National: Why adding a citizenship question to the census launched a political firestorm | The Washington Post

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to protect the voting rights of mostly black voters in mostly Southern states. It mandated, among other things, that jurisdictions covered by the law have new voting laws reviewed by the government to assure that they weren’t discriminatory. That provision was tossed by the Supreme Court in 2013. A Texas voter ID law that had been rejected by the Department of Justice prior to the court’s decision was reintroduced immediately afterward — and was quickly found to be discriminatory. During his confirmation hearing last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked about the Voting Rights Act. “It is intrusive. The Supreme Court on more than one occasion has described it legally as an intrusive act, because you’re only focused on a certain number of states,” the then-Alabama senator said in January 2017.

National: Frustrated Supreme Court Looks For A Solution To Partisan Gerrymandering | NPR

The Supreme Court justices seemed to grasp the problem of gerrymandering in oral arguments on Wednesday and that it will only get worse, as computer-assisted redistricting gets even more refined. But they appeared frustrated over what to do about it — without becoming the constant police officer on the beat. This case, involving a Democratic-drawn congressional district in Maryland, is essentially Act II of the gerrymandering play at the Supreme Court.

National: After GOP is criticized over election security, key official goes to Homeland Security | The Hill

The official recently replaced atop the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is joining the Department of Homeland Security to protect elections from cyber threats, The Hill has learned. Matthew Masterson was replaced as chairman of the EAC in February as a result of a decision made by Republican leadership. The move opened up House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to criticism. Masterson has now signed on to work as a senior cybersecurity adviser at Homeland Security’s main cyber wing and to assist the department’s election security mission. A Homeland Security official confirmed that Masterson will work at the National Protection and Programs Directorate, which spearheads efforts to protect critical infrastructure from cyber and physical threats.

National: Homeland Security Chief Warns Adversaries Against Election Meddling | The New York Times

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, recently warned dozens of foreign diplomats — including the Russian ambassador — that the United States would retaliate if adversaries abroad meddled in its coming elections. “To those who would try to attack our democracy, to affect our elections, to affect the elections of other countries, to undermine national sovereignty, I have a word of warning: Don’t,” Ms. Nielsen told an estimated 80 foreign envoys and other officials during a speech last week, according to a person in attendance. Two other people with knowledge of the event confirmed the comments. All three spoke on the condition of anonymity because the remarks were given at a closed-door meeting.

National: Former Cambridge Analytica workers say firm sent foreigners to advise U.S. campaigns | The Washington Post

Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to ­Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers for the data firm, even as an attorney warned executives to abide by U.S. laws limiting foreign involvement in elections. The assignments came amid efforts to present the newly created company as “an American brand” that would appeal to U.S. political clients even though its parent, SCL Group, was based in London, according to former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie. Wylie, who emerged this month as a whistleblower, provided The Washington Post with documents that describe a program across several U.S. states to win campaigns for Republicans using psychological profiling to reach voters with individually tailored messages. The documents include previously unreported details about the program, which was called “Project Ripon” for the Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born in 1854.

National: Census to add controversial question on citizenship status | Politico

The 2020 U.S. Census will include a controversial question about citizenship status, the Commerce Department announced Monday night, a move that sparked outrage from Congressional Democrats, civil rights groups and liberal state attorneys general. A spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will be suing the administration immediately. Before the announcement, Becerra and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla wrote in an op-ed that including a citizenship question would be “illegal.” “The Trump administration is threatening to derail the integrity of the census by seeking to add a question relating to citizenship to the 2020 census questionnaire,” the pair wrote in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Innocuous at first blush, its effect would be truly insidious. It would discourage noncitizens and their citizen family members from responding to the census, resulting in a less accurate population count.”

National: Kobach encouraged Trump to add citizenship question to Census | The Kansas City Star

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach encouraged President Donald Trump to add a question about citizenship status to the U.S. Census during the early weeks of Trump’s presidency. More than a year later, Trump’s administration has moved to enact that exact policy for the 2020 census. “I won’t go into exact detail, but I raised the issue with the president shortly after he was inaugurated,” Kobach said Tuesday. “I wanted to make sure the president was well aware.” Kobach, a Republican candidate for Kansas governor who is running on a platform focused on immigration, also published a column in January on Breitbart calling for Trump to reinstate the question to the Census.

