National: Keep calm and trust the feds on Election Day, national security officials tell states | The Washington Post

With midterm races in the home stretch and the 2020 presidential election on the horizon, a pair of top national security officials have a message for state election administrators: Trust us when we warn you about cyberthreats. William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, and Christopher Krebs, the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity chief, urged state officials to keep their lines open to the feds as Election Day approaches and the possibility of an attack on their systems looms large. “At some point in your future, next month or 2020, there will be a piece of intelligence that comes so fast and furious in the community, the phone call will be made to Chris that will tell him, ‘Hey, this happened and we need to act,’ ” Evanina said Wednesday at an election security summit on Capitol Hill with state leaders and members of Congress. “Chris will pick up the phone and call a state and say, ‘You need to do something.’ And you have to trust Chris.” 

National: Overseas Voters Having Trouble Getting Ballots As States Try To Thwart Hacking | HuffPost

Thousands of U.S. voters living overseas have encountered difficulties requesting absentee ballots because of state restrictions on internet traffic as part of efforts to secure their election systems, according to a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Federal law requires states to provide eligible U.S. voters based in foreign countries with a chance to get an absentee ballot. But some of these voters are having problems accessing official election websites to get information and, in some cases, download ballots, the Inquirer reported. The snags are occurring because of the steps taken by states to restrict traffic from foreign countries or entities to prevent potential interference with the election process, including the vote count. The Inquirer identified five states where voters were unable to load websites this week: Georgia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont. Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Department of State, said her office first learned of the download problems experienced by overseas voters were on Sept. 25. Three days later, she said, the federal agency that helps overseas voters ― including military families ― cast ballots informed the office the problem was more widespread than previously believed.

National: Mike Pence accuses China of meddling in US elections despite lack of evidence | The Guardian

Mike Pence has claimed that Russian interference in US elections “pales in comparison” with Chinese meddling, which he said was aimed at ousting Donald Trump. The vice-president’s allegation echoes a similar claim made by the president at the UN last week, but it has been contradicted by cybersecurity experts and the administration has yet to provide any supporting evidence, other than to point to instances of overt lobbying. The administration’s own secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said: “We currently have no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastructure. “We know they [the Chinese] have the capability and we know they have the will. So we’re constantly on alert to watch. But what we see with China right now are the influence campaigns, the more traditional, longstanding, holistic influence campaigns,” Nielsen said on Tuesday at a Washington Post cybersecurity conference.

National: Senate Punts on Beefed-Up Election Security Until After Midterms | Bloomberg

Legislation to increase protection of voting systems from foreign hackers is gaining support in the Senate. Just don’t expect the chamber to take it up before the November elections. Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he supports the bill (S. 2593). It just isn’t needed to make sure the midterm elections are safe, Blunt told state and local election officials at a Capitol Hill conference sponsored by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.“We’re not going to get anything in law between now and Election Day,” Blunt said. “Everything we want is basically happening, but I still would like to see it in law,” Blunt said. He said heightened awareness of security threats since 2016 would help protect voting this November, though it would still be worthwhile to enact changes to protect future elections.

Louisiana: Proposal to double voting machines drove up costs | Associated Press

When Louisiana shopped for new voting machines, the state told vendors it wanted to double the number of machines it uses for elections, a decision that helped drive up the cost of the contract proposals to a higher-than-expected price tag. The secretary of state’s office solicited bids to buy or lease nearly 20,000 voting machines — to replace the 10,000 early voting and Election Day machines it currently has. The agency described wanting to replace voting machines bought in 2005 with smaller devices, improved technology, bolstered security and a paper record of votes. But it didn’t publicize the effort also could double the inventory of machines.

