The weakest link in any local voting system is that one county clerk who’s been on the job for three days and opens up an email file that could take down the whole system. The head of every U.S. intelligence agency says Russia attempted to penetrate elections systems nationwide during the 2016 presidential election, and will try again during this year’s midterm elections. In a decentralized election system with more than 10,000 separate jurisdictions, the onus for security is on local officials. “That keeps me awake at night,” said Nancy Blankenship, the clerk for Deschutes County, Oregon. Blankenship, like thousands of other county clerks, is the chief elections official for her area. It’s not so much the threat of foreign hackers changing votes that concerns Blankenship — Oregon is not only a vote-by-mail state, but also does its ballot counting without an internet connection — it’s the possibility that hacking could undermine public confidence in the system.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel said he plans to continue work on the Russia probe despite Republican moves to shut it down, saying 30 witnesses still need to be interviewed. “Our work is far from done,” Representative Adam Schiff told reporters Tuesday, a day after Republicans said they were ending the inquiry after finding no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives who meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign. Schiff said that Democrats will write their own conclusions and plan to release transcripts of the panel’s interviews at that time.
Georgia: Bill replacing Georgia voting machines on track for final votes | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia might have a new voting system with paper ballots in time for the 2020 presidential election, according to a bill that cleared the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The legislation, Senate Bill 403, would replace the state’s 16-year-old electronic voting machines with a system that creates a paper backup to ensure accuracy. “We want…
Aurora has had its own Election Commission since 1934. Voters on March 20 will decide whether that will continue. People through the years have called for the abolition of the Aurora Election Commission, calling it an unneeded governmental body, inefficient and out-moded. Others defend the commission as a convenience to Aurora voters, and a hedge against politics and the possibility of playing games with elections. In 1986, voters decidedly rejected an attempt to abolish the commission with about 60 percent of the voters supporting it. In the 1990s, another effort to put the question on the ballot never got that far.
Kansas: Kobach witness can’t support claim that illegal votes helped Hillary Clinton | Topeka Capital Journal
Jesse Richman endured a blistering critique Tuesday of his estimate of 18,000 noncitizen voters in Kansas and said he couldn’t support claims by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote because more than 3 million illegal ballots were cast in the 2016 presidential election. Richman, who teaches political science at Old Dominion University, testified as an expert witness for Kobach in a trial over the state’s voter registration law. Kobach, who is seeking the GOP nomination in this year’s governor’s race, has referred to the 18,000 figure as the best available estimate for showing proof of citizenship is needed to address widespread voter fraud. American Civil Liberties Union attorneys took aim at shortcomings in Richman’s methods and presented two experts to refute his conclusions. Varying estimates from Richman are based on small-sample surveys, including one in which six of 37 noncitizens said they tried to register to vote. Under questioning by ACLU attorney Dale Ho, Richman acknowledged he had no way of knowing if those six were successful in their efforts.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he’ll make appointments to a long-delayed new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement this week while simultaneously continuing to fight the Republican-mandated changes to the board in court. The appointments would allow the organization, which has staff but no appointed board, to clear a backlog of work ahead of this year’s elections. Among other things, the board appoints county boards of elections. Those local boards oversee election logistics, including approving early voting sites and certifying election equipment. Twenty-five of North Carolina’s 100 counties, including Wake and Cumberland counties, do not have functioning boards because they have too few members. Cooper’s announcement was made as part of a press release titled “Governor’s Office Comment on GOP’s Continued Effort to Rig Elections.”
Pennsylvania: GOP gearing up to challenge District 18 results, impound all voting machines used in special election | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Republican officials are alleging voting irregularities in the District 18 special election, and say they plan to go to court seeking to impound all the voting machines used Tuesday. Democrat Conor Lamb of Mt. Lebanon holds a slim lead over Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone of Elizabeth Township. With a few absentee and provisional ballots still out, his lead is a few hundred votes out of more than 200,000 cast in the congressional district formerly held by Republican Tim Murphy. The seat had been safely Republican for more than a decade and national Republican organization spent millions supporting Mr. Saccone. But Mr. Lamb mounted a strong challenge and remained ahead in the vote count Wednesday morning. A Republican source familiar with the campaign said that the GOP planned to petition for the voting machines used in all four counties to be impounded, pending a recount.
