The Time to Hack-Proof the 2018 Election Is Expiring — and Congress Is Way Behind

Lawmakers are scrambling to push something — anything — through Congress that would help secure the nation’s voting systems ahead of the 2018 elections.

But it might already be too late for some critical targets. By this point during the 2016 election cycle, Russian hackers had already been in the Democratic National Committee’s networks for at least three months.

Members of both parties insist they can get something done before Election Day 2018, but concede that the window is rapidly closing. Voters in Texas and Illinois will take to the polls in the country’s first primaries in just over three months — a narrow timeline for implementing software patches, let alone finding the funds to overhaul creaky IT systems, swap out aging voting machines or implement state-of-the-art digital audits.

“Not a lot of time, no question,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is leading an investigation of Russia’s election-year meddling, told POLITICO.

It’s not for a lack of ideas. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed a raft of legislative solutions aimed at inoculating future U.S. elections from foreign meddling. But the efforts have been stalled amid partisan fighting, ideological disagreements over who should fund election security and — perhaps most prominently — a packed congressional calendar that has prioritized repealing Obamacare and pushing through a tax overhaul.

“I don’t think anything can come that fast, unless you are a tax bill or something like that,” said Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson, who co-chairs a House Democratic election task force formed to explore bolstering the country’s decentralized election infrastructure ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Thompson’s group is planning to issue its own legislation next month and Thompson, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, insisted it would go through “regular order,” with extensive hearings, debate and amendments — a process that could take weeks or months.

“There’s no question from the standpoint of what we need to do, we’re behind,” he said. “And by being behind, we’re at risk for any future federal election.”

Cybersecurity experts have long warned that America’s election system is a sitting duck for hackers looking to cause chaos. Voter rolls have regularly been been storedon inadequately protected systems, and the country has for years relied on outdated electronic voting machines. At the state and local level, governments can lack the funds to hire elite cyber professionals or properly train staff.

And campaigns themselves are often harried and slapdash, with little thought given to digital security.

The 2016 election vaulted these realities into the public spotlight. The U.S. government accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of deploying his hackers in an orchestrated scheme to infiltrate political parties, campaigns and state election networks. The effort was wildly successful, pilfering and selectively leaking internal files from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, spurring intra-party bickering and generating weeks of splashy headlines based on the exposed personal emails.

And U.S. intelligence leaders have warned that Moscow will be back, leveraging the lessons of 2016 to try and destabilize future elections. Already, officials and researchers have accused the Kremlin of using similar tactics in subsequent elections around Europe.

Yet Capitol Hill has not passed any legislation that specifically addresses the issue.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pushed a bipartisan proposal that would allow states to apply for federal grants to update election technology after proving they had adopted certain federal cybersecurity standards. But the legislation hasn’t received a floor vote. And a companion House bill is stuck in limbo.

Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are another across-the-aisle duo offering their own bill that would speed through security clearances for top election officials, giving them access to classified information on hacking threats. The measure hasn’t gotten off the ground. And independent Maine Sen. Angus King pressed Senate appropriators — to no avail — for $160 million to help state and local governments purchase auditable voting machines. A slate of other mostly-Democratic proposals have similarly gone nowhere.

“I’m concerned that there’s not enough urgency broadly to move legislation forward,” Heinrich told POLITICO. “But we’re going to keep pushing, because I think these problems are not going away.”

Perhaps the most high-profile policy recommendations will arrive sometime early next year when Burr’s Senate Intelligence Committee releases the findings of its monthslong examination of Russia’s digital meddling efforts. Burr and panel ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) have vowed their final report will include suggestions for how to ensure the Kremlin can’t repeat its 2016 success in future elections.

But it’s unclear if lawmakers will swiftly act on the committee’s advice — or if it would even help at that point.

“It’s high-time we got started, and it will be too late soon if there isn’t action,” said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer scientist and a leading expert on digitally securing elections.

Halderman said it’s probably already too late for the midterms to make many hardware upgrades to voting equipment — such as replacing paperless, touch-screen machines with ones that produce a paper trail — and that there’s only a window of about six to nine months to make the switch in time for 2020, due to the winding procurement process involved.

Earlier this year, Virginia was able to swiftly ditch any remaining paperless touchscreen voting machines just a few months before Election Day in the state’s closely watched gubernatorial race.

But Halderman noted that, “in terms of a coordinating, national effort to really address the cybersecurity threats to elections head-on, we don’t yet have that strategy in place and we need to get it going urgently — within the next very small number of months — if it’s going to help 2018 in a significant way.”

Congress is a “critical missing piece” in terms of leadership and allocating resources, said Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, who has worked on multiple reports detailing ideas to keep digital meddlers out of elections.

Currently, Norden noted, state and local officials are left to make piecemeal ties with the Department of Homeland Security — which has worked to boost the election security tools it offers states — and the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that helps administer elections but operates on a limited budget.

Even if a consensus bill emerged on Capitol Hill, however, Thompson expressed reservations that GOP leadership would let it get a floor vote.

“There’s no guarantee that it would ever see the light of day,” he said.

