It could happen here. Three years after Russian disinformation campaigns disrupted the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possibly influenced the result of the Brexit vote, European officials are worried the European Parliament election in May is next. “In 2016 we stopped being naive,” said Liisa Past, a former chief research officer at the Estonian Information System Authority who coordinated security preparations across Europe last year. “Since then we have tested national systems for the security environment as we now know it. But the last European election was 2014 and that system hasn’t been tested in this new security environment.” The election — in which voters in 27 countries will install a new European Parliament and by extension a new crop of top EU officials — is uniquely vulnerable, officials say.
The ongoing partial U.S. federal government shutdown is having a tangible, negative impact on cybercrime investigations, according to interviews with federal law enforcement investigators and a report issued this week by a group representing the interests of FBI agents. Even if lawmakers move forward on new proposals to reopen the government, sources say the standoff is likely to have serious repercussions for federal law enforcement agencies for years to come. One federal agent with more than 20 years on the job told KrebsOnSecurity the shutdown “is crushing our ability to take the fight to cyber criminals.” “The talent drain after this is finally resolved will cost us five years,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “Literally everyone I know who is able to retire or can find work in the private sector is actively looking, and the smart private companies are aware and actively recruiting. As a nation, we are much less safe from a cyber security posture than we were a month ago.”
The Hawaii Supreme Court this afternoon invalidated Trevor Ozawa’s 22-vote victory over Tommy Waters for the City Council District 4 seat. “Because the correct results of the November, 6, 2018 special election for the city councilmember seat for District IV cannot be determined, the special election must be invalidated” the court said in a 55-page opinion signed by all five justices. “The second special election for councilmember for District IV, City and County of Honolulu, is invalidated.” City Clerk Glen Takahashi, in an email to Council members, said “while we are still reviewing, we will be required to re-run the election for Council district IV.” The re-vote will likely need to occur within 120 days.
National: Unintended consequence: Federal cybersecurity workforce a potential casualty of the shutdown | The Hill
The partial shutdown of the US government may well end up damaging cybersecurity but perhaps not in the way most commonly thought. The most common and understandable concern is that the country’s current ability to respond to an emergency in the cyber domain is hampered. This line of thinking rests on the belief that the United States is not operating at full strength and, therefore, its present capacity to cope with an urgency is diminished. Admittedly, the challenge with multiple players down is not to be underestimated: It is far from ideal to take and defend the field with an incomplete roster. Moreover, bad actors may be plotting how to seize advantage during this self-inflicted window of vulnerability. Frankly, it is hard enough to ensure cybersecurity on a good day, when all hands are on deck. Having said that, there is some cause for confidence, despite prevailing circumstances. For example, from the standpoint of the Department of Homeland Security, over 80 percent of its flagship component responsible for cyber incidents — namely, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, known as NCCIC — remains staffed. This should stand us in reasonably good (if imperfect) stead, should a crisis arise. For instance, US authorities engaged fully during the spate of DNS (domain name system) hijackings reported recently.
In October, Bloomberg Businessweek published an alarming story: Operatives working for China’s People’s Liberation Army had secretly implanted microchips into motherboards made in China and sold by U.S.-based Supermicro. This allegedly gave Chinese spies clandestine access to servers belonging to over 30 American companies, including Apple, Amazon, and various government suppliers, in an operation known as a “supply chain attack,” in which malicious hardware or software is inserted into products before they are shipped to surveillance targets. Bloomberg’s report, based on 17 anonymous sources, including “six current and former senior national security officials,” began to crumble soon after publication as key parties issued swift and unequivocal denials. Apple said that “there is no truth” to the claim that it discovered malicious chips in its servers. Amazon said the Bloomberg report had “so many inaccuracies … as it relates to Amazon that they’re hard to count.” Supermicro stated it never heard from customers about any malicious chips or found any, including in an audit it hired another company to conduct. Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said they saw no reason to doubt the companies’ denials. Two named sources in the story have publicly stated that they’re skeptical of its conclusions.
Nearly a quarter million Arizonans who dropped off their early ballots at polling places on Election Day in November would lose that ability in future years under a bill that passed its first legislative hurdle in a Senate committee on Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed three election-related bills sponsored by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale. One of those bills, Senate Bill 1046, would require voters who receive early ballots in the mail to return them only by mail, rather than bringing them to polling places before or on Election Day. People who don’t mail in their ballots would be able to vote at a polling place, but would have to wait in line and go through the same process as other in-person voters. The committee passed SB1046 on a 4-3 party-line vote, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats in opposition.
Thursday morning, Michael Ertel, appointed Secretary of State by Gov. Ron DeSantis weeks earlier, testified before a House committee about the several lawsuits filed over the 2018 election. By mid-afternoon, Ertel turned in his resignation, after photos emerged of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago. The photos obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat were shown to the Governor’s Office shortly after noon Thursday. About two hours later it issued a terse statement. “The governor accepted Secretary Ertel’s resignation,” the Governor’s Office said.
