Hoping to counter waves of Russian Twitter bots, fake social media accounts, and hacking attacks aimed at undermining American democracy, state election officials around the country are seizing on an old-school strategy: paper ballots. In Virginia, election officials have gone back to a paper ballot system, as a way to prevent any foreign interference. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe this month ordered county officials to ensure new election equipment produces a paper record. Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation to replace a touch-screen voting system with paper.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday touted the department’s effort to engage with state and local officials on guarding U.S. voting infrastructure from cyber threats, stressing that public trust in vote counts “relies on secure election infrastructure.” Nielsen issued the statement highlighting the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent meetings with state and local election officials, which included classified briefings from U.S. intelligence officials on cyber threats to U.S. voting infrastructure. “The American public’s confidence that their vote counts — and is counted correctly — relies on secure election infrastructure,” Nielsen said Tuesday.
State election officials in the nation’s capital for a conference received classified briefings on the cybersecurity of election systems from officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community and law enforcement, according to official readouts of the meetings. A DHS account of the briefings for members of the National Association for Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors stated they “focused on increasing awareness of foreign adversary intent and capabilities against the states’ election infrastructure, as well as a discussion of threat mitigation efforts.” Not only did DHS talk with secretaries from all 50 states, the agency briefed the newly formed, private-sector, industry-centered Sector Coordinating Council for the Election Infrastructure Subsector.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment detailing the Russian social media campaign to aid Donald Trump, undermine Hillary Clinton and sow distrust in American politics describes behavior that aides to Bernie Sanders witnessed firsthand in the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, the senator said Tuesday. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Sanders described how an aide handling his social media accounts noticed an uptick in “horrific and ugly things” directed at Clinton beginning around September 2016 — long after the Democratic nomination had been decided, and while Sanders himself was traveling the country campaigning on her behalf. “In many respects, what Mueller’s report tells us is not new to us,” Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, said. “We knew that they were trying to sow division within the American people. In my case, it was to tell Bernie supporters that Hillary Clinton is a criminal, that Hillary Clinton is crazy, that Hillary Clinton is sick — terrible, terrible ugly stuff — and to have Bernie Sanders supporters either vote for Trump or Jill Stein or not vote at all.”
The federal government said Tuesday it has reached a deal with Arizona after the state failed to give absentee voters enough time to consider final ballots in a special primary election slated for the end of February. The agreement comes after the Justice Department sued Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan last week, claiming absentee voters were not given 45 days to consider the finalized ballot for a special election to fill a vacancy in the state’s 8th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, stepped down from the seat in December after he was accused of offering a female staffer $5 million to be a surrogate for his children. Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a special primary election for Feb. 27, with the general election set for April 24.
A unique effort is underway in Georgia to safeguard elections by taking voting machines back to the future. “The most secure elections in the world are conducted with a piece of paper and a pencil,” said Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner. “It allows you to continue into the future to verify the result.” Turner has proposed a bill that would retire Georgia’s electronic touch-screen voting machines and switch to paper ballots that voters would fill out and then be counted by optical scan machines. The technology has been in use for decades to score standardized tests for grade-school students.
Massachusetts: Conscious of cyber threats, Galvin’s office focuses on election integrity | Lowell Sun
Amid talk of ongoing meddling in American elections by Russia or other adversaries, the head of Secretary of State William Galvin’s elections division met over the long weekend with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials to discuss the security of state elections systems. Last week, the director of national intelligence told federal lawmakers that the intelligence community has already seen signs that Russia, among others, may be attempting to involve itself in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and other future contests. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee last week. He added, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
New Hampshire officials on Tuesday urged a judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires additional documentation from voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election, suggesting it wasn’t harming anyone. The state Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters filed lawsuits against the state last year, claiming the SB3 law was confusing, unnecessary and intimidating. A judge in September allowed the law to take effect but blocked penalties of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for fraud and said further hearings were necessary. The lawsuits have since been consolidated.
