Past piles of hay outside the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, vendors in a meeting hall hawked their latest secure voting technology. Local officials and activists tapped sleek Android screens in a mock election and saw the results documented on printouts. Yet none of the state-of-the-art equipment displayed will be used for the battleground state’s May 15 primary. That’s despite fears of hacking spawned by Russian meddling in the national election two years ago and the narrow margin of victory in key recent contests from Alabama to Pennsylvania. There’s too little time and money, officials say. U.S. election season is well underway, with Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia all holding primaries on Tuesday. Control of Congress in November’s midterm election may hinge on voters in Pennsylvania, a closely divided state that helped President Donald Trump clinch his 2016 victory. But like several other states, there’s a gaping hole in Pennsylvania’s machinery of democracy: It has some of the oldest, least secure voting technology in the country.
How do 87m records scraped from Facebook become an advertising campaign that could help swing an election? What does gathering that much data actually involve? And what does that data tell us about ourselves? The Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised question after question, but for many, the technological USP of the company, which announced last week that it was closing its operations, remains a mystery. For those 87 million people probably wondering what was actually done with their data, I went back to Christopher Wylie, the ex-Cambridge Analytica employee who blew the whistle on the company’s problematic operations in the Observer. According to Wylie, all you need to know is a little bit about data science, a little bit about bored rich women, and a little bit about human psychology…
A hacker gained unauthorized access in 2016 to the server that hosts Alaska’s public elections website, according to documents released by Gov. Bill Walker’s administration. The documents, obtained by the Anchorage Daily News through a public records request, outline an incident that drew the attention of federal law enforcement but had not been publicly revealed by Alaska election officials. The documents show that Alaska’s elections, like other states’ around the country, face threats from hackers seeking to undermine American democratic institutions. But technology experts both inside and outside state government said that no damage was done — and that the attack actually highlights the resilience of Alaska’s multi-layered cyber-defenses.
With anti-gerrymandering efforts gaining steam, Republicans in some states are mobilizing to protect their ability to continue rigging election maps. In late April, a Republican group backed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce sued to keep a popular redistricting reform measure off the state’s November ballot. Arizona’s GOP-controlled legislature last week narrowly failed to pass a bill that would have given the party much more control over the map-drawing process. And Pennsylvania Republicans, who recently mulled impeaching a group of state judges who struck down their gerrymander, this week gutted reform legislation.
A three-judge panel was appointed last week in the Eastern District of Arkansas to preside over a lawsuit challenging the way Arkansas lawmakers enacted a legislative redistricting plan in 2011. In the suit, Julius J. Larry III, a retired civil-rights attorney in Houston, Texas, who became the publisher of the weekly Little Rock Sun black newspaper in 2013, contends that the boundaries of the 1st Congressional District were set to intentionally dilute black voting strength, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, to whom the case was assigned, on April 23 dismissed a second claim in which Larry said the state gerrymandered the boundaries in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, saying that because he lives in Little Rock, in the 2nd Congressional District, he lacked standing to pursue that claim.
Colorado: Anti-Gerrymandering Effort Sails Through The Colorado Capitol On Its Way To The Ballot | CPR
In an otherwise divisive close to the 2018 legislative session, Colorado lawmakers have found broad agreement on at least one issue. They want out of the redistricting business. A bipartisan reform effort is flying through the assembly to ask voters to overhaul how the state decides legislative and congressional boundaries. The package would also outlaw gerrymandering in the state constitution and give new power to unaffiliated voters. The plan has already won unanimous approval in the state Senate and in two House committees. If it passes the full House, as expected, two initiatives would be added to this November’s statewide ballot.
Some big legal guns are squaring off in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s use of all-electronic voting systems. A major national law firm has deployed attorneys to represent plaintiffs in the suit on a pro bono basis, going up against a more locally based defense team that includes Georgia’s former governor. John Carlin, former assistant U.S. attorney general in charge of the National Security Division, and his partner in the Washington, D.C., office of AmLaw 35 national law firm Morrison & Foerster, David Cross, are representing three Georgia voters who claim their fundamental constitutional right to vote is endangered by the systems. On the other side, representing the State Election Board, its members and Secretary of State Brian Kemp are John Frank Salter Jr. and former Gov. Roy Barnes of the Barnes Law Group. Prior to serving as DOJ’s highest-ranking national security lawyer, MoFo’s Carlin served as chief of staff and senior counsel to former FBI director Robert Mueller III. In that role, he helped lead the agency’s evolution to meet growing and changing national security threats, including cyber threats, according to his firm bio.
Iowa’s top elections official will form a new working group with the goal of bolstering the cybersecurity around Iowa voting. “With the past presidential election, with the dialogue that came out of that, we’ve had to be much more aggressive (on cybersecurity), but also to share more with you of what we’re doing so the voters have the full confidence in our elections system,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said during a Friday news conference during a training session for county auditors at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. Concern about the security of the nation’s elections has hit a peak since 2016 due to investigations into Russian attempts to affect the 2016 presidential election.
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking for more than $50,000 in compensation for hours spent fighting Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach over issues that led to his contempt of court finding. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ordered Kobach’s office to pay for attorney fees and expenses when she ruled last month that Kobach ignored her orders after she blocked enforcement of the state’s voter registration law. Kobach has filed a notice with the court saying he intends to appeal her decision. Kobach failed to follow through on a promise to Robinson that counties would send postcards notifying people they could vote, even if they failed to show proof of citizenship when they registered. He continued to fight the notion that postcards were necessary until the day of his contempt hearing, which followed a trial in which he struggled to prove claims of widespread voter fraud.
