Russia is already trying to hack the 2018 midterm elections, going after Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection this year. That’s the key takeaway from a piece published Thursday afternoon by the Daily Beast. Reporters Andrew Desiderio and Kevin Poulsen used a combination of court records and internet sleuthing to identify that malicious emails to a McCaskill aide were sent from a server that likely belongs to Fancy Bear, the same Russian intelligence group that did the 2016 hacks. The attack, launched in the second half of last year, seems to have failed. The evidence in the Daily Beast piece that this attack was launched by Russians is reasonably compelling. If it’s correct, then this is the first publicly identified case of Russian interference in a specific 2018 election campaign.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes wants to ban electronic voting systems, calling them “really dangerous.” “The one thing we’ve been warning about for many, many years on the intelligence committee is about the electronic voting systems,” Nunes, R-Calif., told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton. “Those are really dangerous in my opinion, and should not be used. In California … at least in the counties that I represent, they do not use an electronic system,” he added.
The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin’s 2018 election interference. McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year as Republicans hope to hold their slim majority in the Senate. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by almost 20 points in the senator’s home state of Missouri.
A partisan clash over Russian hacking of state elections systems appears to be coming to a head in the Senate, where a provision to add $250 million to a four-bill spending package for states to beef up election system security may be headed for a floor vote. Democrats are using an announcement from the Election Assistance Commission and President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16 to pressure Republicans to allow a floor vote on Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s amendment to provide $250 million in grant aid to states to secure election systems. “Our states are under attack,” Leahy, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said on the floor Thursday. His amendment would provide the $250 million as part of the four-bill fiscal 2019 spending package that is expected to get a floor vote next week.
National: McCaskill introduces bill to prohibit and penalize voter disinformation | St. Louis American
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced legislation that would prohibit and penalize the knowing spreading of misinformation, such as incorrect polling locations, times, or the necessary forms of identification in order to suppress voter turnout, on Thursday, July 26. “At a time when voting rights are being attacked and chipped away – from state legislatures to the Supreme Court – we’ve got to redouble our efforts to protect every Missourian’s right to vote,” McCaskill said. “Misinformation campaigns intended only to suppress the vote and disenfranchise Missourians are crimes that run counter to our democratic values, and the punishment for those actions should fit the crime.”
House Democrats are prodding their Republican colleagues to examine foreign threats to upcoming U.S. elections, raising concerns that the Trump administration is not adequately tackling the threat. The top Democrats on four House committees demanded Thursday that their Republican counterparts hold a joint hearing on election security featuring top Trump administration officials. “Election security is a national security issue, and it is time this Congress treated it like one,” the Democrats wrote in Thursday’s letter. “We are concerned that the Trump administration is not doing enough to address vulnerabilities to our election systems.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had the authority to reintroduce the citizenship question on the 2020 census but, in exercising that authority, may have violated the rights of plaintiffs who are now suing, a federal judge ruled Thursday. U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman for the Southern District of New York rejected the government’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, which is challenging the Trump administration’s decision to add the question to the census. Furman stated that the plaintiffs “plausibly allege that Secretary Ross’ decision to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census was motivated by discriminatory animus and that its application will result in a discriminatory effect.”
The Alaska Division of Elections is in the middle of preparations for this fall’s statewide primary and general elections, but in a meeting Wednesday, the division showed it also has its eyes on 2020. In a meeting of the statewide election policy task force, division officials said they are preparing to acquire new voting equipment even as they consider whether the state should change the way it conducts elections. “It’s kind of two separate projects. It’s equipment replacement and it’s expanding options for ballot access in the future,” Josie Bahnke, the division’s director, said by phone after the meeting. Nothing will change before this year’s Aug. 21 primary or the Nov. 6 general election. Voters will still go to polling stations across the state, they’ll still pick up pens, and they’ll still fill in ovals on paper ballots, then feed those ballots into 20-year-old scanners.