Republicans will file suit to block the new map of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts as soon as Wednesday, officials said. Matt Gorman, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday state and federal officials “will sue in federal court as soon as tomorrow to prevent the new partisan map from taking effect.” Top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said Monday a separation of powers case will form the essence of the GOP’s argument, according to The Associated Press. Republicans again will argue the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and governors, not courts, the power to draw congressional boundaries, AP reported.
The morning John Kennedy was set to testify last December, he woke up at 1:30 am, in an unfamiliar hotel room in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, adrenaline coursing through his veins. He’d never gone to court before for anything serious, much less taken the stand. Some time after sunrise, he headed to the courthouse, dressed in a gray Brooks Brothers suit, and spent the next several hours reviewing his notes and frantically pacing the halls. “I think I made a groove in the floor,” Kennedy says. By 3:30 pm, it was finally time. Kennedy’s answers started off slowly, as he worked to steady his nerves. Then, about an hour into his testimony, Exhibit 81 flashed on a screen inside the courtroom. It was a map of part of Pennsylvania’s seventh congressional district, but it might as well have been a chalk outline of a body. “It was like a crime scene,” explains Daniel Jacobson, an attorney for Arnold & Porter, which represented the League of Women Voters in its bid to overturn Pennsylvania’s 2011 electoral map, drawn by the state’s majority Republican General Assembly. The edges of the district skitter in all manner of unnatural directions, drawing comparisons to a sketch of Goofy kicking Donald Duck.
It’s official — Ohioans will vote May 8 to change how the state draws congressional districts to a process supporters say will be more fair, transparent and bipartisan. The General Assembly’s proposed constitutional amendment will be Issue 1, the only statewide issue on the May primary election ballot. The Ohio Ballot Board, a bipartisan panel led by the secretary of state, met Tuesday and approved a ballot summary and arguments for and against Issue 1.
More than five million people have signed up to vote in Burundi’s controversial constitutional referendum in May and elections in 2020, which could allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034.
By the end of the inscription process on Saturday, “a total of 5,000,742 people” signed up, including Burundians living abroad, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was quoted as saying Tuesday by local media. The figure was higher than CENI’s estimate of 4.5 million earlier. This includes those who will be of voting age in time for the referendum as well as people who will become adult by the 2020 general elections, Ndayicariye said. The CENI has not stated how many of the registered people will need to wait until 2020 to be of voting age.
Members of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) began voting on Tuesday on whether to enter a new coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives, a postal ballot which could scupper the chancellor’s chances of a fourth term in office. If the SPD’s nearly half a million members reject the deal, a new election or a minority government in Europe’s biggest economy is likely. Either would be a first for post-war Germany, now without a formal government for nearly five months. The result of the vote, which runs to March 2, is wide open and will be announced on March 4. That will be the same day Italy goes to the polls in a vote seen as too tough to call, as European politics splinter after years of austerity and waves of migrant arrivals from war-torn Syria and elsewhere.
Italian government officials are warning of possible foreign interference in the March 4 general election, sounding the alarm following the U.S. indictment of Russian trolls and evidence of Russian-sourced fake news on popular Italian platforms. Premier Paolo Gentiloni on Tuesday released Italy’s annual security report, which aside from highlighting the threat of Islamic extremism, warned about online “influence campaigns” that aim to “condition both the sentiment and political orientation of public opinion, especially at election time.” The report didn’t mention Russia by name. But for months, U.S. and Italian analysts have warned that European elections are prime targets for Russian meddling, with the Italian contest particularly ripe because two key opposition parties — the nationalist League and the anti-establishment, populist 5-Star Movement — have cultivated ties with Moscow.
The African Union will provide financial and technical assistance to Zimbabwe to help ensure credible elections later this year, the chairperson of the African Union Commission told reporters Tuesday in Harare. Briefing reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Zimbabwe, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said he met separately with former President Robert Mugabe and current President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He said he discussed his meeting with Mugabe during a courtesy visit.