National: The next Russian attack on U.S. elections could be more serious than Facebook memes | Mashable

This is not a drill. Nor, alas, is it the fever dream of a Cold War hack novelist, as much as it sounds like one. In 2017, Russian hackers gained control of the U.S. power grid to the point where they could cause blackouts. And the U.S. government doesn’t know if they’re still able to do it. Worse yet, there’s reason to believe this is part of an attack on the 2018 election — one that could make Russia’s pivotal 2016 shenanigans (its fake news machine, DNC email hacking, voter registration hacking and Facebook meme-making) look like child’s play.  We learned about a Russian attack on American infrastructure when the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a report in March, but we didn’t know how bad it was until a DHS briefing on Monday. Hundreds of utility companies had fallen victim to the hackers; there may be many more out there that have been hacked and don’t know it. Energetic Bear managed to get into the control rooms of power stations, even into supposedly secure “air-gapped” networks, via vendors.  “They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and blacked out portions of the U.S., one DHS analyst told the Wall Street Journal. 

National: GOP Voters Grow More Skeptical of Election Cybersecurity Ahead of 2018 Midterms | The Morning Consult

Majorities of U.S. voters believe state and local officials, as well as political campaigns and committees, are not prepared to combat cyberattacks or hacking efforts targeting the 2018 midterms, according to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll — with Republican voters in particular growing more skeptical about cyber preparedness in advance of the November elections. The survey, conducted July 19-23 among a national sample of 1,996 registered voters, comes after the U.S. Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking of the Democratic National and Democratic Congressional Campaign committees and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Fifty-one percent of survey respondents said both election officials and campaign and committee officials are not prepared to deal with cyberthreats. Thirty-six percent said state and local officials are prepared and 35 percent said the same about political campaigns and committees.

National: Congress isn’t happy with Trump’s cyber strategy. It wants a commission to help. | The Washington Post

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) says the Trump administration needs to get serious about cyberdefense. And he’s taking some cues from history with the hope of kicking the administration into action. Tucked in a massive defense policy bill Congress appears poised to pass in the coming weeks is a measure from Sasse that would create a commission of top national security officials, lawmakers and experts to draw up a comprehensive cyberdefense strategy for the country. The proposal is based on the Project Solarium Commission, a Cold War effort President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched in the 1950s to counter the Soviet threat. It’s another way Congress is trying to force President Trump’s hand in developing a clear doctrine for how the United States responds to cyberthreats from nation states like Russia, which Trump refuses to unequivocally state interfered in the 2016 election. As Trump waffles on Russia’s interference in the election, and his White House sheds top cybersecurity talent, the measure would give Congress and its hand-picked experts a more direct role in steering the national discussion.

National: Trump to hold National Security Council meeting on election security Friday | The Washington Post

President Trump will convene a meeting Friday of the National Security Council on election security, a session that could include a discussion of possible Russian interference in November’s midterm elections, according to a White House official. In addition, national security adviser John Bolton plans to hold two NSC Principals Committee meetings this week, one Thursday on Iran and one Friday on North Korea, according to the White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans. Friday’s NSC meeting comes a week and a half after Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin in Helsinki. Trump was roundly criticized for his comments at a news conference there siding with Putin — who has denied that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — over U.S. intelligence agencies, which have concluded based on evidence that Russia did interfere. In the days that followed, Trump waffled between saying he has full faith in the U.S. intelligence agencies and casting doubt on Russia’s election interference. He tweeted last weekend that “it is all a big hoax.”

Florida: Voting rights battle goes to federal appeals court | Associated Press

In a legal showdown over voting rights in the political battleground state of Florida, a group of federal judges asked probing questions Wednesday about how voting rights are restored for some former prisoners but not others. At issue is whether Florida’s process of restoring voting rights to felons is unconstitutional. State officials defend their system, but critics call it arbitrary and unfair. “Is voting an expression protected by the First Amendment?” Judge Darren Gayles asked during Wednesday’s oral arguments in the case. Gayles was among a three-judge panel hearing the arguments at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Florida: ‘Thumb on the scale’: Democrats attack Florida law that lists Republicans first | Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott won two close races for governor by a single percentage point. President Donald Trump carried Florida by 1.2 points in 2016. The two Republicans ran in different years, but they had something in common. Their names appeared first on the ballots, above those of their Democratic rivals, and Democrats argue in a lawsuit that Republicans no longer should enjoy an unfair advantage. In Florida, the listing of candidates in partisan races favors the party that controls the governor’s office. Some states such as Ohio, New Hampshire and Montana rotate names of candidates between counties or precincts.

Iowa: Judge tells state to undo some early voting restrictions for 2018 election | Des Monies Register

An Iowa judge this week blocked some provisions of a 2017 voter identification law and required the state to restore its early voting period to 40 days, from 29, for November’s midterm elections. Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano granted the temporary injunction in an order made public Wednesday. She found that the law, and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s efforts to promote it, “substantially and directly interfere with Iowans’ constitutional rights to vote.” She also found the state had “suggested no real threat to the integrity of Iowa’s voting system” if the law’s requirements were blocked.

