U.S. intelligence officials and security experts have spent years urging states to shore up their elections’ digital defenses, and the latest indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller drew fresh attention to Russia’s cyberattacks on the 2016 presidential election. But less than four months before the midterm elections that will shape the rest of Donald Trump’s presidency, most states’ election offices have failed to fix their most glaring security weaknesses, according to a POLITICO survey of all 50 states. And few states are planning steps that would improve their safeguards before November, even after they receive their shares of the $380 million in election security funding that Congress approved in March. Only 13 states said they intend to use the federal dollars to buy new voting machines. At least 22 said they have no plans to replace their machines before the election — including all five states that rely solely on paperless electronic voting devices, which cybersecurity experts consider a top vulnerability.
National: Yes, The Midterms Will Be Hacked – It’s only a question of how, when — and whether we’ll notice | Weekly Standard
Election meddling may not have been the foremost matter on the president’s mind during his hours-long one-on-one with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where Putin publicly denied the findings of American intelligence and Trump didn’t disagree. But Moscow’s interference in our national parties, political campaigns, state election boards, and voter registration software have dominated discussions at state elections meetings and in Washington since 2016. After more than a dozen congressional hearings on the subject, a special DHS commission to monitor election security state-by-state, and one $380-million slice of the omnibus later, are our election systems ready to fight off foreign interference in the midterms? The movement to replace every last highly hackable touch-screen voting machine with a less corruptible one that leaves a paper trail has new momentum, thanks to an influx of federal dollars and a loss of public faith in the integrity of our elections systems. “There’s been an attitude shift,” says Lawrence Norden, of NYU Law School’s Brennan Center. But it’s not enough to fix the problem that makes us vulnerable to the persistent threat of election tampering by Russia or perhaps other nefarious actors. National meetings of secretaries of state—like the one this weekend—and other elections directors’ gatherings have all made “cyber hygiene” a topmost priority, Norden said, “Whereas, in the past a lot of people thought of the need for protection against these threats and the warnings about them as hypothetical and exaggerated.”
National: While Trump Reverses on Election Meddling, States Work to Prevent a ‘Digital Watergate’ | Governing
Many of the nation’s secretaries of state were meeting in Philadelphia with federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials about election security last Friday when news broke that a dozen Russian agents had been indicted for interfering with the 2016 election. “Obviously, this is on the forefront of our minds,” says Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, who attended the meeting. “All 50 states and territories are focused on security.” But the indictments aren’t the only bit of troubling news election officials have received in recent days. Last week, Maryland officials announced that the FBI had informed them that ByteGrid LLC, an election vendor that handles the state’s voter registration, election management and election night results sites, is financed by a fund whose manager is Russian and whose top investor is a Russian oligarch. Over the weekend, a Russian woman named Maria Butina was arrested and appeared in court Monday on charges that she was a Kremlin agent who worked to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups in an effort to influence U.S. politics.
National: House GOP refuses to renew election security funding as Democrats fume over Russian interference | The Washington Post
“Maybe the special counsel will announce something in two weeks: ‘Oh, here’s what the Russian indictments really are.’ If we learn something, authorizing committees will come right back to it and we’ll go to it,” Sessions said. “But there is no new data or information, it’s at the end of 3½ billion dollars, and there are no requests.” Democrats dismissed the Republicans’ explanations, saying the need for election security funding has never been clearer in the wake of Trump’s summit with Putin, where the president appeared to give credence to Putin’s assertion that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, despite the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that he did. The controversy was inflamed anew Wednesday when Trump appeared to declare that Russia was no longer targeting the United States, contrary to the assertions of the intelligence community — although the White House later said the president was just saying “no” to further questions from the press.
A legislative proposal aimed at securing U.S. election systems from cyberattack is picking up additional support in the Senate as lawmakers grapple with how to respond to Russian election interference. The bill, spearheaded by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is designed to help states upgrade their digital voting systems and boost information sharing between state and federal officials on potential cyber threats to U.S. elections. The bill picked up new cosponsors in Sens. Mike Rounds and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Armed Services cyber subcommittee, on Tuesday. Lankford is also hoping that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for launching cyberattacks in an effort to interfere with the 2016 election will add more urgency to passing the bill.
