National: Lawmakers look to fortify federal cyber defenses ahead of 2018 midterms | CyberScoop

A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. infrastructure ahead of midterm elections this fall. The bill from Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Val Demings, D-Fla., is an effort to shore up U.S. cyber defenses by, among other measures, urging agencies to fully implement an executive order on cybersecurity that President Donald Trump issued last year. The president’s directive makes agency heads accountable for cyber risk – such as nation-state hacking – that can affect the entire government. Within 60 days of the legislation’s enactment, Trump would owe a report to Congress on what steps agencies had taken to “better detect, monitor, and mitigate cyberattacks.” Stefanik and Demings’s “Defend Against Russian Disinformation Act,” would also boost U.S. military cooperation with NATO. Cybersecurity analysts have held up Estonia, a neighbor of Russia and NATO member, as a model of cyber resiliency.

National: Department of Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen did not read the official report on Russian interference | Quartz

As the new head of the US Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen took an oath last December to protect the US from all enemies, foreign and domestic. To do that, she runs a 200,000 employee agency tasked with fighting terrorism, handling immigration, and keeping elections secure. But her responsibilities apparently do not include staying up to date on key findings about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Nielsen told reporters today that she has never read the publicly available 25-page report on election meddling written by the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and distributed by the Director of National Intelligence last January. … “I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win,” Nielsen said today. “I’m not aware of that.”

Editorials: America’s elections are vulnerable to manipulation. And Trump is making it worse. | Brian Klaas and Nic Cheeseman/The Washington Post

In 166 days, Americans will go to the polls to elect the next Congress. It will be one of the most consequential votes in modern history. If Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, President Trump will feel vindicated and emboldened, while reluctant “Never Trump” Republicans will be tempted to hold their noses and embrace a winner. But if Democrats take back at least one congressional chamber, Republicans may begin to stand up to a president who promised endless “winning” — but lost instead. Regardless of which party you’re rooting for, all Americans should be able to agree on one thing: The vote must be clean and free of manipulation. In a democracy, citizens must never accept rigged elections. In our new book, “How to Rig an Election,” we showcase striking findings from our research: A large number of elections across the globe are heavily manipulated. Increasingly, elections are becoming contests that are designed so that only the incumbent can win. Across the world, the opposition wins elections only about 30 percent of the time – and the figures are much, much lower in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Elections without democracy has become the new normal. Nonetheless, don’t make the mistake of thinking that American elections, or those in Britain, are perfect. They aren’t.

Colorado: Voters will decide how the state draws political lines | Colorado Springs Independent

Colorado’s Democratic governor has thrown his weight behind two statewide ballot measures that, if passed by voters in November, would change how political lines are drawn for state legislative and congressional seats and give unaffiliated voters more of a voice in the process. “This is normally a full-contact sport,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said on May 16, a reference to Colorado’s partisan battles over redistricting in past decades that have left Republicans and Democrats embittered about how the legislative maps are created. The same might also have been said about initial proposals to change the way Colorado draws its political maps, which began with crossed swords and ended in a handshake.

Florida: Rick Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections | Sun Sentinel

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered his top elections official to take advantage of $19 million of federal money for cybersecurity in time for this year’s elections. Scott’s decree reverses the decision made by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who said Tuesday he wanted to move slowly and preserve the money for long-term election needs. The governor’s announcement comes after news media coverage of Detzner’s position, which the secretary of state outlined to reporters during the spring conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in Fort Lauderdale. “We’re going to follow the governor’s directive. I think it’s well pointed, and we’re going to move aggressively based on his direction to submit a budget to the EAC and to try to draw down those dollars as soon as possible,” Detzner said Wedneday in an interview after the governor’s announcement.

Florida: Yesterday money wasn’t there for election cybersecurity. Now it is. What changed? | Miami Herald

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday overruled his chief elections official and ordered him to seek $19.2 million in federal money to help counties defend their voting systems against possible cyberattacks in the 2018 election. Scott’s intervention came hours after the Herald/Times quoted the official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, as saying the federal money would not be available before November because accepting it requires approval by the Legislature — even though that step is a formality that could be done at a brief meeting. “The answer is no,” Detzner said earlier this week when asked if the aid money could be used to improve election systems this year. “We don’t have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval.” That was unwelcome news for county elections officials, who are desperate for money.

Maine: Republicans make their legal case against ranked-choice voting | Bangor Daily News

A federal judge said Wednesday that he will rule next week on the Maine Republican Party’s bid to have a voter-approved ranked-choice voting system thrown out for the party’s two June 12 primaries, including a crucial four-way gubernatorial race. It’s perhaps the last legal gauntlet that ranked-choice voting must run before the June 12 primary, where Maine will become the first state to use the method after voters approved it in 2016 and the state’s high court cleared the way for it to be used in an April decision. The state party sued Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in U.S. District Court in early May, after delegates at the state convention authorized a rule that called for gubernatorial and legislative candidates to be elected by a plurality as candidates have been elected in the past.

