On the day of the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, its vice chairman suggested Wednesday “we may never know” if Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election. During an interview with MSNBC, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was asked if he believed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Kobach’s reply: “You know, we may never know the answer to that question.” Later in the interview, he repeated himself and emphasized that the commission would not be able to tell which way an ineligible vote was cast. “It’s impossible to know exactly, if you take out all the ineligible votes, what the final tally would be in that election,” he said. “You could obviously, based on the data, you could make some very educated guesses.” When asked if the votes that won Trump the election are also in doubt, Kobach replied, “Absolutely.”
National: Trump’s election integrity panel won’t probe Russian infiltration of state election systems | Portland Press Herald
President Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission won’t be probing Russian infiltration of state election systems after all. At the commission’s inaugural meeting Wednesday in Washington – which the president briefly attended to push his evidence-free theory that the 2016 election was tainted widespread voter fraud – Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap raised the subject, but agreed with his colleagues to instead rely on any information a Senate probe into Russian interference in the election might provide. “The Senate Intelligence Committee will keep us apprised on what they find and we can work it into our report,” Dunlap told the Press Herald shortly after the meeting concluded. “We don’t have to do our separate investigations. I don’t think we are equipped to do that.” The substantive part of the meeting focused on what actions the commission should take now that most states have rejected its request for voter registration information, with commissioners brainstorming on what data the federal government already had in its possession and how it might be used to explore voter fraud concerns.
President Donald Trump put the power of the presidency behind one of his favorite theories on Wednesday, convening a panel to investigate voter fraud even though experts have largely dismissed his evidence-free claim that “millions” of illegal votes last year cost him the popular vote. Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity created by executive order in May, said at the group’s first meeting that its findings were not predetermined. But Trump himself has repeatedly declared, without evidence, that mass voter fraud took place during the 2016 election. And by Wednesday afternoon, the fraud theories became even more muddled when Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Trump’s hand-picked vice chair of the commission, indicated he had no way of knowing who actually won the 2016 election.
National: Shrugging off controversy, Trump’s voter-fraud panel seeks more personal data | The Boston Globe
Shrugging off complaints about whether it is even necessary, President Trump’s commission on voter fraud doubled down when it met for the first time on Wednesday and asked its staff to look into assembling vast new caches of information on individuals. The commission indicated it wants to collect information already held by the federal government and tasked the staff with getting the Department of Homeland Security to turn over data on people applying for citizenship, since they must check off a box indicating whether they have registered to vote. The panel also discussed seeking information on people who have attempted to get out of jury duty by claiming to be noncitizens. The reason: Jury lists come from voter rolls, so noncitizens shouldn’t be on the list to begin with. Most experts say voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States, and the commission has already come under heavy criticism for trying to scoop up personal data on voters in every state.
National: Despite criticism, 30 states intend to give voter information to Trump fraud commission | The Sacramento Bee
Despite criticism from most states about the Trump administration’s request for voters’ personal information, half have said they will deliver some or all of that data to the White House election commission. And that number could grow, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, with more than 30 states turning over some information, including names, addresses and birth dates, to the group being run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said, questioning the motives of states that have not complied with requests for information. “ What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.” Trump created the elections commission after claiming — without evidence — that millions of people had voted illegally and deprived him of a popular-vote victory. He has argued specifically that fraud denied him a win in three states: California, New Hampshire and Virginia. Independent groups and election officials said there was no evidence of either charge, but Kobach said Wednesday that the public would never know the true results of the election.
Liberal activists are urging people to stay registered to vote after President Donald Trump’s new election integrity commission’s request for voter data spooked some Americans and caused them to cancel their registrations. Colorado got a burst of publicity after more than 3,700 residents canceled voter registrations, according to media reports. And while that’s a tiny percentage of total voters in the state, activists said it’s the wrong response to the federal government’s request for state voter information. “We don’t want people to be afraid of registering — not to do so is to play into the hands of the voter suppressors,” said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. “To the thousands of people who have deregistered: go reregister and bring two others.”
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met for the first time Wednesday, as President Donald Trump again pushed his unfounded claim that widespread voter fraud took place in the 2016 election. The voter fraud commission’s first formal meeting came three weeks after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — one of the panel’s vice chairmen, along with Vice President Mike Pence — penned a letter to all 50 states requesting that they turn over key voter information. So far, at least 24 states have said they’ll comply with the request, though there is no evidence of Mr. Trump’s claims that “millions” of people voted illegally last year and cost him the popular vote. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have refused to comply with the request, which sparked a flurry of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. At the meeting Wednesday, Trump suggested that the states that haven’t complied have something to hide. “What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is,” Trump said. As more states and advocacy groups wade into the debate, here is a closer look at the commission, how voter records are collected and stored across the country, and how the White House could potentially use the data to its advantage.