Another cache of US voter data has leaked. A Virginia-based political campaign and robocalling company, which claims it can “reach thousands of voters instantly,” left a huge batch of files containing hundreds of thousands of voter records on a public and exposed Amazon S3 bucket that anyone could access without a password. The bucket contained close to 2,600 files, including spreadsheets and audio recordings, for several US political campaigns. Kromtech Security’s Bob Diachenko, who discovered the exposed data and blogged his findings, shared prior to publication several screenshots of data, packed with voters’ full names, home addresses, and political affiliations.
National: Trump’s intel chiefs fight Russia’s election interference — with or without him | The Washington Post
President Trump’s top intelligence and national security officials are forging ahead with plans to disrupt any Russian interference ahead of the 2018 midterms. But they may be going it alone following Trump’s performance this week at the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Just hours after Trump cast doubt on his own country’s conclusions about Moscow’s 2016 election interference at Monday’s presser, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said the intelligence community “will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.” And on Tuesday, the day after Trump suggested he believed Putin’s denials, my colleague Ellen Nakashima reported that the National Security Agency is partnering with the military’s cyberwarfare arm to counter threats from Moscow going into November. “Trump will keep waffling on Russia’s role in the 2016 election. If Russia interferes again, the national security agencies will have no problem running their past playbook: Name and shame, indict, and sanction,” said Stewart Baker, a former Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary and former general counsel for the NSA. But, he added, “the agencies are going to have to get White House approval for anything more, and I’m guessing the president won’t grant it.”
Editorials: It’s Time to Pretend We’re Shocked by Yet Another Voter File Data Breach | Dell Cameron/Gizmodo
A security researcher has, yet again, discovered thousands of U.S. voter files with a minimal amount of effort. Given that over the past year virtually every registered U.S. voter has been exposed by one data breach or another, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to feign our surprise. According to the researcher, Kromtech Security’s Bob Dianchenko, the files were available online for virtually anyone to download and had long been indexed by GreyhatWarfare, a website that currently lists more than 48,000 Amazon S3 buckets, in which potentially confidential files can be found. Dianchenko linked the Amazon server containing the voter files to Robocent, a Virginia-based political campaign and robocalling company. More than 2,600 files were exposed, including voter file spreadsheets and audio recordings for several political campaigns. The voter data itself contained names, phones numbers, addresses, political affiliations, age and year of birth, gender, voting district, and other demographic information, such as language and ethnicity.
Common Cause Delaware has been waiting months to learn more about the vendors vying to provide the state with new voting machines and it was told Wednesday that wait will continue. Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Jackson said last month the bid data would be released by now. But an OMB spokesman says they are still reviewing and redacting documents and hope to release the info by the end of the month. This comes just as U.S House Democrats release a report saying Delaware has one of the five most insecure voting systems in the country. The other states are Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina.
Amid ongoing concern of new interference in Florida’s elections, tensions persist between counties and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over how to use federal election security money. The feds created a $380 million program for states to fortify their voting systems against the threat of cyber attacks. Florida, a battleground state where Russians tried and failed to penetrate systems in 2016, remains an obvious target. Now, the latest: Florida’s Division of Elections has told counties that the state’s $19 million share of new federal voting security money cannot be spent to reimburse counties for expenses already made. Some counties acted on their own because the state applied for the money later than other states did.
The indictment last week of 12 Russian military officers is focusing new attention on election servers in Georgia that are currently embroiled in a lawsuit between election integrity activists and the secretary of state. The activists, intent on proving that the state’s paperless voting machines are not secure and should be replaced, want to examine two state election servers to look for evidence that Russian hackers or others might have compromised them to subvert elections. But the state has been fighting them for more than a year, citing sovereign immunity from lawsuits and also insisting to the news media that Georgia was never targeted by Russian hackers. For the past year it seemed the latter might be true.
Maine: After 2 court orders, Maine’s member of fraud panel is getting documents he wanted | Portland Press Herald
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap was notified Wednesday that he will receive, within 24 hours, documents related to a presidential commission on voting integrity that he served on last year. Dunlap, one of 11 members appointed by the Trump administration, sued the commission last year after he was excluded from information, including state voting data. A federal judge twice ordered the administration to turn over documents, most recently late last month. Kristen Schulze Muszynski, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said Dunlap was notified by email from the U.S. Department of Justice that it was complying with the judge’s order. The materials were sent Wednesday, which was the deadline set by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Muszynski said they were not told what materials will be sent.
