With the 2018 primary season already underway, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee are launching an effort to protect U.S. elections from a repeat episode of foreign interference. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, will preview some of the committee’s recommendations for improving the nation’s election infrastructure at a news conference Tuesday. On Wednesday, the committee will hold a hearing examining attempted hacks on state elections systems in 2016 and the federal and state response to those efforts.
House lawmakers on Monday passed legislation that would codify into law the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber incident response teams that help protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Lawmakers passed the bill, sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), in a voice vote Monday afternoon. The legislation would authorize the “cyber hunt and incident response teams” at Homeland Security to help owners and operators of critical infrastructure respond to cyberattacks as well as provide strategies for mitigating cybersecurity risks.
The company at the centre of the Facebook data breach boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world, a new investigation reveals. Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them. In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” The Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast on Monday, comes two days after the Observer reported Cambridge Analytica had unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles in one of the social media company’s biggest data breaches.
Additional pleadings have been filed in the citizen’s lawsuit challenging the new Arkansas voter ID law that includes evidence the new law resulted in votes in a recent special election in Russellville not being counted. The 2017 law was passed after an earlier Arkansas Supreme Court ruling said the addition of a required photo ID to vote was an unconstitutional new barrier to voting. Thanks to that case, evidence has been compiled by the ACLU showing that more than 1,000 registered voters did not have votes counted because of the law. The new law tries to skirt that decision by calling the voter ID provision part of a new registration process allowed by the state Constitution. Its defenders argue that the law provides a way to cast a vote without an ID.
Colorado: State overhauled how candidates qualify for ballot after fraud stained 2016 election | The Denver Post
Inside a secure, nondescript office building in Pueblo, a team of state officials spends 17 hours a day combing through voter data as part of a new effort to prevent election fraud. The nerve center is responsible for verifying voter signatures that political candidates collect to qualify for the 2018 ballot in Colorado — a process corrupted by forgery and felony charges two years ago. “This is all new,” said Secretary of State Wayne Williams, as he gave The Denver Post an exclusive tour of the facility. In prior elections, he continued, “there was zero checking done on the signature. This is the first year we’ve ever checked the signature component.”
Kansas: Voting trial over. One more court day, a contempt hearing, ahead for Kobach | The Kansas City Star
A federal judge will decide whether thousands can vote in Kansas this fall after the conclusion of a two-week trial that saw a leading candidate for governor scolded and scrutinized. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican candidate for governor, led the legal team defending the state’s proof of citizenship requirement, a policy he crafted, against a pair of federal lawsuits. The case will have national implications because Kobach has previously advised President Donald Trump on voter fraud and remains in contact with his administration. The trial wrapped up Monday evening, but Kobach still faces a contempt hearing Tuesday. Kobach’s office has pointed to 129 non-citizens that it says either registered or attempted to register over nearly two decades, but he has repeatedly said this number could be “the tip of the iceberg” and has offered estimates that as many as 18,000 are on the state’s voter rolls.
Lawyers presented closing arguments on Monday in the trial of a legal challenge to a Kansas law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote, with opponents calling the statute illegal and supporters deeming it necessary to fight voter fraud. The seven-day, non-jury trial in Kansas City drew to a conclusion as U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said she was taking the case under submission and would not render a decision for at least a month. The Kansas law, which took effect in 2013, requires individuals to present a U.S. passport, birth certificate or other proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Several other Republican-led state legislatures have enacted similar measures in recent years.
Election officials across the country are looking to shore up election systems against hacking, a facet of the 2016 election that led to a yearlong congressional investigation. Nevada is organizing cybersecurity under a new central hub, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, and is among more than 35 states sending officials to a cyber security incident response training at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center in Massachusetts later this month. Hackers linked to Russia targeted election systems in 21 states during the 2016 election. The Nevada Secretary of State announced in September that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed Nevada was not one of those states.
