The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for January 1 2017

Responding to the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that the Kremlin ordered attacks on the DNC and other political organizations, President Obama retaliated by ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services. The State Department announced the closing of two waterfront estates — one in Upper Brookville, N.Y., and another on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — that it said were used for Russian intelligence activities, although officials declined to say whether they were specifically used in the election-related hacks.

A widely distributed AP article noted that Pennsylvania is one of 11 states where the majority of voters use what the article accurately describes as “antiquated machines that store votes electronically without printed ballots or other paper-based backups that could be used to double-check the balloting”, i.e. Danaher Shouptronics and Sequoia AVC Advantage machines but also slightly newer equipment made by Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S without VVPAT printers. The other 10 states are Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia. Florida still uses paperless DREs in some counties but only as accessible equipment for voters with disabilities.

While they didn’t affect the outcome, the partial recounts of November’s election highlighted the unprecedented extent to which the American political system is vulnerable to cyberattack, according to two computer scientists,J Alex Halderman and Matt Bernhard, both of the University of Michigan, who helped the effort to audit the vote. Halderman, who is a member of Verified Voting’s Board of Advisors, drew attention to the involvement of third party vendors that are responsible for the maintenance and programming of voting equipment. For example, 75% of Michigan counties use one of two companies to program their machines. Compromising those two companies would theoretically be sufficient to swing the vote in the state. “How central these points of attack are, that was news to me,” Halderman said. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said Wednesday her abbreviated recount effort showed the vote “was not carefully guarded” in Michigan and should spur legislative action to require automatic post-election audits.

In a US News editorial, Robert Schlesinger observed that the Electoral College doesn’t function today the way the Founding Fathers planned. U.S. Department of Transportation officials said that Alabama has agreed to expand driver’s license office hours after determining that black residents in the state were disproportionately hurt by a slate of closures and reductions in 2015. North Carolina Governor-elect Roy Cooper’s attorneys persuaded a Wake County Superior Court judge to block enactment of a law revamping the state elections board until further court proceedings could take place. Plaintiffs in an ongoing court battle over Texas’ 2011 district maps have filed a joint motion calling for the federal judges considering the case to issue a ruling by next month.

The Gambia’s electoral commission building  reopened, though defeated incumbent President Yahya Jammeh continues to demand a new election and the British government announced that it would begin rolling out mandatory identity checks for voters, prompting a backlash from those who say the move could effectively disenfranchise millions.

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