Thomas Hicks has been tapped to chair the Election Assistance Commission, an agency that is considered central to protecting the U.S. election infrastructure from cyberthreats, the commission announced on Friday. Reuters reported on Thursday that Republican House Speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, decided not to recommend former chairman Matthew Masterson for a second term as one of the EAC’s four commissioners. Commissioners are recommended by congressional leadership, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. According to Reuters, some state officials were surprised that Masterson was not considered for a second term as commissioner, given that he has focused much of his tenure on cybersecurity.
The State Department is launching a $40 million initiative to crack down on foreign propaganda and disinformation amid widespread concerns about future Russian efforts to interfere in elections. The department announced Monday that it signed a deal with the Pentagon to transfer $40 million from the Defense Department’s coffers to bolster the Global Engagement Center, an office set up at State during the Obama years to expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. The new influx of funds will bolster the center’s operations in the current fiscal year.
National: Senate intelligence panel may miss target for election security recommendations | Politico
The Senate Intelligence Committee may miss its target for making election security recommendations to states facing potential Russian disruption during the midterms — but its GOP chairman is eyeing a contingency plan. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and the panel’s Democratic vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, have long eyed next week’s first congressional primaries as their ideal date to release election-protection recommendations. The intelligence committee’s counsel to states would amount to the first formal fruits of their yearlong bipartisan investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
National: Most states disenfranchise felons. Maine and Vermont allow inmates to vote from prison. | NBC
Joseph Jackson was one of the millions of Americans inspired by Barack Obama’s 2008 White House bid. A black man in the nation’s whitest state, he coordinated voter registration drives and cast his first-ever ballot for the candidate who would become the nation’s first African-American president. And he did it all while incarcerated in a maximum-security prison, serving 19 years for manslaughter. That’s because Jackson, 52, was convicted in Maine, one of just two states that allow felons to vote from behind bars. In the U.S., nearly all convicted felons are disenfranchised during their prison sentences and, often, barred from the ballot for years after release. Sometimes, offenders lose the right to vote for life.
How to keep voter files safe from identity theft and other threats is the focus of two bills under consideration by the Government Administration and Elections Committee. The bills, which received a public hearing Monday at the Capitol, would limit who can obtain copies of voter rolls, what information they could access and what they can do with that information. They would also allow people with safety concerns or municipal police to opt out of having their information available on public voter rolls.
Sedgwick County leaders are optimistic a law will be passed this year that makes sure voters with disabilities can vote by mail. County commissioners have backed two bills in the Kansas Legislature clarifying that voters who can’t sign their mail-in ballot envelopes will still have their votes counted. State law already allows voters to receive assistance filling out their mail-in ballots if needed. One of those bills — sponsored by Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita — passed unanimously through the Senate last week. Sedgwick County Commission Chairman David Dennis says he thinks there’s a good chance it’ll pass through the House just as easily.
Maine: U.S. too passive, vulnerable to elections cyberthreat, Sen. King says | Portland Press Herald
U.S. Sen. Angus King is warning that not enough has been done to secure electoral systems across the country from cyberattacks by Russia or other foreign adversaries, and he says President Trump has been making the situation worse by dismissing the threat rather than marshaling a coordinated federal response. “This is such a major threat, and it takes presidential leadership to coordinate an all-of-government response,” said King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and beyond. “The CIA, the director of national intelligence, the secretaries of state – these are all pieces, and it takes executive leadership to pull the pieces together and do it. He hasn’t done that.”
New Hampshire: New Hampshire Not Among States Seeking Cybersecurity Help Ahead of 2018 Elections | NHPR
With its paper ballots and in-person registration requirements, New Hampshire’s voting system is less digitally wired — and therefore somewhat less susceptible to cyberattacks — than many of its peers. But this state, like all others, also maintains an online database with personal information on all of its registered voters. Federal security officials have offered to scan these systems for possible vulnerabilities as part of a broader package of “cyber-hygiene” efforts ahead of the 2018 elections, but New Hampshire election officials have said no thanks. More than 30 states have reportedly partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to safeguard their systems against hacking in advance of this year’s midterm elections. At this point, New Hampshire isn’t one of them — and the state’s elections officials remain wary of allowing the federal government to in any way encroach on their autonomy when it comes to voting procedures.
