As the midterm congressional primaries heat up amid fears of Russian hacking, an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will be casting their ballots on machines that do not produce a paper record of their votes. That worries voting and cybersecurity experts, who say the lack of a hard copy makes it difficult to double-check the results for signs of manipulation. “In the current system, after the election, if people worry it has been hacked, the best officials can do is say ‘Trust us,’” said Alex Halderman, a voting machine expert who is director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computer Security and Society. Georgia, which holds its primary on Tuesday, and four other states — Delaware, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — exclusively use touch-screen machines that provide no paper records that allow voters to confirm their choices.
National: Top Republican Senator Says ‘No Reason to Dispute’ That Russia Favored Trump | The New York Times
The Republican at the helm of the Senate’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election backed on Wednesday the assessment by American intelligence agencies that Moscow favored Donald J. Trump in the race, contradicting both the president and fellow Republicans in the House. Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he saw “no reason to dispute” the intelligence assessment, which was delivered in the final weeks of the Obama administration. Mr. Burr’s statement, while indirect, offered a clear rebuke to Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters in the Republican Party and in the right-wing news media, who have sought to cast the assessment as the shoddy work of Obama loyalists bitter over Mr. Trump’s election victory. Russia’s only goal, those supporters have insisted, was to sow chaos, and thus it could not have colluded with a campaign it cared little about.
The White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council on Tuesday, doing away with a post central to developing policy to defend against increasingly sophisticated digital attacks and the use of offensive cyber weapons. A memorandum circulated by an aide to the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the post was no longer considered necessary because lower-level officials had already made cybersecurity issues a “core function” of the president’s national security team. Cybersecurity experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move, though some suggested Mr. Bolton did not want any competitive power centers emerging inside the national security apparatus. The decision was criticized by Mark R. Warner, a senator from Virginia and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I don’t see how getting rid of the top cyber official in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats,” he wrote on Twitter.
Faced with cyber-security threats to their voting systems, Florida election supervisors are eager to get access to some of the $19 million in federal election security money Congress sent states nearly two months ago. But they say all they’re hearing from the state is crickets. “We sure wish the money was available. It’s frustrating,” said supervisor Mark Earley in Tallahassee’s Leon County. “This is a big deal. There’s certainly room for improvement, especially in smaller counties.” Congress included $380 million in a 2018 budget bill and in March directed the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to distribute the money to states. President Donald J. Trump signed the budget bill on March 23. “The EAC is releasing this money quickly so that the grants can have an immediate impact,” the commission said on March 29. The money will help counties “immediately begin system upgrades.”
When a WWE wrestler, especially one known for his demonic antics and a move called the “tombstone piledriver,” runs for mayor of your county, you know your election is going to get more attention than usual. But in Knox County, Tenn., it wasn’t the fact that Glenn Jacobs, also known to wrestling fans as Kane, was running for mayor that gained national attention on the county primary day, May 1. It was that the county’s election website, at the time the site was supposed to begin posting election results, came under attack. Malicious cyber actors shut down the county website and broke into the web server, according to county officials and a report done by the cyber security firm Sword and Shield. …”Any web server by definition, is connected to the internet, so it’s directly vulnerable to attacks from the internet,” said Doug Jones, an elections cyber security expert at the University of Iowa.
Texas: Asked to propose a fix to voting rights violation, Texas offers few answers | The Texas Tribune
Told it was breaking the law and asked to propose a fix, Texas seems to have mostly declined in a new filing the state’s legal adversaries have called “bad faith foot-dragging.” Following a ruling last month that Texas was violating a federal law designed to ease the voter registration process, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia orderedboth the state and the voting rights advocacy group that sued Texas to submit detailed plans for fixing the violation. The Texas Civil Rights Project submitted its plan Thursday afternoon. About three hours later, Texas responded with a document criticizing that group’s proposal as overly broad and once again disputing the judge’s ruling. It did not present a clear, specific solution of its own.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Tuesday that Washington state will pay for prepaid postage on mail-in ballots in this year’s primary and general elections in an attempt to boost turnout – but not for voters in King County, where local officials approved their own measure last week. The decision Tuesday came at Wyman’s request and was prompted by King County’s plans. Wyman said it would be unfair if voters in the most populous county could mail their ballots for free while those elsewhere had to pay for stamps, and she asked Inslee to let her spend nearly $2 million to reimburse all 39 counties on prepaid postage this year.
U.S. and European governments have failed to effectively respond to growing threats from Russia and elsewhere to meddle in elections, according to former officials including former Vice President Joe Biden who say they’re going to help close that gap. More than 20 elections in North America and Europe over the next two years will provide ‘’fertile ground’’ for interference like that seen during the U.S. presidential election in 2016, former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters Friday in Washington. “We’re at a stage now that it’s important to make sure we have a well-rounded exploration of the ups and downs of various policy choices, but that we also treat this with some urgency — we have elections this year,” said Chertoff, who’s co-chairman of the new Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former NATO Secretary General and Danish prime minister.