National: NRA Says It Receives Foreign Funds, But None Goes To Election Work | NPR

The National Rifle Association acknowledged that it accepts foreign donations but says it does not use them for election work — even as federal investigators look into the role the NRA might have played in Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. Pressure on the organization has also been increased by a McClatchy report that suggested that the FBI had been investigating whether a top Russian banker with Kremlin ties illegally funneled money to the NRA to aid Donald Trump’s campaign for president. The Federal Election Commission has also opened a preliminary investigation into this question.

National: Inability to audit U.S. elections a ‘national security concern’: Homeland chief | Reuters

Not having a verifiable way to audit election results in some states represents a “national security concern,” the Trump administration’s homeland security chief said on Wednesday, looking ahead to U.S. midterm elections in November.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was prioritizing election cyber security above all other critical infrastructure it protects, such as the financial, energy and communications systems, the agency’s chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, told the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing to examine the Trump administration’s efforts to improve election security came following U.S. intelligence officials’ repeated warnings that Russia will attempt to meddle in the 2018 contests after doing so during the 2016 presidential campaign.

National: Supreme Court takes up 2nd major partisan redistricting case | Associated Press

The Supreme Court has already heard a major case about political line-drawing that has the potential to reshape American politics. Now, before even deciding that one, the court is taking up another similar case. The arguments justices will hear Wednesday in the second case, a Republican challenge to a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Maryland, could offer fresh clues to what they are thinking about partisan gerrymandering, an increasingly hot topic before courts. Decisions in the Maryland case and the earlier one from Wisconsin are expected by late June.

National: Tumblr says Russia used it for fake news during 2016 election | The Guardian

The blogging platform Tumblr has unmasked 84 accounts that it says were used by a shadowy Russian internet group to spread disinformation during the 2016 US election campaign. Tumblr said it uncovered the scheme in late 2017, helping an investigation that led to the indictment in February of 13 individuals linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA). The announcement adds Tumblr to the list of internet platforms targeted in a social media campaign that US officials said sought to disrupt the 2016 election and help boost Donald Trump’s bid to defeat Hillary Clinton. A Tumblr statement said it discovered the accounts “were being used as part of a disinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 US election”. The company said it notified law enforcement, terminated the accounts, and deleted the posts while working “behind the scenes” with the US Justice Department.

National: Congress included $380 million for election security in spending bill | Business Insider

Congress provided $380 million in election security funding as part of its massive spending bill, a move that reflects the growing consensus in Washington that more needs to be done to ensure the integrity of America’s elections. The funding would go to the Election Assistance Commission, which then must distribute the funds to states within 45 days to replace aging voting machines, implement post-election audits, and provide cybersecurity training for state and local officials, among other election security related improvements. “In this challenging political time, this has to be seen as a win and a recognition that [election security] is an important responsibility,” Adam Ambrogi, the director of the Elections Program at the Democracy Fund, told Business Insider. “The federal government needs to aid the states. The states don’t have this money laying around.”

National: ‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer | The Daily Beast

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft. That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

National: States to get at least $3 million each for election security in spending deal | USA Today

States will receive at least $3 million each to protect their voting systems against Russian cyber attacks under a provision added to a sweeping government spending deal that Congress has reached. The $1.3 trillion spending deal includes a total of $380 million for election security grants. The House passed the bill Thursday and sent it to the Senate for approval. States have been scrambling to improve their cyber security after Homeland Security officials revealed last year that Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in at least 21 states in 2016. Although no actual votes were changed, hackers broke into Illinois’ voter registration database.

National: New Voting Machines Have Been Declared A National Security Priority. And Congress Looks Likely To Pay For Them. | Buzzfeed

Pressure is mounting for Congress to take dramatic steps to ensure the security of US voting systems with just seven months to go before the crucial 2018 midterm elections. On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the need for new voting machines that produce a paper trail “a national security issue,” and Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, added his name as a cosponsor to a bill that would provide money to replace voting equipment that can’t be audited. But whether that funding will be appropriated remains uncertain. The Secure Elections Act has been slow to gain cosponsors, but its provisions were folded into the Senate’s must-pass omnibus spending bill to keep the government open as the Senate heads toward a Friday deadline to avoid another government shutdown.

