The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new national strategy for addressing the growing number of cyber security risks as it works to assess them and reduce vulnerabilities. “The cyber threat landscape is shifting in real-time, and we have reached a historic turning point,” DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “It is clear that our cyber adversaries can now threaten the very fabric of our republic itself.” The announcement comes amid concerns about the security of the 2018 U.S. midterm congressional elections and numerous high-profile hacking of U.S. companies.
For five days in late March, the computers running most of Atlanta city government were frozen—shut down and held hostage by hackers who used ransomware, a pernicious way of extorting money. The attackers breached networks and hard drives. They locked up and encrypted the data. They changed file names to “I’m sorry” and gave its targets a week to pay with cyber currency. “We are dealing with a hostage situation,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at the time. That nightmarish scenario is exactly what the officials who run state and local elections are seeking to prevent in spring primaries and especially next fall’s general election: a widespread disruption of voting in key locales and races, where the process is held hostage as the press, candidates, supporters and public impatiently demand results.
Ryan schedules US election security briefing for lawmakers | The Hill #url#
The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political data firm, and have sought to question former employees and banks that handled its business, according to an American official and other people familiar with the inquiry. Prosecutors have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, telling them that there is an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica — which worked on President Trump’s election and other Republican campaigns in 2016 — and “associated U.S. persons.” But the prosecutors provided few other details, and the inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators seeking an overview of the company and its business practices. The investigation compounds the woes of a firm that has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the United States and Britain since The New York Times and Observer in London reported in March that it had harvested private data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles, and that it may have violated American election laws. This month, Cambridge Analytica announced that it would shut down and declare bankruptcy, saying that negative press and cascading federal and state investigations had driven away customers and made it impossible for the firm to remain in business.
Georgia: Judge grants request for docs linked to Atlanta mayoral vote probe | Atlanta Journal Constitution
A Fulton County judge ordered local elections officials to make available documents linked to a state investigation into potential irregularities of the December runoff that yielded a narrow victory for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall issued an order this week that county officials should grant Georgia Secretary of State’s Office investigators “immediate access” to ballots, recaps, tally sheets, voter applications and other documents related to the Dec. 5 contest. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor who oversees Georgia elections, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News last week that investigators requested records to conduct a forensic review of the contest.
Michigan: Group hoping to end gerrymandering in Michigan faces challenges while waiting for approval | WXYZ
Voters Not Politicians, the group hoping to end gerrymandering in Michigan, is facing more challenges while they also wait on approval from the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. Last week, the group called for the state board to certify their proposal to be on the ballot. The group also said last week they hoped the petition would appear on Tuesday’s agenda. When the agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting came down, the only consideration on the agenda was for the petition filed by Protecting Michigan Taxpayers. Led by a group of volunteers collecting signatures, Voters Not Politicians collected over 425,000 signatures and submitted them to the Michigan Bureau of Elections in December. They needed about 316,000, equal to about 10 percent of the state’s population.
State-level Republicans are pouncing on the Trump administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the Census as a way to boost their electoral advantage in the next round of redistricting. Missouri Republicans last week advanced a measure that would put on November’s ballot a constitutional amendment to require state legislative districts to be drawn using the number of citizens, rather than total population. Two Republicans defected from the otherwise 90-34 party line House vote. Asked during a Friday floor debate over how Missouri would implement the requirement, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dean Plocher (R), pointed specifically to the fact that the citizenship question will be on the next Census.
Gov. Chris Sununu says he still has deep concerns over a bill to make voting an effective declaration of residency. But resolving them could come down to the state Supreme Court. In a late agenda item submitted ahead of Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, Sununu requested that the court weigh in on the constitutionality of House Bill 1264, a proposal to merge the definitions of “domicile” and “residency” for the purposes of voting. The move, anticipated last week, would ask that the court weigh in on whether the controversial bill would violate the state or federal constitutions. But it will need Executive Council approval to move ahead to the Supreme Court clerk’s desk.
