Scottish Government proposals that could see electronic voting introduced may leave Scotland vulnerable to election interference by foreign agents, campaigners have claimed. With a consultation on electoral reform due to close on 29 March, the Scottish Government said it wants to “explore and trial the potential of electronic voting solutions”. This could help increase voter participation, provide “choice and flexibility” over how Scots vote and assist people who “find voting in elections challenging”. The proposals under consideration include electronic voting, as well as introducing technology to allow voting remotely over the internet or from mobile phones. However, critics of the plans have expressed concern and warned that future elections could be targeted by outside parties.
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…
Pennsylvania: Lack of court action on new Pennsylvania voting map causing concern | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With Tuesday’s deadline for filing nominating petitions imminent, prospective candidates waiting for courts to take action on Pennsylvania’s radically reconfigured congressional map learned Friday that the wait will continue. By day’s end Friday, neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the U.S. District Court here had decided whether to grant requests from Republican lawmakers who want them to overturn the new congressional map put in place by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled that lines drawn in 2011 represented an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans. Members of both parties and outside experts appeared to be at a loss to explain the courts’ inaction. The delay, at least on the U.S. Supreme Court side, is “quite unusual,” said Richard L. Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine.
As Georgia lawmakers consider scrapping electronic voting machines for a system that uses paper ballots, a razor-thin margin in a U.S. House race over 500 miles away in Western Pennsylvania has highlighted a crucial distinction between the two systems: the presence of an auditable paper trail. The proposal would move Georgia from its 16-year-old electronic touchscreen voting system with no paper backup, to either a touchscreen system that prints a paper ballot or paper ballots marked by pencil. Republican Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth, one of the bill’s primary backers, said it was needed to ensure that election results could be audited if there were claims or evidence of irregularities and to bolster voter confidence. The measure recently passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee and is expected to quickly see a vote before the full House. … A tight U.S. House race in Western Pennsylvania last week was questioned by GOP officials there who said they were looking into alleged voting irregularities after Democrat Conor Lamb declared victory over Republican Rick Saccone in a longtime GOP stronghold that includes four counties in the Pittsburgh area.
The Federal Election Commission has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the National Rifle Association that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to people who were notified of the probe. The inquiry stems in part from a complaint from a liberal advocacy group, the American Democracy Legal Fund, which asked the FEC to look into media reports about links between the rifle association and Russian entities, including a banker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman for the NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which together contributed $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, declined to comment on the FEC’s probe.
As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem. The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work. So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Georgia: Bill cuts down on voting hours despite Democrats’ opposition | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A bill advancing in the Georgia Legislature would reduce voting hours in the city of Atlanta and limit early voting on Sundays.
The legislation would force Atlanta’s polls to close at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. and allow voting in advance of Election Day on only one Saturday or Sunday. The House Governmental Affairs Committee approved the legislation, Senate Bill 363, on Wednesday. The committee’s five Democrats opposed the bill, while the committee’s majority Republicans all supported it, though a hand count of “yes” votes wasn’t taken. The bill was filed by Republican Sen. Matt Brass after Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan won a special election in December to represent a district that covers parts of Atlanta and Cobb County. Voting in Cobb County ended at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than in Atlanta.
With the Illinois primary just days away, state election officials are beefing up cyber defenses and scanning for possible intrusions into voting systems and voter registration rolls. They have good reason to be on guard: Two years ago, Illinois was the lone state known to have its state election system breached in a hacking effort that ultimately targeted 21 states. Hackers believe to be connected to Russia penetrated the state’s voter rolls, viewing data on some 76,000 Illinois voters, although there is no indication any information was changed. Since then, Illinois election officials have added firewalls, installed software designed to prevent intrusions and shifted staffing to focus on the threats. The state has been receiving regular cyber scans from the federal government to identify potential weak spots and has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. That assessment is scheduled but will not happen before Tuesday’s second-in the-nation primary.