Michigan: Judge orders Michigan GOP to share internal docs in redistricting suit | The Detroit News

Michigan lawmakers must disclose communications with outside groups and some internal documents subpoenaed by attorneys in a case alleging Republicans “gerrymandered” political boundaries created in 2012, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. The order from Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood could offer a rare glimpse behind the curtain of the Michigan Legislature, which is not subject to public records requests under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Attorney Mark Brewer, former head of the Michigan Democratic Party, subpoenaed nearly 100 lawmakers, staff and legislative bodies in the case, which alleges the GOP created congressional and legislative maps that intentionally diminished the power of Democratic voters. 

Minnesota: Veto Leaves Election Security Money in Limbo | Associated Press

Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of a massive budget bill means Minnesota can’t tap $6 million in federal funds for election cybersecurity until after the November elections. The federal government allocated the money earlier, but the Secretary of State’s office can’t spend it without legislative authorization. That authorization was in the budget bill Dayton vetoed Wednesday.Secretary of State Steve Simon says he repeatedly asked lawmakers to put the language in a non-controversial, stand-alone bill that Dayton would sign. But he says lawmakers chose the “riskiest path” by putting it instead in a bill Dayton repeatedly promised to veto.

Mississippi: State slated to receive some election security money | Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi can expect to receive nearly $4.5 million from the federal government in the next few months to improve election security, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann applied for a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which has about $90 million available to divide among states for election security measures. Spokeswoman Leah Rupp Smith said Tuesday that Mississippi should receive its money before the general election this November.

New Jersey: Experts stress importance of paper backups for election security | NJTV

Lawmakers on the Assembly State and Local Government Committee heard once again just how good New Jersey’s election machine security is. “New Jersey was one of 12 states to receive a ‘D,’” said Danielle Root, a voting rights manager from the Center for American Progress. Root was one of several election experts to highlight a key deficiency: relying on touch screen election machines that leave no paper record of votes. “Although it’s good that New Jersey adheres to cybersecurity best practices related to voter registration systems, including training election officials and partnering with DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to perform vulnerability assessments on election infrastructure, the state, as the chairman mentioned earlier, continues to use paperless electronic voting machines,” said Root.

Ohio: Lawsuit seeks to toss out congressional map in time for 2020 election | Cleveland Plain Dealer

A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cincinnati seeks to toss out Ohio’s gerrymandered congressional district map on constitutional grounds and create more balanced districts in time for the 2020 election. If successful, the suit would move up the timetable by two years for congressional redistricting reform in Ohio. And it could jeopardize some of what otherwise would be safe incumbent seats during a presidential election year. Ohioans earlier this month voted overwhelmingly to establish rules aimed at eliminating political gerrymandering in time for the next scheduled map drawing, but those rules would not affect any election until 2022.

U.S. Territories: Supreme Court Appeal In Territorial Voting Rights Case Gets Boost | Virgin Islands Consortium

A petition to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking expanded voting rights in U.S. territories has received an important boost, according to a release issued by Equally American, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly 4 million Americans who live in U.S. territories. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands Bar Association, and leading voting rights scholars have each filed amicus briefs in support of Supreme Court review in Segovia v. United States. Last month, Luis Segovia, a proud veteran living in Guam, along with other former state residents living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, petitioned the Supreme Court to answer whether it is constitutional to deny absentee voting rights in these territories while allowing citizens living in other U.S. territories or even a foreign country to continue being able to vote for President and voting representation in Congress.

Wyoming: Lawmakers to consider trust fund to maintain aging voting systems | Wyoming Tribune Eagle

The Wyoming Legislature will look at a measure to create a trust fund to maintain its voting systems going forward. The 2016 election saw an unprecedented number of attempts to interfere with states’ voting systems, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Wyoming was not among the 21 states that reported attempted hacking, but election security experts warned regional lawmakers recently that the Cowboy State could be a target for nefarious actors looking to undermine confidence in the American democratic process. Outdated voting equipment in Wyoming was replaced after funding was allocated by the federal government via the 2002 Help America Vote Act. But more than a decade later, many election custodians say that voting equipment has reached the end of its useful life, said Kai Schon, state elections director for the Wyoming Secretary of State.

Barbados: Prime Minister faces tough election test | Reuters

Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will attempt to become the first leader of his center-left ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in decades to secure re-election when the Caribbean island goes to the polls on Thursday. In a battle expected to be closely contested, former minister Mia Mottley is bidding to stop him. She hopes to end 10 years on the sidelines for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), also a center-left party and the DLP’s main opposition. If elected, Mottley, 52, would become the country’s first female prime minister since independence from Britain in 1966.