As many as five million people went to the polls in Burundi on Thursday to vote on a referendum to alter the country’s constitution. I came here as one of the few foreign reporters with a visa and accreditation to cover the scenes at the polls, where voters are deciding on some significant changes. The biggest change of the new constitution would be the extension of the presidential term, from five years to seven years. Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been president of Burundi since 2005, is widely expected to use the new constitution — if it passes — to run in 2020. Under the new rules, he could stay in power until 2034 — and then run again (and again) after sitting out for just one term. Most foreign correspondents were denied access, and two weeks ago the government suspended the BBC and Voice of America from broadcasting inside the country. With help from local journalists, I visited polls in the northern province, home to both Burundi’s president and his biggest challenger, Agathon Rwasa, and I spoke with those casting their ballots. These ladies posed for a photo as they waited after the president left his polling station.
When Ariles López takes a break from her fruit stall and begins to describe her life in Venezuela, there is a moment when she chokes up and begins to cry. That will not come as a surprise, when you hear her story. López, who’s 47, is among those Venezuelans who say they will vote in Sunday’s election, despite a widely held view that it’s a fraudulent exercise calculated to keep President Nicolás Maduro in power. She is desperate for change, after a year of personal hardship that underscores the scale of the multilayered catastrophe that is engulfing Venezuela: hyperinflation, widespread hunger, deaths from preventable diseases, and a wave of deadly crime.
Incorrect translations, hard-to-find details, gibberish, or sometimes no information at all. That’s what many Spanish-speaking American voters encounter when searching for online voting materials in Spanish. In most cities, counties, and states across the nation, there is no federal requirement to present information in anything other than English. But for 263 jurisdictions — the vast majority of which are counties — federal law requires that voter information be presented in a minority language, with Spanish being the most common. California, Texas, and Florida are the only states required to present statewide voter information in Spanish. WhoWhatWhy has examined a number of official government websites across the country, looking at how well English-language voter information is translated into Spanish, how often it’s done, and if there are any major discrepancies between the two. What we discovered is that translated material is often hard to find and sometimes is nonexistent. Also, much of what does exist is poorly translated. In a closely contested election, that could make all the difference. In some instances, certain information just doesn’t get included in Spanish.
With midterm elections looming and primaries already underway in many states, anxiety has been building over the possibility of cyberattacks that could impact voting. Though officials and election security researchers alike are adamant that voters can trust the United States election system, they also acknowledge shortcomings of the current security setup. Little time remains to meaningfully improve election security before the midterms. But Google parent company Alphabet’s experimental incubator Jigsaw announced on Tuesday that it will start offering free protection from distributed denial of service attacks to US political campaigns. DDoS attacks overload a site or service with junk traffic so that legitimate users can’t access it. For the last two years, Jigsaw’s Project Shield has focused on fighting DDoS where it might be used for censorship around the world, offering free defenses to journalists, small publications, human rights groups, and election board sites. Now, those tremendous resources and that technical expertise will extend to political campaigns.
A federal judge is deciding whether to permit a lawsuit to go forward in which Democrats allege that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian government’s cyberattacks on the 2016 presidential election. The parties appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The three plaintiffs are represented by Protect Democracy, a watchdog group made up primarily of former Obama administration lawyers. Two of the plaintiffs, Eric Schoenberg and Roy Cockrum, had their Social Security numbers dumped online by WikiLeaks; a third plaintiff, former Democratic National Committee staffer Scott Comer, said that his sexual orientation and personal medical details were publicized due to the leak of private emails.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has provided a federal judge with an unredacted version of the Justice Department memo laying out the scope of his investigation and the potential crimes he’s authorized to pursue. However, the memo — long sought after by President Donald Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill, who regularly accuse Mueller of overstepping his bounds — remains classified and not public, leaving its details hidden. The document was filed as an “unredacted memorandum” under seal with the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Virginia, where Mueller is expected to try former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank fraud charges.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has postponed a briefing for members of Congress on the security of U.S. voting systems so that it can be classified. The move comes after Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), pressed GOP leadership to make the briefing classified so that officials could go into sufficient detail about the scope of the threat and the Trump administration’s efforts to protect digital election systems from hackers. Sources told The Hill that the briefing, originally scheduled for Thursday evening, has been pushed back as a result of logistical issues that prevented it from being classified. GOP leadership is now working to reschedule the briefing.
