Last summer, with an important Illinois election season months away, Shelby County officials in central Illinois feared that their outdated voting equipment wouldn’t be approved for use by the State Board of Elections. Most of it dates to 2004, and it’s becoming harder to find replacement parts. Often, it’s difficult to read the machinery’s paper record, which is needed to verify votes. It passed inspection, but County Clerk Jessica Fox said the county, which is running a budget deficit, faces an upgrade of as much as $300,000. “Sooner or later we must have new equipment, regardless of the costs,” Fox said. Shelby County isn’t alone. Machine malfunction during the March 20 primary election was among the top reported issues to a hotline set up by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, a national nonpartisan voter-protection group.
On Friday, a group of hackers targeted computer infrastructure in Russia and Iran, impacting internet service providers, data centres, and in turn some websites. In addition to disabling the equipment, the hackers left a note on affected machines, according to screenshots and photographs shared on social media: “Don’t mess with our elections,” along with an image of an American flag. Now, the hackers behind the attack have said why they did it. “We were tired of attacks from government-backed hackers on the United States and other countries,” someone in control of an email address left in the note told Motherboard Saturday.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded there is no doubt the Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, leaking stolen e-mails and inflaming tensions on social media. While Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller investigate Russian interference, including whether the campaign of Donald Trump colluded with Russia, we have been looking into another vector of the attack on American democracy: a sweeping cyber assault on state voting systems that U.S. intelligence tied to the Russian government. Tonight, you’ll find out what happened from the frontline soldiers of a cyberwar that was fought largely out of public view, on digital battlegrounds in states throughout the country. The threat Russia posed to our democratic process was deemed so great, the Obama Administration took the unprecedented step of using the cyber hotline – the cybersecurity equivalent of the nuclear hotline – to warn the Kremlin to stop its assault on state election systems. Russian operatives had launched a widespread cyberattack against state voting systems around the country.
Information technology and the internet are changing the way democracy works. Recent revelations of the use of personal data to manipulate elections tell us that we live in a very different place we thought we did just weeks ago. Marketing companies, like the now infamous Cambridge Analytica, may deploy data profiling to influence human targets on social media. This involves the enveloping of the subjects within an artificial world; Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower at the center of this scandal, referred to these worlds as “cultures.” In each of these artificial cultures, political candidates would appear to each target from a different aspect, but always as a perfect candidate tailored to the psychographic profile of that particular voter. This approach, Cambridge Analytica claims, would increment the candidate’s electoral margins. There is currently no information if the use of personal data had a deciding effect on the US presidential elections. However, the process is revealing of the power online companies hold today to, in principle, manipulate its customers.
For months, Facebook’s critics — ranging from Silicon Valley executives to Washington politicians — have been urging the company to do a better job of identifying who is buying political ads and creating pages about hot-button topics on its social media sites. On Friday, just days before its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to testify before Congress, Facebook said it had started forcing people who want to buy political or “issue” ads to reveal their identities and verify where they are. Mr. Zuckerberg announced the move in a post on Facebook. He said this verification was meant to prevent foreign interference in elections, like the ads and posts from so-called Russian trolls before and after the 2016 presidential election.
The last three weeks have revealed how reliant political campaigns have become on people’s data. Almost 90 million Facebook users from Los Angeles to London may have had their online information illegally collected by Cambridge Analytica as part of its work for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking giant’s chief executive, will testify to U.S. lawmakers this week over claims that the tech giant played fast and loose in its protection of people’s online privacy. Both companies deny any wrongdoing. It’s legitimate to point the finger at the world’s largest social network and a data analytics firm with somewhat shady political connections. But there’s one sizeable piece of the puzzle that’s missing from the world’s newfound fixation on digital privacy: voters themselves.
