Articles about voting issues in Europe.

France: Prime Minister announces new date for second round of elections, delayed due to coronavirus | Lauren Chadwick/Euronews

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe says the second round of the country’s municipal elections will take place on June 28. The first round was held on March 15th two days before France entered a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The second round, scheduled for March 22, was postponed. Around 5,000 cities or towns will need to hold a second round due to an inconclusive first round. That means that 16 million voters in France will head to the polls on June 28. Philippe said it was necessary to continue democratic processes “with the virus and despite the virus”, adding that the law requires that the election occurs in June. Otherwise, the French government would have to reschedule both the first and second rounds at a later date. Philippe said that there was no way to know if the situation would be better in September. The scientific body advising the government was not against the decision though not all politicians agreed within the government.

Full Article: France announces new date for second round of elections, delayed due to coronavirus | Euronews.

Russia: Putin changes Russia’s electoral law to allow remote vote | Elena Pavlovska/New Europe

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Saturday approved changes to the country’s electoral law, allowing the public to vote electronically or by mail in future polls, the Kremlin said. The new law allows the Central Election Commission to organise voting by mail or via the Internet. The gathering of signatures needed to qualify for elections can be conducted through a special government website. Supporters of the new system say it will help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Critics complain that an electronic system will be easier to manipulate and that Russians will not be able to protest against the changes because of the coronavirus lockdown. In January, Putin proposed changes to the constitution that could pave the way for his indefinite rule, and remained secretive about the reforms he proposed, saying that they were intended to strengthen government bodies.

Full Article: Putin changes Russia’s electoral law to allow remote vote | New Europe.

Poland: Poland Is Showing the World How Not to Run a Pandemic Election. Washington Must Not Repeat Warsaw’s Mistakes. | Zselyke Csaky and Sarah Repucci/Foreign Policy

Polish citizens are set to vote in a presidential election later this week, but there is a serious risk that the balloting will be neither free nor fair. The United States should watch closely and do what is necessary to avoid a similar fate in November. Voting during a pandemic is a difficult exercise, as demonstrated by the 52 countries that have already decided to postpone national or local elections because of the coronavirus. Poland is one of the few nations that are forging ahead, and a combination of daunting logistical challenges and unconcealed attempts by the ruling party to turn the situation to its own advantage are seriously eroding trust in the process. On April 6, a month before the scheduled election, the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party rammed legislation through Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, to introduce nationwide postal voting. Unlike the United States, where the expansion of absentee ballots has been spearheaded by Democrats, in Poland it was the ruling party that championed remote voting as its only chance to hold elections on time. The bill was passed late in the evening amid significant concerns about its content and in defiance of a clear constitutional court decision banning changes to electoral laws less than six months before a vote.

Full Article: Poland's Election Is a Farce. Washington Must Not Repeat Warsaw's Mistakes..

United Kingdom: Inside the troubled, glitchy birth of parliament’s online voting app | Chris Stokel-Walker/WIRED UK

A system that allows MPs to vote in parliament while working remotely has been beset by technical and testing issues, according to people familiar with its development. WIRED understands that two tests of the system have taken place this week. One involved around 30 participants, and the second involved several hundred. Altogether, 430 people have tested the voting app, only a handful of them MPs: House of Commons and Lords staff, and workers in the Parliament Digital Services group were also asked to play the role of MPs during the test environment. Messaging about the voting system, which piggybacks on existing parliamentary IT systems, through the MPs MemberHub application, hasn’t been enormously clear. Only a few of the MPs we approached for this story knew that the app existed at all, and fewer still knew of anyone who had partaken in the voting trial. Those who were privy to the trial reported back to authorities that the system struggled to cope with demand from the number of users, particularly on the second, larger test.

Full Article: Inside the troubled, glitchy birth of parliament’s online voting app | WIRED UK.

Russia: Coronavirus Threat Delays Vote to Keep Putin in Power | Charles Maynes/VoA News

President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Russia’s growing crisis surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus — postponing a constitutional referendum whose key provision provides a path for the longtime Russian leader to retain power beyond the end of his current term and far into the next decade. The nationwide vote was to have taken place in April. “The absolute priority for us is the health, life and safety of people. Therefore, I believe that the vote should be postponed until a later date,” said Putin in a hastily scheduled address to the nation on Wednesday. The decision came as a government task force said the number of suspected coronavirus cases in Russia surged past the 800 mark, with the government embracing tighter restrictions and acknowledging the deaths of two elderly patients due to complications from the virus. This marked the first time Russia attributed deaths to a global contagion. “What is happening today in many Western countries, both in Europe and overseas, can become our immediate future,” warned Putin. “We must understand that Russia, simply because of its geographic location, cannot isolate itself from the threat.”

