A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. infrastructure ahead of midterm elections this fall. The bill from Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Val Demings, D-Fla., is an effort to shore up U.S. cyber defenses by, among other measures, urging agencies to fully implement an executive order on cybersecurity that President Donald Trump issued last year. The president’s directive makes agency heads accountable for cyber risk – such as nation-state hacking – that can affect the entire government. Within 60 days of the legislation’s enactment, Trump would owe a report to Congress on what steps agencies had taken to “better detect, monitor, and mitigate cyberattacks.” Stefanik and Demings’s “Defend Against Russian Disinformation Act,” would also boost U.S. military cooperation with NATO. Cybersecurity analysts have held up Estonia, a neighbor of Russia and NATO member, as a model of cyber resiliency.
National: Department of Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen did not read the official report on Russian interference | Quartz
As the new head of the US Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen took an oath last December to protect the US from all enemies, foreign and domestic. To do that, she runs a 200,000 employee agency tasked with fighting terrorism, handling immigration, and keeping elections secure. But her responsibilities apparently do not include staying up to date on key findings about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Nielsen told reporters today that she has never read the publicly available 25-page report on election meddling written by the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and distributed by the Director of National Intelligence last January. … “I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win,” Nielsen said today. “I’m not aware of that.”
Editorials: America’s elections are vulnerable to manipulation. And Trump is making it worse. | Brian Klaas and Nic Cheeseman/The Washington Post
In 166 days, Americans will go to the polls to elect the next Congress. It will be one of the most consequential votes in modern history. If Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, President Trump will feel vindicated and emboldened, while reluctant “Never Trump” Republicans will be tempted to hold their noses and embrace a winner. But if Democrats take back at least one congressional chamber, Republicans may begin to stand up to a president who promised endless “winning” — but lost instead. Regardless of which party you’re rooting for, all Americans should be able to agree on one thing: The vote must be clean and free of manipulation. In a democracy, citizens must never accept rigged elections. In our new book, “How to Rig an Election,” we showcase striking findings from our research: A large number of elections across the globe are heavily manipulated. Increasingly, elections are becoming contests that are designed so that only the incumbent can win. Across the world, the opposition wins elections only about 30 percent of the time – and the figures are much, much lower in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Elections without democracy has become the new normal. Nonetheless, don’t make the mistake of thinking that American elections, or those in Britain, are perfect. They aren’t.
Colorado’s Democratic governor has thrown his weight behind two statewide ballot measures that, if passed by voters in November, would change how political lines are drawn for state legislative and congressional seats and give unaffiliated voters more of a voice in the process. “This is normally a full-contact sport,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said on May 16, a reference to Colorado’s partisan battles over redistricting in past decades that have left Republicans and Democrats embittered about how the legislative maps are created. The same might also have been said about initial proposals to change the way Colorado draws its political maps, which began with crossed swords and ended in a handshake.
Florida: Rick Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections | Sun Sentinel
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered his top elections official to take advantage of $19 million of federal money for cybersecurity in time for this year’s elections. Scott’s decree reverses the decision made by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who said Tuesday he wanted to move slowly and preserve the money for long-term election needs. The governor’s announcement comes after news media coverage of Detzner’s position, which the secretary of state outlined to reporters during the spring conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in Fort Lauderdale. “We’re going to follow the governor’s directive. I think it’s well pointed, and we’re going to move aggressively based on his direction to submit a budget to the EAC and to try to draw down those dollars as soon as possible,” Detzner said Wedneday in an interview after the governor’s announcement.
Florida: Yesterday money wasn’t there for election cybersecurity. Now it is. What changed? | Miami Herald
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday overruled his chief elections official and ordered him to seek $19.2 million in federal money to help counties defend their voting systems against possible cyberattacks in the 2018 election. Scott’s intervention came hours after the Herald/Times quoted the official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, as saying the federal money would not be available before November because accepting it requires approval by the Legislature — even though that step is a formality that could be done at a brief meeting. “The answer is no,” Detzner said earlier this week when asked if the aid money could be used to improve election systems this year. “We don’t have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval.” That was unwelcome news for county elections officials, who are desperate for money.
A federal judge said Wednesday that he will rule next week on the Maine Republican Party’s bid to have a voter-approved ranked-choice voting system thrown out for the party’s two June 12 primaries, including a crucial four-way gubernatorial race. It’s perhaps the last legal gauntlet that ranked-choice voting must run before the June 12 primary, where Maine will become the first state to use the method after voters approved it in 2016 and the state’s high court cleared the way for it to be used in an April decision. The state party sued Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in U.S. District Court in early May, after delegates at the state convention authorized a rule that called for gubernatorial and legislative candidates to be elected by a plurality as candidates have been elected in the past.
Michigan lawmakers must disclose communications with outside groups and some internal documents subpoenaed by attorneys in a case alleging Republicans “gerrymandered” political boundaries created in 2012, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. The order from Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood could offer a rare glimpse behind the curtain of the Michigan Legislature, which is not subject to public records requests under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Attorney Mark Brewer, former head of the Michigan Democratic Party, subpoenaed nearly 100 lawmakers, staff and legislative bodies in the case, which alleges the GOP created congressional and legislative maps that intentionally diminished the power of Democratic voters.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of a massive budget bill means Minnesota can’t tap $6 million in federal funds for election cybersecurity until after the November elections. The federal government allocated the money earlier, but the Secretary of State’s office can’t spend it without legislative authorization. That authorization was in the budget bill Dayton vetoed Wednesday.Secretary of State Steve Simon says he repeatedly asked lawmakers to put the language in a non-controversial, stand-alone bill that Dayton would sign. But he says lawmakers chose the “riskiest path” by putting it instead in a bill Dayton repeatedly promised to veto.