Georgia’s new elections chief asked lawmakers Wednesday for $150 million to replace the state’s outdated electronic voting machines. In doing so, he all but closed the door on a hand-marked paper balloting system that experts say is cheapest and most secure. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Georgia legislators meeting for budget hearings that a new voting system is his top priority. Cybersecurity experts and voting integrity activists say the touch-screen machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and can’t be audited effectively because they produce no verifiable paper record. The current machines and Georgia’s registration practices became the subject of national criticism during last year’s governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Kemp served as secretary of state and refused calls to resign from overseeing his own election. He stepped down two days postelection after declaring himself the winner.
The Iowa secretary of state’s rules implemented last year restricting how election officials verify absentee ballots is illegal, a state judge ruled Thursday, saying the secretary incorrectly interpreted state law. Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano temporarily enjoined enforcement of the new rules last July, which was upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court, and her 10-page ruling issued Wednesday and released publicly Thursday permanently blocked the new rules from being enforced. The ruling prevents the state from implementing regulations regarding verifying a voter’s legitimacy if their absentee ballot lacks a voter-verification number.
Maryland: Trial on census citizenship question focuses on disenfranchisement in its first few days | The Washington Post
In a trial that began in Maryland this week over the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, public policy experts, statisticians, immigrant leaders and a former Census Bureau director said the question would likely produce a less accurate count, and lawyers accused the government of conspiring to deny minority groups their equal rights. The trial, which opened Tuesday at U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt, addresses two of seven lawsuits challenging the addition of the question, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March. Ross’s announcement, which came days before a deadline to inform Congress about the contents of the decennial census, caused an outcry among statisticians, former Census Bureau directors, civil rights organizations and Democratic lawmakers.
The Michigan Senate is looking to weigh in as a legislative body in the federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s existing political district lines as Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson seeks a settlement in the case. On Wednesday, the chamber passed a resolution via voice vote to grant Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey the authority to intervene in the case, which was initiated by the League of Women Voters in December 2017. Amber McCann, Shirkey’s spokesperson, said the motion to intervene would be filed sometime Thursday. The court has final say over whether that motion is granted. “As a whole, the majority leader thought it was important to insert the Senate into the legal proceedings in the event that the body is included in the settlement,” McCann said.
New Hampshire: Democrats denied access to voter database in lawsuit over election law | Union Leader
The state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Secretary of State does not have provide a detailed voter database to the N.H. Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 3, the new law on voter verification. A lower court had ordered release of the database to the plaintiffs, who claimed they needed certain information from it to make their case. “We conclude that the database is exempt from disclosure by statute, and we therefore vacate the trial court’s order,” states the unanimous order of the five justices.
A package of election proposals in the state House would allow felons to keep their voting rights while in prison and aim to make voter registration for the general public more convenient, or even automatic. And one bill has the potential to change how New Mexico participates in presidential elections. The proposals, all sponsored by Democrats, are starting to move through the House. The presidential proposal cleared its first committee Wednesday on a party-line vote, with Democrats in the majority. It would sign New Mexico on to a compact pledging the state’s electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. The goal would be to diminish the influence of the winner-take-all system that dominates the Electoral College, in which candidates tend to focus on a dozen or so battleground states that could be won by either party.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed legislation making New York the 38th state to allow early voting. The bill, which the Democratic-led state Legislature passed last week, establishes a nine-day early voting period before election days. The early voting period would conclude on the Sunday before an election. Democratic lawmakers attempted for years to adopt an early voting system, but the bill was blocked by Republicans when the GOP controlled the state Senate. With Democrats now in the Senate majority, the bill cleared that legislative hurdle. “Early voting is going to be transformative for the system,” said Cuomo, who has, for years, included early voting in his annual legislative agenda.
Republican legislators want a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new voter identification rules thrown out, saying accusations that they violate several portions of the state constitution aren’t true. The offices of House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger confirmed their dismissal motion was filed in Wake County court late Tuesday.
After months of debating options, the Miami County Board of Elections voted 3-1 Tuesday to buy a paper ballot and scanning voting system to replace the touch-screen system in use since 2006. The new system could be in use by the May election. The vote came during a meeting to discuss the November election when 6,288 early voting ballots went uncounted. The board fired Director Beverly Kendall on Tuesday and said it would investigate. The Ohio Secretary of State said Tuesday night he was launching an investigation. Frank LaRose said the “failure by the Miami County Board of Elections is unacceptable.”
Pennsylvania: State OKs new Dominion voting machine, but shutdown could delay use in Montgomery County | The Intelligencer
The Dominion Voting Systems model approved by the Department of State is the latest approval as counties expected to replace digital-only voting machines in time for 2020 election. While the Department of State approved a fourth new voting machine — the one Montgomery County hopes to roll out at the polls in May — its final federal approval is tied up in the partial government shutdown. The machine, Dominion Voting Systems’ Democracy Suite 5.5-A model, creates paper copies of ballots and is part of the state’s push away from digital-only ballot machines. It is one of at least five similar machines expected to be approved this year as counties update voting system before the 2020 general election, according to a department news release. Bucks and Montgomery counties are among many jurisdictions using machines storing ballots entirely by digital memory, which former Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said was less secure than machines that left a “paper trail.”