Full Article: Coronavirus Threat Delays Vote to Keep Russia’s Putin in Power  | Voice of America - English.

Europe: EU parliament moves to email voting during COVID-19 pandemic | Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

The European Parliament will temporarily allow electronic voting by email as MEPs are forced to work remotely during the coronavirus crisis. A spokeswoman for the parliament confirmed today that an “alternative electronic voting procedure” has been agree for the plenary session that will take place on March 26. “This voting procedure is temporary and valid until 31 July,” she added. Earlier this month the parliament moved the majority of its staff to teleworking. MEPs have since switch to full remote work as confirmed cases of COVID-19 have continued to step up across Europe. Though how to handle voting remotely has generated some debate in and of itself. “Based on public health grounds, the President decided to have a temporary derogation to enable the vote to take place by an alternative electronic voting procedure, with adequate safeguards to ensure that Members’ votes are individual, personal and free, in line with the provisions of the Electoral act and the Members’ Statute,” the EU parliament spokeswoman said today, when we asked for the latest on its process for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full Article: EU parliament moves to email voting during COVID-19 pandemic | TechCrunch.

Russia: Russian media ‘spreading Covid-19 disinformation’ | Jennifer Rankin/The Guardian

Pro-Kremlin media have been spreading disinformation about coronavirus with the aim of “aggravating” the public health crisis in the west, the European Union’s diplomatic service has concluded in a leaked report. An EU monitoring team collected 80 examples of disinformation from Russian sources in nearly two months up to 16 March. Coronavirus was claimed to be a biological weapon deployed by China, the US or the UK. Other conspiracy theories contended the outbreak was caused by migrants or was a pure hoax. “Pro-Kremlin media outlets have been prominent in spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, with the aim to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems,” states the report, seen by the Guardian. The European commission’s chief spokesperson on foreign and security policy, Peter Stano, said there had been an increase in “disinformation, misleading information, outright lies and wrong things” since the start of the outbreak. The commission had noticed, he said, an increase in disinformation from Russia, providers based in the country and those with links to pro-Kremlin sources.

Full Article: Russian media ‘spreading Covid-19 disinformation’ | World news | The Guardian.

Russia: U.S. drops charges against accused IRA sponsor over concerns Russia would weaponize evidence | Jeff Stone/CyberScoop

U.S. prosecutors said on Monday they would drop criminal charges against two Russian firms accused of funding disinformation efforts ahead of the 2016 election, amid concerns that the companies would weaponize evidence in the trial to boost future operations. The U.S. Department of Justice charged the two companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, in 2018 as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Both shell firms funded Russian efforts to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to divide public opinion in the U.S., prosecutors said. With a trial set to begin April 6, though, prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The abrupt change came after U.S. attorneys complained in prior court filings they would need to provide the defendants with some details about the U.S. government’s sources and methods for its national security investigation. Justice Department officials had expressed trepidation over whether Concord would release or somehow use details about its intelligence-collection for the defendants’ own gain, according to the New York Times.

Full Article: U.S. drops charges against accused IRA sponsor over concerns Russia would weaponize evidence.

Russia: Justice Department abandons prosecution of Russian firm indicted in Mueller election interference probe | Spencer S. Hsu/The Washington Post

The Justice Department on Monday dropped its two-year-long prosecution of a Russian company charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The stunning reversal came a few weeks before the case — a spinoff of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — was set to go to trial. Assistants to U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea of Washington and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers cited an unspecified “change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination,” according to a nine-page filing accompanied by facts under seal. Prosecutors also cited the failure of the company, Concord Management and Consulting, to comply with trial subpoenas and the submission of a “misleading, at best” affidavit by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a co-defendant and the company’s founder. Prigozhin is a catering magnate and military contractor known as “Putin’s chef” because of his ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “Upon careful consideration of all of the circumstances, and particularly in light of recent events . . . the government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord . . . promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” federal prosecutors wrote.

Full Article: Justice Dept. abandons prosecution of Russian firm indicted in Mueller election interference probe - The Washington Post.

France: French people urged to vote in local elections amid coronavirus lockdown | Kim Willsher/The Guardian

French voters were urged to turn out to vote in the first round of municipal elections, hours after a national shutdown of all non-essential shops and services. Polling stations opened on Sunday as planned despite calls for the two-round vote to be postponed as the coronavirus spread. On Saturday evening, the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, announced the country was moving into stage 3 of its response to the coronavirus emergency and ordered a partial lockdown, including the closure of cafés, bars, restaurants and cinemas. Food shops, tobacconists, pharmacies and public transport will remain open, Philippe said, but transport ministers warned services would be reduced to a minimum this week to try to contain the spread of the virus. French schools and colleges have shut down indefinitely and people are advised to work from home where possible and avoid unnecessary journeys. The decision to shut down non-essential public places came as France reported 4,499 confirmed cases, including 91 deaths, according to the national health agency, Santé Publique France.

