Lawmakers in a volatile region of Somalia elected the federal government’s preferred candidate as its leader on Wednesday after a popular former al Shabaab leader was barred from running in the vote seen as test of the country’s political progress. As part of an internationally backed attempt to end decades of lawlessness by spreading power more widely among the multiple clans, states are meant to be more independent of central government, with the authority to select their own leaders. But any sign that that is being subverted in practice or a sense that a leader is being imposed by stealth by the central government could further stoke instability and violence.Full Article: Mogadishu-Backed Candidate Wins Test-Case Regional Somali Election | World News | US News.
National: Congress Now Has a Very Full, Very Ugly Picture of How Russia Targeted Black Americans | Slate
It should be well-known by now that Russian operatives made memes and fake activist pages to try to sway the 2016 presidential campaign for Donald Trump. But what most people don’t know is that they were also selling sex toys, recruiting Americans to work with them through job listings, offering free self-defense classes, soliciting photos for a calendar, and even offering counseling to followers of page called Army of Jesus who were struggling with porn addiction. Two new reports delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee—one from the cybersecurity group New Knowledge and the other from Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and the social networking–analysis firm Graphika—expand what the public knows about how a Kremlin-linked troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, widened divides in American political life during and after the 2016 election. Together, the reports comprise the most extensive research yet into exactly how Russian agents instrumentalized U.S. technology companies to launch what may be largest state-sponsored effort to manipulate voters and derail an election in U.S. history.Full Article: Senate reports on Russian disinformation show how trolls targeted black Americans..
Two reports prepared for the Senate on Russian disinformation unfold a now-indisputable narrative: The Kremlin engaged in a coordinated campaign to elevate Donald Trump to the presidency, and this country’s technology companies were central to its strategy. The Russia operation is staggering in its scale, precision and deceptiveness. Pages generated by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency elicited nearly 40 million likes and more than 30 million shares on Facebook alone, reeling in susceptible users with provocative advertisements and then giving them propaganda to spread far and wide. The aim was not to toss the country into tumult, but to put the preferred candidate of a foreign adversary in the Oval Office. All the while, Americans were entirely unaware of what was happening: What seemed like local Black Lives Matter activists were actually Russian trolls well-versed in the buzzwords of social justice. Ostensible patriots for Second Amendment rights were broadcasting from St. Petersburg. Republicans have protested over the past year that election interference is neither unusual nor important. This week’s reports comprehensively put both arguments to rest. Russia waged an unprecedented campaign, targeting Americans across all segments of society, on platforms large and small. The studies do not even cover the entirety of Russia’s online tampering: The hack-and-leak operation that led to the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private emails, orchestrated by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, was another crucial salvo in a pro-Trump onslaught.Full Article: Russia’s support for Trump’s election is no longer disputable - The Washington Post.
Reading a new report on Russian online interference in the 2016 Presidential election is a cognitively disturbing experience. The report, prepared by the cybersecurity company New Knowledge, was the more detailed of two commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and released on Monday—it is illustrated with screenshots of memes apparently used as part of the Russian campaign of disinformation. The text of the report describes a sophisticated, wide-ranging, sustained, strategic operation by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, one that played out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and elsewhere: “The Internet Research Agency exploited divisions in our society by leveraging vulnerabilities in our information ecosystem. They exploited social unrest and human cognitive biases.” But the illustrations accompanying the New Knowledge report seem transposed from a wholly different narrative.Full Article: Why the Russian Influence Campaign Remains So Hard to Understand | The New Yorker.
National: Russian propagandists targeted African Americans to influence 2016 US election | The Guardian
Russian online propagandists aggressively targeted African Americans during the 2016 US election campaign to suppress votes for Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, according to new research. Analysts found that Russian operatives used social media to “confuse, distract, and ultimately discourage” black people and other pro-Clinton blocs from voting, using bogus claims such as Clinton receiving money from the Ku Klux Klan. Black turnout declined in 2016 for the first presidential election in 20 years, according to the US census bureau, falling to less than 60% from a record high of 66.6% in 2012. Exit polls indicated that black voters strongly favoured Clinton over Trump. The new findings on the secret activities of the Internet Research Agency(IRA), known as the Russian government’s “troll factory”, were revealed on Monday in a pair of reports to the US Senate’s intelligence committee. One was led by experts from Oxford University and the other by New Knowledge, an American cybersecurity firm.Full Article: Russian propagandists targeted African Americans to influence 2016 US election | US news | The Guardian.
Former Broward County election chief Brenda Snipes is suing outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) over his decision last month to suspend her, arguing that it was “malicious and politically motivated.” Snipes, who filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, is seeking to be reinstated to her position. “The suspension by Governor Scott, operating in concert with the public airing of the allegations against Snipes, deprived her of liberty and property rights without constitutionally adequate procedures,” her lawsuit reads. In addition to Scott, the lawsuit also lists Florida Senate President Bill Galvano as a defendant.Full Article: Former Florida elections official Snipes sues to be returned to job | TheHill.
