The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 5-11 2018

Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the DHS, told NBC News that Russia “successfully penetrated” the voter rolls in a small number of states in 2016. It’s unclear what Russians might have done with the access to Americans’ voter information, but election officials nevertheless continue to maintain that no evidence suggests that any of the registration rolls were changed. Access to registration databases could allow hackers to change or delete names or use voter information to target ads to individuals in contentious states.

Pam Fessler at NPR reported on a meeting of election officials organized by the Election Assistance Commission to develop strategies to protect the nation’s voting systems against cyber threats. “The reality is all of us are going to be impacted at some point in time by a cyber incident. All of us,” Matt Masterson, chairman of the EAC, told the group. Masterson displayed a news article about hackers targeting nuclear facilities to drive home the significance of the threat. “I share this because you’re now in good company,” he said. “As part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, you’re now in a group with nuclear facilities.”

In a Washington Post oped, Brian Klaas explored the vulnerabilities of American elections and concludes that “Congress and state legislatures must not make the same mistake. Twenty-first-century elections require a return to a 1st century B.C. technology: paper.”

Gizmodo reported the Sacramento Bee newspaper left more than 19 million voter records exposed online, which were compromised during an apparent ransomware attack. The Bee said in a statement that a firewall protecting its database was not restored during routine maintenance last month, leaving the 19,501,258 voter files publicly accessible.

Florida voting activists and lawmakers have objected to language inserted in an election bill that could allow the wider use of direct recording electronic voting equipment. French Brown, who represents Verified Voting, a nonprofit elections watchdog. “The language in section one of the bill broadly redefines the term ballot to include any voter interface used indirectly to designate the elector’s ballot selection onto a sheet of paper,” Brown said. “Verified Voting has concerns that allowing the full electorate to use these machines could negatively impact voter confidence and voting accuracy.”

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a Stanford University law professor’s election districts for state General Assembly seats in Wake and Mecklenburg counties while leaving his maps in place in six other counties while lawmakers appeal a three-judge panel’s ruling. Coming a week before the filing period opens forGeneral Assembly candidates, the court’s ruling clarifies to some extent the district lines that will be used for state Senate and House seats this year.

Republicans, Democrats and a coalition of redistricting-reform advocates reached a deal to put a proposal on the May ballot aimed at curtailing partisan gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional map. After weekend negotiations that capped off about two weeks of heavy talks, the Senate on Monday night voted 31-0 for the compromise plan. The House is likely to approve it Tuesday, one day ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline to qualify the issue for the May statewide ballot.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf as ordered counties buying new equipment to replace their electronic voting systems that leave a paper trail that can be used in a post-election audit. Verified Voting’s President Marian K. Schneider applauded the Governor’s decision, “the administration’s move to safeguard Pennsylvania elections by requiring counties to purchase these new voting systems will allow jurisdictions to detect any problems with the election outcome and recover from them. This is exactly why security experts recommend that voting machines are resilient. Pennsylvania’s actions reflect the understanding that our election infrastructure must be secure.”

Joshua Wong and two other leading Hong Kong democracy activists won an appeal against their jail terms at the city’s highest court Tuesday in a case seen as a test for the independence of the city’s judiciary, which some fear is under pressure from Beijing.

Egypt’s prosecutor-general has ordered an official investigation into a number of opposition politicians who are boycotting next month’s presidential election, as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi looks set to extend his term. Several potential candidates have either been arrested or faced threats, intimidation and physical violence, forcing them to drop out.