Congo: Joseph Kabila ruled out as DRC election candidate | The Guardian

Joseph Kabila will not be a candidate in December elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to government officials. Many had predicted that the 47-year-old president, in power since 2001, would run for a third term, despite being barred from doing so by the constitution. Kabila’s candidacy was opposed by the US and EU, as well as significant regional actors. Hours before the legal deadline for deposing candidatures for the polls expired, a government spokesman said that the little-known Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister, would be the ruling coalition’s candidate.

Mali: Suspicion of electoral fraud highlights divisions in Mali | MEO

The first round of voting in Mali’s presidential election gave outgoing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita a conclusive lead over his rival — but unresolved anger and finger-pointing over the results have highlighted some of the country’s divisions. Eighteen of the 24 candidates in the election joined forces Monday to demand the resignation of the minister of territorial administration and decentralisation, Mohamed Ag Erlaf. They accused him of being to blame for an “electoral robbery” and urged people in the capital Bamako to rally on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe: Opposition confirms court challenge to election results | AFP

Zimbabwe’s MDC opposition party on Wednesday confirmed it would launch a legal challenge to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s narrow election victory, which it says was due to fraud. “Those results represent a total negation of the will of the people,” MDC lawyer Thabani Mpofu told reporters. “The election results made by ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) will be challenged.” Mpofu declined to give the date when the legal case will be lodged, which is set to delay Mnangagwa’s inauguration.

National: “A Horrifically Bad Idea”: Smartphone Voting Is Coming, Just in Time for the Midterms | Vanity Fair

Almost a year ago, the Department of Homeland Security alerted roughly half of all U.S. states that their election systems had been the targets of hackers linked to Russia. Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, later confirmed the attacks. “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated,” she told NBC News in February. Even worse, experts have warned that Russia’s attempts at meddling did not end in 2016. “They’re still very active—in making preparations, at least—to influence public opinion again,” Feike Hacquebord, a security researcher at Trend Micro, told the Associated Press in January. The Trump administration, meanwhile, is doing painfully little to prevent future attacks. The president’s repeated denials of Russian meddling is another form of malign neglect. With less than three months to go until Americans return to the polls en masse, the United States remains deeply vulnerable to any hackers who might like to cast a vote of their own.  Enter Voatz. With a name reminiscent of a plot device in Idiocracy, Voatz is a mobile election-voting-software start-up that wants to let you vote from your phone. In the upcoming midterm elections, West Virginians serving overseas will be the first in the U.S. to be able to vote via a smartphone app using Voatz technology, CNN reported Monday. The Boston-based company raised $2.2 million earlier this year, helped along by buzzwords such as “biometrics” and “blockchain,” which it claims allows it to secure the voting process. Its app reportedly requires voters to take and upload a picture of their government-issued I.D., along with a selfie-style video of their face, which facial-recognition technology then uses to ensure the person pictured in the I.D. and the person entering a vote are the same. The ballots are anonymized and recorded on the blockchain.

National: States have a lot of work to do on cybersecurity, and they shouldn’t wait for kids to find the problems | Washington Examiner

Today in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Washington, and Missouri, voters head to the polls to vote in primaries. But how safe are state websites with voter information? If you ask the organizers of the kids’ program at DEFCON, the answer is, so unsafe that a kid could probably figure out how to hack it. DEFCON, a top tier cybersecurity conference, has a program for kids called “r00tz,” and this year, part of the agenda is to have them hack replicas of state elections websites. The goal of the event is to both teach the participants basics of hacking, but also scare states into taking action to safeguard web security.

National: Hackers Already Attacking Midterm Elections, Raising U.S. Alarms | Bloomberg

The U.S. midterm elections are at increasing risk of interference by foreign adversaries led by Russia, and cybersecurity experts warn the Trump administration isn’t adequately defending against the meddling. At stake is control of the U.S. Congress. The risks range from social media campaigns intended to fool American voters to sophisticated computer hacking that could change the tabulation of votes. At least three congressional candidates have already been hit with phishing attacks that strongly resemble Russian sabotage in the 2016 campaign. Among them was Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat in one of the year’s most hotly contested races.

