The Russians have punched far beyond their weight when it comes to cyberwarfare, a prominent U.S. Senator said Saturday, and America isn’t keeping up. Speaking at the SXSW conference in Austin, Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, noted that Vladimir Putin’s government got “great bang for their dollars, or bang for their rubles” by exploiting vulnerabilities on social media during the 2016 presidential elections, and that it may be time for the U.S. to rethink its military budget. “I come from one of the most pro-defense states,” Warner said, “but if you look at what we’re spending [on the military], $700 billion, the Russians are spending $68 billion.” Warner said that Putin’s government has acknowledged that it can’t keep up with us militarily. But he added that it has managed to use cyberwarfare to sow divisiveness in the U.S. by using sophisticated techniques to spread disinformation. It uses small, targeted election advertising buys, and leaves the kind of obvious fingerprints on state election systems that could have been used to defend President Trump’s original claims that the 2016 election was “rigged.”
Over two-thirds of U.S. House of Representatives Democrats urged President Donald Trump to enact sanctions on Russia, the latest push by lawmakers for a response to investigators’ findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. At least 137 of the Democrats in the House signed a letter, seen by Reuters on Monday,“strongly urging” Trump to adhere to a law he signed last summer imposing sanctions on those who do business with Russia’s military and intelligence sectors. “We strongly urge you to reverse course, follow the letter and spirit of the law, and demonstrate that the security of our country and integrity of elections are sacrosanct,” the letter said.
More than a dozen secretaries of state slammed a rider attached to legislation to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security that would allow Secret Service to be dispatched to polling places nationwide during a federal election. “This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers,” according to the letter, which was obtained by CNN. In the letter, which was sent Friday to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, the 19 secretaries of state write that they believe the proposal is “unprecedented and shocking.”
National: Despite Mueller’s Push, House Republicans Declare No Evidence of Collusion | The New York Times
Even as the special counsel expands his inquiry and pursues criminal charges against at least four Trump associates, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said on Monday that their investigation had found no evidence of collusion between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 election. Representative K. Michael Conaway, the Texas Republican who is leading the investigation, said committee Republicans agreed with the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered with the election, but they broke with the agencies on one crucial point: that the Russians had favored Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “The bottom line: The Russians did commit active measures against our election in ’16, and we think they will do that in the future,” Mr. Conaway said. But, he added, “We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.”
Editorials: Count all the people, just as the Constitution says | David Gans/San Antonio Express-News
Under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department has repeatedly turned its back on our Constitution’s promise of an inclusive democracy, seeking to make it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote. Now, the department has another trick up its sleeve. If successful, its ploy would undermine the fabric of our representative democracy for the next 10 years, and possibly beyond. The Justice Department has requested that a mandatory citizenship question be added to the 2020 census. This would chill participation by immigrants across the country and result in bad data, biasing congressional apportionment, redistricting and funding decisions for an entire decade. The Constitution imposes a clear duty on the Census Bureau: It requires a count of all people living in the United States, whether they are citizens or noncitizens, whether they were born in the United States or in a distant part of the world.
Voting Blogs: Latest Threat to Democracy: Barcodes, Ballot Marking Devices (a.k.a. ‘Electronic Pencils’) | Brad Blog
A Ballot Marking Device (“BMD”) is a touchscreen computer that generates a computer-marked paper ballot or printout, which is then tallied on a computerized optical scanner. (Those computer-marked ballots can also, in theory, be counted by hand, but generally are not, as most election officials rely on optical scanners instead.) BMDs were initially designed for people who are unable to hand-mark paper ballots due to disability, old age, etc. But the state of Georgia and Los Angeles County, California are now at the forefront of an unfortunate new trend, which is to consider buying these expensive hackable “electronic pencils” for use by all voters at the polls, regardless of need.
Until an internet researcher found the personal information of 6.7 million Georgia voters online, it was available for the taking by potential criminals. Because the researcher reported his discovery last March, that election information was locked down within an hour. The FBI looked into the case and concluded he hadn’t broken the law. Now Georgia lawmakers might make that kind of research a crime. A bill advancing through the Georgia General Assembly would crack down on investigations into whether the government or businesses aren’t protecting their data, unless permission is given in advance. The legislation is meant to prevent computer snooping, but it could also stop legitimate internet security efforts. The bill was introduced, in part, as a result of the state’s failure to protect voter records — including voter lists with full Social Security numbers and birth dates — at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems.
Iowa: ‘Backdoor gerrymandering’ just one of Iowa GOP election-rigging attempts | Des Moines Register’
Iowa prides itself on its clean elections. Our state’s nonpartisan redistricting, which ensures fair treatment for both major parties, is a model for the nation. But that doesn’t mean Iowa is immune from efforts to twist the election process to the advantage of the party in power. Two bills moving in the Iowa Legislature are notable examples. The Iowa Senate last week approved a bill that would put Republicans at the top of the ballot in 98 out of 99 counties for the 2018 general election.
A prominent voter fraud alarmist who had prepared a report defending Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law admitted in testimony Friday that he did not investigate the circumstances surrounding the registrations of a handful of non-citizens that were central to his allegations. The witness, Hans von Spakovsky, relied on a spreadsheet provided to him by the state. The spreadsheet showed that in Kansas’ second most populous county, there were only 38 alleged cases of non-citizens registering or attempting to register to vote in the last two decades. That spreadsheet, which also showed that only five of those non-citizens cast votes, had already come under extreme scrutiny earlier in the trial. “I did not personally examine each registration form,” von Spakovsky said, under cross-examination from Dale Ho, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the case.
