“Does new voting technology enable voting fraud, or does it prevent voting fraud?” rhetorically asked Blaze. “Yes.” He explained that the American election process has computers and software at every stage of the process, including voter registration and verification, the designing and distribution of ballots, the actual voting itself, and the tallying of votes and the communication of results. Machines at almost every step have been shown to be vulnerable to hacking, yet we can’t just go back to dropping envelopes in ballot boxes. “U.S. elections are the most complex in the world,” Blaze said. “You’re gonna need computers somewhere.” Fortunately, he said, policymakers and the general public are now aware of how vulnerable electronic voting systems are to tampering, and many states have taken at least initial steps to make them more secure. “Voting security is by far the hardest problem I have ever encountered,” said Blaze, who was recently a professor of computer and information services at the University of Pennsylvania but now holds the McDevitt Chair of Computer Science and Law at Georgetown University.
Russia’s efforts to expand its influence and China’s modernizing military are among the “ever more diverse” threats facing the U.S., according to a major intelligence report released Tuesday. The National Intelligence Strategy report, issued every four years, also singles out such potential threats as North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the growing cyber capabilities of U.S. adversaries and global political instability. The report, which sets out the priorities for the various agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, notes that the United States “faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected.” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a letter accompanying the report that the U.S. agencies must adapt to respond to what he calls a “turbulent and complex” environment.
The 2020 presidential contest has already begun, with several Democratic candidates declaring their intention to challenge Donald Trump for the Oval Office and more on the way. Unlike in 2016, we now know what kinds of chaos America’s adversaries are capable of sowing, especially during campaign season. That means it’s time to contend with the threat of foreign intervention in our elections and in our democracy more broadly—before it’s too late. Many Americans have decried Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and continuing interference since as unlawful and unacceptable. The two of us have participated in efforts to develop strategies to counter this threat, especially as others, such as China, begin to learn from it. In doing so, we have frequently faced a question from skeptics: how these Russian operations, in America and globally, differ from what the United States has done when it has involved itself in foreign elections and democracy promotion abroad. It’s a fair question, but as former senior national security policymakers we’re convinced they are different in key ways. And we’ll explain what those are, in service of a larger objective: to articulate the norms to which all civilized nations should subscribe when it comes to respecting free and fair democratic processes in other countries.
Florida: Legislature starts work on Amendment 4 with confusion over ‘murder’ exception | Tampa Bay Times
A key Senate panel on Tuesday began grappling with how to carry out a constitutional amendment that “automatically” restores the right to vote to felons who’ve completed their sentences. At the outset of the meeting, Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Keith Perry vowed not to have “any kind of hindrance or roadblocks” in implementing Amendment 4, approved by nearly 65 percent of voters in November. At the top of the to-do list for the committee: figure out the definition of “murder.” The amendment granted “automatic” restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” The amendment excluded people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.” But a 90-minute Criminal Justice Committee panel discussion Tuesday revealed confusion about the “murder” exception.
Confusion reigned while lawmakers discussed the implementation of Amendment 4, the restoration of voting rights for certain felons who have completed their sentence. The tone and direction of the exchange in a Senate committee room Tuesday was just what proponents feared if lawmakers got their hands on the voter-approved initiative. Some Supervisor of Elections Offices began to register eligible felons on Jan. 8 although Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged them to wait until the Legislature clarifies implementation of the initiative during the upcoming session.
The 2020 presidential race could come down to Florida. But unless drastic changes are made, election advocates believe the next presidential vote count in the Sunshine State will be yet another mess. They say that Florida in 2018 once again served as an example of how not to run an election. Their concerns involve voting machines vulnerabilities and partisan election officials who lack necessary qualifications. And those officials repeatedly demonstrate that winning seems to be more important to them than democracy. It doesn’t have to be that way, critics say. Florida has laws on the books that would allow it to run clean and transparent elections. They just aren’t being applied. Election management continues to be a problem and it is lacking uniformity in procedures and practices. The destruction of ballot images during primary and general elections in 2018 and in previous elections in the state is a major issue for concerned Florida voters, who have filed a lawsuit against the state to ensure all Florida voting officials follow the law.
The Illinois State Board of Elections voted 8-0 on Tuesday to remove Illinois from Crosscheck, a controversial multi-state anti-voter fraud program. The program was started by Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska in 2005, with the goal of cross-referencing voter rolls to identify duplicate voter registrations. The program was spearheaded by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also served on President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission was later disbanded without issuing a report on voter fraud. Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the main reason Illinois is withdrawing from the Kansas-administered Crosscheck is to create a new data sharing agreement with Indiana.
