National: Congress included $380 million for election security in spending bill | Business Insider

Congress provided $380 million in election security funding as part of its massive spending bill, a move that reflects the growing consensus in Washington that more needs to be done to ensure the integrity of America’s elections. The funding would go to the Election Assistance Commission, which then must distribute the funds to states within 45 days to replace aging voting machines, implement post-election audits, and provide cybersecurity training for state and local officials, among other election security related improvements. “In this challenging political time, this has to be seen as a win and a recognition that [election security] is an important responsibility,” Adam Ambrogi, the director of the Elections Program at the Democracy Fund, told Business Insider. “The federal government needs to aid the states. The states don’t have this money laying around.”

National: ‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer | The Daily Beast

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft. That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

Editorials: The Senate has released election-security recommendations. Now it’s time to act. | The Washington Post

The House Intelligence Committee voted on party linesThursday to release a one-sided report on the panel’s hastily closed Russia investigation, deepening the partisan morass and enabling President Trump to undermine law enforcement and the intelligence community. The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, has taken Russia’s continuing attacks on the nation’s democracy more seriously than its House counterpart. The Senate probe continues in a bipartisan — and, as of now, constructive — manner. The panel on Tuesday released preliminary recommendations on election security, the first of several documents the committee will release on Russia’s meddling in the country’s elections. It will take some time to get the committee’s full analysis, which must undergo declassification review. But with primary elections already starting, acting on the recommendations is urgent.

Georgia: Voting groups oppose bill to change Georgia’s voting machines | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Several election integrity organizations are unifying against a bill to change Georgia’s voting system, saying the legislation fails to ensure verifiable election results. The legislation, Senate Bill 403, would replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines with a system that uses paper to some extent. But opponents of the measure say it doesn’t truly commit to paper ballots for audits and recounts.  They’re concerned that the bill allows the state to continue its heavy reliance on voting methods that could be vulnerable to hacking, and it gives county election supervisors the power to refuse to do paper recounts, even in close races. “It’s really important that Georgia gets this right,” said Marian Schneider, the president of the Verified Voting Foundation, a Philadelphia-based organization whose mission is to safeguard elections. ”The voting system that Georgia chooses has to have a voter-marked paper ballot that’s retained by the system and is available for recount and audit.”

Kansas: Kris Kobach’s Voting Sham Gets Exposed in Court | The New York Times

The modern American crusade against voter fraud has always been propelled by faith. That is, an insistent belief in things unseen — things like voters who show up at the polls pretending to be someone else, or noncitizens who try to register and vote illegally. Fraud like this is so rare as to be almost unmeasurable, and yet its specter has led to dozens of strict new laws around the country. Passed in the name of electoral integrity, the laws, which usually require voters to present photo IDs at the polls or provide proof of citizenship to register, make voting harder, if not impossible, for tens of thousands of people — disproportionately minorities and others who tend to vote Democratic. The high priest of this faith-based movement is Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate who has been preaching his gospel of deception to Republican lawmakers for years. He has won plenty of converts, even though he has failed to identify more than a tiny handful of possible cases of fraud. In his eight years as secretary of state, he has secured a total of nine convictions, only one of which was for illegal voting by a noncitizen; most were for double-voting by older Republican men.

Michigan: Manual election audits to debut in Michigan 2018 race | Associated Press

New measures to bolster security for Michigan’s 2018 midterm elections were announced this month, but experts said they don’t address all past gripes with state procedures. During this year’s May election and November general election, Michigan will hand-count ballots for all precincts selected in the post-election audit, secretary of state spokesman Fred Woodhams said. The state currently uses paper ballots that are scanned through optical voting machines. Past elections’ audits required reviewing voting machine equipment as well as procedural compliance of poll workers, he said, but did not entail recounting paper ballots. … But the reforms don’t fully reassure Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. He noted that under Michigan procedure, post-election audits occur after the results are already certified, rendering the practice moot when it comes to disputing a race outcome.