Editorials: Congress must not ignore the ‘flashing red light’ on election security | Steny Hoyer/The Hill

In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, technology experts testified that Russia and other foreign actors are continuing efforts to influence our elections. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have already identified cyber threats against states’ election systems and made clear that this year’s midterm elections remain a target for disruption. If we do nothing, the very fabric of our democracy will be put at grave risk. The Republican-led Congress, however, continues to ignore this threat, even as Trump administration officials acknowledge that election security is a major concern. When House Republican leaders brought an appropriations bill to the Floor in July, they did so without providing funds to assist states in making their voting technology secure, accurate, and verifiable. House Republicans unanimously rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to provide those resources, and Senate Republicans rejected a similar amendment last week.

Voting Blogs: Lawsuit Seeks Public Info About Controversial Voting Purge Letter | Brennan Center for Justice

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is suing the Justice Department today for refusing to turn over documents related to a controversial letter DOJ sent last year, which sought detailed information about how states maintain their voter rolls. Voting rights groups are concerned that it could be a prelude to pressuring states to engage in aggressive voter purges — the often-flawed process of deleting names from voter registration lists. “The public has a right to know why the Justice Department sent this letter, and what information it received from states in response,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The Justice Department should be fighting to protect the voting rights of all Americans. We are concerned, though, that this letter may be part of a broader effort to undermine those rights, and we are going to court to find out.”

California: Marin County officials detail glitches behind election-night web foulup | Marin Independent Journal

Old code, software problems and server configuration combined with heavy traffic caused the blooper that made it impossible for the public to view results on election night June 5, county officials said this week. “We determined that it was a combination of three things,” said Liza Lowery Massey, director of Marin County’s Department of Information Services and Technology. The Registrar of Voters’ website, which had been redesigned to feature more graphs and other visual elements to make the data more accessible to the general public, remained inaccessible most of the night.

Georgia: Lawsuit details multiple flaws in Georgia election system | McClatchy

Habersham County’s Mud Creek precinct in northeastern Georgia had 276 registered voters ahead of the state’s primary elections in May. But 670 ballots were cast, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office, indicating a 243 percent turnout. The discrepancy, included in a number of sworn statements and exhibits filed as part of a federal lawsuit against the state by election security activists, comes amid swelling public concern for the security of Georgia’s voting systems. Georgia is one of four states that uses voting machines statewide that produce no paper record for voters to verify, making them difficult to audit, experts say. And cybersecurity experts have warned that there were security flaws on the state election website leading up to the 2016 contest that permitted the download and manipulation of voter information.

Illinois: GOP chair praises ‘nonpartisan’ effort to eliminate Bloomington Election Commission | WJBC

The chairman of the McLean County Republican Party said it was satisfying to work on a nonpartisan issue even though leaders from the local Democratic Party were not involved. Republicans and Libertarians filed a petition Monday for a judge to decide whether to place on the November ballot a binding referendum to get rid of the Bloomington Election Commission. The county clerk would run all county elections. County GOP Chair Connie Beard said the two parties gathered almost 1,300 signatures, which exceeds the required 1,000 signatures. County Democratic leaders believe the referendum is a political move, but Beard said Democratic voters were among those who signed the petition.

North Carolina: Russian election threat grows, but GOP wants more scrutiny of North Carolina voters | News & Observer

The motive behind requiring a photo ID to vote has always been thinly veiled. The real intention isn’t to protect the integrity of an election. It’s to discourage voting by people from groups that tend to vote Democratic — African-Americans, Hispanic immigrants and college students, in particular. Now the investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections has laid that hypocrisy bare. The U.S. intelligence community agrees that the threat of Russia’s interference is real. Studies show the threat of people impersonating other voters isn’t. Yet North Carolina’s lawmakers are pushing to stop the latter and saying little about the former.

