Senate Republicans successfully beat back another attempt by Democrats to extend hundreds of millions of dollars in grant funding to assist states and localities looking to upgrade the security of their election systems. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced an amendment to “minibus” appropriations legislation that would have allocated $250 million in federal funding to replace outdated and insecure voting machines, provide security training for election workers, upgrade voter registration software and fund other state and local initiatives related to election security. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), one of the original co-sponsors of the Secure Elections Act that initially proposed grant funding to states, took to the floor to oppose the amendment. Lankford said he was opposing the measure because Congress voted in favor of giving $380 million to states earlier this year.
National: As midterm elections approach, a growing concern that the nation is not protected from Russian interference | The Washington Post
Two years after Russia interfered in the American presidential campaign, the nation has done little to protect itself against a renewed effort to influence voters in the coming congressional midterm elections, according to lawmakers and independent analysts. They say that voting systems are more secure against hackers, thanks to action at the federal and state levels — and that the Russians have not targeted those systems to the degree they did in 2016. But Russian efforts to manipulate U.S. voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect, and there is not a sufficiently strong government strategy to combat information warfare against the United States, outside experts said. Despite Facebook’s revelation this week that it had closed down 32 phony pages and profiles that were part of a coordinated campaign, technology companies in general have struggled to curb the flow of disinformation and hacking and have received little guidance from the U.S. government on how to do so.
Voters will get the chance this fall to expand or limit access to the polls in a wave of ballot initiatives ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Seven states have ballot measures this year involving election rules, such as ID requirements and easier registration, the National Conference of State Legislatures said. Maine voters already approved a measure, and Michigan could join the fray if a campaign clears a signature hurdle. Together, that equals the number of similar ballot measures from 2014 and 2016 combined, according to NCSL. “This entire decade has been roiling with concerns on both sides—integrity and access—to voting rights,” said Wendy Underhill, director of elections and redistricting at NCSL.
National: Senate rejects additional election security spending even as experts warn of growing foreign threat | ABC
Even as experts on cybersecurity and foreign interference told lawmakers Wednesday that the threat from Russia and other states seeking to influence American democracy is getting worse, the Senate failed to approve $250 million for state election security in the coming fiscal year. The specialists were testifying about the threat specifically as it relates to social media, but they were arguing that the U.S. government needs to mount a more aggressive and comprehensive approach to counter threats from foreign governments’ efforts to undermine U.S. institutions including elections. “As we focus on the past, we are missing what is happening and what will happen again,” Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Online platforms need to be more transparent with government to help fight increasingly sophisticated online misinformation campaigns led by Russia and other adversaries, social media experts and internet analysts told lawmakers on Wednesday. Government leaders must also make it clear to adversaries there will be consequences if they attempt to disrupt elections, they said. Nearly two years after officials first uncovered Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. election, the conversation on Capitol Hill is shifting away from what happened in 2016 to how to stop similar campaigns in the years ahead. In their testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, witnesses said Russian attempts to influence American politics continue even today and the government has a responsibility to lessen the impact of information warfare on society. They said that role could include alerting the public when influence attempts are uncovered, deterring foreign leaders from engaging in such campaigns and identifying potential threats in new technologies like artificial intelligence before bad actors can exploit them.
Amid increased warnings of Russian interference in the midterm elections — and evidence that hackers are targeting candidates — congressional campaigns are trying to balance cybersecurity with the demands of competitive contests. That’s especially difficult for small House campaigns. But experts warn that such campaigns, particularly in competitive races, are prime targets for hackers and foreign adversaries. Take Minnesota’s 8th District, one of 10 Toss-up House contests according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, where two Democrats have noticed Russian interest in the open-seat race. Traffic originating from Russia started increasing on Joe Radinovich’s campaign website around the time the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party was conducting its endorsement process in the 8th District in northeastern Minnesota.