Minnesota: Citing Russian threat, Secretary of State asking for $1.4 million to update voter registration system | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Citing national security officials’ warnings that Minnesota’s voter database had already been targeted by elements “at the behest of the Russian government,” the secretary of state is asking for funding to update its statewide registration system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he’s been in multiple meetings with Department of Homeland Security officials — including a meeting as late as February — relating to foreign attempts to affect the integrity of Minnesota’s voting system. “They are sobering,” Simon said of the meetings, for which he was recently given “secret” security clearance — meaning, he said, he couldn’t give too many details. In 2016, entities associated with the Russian government targeted 21 states, including Minnesota, national security officials have said. Two of those states — Illinois and Arizona — had their state databases penetrated.
Many voters in North Carolina fill in ballots on Election Day, slide them into voting machines, maybe pick up an “I voted” sticker on the way out of the polling place, watch for the results and think it’s all over. But the 2016 elections in North Carolina showed how much can happen after the last ballot is cast. There was a post-election campaign after Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Pat McCrory in a narrow 10,277-vote victory, with voter challenges and recount petitions filed across the state. It wasn’t until a month later that McCrory acknowledged he lost. The monthlong election aftermath from two years ago provides insight into one of the power struggles going on between the Republican-led General Assembly and Cooper. The state elections and ethics board has been in limbo for much of the past year as Cooper has turned to the courts to overturn attempts by lawmakers to have greater sway in who’s appointed to it.
Canada’s top court is set to grapple with whether long-term expats should be allowed to vote, an issue that loomed large in the last federal election in which Justin Trudeau and his Liberals took office. Civil liberties groups, which argue current rules barring the expats from voting are unconstitutional, and Quebec, which supports the federal government’s defence of the restrictions, are among interveners in the closely watched case the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear on Wednesday. Canadians lose the right to vote after living abroad for more than five years under rules on the books since 1993. However, it was only under the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper that Elections Canada began enforcing the laws.
Mostafa al-Asar’s lawyer said he had barely started work on a documentary critical of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when police arrested him and charged him with publishing “fake news”. The journalist was detained before he had even begun filming, his lawyer said. The government did not respond to requests for comment. The arrest on Feb. 4 came ahead of a presidential election later this month which Sisi is virtually guaranteed to win. All opposition candidates except one have dropped out citing intimidation, while the remaining challenger has said he supports the president. The election commission says it has been receptive to any complaints and the vote will be fair and transparent.
India: Opposition’s back-to-paper-ballot campaign against electronic voting machines gathers steam | National Herald
Even as Opposition parties explore the feasibility of a united front, a parallel exercise is on to join hands on an issue which they consider to be far more critical to the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In focus are the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Many Opposition parties and voters have serious doubts about the reliability of EVMs. Efforts are on to renew the demand for a return to the old paper ballot system of voting for the next election. A day after the Gorakhpur and Phulpur byelection results were announced, victorious Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav told newsmen: “We won. But the old ballot paper system was much better. It enabled people to vote with much more passion and to express their anger through the ballot box”.
People who are blind or visually impaired will be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment without assistance for the first time. The use of new tactile ballot templates at polling stations means thousands of people with limited or no sight will be able to cast their votes in secret in the May referendum. The introduction of these new ballot papers follows the High Court case of Robbie Sinnott who initiated proceedings in 2016 against the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the State.
Days before Russia’s presidential elections, police are trying to seize documents that give activist observers access to polling stations and a leading elections watchdog has unexpectedly seen its office lease revoked. “You shouldn’t hold this event here or you’ll have trouble,” Roman Udot, a representative for the independent Golos Association elections watchdog, said his landlord was told by police before they ripped up the contract. The “event” was a call centre to field reports of election violations. The government denies interfering. Russia’s short, frustrating and listless presidential campaign is grinding to its inevitable conclusion. Even Vladimir Putin hardly seems enthused, devoting less than two minutes to a final campaign speech in Crimea, the peninsula he annexed from Ukraine in 2014 to domestic acclaim and international condemnation.