A Department of Homeland Security official acknowledged that more than 21 states could have been targeted by Russian hackers prior to the 2016 election and told lawmakers the department hasn’t seen any similar activity in the lead-up to the 2018 mid-terms. In an April 24 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for the office of cybersecurity and communications, fended off questions about whether the department had “misled” Congress and the American public about how many states had been targeted by Russian hackers in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections. The department has consistently pegged the number of states affected at 21, but Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) pointed out that number reflects only the number of states that had sensors or tools in place to capture the scanning activity. Manfra largely agreed with that interpretation.
It is a war game with a twist. Instead of army officers, election officials are in charge. Instead of battling against an enemy armed with missiles, defences are choreographed against hackers hidden behind foreign computers. With the US midterm elections fast approaching, more than 160 election officials from across the country have just months to learn how to defend democracy. These public servants have centuries of experience between them, managing polling stations and vote counts across 38 states. They are experts in dealing with foul weather, irate voters and fights between rival candidates. But none ever expected to be on the front line in a battle against Russian hackers. Today’s responsibilities include patching up vulnerabilities in voting machines, preventing tampering with electronic records and stalling the spread of disinformation through social media.
Questions about President Donald Trump and the investigation into whether his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia overshadowed a Senate hearing on Wednesday with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been a frequent target of Trump’s wrath. Sessions was the sole witness at the hearing on the Justice Department’s proposed 2019 budget, where Democrats repeatedly drew the spotlight to the Russia probe.
National: News organizations seek access to Mueller materials in Russia investigation | The Washington Post
A coalition of news organizations, including The Washington Post, asked a federal court Tuesday to unseal materials used by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to obtain search warrants in his investigation of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and others indicted in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The news organizations are seeking to compel disclosure of affidavits, records of seizures and the warrants themselves that Mueller filed in bringing indictments against such figures as Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. They said the material, which has been shielded under a court order, could contain newsworthy information about the shape and direction of Mueller’s investigation. It could indicate, for example, details of criminal activity suspected by Mueller and the basis for FBI searches. The Post filed the joint motion with the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN and Politico.
The people of Illinois want fair legislative maps. They want maps that are drawn by an independent body working on behalf of voters, not by politicians looking after themselves. They want maps that promote competitive elections instead of protecting incumbents. They’ve said so, over and over again, in polls going back decades. They’ve collected hundreds of thousands of signatures — three times — and raised millions of dollars, trying to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. State lawmakers know this. That’s why they always tell us they want fair maps too. It’s why there are always several fair map proposals on file in Springfield, with many sponsors eager to point to their names at election time. Guess what? It’s election time. But this year is different. This year, voters want lawmakers to put up or shut up.
Roughly 140,000 Maricopa County voters have not received ID cards, potentially leaving eligible voters in Tuesday’s special congressional election unaware that they can cast a ballot. County election officials said they haven’t sent cards out since December, blaming a printing delay. The 8th Congressional District special election to replace ousted Republican U.S. Rep. Trent Franks in the West Valley is being watched nationally as a possible bellwether for the fall midterm elections.
Florida’s system of restoring voting rights to ex-felons remains intact, for now at least, after a federal appeals court Wednesday night delayed a judge’s ruling issued in February that had struck down the system. The decision from the Atlanta-based U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals prevented a late-night meeting of the Florida Clemency Board, which was called by Gov. Rick Scott to comply with the lower court’s Thursday deadline to adopt new voting rights restoration rules. “We are glad that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the lower court’s reckless ruling,’’ said Scott spokesman John Tupps. “Judges should interpret the law, not create it.’’
A federal judge Wednesday ordered Marion County to establish at least two early satellite voting precincts in time for the November general election, though the court refrained from requiring them in time for the May 8 primary election. Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an injunction in a suit brought by Common Cause and the NAACP. The suit filed in 2017 alleged that the county election board’s decision in recent years to permit early voting in just one location countywide provided unequal access to the ballot and violated voting rights in Indianapolis, particularly for minority voters.
New Hampshire: Senate election law committee greenlights domicile voting bill along party lines | Concord Monitor
One of two controversial bills to change the definition of “domicile” for voting purposes cleared a Senate committee Tuesday, heading to the Senate floor next for a make-or-break vote. In a 3-2, party-line vote, members of the Senate election law committee voted to recommend the bill, House Bill 1264, be passed by the full chamber. The bill would merge the definitions of “domiciled” people and “residents” for the purpose of voting, which supporters say will clear up confusion and bring New Hampshire’s process in line with other states. Democrats and other critics, meanwhile, say that combining the definitions will require those who vote to be residents, subjecting college students and other temporary residents to car registration fees and driver’s license requirements. Currently, voters are required only to be “domiciled,” meaning they spend a majority of their time in the state; adding residency could create a de facto poll tax in registration fees, critics allege.