Maryland: Court suggests settlement talks in Maryland congressional redistricting case | Baltimore Sun

A federal court on Thursday suggested settlement discussions be pursued in a case in which Republican voters in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District want to toss out a map they say was unfairly crafted to benefit Democrats. The three-judge panel made the recommendation during a hearing on the case in Baltimore, according to the state attorney general’s office, which is defending the current district boundaries. The options for U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Bredar and two other federal judges could include having a nonpartisan redistricting commission redraw the boundaries, asking lawmakers to redo the map, or preserving the current district lines.

Michigan: House approves online voter registration | Detroit Free Press

With just more than a month to go before the Nov. 6 general election, the Michigan House of Representatives unanimously approved a package of bills Wednesday that will allow people to register to vote online. While the Senate still needs to concur on technical changes made to the bills, the legislation is expected to go into effect next year and be ready before the next presidential election in 2020.

Nevada: Many ex-felons in Nevada can regain right to vote, but thousands held back by misconceptions, opaque process | The Nevada Independent

Kevin Wong voted in the 2008 election, but after being convicted on charges including armed robbery, theft and aggravated assault, he never thought he’d be able to go to the polls again. “I was released from prison on Nov. 6,” he said — two days before the 2016 elections. “And I found it ironic that although I’d watched every debate inside, I was now disenfranchised.” But with help from the Restore Your Vote campaign, which helps people with criminal records navigate a complicated patchwork of state laws that limit or revoke their voting rights, Wong was able to determine he is, in fact, allowed to vote. Last week, he received his voter registration card, and he plans to cast his vote in the general election.

Pennsylvania: State acts to help overseas voters get around ballot barrier | WITF

Officials who oversee voting in Pennsylvania on Wednesday promoted ways for people living overseas to obtain absentee ballots after some encountered computer barriers set up to prevent meddling with elections. The Department of State outlined new procedures the same day The Philadelphia Inquirer reported instructions for overseas voters had led some voters to an online dead-end. Those who are unable to obtain a ballot should call a toll-free number or email the agency’s help desk, where staff has been bolstered to address the problem. Department of State communications director Wanda Murren said it was not clear how many people ran into the cyber barrier, but it did not affect all overseas ballot applicants. She said officials realized they had a problem within the past couple weeks and instituted changes Monday, as they also notified about 4,000 people who had already requested to receive their ballots electronically about the new procedures.

Utah: Mitt Romney’s Senate run makes Utah’s election a target for Russian hackers, lieutenant governor says | The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s government systems face “hundreds of millions” of attacks each day from hackers in Russia, China and elsewhere, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Tuesday. And those attacks are likely to intensify ahead of November’s election, Cox said, as a result of past criticisms of Russia by Mitt Romney, the state’s Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. “We knew that alone might make us more of a target,” Cox said of Romney’s candidacy. Cox, who oversees elections in Utah, was confident the state’s government websites and voting systems can withstand the attacks. Millions of dollars have gone into updating Utah’s voting machines and cybersecurity protocols, he said, and the transition to a statewide vote-by-mail process decreases the likelihood of fraudulent votes on a mass scale. “We have a paper trail for every vote that is cast in the state,” he said.

Virginia: Election changes coming after ‘fraud’ in petitions circulated by GOP candidate’s staffers | WTOP

After a Virginia judge kicked an independent congressional candidate off the ballot due to apparent fraud driven by staffers for Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, the State Board of Elections is set to make changes Monday meant to avoid certifying certain false petitions in the future. The Department of Elections had signed off on Shaun Brown having enough valid signatures to qualify as an independent for the ballot in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District in the Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore. But an investigation by WHRO Radio then found staffers for Brown’s former opponent had collected hundreds of the signatures, many of which appeared to be faked. A judge in Richmond later found there had been “out-and-out fraud” on Brown’s petitions. The Taylor staffers signed affidavits stating they would take the fifth if they were called to testify.

Bahrain: Committee Set Up to Investigate Electoral Crimes | Asharq AL-awsat

Bahrain’s Attorney General Dr. Ali Al Buainain announced on Wednesday establishing a committee consisting of a Public Prosecution panel to conduct probes into election processes and suspected crimes. Composed of nine members, the committee will expedite procedures for revealing crimes and violations committed during elections. “The committee is functional with immediate effect and will operate until the electoral process is completed with the election of the MPs and councilors,” he said in a statement.