New Jersey lawmakers are proposing a bill that would make the state the third in the country to allow prisoners the right to vote. The bill would let people who are incarcerated, on parole and under probation supervision vote, a change supporters say is critical to addressing racial disparities in New Jersey’s criminal justice system. Under current law, New Jersey residents can’t vote if they are incarcerated or on parole or probation. About 94,000 people currently fall into these categories, according to state officials. Shavonda Sumter, a state assemblywoman from Paterson, N.J., said black residents make up a disproportionate share of the state’s prison population—and stripping them of their voting rights violates constitutional protections that that say people can’t be prevented from voting based on their race.
Across Ohio, counties are coming up with innovative ways to repair the state’s aging voting machines, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace. In Darke County, an elections worker bought small springs from a farm supply store that he used to hold together a flap on voting machines. In Montgomery County, spare parts are cannibalized from dead machines and pirated from other counties to keep units limping along. And in Clark County, maintenance costs keep climbing on machines built long before anyone held an iPhone. “It’s time for a replacement,” said state Sen. Frank LaRose, a Hudson Republican who is sponsoring a bill that will spend somewhere between $90 million and $118 million on new voting machines for all 88 Ohio counties.
Wisconsin: For state officials, election security a concern heading into 2018 elections | Wisconsin State Journal
Amid warnings that Russia will again try to meddle in U.S. elections in 2018, state officials are sizing up Wisconsin’s defenses — and saying past missteps must be avoided in working with national-security officials who can spot such threats. The state Elections Commission also hopes lawmakers will act on a request for more funding to hire three more staffers, including at least one position dedicated to election security. Russian government cyberactors unsuccessfully targeted Wisconsin election systems in July 2016 as part of a broader effort to interfere in U.S. elections, federal intelligence officials have concluded. The commission said Homeland Security didn’t notify it until September 2017, about 14 months later, that it believed the attempted cyberattacks came from hackers tied to the Russian government.
Wisconsin: Eric Holder’s group sues Gov. Scott Walker over special elections | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sued Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Monday over his refusal to call special elections to fill two open legislative seats. Fresh off a victory in a Senate special election last month, Wisconsin Democrats have demanded that Walker call these two additional special elections and give their party an opportunity to notch more wins. With Democrats seeing an opportunity — and Republicans seeing a threat — the controversy over the special election has taken on a strong political cast. Holder’s group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, jumped into the fight Monday, bringing the lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of Wisconsin Democrats who live in the two districts.
Antigua and Barbuda will hold parliamentary elections on March 21, according to an announcement made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne during a party rally late Saturday. Browne said the early legislative elections come to protect the many plans his Antigua Labour Party, ALP, has programed for this year and the and next. “We have an opportunity at this point to consolidate the leadership of this country, to provide investors with predictability, to prove stability, to provide continuity, and that’s the main reason why we’re going to the polls early,” Browne told a cheering crowd of supporters.
A leading NATO researcher says Canada should assume Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2019 federal election because that would serve the Kremlin’s purpose of helping destabilize the military alliance. The allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as its attempts to disrupt votes in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, among other countries, makes Canada a natural target, Janis Sarts, the director of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence said in an interview. Russia is attracted to Canada because destabilizing it would “undermine the cohesion” of the broader NATO alliance. Moreover, it could serve to undermine Canadian policy in Europe, he said.
The European Union threatened Cambodia with economic sanctions on Monday after the country’s ruling party said it had won every seat in a Senate election in which many opposition supporters were stripped of their right to vote. EU foreign ministers said in a statement they were considering “specific targeted measures” against Cambodia, which diplomats said was a warning to long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen that senior government officials could face sanctions. The bloc said it was also reviewing the preferential trade treatment it gives Cambodia because of what rights groups and opposition politicians say is a crackdown by the premier, in power for 30 years, ahead of a national election in July.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Monday approved a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD), bringing closer a fourth term for her as well as an end to political limbo in Europe’s preeminent power. The more formidable hurdle to ending a five-month political impasse comes next week, however. On March 4, results of a binding postal vote by members of the centre-left SPD will be announced and they are far less certain. “Now I can only say to the SPD that I hope many members feel the same responsibility for giving Germany a good government,” Merkel said in an interview with broadcaster RTL. “I think we can achieve a lot together for Germany and its people.”
Thousands marched through central Moscow on Sunday to commemorate murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, calling for President Vladimir Putin to be ousted just three weeks before a presidential election. Nemtsov, one of Putin’s most vocal critics, was shot dead on Feb. 27, 2015 as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin. Aged 55, he had been working on a report examining Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine. His killing sent a chill through opposition circles, and initiated annual marches in Moscow that have united different opposition parties and those discontented with the authorities. Some blame Putin for Nemtsov’s death but he has never responded to such accusations. In 2015, he said the murder had a “provocative nature” and later that he was closely watching the investigation process.