Full Article: French people urged to vote in local elections amid coronavirus lockdown | World news | The Guardian.

United Kingdom: Ministers will no longer claim ‘no successful examples’ of Russian interference | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

Ministers have been told they can no longer say there have been “no successful examples” of Russian disinformation affecting UK elections, after the apparent hacking of an NHS dossier seized on by Labour during the last campaign. The dropping of the old line is the first official admission of the impact of Kremlin efforts to distort Britain’s political processes, and comes after three years of the government’s refusal to engage publicly with the threat. Cabinet Office sources confirmed the position been quietly changed while an investigation into the alleged hacking of the 451-page cache of emails from a special adviser’s personal email account by the security services concludes. Boris Johnson and his predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, have both appeared reluctant to discuss Kremlin disinformation, with Johnson refusing to allow a report on Russian infiltration in the UK to be published before the election.

Full Article: UK ministers will no longer claim 'no successful examples' of Russian interference | Technology | The Guardian.

Russia: How Russian election meddling is back before 2020 vote — via Ghana and Nigeria — and in your feeds | CNN

The Russian trolls are back — and once again trying to poison the political atmosphere in the United States ahead of this year’s elections. But this time they are better disguised and more targeted, harder to identify and track. And they have found an unlikely home, far from Russia itself. In 2016, much of the trolling aimed at the US election operated from an office block in St. Petersburg, Russia. A months-long CNN investigation has discovered that, in this election cycle, at least part of the campaign has been outsourced — to trolls in the west African nations of Ghana and Nigeria. They have focused almost exclusively on racial issues in the US, promoting black empowerment and often displaying anger towards white Americans. The goal, according to experts who follow Russian disinformation campaigns, is to inflame divisions among Americans and provoke social unrest. The language and images used in the posts — on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — are sometimes graphic. One of the Ghanaian trolls — @africamustwake — linked to a story from a left-wing conspiracy website and commented on Facebook: “America’s descent into a fascist police state continues.”

Full Article: How Russian election meddling is back before 2020 vote - CNN.

Russia: Kaspersky wants you to vote on its machines | Robert Stevens/Decrypt

Now now, settle down; just because Kaspersky is a Russian company with (ALLEGED) ties to its government, that doesn’t mean that the new blockchain-based voting system, developed by Polys, a Russian company that came out of Kaspersky’s innovation lab, is trying to manipulate elections.  All Polys wants from you is to cast your anonymous vote on your country’s next leader through its blockchain-based voting machines. The system’s secure, it claims, because it decentralizes vote information on several blockchain nodes. Vote organisers can choose the computers on which they store this data from trusted organizations. And to use the machines, voters must prove their identities by submitting various documents, which nets them a unique and private QR code.

Full Article: Russian cybersecurity firm wants you to vote on its machines - Decrypt.

Bulgaria: Buying voting machines will cost about 15 Million Euro | The Sofia Globe

Preliminary government estimates are that buying voting machines will cost about 30 million leva (about 15.3 million euro), Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev told reporters on February 14. Donchev was speaking two days after Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said that the government would buy voting machines for all polling stations. Bulgaria is due to go the polls twice in 2021, in parliamentary elections in the spring and presidential elections in the autumn. A voting machine cost about the same as a mid-range laptop, less than 2000 leva, and 15 000 to 20 000 machines would have to be ordered, Donchev said. There were a few details that could change the price, he said. “Since autumn last year we have been looking into the market, which is not very easy. Because there is no European experience that we can take into account. Further the situation is complicated by the situation in China,” Donchev said, saying that whatever the components, some were made in China.

Full Article: Bulgaria’s Deputy PM: Buying voting machines will cost about 30M leva | The Sofia Globe.

Bulgaria: Government will buy voting machines for all polling stations | The Sofia Globe

The Bulgarian government will provide funds to buy voting machines so that there is one at each polling station at the next elections, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told a Cabinet meeting on February 12. He added, however, that he was not convinced that this would solve anything. In 2019, Bulgaria’s Parliament amended the Electoral Code to require the use of 3000 voting machines in last year’s presidential elections, 6000 in the municipal elections, and in National Assembly elections. Ahead of the autumn 2019 municipal elections, the law was amended again, to remove the requirement for the use of machines in that vote. That followed a Central Electoral Commission (CEC) analysis after the European Parliament elections that the deployment of voting machines – the first time they had been used on a large scale in Bulgaria – had created a number of difficulties.