New York: Board of Elections To Roll Out ‘Electronically Assisted’ Voter Registration | Gotham Gazette
New York’s voting and registration laws have long been derided as onerous and needlessly restrictive, falling far behind most other states that have implemented modern methods to register and cast a vote. While significant changes to state election laws are being debated in Albany ahead of a new state budget, the New York City Board of Elections may improve, albeit incrementally, people’s access to the ballot by soon providing digital aid to register to vote. The Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency funded by the city, is set to roll out a new website in the coming months which will provide New Yorkers with an “electronically assisted way” to fill out a voter registration form and an absentee ballot application, according to BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan, who testified at a budget hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Monday. The two electronic forms would still have to be printed and either mailed to the BOE or delivered in person, in accordance with current state law.
Pennsylvania: Supreme Court turns down gerrymander appeal from Pennsylvania’s GOP | Los Angeles Times
The Supreme Court refused Monday to block a new election map for Pennsylvania that gives Democrats a chance to win four or more congressional seats in November. The justices turned down a second and final appeal from Pennsylvania’s Republican leaders, who defended the gerrymandered districts that had given them a steady 13-5 advantage over the Democrats for years. The new map gives Democrats a good chance to win half of the 18 House seats. Last week, they celebrated picking up a Republican seat when Conor Lamb claimed victory in a special election for a seat in southwestern Pennsylvania. Republicans have not conceded that race as final provisional ballots are counted. Lamb and all other candidates will run this fall in districts that have been redrawn.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday signed a package of bills aimed at increasing voter access in Washington state, including a measure to preregister 16- and 17-year-olds and another that allows in-person voter registration to occur the same day of an election. “I’m proud of our state for making it easier to vote, not harder,” Inslee told the crowd of students and other supporters at Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington, where the bill signing ceremony was held. Under one of the measures , starting on July 1, 2019, people can preregister to vote starting at age 16, though they won’t be added to the list of registered voters until the next election at which they’ll be 18.
Canada: Russia online ‘troll farm’ that meddled in U.S. election also targeted Trudeau, Canadian pipelines | The Globe and Mail
The same Russian online troll farm that meddled in the American presidential election has also taken swipes at Canadian targets, including oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Evidence is embedded in data made publicly available through investigations in the United States, where congressional probes have been examining Russian information campaigns following the 2016 presidential election. One report from a Republican-led committee in the House of Representatives released this month said the St. Petersburg troll factory, members of which now face criminal charges in the U.S., posted online about energy roughly half as often as it did about American presidential politics.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi needs no election campaign. The general-turned-president’s crackdown on challengers and dissent, which critics say surpasses that before Egypt’s 2011 uprising, has already ensured he will win a second term. Central Cairo is nonetheless adorned with banners and billboards proclaiming support for Sisi, who led the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president in 2013 and returned the military establishment to power. Next Monday, seven years after the Arab Spring protests that ousted Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and others in the Middle East, Egypt will once again hold the kind of vote that kept those leaders in power for decades.
Over the last two years, authorities in Montenegro have recorded a sharp rise in cyberattacks, mostly targeting state institutions and media outlets in that aspiring EU state on the Adriatic. With a presidential election looming on April 15, the recent NATO entrant and its 650,000 residents are girding for another possible wave of hacks. Montenegro and other countries in the Balkans fear meddling from Moscow to further what they believe is an expansion of Russian foreign policy. Officials in Podgorica feel their country is especially vulnerable, as the winner of the presidential vote is likely to steer Montenegro through early negotiations on EU accession, a move the Kremlin staunchly opposes.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said on Monday there had been no real choice in Russia’s presidential election and complained it had been marked by unfair pressure on critical voices. “Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” the OSCE said in a statement, adding that restrictions on fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, had limited the space for political engagement. The OSCE gave its verdict after President Vladimir Putin won 76.69 percent of vote in a landslide re-election victory on Sunday, extending his rule over the world’s largest country for another six years. Putin’s critics, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running in the race, said there had been widespread fraud and that observers had seen people being bussed to polling stations by their own employers.
As fraud allegations over last year’s constitutional referendum continue to simmer, Turkey’s government last week rushed through parliament far-reaching changes to electoral rules, fueling fears over the integrity of upcoming polls and sparking opposition calls for an election boycott. In the April 16, 2017, referendum, which narrowly approved amendments concentrating power in the hands of the president, the Supreme Election…