Though they have raised concerns about election cybersecurity and drawn the criticism of state election officials with the decision to designate the nation’s voting systems as “critical infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security has steadfastly maintained that there has been no indication that “adversaries were planning cyber activity that would change the outcome of the coming US election.” Computer scientists have been critical of that decision. “They have performed computer forensics on no election equipment whatsoever,” said J. Alex Halderman, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week about the vulnerability of election systems. “That would be one of the most direct ways of establishing in the equipment whether it’s been penetrated by attackers. We have not taken every step we could.”
The DHS inspector general’s Digital Forensics and Analysis Unit was involved in reviewing computer data from the federal agency, and from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, in an investigation stemming from Kemps’ claim that the federal government tried to hack his state’s election systems last Fall. In a letter delivered this week, the agency’s inspector general John Roth dismissed allegations that DHS attempted to scan or infiltrate the Georgia computer networks,” and that “the evidence demonstrated normal and appropriate use of Georgia’s public website.”
Citing reports compiled by US intelligence agencies investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers believed to be Russian discussed how to steal Hillary Clinton’s emails from her private server and transfer them to Michael Flynn via an intermediary, named as Peter Smith, a veteran Republican operative. One of the people Smith appears to have tried to recruit, a former British government intelligence official named Matt Tait, related in a first person blog post that he was approached last summer by Smith to help verify hacked Hillary Clinton emails offered by a mysterious and most likely Russian source. According to Tait, Smith claimed to be working with Trump’s then foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn, and showed documentation suggesting he was also associated with close Trump aides including Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and the vice chairman of the newly-formed Election Integrity Commission wrote a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state. The backlash from state election officials and voting rights advocates alike was immediate and more than half the states, including many with Republican Secretaries of State, have refuse to comply with the request. In a statement released Friday, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman, a Republican, suggested that the commission “can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”
In a Slate oped, election law specialist Richard Hasen suggests that the commission’s “focus on noncitizen voting makes sense, and the endgame is about passing federal legislation to make it harder for people to register and vote. The noncitizen focus fits in with Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric as well as the rhetoric of Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who has been advising Trump on voter fraud issues.” The ultimate goal of the commission could be dismantling the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which has long been in Republican crosshairs.
Following two unsuccessful repeal efforts in the Maine legislature, a voter-approved measure calling for ranked choice voting in the state’s election will remain in force. Needing a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature, lawmakers are likely to wait until the second half of the current session, which starts in January 2018. As the first statewide election scheduled that would use ranked-choice voting would be the party primary races set for June 2018, it is still uncertain if the new voting procedure will ever be implemented.
Republican legislative efforts to redraw judicial districts in North Carolina will not advance this session. Democrats and some court officials had argued that the bill was too significant to be rushed through at the end of session. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian law firm has challenged Seattle’s “democracy voucher” program. In 2015 voters agreed to a new $3 million tax in exchange for four $25 vouchers that they could sign over to candidates to foster engagement in politics and to benefit lesser-known candidates.
According to Udo Schneider, a security expert for cyber security consultants Trend Micro, the cost of influencing a national election in Germany would be around $400,000. That’s the sum it takes to buy followers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, hire companies to write and disseminate fake news postings over a period of 12 months, and run sophisticated web sites to influence public opinion.
Voters in Mongolia will return to the polls next week for a presidential run-off election. Former martial arts star Khaltmaa Battulga of the opposition Democratic Party, who won the most votes but failed to secure the majority required, will face ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, who came second. The third-place finisher,Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), has challenged the first round results and demanded a recount.