Since 2000, no fewer than three blue-ribbon commissions have been convened after contentious elections to examine what went wrong during the vote and how future elections might be improved. The one that assembles on Wednesday, in a rococo 19th-century office building just steps from the White House, bears no resemblance to any of them. For one thing, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, begins public life saddled with at least seven lawsuits challenging its conduct, its transparency and even its reason for being. Two more complaints have been filed with federal agencies against two of the commission’s 12 members. For another, a broad range of experts and ordinary citizens already has written off its legitimacy. They charge that it is less an inquiry into voting fraud and faith in honest elections — its stated purposes — than an effort to bolster President Trump’s baseless claim that illegally cast ballots robbed him of a popular vote victory in November. And they say such an inflated conclusion could give Republicans in Congress ammunition to enact federal legislation curbing the ability of minorities, the poor and other Democratic-leaning groups to register and cast ballots.
A federal judge has turned down an effort to force President Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission to open its first official meeting to in-person, public attendance and to force disclosure of more records about the group’s work. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said there wasn’t enough indication that the panel planned to defy a federal sunshine law, particularly after the commission published thousands of pages of information online and announced plans to make more data public in a timely fashion. Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling said there was no sign that the commission’s procedures were impeding public debate about its actions, particularly a hotly-debated request that states turn over public voter registration data for study by the panel.
National: Trump’s voter commission hasn’t even met — and it’s already off to a rough start | The Washington Post
A commission set to convene Wednesday to advise President Trump on “election integrity” includes the publisher of “Alien Invasion II,” a report on undocumented immigrants who mysteriously showed up on the voter rolls in Virginia. Another member is known for scanning obituaries in his West Virginia county to make sure dead people are promptly deleted from voter lists. Another championed some of the strictest voter identification laws in the country during her days in the Indiana legislature. And yet another warned nearly a decade ago of the “possibility for voter fraud on a scale never seen before in this country.” During his tenure as Ohio secretary of state, the Social Security numbers of 1.2 million state voters were accidentally posted on the agency’s website.
Since President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission was last in court, the commission has announced plans to dramatically alter how it plans to collect state voter information in an attempt to avoid a potential legal ruling that could require it to conduct a privacy assessment before collecting the data. The plan, more or less, is to have a few people on the White House staff conduct all of the work of the commission in order to help maintain a legal argument that the “sole function” of the commission is to advise the president. The commission is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. On Monday, Charles Christopher Herndon, the director of White House Information Technology, laid out how limited that would be in a declaration submitted in the case brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The Executive Committee for Information Technology will have no role in this data collection process. The U.S. Digital Service (which is within the Office of Management and Budget) will also have no role, nor will any federal agency,” Herndon wrote. “The only people who will assist are a limited number of my technical staff from the White House Office of Administration.”
National: Former Clinton and Romney campaign chiefs join forces to fight election hacking | The Washington Post
The former managers of Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns are leading a new initiative called “Defending Digital Democracy” in the hopes of preventing a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief, and Matt Rhoades, who managed the 2012 run of GOP nominee Romney, are heading up the project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in one of the first major efforts outside government to grapple with 21st century hacking and propaganda operations — and ways to deter them. “The Russian influence campaign was one of the most significant national security events in the last decade, and it’s a near-certainty that all the other bad guys saw that and will try to do something similar in the United States in 2018 and 2020,” said Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Center, which launches the initiative Tuesday.
In 2006, Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten received an anonymous message offering him a Diebold AccuVote TS, one of the most widely used touch-screen voting machines at the time. Manufacturers like Diebold touted the touch-screens, known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, as secure and more convenient than their paper-based predecessors. Computer experts were skeptical, since any computer can be vulnerable to viruses and malware, but it was hard to get ahold of a touch-screen voting machine to test it. The manufacturers were so secretive about how the technology worked that they often required election officials to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from bringing in outside experts who could assess the machines. Felten was intrigued enough that he sent his 25-year-old computer science graduate student, Alex Halderman, on a mission to retrieve the AccuVote TS from a trenchcoat-clad man in an alleyway near New York’s Times Square. Felten’s team then spent the summer working in secrecy in an unmarked room in the basement of a building to reverse-engineer the machine. In September 2006, they published a research paper and an accompanying video detailing how they could spread malicious code to the AccuVote TS to change the record of the votes to produce whatever outcome the code writers desired. And the code could spread from one machine to another like a virus.
