The Department of Homeland Security is giving states, including Colorado and Texas, a chance to game out how they might respond to a cyberattack on election systems ahead of this year’s midterm vote. The department began its biennial “Cyber Storm” exercises on Tuesday, working with more than 1,000 “players” across the country, including state governments and manufacturers, to test how they would withstand a large-scale, coordinated cyberattack aimed at the U.S.’s critical infrastructure such as transportation systems and communications.
National: Mark Zuckerberg vows to fight election meddling in marathon Senate grilling | The Guardian
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, warned on Tuesday of an online propaganda “arms race” with Russia and vowed that fighting interference in elections around the world is now his top priority. The 33-year-old billionaire, during testimony that lasted nearly five hours, was speaking to Congress in what was widely seen as a moment of reckoning for America’s tech industry. It came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which, Facebook has admitted, the personal information of up to 87 million users were harvested without their permission. Zuckerberg’s comments gave an insight into the unnerving reach and influence of Facebook in numerous democratic societies. “The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he said under questioning by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico.
Editorials: Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future | Kai Stinchcombe/Medium
Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future. Its failure to achieve adoption to date is because systems built on trust, norms, and institutions inherently function better than the type of no-need-for-trusted-parties systems blockchain envisions. That’s permanent: no matter how much blockchain improves it is still headed in the wrong direction. This December I wrote a widely-circulated article on the inapplicability of blockchain to any actual problem. People objected mostly not to the technology argument, but rather hoped that decentralization could produce integrity.
Georgia: Secretary of State Brian Kemp starts voting system study group | Atlanta Journal Constitution
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is moving forward with efforts to replace the state’s electronic voting machines after legislation to do so failed. Kemp announced Friday he’s forming a bipartisan commission of lawmakers, political party leaders, election officials and voters to recommend a new voting system for the state. The group will review options for the state’s voting system, including all hand-marked paper ballots and electronic machines with a voter-verified paper trail. The commission will evaluate costs, solicit comments from the public and hold meetings across the state before making suggestions for the Georgia General Assembly to consider next year.
Maine: Skeptical high court hears arguments on blocking ranked-choice voting in Maine primaries | Portland Press Herald
Maine’s highest court is likely to rule quickly on legal questions around the state’s first-in-the-nation, ranked-choice voting law after a hearing Thursday marked by the justices’ pointed and skeptical questioning of attorneys involved in the case. The case, which involves the Maine Senate, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting that backed the law approved by voters in November 2016, is meant to settle whether the system can be used in the June 12 primaries. Justices grilled attorneys for the three parties during the 50-minute hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, leveling their focus on Tim Woodcock, the lawyer representing the Republican-controlled Senate.
Ohio counties are one step closer to getting nearly $115 million for new voting machines. Senate Bill 135, introduced by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, would provide $114.5 million for the replacement of voting machines across the state. The bill was passed by a 32-1 vote on Wednesday; the dissenter was Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander. Most Ohio voting machines date from 2005 or 2006, paid for mostly with about $115 million in federal money through the Help America Vote Act. Around half of Ohio’s counties use paper ballots that are optically scanned, and half use touch-screen voting. Ohio’s voting machines are not permitted to be connected to the internet, and the state’s touch-screen ballots are required to have a traceable paper trail that can be audited. “It’s very good for Ohio voters,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. “It’s going to modernize our election systems.”
Pennsylvania: State Will Eliminate Paperless Voting Machines In Time For The 2020 Election | Buzzfeed
Pennsylvania, the largest swing state where a substantial number of voting machines leave no auditable paper trail, making it impossible to verify if voting tabulations have been altered, says it will fix that problem in time for the 2020 presidential election. Robert Torres, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, announced Thursday he’d instructed all 67 counties that they have until the end of 2019 to move their balloting to only voting machines that produce a voter-verified paper record. “We want to bring about the system upgrades so Pennsylvania voters are voting on the most secure and auditable equipment as promptly and feasibly as possible,” Torres said in a statement.