The bumpy path of Desmond Meade’s life meandered to its current interesting point. He is a graduate of Florida International University law school but cannot vote in his home state because his path went through prison: He committed nonviolent felonies concerning drugs and other matters during the 10 years he was essentially homeless. And Florida is one of 11 states that effectively disqualify felons permanently. Meade is one of 1.6 million disenfranchised Florida felons — more than the total number of people who voted in 22 separate states in 2016. He is one of the more than 20 percent of African American Floridians disenfranchised. The state has a low threshold for felonious acts: Someone who gets into a bar fight, or steals property worth $300 — approximately two pairs of Air Jordans — or even drives without a license for a third time can be disenfranchised for life. There is a cumbersome, protracted process whereby an individual, after waiting five to seven years (it depends on the felony) can begin a trek that can consume 10 years and culminates with politicians and their appointees deciding who can recover their vote.
While states and localities are awaiting their share of the $380 million allotted by Congress to upgrade elections cybersecurity, there are two, totally free ways that they can start beefing up their security now. The Center for Internet Security (CIS), a nonprofit that harnesses the power of the global IT community to safeguard private and public organizations against cyber threats recently released A Handbook for Elections Infrastructure Security and also launched the Elections Infrastructure Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC).
Alaska: After Anchorage success, state considers whether Alaska is ready for elections by mail | Juneau Empire
By the numbers alone, Anchorage’s first election held by mail has been a smashing success. Election Day was Tuesday, and almost 80,000 votes have already been received by elections officials, setting a record for the most ever cast in an Anchorage muncipal election. State elections officials have already been asking the obvious question: If it worked for Anchorage, could it work for the rest of the state? “I think it very well might,” said Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and a member of the state’s elections policy task force. “If half of our population is voting by mail and it’s a good experience, why wouldn’t the rest of the state want to do that?”
American cities have become increasingly liberal, while the Republican Party controls most state governments. In an effort to keep blue cities from passing local ordinances reflecting their values, Republicans legislators in state capitals have embraced pre-emption laws, preventing city governments from enacting all kinds of things: Protecting their residents from discrimination, for instance, or increasing the minimum wage. Now Republicans in the Arizona state legislature are using that power to protect the flow of dark money — cash spent on campaigns from secret donors — into state and local elections. It turns out some powerful national interests are involved in making sure that local communities don’t know who is spending money to influence their elections.
Arkansas: Lacking ruling from judge on state’s voter-ID law, first ballots for spring primary go out | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The first ballots of Arkansas’ spring primary began their route to military and out-of-the-country voters Friday, as the secretary of state’s office said it was moving forward with its normal electoral tasks absent a judge’s order not to. A lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeks to block the enforcement of Arkansas’ new voter-identification law during the primaries, set to be one of the first elections in which voters will be required to show photo IDs or swear to their identities. Last week, attorneys for Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office wrote a letter to the circuit judge, Alice Gray, reminding her that “the Preferential Primary Election begins on April 6, 2018, with the mandatory delivery of live ballots to military voters out of jurisdiction and overseas citizens voting by absentee ballot.”
Georgia is in line for more than $10 million in federal funds to help with election security as part of a spending bill recently passed by Congress, but voters statewide are still set to cast ballots during the 2018 midterms on ageing equipment labeled vulnerable. The direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines used in Georgia since 2002 have no paper trail allowing voters to check their choices are recorded accurately. Thirteen states still use DRE machines, and Georgia is one of five states were they’re used exclusively.
Galesburg, Ill., appears to be a typical small town, nestled in the farmlands of the Midwest. But the unassuming slice of the American heartland, which was the site of an Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debate in 1858, was invaded by the Russians during the 2016 presidential election through a cyberattack on the state’s voter registration rolls. “The greatest concern that I have is that a foreign entity gets in and doesn’t change a vote, but they just create instability that enough of the American people can’t trust the vote,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Fox News.
Maryland: Bill that allows automatic voter registration becomes law without Gov. Hogan’s signature – The Washington Post
A bill that allows Maryland residents to automatically register to vote when they interact with state agencies has become law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature. Maryland joins the District and 11 other states, including Oregon and California, that allow people to register while renewing a driver’s license, signing up for health coverage with the state Health Benefit Exchange or receiving help from a social service agency. “It’s a great step forward and will have tremendous impact for generations to come,” said state Sen. William Smith (D-Montgomery), the bill sponsor. “This will allow thousands of more Marylanders to participate in the democratic process.”