Michigan: New Emails Show Michigan Republicans Plotting to Gerrymander Maps | The New York Times

Newly disclosed emails show Michigan Republicans angling to give their party a dominant position through gerrymandered maps and celebrating the plight of their Democratic rivals. Republicans in the state have denied that they sought partisan gain when they drew new legislative boundaries in 2011. But a federal lawsuit, which argues the maps are unconstitutional, has unearthed records showing Republicans intent on drawing boundaries that would help their party. The emails, disclosed in a filing on Monday, boast of concentrating “Dem garbage” into four of the five southeast Michigan districts that Democrats now control, and of packing African-Americans into a metropolitan Detroit House district. One email likened a fingerlike extension they created in one Democratic district map to an obscene gesture toward its congressman, Representative Sander M. Levin. “Perfect. It’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,” the author of the message wrote. “I love it.”

North Carolina: GOP’s plan to deceive voters about its radical ballot measures | Slate

In November, North Carolina voters will have an opportunity to approve six constitutional amendments proposed by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature. These amendments range from silly to atrocious, and a majority are designed to prevent the state’s Supreme Court and Democratic governor from protecting voting rights. But voters may have little idea what any of the amendments do, because Republicans have hatched a plan to give themselves the power to write the ballot language without any input from Democrats. The North Carolina GOP decided to alter the state constitution for a few reasons. First, they hoped to drive up Republican turnout by tossing some red meat to the base. Second, they want to stop Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from expanding access to voting rights by stripping him of his constitutional authority to oversee state elections. Third, and relatedly, they want to prevent the left-leaning state Supreme Court, and the rest of the judiciary, from striking down GOP-sponsored voter suppression laws. (A federal appeals court struck down Republicans’ previous voter ID law, ruling that it appeared to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”)

Virginia: Voter Roll Purges Attract Scrutiny | WVTF

In the last presidential election cycle, almost half a million more people in Virginia were purged from the voter rolls than the previous election cycle. That change comes even as election officials used a faulty database to delete voters who allegedly moved. Jonathan Brater at the Brennan Center for Justice says Virginia is one of four states that has conducted illegal purges. “In recent years, we have seen Virginia attempting to remove higher numbers of suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls. But it turns out that many of those people actually are citizens.”

Cambodia: ‘Democracy has died’: Cambodia’s exiled politicians call for election boycott | The Guardian

Over the past ten months, Ky Wandara’s life has, by his own account, been hell. As the former treasurer of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for 20 years he had fought to bring the dictatorial three-decade rule of prime minister Hun Sen to an end. But in October, just weeks after Hun Sen began a crackdown which saw the CNRP leader, Kem Sokha, arrested for treason and the eventual dissolution of the party altogether, Ky Wandara was forced to flee to Thailand, along with over 100 CNRP members. He has no hope of returning home. The crackdown in Cambodia has intensified and in Sunday’s election, Hun Sen has no legitimate challengers. While over 20 parties will run in the election, they are either considered to be bogus (candidates include an ex-warlord and a woman who claims that spirits came to her in a dream and instructed her to run) or puppets for Hun Sen.

Mali: Arab gunmen shut down Mali’s Timbuktu days before vote | Reuters

Armed protesters from Mali’s Arab community fired shots into the air, burned tyres and torched vehicles in Timbuktu on Wednesday, bringing the desert city to a standstill days before an election seen as a test of stability across the country, officials said. The Arab youths, mostly petty traders, were protesting against worsening insecurity and alleged ill treatment by security forces in northern Mali, which has been plagued by Islamist violence, Tuareg separatists and ethnic tensions ever since armed groups took over parts of the region in 2012. Demonstrators filled the streets, forcing shops and banks to shut, witnesses said, though there were no reports of casualties.

Pakistan: Election in disarray as incumbent rejects result | The Guardian

Pakistan’s general election has been plunged into chaos after the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) said it would reject the result amid widespread allegations that the military was rigging the ballot in favour of the party led by the former cricketer Imran Khan. With only a third of the vote counted by 3am – an hour after the result was officially due – Khan’s Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led in 110 seats, with the PMLN trailing on 68. Results continued to trickle in slowly on Thursday, hours after Khan’s supporters took to the streets to celebrate victory.

Zimbabwe: Opposition leader rules out election boycott despite credibility concerns | The Times

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has ruled out a boycott of the seven-member alliance in next Monday’s election‚ even though he expressed strong reservations around the credibility and transparency of the polls. Supporters gathered outside the party headquarters cheered Chamisa for his decision to participate in the election. “We can’t boycott our victory. Winners don’t quit. Winners don’t boycott‚” Chamisa told journalists at the MDC’s headquarters. At the heart of the tiff is the clash between the MDC Alliance and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The alliance accuses the ZEC of refusing to give it access to the voters roll and refusing to let it see the ballot paper — which‚ among other things‚ it believes will mysteriously see an X cast for Chamisa disappear and move to the box allocated to the incumbent‚ President Emmerson Mnangagwa.