The sponsors of the Russian “troll factory” that meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign have launched a new American website ahead of the U.S. midterm election in November. A Russian oligarch has links to Maryland’s election services. Russian bots and trolls are deploying increasingly sophisticated, targeted tools. And a new indictment suggests the Kremlin itself was behind previous hacking efforts in support of Donald Trump. As the U.S. leader prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, many Americans are wondering: Is the Kremlin trying yet again to derail a U.S. election? While U.S. intelligence officials call it a top concern, they haven’t uncovered a clear, coordinated Russian plot to mess with the campaign. At least so far. It could be that Russian disruptors are waiting until the primaries are over in September and the races become more straightforward – or it could be they are waiting until the U.S. presidential vote in 2020, which matters more for U.S. foreign policy. In the meantime, an array of bots, trolls and sites like USAReally appear to be testing the waters.
National: Trump’s meeting with Putin a pivotal moment for effort to deter Russian cyberattacks | The Washington Post
President Trump’s meeting today with Russian President Vladimir Putin is a pivotal moment for his administration’s efforts to deter future election interference efforts by Moscow and other sophisticated actors. Trump entered his meeting with Putin in Helsinki armed with the sweeping indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers in connection with the hack on the Democratic Party in 2016, which drew the clearest connection to date between the election cyberattacks and the Kremlin. The intelligence community’s attribution of the attack to Russia — and now, the indictments of specific individuals involved — can be powerful parts of a country’s deterrence strategy. But experts say they could be far less effective if the president doesn’t back up their conclusions. “Trump’s reluctance to admit that the Russians did wrong tends to put a top limit on the kind of retaliation that Russia can expect from a repeat of 2016,” said Martin Libicki, chair of cybersecurity studies at the U.S. Naval Academy. Anything less than a strong demand that Putin back off will likely dull the effects of not just the “naming and shaming” approach the intelligence community has taken but also sanctions, indictments and other punitive measures the administration and Congress have levied.
Dominion Voting Systems (“Dominion Voting”) announces that it has been acquired by its management team and Staple Street Capital, a leading New York-based, middle-market private equity firm. Dominion Voting is a top provider of election tabulation solutions to government customers. The company’s scalable and customizable platform holds industry-leading certifications and provides accessibility and efficiency at the state and local levels. Dominion Voting CEO and President John Poulos said, “Our senior management team is extremely pleased to partner with Staple Street Capital, which has a proven track record of successfully investing in growing mid-size businesses. Given the opportunities on our horizon, this is the ideal time for us to add financial resources and an experienced strategic partner to help us meet market demand, better serve customers and invest in evolving security initiatives.”
Editorials: Russia election hacking: Mueller’s latest indictment suggests it could be even more damaging next time. | Lawrence Norden/Slate
Much of the analysis following special counsel Robert Mueller’s Friday indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers has focused on their alleged conspiracy to hack into Clinton campaign and Democratic Party computers and email systems during the 2016 election, and on questions about coordination between then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian infiltrators. But the indictment also included new revelations about the extent of Russia’s attacks on our election systems in 2016—and those details provide a warning that we need to get serious about preparing for even more damaging attacks in this year’s midterms. The latest indictment alleges that Russian intelligence officers hacked into the website of a yet-unidentified state board of elections. Among other new information, it alleges Russia used that hack to steal information related to 500,000 voters.
Editorials: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections | Lee Fang/The Intercept
The elevation of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could have a profound impact on the rules governing the American democratic system. In recent years, the Supreme Court has swiftly remade the landscape of American politics, gutting 1960s-era civil rights laws restricting voter suppression, sharply weakening labor unions, and deregulating the campaign finance system to allow for wealthy individuals and corporations to exercise greater influence over elected representatives. With President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, that influence is poised to grow. Kavanaugh’s appellate court decisions and public comments suggest that he will accelerate the trend toward a political system dominated by wealthy elites — often operating in the shadows, without any form of disclosure.
Journalists, researchers and political campaigns that receive voter data must tell California officials if it may have been stolen under a new law Gov. Jerry Brown announced he signed Monday. It requires people and organizations that have California voter registration data to report security breaches affecting the storage of that information, which can include names, birth dates and addresses. Counties and the secretary of state’s office provide voter registration information to people and organizations who agree to use the data only for journalistic, scholarly, political or government purposes. The new law directs the secretary of state to develop guidelines for how such information should be securely stored. Additionally, it makes intentionally misinforming a voter about voting locations, eligibility or times a misdemeanor.
Both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature have passed a bill that would automatically register voters when they interact with a state office. Those who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, will be automatically registered to vote and later sent a letter allowing them to choose a political party or opt out of the registration. For voters who are already registered, their information will be automatically updated if they change their address with another state office.
A proposed ballot initiative aims to replace Missouri’s system for drawing state legislative districts with a model designed to have the number of seats won by each party more closely reflect its statewide vote. If election officials validate enough signatures collected by Clean Missouri, the group sponsoring the proposal, voters will have the final say Nov. 6. The stakes are high: Another round of redistricting begins after the 2020 census. More than $2 million has flowed into Clean Missouri’s coffers, including at least a quarter-of-a-million dollars that originated from the lobbying arm of billionaire George Soros’ philanthropic network. Soros’ financial support of liberal and progressive causes around the country has made him a frequent target of conservatives. That, and support from groups representing labor, teachers, abortion-rights and other left-leaning causes has led some Republicans to cast Clean Missouri as a partisan effort to help Democrats gain ground against GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate.
