National: Republicans Are AWOL on Russian Election Meddling | Foreign Policy

Senate Democrats have produced a factual report about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine democracy. Everyone should read it. On Wednesday morning, Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a report to his colleagues entitled “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security.” This so-called minority staff report (because it was authored by the staff working for the Democratic minority on the committee) is an impressive piece of work. In more than 200 pages, it lays out Putin’s tactics over nearly two decades — and includes a host of specific practical recommendations for a U.S. response.

National: Groups document voting rights abuses in Indian Country | Associated Press

Election sites far from reservations. Poll workers who don’t speak tribal languages. Unequal access to early voting sites. Native Americans say they’ve encountered a wide range of obstacles that makes voting difficult. Advocates have been spending the last few months gathering stories from around Indian Country in hopes that tribal members can wield more influence in elections, and improve conditions among populations that encounter huge disparities in health, education and economics. “Some of the problems they were facing actually were issues we thought we’d taken care of long ago,” said OJ Semans, a Rosebud Sioux tribal member and executive director of Four Directions. “If you don’t keep your eye open and the communication open, things will reverse.”

National: Democrats warn U.S. remains unprepared for Russian election interference | NBC

One year after U.S. intelligence agencies detailed the scale and scope of Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential elections, the United States still lacks “a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach” to countering potential future threats from the Kremlin or elsewhere, a new Democratic congressional report finds. President Donald Trump’s negligence in acknowledging and responding to the threat of continued Russian interference is among the biggest factors leaving the U.S. at risk, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee assert in the report released Wednesday. The 200-page document lays out in detail how Russia, over two decades under President Vladimir Putin, developed, refined and executed tactics to undermine democratic institutions throughout Europe and, ultimately, the U.S.

National: Judge ends consent decree limiting RNC ‘ballot security’ activities | Politico

After more than three decades, Republicans are free of a federal court consent decree that sharply limited the Republican National Committee’s ability to challenge voters’ qualifications and target the kind of fraud President Donald Trump has alleged affected the 2016 presidential race. Newark-based U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez ruled in an order released Tuesday that the longstanding decree ended Dec. 1 and will not be extended. The decree, which dated to 1982, arose from a Democratic National Committee lawsuit charging the RNC with seeking to discourage African-Americans from voting through targeted mailings warning about penalties for violating election laws and by posting armed, off-duty law enforcement officers at the polls in minority neighborhoods.

National: White House plans to erase data from Trump voter fraud panel | The Hill

The White House plans to erase data collected for President Trump’s now-disbanded voter fraud commission instead of turning it over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Politico reported Tuesday. In a court filing, White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said the commission would destroy voter data associated with its efforts, despite the White House signaling last week DHS would handle the probe moving forward. Herndon added that the panel did not create any “preliminary findings,” despite White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders previously suggesting such findings would be sent to DHS, Politico reported.

National: DOJ Wants to Ask a Question on Citizenship in the 2020 Census | The Atlantic

A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats. In December, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Census Bureau asking that it reinstate a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. “This data is critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” the department said in a letter. “To fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected.” The request immediately met pushback from census experts, civil rights advocates, and a handful of Democratic senators, who say that the argument is unfounded and that the timing of the request is irresponsible.

National: DHS: Kobach not advising on new voter fraud investigation | The Kansas City Star

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would not be advising the agency as it investigates voter fraud despite his claims that he would be involved. President Donald Trump officially disbanded his voter fraud commission last week in the face of a flood of lawsuits and resistance from states to a massive data request sent out by Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, in June. The administration said the Department of Homeland Security would study the issue instead of the commission.

National: Fusion GPS founder testified Trump associate went to FBI over Russia concerns | Reuters

An associate of Donald Trump expressed concerns to the FBI about contacts between Russia and Trump’s presidential election campaign team, helping to trigger the probe into possible collusion, according to closed-door testimony made public on Tuesday by a senior Democrat. Glenn Simpson, who leads the Washington research firm Fusion GPS, said in his August testimony that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received intelligence from a “voluntary source” in Trump’s orbit in 2016, before a former British spy gave the FBI his own “dossier” of allegations about collusion. Fusion GPS hired the former spy, Christopher Steele, to investigate Trump’s business dealings with Russia.

