With primaries underway and less than four months to go until this year’s midterm elections, early signs of attack have already arrived—just as the US intelligence community warned. And yet Congress has still not done everything in its power to defend against them. At the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, Microsoft executive Tom Burt said that phishing attacks—reminiscent of those carried out in 2016 against Hillary Clinton’s campaign—have targeted three midterm campaigns this year. Burt stopped short of attributing those efforts to Russia, but the disclosure is the first concrete evidence this year that candidates are being actively targeted online. They seem unlikely to be the last. “The 2018 midterms remain a potential target for Russian actors,” said Matt Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser to DHS, at a Senate hearing last week. “The risks to elections are real.”
With less than four months to go, how much are this year’s midterm elections at risk for the kind of interference sowed by Russia in 2016? It’s a question that’s coming up again after President Trump’s seemingly shifting positions this week about Russia’s responsibility for the interference in 2016, and after special counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic Party and state election computer networks. It would be “foolish” to think Russia is not trying to influence the 2018 elections, said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum. “They have the capability and they have the will,” Nielsen also said. But two years after the first tendrils of the Russian influence and disruption campaign were detected, the U.S. response remains incomplete because of partisan politics, bureaucratic confusion and differing priorities among state and local governments.
National: Russian firm indicted in special counsel probe cites Kavanaugh decision to argue that charge should be dismissed | The Washington Post
A Russian company accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of being part of an online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign is leaning in part on a decision by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to argue that the charge against it should be thrown out. The 2011 decision by Kavanaugh, writing for a three-judge panel, concerned the role that foreign nationals may play in U.S. elections. It upheld a federal law that said foreigners temporarily in the country may not donate money to candidates, contribute to political parties and groups, or spend money advocating for or against candidates. But it did not rule out letting foreigners spend money on independent advocacy campaigns. Kavanaugh “went out of his way to limit the decision,” said Daniel A. Petalas, a Washington lawyer and former interim general counsel for the Federal Election Commission.
National: Justice Department plans to alert public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy | The Washington Post
he Justice Department plans to alert the public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy under a new policy designed to counter hacking and disinformation campaigns such as the one Russia undertook in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election. The government will inform American companies, private organizations and individuals that they are being covertly attacked by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process. “Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who announced the policy at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. Rosenstein, who has drawn President Trump’s ire for appointing a special counsel to probe Russian election interference, got a standing ovation.“The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda,” he said.
On April 19, 2016, thousands of eligible Brooklyn voters dutifully showed up to cast their ballots in the presidential primary, only to find their names missing from the voter lists. An investigation by the New York state attorney general found that New York City’s Board of Elections had improperly deleted more than 200,000 names from the voter rolls. In June 2016, the Arkansas secretary of state provided a list to the state’s 75 county clerks suggesting that more than 7,700 names be removed from the rolls because of supposed felony convictions. That roster was highly inaccurate; it included people who had never been convicted of a felony, as well as persons with past convictions whose voting rights had been restored. And in Virginia in 2013, nearly 39,000 voters were removed from the rolls when the state relied on a faulty database to delete voters who allegedly had moved out of the commonwealth. Error rates in some counties ran as high as 17 percent.
A Republican primary for an open state House seat has been moved to the November general election after a write-in candidate who had closed the primary withdrew from the contest. Secretary of State Ken Detzner declared the Republican House District 56 primary a universal election, based on a state law, and moved the contest to the No. 6 general election. The decision came after David Joseph Patzer of Mulberry submitted a handwritten note Wednesday to the state Division of Elections stating his withdrawal from the contest.
Kansas: Appeal in ACLU-Kobach fight says federal voter law doesn’t pre-empt state law | The Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach filed a statement this week contending a federal judge erred in deciding the state’s voter registration law is unconstitutional in requiring new voters to prove their citizenship. The statement was filed Tuesday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. It is an initial step in an attempt by Kobach to overturn the June 18 decision of U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. The statement lists two claims as a basis for Kobach’s appeal and says other issues may be raised later for appellate judges to consider. It was filed on Kobach’s behalf by Kansas solicitor general Toby Crouse, an official in the state attorney general’s office. The 2011 voter registration law requires that people registering to vote for the first time provide documents proving U.S. citizenship. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law in a 2016 lawsuit.
Maryland: Following Maryland revelation, bills would ban election vendors from foreign control | Baltimore Sun
Maryland lawmakers have introduced two U.S. House bills seeking to better safeguard election systems following the disclosure that a state election software vendor had ties to a Russian investor. A measure by Democratic Rep. John Delaney and Republican Rep. Andy Harris would mandate that vendors associated with federal elections be owned and controlled by U.S. companies. The legislation follows last week’s disclosure by state legislative leaders in Annapolis that, without the state’s knowledge, a Russian investor had bought a local software vendor that maintains part of the State Board of Elections’ voter registration system.
It was heartening to learn that Maryland’s leaders raised alarmover a recent warning from the FBI that an election contractor with financial ties to a Russian oligarch and with tentacles into most of the major components of the Maryland voting system has been unmasked. The historical context for the current situation should be understood. In 2007, after years of citizen advocacy, the General Assembly passed legislation that would move the state to paper-ballot/optical-scan voting. During that process, cybersecurity and computer experts from major institutions, including Princeton University and the Brennan Center for Justice, testified about the urgent need to abandon paperless touch-screen voting and to secure computerized election tabulation systems with a paper ballot. A talented and prescient computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University had his career savaged in this process, as the full displeasure of a voting system vendor was directed at this research.
