National: The latest 2018 election-hacking threat: A 9-month wait for government help | Politico

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.”

National: American Elections Remain Unprotected | The Atlantic

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.

National: Why the 2018 Midterms Are So Vulnerable to Hackers | The New Yorker

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.

National: Luck Of The Draw? Games Of Chance Not Uncommon In Deciding Tied Elections | NPR

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.

National: Can Facebook win its battle against election interference in 2018? | The Guardian

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.

Maine: Election Chief Shines Light On Fraud Panel He Was Accused Of Legitimizing | Maine Public

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.

Michigan: Federal judge orders panel to hear gerrymandering case | The Detroit News

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.

Nevada: Opponents of recall say officials failed to follow Nevada law | Las Vegas Review-Journal

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.

North Dakota: Attorney: New Voter Law Still Unconstitutional | Associated Press

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.

Virginia: Voting Mess Was Never Supposed to Happen After Bush v. Gore | The New York Times

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.

Cambodia: China to donate ballot boxes and voting booths for Cambodia election | AFP

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.

Estonia: Court rejects current ID card manufacturer’s appeal against Estonia | ERR

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.

Honduras: Opposition demands annulment of president’s re-election | AFP

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.

Italy: President Dissolves Parliament and Officially Opens Election Season | The New York Times

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.

Russia: Alexey Navalny and the Empty Spectacle of the Russian Election | The New Yorker

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.