Washington: Legislature considers removing barriers to voting on reservations | The Spokesman-Review
Washington could remove barriers to registering to vote and casting ballots on reservations, where voter participation is lower than the rest of the state. Committees in the House and Senate on Wednesday considered identical versions of the Native American Voting Rights Act, which would allow tribal members with nontraditional addresses to register and be mailed ballots and allow tribes to request more drop boxes. Problems with addresses and distant drop boxes prevent tribal members from registering and voting, said Alex Hur, who represents One America and Washington Voting Justice Coalition.
A federal court will delay the date of the trial in Wisconsin’s partisan redistricting case until the U.S. Supreme Court decides two similar cases this summer, handing a partial legal victory to the Republican-controlled Legislature. The decision by the court to push the trial back from April to at least July, after the issuance of a decision in the two similar cases, is meant to prevent Wisconsin’s case from being tried twice. It is still possible Wisconsin’s political maps would be redrawn before the 2020 general election if the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the plaintiffs — several Democratic voters across the state along with the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee.
Felix Tshisekedi, an opposition leader whose victory in presidential elections last month is widely considered to be illegitimate, took the oath of office on Thursday vowing to tackle the country’s endemic corruption. Shortly after assuming power, Mr. Tshisekedi announced that he would free all the country’s political prisoners. Despite lingering accusations of vote fraud, neighboring countries, the United States and other foreign powers, eager to promote stability over potential chaos, hailed the first peaceful transfer of power since Congo’s independence, in 1960. On Wednesday, the United States’ State Department, having at first warned about sanctions for individuals accused of impeding the democratic process, struck a conciliatory tone and said it was “committed to working with the new government.”
A top official at an observer group that monitored Bangladesh’s election, as well as one of its foreign volunteers, have said they regret participating in the process, casting doubt on the credibility of a vote won overwhelmingly by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling alliance. The president of the SAARC Human Rights Foundation told Reuters he now believed there should be a fresh vote after hearing accounts from voters and officials presiding over polling booths that activists from Hasina’s Awami League stuffed ballot boxes the night before the poll and intimidated voters. “Now I have come to know everything, and can say that the election was not free and fair,” said Mohammad Abdus Salam, a 75-year-old former high court division justice.
Latvia’s parliament on Wednesday approved the Baltic country’s new five-party, center-right coalition government, nearly four months after a general election, breaking the deadlock on the formation of a Cabinet in the small nation’s highly fragmented political scene. In a 61-39 vote, the 100-seat Saeima legislature gave the green light to Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ majority government. The broad-based coalition is made up of five of the seven parties represented in the parliament which agreed earlier Wednesday on a deal.
Moldovan President Igor Dodon said on Wednesday he was prepared to call another election within three or four months for the sake of stability if February’s poll produces a hung parliament. Surveys suggest that the Socialists, who favor friendlier ties with Russia, will emerge with most seats on Feb. 24 vote, but may not secure a majority or be able to form a coalition. The current pro-Western governing coalition may not be resurrected as its leader, the Democratic Party, is tainted by corruption scandals. “In the event that the parties fail to agree on the establishment of a ruling coalition and the formation of a new government, I, as president will … call for early elections to be held as soon as possible,” Dodon told Reuters in an interview.
After more than four years of military rule, Thailand will finally hold elections on March 24. The poll will be the first since generals overthrew a democratically elected government in 2014 after months of violent street protests. The election commission announced the decision on Wednesday after having postponed the vote’s date several times. In December, the commission said the elections would be held on February 24, but the military government expressed concern that election-related events would clash with early preparations for the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, scheduled for May 4-6.
Could a general election be looming? It might seem unlikely. Last time Theresa May dissolved parliament, she had a 24-point lead and higher personal ratings than Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair in their pomp. Labour had suffered one of its worst postwar defeats just two years earlier. And yet the Conservatives lost their majority. This time round, Labour are ahead in several polls. Jeremy Corbyn’s team, though tired after their journey from the political wilderness to the epicentre of the greatest political upheaval since the war, will begin an election with far more experience than last time. As senior Conservative officials have pointed out to the Sun, 40 Tory seats are held by a margin of less than 5%, with Labour in second place in 35 of them. How would voters view the fourth national vote in five years (the fifth for Scottish voters)? Brenda from Bristol would be considerably more irate this time. Would Tory MPs really let May take their party into an election, just weeks after 117 of them voted against her leadership? Are they not uniquely fearful of a Corbyn government, which they rightly judge to be a totally different prospect to a “normal” Labour administration? And yet. May’s Brexit deal has suffered the biggest defeat in the history of British democracy.