Iowa House Republicans are ending their review of a contested Statehouse race separated by nine votes, arguing that a set of rejected ballots at the heart of the challenge shouldn’t be opened or counted. The announcement Wednesday by a key Republican lawmaker greatly diminishes Democrat Kayla Koether’s chances of getting the Iowa Legislature to accept 29 rejected mail-in ballots in the House District 55 race. Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, was declared the winner in the race and took his seat this year. Rep. Steven Holt, a Denison Republican overseeing a five-member, GOP-led special election committee, said Republicans believe election law doesn’t allow the ballots to be reviewed. “We lack the legal authority to open these ballots,” Holt said.
Iowa: Reynolds’ proposal to restore felon voting rights requires probation, parole | Des Moines Register
Felons in Iowa would be allowed to register to vote after completing their prison sentences, probation and parole under a proposed constitutional amendment Gov. Kim Reynolds released Tuesday. Reynolds proposed restoring felon voting rights in her Condition of the State address last week. Iowa is one of two states that permanently bar felons from voting unless they successfully petition the governor or president to restore their rights. To be enacted, the proposal would need to pass the Legislature twice and then be approved by voters. “I do think Iowans are at a place that they believe that this is the right direction to go, but ultimately, they’ll be the ones to have a say in that,” Reynolds said.
During his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy voiced support for allowing convicted felons to have the right to vote after they’ve been released from prison and are on probation or parole. New Jersey law requires felons to complete their sentence and no longer be on parole or probation in order to be able to register to cast a ballot. Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, supports the governor’s position. “I don’t think anybody should ever lose the right to vote in this state. If somebody is eligible to vote, they should always be eligible,” Sinha said.
New Hampshire: Constitutional Amendment Would Create An Independent Redistricting Panel in New Hampshire | NHPR
Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday on a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw boundaries for state elections. Current law leaves the responsibility of redistricting to the New Hampshire Legislature. Supporters of this measure say that allows for gerrymandering, or the ability of the majority party to draw boundary lines in its favor. Democratic State Rep. Ellen Read, a supporter of the measure, said she’s mentioned limiting gerrymandering to members of her party in the past.
North Carolina: Judge rules against Mark Harris in North Carolina 9th election fraud case | News & Observer
The state’s investigation into alleged election fraud by the Mark Harris campaign will continue, a judge ruled Tuesday morning. Harris is the Republican candidate who appeared to narrowly win an election for North Carolina’s 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 elections. But the state has not certified his victory, due to an ongoing investigation into alleged fraud related to mail-in absentee ballots. Harris and his legal team had asked Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to order the state to certify the results of the election despite the investigation, which could then send Harris to Congress. Following two hours of arguments from Harris’ lawyers Tuesday morning, as well as lawyers for the state and Harris’ 2018 Democratic opponent Dan McCready, Ridgeway said he would deny Harris’ request. “This is an extremely unusual situation, with no board in place, and asking this court to step in and exert extraordinary power in declaring the winner of an election, when that is clearly the purview of another branch of government,” he said during the hearing.
Editorials: Philadelphia’s high-stakes voting machine decision deserves more scrutiny | Philadelphia Inquirer
By this November, Philadelphia’s big electronic voting machines will be just a memory, if Governor Wolf and the Department of State have their way. They have given the City Commissioners a directive to put a paper ballot voting system in place, preferably in time for use in 2019. That’s very good news. Because the old machines don’t record votes on paper, voters can’t tell if their votes were cast correctly, and the results can’t be recounted or checked for errors. But citizens’ groups such as Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, Citizens for Better Elections, and the League of Women Voters have become justifiably concerned that the process to choose a new system is taking place with too little public involvement or oversight. The city set a deadline of February 13 — less than a month from now — to choose a voting system from one of several vendors. Although this is a consequential and costly decision, the Commissioners invited the public to only two hearings, announced with little fanfare and only three days’ notice. What we learned at those hearings was not encouraging.
The Virginia House of Delegates voted Tuesday to require all public schools to treat Election Day as a school holiday. The bill, pitched as a school safety measure that would prevent interactions between voters and children, was approved on a 97-1 vote. “It’s impossible for the schools to properly screen each individual entering the building without slowing down the voting lines,” said Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, patron of House Bill 1752. “This creates a security concern because it potentially allows strangers unwarranted access to the school building.” Most school systems already have special schedules on Election Day that keep children at home, including the four largest school systems in the Richmond area. Under the proposed law, local school leaders would no longer have the option of keeping school buildings open to students. Only a handful of counties have chosen to continue holding classes on Election Day, but around 30 school divisions don’t have a set policy on the matter, according to Krizek.
Virginia: Federal judges choose redistricting map favorable to Democrats; six GOP House districts would get bluer | The Washington Post
Federal judges have selected a Virginia House of Delegates redistricting map that appears to heavily favor Democrats, redrawing the lines of 26 districts and moving several powerful Republicans into unfavorable configurations. Six Republicans would wind up in districts where a majority of voters chose Democratic President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of the maps by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. No current Democrats would see their voter majority change to Republican, based on those election results. Virginia does not register voters by party. If the court’s map selection stands, it would create a favorable environment for Democrats seeking to take control of the House of Delegates in elections this fall, according to the analysis. All 100 seats in the House are on the ballot, and Republicans hold a 51-to-48 majority.