Mississippi can expect to receive nearly $4.5 million from the federal government in the next few months to improve election security, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann applied for a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which has about $90 million available to divide among states for election security measures. Spokeswoman Leah Rupp Smith said Tuesday that Mississippi should receive its money before the general election this November.
Lawmakers on the Assembly State and Local Government Committee heard once again just how good New Jersey’s election machine security is. “New Jersey was one of 12 states to receive a ‘D,’” said Danielle Root, a voting rights manager from the Center for American Progress. Root was one of several election experts to highlight a key deficiency: relying on touch screen election machines that leave no paper record of votes. “Although it’s good that New Jersey adheres to cybersecurity best practices related to voter registration systems, including training election officials and partnering with DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to perform vulnerability assessments on election infrastructure, the state, as the chairman mentioned earlier, continues to use paperless electronic voting machines,” said Root.
Ohio: Lawsuit seeks to toss out congressional map in time for 2020 election | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cincinnati seeks to toss out Ohio’s gerrymandered congressional district map on constitutional grounds and create more balanced districts in time for the 2020 election. If successful, the suit would move up the timetable by two years for congressional redistricting reform in Ohio. And it could jeopardize some of what otherwise would be safe incumbent seats during a presidential election year. Ohioans earlier this month voted overwhelmingly to establish rules aimed at eliminating political gerrymandering in time for the next scheduled map drawing, but those rules would not affect any election until 2022.
U.S. Territories: Supreme Court Appeal In Territorial Voting Rights Case Gets Boost | Virgin Islands Consortium
A petition to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking expanded voting rights in U.S. territories has received an important boost, according to a release issued by Equally American, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly 4 million Americans who live in U.S. territories. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands Bar Association, and leading voting rights scholars have each filed amicus briefs in support of Supreme Court review in Segovia v. United States. Last month, Luis Segovia, a proud veteran living in Guam, along with other former state residents living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, petitioned the Supreme Court to answer whether it is constitutional to deny absentee voting rights in these territories while allowing citizens living in other U.S. territories or even a foreign country to continue being able to vote for President and voting representation in Congress.
The Wyoming Legislature will look at a measure to create a trust fund to maintain its voting systems going forward. The 2016 election saw an unprecedented number of attempts to interfere with states’ voting systems, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Wyoming was not among the 21 states that reported attempted hacking, but election security experts warned regional lawmakers recently that the Cowboy State could be a target for nefarious actors looking to undermine confidence in the American democratic process. Outdated voting equipment in Wyoming was replaced after funding was allocated by the federal government via the 2002 Help America Vote Act. But more than a decade later, many election custodians say that voting equipment has reached the end of its useful life, said Kai Schon, state elections director for the Wyoming Secretary of State.
Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will attempt to become the first leader of his center-left ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in decades to secure re-election when the Caribbean island goes to the polls on Thursday. In a battle expected to be closely contested, former minister Mia Mottley is bidding to stop him. She hopes to end 10 years on the sidelines for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), also a center-left party and the DLP’s main opposition. If elected, Mottley, 52, would become the country’s first female prime minister since independence from Britain in 1966.
On May 12, Iraq held a remarkably successful and violence-free national election. A coalition of Shiite Islamists and communists led by Moqtada al-Sadr, running on a reform agenda, won the largest number of seats in the new parliament. Sitting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition placed third. While the results have generated considerable optimism, allegations of widespread electoral fraud have also emerged in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region and Kirkuk. There have been numerous calls to address and investigate these claims, including from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). In these areas, results favored two long-dominant parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). New parties and challengers widely expected to do well did not. These opposition parties claim to have faced systematic vote rigging. Combined with the low turnout, their disputes could cast doubts on the legitimacy of the election, with serious ramifications.
Anti-abortion campaigners have sidestepped Google’s ban on online adverts relating to the referendum in Ireland on Friday, so as to promote their message on popular websites. This May the tech company banned paid messages relating to the referendum from appearing on its services, which dominates many aspects of online advertising. But campaigners have turned to alternative online ad sales platforms to push adverts to Irish readers of news sites. These sites have included the Atlantic, Washington Post and the Guardian, and ads have also been aimed at readers of women’s lifestyle websites and players of mobile games. Some of these ultimately use elements of Google technology to serve the adverts, despite the company’s commitment to pulling out of the referendum.
South Korea’s parliament is set to convene a plenary session Thursday to deal with a government-proposed constitutional revision, but opposition parties’ have threatened to boycott the session and scuttle the bill, which they claim lacks a consensus among lawmakers. … The proposal calls for changing the current five-year single-term presidency to a four-year presidency renewable once. Thursday is a deadline for parliament to vote on the bill. If the deadline is not met, it will be effectively nullified. The Constitution requires lawmakers to vote on a constitutional revision bill within 60 days of it put being on a public notice.
The abysmal turnout at Venezuela’s presidential election on Sunday, with absenteeism at its highest rate in the country’s history (46%), has further weakened the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The main opposition force, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), called for a boycott of the vote for lacking proper guarantees, leaving Maduro to take an overwhelming victory – one that was only recognized as legitimate by the government. Maduro’s rivals Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci demanded a repeat election, although the former later conceded defeat. The results mean that Maduro will continue as president of Venezuela until 2025. According to officials, Maduro won with 6.2 million votes, outperforming his closest rival Falcón, who received 1.9 million votes. It was a victory in a campaign marked by indifference and an election day during which more than half the electorate (a total of nine million) decided not to vote, believing the opposition’s argument that the polls, announced at the beginning of the year, would be fixed in favor of the authorities.