With fewer than 100 days to go until the midterms, the evidence continues to pile up that America’s electoral system remains a hot target for hackers, most notably agents of the Russian government. Last Thursday, Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat up for re-election this year, confirmed that she was one of two or possibly three congressional candidates whose computer networks had been unsuccessfully targeted by the Russians last year. The phishing attack, which occurred last August, was thwarted by Microsoft, which subsequently alerted her to the attempt. “While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this,” said Ms. McCaskill in a statement. Three days later, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, acknowledged that, in an unrelated episode, her office also had been a target of multiple spear-phishing attacks, the origins of which have yet to be officially determined. The effort bears similarities to Russia’s handiwork, but the matter is still under investigation. Ms. Shaheen said she had been told that this problem “is widespread, with political parties across the country, as well as with members of the Senate.” (Ms. Shaheen, a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, also received a phone call in November from someone impersonating a Latvian official and hoping to gain inside information on American sanctions against Russia.
California: Incompatible file formats led Los Angeles County to drop 118,000 voters in California primary | StateScoop
Multiple factors contributed to Los Angeles County eliminating more than 118,000 registered voters from the rolls during the June 5 California primary election, according to a report published Wednesday. The document, prepared by IBM Security Services, explains that software incompatibilities and clashing file formats between the state’s official voter list and the county’s system led to the voters being dropped from the roster. At the time, county officials attributed the cut names to a printing error. The affected voters accounted for about 2.3 percent of the county’s registered voters, and were spread across about one-third of the sprawling county’s precincts. The most populous in the United States, the county spans from the city of Los Angeles to the edge of the Mojave Desert, and boasts more than 5.1 million registered voters, more than one-quarter of California’s statewide total. People who showed up to vote but were told their names were not on the rolls were still allowed to cast provisional ballots.
A federal judge imposed on Wednesday more than $26,000 in sanctions against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as punishment for his “contemptuous behavior” during a voting rights case that challenged the state’s proof-of-citizenship registration law. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt in April stemming from a 2016 preliminary injunction. The decision handed down Wednesday specified the amount of attorney fees and expenses awarded after considering arguments from the parties. Robinson ruled in June that Kansas cannot require documentary proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote, finding such laws violate the constitutional right to vote. That decision struck down the Kansas proof-of-citizenship registration law and made permanent the earlier injunction that had temporarily blocked it.
Kris Kobach likes to tout his work for Valley Park, Missouri. He has boasted on cable TV about crafting and defending the town’s hardline anti-immigration ordinance. He discussed his “victory” there at length on his old radio show. He still lists it on his resume. But “victory” isn’t the word most Valley Park residents would use to describe the results of Kobach’s work. With his help, the town of 7,000 passed an ordinance in 2006 that punished employers for hiring illegal immigrants and landlords for renting to them. But after two years of litigation and nearly $300,000 in expenses, the ordinance was largely gutted. Now, it is illegal only to “knowingly” hire illegal immigrants there — something that was already illegal under federal law. The town’s attorney can’t recall a single case brought under the ordinance. “Ambulance chasing” is how Grant Young, a former mayor of Valley Park, describes Kobach’s role. Young characterized Kobach’s attitude as, “Let’s find a town that’s got some issues or pretends to have some issues, let’s drum up an immigration problem and maybe I can advance my political position, my political thinking and maybe make some money at the same time.”
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled Michigan cannot ban “straight-ticket” voting, allowing voters to choose all a party’s candidates with just one bubble on a ballot, saying the law prohibiting the practice was racially discriminatory. The ruling permanently blocks what U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain called a politically motivated move by the Republican-controlled state legislature in a state that backed President Donald Trump in 2016 after twice choosing Democratic former President Barack Obama. The ban did not affect the November 2016 election as a temporary order had blocked the state from enforcing it. Drain cited research finding African-American voters are more likely than voters of other races to cast a straight-ticket ballot and are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.
Keith Sellars and his daughters were driving home from dinner at a Mexican restaurant last December when he was pulled over for running a red light. The officer ran a background check and came back with bad news for Mr. Sellars. There was a warrant out for his arrest. As his girls cried in the back seat, Mr. Sellars was handcuffed and taken to jail. His crime: Illegal voting. “I didn’t know,” said Mr. Sellars, who spent the night in jail before his family paid his $2,500 bond. “I thought I was practicing my right.” Mr. Sellars, 44, is one of a dozen people in Alamance County in North Carolina who have been charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. All were on probation or parole for felony convictions, which in North Carolina and many other states disqualifies a person from voting. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison.
