Russia was preparing to wage a campaign to undermine confidence in the US voting process when hackers associated with Russia’s government targeted about 18 state election systems in the months leading up to the 2016 election, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded. The hackers attempted to access several state election systems, but the committee said it found no evidence of vote tallies being changed. Some voter registration databases were accessed, though, and the hackers were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data,” the committee said in a report released on Tuesday.
Russia was preparing to undermine confidence in the United States’ voting process when its hackers surveilled around 20 state election systems in the run-up to the 2016 elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a brief report released on Tuesday. But the committee said it saw no evidence that the Russians had ultimately changed vote tallies or voter registration information. In a few states, however, Russian hackers were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data,” the committee said. “These activities began at least as early as 2014, continued through Election Day 2016, and included traditional information-gathering efforts as well as operations likely aimed at preparing to discredit the integrity of the U.S. voting process and election results,” the senators wrote.
While Democrats, Republicans, and the intelligence community are all warning about potential Russian meddling in the November midterm elections, ordinary citizens face even greater obstacles to exercising their vote. WhoWhatWhy spoke to voting rights and election integrity experts about the broad range of threats to voting access. They noted that there are other serious election concerns that voters should worry about this fall — challenges to the integrity of the voting process that are not getting enough attention in the mainstream media. In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned with a warning that the vote might be rigged against him. After winning the election but not the popular vote, President Trump — to prove his (completely unsubstantiated) claim that “millions voted illegally” — established a commission to address alleged voter fraud. The commission was later disbanded after many states refused to turn over sensitive voter data and allegations surfaced that its true purpose may have been voter suppression.
Hackers reportedly breached election systems in a third state, in addition to the already disclosed incidents involving Arizona and Illinois, during the 2016 campaign cycle. On Election Day 2016, a hacker successfully penetrated a server hosting Alaska’s main election website, the Anchorage Daily News reported on Monday night, citing documents obtained through a public records request. The breach is not connected to the previously reported hacking attempt made by Russia-linked hackers to access Alaska’s primary voter registration database. Alaska was one of 21 states that were previously informed by the Department of Homeland Security of similar Russian probing activity on their election systems. Security experts told ADN that, although the newly reported incident was a successful intrusion, the Alaska Division of Elections’ security measures appear to have prevented the attackers from changing content on the server.
A federal appeals court has tentatively scheduled oral arguments for late July in a closely-watched constitutional battle over Florida’s system for restoring the voting rights of felons. The News Service of Florida reports that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments the week of July 23, though an online docket does not yet list a specific date.
As midterm primary elections inch closer and closer, cybersecurity of election systems is top of mind across the nation. Seventeen states requested on-site risk assessments from the Department of Homeland Security to ensure elections are secure against cyber-tampering. Idaho was not one of those states but election officials say the Gem State is involved in informal conversations with both DHS and the FBI regarding election cybersecurity. That includes constant vulnerability scans. … Just last week, election officials implemented several DHS processes and recommendations to keep state elections secure. But among Idaho’s high-tech security measures, the state’s best defense against a potential threat is much simpler.
Dearborn County Clerk of Courts Gayle Pennington confirmed Tuesday night that most of the county’s ballot scanning machines were disabled by dead batteries on Primary Election Day. “We did our testing a few weeks ago. We sent our machines out (to polling places) over the weekend. Our inspectors had their (battery) packs. They went out and the batteries were dead in their packs,” Pennington told Eagle Country 99.3 following the final vote total. Only about 11 of the 45 machines at the 45 voting precincts throughout the county were operational Tuesday, the clerk added. The vendor for the county’s new ballot scanning machines – used for the first time in an election Tuesday – is Election Systems and Software. Regarding the batteries, Pennington said they were new in November 2017 and were supposed to have a five-year lifespan.
North Dakota agreed to hold settlement negotiations with a group of American Indians who sued over expanded voter ID laws after a federal judge admonished the state for exaggerating worries of voter fraud. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Miller on Monday scheduled the settlement talks proposed by the plaintiffs for May 29 in Bismarck. In a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland criticized the state for raising a “litany of embellished concerns” about people taking advantage of his earlier ruling that expands the proof of identity Native Americans can use for North Dakota elections. Hovland had suggested the parties negotiate a settlement “so that all homeless persons, and all persons who live on Native American reservations in North Dakota, can have a meaningful opportunity to vote.”
Ohio voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will reform the state’s redistricting process, creating a mandate for bipartisanship in the decennial remapping process. With about half the votes counted a few hours after polls closed, about three quarters of Ohio voters backed the initiative, State Issue One. The ballot measure asked voters whether they wanted to amend the state constitution to require bipartisan support when drawing new congressional district lines. Any new maps would require three-fifths support in the state House and Senate, including support from at least half the members of the minority party. If Republicans and Democrats in the legislature cannot agree on a map, a seven-member bipartisan commission would be assigned to draw new maps. Those maps would have to be approved with at least two votes from the minority party. If the bipartisan commission fails, the legislature would be allowed to try to draw 10-year maps that earn support from one-third of the minority party or a four-year map with only majority support.
