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National: Intensified Cyber Security Will Inevitably Lead to Greater Federal Involvement in US Electoral Process | Intelligencer Post

The last US presidential election brought the vulnerabilities of election grids to the fore. During the elections and after the race had ended, reports began to flood Western media revealing the attempts by Russian government-connected actors to influence the US electoral system. This included hacking suppliers of software used in digital voting machines, along with organizing the infamous troll armies that conducted social engineering operations in the hopes of swaying voters. Signs of threat actors targeting election-related assets has persisted. In mid-December, local US media reported that personal details of over 19 million California voters ended up in the hands of hackers after being stolen from an insecure cloud server. Hackers who had penetrated the cloud had deleted all of the content and left a message on the account demanding ransom money in Bitcoin for its return. The database contained personal details of these individuals, including contact and voting precinct information. The technology used in elections has also been shown to contain serious vulnerabilities. At a recent DEF CON hackers conference in Las Vegas, participants were able to pull off a number of hacks on several commonly used voting machines, including gaining remote access. Read More

National: States get policy help in securing the 2018 vote | GCN

Time is running out for state and local officials to secure their voting systems before the mid-term elections, but they may be getting some help from Capitol Hill, the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. FEC Vice Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said her agency unanimously voted to update the 2006 rules governing political ad disclosure in time for the 2018 elections. “I believe we are going to be able to move this rulemaking forward in this election cycle,” she said at the 2018 State of the Net conference on Jan. 29. “We should be able to move quickly enough to get the new rules in place to at least require the information available about where the …  ads are coming from.” Read More

National: Wanted: a firewall to protect U.S. elections | Harvard Gazette

As the FBI and Congress work to unravel Russia’s hacking of the 2016 presidential election and learn whether anyone in Donald Trump’s campaign supported the effort, one thing has become clear: U.S. elections are far more vulnerable to manipulation than was thought. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security warning and offer last year to help state election officials protect voter registration rolls, voting machines, and software from tampering was coolly received, perhaps out of skepticism or innate distrust of federal interference in a domain historically controlled by the states. Now, as federal and state officials are partnering to examine voting and election security, a new initiative at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) is working to shore up another at-risk component of the U.S. election system: political campaigns. Read More

National: Lawmakers blast Trump decision to hold off on Russia sanctions | Reuters

Members of the U.S. Congress, who passed new sanctions on Russia nearly unanimously last summer, criticized President Donald Trump on Tuesday for not imposing them, accusing him of being soft on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The Trump administration said on Monday it would not announce sanctions for now under the new law, intended to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russia denies interfering in the campaign. Democrats blasted the decision, accusing Trump of failing to do everything possible to deter any future foreign election interference. Trump, who wanted warmer ties with Moscow, opposed the legislation as it worked its way through Congress and signed it reluctantly in August. Twenty Senate Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday saying the failure to impose sanctions was “unacceptable.” Read More

Editorials: No conspiracy in paper voting | The Covington News

As could be expected in an election year, a proposal to overhaul the state’s method of voting is getting bogged down in politics. But it shouldn’t, because this is too important. For background: Georgia uses 16-year-old touchscreen technology for its elections. The machines are powered by Windows 2000, which Microsoft doesn’t even support anymore. And there are always questions about the lack of a paper trail. Votes are recorded on data packs, which can be run through a machine again, but without seeing a voter’s actual ballot, there’s going to be a question of whether tampering might have happened. Read More

Guam: Bill combines voter registration, driver’s license process | Guam News

A proposed law supported by Democrats and Republicans would implement a streamlined voter registration process for all eligible U.S. citizen residents of Guam with the choice to opt out, was introduced yesterday by Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee. Sens. Wil Castro, Fernando Esteves, Tommy Morrison, Joe San Agustin and Mary Torres co-sponsored Bill 234-34. The measure would register eligible citizens as voters upon their registration for an ID card or driver’s license with the Motor Vehicles Division at the Department of Revenue and Taxation. The registration will happen automatically unless the registrant checks a box to opt out. Read More

Nebraska: While Voter ID Law is Pushed in Legislature, County Election Officials Say Voter Fraud is Not an Issue | NCN

While state lawmakers argue over the need for photo ID’s to stop allegations of vote fraud, folks we talked with want to know more. “I haven’t really heard much about it,” says Nebraska resident Justice Chwebach. “I have not heard it (voter fraud) before since you brought it up,” says Nebraska resident Theresa Veit. Ten county election commissioners interviewed by News Channel Nebraska say that in their combined 150-plus years on the job, showing a photo ID at the ballot box would not have prevented voter fraud, not once. Read More

North Carolina: Cooper Seeks Fast Movement Following Elections Board Ruling | Associated Press

Gov. Roy Cooper wants the legal wheels to spin faster after the North Carolina Supreme Court tossed out laws governing the makeup of a combined state elections and ethics board, hoping that will let him seat a new elections board quickly. Cooper’s private attorneys asked the justices Tuesday to hurry up formalizing last Friday’s split decision that favored Cooper. The court’s majority opinion said lawmakers had gone too far by requiring Cooper, a Democrat, to choose half of the members of the combined board from a list of candidates generated by the Republican Party. Under legal rules, the justices’ order doesn’t get sent to the panel of three trial judges who initially heard the case until Feb. 15. Then those judges will issue its own ruling on how the majority opinion affects the challenged laws. Read More

Ohio: Redistricting ballot group, Democrats reject changes proposed by Republicans | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Republicans working on congressional redistricting reform announced several changes to their plan Monday night aimed at appeasing Democrats and advocates pushing their own reform measure. But both groups said the revised plan still does not eliminate partisan gerrymandering and allows politicians to slice and dice communities to their parties’ advantage. The Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition plans to move forward getting its proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot. “This is simply why no one trusts politicians,” Heather Taylor-Miesle, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council and one of the Fair Districts leaders said in a statement. “We have no choice to continue onward with our ballot initiative to ensure voters across Ohio aren’t gerrymandered into districts where their elected representatives aren’t beholden to voters.” Read More

Editorials: The Supreme Court’s Elections Clause dilemma in Pennsylvania | Lyle Denniston/Constitution Daily

The Constitution has had an Elections Clause since it first went into effect in 1789, but the Supreme Court has rarely given an interpretation of its meaning. But what the Supreme Court has said creates a dilemma for the Justices as they decide soon what to do about the claim that Pennsylvania’s state legislature engaged in partisan gerrymandering when it drew up election districts for choosing the state’s 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican legislative leaders in the state have asked the Justices to put on hold, and then review, a decision earlier this month by the state Supreme Court that the 2011 congressional map was a partisan-driven effort and that it violates the state constitution. The voters and political organizations that won the case in the state’s highest court have been told to file by Friday a reply to the request for a postponement of the ruling at issue. The state GOP leaders’ first hurdle will be to persuade five of the nine Justices to grant a postponement. But an even bigger hurdle is to persuade the Justices that the Supreme Court should get involved in second-guessing the state court’s interpretation of its own constitution.  Read More