U.S. Territories: Territorial Leaders Argue Denial Of Voting Rights Violates International Law | The Virgin Islands Consortium

Leaders from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are now arguing that U.S. citizens living U.S. territory being denied the right to vote for president of the United States is not just morally wrong, it is a violation of international law, according to a release issued by Equally American, formerly We the People, a nonprofit that advocates for equal rights and representation in U.S. territories. Nearly 4 million citizens living in U.S. territories – a population greater than 21 states and larger than the five smallest states combined – are denied the right to vote for President and voting representation in Congress simply because of where they happen to live. This includes more than 100,000 veterans and active duty service members living in U.S. territories. At the same time, decisions made by the federal government impacting residents of U.S. territories can literally mean life or death, a fact thrown in stark relief by the six month anniversary of Hurricanes Maria and Irma hitting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Wisconsin: Judge orders Scott Walker to hold special elections in Holder suit | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Dealing a setback to Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans, a judge ruled Thursday the governor must call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature. Walker declined to call those elections after two GOP lawmakers stepped down to join his administration in December. His plan would have left the seats vacant for more than a year. Voters in those areas took him to court with the help of a group headed by Eric Holder, the first attorney general under Democratic President Barack Obama.

Kenya: How Cambridge Analytica Influenced Poll |

An undercover investigation has blown the lid off the workings of Cambridge Analytica, the British data company that was suspected and now boasts of influencing Kenya’s 2017 presidential election. In a three-part series titled ‘Data, Democracy and Dirty Tricks’, Britain’s Channel 4 News exposes how the right-leaning digital marketing firm targets voters with propaganda to influence their voting decisions. In the investigation, the company’s bosses, including chief executive Alexander Nix, are secretly filmed saying they discreetly campaign in elections across the world through a web of shadowy front companies or by using sub-contractors.eny

Russia: Who counted the votes in Russia? We checked. | The Washington Post

On March 18, 2018, Russians reelected President Vladimir Putin by a huge margin. Official reports say that 67 percent of voters went to the polls and that 76 percent of those supported the incumbent. This result comes as zero surprise, and media coverage has focused on the lack of true opposition candidates and allegations of ballot-stuffing. But there is more to this story. About 800,000 poll workers at more than 95,000 polling stations across Russia delivered basic administrative services for this election. This army of street-level bureaucrats verified voter identities, issued/counted the ballots and established the voting tallies at each precinct.  How did Sunday’s election look, behind the scenes? We tend to assume that poll workers, whether they are in South Dakota or the Northern Caucasus, are professional and independent. Put simply, we expect poll workers to leave aside their political biases and ensure that voting takes place according to fair and impartial procedures.

National: States to get at least $3 million each for election security in spending deal | USA Today

States will receive at least $3 million each to protect their voting systems against Russian cyber attacks under a provision added to a sweeping government spending deal that Congress has reached. The $1.3 trillion spending deal includes a total of $380 million for election security grants. The House passed the bill Thursday and sent it to the Senate for approval. States have been scrambling to improve their cyber security after Homeland Security officials revealed last year that Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in at least 21 states in 2016. Although no actual votes were changed, hackers broke into Illinois’ voter registration database.

National: New Voting Machines Have Been Declared A National Security Priority. And Congress Looks Likely To Pay For Them. | Buzzfeed

Pressure is mounting for Congress to take dramatic steps to ensure the security of US voting systems with just seven months to go before the crucial 2018 midterm elections. On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the need for new voting machines that produce a paper trail “a national security issue,” and Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, added his name as a cosponsor to a bill that would provide money to replace voting equipment that can’t be audited. But whether that funding will be appropriated remains uncertain. The Secure Elections Act has been slow to gain cosponsors, but its provisions were folded into the Senate’s must-pass omnibus spending bill to keep the government open as the Senate heads toward a Friday deadline to avoid another government shutdown.

National: GOP Shuts Down House Russia Probe Despite New Revelations | Bloomberg

Republicans shut down the House Intelligence Committee’s contentious Russia probe Thursday, despite new revelations that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign may have benefited from the exploitation of personal information from millions of Facebook users. In a closed-door meeting, the panel voted over Democrats’ objections to approve and release a Republican-written final report, said Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican who led the panel’s investigation. “House Intelligence Committee votes to release final report,” Trump said in a Twitter posting Friday morning in his first comment on the vote. “FINDINGS: (1) No evidence provided of Collusion between Trump Campaign & Russia. (2) The Obama Administrations Post election response was insufficient. (3) Clapper provided inconsistent testimony on media contacts.”

National: Senators introduced revised version of election cyber bill | The Hill

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday unveiled revised legislation to secure U.S. voting systems from cyberattack. The bill, originally introduced in December, retains its original tenets, including authorizing grants for states to replace outdated voting systems with more secure technology. However, it contains several revisions that appear designed to address individual states’ concerns with the bill. The new bill, like its predecessor, aims to address future threats to voter registration databases and other systems following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential vote. The Department of Homeland Security has said that Russian hackers tried to break into election systems in 21 states before the election, as part of a broader interference plot. In one case, hackers successfully breached a voter registration database in Illinois.