The campaign for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have taken control of redistricting from state legislators and given it to an independent commission didn’t submit enough valid signatures to put the measure before November voters, South Dakota’s chief elections official said Monday. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’ office said in a statement that a random sampling of signatures collected by Citizens for Fair Elections found that the group turned in about 25,300 valid signatures, not the nearly the 28,000 needed for the proposed constitutional amendment to go on the general election ballot.
Even as the Supreme Court takes more time than expected to decide its part in the constitutional controversy over how voting is to be done this year for the 18 House of Representatives members from Pennsylvania, a federal trial court in Harrisburg, PA, is pondering a complex question of states’ rights that could end the case there without a decision on who wins. The difficulty for the three judges sitting in the state’s capital city arises from the reality that, whenever a lawsuit is started in a federal court, that court has to have the authority to decide it, and there is significant controversy over whether the Harrisburg court has that authority. The controversy is keyed to the most basic understandings about the nature of the Constitution’s division of powers between state and federal courts. For decades, the general understanding has been that only the Supreme Court has the authority to review a state court ruling, and then only when the state court has issued a ruling that involves the federal Constitution. That is a strong gesture toward federalism – respect for states’ rights in limiting national government power.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on March 9 that the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha must face prosecutors after a scandal erupted over alleged Russian lobbying for Albania’s Democrats in the US. Rama’s comment came after US publication Mother Jones reported on March 6 that Albania’s Democratic Party indirectly received secret funds from Russian sources in the US during last year’s parliamentary election. It also said that Russian-related companies were secretly active in the US to meddle in the election. “The truth about this issue will be definitely unveiled,” Rama said in a Facebook post on March 9.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have lost two seats in the territory’s legislature, another setback for the bloc whose members were previously disqualified after modifying their oaths of office to defy Beijing. While the pro-democracy camp widely anticipated losing one of the four vacated seats up for a vote in Sunday’s by-election, a second loss, by a margin of just over 1 percent after a recount, was a less expected and more painful blow. The vote came on the same day that China’s Communist Party-controlled legislature approved a measure to drop term limits for president, clearing the way for President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely. Hong Kong’s democracy advocates framed the vote in the semiautonomous territory as a way to stand up to the authoritarianism of China’s central government. What they were left with, however, was a further erosion of their already limited power.
While some voting stations ran out of ballots, social media users also posted numerous videos showing alleged irregularities including vote buying. Colombia’s legislative elections and interparty primaries have created a stir in the South American nation, after major irregularities were reported by NGOs, candidates and social media users. The Electoral Observer Mission (OEM) – which had warned of the risk of fraud in hundreds of municipalities in the run-up to the elections –reported numerous inconsistencies as videos surfaced on social media appearing to show vote-buying and other fraudulent activities. “Unauthorized information desks” had been set up in front of polling stations in various towns “with lists of voters and transportation ready to receive them,” the OEM said.
A top Congolese opposition leader and other figures opposed to longtime President Joseph Kabila met in South Africa on Monday to build a coalition ahead of long-delayed elections in the turbulent, resource-rich country. Ending a three-day forum, delegates at a resort hotel near Johannesburg said they would work together to elect Moise Katumbi, who fled Congo in 2016 amid legal troubles that he said were fabricated to stop him from challenging Kabila. The meeting came amid an escalating humanitarian crisis in Congo and fears of intensifying violence in the run-up to the vote scheduled for December. Katumbi told cheering supporters that Congo must hold “credible and transparent elections” and appealed to his compatriots to “rebuild our country together.”
The election billboards of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi are everywhere in this bustling capital. They read: “Yalla Sissi” — “Go Sissi” in Arabic — urging him on for a second term. Egyptian voters will struggle to find a billboard for his only challenger. That obscure candidate, after all, said weeks ago that he wants Sissi to remain as president. Moussa Mostafa Moussa has so far not given speeches, made television commercials or bought newspaper ads seeking votes. On March 4, his first election rally was attended by no more than 25 supporters. As leader of the centrist Ghad Party, Moussa has been one of Sissi’s staunchest supporters and part of a well-orchestrated effort backing Sissi for a second term. Last weekend, Moussa told a state-owned television program that he doesn’t want to debate Sissi because he’s “not here to challenge the president.”
“The average length of a good tyranny is a decade and a half, two decades at most. When it’s more than that, it invariably slips into a monstrosity.” So wrote Russian-American émigré, essayist, and poet (and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) Joseph Brodsky in 1980. With the elections this Sunday in Russia, President Vladimir Putin will extend his 18-year rule by another six — squarely in monstrosity territory. Of course, much of what Brodsky predicted for such monstrous regimes — “the kind of grandeur that manifests itself in waging wars or internal terror, or both” — has already come to pass in Putin’s Russia. Putin’s authoritarianism has been ahead of schedule. Indeed, Putin cemented his rise to power on a mixture of war (in Chechnya) and terror (a series of apartment bombings, possibly orchestrated by Putin himself and his FSB colleagues). His rule has been perpetuated by persistent violence — foreign and domestic — deployed as a political tool. We have witnessed in it the killing of journalists, democrats, and those who have sought to hold the state accountable (Politkovskaya, Estemirova, Klebnikov, Magnitsky, Nemtsov, and many others); we have seen the invasion and occupation of neighboring states and the violent backing of fellow strongmen (in Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria).