Senior Trump administration officials warned Congress on Tuesday of ongoing efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2018 midterm congressional elections as the federal government prepares to hand out $380 million in election security funding to states. At a briefing attended by about 40 or 50 members of the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives, the heads of FBI, Homeland Security Department and the director of National Intelligence told members to urge states and cities overseeing elections to be prepared for threats. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters she agreed Russia was trying to influence the 2018 elections. “We see them continuing to conduct foreign influence campaigns,” Nielsen said, but added there is no evidence of Russia targeting specific races.
National: Homeland security chief: I haven’t seen intel that showed Russia favored Trump | The Guardian
Donald Trump’s homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, told reporters on Tuesday she was unaware of intelligence assessments that Russia favored Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. “I do not believe I’ve seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win,” she said. “I’m not aware of that.” Nielsen’s comments stand at odds with the US intelligence community, which concluded in 2017 that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Trump. Last week, the Senate intelligence committee said it agreed with that assessment. Nielsen was speaking to reporters after briefing House lawmakers on election security efforts.
Democrats and Republicans struck drastically different tones about their confidence in federal agencies’ efforts to secure voting systems and stamp out foreign state-sponsored influence campaigns ahead of the 2018 midterms after a classified meeting on the subject for House members Tuesday. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, and FBI Director Christopher Wray were among the officials who briefed lawmakers and answered their questions about what their agencies are doing to combat potential Russian, Iranian, Chinese, and other nations’ attempts to undermine the midterms. Roughly 40 to 50 lawmakers showed up to the meeting, which House Speaker Paul D. Ryan organized for all House members. Democrats who attended left largely unsatisfied.
California: More Santa Clara County voters discovering by surprise they are not registered | The San Jose Mercury News
Since Santa Clara County elections officials last week admitted accidentally deleting a voter’s registration, several other residents have reported that they too were quietly dropped from the voter rolls without their knowledge. Santa Clara County elections officials could not say Tuesday what happened in those other cases, but they and officials in other counties urged voters who haven’t received a mail-in ballot or voter guide to not despair. Even though the deadline to register for the June 5 primary was Monday, elections officials said voters may still be able to vote provisionally if their registration was canceled by mistake. “Our office is here to assist voters so we ask those with questions to please contact us,” said Eric Kurhi, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
Florida: State wont tap into $19 million of federal election money in time for 2018 elections | Sun Sentinel
Florida doesn’t plan to tap its $19.2 million allocation from the federal government to enhance election cybersecurity in time for this year’s primary election in August or general election in November. A total of $380 million was allocated for the states to improve election security and technology. The money was contained in the massive federal budget deal passed in March. Florida’s top election official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said Tuesday the state wouldn’t be spending the money for this year’s elections. “The answer is no,” he said during a break at the spring conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in Fort Lauderdale.
A new lawsuit accuses Gov. Rick Scott’s administration of making it more difficult for young people to vote by preventing early voting at public buildings on state university campuses. The election-year complaint filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters seeks to strike down a four-year-old interpretation of Florida’s early voting laws by Scott’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Detzner’s office issued an opinion in 2014 that the Legislature’s expansion of early voting sites to include “government-owned community centers” does not include the student union building on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. The city of Gainesville asked if the Reitz Student Union building on the UF campus could serve as an early voting site in 2014. The state said no.
Georgia: Georgia is voting on insecure machines in today’s primary. This group is suing | The Washington Post
When Georgia voters head to the polls for the state’s primary today, they’ll cast their ballots on aging electronic voting machines that government officials and security experts agree are easy to hack. But if a long-shot federal lawsuit succeeds, they could vote in a much more secure way come November: On paper. As the intelligence community warns against a repeat of the kind of digital interference we saw in the 2016 elections, a nonpartisan advocacy organization and a group of Georgia voters are asking a judge to compel the state to abandon its electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots before the midterm elections. The electronic machines produce no paper vote record, making them virtually impossible to audit. The plaintiffs want the state instead to switch to a hand-marked paper ballot system, which experts widely regard as safer because the results can be easily verified.
Hawaii: Lava prompts election officials to mail absentee voting applications | Hawaii Tribune-Herald
The State Office of Elections and the Hawaii County Elections Division on Monday announced they will be mailing absentee voting applications to more than 6,000 voters assigned to Pahoa Community Center (precinct 04-03) and Pahoa High/Intermediate (precinct 04-04) due to the uncertain nature of the volcanic eruption in lower Puna. Voters can use the absentee application to request a mail ballot for the 2018 elections, or to update their address if they have relocated.
An appeals court dismissed Tuesday a request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to overturn a federal judge’s finding that he was in contempt of court. The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its dismissal that Kobach had appealed the contempt finding prematurely. “Although the district court stated that it was imposing sanctions, specific sanctions have not yet been imposed,” the judges wrote. “Here, not only has the district court not issued findings of fact and conclusions of law or final judgment, the district court has not determined a discernable amount of sanctions.”