But several prominent Republicans, including Burr and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told POLITICO they might support some type of congressional or federal action, even if it isn’t as extensive as Thompson would prefer.

“We’re already late,” Cornyn said. “But it might not hurt to provide some best practices or some guidelines so that those states that aren’t as well prepared can deal with it, because it’s going to be ongoing.”

Such sentiment has given even the typically pessimistic cybersecurity crowd some restrained hope that something may be accomplished.

“I don’t want to sound too pollyannaish or optimistic but I haven’t given up on the fact something significant could happen from this Congress in time to have an impact on 2018 and certainly 2020,” Norden said.

But, he added, “the longer they wait, if something does happen … then I think that they will be blamed. No question.”

Former VP Candidate Tim Kaine Calls for End to Super Delegates

Tim Kaine is pictured. | Getty Images


Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is urging the Democratic National Committee to end its tradition of using superdelegates, which activists say diminish the influence of regular voters at the expense of party bigwigs in the presidential nominating process.

“I have long believed there should be no superdelegates. These positions are given undue influence in the popular nominating contest and make the process less democratic,” Kaine wrote in a letter Wednesday to DNC chairman Tom Perez, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO.

The plea from Kaine — himself a former DNC chairman, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, and a superdelegate — puts him on the side of many backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s primary opponent in last year’s race for the White House. Under the current system, elected officials and influential party members get to cast a vote for their preferred presidential candidate with extra weight, regardless of how their state or district votes during the primary.

Pointing to the ongoing work of the Unity Reform Commission appointed last year to review and change the DNC’s nominating process, Kaine urged the group to recommend doing away with the superdelegate system altogether, and by extension encouraged Perez to adopt that proposal.

“I support the ongoing reform effort and write regarding one aspect of the Commission’s work,” he wrote in the letter.

Kaine — who served as the DNC chairman between 2009 and 2011, largely during his time as Virginia’s governor — goes on to pledge that if the rules do not change, he will commit to voting for whoever his state supports in future nominating contests.

“I encourage any other superdelegate who feels the same way to take the same pledge. I believe the task of the Unity Commission will be made easier if its members know that there are many superdelegates, appointed automatically pursuant to party rules, who don’t mind changes to the current system to make our rules more democratic,” he wrote.

His letter could spur other superdelegates to publicly weigh in on the system’s future.

The superdelegate question has been front-and-center in the commission’s deliberations, and Sanders himself has urged reform to the process after Clinton entered their 2016 match-up with substantial support even prior to any primary contest.

After months worth of meetings, the commission — made up of appointees of Clinton, Sanders, and Perez — is due to wrap up its work and issue recommendations next month.

The group has considered various proposals for dealing with superdelegates — including automatically binding their votes to their states’ choice — but getting rid of them altogether has proven controversial, as some have argued that would be unfair to certain minority groups who they argue are otherwise under-represented.

The DNC’s handling of these recommendations is shaping up to be yet another inflection point for the organization, which has suffered through poor fund-raising and a series of controversies in recent months, most recently when former chair Donna Brazile published a book suggesting the institution was unfairly tipped toward Clinton over Sanders.



PERS Under Threat by Republican Super-Majority

Bobby Moak

PERS under threat…….

Rumors are more than swirling that for the 5th straight year, Republicans are trying to take funds from the state’s retirement system. Even the conservative Mississippi Business Journal lays it out…/bill-crawford-reeves-fiscal-plan-r…/

Make no mistake. Republicans have the leadership positions and are the only ones pushing this agenda. They have a supermajority and can make it happen because rank-and-file Republicans vote as they are told by their leadership.

They have put the budget in the worst shape than anyone can remember, taken local funds for schools, failed to provide money for roads and bridges, and gave our tax dollars for these items to their corporate buddies that fund their campaigns. They tell you one thing at home then follow the leader in Jackson.

If you are concerned about your retirement, be aware because they have also eliminated 10,000 state jobs that pay into the retirement system to keep it healthy. They have a rotten plan for you and your retirement money. Contact your Republican legislators in the House and Senate and let them know this is a bad idea.

Jeramey Anderson Launches Campaign with Party in Gulfport

On Saturday, November 11, Representative Jeramey Anderson made it official. He is running to replace Steven Palazzo as the Congressional Representative from MS 4th District.  Seven members of the Pearl River County Democratic Party traveled to Gulfport to show our support for this young man.  Jeramey is a shining star in our party with a vision for a better Mississippi.

Qualifying for this seat begins in January, with primary elections in June.  At this time, our party cannot endorse anyone until qualifying closes.  We look forward to working with all of our candidates in the 2018 Mid-term Elections.


Posted by Jeramey Anderson for Congress on Sunday, November 12, 2017

Posted by Agnes Wilkerson Dalton on Sunday, November 12, 2017

Message from DNC Chair Tom Perez

Making 2020 Transparent

By DNC Chair Tom Perez

When I ran to serve as chair of the DNC following the 2016 election — a cycle unlike any other in American history — I knew that repairing our party’s structural flaws and healing the deep divisions among our supporters would not be easy. While we’ve made remarkable progress since last November, we still have a long way to go.