Ohio: In New Wave of Voting Machine Purchases, Ohio Moves Toward Paper Ballots | Dayton Daily News

County election boards across Ohio are preparing to buy a new generation of voting machines, and although it’s unclear what systems will be chosen, it’s becoming more likely that tens of thousands of voters in southwest Ohio will fill out paper ballots rather than voting on touchscreens as soon as the May election. “It could be a departure for the polling locations,” said Jan Kelly, Montgomery County Board of Elections director. “They really aren’t like what we have now.” Voters in Montgomery County along with those in Butler, Darke, Greene and Miami counties and 36 others, currently use DRE machines, or direct-recording electronic voting machines that have touchscreens. But as election officials work now to get new systems online and proven before the 2020 presidential election, no DRE machine has been certified for use in Ohio, according to officials. 

South Carolina: Aging voting system threatens election security in South Carolina | WYFF

Election security experts see cracks in South Carolina’s current voting system. Elizabeth Howard works as Cybersecurity and Elections Counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice in Washington, D.C. Howard said an aging election system could impact every vote in South Carolina. “Election security is an issue that faces every eligible voter in the state of South Carolina and across the country,” Howard told WYFF News 4. “There is widespread agreement, bipartisan agreement, that the current situation is very concerning.”

Texas: Travis County approves purchase of $8M paper-trail voting system | Austin American-Statesman

It might not be the first-of-its-kind, open-source software voting system that Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has sought for more than a decade, but the county will have a voting system with a paper trail by the November 2019 election. Travis County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of an about $8.2 million electronic voting system with paper backup from Election Systems & Software. About $1.5 million in costs for other election day equipment will need to be approved in coming weeks, bringing the total cost to about $9.7 million. The county will be among the first in the nation to commit to rigorous statistical auditing using that backup.

Texas: Counties Are Struggling to Find Money to Replace Antiquated Voting Machines | Texas Observer

In the lobby of a North Austin hotel, Almina Cook is eating an ice cream sandwich as she and two of her deputies listen to a salesman pitch them on a soon-to-hit-the-market voting machine. Along with hundreds of other election administrators from across Texas, Cook, the top election official in Hunt County, has come to this biannual conference to get briefed by state and federal officials and shop for machines and software. Vendors get to entice election officials with private demos, dinners and other freebies. This year is particularly important for Cook; she needs to replace the county’s 13-year-old machines, which have exceeded their recommended life cycle and require constant repair. But early in the salesman’s spiel, Cook makes one thing clear: She’s just window shopping for now.`

West Virginia: Experts criticize West Virginia’s plan for smartphone voting | Ars Technica

The state of West Virginia is planning to allow overseas voting via smartphone in the 2018 election, and election security experts aren’t happy about it. “Mobile voting is a horrific idea,” said Joe Hall, an election security expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology in an interview with CNN. The West Virginia project is being run by Voatz, a startup with $2 million in venture capital funding. To ensure buzzword-compliance, the Voatz system uses a blockchain in addition to a mobile app. The state did a limited trial run of the technology in West Virginia’s primary election back in May. Military voters from two West Virginia counties were offered the option to vote via their smartphone instead of sending in an absentee ballot via mail, fax, or email. West Virginia’s secretary of state told CNN that the pilot worked well and that the system passed four audits of various parts of the system. So this November, the state is planning to offer the system more broadly to West Virginians deployed overseas.

Australia: Election rejection: Tasmanian activists launch inquiry into 2018 result | The Guardian

A March election would usually be a distant memory by August. But not so in Tasmania, where anger over the 2018 campaign remains white-hot. A group of community activists will tap into that sentiment on Wednesday, launching a novel concept in a state with the weakest political donations laws in the country – fed up over a lack of political transparency, the group will hold its own inquiry into the 2018 state election.

Iraq: UN hails Iraq’s ‘credible’ vote recount | MEO

The United Nations on Monday hailed Iraq’s “credible” vote recount, which paves the way for a government to be formed nearly three months after polls. Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary elections were marred by allegations of fraud, prompting the country’s supreme court to order a partial manual recount. As an official announced the checks had concluded, the UN said it had observed the recount and found it to be “conducted in a manner that is credible, professional and transparent”. “We are very pleased that it’s been concluded and we look forward to the next steps in this process towards the formation of the new government,” said a statement by Alice Walpole, a UN envoy to Iraq.