On the streets of Phnom Penh, everyone is asking the same question: did you or didn’t you vote? But the answer is obvious. Those who voted in Sunday’s problematic general election sport dark brown ink stains on their index fingers. Those with ‘clean fingers’, by contrast, appear to have backed exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s call for an election boycott. Cambodia’s July 29 elections were fought not along conventional party lines, but around the single issue of turnout. At least 25 countries have made use of semi-permanent election ink, ostensibly to curtail fraudulent voting. The ink is supposed to stop people from voting more than once. In Cambodia, election ink has assumed a new significance: its purpose was to maximize voter turnout, by putting pressure on citizens to participate in an election that many of them viewed as farcical.
A majority of the contenders to become Mali’s next president said on Wednesday they will not accept election results “marred by irregularities” ahead of an official verdict expected on Friday. Major opposition figures, such as former finance minister Soumaila Cisse — seen as the president’s biggest threat in the poll, which was held Sunday — and businessman Aliou Diallo, signed the joint declaration. “We will not accept results marred by irregularities,” the group’s statement, read out by candidate Modibo Kone, said. “We do not want to delegitimise the entirety of the process but there needs to be a minimum of credibility,” Soumaila Cisse’s campaign director, Tiebile Drame, told AFP.
The game has changed. The days are gone where rampant and widespread ballot-box snatching, political thuggery, and falsification of figures at collation centres define election rigging in Nigeria.Today, vote-buying is the name of the game and just as an election observer and monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, has described, vote-buying is the new way of election rigging by politicians in the country. Projector Director of Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said in Osogbo yesterday at a Media Round Table Discussion tagged ‘Watching The Vote’ ahead of the September 22 governorship election in Osun State.Mbamalu said vote-buying was becoming a threat to Nigerian electoral process, adding that all hands must be on deck to put an end to the menace. “Nowadays, the more money you give, the more votes you get and this is becoming a problem and a challenge to our electoral process.”
Electing a successor to Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain could be delayed up to September as the electoral college, which has to choose the next head of state, is yet to be constituted after the July 25 general elections, according to media reports. President Hussain’s five-year term is set to expire on September 9. According to the Constitution, the presidential election must be held at least a month prior to the expiry of the incumbent’s term, which in this case would be August 8, DawnNewsTV reported. With just over a month to go until the expiry of the President’s tenure, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) expects the next presidential election to face delays, it quoted a source from the poll body as saying.
United Kingdom: Voter ID: our first results suggest local election pilot was unnecessary and ineffective | The Conversation
The 2018 local elections in England were surrounded by a fierce debate over a pilot requiring voters to present ID at polling stations. The government had argued that a clampdown on security was needed, because it was concerned about ongoing electoral fraud in polling stations. It’s important to have neutral evidence to judge these claims. We think our findings from the largest ever survey on electoral integrity at UK polling stations can help to achieve this. Following up on a 2015 survey, we conducted a survey of the staff managing polling stations across England, issuing ballot papers and sealing up ballot boxes at the 2018 local elections. We asked if they had suspicions that electoral fraud was taking place and whether party agents were acting within electoral law. We also asked if voters were turned away. The survey was circulated in 42 local authorities that were not piloting voter ID and there were 2,274 responses.
Three people have been killed in Harare as soldiers and police fought running battles with hundreds of protesters, firing live ammunition, teargas and water cannon amid rising tension following Zimbabwe’s presidential election. The army was deployed in the capital on Wednesday after police proved unable to quell demonstrators who claim Monday’s historic election is being rigged. In a late-night press conference, Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu warned that the government “will not tolerate any of the actions that were witnessed today.” “The opposition… have perhaps interpreted our understanding to be weak, and I think they are testing our resolve and I think they are making a big mistake,” he said.