Iraq: Was Iraq’s recent election a democratic success? Depends whom you ask. | The Washington Post

On May 12, Iraq held a remarkably successful and violence-free national election. A coalition of Shiite Islamists and communists led by Moqtada al-Sadr, running on a reform agenda, won the largest number of seats in the new parliament. Sitting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition placed third. While the results have generated considerable optimism, allegations of widespread electoral fraud have also emerged in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region and Kirkuk. There have been numerous calls to address and investigate these claims, including from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). In these areas, results favored two long-dominant parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). New parties and challengers widely expected to do well did not. These opposition parties claim to have faced systematic vote rigging. Combined with the low turnout, their disputes could cast doubts on the legitimacy of the election, with serious ramifications.

Ireland: Anti-abortion campaigners dodge Google’s ad ban | The Guardian

Anti-abortion campaigners have sidestepped Google’s ban on online adverts relating to the referendum in Ireland on Friday, so as to promote their message on popular websites. This May the tech company banned paid messages relating to the referendum from appearing on its services, which dominates many aspects of online advertising. But campaigners have turned to alternative online ad sales platforms to push adverts to Irish readers of news sites. These sites have included the Atlantic, Washington Post and the Guardian, and ads have also been aimed at readers of women’s lifestyle websites and players of mobile games. Some of these ultimately use elements of Google technology to serve the adverts, despite the company’s commitment to pulling out of the referendum.

South Korea: Lawmakers set to convene over constitutional revision | Yonhap

South Korea’s parliament is set to convene a plenary session Thursday to deal with a government-proposed constitutional revision, but opposition parties’ have threatened to boycott the session and scuttle the bill, which they claim lacks a consensus among lawmakers. … The proposal calls for changing the current five-year single-term presidency to a four-year presidency renewable once. Thursday is a deadline for parliament to vote on the bill. If the deadline is not met, it will be effectively nullified. The Constitution requires lawmakers to vote on a constitutional revision bill within 60 days of it put being on a public notice.

Venezuela: Election fiasco deepens President Maduro’s isolation | El País

The abysmal turnout at Venezuela’s presidential election on Sunday, with absenteeism at its highest rate in the country’s history (46%), has further weakened the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The main opposition force, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), called for a boycott of the vote for lacking proper guarantees, leaving Maduro to take an overwhelming victory – one that was only recognized as legitimate by the government. Maduro’s rivals Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci demanded a repeat election, although the former later conceded defeat. The results mean that Maduro will continue as president of Venezuela until 2025. According to officials, Maduro won with 6.2 million votes, outperforming his closest rival Falcón, who received 1.9 million votes. It was a victory in a campaign marked by indifference and an election day during which more than half the electorate (a total of nine million) decided not to vote, believing the opposition’s argument that the polls, announced at the beginning of the year, would be fixed in favor of the authorities.

National: U.S. officials warn Congress on election hacking threats | Reuters

Senior Trump administration officials warned Congress on Tuesday of ongoing efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2018 midterm congressional elections as the federal government prepares to hand out $380 million in election security funding to states. At a briefing attended by about 40 or 50 members of the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives, the heads of FBI, Homeland Security Department and the director of National Intelligence told members to urge states and cities overseeing elections to be prepared for threats. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters she agreed Russia was trying to influence the 2018 elections. “We see them continuing to conduct foreign influence campaigns,” Nielsen said, but added there is no evidence of Russia targeting specific races.

National: Homeland security chief: I haven’t seen intel that showed Russia favored Trump | The Guardian

Donald Trump’s homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, told reporters on Tuesday she was unaware of intelligence assessments that Russia favored Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. “I do not believe I’ve seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win,” she said. “I’m not aware of that.” Nielsen’s comments stand at odds with the US intelligence community, which concluded in 2017 that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Trump. Last week, the Senate intelligence committee said it agreed with that assessment. Nielsen was speaking to reporters after briefing House lawmakers on election security efforts.

National: Partisan Split Over Election Security Widens as 2018 Midterms Inch Closer | Roll Call

Democrats and Republicans struck drastically different tones about their confidence in federal agencies’ efforts to secure voting systems and stamp out foreign state-sponsored influence campaigns ahead of the 2018 midterms after a classified meeting on the subject for House members Tuesday. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, and FBI Director Christopher Wray were among the officials who briefed lawmakers and answered their questions about what their agencies are doing to combat potential Russian, Iranian, Chinese, and other nations’ attempts to undermine the midterms. Roughly 40 to 50 lawmakers showed up to the meeting, which House Speaker Paul D. Ryan organized for all House members. Democrats who attended left largely unsatisfied.