Montenegrins were casting their ballots in a presidential election widely tipped to be won by former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. It is the first election since the country joined the Western military alliance, NATO. Sunday’s vote is being seen as test for Djukanovic, who favors European integration over closer ties to its traditional ally, Moscow. The former prime minister and his Democratic Party of Socialists have ruled the country for nearly 30 years. Current President Filip Vujanovic is not running due to term limits. Opinion polls predict a first-round victory for Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists’. However, if the former leader fails to win the seven candidate race, a run-off vote will be held on April 29.
IT experts on Thursday raised objections over an e-voting software prepared by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, Thursday resumed hearing of a case pertaining to voting rights to overseas Pakistanis. During the hearing, the NADRA chairman briefed the SC bench, officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and representatives of different political parties on the e-voting system. The official said that providing e-voting facility to around 7 million overseas Pakistanis would cost Rs150 million.
The former chief information security officer of the Department of Health and Human Services is taking a role at one of the country’s largest voting machine manufacturers as its head of security. ES&S announced Wednesday that Christopher Wlaschin will be its new vice president of systems security responsible for the company’s security efforts, including that of its products as well as operational and infrastructure security. He will be involved in ensuring the security of ES&S’s products and engaging in the certification process they undergo in order to be used in elections, the company announced Wednesday. “Our priority at ES&S is developing resilient, auditable and secure voting software and equipment to support our customer’s mission of delivering secure, fair and accurate elections,” said ES&S CEO Tom Burt.
J. Christian Adams, who sat on President Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission, is being sued over reports his group issued accusing hundreds of Virginians of having illegally registered to vote. The lawsuit was filed Thursday against Adams and his group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, in federal court in Virginia. It targets the voter fraud allegations the group made in reports called “Alien Invasion in Virginia” and “Alien Invasion II,” which claimed that hundreds of non-citizens had likely committed felonies by registering to vote. The lawsuit is being brought by four people who say they were falsely mislabeled as non-citizens who illegally registered to vote in the reports, despited the fact that they are all citizens. The League of United Latin American Citizens is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which is being spearheaded by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Protect Democracy, two pro-democracy groups.”
The federal agency charged with protecting U.S. infrastructure — including its computer networks — has hired Daniel Kroese, the chief of staff for Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, as a senior adviser. The National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), part of the Department of Homeland Security, brings on Kroese as the Trump administration and Congress are seeking to harden U.S. cybersecurity, including its elections systems. Kroese, who announced the hire in an email to colleagues, will arrive at NPPD with close contacts throughout Congress. The move follows NPPD’s addition of Matthew Masterson, the former chairman of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as another senior adviser. Masterson’s role is focused on election security. It’s not clear yet what Kroese will specialize in at NPPD.
Among the more painful moments for Mark Zuckerberg in his second day of Capitol Hill grilling was the angry dressing-down he got from Rep. John Sarbanes. The Maryland Democrat zeroed in not on Facebook’s relationship with the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, but on the fact that Facebook (like Twitter and Google) had employees embedded with the Trump campaign to help craft its digital advertising strategy. For free. That arrangement may have violated long-standing campaign finance rules that prohibit even in-kind donations from private companies to candidates. Perhaps more than any exchange Zuckerberg had with lawmakers, it is a clear reminder that everyone—including the big tech companies—would benefit from better, clearer rules.
Colorado: Federal judge tosses “faithless” presidential elector lawsuit against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams | The Denver Post
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from three Democratic presidential electors against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams alleging that Williams violated their constitutional rights during the highly contentious 2016 Electoral College vote. The trio contended that Williams acted unlawfully by not allowing them to vote their conscience instead of on behalf of Colorado voters when casting their presidential votes. But U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel rejected that premise, saying they were requesting he “strike down Colorado’s elector statute that codifies the historical understanding and long-standing practice of binding electors to the people’s vote, and to sanction a new system that would render the people’s vote merely advisory.”
Illinois lawmakers are working to give people behind bars while awaiting trial a better opportunity to vote. The bill would require election officials to collaborate with county jails to provide voter registration forms to eligible voters who are in jail while awaiting trial. Those serving time after being convicted are not able to vote while in custody. State Rep. Juliana Stratton, D-Springfield, said many people in jail while awaiting trial don’t know they can vote.