I am more committed than ever before to restoring voters’ faith in our democratic process because even the perception of impartiality or an unfair advantage undermines our ability to win. That is unacceptable.

To that end, the new DNC under my leadership is committed to the task of making sure that our 2020 nominating process will be unquestionably fair and transparent. And all the people I’ve brought on board since taking over as chair are working according to the following principles:

  • We believe that only through transparency and accountability can we rebuild the trust we need to win elections.
  • We believe that it’s critical to build an infrastructure that supports all candidates and helps Democrats win.
  • We believe that a party must listen if it seeks to lead.
  • We believe in the principle of equal opportunity for the American people and for our candidates in our party elections.

Of course, as any leader knows, principles only matter when they inform and inspire action. After listening to Democrats from every wing of our party, I’ve developed a series of concrete reforms to put our principles into action and guarantee that under my watch, the new DNC will work to rebuild trust with the people we represent. These principles are:

  1. To ensure that no candidate participating in our presidential nominating process gains any unfair advantage- real or perceived- during our primary season. We will decide the debate schedule in advance, instead of negotiating it after all our candidates have entered the race.
  2. I will ensure that any and all joint fundraising agreements will be transparent, including the new Democratic GrassrootsVictory Fund agreements we’ve developed with all 50 state parties. This is the first time the DNC has signed joint fundraising agreements like this so early and before the mid-term elections.
  3. At all times, I will follow the rules established in the Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic Party, not least of all as they pertain to the selection of our nominee for president of the United States. If there are opportunities for the DNC to make changes to the Charter and Bylaws to be even more transparent, I will work with the DNC body to pass those changes.
  4. I will continue to support the Unity Reform Commission, whose goals are both to unify and reform the party we all love. We will work with the Unity Reform Commission to implement their collective recommendations for meaningful change in our party.
  5. I will continue working to reform and revive our party by empowering diverse grassroots Democrats at the leadership table. We will build on our recent successes with small-dollar fundraising. And we will reject contributions from corporate PAC donors whose goals conflict with our platform.
  6. In addition to committing to a transparent process, I will work with all members of the Democratic Party to make the 2020 process as inclusive as possible, including working to protect the right of every Democrat to make their vote and their voice heard in the primary process.
  7. I will work with our DNC members and progressive partners to ensure that the 2020 process is transparent, accountable, and representative of the will of rank-and-file Democrats

We should never confuse unity with unanimity, and it is my unequivocal goal to regain the trust of voters and unify and strengthen our party to ensure we can elect Democrats from the school board to the oval office. I will not rest in the fight to restore the faith of hardworking families in the political party I love.

Representative Jeramey Anderson Announces Candidacy for Congress

Representative Jeramey Anderson of Moss Point made it official Friday and formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for MS04 Congressional seat currently held by Steven Palazzo.  Primaries for mid-term elections will be June 2018 followed by the General Election in November.


Pearls of Resistance Request

Dear Resistance Group Member,
Please make sure, beginning Monday,  you call every morning to Wicker’s and Cochran’s offices in opposition to the disastrous tax plan. 
Below is a narrative you can use when calling. Please share this! 
Thank you!
Debbie Craig
Cochran: 202-224-5054
Wicker: (202) 224-6253
 “Hello! My name is [___] and I’m calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to let Senator Wicker/Cochran know that I do not support any Budget Resolution that will pave the way for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, like the one the House passed on October 5.
  What Donald Trump and the Republicans have proposed is not tax reform: it’s tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Things like repealing the estate tax and the net investment tax only help the super rich.
  And we DO NOT have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. That’s a myth being pushed by the GOP
The amount corporations actually pay is much lower than what they’re supposed to pay. Their effective tax rate, according to the Government Accountability Office, is only 14%. That rate is in line with or lower than the rest of the world, and there’s no evidence that the tax rate hurts U.S. competitiveness
   I want Senator Wicker/Cochran to hold corporations accountable for paying their fair share, not let them off the hook.
   There are too many loopholes in the tax code that the wealthy and corporations exploit to get away with paying less than their fair share. 
   But the postcard idea doesn’t work, and if by simplifying the tax code you mean consolidating brackets, then I’m opposed to that. That is an idea that only benefits the very wealthy of incomes $3 million and up. 
   Please take down my contact information so you can let me know what the Senator decides to do.
Thank you.”

Rep. Jeramey Anderson to receive award from U.N.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

Mississippi State Representative Jeramey D. Anderson to Receive Most Influential People of African Descent Under 40 Award.

The ceremony hosted by the Most Influential People of African Descent will honor individuals transcending race with their achievements in politics, business, media, religious, and humanitarian endeavors impacting popular culture all over the world.

Moss Point, MS (September 22, 2017) – In support of the United Nations (UN) International Decade for People of African Descent representing years 2015 – 2024, the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), a global civil society initiative, will honor high achievers of African descent under the age of 40 from around the world. This event will be held on September 26, 2017 at the One UN Millennium Hilton Hotel in New York, New York following the opening session of the United Nations.