Editorials: Tennessee needs to update its election system and both parties agree | Shanna Singh Hughey/The Tennesseean
Should Tennessee be doing more to safeguard our elections? According to a ThinkTennessee poll, 68 percent of Tennessee voters think so. And with good reason. The Department of Homeland Security this fall informed 21 states that their 2016 elections were targeted by Russian hackers. Thankfully, Tennessee was not one of those states. But as the CIA director recently said, he has “every expectation” that Russia will continue to try to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections.
Months after control of Virginia’s House of Delegates was decided by a disputed, mismarked ballot, the State Board of Elections will set new ballot requirements that include clearer instructions for voters. Proposed changes to be adopted March 23 address “a need for improved clarity and additional examples” and “a need for improved usability of ballots for voters based on best practices and research,” a memo to the three-member board said. Virginia would go from more general rules about what printed ballots should look like to two specific approved forms. One of the proposed forms would include voting instructions in the leftmost column on the front of a three-column ballot. The other secondary choice would place voting instructions across the top of a two-column ballot just beneath the header that lists the date and type of election.
Indonesia is battling a wave of fake news and online hate speech ahead of presidential elections in 2019, as a string of arrests underscore fears it could crack open social and religious fault lines in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. The pluralist nation’s reputation as a bastion of tolerance has been tested in recent months, as conservative groups exploit social media to spread lies and target minorities. Indonesian police have cracked down, rounding up members of the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA), a cluster of loosely connected groups accused of using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to attack the government and stoke religious extremism. Two of the group’s most high-profile falsehoods were claims that dozens of Islamic clerics had been assaulted by leftists and that Indonesia’s outlawed communist party was on the rise, according to police.
The software that will be used to count votes in the upcoming municipal elections is still not safe. Hackers can use the vulnerable software to influence the election results, experts that examined the software told RTL Nieuws. Ethical hacker Sijmen Ruwhof discovered more than 50 vulnerabilities in the software. He calls ten of them ‘high risk’. Last year Ruwhof also concluded that the software – called OSV – is vulnerable to attacks. “The average iPad is more secure than the Dutch voting system”, Ruwhof said at the time.This prompted former Home Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk to order the votes in the parliamentary election counted by hand.
Vote in Russia’s presidential election this Sunday or get hyper-inflation and Africans in the army. That is the surreal message in a viral video meant to encourage people to vote in an election which polls show Vladimir Putin is on track to comfortably win. While Putin has dominated the country’s political landscape for the last 18 years, the Kremlin and its allies are still pulling out all the stops to ensure high voter turnout. The clip, which has drawn accusations of racism and homophobia in some quarters, has been publicized by state TV and watched six million times online. Alexander Kazakov, a pro-Putin political consultant who circulated the clip, said he wanted to ensure Putin’s win was utterly convincing. “Only then will Putin be able to conduct the best domestic and foreign policy,” he said.
Sierra Leone: Frontrunners head into run-off elections – as coalition government looks likely | The Sierra Leone Telegraph
On Tuesday, 27 March 2018, the people of Sierra Leone will do it all over again. They will be going out to vote in what was announced by the country’s Chief Electoral Commissioner – Mr Mohammed N’fa-Alie Conteh as a run-off election, to decide who will be the next president. After seven long days of nail biting suspense, voters in the country have finally been informed by the Election Commission that following the counting and recounting of ballots across the country – including the nullification of votes in polling stations where evidence of electoral malpractice was found, none of the 15 candidates has won the required 55% to form a government. The run-off is a two-horse race affair between the ruling APC candidate – Dr Samura Kamara who polled 42.7%, and the opposition SLPP candidate – Julius Maada Bio who received slightly better with 43.5%.