With the clock ticking, state supreme court justices hastily convened attorneys Thursday to consider whether the secretary of state’s implementation of ranked-choice voting for the June primaries without funding by state lawmakers violates the Maine Constitution. An attorney for the Maine Senate warned that the Separation of Powers is a “fundamental touchstone of our liberty” while the attorney general’s office countered that state election officials always have had broad authority when it comes to elections.
New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation expanding automatic voter registration in the state. The “motor bill” passed the state Assembly, 50-23, and the state Senate, 24-13. The legislation makes it so individuals will be automatically registered unless they opt out of the process. If signed as expected by Gov. Phil Murphy (D), New Jersey would be home to one of the most widespread automatic voter registration programs in the U.S.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration told Pennsylvania’s counties Thursday that he wants them to replace their electronic voting systems with machines that leave a verifiable paper trail by the end of 2019, although counties warned that the price tag is a major problem. Counties estimate the cost will be $125 million and said the greatest single impediment to buying new voting machines is the lack of a funding source. Wolf’s administration said it believes it is possible for counties to update their machines by the November 2019 election and that it is working with counties to make it affordable.
Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president, Ilham Aliyev, has secured a landslide victory in a snap presidential election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties. The Central Election Commission (CEC) said in a statement that Aliyev received 86 percent of the vote with 94 percent of votes counted. Turnout was 74.5 percent, the statement added. The results of the April 11 election give Aliyev, who ran for the ruling New Azerbaijan party, a fourth consecutive term in office, in a vote that Human Rights Watch (HRW) said did not provide “a viable choice” for the voters. “I am grateful to my people for voting for our achievements and success,” Aliyev said on state television, soon after the election commission announced the partial results. “People voted for stability, security, and development.”
Congo: Violence is roiling the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some say it’s a strategy to keep the president in power | Los Angeles Times
In a fog of tear gas, a priest in the Congolese capital drags a woman to safety after she was shot. In the churchyard. By the police. About a thousand miles away in the Ituri region, on the other side of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people fleeing a massacre climb out of boats and wade ashore, their homes burned to the ground, their dead unburied. And 700 miles from there, in the Kasai region, the United Nations discovers 80 mass graves, then blames government soldiers for most of the deaths. It is easy to see these recent scenes as unrelated incidents in the panoramic chaos of a vast and troubled nation spinning out of control. But there is another theory: The events are part of a plan.
The Malaysian prime minister on Wednesday declared voting day on May 9 a public holiday after a decision to hold elections on a workday triggered complaints that it would deter mainly opposition supporters. The surprise move is seen as a bid to ease public anger a day after the Election Commission announced that voting will be held on a Wednesday, departing from the norm of having it on a weekend. The weekday vote triggered a flurry of complains that it would deter thousands of Malaysians from returning to their hometown to vote. Some companies responded by giving their employees days off and offering to pay for their travel back home to vote. The hashtag “PulangMengundi” (Go home to vote) trended on Twitter, with many Malaysians offering financial assistance and car pool to those travelling back to vote.
The hit men arrived by motorcycle at noon, stepped into the Toreo Restaurant and, without uttering a word, opened fire on Antonia Jaimes Moctezuma. Then they sped away, their mission completed. Jaimes was the restaurant owner and a candidate for a state congressional seat. Her killing Feb. 21 in the city of Chilapa, in Mexico’s violence-plagued Guerrero state, is among more than two dozen assassinations of candidates running for office in July. “The situation of insecurity is very grave here,” said her husband, Moises Acevedo. “But not only in Chilapa. They’re killing candidates all over the country.” Authorities have confirmed that at least 30 candidates have been killed, said Alfonso Navarrete, Mexico’s interior secretary. Some reports indicate the toll since last year may be almost twice as high.
The National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu has confirmed that the commission will not deploy the use of electronic gadgets to conduct voting during the 2019 general elections. Yakubu, who is also the President of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) said this while briefing reporters at the end of the three-day International Conference on “ Opportunities and Challenges in the use of technology in Elections”, which ended in Abuja on Wednesday. The conference organized by the INEC, the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Countries (ECF/SADC) drew participants from over 30 countries from West and southern African sub-regions, who brainstormed on the deployment of technology for elections.