia’s election committee ruled on Monday that Navalny should be ineligible to stand for public office until at least 2028 because of a previous conviction for fraud. Navalny, who has spent the past year carrying out a nationwide grassroots election campaign, said the charges that led to his conviction were trumped up to prevent him from challenging Putin. He said he would ask his 200,000 campaign volunteers to divert their efforts into convincing Russians to boycott the election and he also called for nationwide protests. “Vladimir Putin is extremely shaken up. He’s afraid of competing with me,” Navalny said in an online video address. “What they are offering us can’t be called elections. Only Putin and the candidates he has personally selected, those who don’t represent even the smallest threat to him, are taking part. To go to the polling station now is to vote for lies and corruption.”
Trials to make people show identification before they can vote could unfairly affect older people who are less likely to possess photo ID or have access to other documents, the Labour party and charities have warned. The proposal to counter voter fraud by making people show ID will be piloted in five parts of England for the local elections in May, ministers announced this year. Voters in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough will be asked to produce identification. In some areas people will be asked for photo ID such as a passport or driving licence, in others they will just have to show the polling card sent out to people’s homes.