Bosnia: Bosnia-Herzegovina gears up for vote amid political frustration | The Guardian

On a tree-lined riverbank in the Sarajevo district of Grbavica, Rabina Baltić pauses at her stall selling tubs of sweetcorn, and gestures in disgust. “Future?” she asks. “There’s no future here! I have a university degree, but look how I work … We’ve lost hope. Every election it’s all mixed, religion and politics.” Twenty-three years after the end of its internecine war that left 100,000 dead, Bosnia-Herzegovina votes on Sunday to elect a bewildering number of national and sub-national presidencies, parliaments, and assemblies. Ethnic-nationalist parties representing the three main communities – Bosniak (Muslim), Serb, and Croat – are expected to top the polls as they have at most previous elections since the current political system was set up by the Dayton peace agreement in 1995. Hope that change will come to one of Europe’s poorest countries is dwindling. The average monthly wage is just over €400 (£355), while unemployment stands at more than 20%, rising to over 45% among young people. The grim economic situation is a major factor driving emigration from the country.

Canada: Liberals strike deal with Conservatives to raise pre-election spending limits | The Globe and Mail

The federal Liberal government will raise the maximum amounts political parties can spend in the run-up to an election after striking a deal with the Opposition Conservatives to allow the government’s election bill to move ahead. The bill’s proposed spending limits during what will be called the “pre-election” period were a major concern of the Conservatives, who generally lead the way when it comes to fundraising and would be in a position to outspend their competitors in the weeks before an election campaign. The Conservatives had attacked the pre-election spending limit as a blatant attempt by the Liberals to tilt the electoral rules in their favour, by limiting the ability of opposition parties to advertise during a period when the governing party continues to have access to government-funded travel and other avenues for self-promotion.

Czech Republic: Foreigners can vote in Czech local elections, but show little interest | Radio Prague

The Czech Republic’s communal elections, which will take place this Friday and Saturday, differ from their presidential and parliamentary equivalents in that citizens of other EU member states are also allowed to vote. This includes those living in the country on a temporary basis. However, interest in political engagement seems low among foreigners living in the country, with only a few thousand deciding to register. While EU citizens with permanent residence have been able to vote in communal elections since the country entered the EU in 2004, Czech law was unclear about whether those with temporary residency status can do so as well. Following a court ruling in 2014 the Ministry of Interior issued a recommendation to local district councils that they accept applications from temporary EU residents.

Gabon: Gabon holds first vote since violence-marred 2016 election | AFP

Oil-rich Gabon, ruled by the same political dynasty for nearly half a century, votes on Saturday in long-delayed legislative and municipal polls after a presidential election two years ago that was marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud. The controversial re-election of President Ali Bongo in August 2016 by just a few thousand votes led opposition leader Jean Ping to claim that victory had been stolen from him. Violence broke out and dozens of people were killed according to the opposition, but the government says only four died. Ping’s headquarters was bombed and the opposition also claimed that widespread human rights abuses were committed by armed militias that took to the streets.

Romania: Romanians to vote in referendum LGBT groups say is fuelling hate | The Guardian

Romanians will be asked this weekend whether they want to redefine marriage as only being between a man and a woman rather than “two spouses”, in a referendum that LGBT activists say is fuelling homophobia. The result will have little practical effect, given that same-sex marriage is not legal in Romania, and critics of the referendum, which was brought by a conservative NGO called Coalition for the Family, say it has been seized upon by politicians as a distraction tactic. “The idea is to distract public attention from corruption allegations, and they are doing it at the expense of the LGBT community,” said Teodora Ion-Rotaru of Accept, a rights organisation. She said there had been an increase in hate speech over the past two weeks, worsening an already difficult situation for the LGBT people in a very conservative country.