Media Release: Pennsylvania Special Election Underscores Urgent Need for Voter-Verifiable Paper Systems to Check Computer-Generated Votes
Marian K. Schneider: “All races should be audited – whether they are close or not.” The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, formerly Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration in the Pennsylvania Department of State, about Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. For additional media inquires, please…
National: There’s more to Russia’s cyber interference than the Mueller probe suggests | The Washington Post
An underlying theme running through special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation is that Russia’s ultimate goal was to make sure Donald Trump was elected president. That’s just part of the picture. Last month, Mueller’s team released the details of the grand jury indictments of 13 Russian nationals, as well as a shadowy Russian firm known as the Internet Research Agency, for conducting information warfare against the United States and breaking three U.S. federal laws. Our research looks at Russian cyber and information warfare activity — and distinct patterns begin to emerge. But this is a nonlinear strategy and a long-term assault on Russia’s adversaries. Although boosting the Trump campaign may have been one of Russia’s primary goals in 2016, the 2020 goal could just as easily be helping the president’s Democratic challenger.
FBI Director Christopher Wray is right: The cyber threat has evolved into a full blown information security crisis with the ongoing midterm elections becoming the primary concern. Meanwhile, the Senate’s email system is being probed by an adversary and the FBI is looking into the hacking of former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Senate campaign communications. Despite all this, Wray has renewed the call for weakening of encryption, the one measure proven to safeguard our critical information. While unobstructed access to everyone’s information through a ‘magical digital backdoor’ would make investigations easier, it would also make law enforcement’s task of protecting our economy, national security, and personal information practically impossible.
Voters in Atlanta would have one less hour to cast their ballots under a bill that cleared a subcommittee Thursday. The legislation, Senate Bill 363, would force the city of Atlanta to close its polls at 7 p.m. like the rest of the state. Currently, Atlanta is allowed to keep precincts open until 8 p.m. under a state law passed in the 1970s. 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.
A national council of election experts, led by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, is recommending steps to ensure American elections are secure from hacking or tampering. On Thursday, Lawson and other members of the Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council will urge states and localities to upgrade their election technology and invest in staff with cyber experience at the state and local levels. “This is a race with no finish line,” said Lawson, a Republican who also is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Kansas: ‘Incredible and offensive’: Retired attorney feels sorry for Kobach team in voter fraud trial | Topeka Capital Journal
Bart Budetti thinks Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his assistants are in over their heads and wasting U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson’s time. A 75-year-old retired attorney who once found himself opposite Kobach in a legal dispute over a food bank, Budetti watched a trial unfold last week with daily confrontations and colorful references to a bazooka, red herring, icebergs, Gmail usage and the type of sandwich that can be used as fertilizer. Kobach is defending himself and the state’s voter registration law in a case that challenges his ability to prove claims of widespread fraud. Video of previously sealed testimony from Kobach’s deposition last year revealed he prepared for the eventuality of losing the case.
Two days before a bill fixing problems with state class sizes was set to become law, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to a provision of the measure dealing with the state elections board. The request for a temporary restraining order is the latest shot in a long-running war between the Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders over the elections board that even predates his inauguration. In a special December 2016 session, Republican lawmakers created an eight-member State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement that would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The elections board has traditionally had five members, with the majority belonging to the governor’s party.
Utah: Federal appeals court denies San Juan County’s request for stay in voting district case that benefited Navajos | The Salt Lake Tribune
San Juan County’s request to stay November elections of all seats on the county commission and school board in wake of a federal court’s ruling to redraw voting districts has been denied by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Lawyers for the county filed an emergency motion on Feb. 27 in the Denver court. They objected to special elections being held this year and requested that the balloting continue under the previous redistricting plan until San Juan County’s appeal has been decided. In a Dec. 21 ruling, Judge Robert Shelby, U.S. District Court for Utah, gave Navajo voters a majority in two of three newly drawn commission districts and in three of five school board districts. Shelby had ordered that all seats be vacated and that special elections be held in November.