Georgia: Brian Kemp had “no evidence” when he falsely accused Democrats of hacking voter database | Salon
Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican governor-elect, pushed a baseless claim alleging that Democrats hacked the state’s voter database days before the election he won by fewer than 60,000 votes, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has discovered. Three days before the November election, then-Secretary of State Kemp was tied with Democrat Stacey Abrams in the polls amid criticism that he had improperly purged hundreds of thousands of voters from the state’s rolls. With just 72 hours before the vote, it was discovered that Kemp’s office had left the state’s voter registration system exposed on the internet. Kemp responded by accusing the Georgia Democratic Party of trying to hack into the voter database to try to affect the election. The Journal-Constitution has now discovered, weeks after Kemp’s narrow electoral victory, that there was “no evidence” backing any of Kemp’s allegations at the time and “none has emerged in the six weeks since.” It “appears unlikely that any crime occurred,” the newspaper concluded.Full Article: Georgia's Brian Kemp had "no evidence" when he falsely accused Dems of hacking voter database | Salon.com.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature approved a new law last spring restoring voting rights to former felons still under supervision, it was expected to give around 2,200 people the right to vote starting next March. Now, advocates and elected officials are saying the number could be as many as 36,000. Officials were aware the new law would restore voting rights to people living in the community on parole with no problems for five years after they have been released from prison. It was also acknowledged that it would benefit people who are on probation for five years. Those groups combined are fairly small, only a couple thousand people, according to the Louisiana Department of Corrections. But legislators, advocates and prison officials are now saying the law might also apply to the vast majority of people on probation — including those under supervision for fewer than five years — who have had their voting rights suspended. Natalie LaBorde, deputy commissioner with the Department of Corrections, confirmed the revised estimates.Full Article: New Louisiana law could allow tens of thousands on probation to vote | nola.com.
A Senate Republican power play proposal to shift campaign oversight from Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson to a new political commission is poised to die in the Michigan House. The House Elections Committee will not take up the controversial legislation when it meets Wednesday morning for the last time of the year, said Rep. Aaron Miller, who chairs the panel. With two days left in the lame-duck session, the proposal is “dead” in committee, Miller, R-Sturgis, said late Tuesday. “No games are going to be played tomorrow. Full disclosure, those bills are not coming up tomorrow.” While it’s possible the GOP-led House still could discharge the legislation from committee for floor action, a caucus source told The Detroit News that is not expected to happen.Full Article: Michigan House kills bid to strip power from secretary of state.
New Jersey: Democratic lawmakers pull controversial redistricting proposal in face of widespread opposition | Philadelphia Inquirer
In another sign that gerrymandering has become a potent political issue, top Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey were forced over the weekend to spike a proposed constitutional amendment that was sold as redistricting reform but would have entrenched their party’s power in Trenton. The plan faced nearly unanimous opposition across the political spectrum, and from good-government lobbies, national Democratic figures, and other interests. It had been scheduled for a vote Monday afternoon in both chambers of the state Legislature. By the time Democratic leaders announced Saturday night that they were pulling the measure, the chorus of detractors had grown to include a number of rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers. Even the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Loretta Weinberg of Bergen County, expressed some hesitation. “There’s something in this bill to affront almost everybody,” she told WNYC hours before the bill was buried. “That’s not always easy to do. But, apparently, that’s what we managed to do.”Full Article: N.J. Democratic lawmakers pull controversial redistricting proposal in face of widespread opposition.
The state Senate voted Tuesday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a voter ID bill, one of the final steps needed before the state requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. The Senate voted 33-12 to override. In order to enact the law over Cooper’s objection, the House will also have to vote to override his veto. The House and Senate passed the bill with veto-proof majorities before the Democratic governor vetoed it. The measure would require certain forms of photo ID to vote in person. Republican legislative leaders said Cooper’s veto defied the will of the voters. Photo voter ID was added to the state constitution this year with support from 55 percent of voters.Full Article: Voter ID: NC Senate overrides Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto | News & Observer.
Voter identification has been a longstanding goal for North Carolina Republicans. In 2013, just after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, the state legislature controlled by Republicans passed a bill substantially rewriting election laws. It included a voter identification requirement that was among the strictest in the nation, accepting only a narrow set of government issued identification. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the law. Instead of enacting another bill, Republicans placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot this year. The measure simply stated that a photo identification would be required to cast a ballot in North Carolina elections but left the details up to the legislature. Voters approved the measure 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent, so the question is not if there will be voter identification in North Carolina, but rather how it will look.Full Article: Battle over North Carolina voter identification law moves ahead | TheHill.