New Hampshire: State makes it tougher for students to vote. Democrats call it ‘devious’ suppression. | NBC
New Hampshire Democrats are hoping to turn the November midterm elections into a referendum on a new law barring part-time residents from voting in the state. Last week, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signed into law House Bill 1264, requiring students and other part-time residents to become permanent residents of the state if they want to vote. Currently, students must show they are “domiciled” in the state when they register to vote. The new law will force permanent residents to comply with laws such as state motor vehicle registration. Students with cars, for example, would have to pay for a new, in-state driver’s license and register their cars in the state, a cost critics argue could deter the historically Democratic voting bloc from the ballot box. “It’s a poll tax,” said Garrett Muscatel, a Dartmouth College student and candidate for state representative.
Editorials: The threat to our democracy? Our indifference to fixing our voting machines. | Philadelphia Inquirer
Not that anyone living in the reality-based world needed more convincing, but the recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials charged with interfering in the 2016 election, and President Trump’s apparent alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin in denying the hacks, underscores the seriousness of this attack on the United States’ democracy. Prior to the indictment, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee said in May that the Russian government “conducted an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure.” Trump’s willful blindness to the Russian cyberattacks means the U.S. remains vulnerable to interference in future elections. All the more reason why states, including Pennsylvania, must move to protect our voting system from such attacks.
For Helen Harris, voting is a family tradition. She was born in Louisiana when Jim Crow ruled the day and her parents weren’t legally allowed to vote. Later in life, after her parents moved to Milwaukee, that right was something they treasured. Her mother cast her last vote in the 2012 presidential election at the age of 95. Harris continued her parent’s tradition, voting in every election from school board to governor. But in 2011, a redistricting of Wisconsin’s assembly district lines left her stranded in an affluent, primarily Republican district far removed from her formerly majority Democrat one. “I just don’t feel that the things that I care about and the things that I value are being represented by the people that we have in office now in our district,” she said.
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to Cambodia Rhona Smith on Friday expressed concern over reports of voter intimidation in the lead up to a general election this month that has been widely derided as unfree and unfair amid an ongoing political crackdown in the country. In a statement posted to the Facebook page of the U.N’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia, Smith highlighted reports of government representatives stating that abstaining from voting was illegal and that fines would be imposed on people messaging about a boycott of the July 29 election. She also pointed to reports that local authorities have threatened to withhold public services from those who do not vote for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). “This only creates a climate of fear and confusion,” Smith said.
A growing number of Luxembourg nationals are choosing to cast their votes by post. If at the previous elections, nearly 30.000 individuals decided to elect their representatives by post, authorities expect postal voting to gain even more ground at the upcoming national elections on 14 October. Based on current predictions, nearly 50.000 individuals are set to send their votes by mail. If the estimate turns out to be true, the figure would mark a new record for Luxembourg. Voting is compulsory in the Grand Duchy and one’s failure to exercise this right may be subject to a fine.
The Maldives elections body will allow voters with disabilities to choose their own helpers for polling day, its second U-turn and major misstep in four days. Updated electoral regulations published Sunday say voters who require assistance will be allowed to choose a helper of their choice. The helper can assist the voter with the permission of the chief electoral official at the ballot centre. The Elections Commission initially said only electoral officials would help voters who were unable to tick the ballot paper on their own. The original announcement was met with anger from political parties and a threat of legal action by a former attorney general.
The team of the leading opposition candidate in Mali’s upcoming presidential election claimed Friday that there were “substantial anomalies” in the electoral register and warned of a possible “massive attempt at fraud” in the 29 July vote. Speaking at a news conference in Bamako, the campaign manager of opposition frontrunner, Soumaila Cisse, said the electoral register published online on 4 July was “totally different” from the one audited by the International Organisation of Francophonie on 27 April. The number of names on the online register totalled 8,105,154 voters, more than the 8,000,462 counted by the IOF, campaign manager Tiebile Drame said.
Pakistan’s election authorities have granted broad judicial powers to the powerful military at polling stations during next week’s general election, a rare move that has fanned concern among political parties and human rights groups. The July 25 election is seen as a two-way race between parties led by former cricket star Imran Khan and now-jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has accused the army of working behind the scenes to favor Khan, which it denies. About 371,000 troops will spread out across Pakistan to guard the election, about three times the number during the last election in 2013. In a notice this month, the Election Commission gave soldiers the authority of a “magistrate”, to hold on-the-spot trials of anyone breaking election laws and sentence them.
With less than two weeks to go until Zimbabweans head to the polls, a further analysis of the voter’s roll has shown that as many as 900 000 records may have been tampered with, to influence the results, according to a report by TeamPachedu. This includes duplicating voters with a different date of birth, assigning and creating new identity numbers for some voters and introducing minor changes to the identity numbers that cannot be ascribed to human error. The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) compiled the roll using its much-vaunted biometric identification system to authenticate the records, presumably ensuring only one voter can be assigned to each record.