New York: Senate Democrats look to simplify voting process ahead of federal and state primaries | The Legislative Gazette
The New York State Senate Democratic Conference is sponsoring a package of bills to simplify the voter registration process for primary, general and special elections after releasing their own report researching low voter turnout. The Senate Democratic report, “Why Don’t More New Yorkers Vote? A Snapshot Identifying Low Voter Turnout,” explains in the executive summary that New York was “41st in turnout in the nation, and [was] worst in the Northeast” during the 2016 general election. This conclusion was based on “unofficial results” available on the state election board’s website cited in the study and an additional study done by the U.S. Election Project.
With the Pennsylvania primary underway, state officials are working with the federal Department of Homeland Security to protect voting systems from hacking. Senior Department of Homeland Security official Chris Krebs visited Harrisburg and spoke at a press briefing on election security. In his current role, Krebs is performing the duties of the undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. Krebs said there’s never been successful election hacking in Pennsylvania, and he’s working with the Pennsylvania Department of State to keep it that way. His agency has been helping to identify and fix weaknesses in Pennsylvania’s voting system.
European intelligence chiefs warned Monday that Russia is actively seeking to undermine their democracies by disinformation, cyberattacks and more traditional means of espionage. The heads of Britain and Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies, as well as the European Union and NATO’s top security officials, pinpointed Moscow as the prime source of hybrid threats to Europe, citing attempts to manipulate elections, steal sensitive data and spark a coup in Montenegro. They also cited the nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy in Britain this year that Britain has blamed on Russia. “Our respect for Russia’s people … cannot and must not stop us from calling out and pushing back on the Kremlin’s flagrant breaches of international rules,” the head of Britain’s MI5 spy agency, Andrew Parker, told an intelligence gathering in Berlin.
China: Hong Kong government scraps plan to shorten voting hours after overwhelming public opposition | South China Morning Post
A government suggestion of shortening polling times for Hong Kong elections has been shelved after an overwhelming number of objections from people fearing the measure would strip shift workers of their voting rights. The development came on Tuesday as the administration submitted to the Legislative Council a report which wrapped up the results of a seven-week public consultation last year on three issues related to elections. While the government had said it was open to shortening polling hours – which normally last from 7.30am to 10.30pm – it suggested in the consultation paper that the move would help alleviate the fatigue suffered by candidates and electoral staff and ease the booking of venues.
Iraq has instructed security forces in the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk to maintain order amid protests against alleged electoral fraud during the first vote since the defeat of Islamic State militants. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made the order on Sunday, after the city’s Kurdish and Turkmen communities rejected the initial results of the parliamentary election. “Abadi has commanded security forces in Kirkuk and throughout the province to provide security and to deal impartially with the election,” Abadi’s office said in an online statement. “The election commission must take measures to inspect the ballot boxes and announce the results to the public to guarantee a fair election,” it added.
Angus Council’s second youngest elected member has warned Scottish Government proposals to introduce electronic voting machines at future elections are “a disaster waiting to happen”. Councillor Braden Davy, the Conservative member for Forfar and District, dismissed the suggestion of replacing the “tried and trusted” way of voting with an electronic ballot as “costly voting gimmicks” when he addressed members of the local authority’s policy and resource committee in Forfar. Councillors discussed the Scottish Government’s consultation on electoral reform which asked for feedback on plans for voting machines and internet voting alongside other reforms.
The Lima Group of largely Latin American nations on Monday urged the Venezuelan government to suspend the presidential election scheduled for May 20, calling the process “illegitimate and lacking in credibility.” In a joint statement, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia, Spain and the United States condemned Venezuela’s government and vowed to consider steps if the vote went ahead. The countries, not all of which belong formally to the group established last year in Lima to address the crisis in Venezuela, said they had analysed possible scenarios and identified a series of “actions” they could take. They did not provide details on what those might be.