California: More Santa Clara County voters discovering by surprise they are not registered | The San Jose Mercury News

Since Santa Clara County elections officials last week admitted accidentally deleting a voter’s registration, several other residents have reported that they too were quietly dropped from the voter rolls without their knowledge. Santa Clara County elections officials could not say Tuesday what happened in those other cases, but they and officials in other counties urged voters who haven’t received a mail-in ballot or voter guide to not despair. Even though the deadline to register for the June 5 primary was Monday, elections officials said voters may still be able to vote provisionally if their registration was canceled by mistake. “Our office is here to assist voters so we ask those with questions to please contact us,” said Eric Kurhi, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Florida: State wont tap into $19 million of federal election money in time for 2018 elections | Sun Sentinel

Florida doesn’t plan to tap its $19.2 million allocation from the federal government to enhance election cybersecurity in time for this year’s primary election in August or general election in November. A total of $380 million was allocated for the states to improve election security and technology. The money was contained in the massive federal budget deal passed in March. Florida’s top election official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said Tuesday the state wouldn’t be spending the money for this year’s elections. “The answer is no,” he said during a break at the spring conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in Fort Lauderdale.

Florida: Early voting ban on campus challenged in court | Tampa Bay Times

A new lawsuit accuses Gov. Rick Scott’s administration of making it more difficult for young people to vote by preventing early voting at public buildings on state university campuses. The election-year complaint filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters seeks to strike down a four-year-old interpretation of Florida’s early voting laws by Scott’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Detzner’s office issued an opinion in 2014 that the Legislature’s expansion of early voting sites to include “government-owned community centers” does not include the student union building on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. The city of Gainesville asked if the Reitz Student Union building on the UF campus could serve as an early voting site in 2014. The state said no.

Georgia: Georgia is voting on insecure machines in today’s primary. This group is suing | The Washington Post

When Georgia voters head to the polls for the state’s primary today, they’ll cast their ballots on aging electronic voting machines that government officials and security experts agree are easy to hack. But if a long-shot federal lawsuit succeeds, they could vote in a much more secure way come November: On paper. As the intelligence community warns against a repeat of the kind of digital interference we saw in the 2016 elections, a nonpartisan advocacy organization and a group of Georgia voters are asking a judge to compel the state to abandon its electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots before the midterm elections. The electronic machines produce no paper vote record, making them virtually impossible to audit. The plaintiffs want the state instead to switch to a hand-marked paper ballot system, which experts widely regard as safer because the results can be easily verified.

Hawaii: Lava prompts election officials to mail absentee voting applications | Hawaii Tribune-Herald

The State Office of Elections and the Hawaii County Elections Division on Monday announced they will be mailing absentee voting applications to more than 6,000 voters assigned to Pahoa Community Center (precinct 04-03) and Pahoa High/Intermediate (precinct 04-04) due to the uncertain nature of the volcanic eruption in lower Puna. Voters can use the absentee application to request a mail ballot for the 2018 elections, or to update their address if they have relocated.

Kansas: Appeals Court Bats Down Kobach Request To Overturn Contempt Finding | TPM

An appeals court dismissed Tuesday a request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to overturn a federal judge’s finding that he was in contempt of court. The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its dismissal that Kobach had appealed the contempt finding prematurely. “Although the district court stated that it was imposing sanctions, specific sanctions have not yet been imposed,” the judges wrote. “Here, not only has the district court not issued findings of fact and conclusions of law or final judgment, the district court has not determined a discernable amount of sanctions.”

Minnesota: Dayton Has Yet To Sign Omnibus Bill That Includes Money for Election Cyber Security | KSTP

The massive omnibus spending bill Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested he may possibly veto includes federal money Minnesota could use for election cybersecurity. President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 in March. It authorized funding to states for elections under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. But in order for the money to come to Minnesota for cyber security, it must be approved by the legislature and governor. Minnesota’s share of the federal funds is $6,595,610, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Mississippi: Bennie Thompson and Delbert Hosemann spar on status of grant paperwork to U.S. EAC | Y’all Politics

On Monday, Congressman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann asking him to submit paperwork on behalf of the state so that grant funding from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission would be eligible to the state. … “Russian interference in the 2016 election was a watershed moment for our democracy,” Thompson wrote in the letter. “Russia’s efforts have affected public confidence in elections and its efforts have shown no signs of cooling. Mississippi currently uses a combination of paper ballots and direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).” … Just yesterday the Chairman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, sent a letter to the editor of POLITICO in response to a letter published on May 17, “So far, few states have sought federal money to secure elections.”