National: GOP Shuts Down House Russia Probe Despite New Revelations | Bloomberg

Republicans shut down the House Intelligence Committee’s contentious Russia probe Thursday, despite new revelations that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign may have benefited from the exploitation of personal information from millions of Facebook users. In a closed-door meeting, the panel voted over Democrats’ objections to approve and release a Republican-written final report, said Michael Conaway, a Texas Republican who led the panel’s investigation. “House Intelligence Committee votes to release final report,” Trump said in a Twitter posting Friday morning in his first comment on the vote. “FINDINGS: (1) No evidence provided of Collusion between Trump Campaign & Russia. (2) The Obama Administrations Post election response was insufficient. (3) Clapper provided inconsistent testimony on media contacts.”

National: Senators introduced revised version of election cyber bill | The Hill

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday unveiled revised legislation to secure U.S. voting systems from cyberattack. The bill, originally introduced in December, retains its original tenets, including authorizing grants for states to replace outdated voting systems with more secure technology. However, it contains several revisions that appear designed to address individual states’ concerns with the bill. The new bill, like its predecessor, aims to address future threats to voter registration databases and other systems following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential vote. The Department of Homeland Security has said that Russian hackers tried to break into election systems in 21 states before the election, as part of a broader interference plot. In one case, hackers successfully breached a voter registration database in Illinois.

National: Efforts to Secure Elections Moving Too Slowly, Senators Tell Homeland Security Chief | The New York Times

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee pressured Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, on Wednesday to speed up key election security measures, even as she trumpeted the adoption of important improvements ahead of November’s midterm elections. Ms. Nielsen told the senators, who are investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, that the department made significant strides in recent months working with state and local election officials to improve communication about threats and share cybersecurity resources. Those efforts include comprehensive risk assessments and cyberscans meant to identify vulnerabilities in election systems. But under questioning, Ms. Nielsen signaled that one of those undertakings, to grant full security clearances to state election officials so they could receive classified information on cybersecurity threats in a timely way, had been slow going. Of the up to 150 state election officials designated to receive clearances, only about 20 have them, she said.

National: Old voting machines in the US can be hacked without people knowing it | Business Insider

For all the hubbub about election security in the US ahead of the 2018 midterms, there is one issue that almost no one seems to be talking about: old voting machines. A total of 41 states currently have voting machines that are at least a decade old, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, leaving thousands of systems vulnerable to hackers and other security risks that could compromise election results. With old voting machines come a whole host of issues: outdated software, machine breakdown, spare replacement parts that are near impossible to find. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, called on states to “rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.”

National: Key Senate committee concludes Russian interference; calls for voting reforms | San Francisco Chronicle

With unanimity, both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and urged their congressional colleagues to help states upgrade their balloting systems to ensure the integrity of November’s midterm elections. California was among the 21 states whose election systems Russia attempted to infiltrate, committee members said during a news conference outlining their recommendations to improve election security. Russia succeeded in penetrating the voter database of one state, Illinois, but the committee said it found no evidence that any votes were altered. The committee plans to issue a full report and has scheduled a hearing Wednesday with testimony from Trump administration officials and the heads of national associations of state election officials.

National: Senate Intel Committee gives Homeland Security its election security wish list | TechCrunch

In a press conference today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence presented its urgent recommendations for protecting election systems as the U.S. moves toward midterm elections later this year. “Currently we have an election upon us, and the past tells us that the future will probably hold another set of threats if we are not prepared,” Senator Kamala Harris said. The bipartisan committee offered a set of measures to defend domestic election infrastructure against hostile foreign nations. Before launching into the findings from its committee-wide examination of current practices, written up in an accompanying report, the group emphasized that states are “firmly in the lead” in conducting elections, although the federal government should work closely to provide funds and information.

National: Senators release election security recommendations to deter meddling | The Guardian

A bipartisan group of senators leading an inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election called on Tuesday for urgent action by Congress to help states protect their voting systems from future threats of foreign interference. With the 2018 congressional primaries already under way, members of the senate intelligence committee outlined a series of recommendations – the first public release from the panel’s yearlong investigation – that they say will help improve the cybersecurity of the nation’s election infrastructure. “We’re now at a point where we’ve wrapped up one piece of our investigation, which deals with election security,” said Republican senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, who spoke alongside the Democratic vice-chair, Senator Mark Warner, and members of the committee. By and large, he said, “we need to be more effective at deterring our adversaries.”