Mali: Tensions and rigging allegations as Mali awaits election second-round | African Arguments

Malians look set to vote again on 12 August to choose their president from the two remaining candidates. The run-off will see President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (known as IBK) go up against Soumaila Cisse for the second time in five years. In the first round of Mali’s presidential election on 29 July, IBK officially won 41.4% of the vote. Cisse came a distant second with 17.8%. However, the poll was marred by widespread allegations of corruption, rigging and vote-buying. Activists and party members allege various incidents of fraud and ballot-box stuffing. Cisse’s campaign director, for example, claimed there is a “village of 150 inhabitants where 3,000 people voted”. Citizen observers in Kayes region say voters were seen standing in line to receive fertiliser after casting their votes, while some in Bamako were reportedly offered tens of dollars to vote a certain way. In the north, where there is little security, rumours abound that the ruling party conspired with militant groups to rig the vote.

Mali: Opposition protests, EU calls for transparency ahead of poll | AFP

After the first round of Mali’s presidential election was marred by violence and accusations of fraud, EU observers on Tuesday called for more transparency and access during Sunday’s run-off. It came as a thousand people gathered in the capital of Bamako to condemn alleged fraud in the July 29 poll. “With the second round approaching, it would be desirable for authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee all voters can exercise their right to vote,” said Cecile Kyenge, who heads the EU observer mission in Mali. Kyenge welcomed the publication of a detailed list of 871 polling stations where voting could not be held in the first round, due to outbreaks of violence.

Zimbabwe: Court bails opposition members accused of post-election violence | Reuters

A Zimbabwe court Tuesday freed on bail 27 opposition supporters arrested by police last week on accusations of fomenting post-election violence. Magistrate Francis Vhitorini granted $50 bail to each of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members. “The court has indicated that it did not consider any of them to be a flight risk. The judgment was so brilliant that we are still trying to process it,” MDC lawyer Denford Halimani said. Violence erupted last week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF party won a national election. The MDC disputes the outcome and says the vote was rigged.

West Virginia: State to introduce mobile phone voting for midterm elections | CNN

West Virginians serving overseas will be the first in the country to cast federal election ballots using a smartphone app, a move designed to make voting in November’s election easier for troops living abroad. But election integrity and computer security experts expressed alarm at the prospect of voting by phone, and one went so far as to call it “a horrific idea.”
The state’s decision to pioneer mobile voting comes even as the United States grapples with Russian interference in its elections. A recent federal indictment outlined Russia’s attempts to hack US voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential race, and US intelligence agencies have warned of Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm election. Still, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Voatz, the Boston company that developed the app, insist it is secure. Anyone using it must first register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification and a selfie-style video of their face, then upload them via the app. Voatz says its facial recognition software will ensure the photo and video show the same person. Once approved, voters can cast their ballot using the Voatz app. Not everyone shares his enthusiasm.

National: Cyberattacks Haven’t Stopped but Neither Have Bills to Fight Them | Nextgov

When they took the podium at Thursday’s White House press briefing, national security and intelligence chiefs had one resounding message for the American people: The country is still under attack. “Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.” Wray was joined by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, National Security Agency chief Gen. Paul Nakasone and National Security Adviser John Bolton, all of whom reiterated their commitment to defending against foreign influence campaigns. The briefing came the day after internet researchers urged the government to take more targeted actions against online misinformation campaigns at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

National: Amid cybersecurity fears, tech firms are offering to help secure the U.S. elections for free or at a discount | Fast Company

American democracy is under attack, with foreign spies and trolls throwing wrenches into the workings of U.S. elections—be it attempts to hack candidate websites, scramble voter rolls, or spread fake news on social media platforms. While Washington bickers about whether it’s spending enough on security upgrades ($380 million has been allocated, with Democrats repeatedly asking for more), the overtaxed cities and counties that actually run the polls are scrambling to catch up. Although Silicon Valley has come under fire for its role in recent elections around the world, enabling the social media vandalism of 2016, for instance, several tech firms are now stepping up to boost election security with free or discounted services. “We saw that tech was being used to undermine elections. And the question was, could we be a tech company that was helping to provide our services to help support those elections?” says Matthew Prince, CEO of the content-delivery network and security service Cloudflare.