Ohio: Ohio State study: ‘Fake news’ probably helped flip Obama voters to Trump in 2016 | The Columbus Dispatch
A year and a half later, analysts and academics still have reached no real consensus on how Donald Trump pulled off his victory in the 2016 presidential election. But three Ohio State University researchers have a new — and controversial — study showing that a key portion of the Republican’s voters were highly susceptible to the influence of fake news. Paul Beck, a longtime OSU political science professor, said the deep dive after the election focused on voters who supported Barack Obama in 2012 but not fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. About 77 percent of Obama voters stuck with Clinton, so if she had gotten only a relative handful more, she would be president. “The real key in 2016 is ‘What happened to the Obama voters?’” Beck said. The “fake news” accounts used by the OSU researchers were not from any major networks or newspapers, but rather a trio of false statements widely shared by individuals or groups on social media and through some broadcast outlets.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday backed a state requirement that voters provide a photo ID at the polls, the latest decision in a nationwide battle between voting rights advocates who say the laws are aimed at suppressing turnout and conservatives who say the protections are needed to prevent voter fraud. The court upheld a lower court ruling 8 to 0 with one justice recusing. “The Oklahoma Voter ID Act is a reasonable procedural regulation to ensure that voters meet identity and residency qualifications and does not cause an undue burden,” according to the 8-0 ruling, with one justice recusing, which upholds a lower court ruling in the lawsuit.
Armenia: Armenia contemplates the unlikely: a nonviolent revolution on the cusp of victory | Los Angeles Times
For weeks, Armenians attempted the unthinkable — to bring down their government through peaceful mass protests. On Monday night, they returned to the capital’s central Republic Square, this time to celebrate their impending victory. “I’m so proud to be Armenian now,” said Satenik Gevorgyan, 28. “This is the kind of change we’ve been waiting for all our lives.” Armenia’s parliament is expected to elect opposition leader Nikol Pashinian as prime minister Tuesday, nearly a month after the 42-year-old led hundreds of thousands of Armenians in a civil disobedience movement. The nonviolent demonstrations began in April and at times paralyzed the capital, Yerevan, with road blockages, labor strikes and street dance parties.
Australia: Dual citizenship crisis: four MPs resign after court rules Katy Gallagher ineligible | The Guardian
A high court decision ruling Labor senator Katy Gallagher ineligible to sit in parliament has triggered four MPs – including three Labor MPs – to resign over dual citizenship issues. In a litmus test for both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten the four MPs will now fight to retain their seats in a “super Saturday” string of byelections in states that will be crucial to the next federal election including Queensland and Western Australia. While the Turnbull government dials up its rhetoric on Shorten’s failure to force his MPs to resign sooner, Shorten has attempted to frame the looming contests – to be held as early as June – as a chance to cast judgment on the Coalition’s big business tax cuts.
Stéphane Perrault has been nominated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Canada’s next chief electoral officer. But New Democrats are demanding to know why the government put forward a different nominee just three weeks ago. Marc Mayrand, the previous chief electoral officer, announced in June 2016 that he intended to resign at the end of that year. Perreault, Mayrand’s deputy, has been serving as the acting chief electoral officer since Mayrand’s departure. “I am pleased to announce the nomination of Stéphane Perrault as Canada’s new Chief Electoral Officer,” Trudeau said in a statement. “His experience leading the agency for the last year and a half and administering many by-elections across the country make Mr. Perrault an excellent choice to head Elections Canada.”
Hezbollah has gained political ground in Lebanon and consolidated Iran’s influence on the fragile state’s affairs after winning, along with its allies, a small majority in national elections. The Shia militia-cum-political bloc’s gains came at the expense of the Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, whose authority was weakened by a relatively poor showing in stronghold areas. Many of Hariri’s traditional supporters appear to have stayed at home on Sunday for the first parliamentary vote in nine years. His patron, Saudi Arabia, cut Hariri adrift in November and remained disengaged in the lead-up to the vote. It offered no immediate reaction to the result. Hariri’s bloc, the Future Movement, lost one-third of its seats, and he blamed a “scheme” to “eliminate” it from the political process when speaking on Monday.
Malaysia: Politicians claim phones hacked; probe shows spam calls from unknown bot attack | The Straits Times
Malaysian politicians on Wednesday (May 9) say their mobile phones have been hacked and are being spammed by calls allegedly originating from the United States. “BN leaders’ handphones have been under technical attack since morning,” said Barisan Nasional (BN) Strategic Communications director Datuk Seri Rahman Dahlan. “Calls from overseas keep coming in every few seconds! To…
Independent candidates in Tunisia’s first free municipal election gained more votes than major parties Ennahda and Nidaa Tounes, officials said on Tuesday citing preliminary results. Sunday’s election is seen as key to a democratic transition and a chance to establish decentralization and local governance. Tunisia is hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 without triggering major violence. But enthusiasm for democratic change has turned to anger over low living standards amid an economy that is struggling. Some Tunisians have crossed by sea to Europe illegally in search of work while others have turned to militant Islam.