Minnesota: Dayton Has Yet To Sign Omnibus Bill That Includes Money for Election Cyber Security | KSTP
The massive omnibus spending bill Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested he may possibly veto includes federal money Minnesota could use for election cybersecurity. President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 in March. It authorized funding to states for elections under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. But in order for the money to come to Minnesota for cyber security, it must be approved by the legislature and governor. Minnesota’s share of the federal funds is $6,595,610, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Mississippi: Bennie Thompson and Delbert Hosemann spar on status of grant paperwork to U.S. EAC | Y’all Politics
On Monday, Congressman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann asking him to submit paperwork on behalf of the state so that grant funding from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission would be eligible to the state. … “Russian interference in the 2016 election was a watershed moment for our democracy,” Thompson wrote in the letter. “Russia’s efforts have affected public confidence in elections and its efforts have shown no signs of cooling. Mississippi currently uses a combination of paper ballots and direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).” … Just yesterday the Chairman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, sent a letter to the editor of POLITICO in response to a letter published on May 17, “So far, few states have sought federal money to secure elections.”
North Dakota: GOP to support independent secretary of state candidate after learning about nominee’s peeping case | West Fargo Pioneer
The North Dakota Republican Party confirmed it will support an independent candidate for secretary of state Tuesday, May 22, one day after that office’s longtime occupant said he would mount such a campaign. Republican Al Jaeger said Monday he’ll work to gather the 1,000 signatures necessary to appear on the November ballot as an independent. That announcement came a day after the Republican-endorsed candidate, Will Gardner, dropped out of the race once his 2006 peeping arrest surfaced. The North Dakota Republican Party said in a news release Tuesday that independent candidates who intend to petition for a letter of support should appear before a Republican State Committee meeting June 16 in Fargo, a few days after the primary election. The party will begin drafting procedural rules for the meeting.
Wisconsin: Department of Justice challenges Wisconsin’s overseas voter restrictions | Associated Press
The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue Wisconsin over its restrictions on overseas voters. The Wisconsin Elections Commission released a letter Tuesday that it received from the DOJ on May 9. The letter warned the agency is preparing to sue because Wisconsin law doesn’t allow temporary overseas voters to obtain ballots electronically or to file unofficial ballots.
Colombia: Days before vote, Santos calls emergency meeting over election fraud claims | Colombia Reports
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday agreed to investigate piling election fraud accusations a day after rejecting the fraud claims as “extreme left” inventions. Santos said he would organize a top-level meeting with ministers, judicial authorities and the military on Wednesday to discuss the piling fraud allegations. The meeting will take place just four days ahead of presidential elections after leftist candidate Gustavo Petro, a staunch anti-corruption crusader, called on his supporters to take to the streets when polls close on Sunday.
The main Kurdish political parties in Iraq are exchanging accusations of widespread voter intimidation and vote rigging, even after Baghdad announced final results from the May 12 elections. Six Kurdish opposition parties are demanding a rerun of the election in the autonomous region and adjacent disputed territories. Several parties have filed formal complaints with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Baghdad. While the allegations are yet to be matched by hard evidence, the fracas is undermining faith in the political process in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which remains in political turmoil following a failed independence referendum last year.
Editorials: Will Foreign Activists Sway Ireland’s Abortion Vote? | Jochen Bittner/The New York Times
This Friday, Irish voters will decide whether to change their constitution to legalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The debate itself contains few new arguments; instead it circles around a question most other European countries have asked themselves over the past 40 years: What is the proper balance between the mother’s right to self-determination and the unborn child’s right to life? But there’s another question, less about the substance of the issue and more about the campaign around it: In an era of global social media and well-funded foreign activists, what does it mean for a country to hold a vote at all? And if a democracy is no longer insulated from foreign influence, what integrity can any referendum claim? Forget hacking and illegal vote-buying. What’s happening in Ireland is more transparent, but also, for that reason, more troubling.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has written a report on the ‘over complicated’ nature of Jersey’s electoral system. The Election Observation Mission also said that the number of uncontested ballots undermines the principle that elections are fully genuine. They also said the same for the disparity in equality of voting across districts and low voter turnout across the Island.
Venezuela: Lima Group condemns Maduro’s reelection; recalls ambassadors from Venezuela | The Santiago Times
The fourteen members of the Lima Group have declared they do not recognize the re-election of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in a Sunday vote marred by international accusations that it was rigged. All 14 members of the group issued a statement on Monday condemning the election and saying they will call back their ambassadors in Caracas for consultations on what to do next, as well as summon the Venezuelan ambassadors in each country to express their concerns. The statement also said the countries will reduce their diplomatic presences in Venezuela as a result. There is no indication in the statement that the Lima Group countries will permanently pull their ambassadors from Caracas.