National: Intelligence Committee preps election security plan | USA Today

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the panel will soon issue recommendations to help states thwart Russian efforts to hack election systems in advance of congressional primaries that begin in March. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who serves as vice chairman, said the committee could release its plan this month or next. The first congressional primary is less than two months away — March 6 in Texas.  “I do think there’s a real sense of urgency,” Warner said in an interview with USA TODAY. “The one thing we do know with certainty is that Russian interference in our elections did not end on Election Day 2016.” Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., also has indicated that he expects the committee to provide security advice to states early this year.

National: DHS: Kobach not advising on new voter fraud investigation | The Kansas City Star

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would not be advising the agency as it investigates voter fraud despite his claims that he would be involved. President Donald Trump officially disbanded his voter fraud commission last week in the face of a flood of lawsuits and resistance from states to a massive data request sent out by Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, in June. The administration said the Department of Homeland Security would study the issue instead of the commission. 

National: World grapples with critical computer flaws | The Hill

The technology industry and organizations worldwide are reeling from the disclosure of two critical computer hardware vulnerabilities that affect scores of modern devices from PCs to smartphones. Details about the computer processor flaws nicknamed “Meltdown” and “Spectre” came into full focus over the past week and sent programmers at major software companies racing to quickly issue patches to protect affected systems. The issue was initially believed to only affect Intel processors but actually affects a variety of chip vendors. Intel’s stock dropped Thursday as a result of the revelations.

National: Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation | The New York Times

From the start, he was a central casting misfire — the dark artist slicing through the capital by electric scooter, a cloak-and-dagger digger better known to former colleagues for scratching his bare belly in plain office view. In a past career, Glenn R. Simpson had been a reporter’s reporter, tenacious through two decades in journalism, often driving the Washington story of the day — congressional corruption, fund-raising shenanigans, sundry misbehavior — but never becoming it himself. “It’s not news when things go right,” he told a group of students in 1991, describing his craft. “When things go right, it’s boring.” Mr. Simpson’s life has not been boring for some time now. It has, perhaps inevitably, become news.

National: DHS election unit has no plans for probing voter fraud: sources | Reuters

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s election security unit has no immediate plans to probe allegations of electoral fraud, despite President Donald Trump’s announcement this week he was giving the issue to the agency, according to administration officials. Trump said on Wednesday that he had asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review voter fraud and determine appropriate courses of action, as he announced he was disbanding a presidential commission dedicated to the matter. Multiple officials and sources familiar with the matter said they were unaware of plans within DHS, a sprawling agency responsible for a wide array of national security issues, to investigate voter fraud.

National: Justice Department declines to give voting panel documents | Associated Press

Maine’s secretary of state is accusing the U.S. Justice Department of “contempt for the rule of law” for declining to give him documents from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, on which he served. Matthew Dunlap sued in November, contending the commission violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act by denying him and other members access to key documents and excluding them from much of the commission’s work. President Trump disbanded the voter fraud commission last week.

National: Trump’s voter commission is dead, but critics worry its mission may live on | The Washington Post

President Trump may have killed his panel probing allegations of widespread voter fraud, but the controversy surrounding its mission appears destined to continue. Upon issuing an executive order last week terminating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which met only twice and faced a flood of lawsuits — Trump said he had asked the Department of Homeland Security to take a look at the panel’s work and “determine next courses of action.” Boosters of the commission, including its vice chairman and driving force, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), are pushing for the DHS to focus on using data that the department collects on citizenship to ferret out illegal voters on state voting rolls.

National: CIA’s Pompeo says Russia and others trying to undermine U.S. elections | Reuters

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency said on Sunday that Russia and others are trying to undermine elections in the United States, the next major one being in November when Republicans will try to keep control of Congress. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to try to help President Donald Trump win, in part by hacking and releasing emails embarrassing to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and spreading social media propaganda.