Full Article: Bulgarian PM: Government will buy voting machines for all polling stations | The Sofia Globe.

Ukraine: Zelensky hopes to hold online voting through smartphone at elections in Ukraine | InterFax

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has set a goal to bring all relations between a citizen and the government to a digital dimension, in particular to hold online voting during presidential, parliamentary and local elections. “In general, our goal is to make sure that all relations with the state can be carried out with the help of a regular smartphone and the Internet. In particular, voting. This is our dream and we will make it real at presidential, parliamentary or local elections. It is a challenge. Ambitious yet achievable,” he said during the presentation of the Diia mobile application in Kyiv on Thursday. Zelensky also said that The State in a Smartphone project changes the attitude of the government to a citizen and saves citizens’ time, money and nervous system.

Full Article: Zelensky hopes to hold online voting through smartphone at elections in Ukraine.

Ukraine: Interior Ministry asks FBI to help probe suspected Russian hack of Burisma | Ilya Zhegulev/Reuters

Authorites in Ukraine have asked the top law enforcement agency of the United States for help investigating the suspected cyberattack by Russian military hackers on Burisma Holdings, an energy company caught up in the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. The Ukrainian interior ministry on Thursday also announced an investigation into the possible illegal surveillance of the then American ambassador to Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch, following the release of  messages this week by the US Congress as part of the impeachment case. Burisma was at the center of attempts by Trump last July to persuade Ukraine to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden, who is the son of Democratic US presidential contender Joe Biden and used to have a seat on the Ukrainian company’s board.

Full Article: Ukraine asks FBI to help probe suspected Russian hack of Burisma.

United Kingdom: Leaked NHS dossier inquiry focuses on personal Gmail accounts | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

Britain’s security agencies are investigating whether hackers from a hostile state successfully targeted a personal Gmail account to access an explosive cache of correspondence that was seized on by Labour during the election campaign. The leak inquiry into how the 451-page dossier got into the public domain is focused on the Department for International Trade. Jeremy Corbyn said during the campaign that the documents proved the NHS was “on the table” in future US trade talks. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, warned ministerial special advisers at a meeting on Tuesday not to use personal Gmail accounts because “foreign powers” were targeting them. Special advisers are not supposed to use personal accounts for government business but, in practice, some communications are conducted via private accounts, where security may be weaker because they are outside official networks. It is not clear which country – if any – is behind the alleged hack, but independent analysts have already suggested that the cache was originally disseminated online by a Russian operation known as Secondary Infektion.

Full Article: Leaked NHS dossier inquiry focuses on personal Gmail accounts | Politics | The Guardian.

Estonia: E-election taskforce report complete, includes 25 improvement proposals | ERR

The e-election taskforce has completed a report which includes 25 proposals for supplementing Estonia’s e-election system, improving its reliability and managing its risks. Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Kaimar Karu said that the report provided a useful overview of the issues surrounding e-elections. “The current e-election system has been in development and use since 2005 already, and, as with any other complex system, it requires continued further development and improvement,” Karu said in a press release on Thursday. The report by the taskforce, which was launched by previous IT minister Kert Kingo (EKRE), will serve as one input in agreeing on further concrete steps in cooperation with other involved ministries and agencies. “The e-election system can definitely be viewed as part of the state’s core infrastructure by now, and its funding and development are an extremely high priority,” he said. “We must continue to be sure that we are using the best technology currently available while also taking into account, to the extent possible, future changes in both cryptography and technology capabilities in general.”

Full Article: E-election taskforce report complete, includes 25 improvement proposals | News | ERR.

Latvia: State institutions and politicians experience cyber attack | Latvian Public Broadcasting

The Information Technology Security Incident Response Institution announced on Friday, December 13 that over the last few days several state institution employees and politicians have experienced targeted cyber attacks using phishing emails from the Russian embassy formatted as a reply to a previous correspondence. The emails included a link for downloading a document, which would be used to infect the victim’s computer. All recipients recognised former correspondence fragments, which were used to promote trust in the email. This is at least the second such attack in the last three months where phishing emails were sent from the Russian embassy. The embassy itself informed the media in October that their email system experienced a cyber attack. The attack didn’t include critical vulnerabilities, but the downloadable documents included macro functions, where the user had to accept permissions. urges everyone to check the authenticity of all emails by checking the “From” and “Repy-to” addresses before opening any attachments or downloading any documents, as well as to avoid accepting any macro function permissions from documents.

Full Article: State institutions and politicians experience cyber attack / Article /