Florida: A day after judge blasts state, counties act fast to hold early voting on campus | Tampa Bay Times
A day after a judge struck down Florida’s ban on early voting on college and university campuses, the Gainesville-area supervisor of elections asked the University of Florida to make its student union available for early voting in the November general election — including on a day when the Gators have a home football game. In addition, Tampa’s chief elections official, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer, said he has begun talks with USF leaders about holding early voting at the Marshall Student Center on the campus. The developments come as both parties prepare to mount aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts in a year when Floridians will elect a governor, U.S. senator and other top elected officials and decide whether to restore the right to vote to most convicted felons and ban offshore drilling off the Florida coast.
The Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) faced scrutiny after Illinois became one of 39 states hacked by the Russians in the 2016 election. ISBE said only voter rolls were hacked, and no ballots were tampered with. The board’s IT Director Matt Emmons said Tuesday that’s why cybersecurity specialists are imperative. “There’s always a threat,” Emmons said. “Threat is an outside factor, an outside force. So we’re operating under the assumption that there will be a threat 100 percent of the time.” Emmons spoke Tuesday in Normal to the Central Illinois chapter of BDPA, an organization for African-Americans and other minorities in the information technology (IT) and STEM fields. He was joined by McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael and the county’s chief information officer, Craig Nelson.
An Iowa judge Wednesday issued a temporary injunction barring the state from implementing some provisions of Iowa’s new voter ID law. The ruling, for now, restores the absentee early voting period from 29 days to 40 days and blocks certain ID requirements of the law, passed by the GOP-led Legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Terry Branstad in May 2017. Polk County District Judge Karen Romano ruled that elements of the state’s new system requiring state-issued voter identification numbers on absentee ballots could harm the rights of voters to participate in elections, “in contravention” of Iowa’s Constitution.
For the third time in a little more than a year, a panel of three Superior Court judges was asked Thursday to weigh the legality of a revamped State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The elections board has been at the center of a power struggle between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders since before Cooper took office, and each side has claimed victories in the ongoing dispute. Traditionally, the five-member elections board was controlled by the party of the governor, but after Cooper defeated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, lawmakers merged the board with the eight-member Ethics Commission and said the new panel would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
Cambodia’s exiled opposition leaders have launched the ‘clean finger’ campaign which calls for a boycott of the general election scheduled on July 29, 2018. Typically, an indelible ink is placed on the finger of voters on election day which means those who fail to vote, have a clean finger. Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the main opposition party, was disbanded by the Supreme Court on November 2017 after the ruling party accused it of conspiring with foreign powers in an attempt to topple the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The head of the U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo warned Thursday that the right conditions are not yet in place for presidential elections this December, and without progress, the credibility of the vote could be compromised. “As violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms continue to impact negatively on democratic space, some peaceful demonstrations are suppressed,” U.N. envoy Leila Zerrougui told Security Council members. “Civil society actors and political opponents continue to be arbitrarily arrested and media workers threatened.” Zerrougui said the parties have not implemented confidence-building measures, and the security situation, particularly in the eastern part of the country, remains volatile and is deteriorating in some areas.
Mali holds crucial polls on Sunday with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita seeking re-election in a country reeling from jihadist violence and ethnic attacks. The international community hopes the poll will strengthen a 2015 accord that Mali, a linchpin state in the troubled Sahel region, sees as its cornerstone for peace. But violence has peppered the election, with the final days of campaigning marred by an attack on a candidate’s convoy and renewed killings of civilians.
Uganda’s constitutional court yesterday approved removing the presidential age limit of 75 years, a ruling that would potentially allow President Yoweri Museveni to extend his three-decade rule. It endorsed parliament’s decision to scrap the cap in December that drew accusations from opposition parties that the 73-year-old Museveni wanted to be president for life and brought protesters onto the streets. “The removal of age limit may encourage an incumbent to wish to keep himself in office perpetually but the citizens still retain the power to either return the same president or elect a different one,” said Elizabeth Musoke, one of three judges who endorsed the amendment. One of the five judges said no, another had yet to deliver his verdict.