National: With renewed vigor, U.S. top court scrutinizes curbs on voting | Reuters

Government officials across the United States try to maintain accurate voter rolls by removing people who have died or moved away. But a case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday explores whether some states are aggressively purging voter rolls in a way that disenfranchises thousands of voters. The justices will hear arguments in Republican-governed Ohio’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked its policy of erasing from voter registration lists people who do not regularly cast a ballot. Under the policy, such registration is deleted if the person goes six years without either voting or contacting state voting officials.

National: How cities are bypassing states to explore registering hundreds of thousands to vote | Mic

States govern American elections. Officials there certify election results. They decide when and how people can vote. They influence who can cast a ballot. Since Republicans in 2010 began their march toward control of the legislature and governor’s office in 26 states, voting rights advocates and Democrats say the state-by-state election system has led voter suppression efforts to run rampant. Since 2010, 23 states have passed laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

National: New bill could finally get rid of paperless voting machines | Ars Technica

A bipartisan group of six senators has introduced legislation that would take a huge step toward securing elections in the United States. Called the Secure Elections Act, the bill aims to eliminate insecure paperless voting machines from American elections while promoting routine audits that would dramatically reduce the danger of interference from foreign governments. The legislation comes on the heels of the contentious 2016 election. Post-election investigation hasn’t turned up any evidence that foreign governments actually altered any votes. However, we do know that Russians were probing American voting systems ahead of the 2016 election, laying groundwork for what could have become a direct attack on American democracy. “With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again,” said co-sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). So a group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) wants to shore up the security of American voting systems ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. And the senators have focused on two major changes that have broad support from voting security experts.

National: Trump Disbands Commission on Voter Fraud | The New York Times

President Trump on Wednesday abruptly shut down a White House commission he had charged with investigating voter fraud, ending a brief quest for evidence of election theft that generated lawsuits, outrage and some scholarly testimony, but no real evidence that American elections are corrupt. On Thursday, Mr. Trump called for requiring voter identification in a pair of Twitter posts because the voting system “is rigged.” “Push hard for Voter Identification!” Mr. Trump wrote. Mr. Trump did not acknowledge the commission’s inability to find evidence of fraud, but cast the closing as a result of continuing legal challenges. … In fact, no state has uncovered significant evidence to support the president’s claim, and election officials, including many Republicans, have strongly rejected it.

National: Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Help States Beef Up Election Cybersecurity | Stateline

Six U.S. senators have filed a bipartisan bill that would provide grants to states to help them move from paperless voting machines to paper ballots in an effort to make voting systems less vulnerable to hackers. In September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified election officials in nearly two dozen states that their voter registration systems had been targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential election. While the hackers failed to breach most of the systems, in Illinois, they succeeded in accessing the voter database, and nearly 90,000 records were compromised. And in Arizona, hackers stole an election employee’s username and password, but the system wasn’t compromised, according to the Arizona secretary of state.

National: Trump fraud investigation’s fate unclear after move to DHS | The Hill

The work of investigating President Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally in the last presidential election and cost him the popular vote — an idea he’s presented without providing any evidence — now lies in the hands of officials at the Department of Homeland Security, after Trump disbanded the commission originally charged with the investigation. Trump dissolved the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity late Wednesday and turned its work over to DHS “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Trump’s decision comes after the commission grappled with data security concerns and widespread opposition from state governments, including both Democrats and Republicans, who refused to fulfill the commission’s wide-ranging requests for voter data. 

National: Should voters who don’t vote stay on voter rolls? | The Economist

Political apathy worried Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In a healthy republic, he wrote in “The Social Contract” in 1762, citizens “fly to the assemblies” and take an active role in public affairs. He would frown on America’s voter turnout, which hovers at 40% for mid-term elections and seldom goes much higher than 55% for a presidential race. But he might have been even more alarmed by laws that sideline infrequent voters from politics. On January 10th a rule that has disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Ohioans comes under the Supreme Court’s microscope. Husted v Philip Randolph Institute concerns what the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Centre for Justice calls the most restrictive approach to winnowing voter rolls found anywhere in America. Since 1994, in addition to nixing people who have died or moved—which all states do—Ohio has sent a postcard to voters who have not voted for two years. If they fail to return the address confirmation and then miss two more federal elections, they are taken off the rolls.