National: Efforts to Secure Elections Moving Too Slowly, Senators Tell Homeland Security Chief | The New York Times

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee pressured Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, on Wednesday to speed up key election security measures, even as she trumpeted the adoption of important improvements ahead of November’s midterm elections. Ms. Nielsen told the senators, who are investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, that the department made significant strides in recent months working with state and local election officials to improve communication about threats and share cybersecurity resources. Those efforts include comprehensive risk assessments and cyberscans meant to identify vulnerabilities in election systems. But under questioning, Ms. Nielsen signaled that one of those undertakings, to grant full security clearances to state election officials so they could receive classified information on cybersecurity threats in a timely way, had been slow going. Of the up to 150 state election officials designated to receive clearances, only about 20 have them, she said.

Georgia: Democrats outraged over push to limit weekend voting | Associated Press

Georgia Republicans want to limit early voting so that no county can offer it on both on a Saturday and a Sunday. Democrats are outraged; they say the plan is designed to help GOP candidates. “They’re targeting likely Democratic voters to stifle the opportunity to cast a ballot,” said Sen. Lester Jackson, a Savannah Democrat and the chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. “Working-class Georgians need opportunities to participate in the governmental process.” Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, counties would only be able to offer early voting on weekdays and one weekend day. County officials would get to choose whether the polls would be open on one Saturday or one Sunday, but not both.

Minnesota: Wait will go on for felons seeking return of voting rights | Minnesota Public Radio

By the narrowest of margins, a bill to return the right to vote for felons faster than would happen otherwise stalled again Thursday at the Capitol. The bill was put on hold following an 8-7 show of hands vote in the House Public Safety and Security Policy Committee, with Rep. Nick Zerwas joining all Democrats on the losing side. Zerwas, R-Elk River, is a bill cosponsor. The proposal could arise later as a potential amendment on the House floor to another bill, but the likelihood of success is slim. A companion measure has previously gotten through the Senate — though not since Republicans took control in 2017 — but the House has typically been the bigger struggle. The bill would change the law so felons would be able to vote once they are no longer incarcerated.

Pennsylvania: GOP chief justice slams Republican judicial impeachment move | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Thursday that he is “very concerned” about an effort to impeach his four colleagues who voted to overturn the state’s congressional district map and impose a new one. “Threats of impeachment directed against Justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government,” Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said in a statement. Justice Saylor, elected to the court as a Republican, dissented from the majority in the case.

Wisconsin: Thousands of Milwaukee voters have been dropped from rolls, including some erroneously | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Thousands of Milwaukee voters have been dropped from voter rolls — including some erroneously — through the state’s registration system, city officials said Wednesday. Some 44,000 voters were removed from city rolls after the state started using a new process in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), they said. It’s unclear how many of those were dropped in error. “This is not a problem that has been caused at the local level,” Mayor Tom Barrett said at a City Hall news conference. Barrett said problems were caused by incorrect data provided by the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Postal Service, leading some voters who haven’t actually moved or changed addresses to be erroneously dropped from the rolls. “We are very concerned with the number of legitimate voters whose records have been deactivated,” Barrett said.

Canada: Top court hears plea of Canadians abroad who want to vote | iPolitics

Gill Frank and Jamie Duong, Canadian citizens who have lived in the U.S. for several years, asked the Supreme Court of Canada Wednesday for the right to vote in Canadian federal elections. Under Canadian law, anyone living outside Canada loses voting rights after five years. Frank and Duong were born and raised in Canada, and both say they would like to return if they could find suitable jobs, similar, presumably, to their current positions at Princeton and Cornell universities. Duong is a dual citizen and has voted in U.S. elections. He has also taken advantage of Elections Canada’s recent decision to allow long-term ex-pats to vote in Canada if they appear in person at the voting poll

Ireland: Voting age for local and European elections could be reduced to 16 today | The Irish Post

A bill will go before the Seanad today which could see the voting age in Ireland be reduced to 16-years-old. If the bill is passed, over 126,000 16 and 17-year-olds would be eligible to vote in the next local elections in 2019. Furthermore, no referendum would be required to reduce the age unless it was Dail or Presidential elections. The bill has been proposed and sponsored by Senators Fintan Warfield and Lynn Ruane.