The success of the 2020 census, which will be the first to include an online survey, could hinge on a single “dress rehearsal” underway right now in Rhode Island — and so far, many locals aren’t impressed. Providence County, the state’s most populous, is the only place where the Census Bureau is running a full test, after plans to test two other sites this year were canceled because of a lack of funding from Congress. A planned question about citizenship that has states suing the federal government isn’t on the test. Several elected officials and leaders of advocacy and community groups this week held an “emergency press conference” to raise concerns, which include a shortage of publicity around the test and its limited language outreach in an immigrant-heavy county, with large communities from countries including the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Portugal and Cape Verde.
Tennessee: Hamilton County election administrator: paper ballots, audits help ensure integrity at the polls
As the start of early voting nears and news of Russian interference continues to make headlines, Hamilton County’s administrator of elections said local citizens can feel secure in the practices that protect the integrity of the ballot box. “Hamilton County takes the safeguarding of both our physical and cyber infrastructure very seriously,” Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said via email. “The rigorous system of checks and balances in both the registration and voting process should instill confidence in voters that Hamilton County’s elections will not be compromised.” In an effort to avoid interference, some state officials recently said they’d move away from the use of touch-screen voting machines. Some experts also recently said that audits can confirm there’s no meddling.
Texas’ gerrymanders are the political equivalent of putting houses on stilts to keep them safe from flooding. Democratic hopes for a “blue wave” that would lift some of their candidates into statewide office and reduce their disadvantages in the congressional delegation and the statehouse aren’t completely out of line. Presidents’ political parties often have trouble in midterm elections. It’s just that Republicans in Texas drew maps in 2011 — since modified by the federal courts but still being litigated — that protect the party’s officeholders from most changes in public sentiment.
Cambodia’s former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, called on Sunday for Cambodians to boycott a general election set for July 29 if his dissolved party isn’t allowed to take part. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court last November at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, which alleged it was plotting to take power with the help of the United States. The CNRP and the United States have denied the allegations, which followed the arrest of current party leader Kem Sokha on treason charges over the alleged plot. He has denied the charges and called them a ploy to help Hun Sen win re-election.
It’s a safe bet that few in Brussels are celebrating Viktor Orbán’s resounding win. Elected for a fourth term, Hungary’s anti-immigrant nationalist leader poses a profound challenge for the European Union. Since returning as prime minister in 2010, Orbán and his Fidesz party have chipped away at Hungary’s democratic checks and balances, curbed judicial independence and clamped down on the independent media. Hungary’s democratic backsliding has been accompanied by a drumbeat of xenophobic rhetoric, directed against refugees, Brussels and George Soros. The EU, used to grappling with Brexit, is now confronting a country at the heart of the continent making an exit from the club’s liberal values, but continuing to pick up the cheques.
The recent redrawing of Malaysia’s electoral boundaries, which came into effect on March 29, has caused quite a stir as election fever grips the country. The motion was passed despite strong protests from opposition MPs, as well as civil society groups, who accused the Election Commission of colluding with the government to tip the balance in favour of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Many have condemned it as an exercise in malapportionment and gerrymandering which will widen existing ethnic divides, adding to a growing anxiety among urban Malaysians that Malaysia is arcing towards authoritarianism despite the budding support for the oppositions at both regional and national levels. For some others, however, the move was not at all surprising, given the long history of accusations of electoral manipulation being employed during elections in Malaysia.
When you are an 18-year-old citizen in Korea, you can marry, obtain a driver’s license and become a public servant once passing the required state exam. You are also obliged to pay taxes on any income, and serve in the military if you are a man. But there’s one thing you cannot do ― vote. In Korea, 19 is the age when suffrage is given to vote for president, lawmakers, mayors, governors and other elected officials. For decades, there have been calls to lower the age to 18 to meet the age for other social rights and duties. The issue has re-emerged recently after President Moon Jae-in said he plans to include lowing the age of suffrage to 18 in his suggestions for constitutional revision. It has immediately drawn pros and cons, from both the civic and political sectors.