An all-Republican Wyoming legislative committee defeated a GOP-backed bill Tuesday that would have prevented voters from changing party affiliation in the months before a primary, but the panel advanced a Democrat’s proposal to institute ranked-choice voting.
The party-affiliation bill sought to discourage people from switching parties in order to vote in another party’s primary. Republicans in Wyoming increasingly complain that Democratic crossover unfairly influences Wyoming’s GOP primaries. All five members of the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee — all of whom are Republicans — opposed or had reservations about the change, however. “I can’t find hardly anybody in my district who sees this as an issue. In fact, quite the opposite,” said Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, the committee chairman.
Congo: The African Union called on Congo to suspend its election’s results. That’s unprecedented. | The Washington Post
After a contentious race, on Jan. 10, Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission pronounced Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the country’s Dec. 30 presidential elections. But polling data and parallel vote tabulations suggest it was“highly implausible” that Tshisekedi actually won, and the true winner was Martin Fayulu, who appealed the result. In an unprecedented response, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), headed by Zambian President Edgar Lungu, called for a recount last week and proposed that the DRC consider forming a national unity government. SADC is known for not publicly intervening in member state electoral affairs.
An Indian cyber expert, seeking political asylum in the US, on Monday claimed that the 2014 general election was “rigged” through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which, he says, can be hacked. Addressing a press conference in London via Skype, the man, identified as Syed Suja, said he fled India in 2014 because he felt threatened in the country after the killing of some of his team members. He claimed the telecom giant Reliance Jio helped the BJP to get low frequency signals to hack the EVMs. Shuja said the BJP would have won Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh elections if his team hadn’t intercepted the BJP attempts to hack the transmissions in these states.
Congolese voters hungry for peace are ready to welcome President-elect Felix Tshisekedi to power, even if alleged election rigging may have led to his victory. “I am very happy with his designation as our democratically elected President-elect Felix Tshisekedi,” Hervé, a 30-year-old unemployed resident of Kinshasa, the capital, told VOA. “Since I was born, I have never witnessed a peaceful handover of power,” he added. Tonton Kasongo, 30, a hairdresser, echoed the desire for peace. “The way I see it, as a son of this land, I want peace for this country,” he told VOA. “Since we didn’t have any gunshots, we are happy, because the one who is elected is the one we are going to call ‘Dad.’ I voted Fayulu because he, too, is a son of this land. Since he did not win, he needs to be patient and wait for the next time around.”
India: Electronic Voting Machine and its history with India: Controversy over EVMs malfunctioning, rigging allegations are not new | Firstpost
Controversy is brewing over an Indian cyber expert’s claim that EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) were hacked in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections which the BJP had won by a landslide margin. Reacting strongly to the allegations, the Election Commission rejected the claims and insisted that the EVMs were foolproof and that it was ‘wary of becoming a party to this motivated slugfest’. Addressing a press conference in London via Skype, the individual, identified as Syed Shuja, said he fled India in 2014 because he felt threatened in the country after the killing of some of his team members. Although he appeared on screen through Skype, his face was masked. Shuja claimed that he is seeking political asylum in the US. Shuja, however, provided no proof to back up his claim. Shuja also alleged that other than the BJP, the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, AAP and Congress too were involved in the rigging of the EVMs. EVMs can record a maximum of 3,840 votes and can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There are 543 Lok Sabha constituencies and an equivalent number of seats in the Lower House of Parliament. To win a simple majority more than 272 seats are therefore needed. BJP won 51.9 percent of all seats in 2014 elections. In the 2014 election, 66.4 percent out of the total electorate of 834,101,479 voted.
Thailand will hold a general election on March 24 for the first time since a coup in May 2014. The date was set by the Election Commission in Bangkok on Wednesday, a few hours after a royal decree was issued authorizing the poll. Voting will take place under a military-backed charter, ending one of the longest periods of rule by a junta in Thailand’s modern history. The military government over the years repeatedly pushed back the election timeline, after seizing power following a period of unrest that included bloody street protests. The looming vote now puts the focus back on political risk in a country with a history of polls followed by demonstrations and coups.
Political parties in Turkey are crying foul after thousands of unlikely voters appeared on the electoral roll. Among the oddities are many first-time voters over 100 years old – and one aged 165. Opposition parties also said they had discovered more than 1,000 voters registered at a single apartment. The discovery comes ahead of local elections in March, in which President Erdogan’s AK Party may face its toughest political challenge in years. Turkey has faced economic stagnation in recent months, and the value of its currency is significantly lower than it was a year ago. That has led to speculation that the dominant AKP could lose several key cities, including the capital, Ankara. Opposition parties now say that voter lists are being manipulated.