Voting rights activists on Tuesday praised Oklahoma’s efforts to make registration more accessible under the National Voting Rights Act. “Oklahoma has tripled the numbers of people registering through public assistance agencies since 2015,” said Brenda Wright, senior advisor for legal strategies at Demos, a New York-based non-profit that advocates for ballot access and other causes. “The state should be commended for its impressive commitment to our shared American value that every eligible voter should be able to vote come Election Day,” Wright in a news release. “By implementing a comprehensive plan for voter registration services at these agencies across the state, Oklahoma has exemplified the NVRA’s principle and promise: States must do their part to bring all Americans into our democracy.”Full Article: Voting rights advocate praises Oklahoma in expanding registration access | Homepagelatest | tulsaworld.com.
More than 20,000 Bangladesh paramilitary guards were deployed across the country Tuesday amid mounting deadly violence ahead of a December 30 general election. At least six people have been killed in clashes over the past week during the bitter campaigning between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) spokesman Mohsin Reza said 1,016 platoons had been deployed in a bid to reinforce campaign security. Officials said there were about 20 guards in each platoon. Election Commission secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said thousands more troops would be deployed from Saturday.Full Article: Bangladesh Deploys Paramilitary Amid Deadly Election Campaign.
A controversial decision to fix a dysfunctional election law can enable the formation of a new government and prevent looming financial collapse in the country’s Federation entity, but Bosniak parties will appeal against it. Under strong local and international pressure, Bosnia’s Central Election Commission, CIK, on Tuesday adopted a decision fixing the country’s dysfunctional election law and enabling the establishment of a new government in the Federation entity, which it has lacked since last October’s elections. The formation of a new Federation government by the end of the year would stave off a looming financial collapse in the entity. The CIK adopted the decision by a 5-2 vote, as the two Serbs, two Croats and one ‘other’ ethnic delegate on the CIK outvoted its two Bosniak representatives.Full Article: Bosnia Fixes Election Law, Enabling Formation of Govt :: Balkan Insight.
What’s an election campaign without shaking hands with potential voters? Congolese candidates in the thick of an Ebola outbreak, now the second deadliest in history, are finding out in uncomfortable ways. Jaribu Muliwavyo seeks another term as provincial deputy in North Kivu, the restless center of the outbreak. He’s sad when he arrives in communities and isn’t permitted to greet traditional chiefs properly, with a warm clasp of hands. “They take that as an insult,” Muliwavyo told The Associated Press. This election, he mused, is “a real puzzle.” The current Ebola outbreak is like no other, and it promises trouble for Congo’s presidential election on Sunday. Unrest by dozens of rebel groups in this Central African nation with 40 million voters already posed a challenge to the long-delayed vote. Then Ebola, a deadly virus spread via contact with infected bodily fluids, emerged in a part of eastern Congo that had never seen it before.Full Article: Elections in the time of Ebola: Congo votes amid disease | Myrtle Beach Sun News.
Madagascans head to the ballot box on Wednesday in a run-off election between two rivals who have waited years to come face-to-face in a fiercely personal battle for power in the Indian Ocean island. The clash between Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina could revive instability in the impoverished country if the result is rejected by the losing candidate or fraud allegations are widespread, analysts warn. The two contenders came a close first and second, far ahead of their competitors, in the preliminary vote in November. Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were both banned from running in the 2013 vote as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960. In the first round, Rajoelina won 39 percent compared with 35 percent for Ravalomanana. Both camps alleged they were victims of fraud and cheating.Full Article: Madagascar votes in showdown between two ex-presidents.
Georgia: The black-and-white cyber security debate behind that November surprise | The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Like any subset of society, the world of technology has its own culture, its own precepts of what separates good behavior from bad. Some people find certain aspects of that culture baffling – specifically, the topic of cyber security. And many of those people can be found in and around the state Capitol. Over the weekend, our AJC colleague Alan Judd posted a catch-up piece on one of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s last actions in that office – his Nov. 3 decision to announce that he had placed the Democratic Party of Georgia under investigation for an alleged attempt to hack the state’s voter registration database. Never mind that Kemp was the GOP nominee for governor, and Election Day was 72 hours away.Full Article: The Jolt: The black-and-white cyber security debate behind that November....
The Senate voted 33-12 Tuesday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of legislation to implement the state’s new requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. The House is expected to complete the override process on Wednesday, and if that does indeed happen, voters would have to start showing IDs during municipal elections next fall. Cooper issued his veto last Friday, calling the bill “a solution in search of a problem.” He said the whole voter ID effort had “sinister and cynical origins,” citing a 2013 state voter ID law that federal courts later threw out after determining it was targeted at suppressing minority voting. “The cost of disenfranchising those voters or any citizens is too high, and the risk of taking away the fundamental right to vote is too great, for this law to take effect,” Cooper said in his veto message.Full Article: Voter ID rules one override vote away from taking effect :: WRAL.com.
National: Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media | The New York Times
The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of activity on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its posts on Facebook, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee. The report adds new details to the portrait that has emerged over the last two years of the energy and imagination of the Russian effort to sway American opinion and divide the country, which the authors said continues to this day. “Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” says the report, produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Tex., along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. One continuing Russian campaign, for instance, seeks to influence opinion on Syria by promoting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a Russian ally in the brutal conflict there.Full Article: Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media - The New York Times.