The Department of Homeland Security contacted election officials in 21 states Friday to notify them that they had been targeted by Russian government hackers during the 2016 election campaign. Three months ago, DHS officials said that people connected to the Russian government tried to hack voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states, but Friday was the first time that government officials contacted individual state election officials to let them know their systems had been targeted. Officials said DHS told officials in all 50 states whether their systems had been attacked or not. “We heard feedback from the secretaries of state that this was an important piece of information,” said Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. “We agreed that this information would help election officials make security decisions.”
National: Kris Kobach Can Prove U.S. Elections Are Messy, But That’s Not The Same Thing As Fraudulent | FiveThirtyEight
President Trump’s voter fraud commission has the stated goal of ensuring the integrity of the vote as “the foundation of our democracy.” But, like the buried foundations of a building, who votes and how they vote aren’t easy things to examine. In alleging that there’s widespread voter fraud, commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach has relied on proxies, such as the indirect measure of matching up names in voter registries to identify people registered in more than one state. In the lead-up to the commission’s second meeting last week, he also railed against thousands of New Hampshire voters who registered using out-of-state licenses — which he claimed proved that people were hopping state borders to illegally swing elections. The experts I spoke with said those metrics don’t really measure the existence or risk of illegal voting. In fact, they said, it’s probably impossible to conclusively prove or disprove allegations of widespread illegal voting — though they pointed out that very few cases have ever been found and prosecuted, even as Kobach is aggressively seeking them out to prove his hypothesis of rampant voter fraud.
The Department of Homeland Security on Friday notified the 21 states that it says Russian government hackers tried to breach during the 2016 election. Alabama, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin have all confirmed that DHS had said they were among the states targeted. But all four said the breach attempts were unsuccessful. In total, a DHS official said only a few networks were successfully breached, and none of those networks involved vote tallying. “DHS notified the Secretary of State or other chief election officer in each state of any potential targeting we were aware of in their state leading up to the 2016 election,” DHS spokesman Scott McConnell told POLITICO.
A civil rights group on Thursday called on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Attorney General Jeff Sessions at an oversight hearing next month about the Department of Justice’s connection to President Trump’s voter fraud commission. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, urged the senators in a statement to “closely examine evidence” that DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is engaged in collusion with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “The goals of the Commission are fully antithetical to the mission of the Division, which is charged with fighting — not prompting — voter suppression,” she said.Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Wednesday that Sessions is scheduled to appear before the Senate committee for DOJ’s annual hearing on Oct. 18.
One of the public’s unanswered questions about Russia’s attempts to break into election systems last year was which states were targeted. On Friday, states found out. The Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year that it had evidence of Russian activity in 21 states, but it failed to inform individual states whether they were among those targeted. Instead, DHS authorities say they told those who had “ownership” of the systems — which in some cases were private vendors or local election offices. State election officials were finally contacted by federal authorities on Friday about whether their election systems were among those targeted for attack last year by Russian hackers. State election officials have complained for months that the lack of information from the federal government was hampering their efforts to secure future elections. “We heard that feedback,” says Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. “We recognize that it is important for senior state election officials to know what happens on their state systems.”
National: Facebook to turn over thousands of Russian ads to Congress, reversing decision | The Washington Post
Facebook on Thursday announced it would turn over to Congress copies of more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements bought through Russian accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, reversing a decision that had frustrated lawmakers. The company has been struggling for months to address the steadily mounting evidence that Russians manipulated the social media platform in their bid to tip the presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump. Democratic lawmakers in recent days had demanded that Facebook be more open about what it knows and to dig more deeply into its troves of data to analyze the propaganda effort, which the company has acknowledged involved at least 470 fake accounts and pages created by a shadowy Russian company that spent more than $100,000 targeting U.S. voters.
Mark Zuckerberg marked his return from paternity leave Thursday with a concerted effort to put lipstick on the pig of Facebook’s role in swaying the 2016 presidential election. In a Facebook live address from an earth-toned, glass-walled office, the chief executive laid out a series of steps the company will take to “protect election integrity and make sure that Facebook is a force for good in democracy”. This proactive approach to a growing public relations problem is par for the course for Facebook. The company has a tendency to respond to negative press, and with US lawmakers making noise about the $100,000 in Facebook ads purchased by a Russian influence operation during the election, Zuckerberg may hope that he can pre-empt regulation. But the problem for Zuckerberg is not just that pigs don’t look good in lipstick. The problem is that more and more people are waking up to the fact that Facebook is less little piggy than it is out-of-control Tyrannosaurus Rex whose creator thought he was building a fun and profitable theme park until it was too late.
Facebook should be treated like a crime scene. The social media company likely has troves of data that could provide critical leads for the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The effort to investigate possible coordination between the Trump team and Russia has so far centered on the growing number of meetings and interactions between the campaign and Kremlin-linked figures. These meetings already tell us a lot about intent. For instance, with the revelation of the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; Paul Manafort, the chairman of the Trump campaign at the time, and a handful of Russians with various ties to the Kremlin, we now know that at the very least the Trump campaign at the highest levels were interested in working with the Russians during the election. And likewise, from the Jan. 6 Intelligence Community report, we know that Russians also wanted to help elect Donald Trump and effectively set up a campaign to do so.
As President Trump’s voter integrity commission looks under rocks for possible voter malfeasance, its members might want to examine a presidential nominee awaiting confirmation by the Senate Finance Committee. Documents indicate that Jeffrey Gerrish, the president’s pick to be a deputy United States Trade Representative, moved from Virginia to Maryland last year, but opted in November to vote in the more competitive state of Virginia than his bright blue new home. The Senate Finance Committee, which has been considering Mr. Gerrish’s nomination, was briefed on the matter on Tuesday, including the fact that Mr. Gerrish had almost certainly voted illegally, according to three Democratic congressional aides familiar with the briefing. Public records back up that notion.
A mathematician and a political scientist joined forces this week to give a two-part talk at Bowdoin about gerrymandering, which is the practice of redrawing congressional districts to help ensure partisan outcomes. Though gerrymandering lands squarely in the political realm, math has always played a big role in congressional districting. Math determines how the U.S. counts voters in its Census and how those voters get divided up to apportion representatives to the government. And today, math could possibly lead the way to a more fair and just political system that is based on mathematically derived voting districts, according to an academic who visited Bowdoin this week. Moon Duchin, an associate professor of mathematics at Tufts University, gave a talk Monday evening about how she is applying her expertise in the geometry of groups and surfaces to gerrymandering. “We’re looking at aspects of this big mess that is US congressional and legislative redistricting, and trying to find places where math has something to say,” she said.