On Friday, New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu transformed his state into ground zero in the assault on voting rights. By signing HB 1264 into law, Sununu effectively imposed a poll tax on college students, compelling many of them to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to establish residence in the state before they’re permitted to vote in New Hampshire. Once it takes effect, the law is almost certain to chill the franchise of younger Democratic-leaning voters—to an extent that could swing the state’s famously close elections. But the measure’s stringent new requirements do not kick in until July 2019, giving Democrats a single opportunity to repeal it before it disenfranchises a key portion of their base. In New Hampshire, the November midterm elections won’t just determine control of the state government. It will decide whether Republicans will be successful in their years-long quest to suppress the college vote, a move that would help them further entrench their own political power. HB 1264 is the latest and most sweeping voter suppression bill passed by New Hampshire Republicans in the wake of the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton carried the state by a slim margin, as did Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte by about 1,000 votes. At the same time, Republicans retook the governorship and maintained control of the Legislature, giving them total control of the state government. They used that power to begin restricting access to the ballot under the pretext of preventing voter fraud.
Verified Voting in the News: West Virginia may offer blockchain-based ballots to all of its overseas voters this November | StateScoop
Two months after West Virginia allowed a small group of overseas voters to participate in the May 8 primary election using online ballots powered by blockchain technology, one of the state’s top election’s officials said on Sunday it could be implemented statewide in time for the general election in November. If the results of a post-election audit are favorable toward the new technology, which was offered to voters from two counties during the primary, West Virginia will offer all 55 of its counties to participate in blockchain-powered voting, Donald “Deak” Kersey, the state’s elections director, said at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in Philadelphia. … Not everyone who watched Kersey’s presentation was convinced that mobile voting is the way to go. “Oh, my god,” said J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who is serving as a technology fellow to Verified Voting, which advocates for ballot security. “Voting over the internet creates extra-difficult problems. Securing servers? Protecting devices? Assuring votes have been recorded while protecting the secret ballot?” Halderman said that no voting technology developed is as secure as in-person paper ballots. He’s testified before Congress on the subject, and has conducted demonstrations in which he hacked electronic voting machines to change tabulations and, in one case, reprogram a machine to play Pac-Man.
When the American ambassador took up his post in Cameroon late last year, he stepped into an increasingly troubled nation, locked in battle against Islamist militants in one part of the country and armed separatists in another. And then there is the matter of its leader. Cameroon has not had a new president since Michael Jackson released “Thriller” in 1982. Under the 36-year leadership of President Paul Biya, the nation has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including killing unarmed protesters, torturing detainees, shutting off the internet and locking up journalists. Last month, Washington’s ambassador, Peter Henry Barlerin, met with the 85-year-old president, who has taken initial steps to seek re-election in October. He told Mr. Biya that he “should be thinking about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books,” saying that George Washington and Nelson Mandela were excellent role models.
Pakistan observed a day of mourning for the dozens of people killed and injured during a series of terror attacks targeting political rallies as the country gears up for the July 25 national elections. Officials on July 15 said that more than 160 people were killed, including political candidates, and at least 230 wounded in three separate election-related bombings over the past week in and around the cities of Peshawar, Mastung, and Bannu. The attacks only served to ratchet up political tensions in the country ahead of the upcoming vote. Adding to the strains was the arrest of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned from London to face corruption charges. Officials said the deadliest of three attacks came on July 13, when at least 140 were killed by a suicide bomber at a political rally in the Mastung district of Balochistan Province.
The official pro-Brexit campaign group has been fined and referred to the police after the UK’s elections watchdog found it had broken Britain’s strict electoral laws. The Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave £61,000 ($81,000) for coordinating with another campaign group — called BeLeave — and exceeding spending limits during the 2016 referendum campaign. In a damning ruling, the commission said it had imposed a punitive fine on Vote Leave, and accused it of frustrating the watchdog’s investigation. “We found substantial evidence that the two groups (Vote Leave and BeLeave) worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits,” said Bob Posner, Electoral Commission director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel, in a statement.
A report compiled on the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) voters’ roll for 2018 exposes major flaws in the current voters’ roll. This comes only weeks before Zimbabweans head to the polls for its national elections on July 30, 2018. The report, compiled by a group of experts called Team Pachudu, cites Zimbabwe’s history of shaky election results as the main reason for its analysis of the voters’ roll. The report highlights more than 250 000 records on the voters’ roll that are either duplicated, invalid, statistically improbable or incorrect. This includes more than 8 000 men registered as women, scores of voters registered to an empty field in Harare and at least two Zimbabwean voters who would qualify as the two oldest living people on earth. The discrepancies bring into question the integrity of the voters’ roll for the upcoming elections later this month. The elections are the first after former president Robert Mugabe’s controversial “step down” in November 2017.