National: The 2020 census could be a prime target for hackers | The Washington Post

The Census Bureau is trying to quell concerns that it’s not prepared to protect Americans’ data from cyber intrusions when it conducts the first fully digital census in 2020. Kevin Smith, the Census Bureau’s chief information officer, used a little-publicized quarterly meeting Friday to explain how the agency is working with the Department of Homeland Security and using tools such as encryption to safeguard the troves of information it will gather in the next population count. “I want to stress that protection of the data we collect is census’s highest priority,” he said. Smith outlined some fairly basic steps, which are unlikely to satisfy a growing group of critics who say the bureau has for months avoided answering questions about its cybersecurity preparations. These critics, including members of the House Oversight Committee and former senior national security officials, argue the bureau, which is part the Commerce Department, has fallen behind on important equipment tests and left the public in the dark about whether it had implemented even minimal cybersecurity practices. They want more transparency at a time when Russian election hacks and other data breaches are increasingly putting Americans’ personal information at risk.

National: Judge Shuts Down Multimillion-Dollar Loophole In Election Law | NPR

A widely used loophole for funneling secret “dark money” into political ads closed quietly last weekend, as a federal judge concluded it thwarted Congress’ intent to have broad disclosure of political money. Chief Judge Beryl Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, threw out a regulation adopted by the Federal Election Commission in 1980. The rule said that “non-political” groups, such as 501(c) nonprofit organizations, could ignore a disclosure law if donors’ contributions were earmarked for specific advertisements — an exception that wasn’t in the law passed by Congress. Howell’s decision was issued Friday evening.

National: Kris Kobach used flawed research to defend Trump’s voter fraud panel, experts say | The Washington Post

After Matthew Dunlap, one of the members of President Trump’s disbanded voting fraud panel, released documents from the commission showing that it had failed to turn up any evidence of widespread voter fraud last week, the panel’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, made his case for the commission’s existence. One of the foremost proponents of stricter voter identification laws, Kobach, who is running in the primary Tuesday for the Republican nomination for the state’s governorship, has been undeterred since a federal judge struck down a restrictive voting law he had advocated for in the state. And in a statement sent to The Washington Post, Kobach accused Dunlap of being “willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” pointing to studies from two conservative groups about the supposed voter fraud that he has been so vocal about: a database from the Heritage Foundation that found 983 convictions in state, local and federal elections dating back decades, and a study from the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit founded by Stephen K. Bannon and another Breitbart editor, that purported to find 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election.

National: Homeless Americans Can Vote, But It Isn’t Easy | HowStuffWorks

If voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, then why does it have to be such a pain? Election Day in the U.S. is always a Tuesday, smack in the middle of the work week. If you move to a new state or county, you need to re-register. State voter ID requirements change all the time, so you could show up to a polling station, wait in line and still get blocked from voting. Now imagine that you’re homeless in America. You move so frequently that it’s nearly impossible to maintain a stable mailing address. You’ve never had a driver’s license and your Social Security card was lost years ago. You can’t afford transportation to the county elections office or your local polling place. And frankly, you have a lot more pressing problems than registering to vote. So, while homeless people have every right to vote in U.S. elections (and may want to if only to influence policy on housing and poverty), the obstacles to successfully registering and voting while homeless can be insurmountable.

Editorials: Why Russian Money Ends Up in U.S. Elections | Bob Bauer/The New York Times

The 2018 campaign may set a record for midterm spending, predicted to hit the $4 billion mark. The ways in which this staggering sum of money will have been collected and spent, and either disclosed or not disclosed, are evidence yet again that our campaign finance system — if it can even be called a “system” — is in tatters. Super PACs, which can take money from virtually any source in any amount and spend just as freely, stand out as the most glaring example of the collapse of the post-Watergate-era model of regulation. Contribution limits, restrictions on corporate spending, disclosure requirements and muscular independent enforcement: These pillars of the systemic reforms of the 1970s are all crumbling. How bad is it? In 2016, it turns out, one of the larger political organizations active in the presidential election, employing hundreds and spending millions, was organized and run by a foreign government. This intervention from abroad did not end there: The director of national intelligence has warned Congress that Russia “perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”