Louisiana: Appellate court asked to reconsider legality of 1976 Louisiana felon voting law | The Advocate
A state appeals court in Baton Rouge is being asked to reconsider the constitutionality of a more than four-decade-old Louisiana law that prohibits felons on probation and parole from voting. State District Judge Tim Kelley, of Baton Rouge, upheld the 1976 law in March of last year, saying he agreed with the plaintiffs who challenged its legality but could not bend the law. The plaintiffs — a group called Voice of the Experienced, or VOTE, and several felons — say the law prevents more than 70,000 felons on probation and parole in Louisiana from voting.
A month after Maine’s highest court upheld the election-law shift, state Republicans brought a federal complaint Friday that casts the country’s first ranked-choice voting system as unconstitutional. Also known as instant-runoff voting, the system by which voters rank candidates by preference, rather than casting a ballot for them, was voted into law via ballot initiative in November 2016. Maine’s Republican Party tapped attorneys at Pierce Atwood for their court challenge to the so-called RCV Act on Friday. With election primaries scheduled for June 12, the party says it has a constitutional right to determine how nominees are selected, and that instant-runoff voting would frustrate this aim.
New Hampshire: Attorney General: Send voter suit over Election Day registration to state Supreme Court | Union Leader
The attorney general wants the state Supreme Court to take over the lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party and the N.H. League of Women Voters over a new election law, Senate Bill 3, which establishes requirements for Election Day voter registration. The key issue is an April decision by Superior Court Judge Charles Temple ordering the state to turn over its voter registration database to the plaintiffs, who say they need the data to make their case. “The court exceeded its authority in ordering the release of the (database), and has put in jeopardy the privacy rights of over a million active and inactive New Hampshire registered voters,” according to the motion filed by Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards, representing the state in support of the law.
The next election in the Mountaineer State was still weeks away. But 5,000 miles from West Virginia’s capital city, in a suburb northwest of Moscow, someone was already scouting for ways to get into the state’s election computer network this spring. That someone’s IP address, a designation as a “malicious host,” even a tiny Russian flag — it was all there on a computer display in an office just across the Kanawha River from the state’s gold-domed capitol. And he had company. “See, right here, a Canadian IP address is trying to go into online voter registration,” said the West Virginia Air National Guard sergeant who was tracking the would-be intruders, pointing at the screen. “Here’s someone from Great Britain trying to do the same. China is trying to get into the home page — trying to, but they’re getting blocked.”
Canada: British Columbia’s Chief Electoral Officer suggests pre-registering 16-year-olds | Vancouver Sun
A report from the province’s Chief Electoral Officer is calling for 16- and 17-year-olds to be given the right to pre-register to vote, while also pitching a digitization of the voting process. The teens still wouldn’t be eligible to vote until they are 18, but they would be allowed to have their names added automatically to the voters list when they turn 18. Creating a system where voters can vote at any polling station and all votes are counted on election night is also proposed (PDF). The report suggests service to voters would be improved while making for more efficient staffing and close to real-time disclosure of voter participation data.
Hezbollah and its political allies are the biggest winners in Lebanon’s first general election in nine years, an analysis of the preliminary results show. Hezbollah and Amal – dubbed the “Shia duo” by local news media – are predicted to have won 29 seats in Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament during Sunday’s vote, according to unofficial tallies cited by politicians and local media reports. More than 11 seats are predicted to have been won by other political parties aligned with the duo. The long-awaited elections were marked by a voter turnout of just under 50 percent, down from 54 percent in the last legislative election in 2009, Nouhad Machnouk, Lebanon’s interior minister, said on Monday.
Malaysia: Malaysia’s election is a strange brew of ‘fake news,’ Cambridge Analytica and a 92-year-old autocrat-turned-reformer | Los Angeles Times
With police investigating him under Malaysia’s new anti-“fake news” law, Mahathir Mohamad, the nearly 93-year-old former prime minister turned opposition frontman, says his country faces its dirtiest election on Wednesday. The governing coalition “will cheat like mad, they will steal votes, but still I think we can win,” Mahathir said in an interview with The Times, stepping off a makeshift stage and into a nearby BMW waiting to take him to yet another campaign rally. Defying his age, Mahathir had just wrapped up a half-hour stump speech in this farming area about a 20-mile drive from Aloh Setar, the capital of Kedah state, his home base. Kedah has typically been a government stronghold, although the green flags of Malaysia’s Islamist party also flutter along its roadsides. Mahathir wants to swing the state, and enough rural Muslim Malays across the country, to his four-party opposition grouping known as the Alliance of Hope.
Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party claimed victory late on Sunday in the country’s first free municipal elections, a key step in a democratic transition marred by economic disappointment. After polling stations closed at 6 p.m., top Ennahda official Lotfi Zitoun told Reuters the party was more than 5 percent ahead of its secularist rival, Nidaa Tounes, citing vote counts observed by the party. Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes are also coalition partners in the national government. They were expected to dominate the long-delayed polls, which will see officials elected in 350 municipalities for the first time since a 2011 uprising ended decades of authoritarian rule.
Military officers are joining the exodus of Venezuelans to Colombia and Brazil, fleeing barracks and forcing President Nicolas Maduro’s government to call upon retirees and militia to fill the void. High desertion rates at bases in Caracas and the countryside are complicating security plans for the presidential election in 13 days, which by law require military custody of electoral materials and machinery at voting centers. “The number is unknown because it used to be published in the Official Gazette. Now, it is not,” said Rocio San Miguel, director of Control Ciudadano, a military watchdog group in Caracas. She said soldiers are fleeing for the same reason citizens are: “Wages are low, the quality of food and clothing isn’t good.”