Redistricting reform supporters rallied Wednesday outside the Michigan Supreme Court as the justices heard arguments about whether voters this fall should decide the high-stakes plan to let an independent panel draw political boundaries. The redistricting commission ballot proposal — which practically exempts itself from judicial oversight — is the kind of “sweeping, radical change” that could only be achieved through a constitutional convention, opposition attorneys told the high court. Lawyers for Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office argued the proposal constitutes a revision — rather than an amendment — to the state Constitution and should be kept off the November ballot. Volunteers gathered nearly 400,000 valid signatures in an attempt to put the plan before voters.
Editorials: New Hampshire’s new poll tax: Just because a law is deemed constitutional doesn’t make it right | Keene Sentinel
Armed with a Supreme Court opinion, Gov. Chris Sununu quickly signed into law House Bill 1264 Friday, much to the consternation of those opposed to the voter-obstruction attempt. The new law is a bad one, regardless of what a 3-2 majority of the court found. It’s a cynical attempt to throw hurdles in front of those attending New Hampshire colleges, but who hail from out of state, and little more. That doesn’t mean it will affect only those students; other groups will also soon find themselves burdened with having to produce a state driver’s license or auto registration in order to cast New Hampshire ballots. They include military personnel stationed here; seasonal workers or those on temporary assignment; per-diem nurses and other fill-in health workers; and anyone rightfully living in the state while on a contract. As the court’s majority itself noted, even a town or city manager serving a limited term might be deemed “not a resident” and therefore not eligible to vote if he or she didn’t profess an intent to remain in the state permanently.
Automated bots are increasingly muddying election cycles in Africa, disrupting conversations, distorting facts, and bringing into focus the changing dynamics of politics in the continent. Bots on social media became an influential voice during crucial Africa polls over the last year, claims a report called How Africa Tweets from communications consultancy Portland. These bots, defined by some as a new form of media, are software programs that combine artificial intelligence with communication skills and intimate human behavior. Using them, one could amplify a specific conversation on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook by posting videos, photos, and biased statements targeting particular hashtags and wordings.
Cambodia: Authorities Threaten to Withhold Public Services if Villagers Don’t Vote For Cambodia’s Ruling Party | RFA
Agents working for Cambodia’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are threatening to end public services for indigenous residents of Mondulkiri province unless they vote for the party in an upcoming election marred by allegations of campaign violations and a ban on the opposition, according to sources. An ethnic Phnong resident of Pulu village, in Mondulkiri’s Bu Sra commune, told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday that local authorities and agents of the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC)—headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, Hun Many—were compelling villagers to tick number 20 for the CPP on sample ballots ahead of the July 29 general election. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the resident said that authorities and UYFC agents told villagers local government officials would refuse to sign legal documents—including land titles, birth certificates, and family registers—for those who do not vote for the CPP on the sample ballots.
As deadly attacks by extremists become more brazen in Mali, officials and citizens fear this month’s presidential election will be at risk from growing insecurity. A branch of al-Qaida even set off a car bomb at the headquarters of a new West African counterterror force late last month, further destabilizing central Mali as extremist groups expand from remote northern regions where they have had strongholds for years. A more assertive response by Mali’s security forces has led to accusations of extrajudicial killings, while neighbors turn on each other amid suspicions of joining extremist groups. At least 289 civilians including young children have been killed in communal violence since the beginning of the year, with some burned alive in their homes or killed while hiding in mosques, the United Nations said this month.
Overseas Pakistanis will not be able to vote in the forthcoming general election in the country, officials of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said Wednesday. NADRA officials told Geo News that Pakistan nationals abroad were being misled through various campaigns on social networking platforms. They said no decision had yet been made with regard to online voting facility for overseas Pakistanis. “Online voting for overseas Pakistanis can be experimented in by-polls,” the officials said. “Pakistanis abroad will have to come to the country for using their right to vote in the general election.”
Zimbabwe has a history of elections that are far from free and fair – and several ominous developments suggest that nothing will different at the end of July, when the country votes in the first election since the resignation of Robert Mugabe. Of particular concern is the apparent complicity of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which is issuing controversial new voting regulations that undermine the secrecy of the ballot. As in previous polls, the commission has become increasingly obstructive to engagement as the elections draw closer. Another major worry is the unconstitutional nature of the ballot itself, which features two columns, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s face at the top of the right-hand column. Although the ballot should have been in alphabetical order, it is not – apparently to allow the president to occupy the prime position at the top. This attempt to give the ruling Zanu-PF an advantage and has been roundly criticised by opposition parties and civil society groups. It is a blatant example of partisanship and undermines the last vestiges of ZEC independence.