Voters on May 8 have a chance to change the way Ohio draws Congressional maps. Issue 1 would require more bipartisanship in a line-drawing process that currently has few rules. It’s not the first time a redistricting proposal has gone to the ballot. But Issue 1 has brought together Republicans, Democrats and several groups advocating for reform. It takes a majority of the legislature to pass a map, and that means the party in power has a lot of say over how it looks. For decades, there have been attempts to shake up this process. “Millions of dollars were spent on both sides, countless redistricting reformers were engaged in those efforts, and we came to naught,” said Catherine Turcer, the director of Common Cause Ohio, one of the groups supporting Issue 1.
Oklahoma will not be the latest state to allow voters to take selfies with their ballots, after Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill this week that would’ve legalized the seemingly innocuous, but controversial practice. Fallin, a Republican, declined to sign a bill that would’ve allowed Oklahomans to take photos of their marked ballots, from either an absentee form or a voting booth, and share the images on social media. So-called “ballot selfies” have become increasingly popular over the past several election cycles, but ballot-security experts and elections officials in some states have become increasingly wary of the images’ potential to be abused.
Editorials: Judge deserved more than probation after trying to rig election | Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Former Justice of the Peace Russ Casey walked out of a Tarrant County courthouse this week with a gift: He got a five-year, probated sentence after consciously trying to manipulate the electoral process. Casey’s plea deal looks even sweeter when compared to two other election fraud cases recently prosecuted by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. In those two cases confused — or at the very least misguided — women got prison sentences for voting violations. Forcing Casey to surrender his office — and his $126,000 salary — may be seen as a just penalty. It’s not enough. This Editorial Board thinks prosecutors and the public need to ask themselves if the scales of justice are out of balance. It offends our sense of fair play to see this kind of inequality. In the one case where an election was in real jeopardy, the guilty guy skates.
A New York attorney and cyber security expert says it may be time for American elections to be tallied with hand-counted ballots. Alexander Urbelis, a computer hacker-turned-lawyer, says vulnerabilities in voting technologies, combined with the weaponization of personal data and rampant disinformation campaigns that underpinned the 2016 presidential election, have created “a really dangerous situation” for democracy. “We live in a state of disbelief,” Urbelis said. “Facts aren’t facts, and nothing is verifiable.” Meanwhile, Urbelis said vote tabulation equipment — such as the optical scanners widely used in Wisconsin — could be vulnerable to hacking at a local level or within the supply chain.
Armenia’s acting prime minister on Wednesday suggested calling a parliamentary election as tens of thousands staged a new protest in the capital against the ruling elite. Two weeks of demonstrations looked to have peaked on Monday when Serzh Sarksyan quit as prime minister. But the protesters have made clear they consider the whole government tainted by his drive to shift power to the premier from the president. “The fight is not over!” said 21-year-old Susana Adamyan, clutching a placard calling on others to take a stand.
Greenland’s 40,000 eligible voters delivered a bittersweet election victory for Prime Minister Kim Kielsen’s social-democratic Siumut party Tuesday, as it lost ground to centrist rivals. With only one international airport and no roads connecting the territory’s 17 towns, dog sleds were used to carry ballots to polling stations across the vast island. According to Greenland’s government, some fishermen travelled 93 miles to deliver ballot papers to a remote town. As Kielsen began coalition talks with left-wing parties Wednesday, Greenland’s politicians must tackle more problematic questions about the future of the sparsely populated Arctic nation.
United in their fight against Saddam Hussein’s oppression for decades, Iraq’s Shi’ites have become deeply fragmented and disillusioned with their leaders after 15 years in power. In Iraq’s Shi’ite heartlands, many who once voted blindly along sectarian lines are now turning their ire against the Shi’ite-led governments they say have failed to repair crumbling infrastructure, provide jobs or end the violence. The divisions within the community now risk splitting the Shi’ite vote in a May 12 election, which could complicate and delay the formation of a government, threaten gains against Islamic State and let Iran meddle further in Iraq’s politics.
It has been nearly a decade since Lebanese citizens last had the opportunity to go to the polls, with the current parliament having on three separate occasions unilaterally renewed its mandate for reasons ranging from security risks caused by the war in neighboring Syria to the inability to agree on electoral reform. But following an agreement last summer to replace a plurality voting system with proportional representation, elections finally will be held on May 6. The new law also reduced the number of electoral constituencies (which may comprise more than one district) to fifteen, with seats allocated in each according to the size of the region’s population. Furthermore, parliamentary mandates within each constituency are reserved for various sects, including Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodox, etc.…
With only two weeks left before elections, Malaysia’s political parties are ratcheting up their battle on social media, even before the start of official campaigning on Saturday. At stake are young and newly registered voters, as well as a substantial number of people still undecided. Voters under 40 years old account for 41% of the 15 million eligible voters. The country’s high smartphone penetration rate of 76% lets politicians target groups with help from analytics services provided by social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Official data shows that 97% of social media users are on Facebook, making Malaysia one of the most socially engaged countries in the world. “It is now time to attack,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak in a blog last April, referring to pro-ruling party social media activities.