National: A Dead Simple Algorithm Reveals the True Toll of Voter ID Laws | WIRED

After announcing the closure of his short-lived commission to end voter fraud, President Trump made it clear Thursday that he wants more states to require identification at the ballot box to prevent what he believes is rampant—but still unproven—election rigging. Ever since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, laws requiring voters to show identification when they vote have speckled the nation, popping up in states from Rhode Island to Arizona. Almost as quickly, voting rights advocates have taken states like Texas and Alabama to court, arguing that these laws intentionally discriminate against minority voters. Just last summer, a federal judge tossed out Texas’s voter ID law, in a case that’s now being revisited by an appeals court. But proving exactly how discriminatory these laws are requires far more complexity than it might seem.

National: Trump scraps his widely denounced ‘election integrity’ commission | The Guardian

Donald Trump has scrapped his advisory commission on “election integrity”, ending an initiative that was widely denounced by civil rights groups as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of poor people and minorities. A White House statement released on Wednesday evening said that Trump had signed an executive order dissolving the commission. The president put the blame for the panel’s failure on the many states that refused to co-operate with it by handing over voters’ sensitive personal data including name, address, party affiliation and voting history to the inquiry. … After he won the presidential election in November 2016, Trump claimed that at least 3m illegal votes had been cast – the same number by which he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. That claim has never been substantiated, and in fact studies have found that more people are struck by lightning each year or attacked by sharks than are accused of election fraud.

National: Trump disbands fraud commission let by Pence, Kobach | The Kansas City Star

President Donald Trump has dissolved a commission intended to investigate voter fraud after a massive data request by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led to a backlash from state officials across the political spectrum. The White House announced the dissolution of the panel late Wednesday, citing resistance from states about complying with the commission. Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, had sought personal information on every voter in the nation in June, a massive data request that spurred multiple lawsuits and backlash from state officials from across the political spectrum. Many states had refused to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns, and even Kansas could not legally provide the commission with partial Social Security numbers as Kobach requested.

National: Assessing the Bipartisan Secure Elections Act | Lawfare

On Dec. 21, all eyes were on the Republican bill to cut taxes. Yet a bipartisan group of six senators also had their eyes on the far less sexy (but still important!) topic of election hacking. They quietly introduced a bill called the Secure Elections Act that, if passed, would be a good down payment on improving the confidence we can have in the integrity of our elections. This short, stocking-stuffer size review will: review some of the core questions around election security, assess the bill’s provisions to improve information sharing, its grant program, and its bug bounty, and conclude with some tough realism about additional work that needs to be undertaken to protect our elections.

National: Manafort sues Mueller, challenging scope of Russia investigation | The Hill

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is suing the Department of Justice and special counsel Robert Mueller in an attempt to kneecap the federal probe into alleged coordination between the campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. In a court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for Manafort argue that the order establishing Mueller’s investigation is overly broad and not permitted under Justice Department regulations. Mueller should be ordered to stop investigating any of Manafort’s conduct that doesn’t relate to his time as campaign chair, the suit says, and the appointment itself should be declared invalid.

National: Election Assistance Commission announces meeting next week on securing mid-terms | InsideCyberSecurity

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has announced that it will be holding a public meeting on Jan. 10 to review steps for securing the nation’s election system in advance of mid-term voting this fall. “Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will host an all day summit to highlight a spectrum of issues that state and local election officials will face as they work to administer a secure, accessible and efficient 2018 Election,” according to a Federal Register notice issued today. The congressionally mandated commission will hear from witness on “topics such as election security, voting accessibility, and how to use election data to improve the voter experience,” according to the announcement.

National: Critics Say Questions About Citizenship Could Wreck Chances for an Accurate Census | The New York Times

A request by the Justice Department to ask people about their citizenship status in the 2020 census is stirring a broad backlash from census experts and others who say the move could wreck chances for an accurate count of the population — and, by extension, a fair redistricting of the House and state legislatures next decade. Their fear, echoed by experts in the Census Bureau itself, is that the Trump administration’s hard-line stance on immigration, and especially on undocumented migrants, will lead Latinos and other minorities, fearing prosecution, to ignore a census that tracks citizenship status. Their failure to participate would affect population counts needed not only to apportion legislative seats, but to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money to areas that most need it.