National: Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, explained | Ars Technica

Facebook is reeling from a series of revelations about private user data being leaked to Cambridge Analytica, a shadowy political consulting firm that did work for the Donald Trump campaign. Last Friday, reporters from The New York Times and The Observer of London told Facebook that Cambridge had retained copies of private data for about 50 million Facebook users. Facebook says Cambridge promised in 2015 that the data would be deleted. Facebook responded to the new revelations by banning Cambridge and several of its associates from Facebook. But this week the controversy surrounding Facebook’s ties to Cambridge—and its handling of private user data more generally—has mushroomed. British members of Parliament accused Facebook of misleading them about the breach and asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg to come to the UK to clear up the issue personally. Facebook has scheduled a surprise all-hands meeting to answer employee questions about the controversy.

National: Senate Committee Launches Effort to Prevent Election Hacking | Associated Press

With the 2018 primary season already underway, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee are launching an effort to protect U.S. elections from a repeat episode of foreign interference. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, will preview some of the committee’s recommendations for improving the nation’s election infrastructure at a news conference Tuesday. On Wednesday, the committee will hold a hearing examining attempted hacks on state elections systems in 2016 and the federal and state response to those efforts.

National: House approves legislation to authorize Homeland Security cyber teams | The Hill

House lawmakers on Monday passed legislation that would codify into law the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber incident response teams that help protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Lawmakers passed the bill, sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), in a voice vote Monday afternoon. The legislation would authorize the “cyber hunt and incident response teams” at Homeland Security to help owners and operators of critical infrastructure respond to cyberattacks as well as provide strategies for mitigating cybersecurity risks.

National: Cambridge Analytica boasts of dirty tricks to swing elections | The Guardian

The company at the centre of the Facebook data breach boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world, a new investigation reveals. Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them. In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” The Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast on Monday, comes two days after the Observer reported Cambridge Analytica had unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles in one of the social media company’s biggest data breaches.

National: FEC probes whether NRA got illegal Russian donations | Politico

The Federal Election Commission has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the National Rifle Association that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to people who were notified of the probe. The inquiry stems in part from a complaint from a liberal advocacy group, the American Democracy Legal Fund, which asked the FEC to look into media reports about links between the rifle association and Russian entities, including a banker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman for the NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which together contributed $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, declined to comment on the FEC’s probe.

National: How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions | The New York Times

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem. The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work. So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

National: Spooked by election hacking, states are moving to paper ballots | Cyberscoop

Paper ballots may seem like an antiquated voting practice, but hacking fears are now pushing an increasing number of states toward a return to the basics. State legislatures and election directors are heeding warnings from Washington that hackers may tamper with electronic voting systems in the 2018 midterm elections. The U.S. intelligence community has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and that the Kremlin will try to do so again. On the national level, lawmakers have made several attempts to push legislation aiming to strengthen election cybersecurity through grants to upgrade equipment and to increase cooperation between the federal government and lower jurisdictions. So far, no such legislation has passed either chamber of Congress. Amid all this national attention, a number of states have started to act on their own bolster the integrity of elections they run. With these states, the focus has been on doing away with direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs) that don’t produce a paper record.

National: How the U.S. can prepare for a major election hack | The Washington Post

Before the 2016 election, at least 21 U.S. states’ registration databases or websites were targeted by hackers and seven states were successfully “compromised,” although there’s no evidence that votes were altered. As U.S. intelligence agencies recently made clear, the risk to voting systems continues in 2018. Foreign actors could target registration records, electronic voting machines or vote tabulations. Because American elections are controlled by individual states that employ a wide array of voting systems, a localized breach is especially feasible. Amplifying the danger is that many Americans will react to vote manipulation somewhere in the United States with doubts about election results everywhere. Even if this interference does not actually change an election outcome, people may use any breach to cast doubt on outcomes they don’t want to believe. This havoc is precisely what Russia wants.