National: Election integrity commission says it doesn’t need to make privacy assessment | Washington Times
President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity responded to one of an increasing number of lawsuits against it, asking a federal judge Monday to deny a request seeking to prevent the gathering of states’ voter data over concerns about transparency and privacy. In a court filing on Monday, the commission argued federal law doesn’t require it to perform a privacy risk assessment before collecting voter data, which was a key argument in one of the first lawsuits brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) earlier this month. After Kris W. Kobach, the panel vice chairman, asked states to turn over names, partial Social Security numbers, birthdays, political party affiliations, military status and other public information last month, EPIC filed suit, hoping to force the commission to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment before gathering the personal data. EPIC quickly scored a win when the commission suspended its collection of state voter information earlier this month until a judge rules on the matter.
President Trump’s voter fraud commission is urging a federal court not to block it from collecting state data on registered voters. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity responded Monday to a motion from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The privacy group asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this month for a temporary restraining order to stop the commission from collecting state voter roll data. EPIC claims the commission violated the E-Government Act of 2002 and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in asking all 50 states and D.C. for voters’ full names and addresses, political party registration and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is sharply divided over how the election watchdog agency should respond to Russian interference in the U.S. election as more revelations come to light about foreign meddling during 2016. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee, believes the FEC should play a more active role and consider rulemaking proposals to prevent foreign influence in future U.S. elections. She advocates a forward-looking, “prospective” approach focused on preventing future influence in the 2018 midterm elections. Federal election law prohibits foreign nationals or entities from making campaign contributions or influencing U.S. elections.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee called for more investigation into the digital activities of Donald Trump’s campaign, amid concerns about Russian-directed misinformation efforts to influence the election, even as the president’s lawyer vigorously defended his client. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said he wants to look into the activities of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that advised Trump’s campaign, as well as Trump’s digital efforts during the election because of the way false election stories about Hillary Clinton were circulated and targeted online. “The ability to manipulate these search engines and some of these social media platforms is real, it’s out there,” Warner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “We need information from the companies, as well as we need to look into the activities of some of the Trump digital campaign activities.’’
Democrats are stepping up their criticism of the White House’s voter integrity commission, while trying to stave off panic about the commission’s requests for data — panic that has already led to thousands of voters asking to be removed from the rolls in key states. “It’s Republican overreach,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in an interview. “This voter commission exposes the Republicans very clearly for what they’re trying to do, which is simply to suppress the vote. You look at the people on this commission and they’ve been the long-term leaders of the campaign to do that. It’s not hard to figure out.”
National: Emails show Kobach crafting changes to federal voting law after Trump win | The Wichita Eagle
Kansas Secretary of Kris Kobach was developing federal legislation immediately after the November election to “make clear” that proof of citizenship voter registration requirements – like what Kansas has – would be permitted nationwide. Emails contained in court filings on Friday show that the day after the presidential election Kobach was already preparing changes to the National Voter Registration Act, commonly called the motor voter law, for the future administration of President Donald Trump. Kobach, who announced a bid for Kansas governor in June, began a Nov. 9 email by referencing draft legislation for submission to Congress early in the Trump administration. “I have already started regarding amendments to the NVRA to make clear that proof of citizenship requirements are permitted (based on my ongoing litigation with the ACLU over this), as well as legislation to stop the dozen states that are providing instate tuition to illegal aliens in violation of (federal law),” Kobach wrote.
The National Republican Congressional Committee dismissed as a “political stunt” a letter from its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, asking for the two parties to team up on combating hacking ahead of the 2018 election. “This letter was delivered by an intern and immediately leaked to the press to generate attention around a cheap political stunt,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said. “Cybersecurity is a high priority for us and has been for some time now. Unfortunately, the DCCC made it clear they’re more interested in trying to score political points than actually thwarting interference.” DCCC Communications Director Meredith Kelly quickly hit back. “This is a disturbingly flippant response to a simple request that we set partisan politics aside and work together to better protect our elections from foreign adversaries and their cyberattacks,” she told The Washington Post.
The recent request from President Donald Trump’s vote fraud commission for a mountain of sensitive data from the states sparked a backlash and baffled many officials — not only because of concerns about privacy and security but because an organization already exists doing much of the same work. “There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel when we’re already here…and we do it very well,” said Shane Hamlin, executive director of the Election Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC. ERIC is a non-profit group currently made up of 20 states — both red and blue — and the District of Columbia that shares large amounts of sensitive voter data to root out possible fraud, ensure more accurate voter rolls and encourage registration.
National: White House releases sensitive personal information of voters worried about their sensitive personal information | The Washington Post
The White House on Thursday made public a trove of emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission. The commission drew widespread criticism when it emerged into public view by asking for personal information, including addresses, partial social security numbers and party affiliation, on every voter in the country. It further outraged voters by planning to post that information publicly. Voters directed that outrage toward the Trump White House and the voter commission, often using profanity-laced language in the 112 pages of emails released this week. “You will open up the entire voting population to a massive amount of fraud if this data is in any way released,” one voter wrote. “Many people will get their identity stolen, which will harm the economy,” wrote another.