On the heels of a cyberattack that grounded city services in Atlanta, employees entrusted with protecting their agencies trained on how to thwart attacks during two courses at the University of West Florida. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity partnered with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services to host the courses on May 10-11 at the UWF Conference Center. Employees from the FDLE, Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, Escambia County School District, Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners and First Judicial Circuit of Florida, among others, participated in the training sessions less than two months after the ransomware attack in Atlanta. “I think the best solutions are always the collaborative ones, so that we can combine efforts to bring more cybersecurity knowledge and awareness to the community and enhance the resiliency of our region and state,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, UWF Center for Cybersecurity director.
After years of fighting for the change, an effort to restore the voting rights of thousands of Louisiana’s convicted felons still serving probation and parole was successful Thursday, winning final passage amid cheers, high-fives and hugs. A 54-42 House vote gave final passage to the bill by Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat who had faced repeated defeat for the proposal. The measure squeaked out of the chamber, reaching the governor’s desk with one vote more than it needed. Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to sign the change into law, according to spokesman Richard Carbo. It will take effect on March 1, 2019.
Michigan: Judges say gerrymandering lawsuit can proceed with challenges to individual districts | Michigan Radio
A panel of three judges ruled on Wednesday a gerrymandering lawsuit raised by members of Michigan’s League of Women Voters and several other Democrats will proceed. The suit was filed in December against the Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who is the chief election officer of the state. It challenges the congressional and state legislative maps, which the plaintiffs say unfairly benefit Republicans. The Secretary of State’s office moved to have the case dismissed, saying there were no grounds for a statewide case. The judges agreed the challengers don’t have standing for a statewide case. But they say the case can move forward if someone from each of the 162 districts in the state challenges their individual district’s boundaries.
Missouri: Proposed constitutional amendment would exclude non-citizens from redistricting | Columbia Missourian
A Senate committee passed a resolution Thursday that would exclude non-citizens from the state’s population count when it comes to redistricting. House Joint Resolution 100, sponsored by Rep. Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, would make it so only U.S. citizens are counted in the population used in reapportionment. While Plocher received criticism from witnesses who said the proposal treats non-citizens as unequal, he said this measure would actually encourage people to become U.S. citizens faster.
Knox County IT director Dick Moran and county IT staff were ready for Election Day and the higher amounts of traffic that would undoubtedly come to the county election commission website with former WWE wrestler, Glenn Jacobs, on the Republican ballot. At 7:50 p.m. Moran instructed the website be checked to make sure the early voting results could be posted when the polls closed 10 minutes later. Everything checked out. Everything was working. Sign Up: Get breaking news headlines in your inbox. Seven minutes after his request, Knox County’s election commission website was attacked and the results, although not impacted by the attack, wouldn’t be displayed until nearly 9 p.m., sowing more chaos into an already energetic and unpredictable night. All of the disruption, it has been determined since, was an effort to distract the county while another, simultaneous attack was happening behind the scenes accessing county information, according to Moran and Deputy IT Director David Ball.
Burundi’s president joined long lines of voters Thursday in a referendum that could extend his rule until 2034, despite widespread opposition and fears that the country’s years of deadly political turmoil will continue. “I thank all Burundians who woke up early in the morning to do this noble patriotic gesture,” President Pierre Nkurunziza said after casting his ballot in his home province of Ngonzi. Nkurunziza had campaigned forcefully for the constitutional changes that include extending the president’s term from five years to seven. That could give him another 14 years in power when his current term expires in 2020. He is the latest in a number of African leaders who are changing their countries’ constitutions or using other means to stay in office.
Gunmen in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk were on Wednesday besieging several polling stations containing election staff, four days after a national vote, the head of the electoral commission said. Riyadh al-Badran said the gunmen, whom he did not identify, were putting pressure on the commission to change the election results in the multi-ethnic region. “The employees of the commission are in a hostage situation,” he said, calling on authorities to provide protection. On Wednesday evening, however, the head of Kirkuk’s law enforcement denied reports that election commission employees were being detained, adding that polling stations were secured and under the protection of counter-terrorism forces.
Online social network Facebook is allegedly planning to deploy its controversial “I’m a voter” button in Switzerland ahead of parliamentary elections next year. The Swiss authorities have not been officially informed by the US company, according to Swiss media reports. Republikexternal link, a Swiss online news magazine, on Wednesday quoted a report in the Schweiz am Wochenendeexternal link newspaper last month that Anika Geisel, manager of Facebook’s politics and government outreach team in Berlin, had met 20 politicians from all parties in Zurich on April 11. “The topic of the meeting was how candidates could benefit from Facebook’s campaign tools. It was intended as a promotional event for the technology company,” Republik.ch wrote. “One participant asked a question that had nothing to do with the marketing tools. Would Facebook be deploying its well-known ‘I’m a voter’ button in Switzerland? Yes, Geisel answered, the company was working on it.”