Wisconsin’s plan to bolster election security after its voter database was apparently targeted by Russia in 2016 includes training nearly 2,000 municipal clerks to fend off hackers and a two-week U.S. Department of Homeland Security test to identify vulnerabilities in the state system. The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Tuesday discussed ways to protect ballots that are cast and counted across 1,853 municipalities in 72 counties before the August primary and the November midterm election. Security has been stepped up since Homeland Security confirmed “Russian government cyber actors” had been looking at but had not compromised Wisconsin’s elections systems two years ago. In May or June, Homeland Security will run a two-week risk vulnerability assessment to simulate hacking attempts on the state election system from inside and outside the network. That will include sending simulated malicious emails, known as phishing, to track email activity.
Doug Ford went into the final days of the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race saying the party’s voting system was “corrupted” in favour of “hand-picked elites.” Then he won the leadership, and it has been his chief opponent, Christine Elliott, who has had to reconcile with a bizarre online selection system that made Mr. Ford the winner – even though she won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote and more ridings than he did. No doubt Mr. Ford is happy with the outcome. But the truth is that the one-member, one-vote online voting system for electing party leaders, which is used by Canadian political parties at all levels, is proving to have many drawbacks.
Pablo Catatumbo was once one of the most feared men in Colombia. He spent most of his 64 years as a military commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc), plotting the violent overthrow of the country’s government. This weekend, however, he cast his vote in parliamentary elections, as the former rebels made their first foray into electoral politics after a historic peace deal in 2016. “It’s the first time in my life that I’ve voted and I do it for peace,” he said after completing his ballot at a Bogotá polling station.
Editorials: As Colombia votes, the former guerrillas are rendered irrelevant | Rodrigo Palau Zea/The Washington Post
When Colombians went to vote in congressional elections on Sunday, international media had little doubt what the story was: the participation of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — the guerrilla movement that had conducted a 52-year war against the country’s central government until concluding a peace treaty in November 2016. “Former FARC rebels face first ballot,” blared the BBC. “Critics of peace deal dominate Colombia election,” declared the Associated Press. The Voice of America went with “Former Colombian guerrillas run for office.” You could be forgiven for thinking the campaign was all about FARC, but, as it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. To an amazing extent, Colombia’s congressional vote was FARC-free territory.
Nepal’s first woman president Bidya Devi Bhandari was on Tuesday re-elected for a second term in office. Incumbent President Bhandari defeated Nepali Congress leader Kumari Laxmi Rai with an overwhelming majority in the presidential election. Bhandari, 56, won since her nomination was backed by the ruling Left alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre), the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and other fringe parties.
The election commission said Tuesday, after the country’s main opposition finished slightly ahead of the ruling party in the first round of voting. Opposition leader Julius Maada Bio, from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), took 43.3 per cent of votes in the March 7 election, while Samura Kamara of the incumbent All Peoples Congress (APC) took 42.7 per cent, the commission said. Turnout appeared to be around 85 per cent of Sierra Leone’s 3.1 million voters.
Sierra Leone: Why you shouldn’t get carried away by Sierra Leone’s blockchain elections | Crypto-Lines
Last week Sierra Leone became the first country in the world to hold blockchain elections. They were supervised by Agora, a blockchain startup based in Switzerland. Once the voting of the region had taken place, over 400, 000 ballots were then manually fed into Agora,s blockchain. The CEO of Agora was very pleased with how smooth the process worked. He exuded excitement for the future of blockchain elections saying: “I strongly believe that this election is the beginning of a much larger blockchain voting movement.”
Turkey’s parliament has approved a set of changes to the country’s electoral laws that critics say are aimed at helping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidate power and could lead to election fraud. The changes were approved Tuesday after a tense, all-night session that saw altercations between nationalist and main opposition lawmakers. Turkey faces elections next year, when Erdogan will need to secure 51 percent of the vote to remain at the helm. The changes would allow Erdogan’s ruling party to enter a formal alliance with the nationalist party, permitting the smaller party to gain parliamentary seats even if it fails to pass the 10-percent electoral threshold. In turn, Erdogan would secure the nationalists’ continued support.
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.”