For all the uncertainty surrounding the Trump campaign’s associations with Russia, one thing remains clear: A foreign power interfered in the US presidential race, with hackers targeting the election systems of 21 states to do so. And yet the government has done precious little to keep it from happening again. The inaction stems not from laziness or ignorance but a deep, possibly unbridgeable divide between state and federal powers. So far this year, a handful of special elections in the US have gone smoothly, but the threat from Russia still looms, especially as the 2018 midterm races approach. France recently saw Kremlin-led meddling in its own presidential contest, and Germany has expressed fears over its upcoming election as well. Alarmism may not be productive, but states do have reason to worry. Local officials, though, have bristled at the Department of Homeland Security’s move to designate election systems as “critical infrastructure,” a move designed to unlock resources for system defense upgrades and improve state–federal communication. Everyone agrees that security matters; how to get there is another matter entirely.
Still smarting from a backlash by state election officials, the White House panel investigating claims of voter fraud and other irregularities was hit with a salvo of lawsuits on Monday that accused it of violating federal privacy laws and illegally operating in secret. Three lawsuits, filed separately by civil rights groups, underscored the depth of opposition by the Trump administration’s critics to the panel, the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, even before it formally meets. The commission’s official mandate is to look at flaws in federal voting systems and practices that could encourage fraud and undermine public confidence in elections. But advocacy groups and many Democratic leaders have called it a Potemkin exercise intended to validate President Trump’s groundless claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him a popular-vote victory in November. The true goal, they say, is to lay the groundwork for Congress to place strict qualifications on registering and voting that would primarily suppress opposition to Republican candidates for office.
When President Donald Trump’s “voter fraud panel” holds its first meeting on July 19, members of the public won’t be able to speak. Instead, the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which has enraged and frightened plenty of Americans by requesting detailed data on every registered voter in the country, offered to take comments via email. And comment people did. As of Thursday afternoon, 112 pages of responses were available on the White House website — and if the feds set up a swear jar, the U.S. just might be on its way to paying off that national debt. Descriptions of the controversial panel and its aims included “pea brained,” “undemocratic,” “stupid” and “unpatriotic.” And that was the clean stuff.
There is no evidence that millions of people voted illegally in November’s presidential election, depriving Donald Trump of a popular-vote win over his opponent, Hillary Clinton. But that’s exactly what Trump contends. And now a new commission, created by a Trump executive order, is tasked with investigating the issue. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity hasn’t begun its work, and the 15 members of the panel, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, are still being appointed. But its existence has taken to the extreme what was already a volatile, fiercely partisan issue: voter fraud. Few in Washington, outside Trump’s official spokespeople, agree with the president’s assertion that “millions” voted illegally in the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyers have said that “all available evidence suggests the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.
Critics of President Donald Trump say his son’s emails about meeting a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton is a “smoking gun.”But defenders of the president and Donald Trump Jr. said the meeting, which took place last year as the race between Trump and Clinton was gearing up, amounted to “nothing” and was being overblown by the media.Among those whose job is to decide which side is right is the Federal Election Commission. The FEC is set to again consider in an open meeting July 13 what can be done to protect U.S. elections from interference by Russia and other foreign powers. The FEC is not expected, however, to directly address the newly revealed Trump meeting or other specific cases. The commission already had more than a dozen pending cases about foreign influence in last year’s elections when the news broke about Donald Trump Jr.’s meting with the Russian, leading inevitably to even more new enforcement complaints. The commission, however is as deeply divided along partisan lines as is the rest of America and has yet to signal what, if anything, it will do about these matters.
One in four United States voters say they will not consider voting in upcoming elections due to concerns over cybersecurity, according to a new poll conducted by a cybersecurity firm. The 27 percent of voters who agreed with that statement mark a seven percent rise over a similar poll conducted in September. The poll, conducted by the firm Carbon Black, surveyed 5,000 respondents and has a margin of error of just under two percent. “There is no question, none, that the U.S. voting process is vulnerable,” Carbon Black Chief Executive Patrick Morley told The Hill.
The laws that prohibit foreign nationals from spending money to influence U.S. elections do not prevent them from lawfully buying some kinds of political ads on Facebook and other online networks, campaign finance lawyers said. The omission of online ads could be a potential hurdle for those investigating alleged Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election, according to the campaign finance lawyers, who are not involved in the probes. Since 1974, the United States has barred foreign nationals from giving money to campaigns and it later barred them from donating to political parties. The laws also prohibit foreign nationals from coordinating with a campaign and from buying an ad that explicitly calls for the election or defeat of a candidate.