National: Chinese hackers attacked Federal Election Commission website | CNN

Chinese hackers tapped into the Federal Election Commission’s website during the federal government shutdown in October, a report released Tuesday by an investigative news organization says. The report from the Center for Public Integrity, one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations, indicates that hackers crashed the FEC’s computer systems, which compiles federal election campaign finance information like contributions to parties and candidates, and how those billions of dollars are spent in each election by candidates, political parties, and independent groups such as political action committees. The attack came as nearly all of the FEC’s employees, except for the presidential-appointed commissioners, were furloughed due to the government shutdown, with not even one staffer being deemed “necessary to the prevention of imminent threats” to federal property. And it came a few months after an independent auditor hired by the government warned that the FEC’s computer systems were at “high risk” to infiltration, a charge the commission disputed.

National: Did 17 illegal voters in Ohio steal the 2012 election? | Slate

The headline from Fox News is chilling, especially at this moment when most Americans regret putting Barack Obama back in the Oval Office. “Non-citizens caught voting in 2012 presidential election in key swing state,” reports Eric Shawn. What are the gruesome details? Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Wednesday that his office found 17 non-citizens illegally cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election — and has referred the case for possible prosecution… Husted also found that 274 non-citizens remain on the voting rolls. President Obama beat Mitt Romney in Ohio by just 2 percentage points in November 2012. Did you catch that, how Shawn pivoted from the number of total votes to the percentage of votes? Why would he do that? Without reading his mind, I’d guess it’s because the actual Ohio margin between Obama and Romney last year was 166,272 votes, and Shawn wants to keep his readers as ignorant as posssible. Seventeen votes represents 0.0003 percent of the total of ballots cast for either Obama or Romney in the state, and 0.01 percent of the margin.

Iowa: Schultz told to develop repayment plan for federal funds | Quad City Times

An official with the Iowa Auditor’s office says Secretary of State Matt Schultz should develop a repayment plan in the event the federal funds he is using for an investigation into potential voter fraud is deemed to be improper. Deputy Chief Auditor Warren Jenkins said in a letter that the federal Help America Vote Act “does not specifically address whether the investigation of complaints and potential criminal activity is an allowable expenditure under HAVA.” As a result, he recommended Schultz develop a repayment plan should his office be asked to repay the funds. Last year, Schultz struck an agreement to pay the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation to look into potential voter fraud.

National: New team seeks to take online voting from fantasy to reality | California Forward

You can do almost anything online; your banking, shop on Amazon, pay your bills. And yet one thing that forever evaded Californians is the opportunity to vote online, due to the myriad of security and privacy issues. But a new project from the Overseas Vote Foundation is putting a team together that could be the catalyst toward bringing democracy to your DSL connection. The project is called End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting: Specification and Feasibility Assessment Study, aka E2E VIV Project. It brings together experts in computer science, usability, and auditing and adds in the expertise of local election officials from counties throughout the U.S. to examine potential solutions to the current roadblocks toward online voting. The main challenge? How to maintain the anonymity of your vote while making sure it’s secure and stays the same from sender to recipient.

California: State Legislature To Consider Doing Away With Special Elections | KPBS

The San Diego region saw its fair share of special elections for state legislature seats this year. Now a retired California lawmaker is proposing an alternative: empty seats would be filled by the governor, not voters. The state legislature could take up the issue next month. Here’s a refresher on San Diego’s recent musical chair elections: Congressman Bob Filner was elected mayor, leaving his congressional seat open. Juan Vargas won that spot, leaving his state senate seat free, which was filled by Ben Hueso in a special election. But that left Hueso’s state assembly seat vacant, so another special election was called to fill it, which labor council leader Lorena Gonzalez won. The special elections for Vargas and Hueso’s seats cost San Diego County $1.5 million and $1.05 million respectively (the assembly seat election was consolidated with a special election to fill San Diego City Council’s District 4), according to Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. The turnout for both state elections hovered around 14.5 percent.

California: Latino voters sue Visalia to end ‘at large’ voting. | Modesto Bee

A group of Latino men who sued the city Thursday allege that Visalia’s “at large” system of electing council members violates the California Voting Rights Act by making it nearly impossible for Latino candidates to win. The Superior Court lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the city to switch to district elections and hold them in even-numbered years, which would correspond with state and federal election cycles. Council members are currently elected in a citywide vote in odd-numbered years, with the top vote-getters winning. The lawsuit comes less than two months after a City Council election in which the only Latino candidate came in a distant fourth behind three white incumbents in the city of about 127,000 that is 46% Hispanic.

Editorials: Florida governor attempts hijacking of voter rolls |

Gov. Rick Scott’s latest purge of Florida’s voter rolls is lurching forward, despite the skepticism and outright opposition of many county elections supervisors. True to his “tea party” roots, Scott dreams of the days when most voters were cranky, middle-aged white people, his core constituency. Up for re-election next year, the governor fears a high voter turnout, because that would mean lots of Hispanics and African-Americans standing in line to cast their ballots. They tend to vote Democrat, grim prospects for a Republican who isn’t exactly beloved in his own party. Scott’s first voter purge was a debacle. Initiated ahead of the 2012 elections, the idea was to thwart President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates by reducing the number of Hispanic, Haitian and other foreign-born voters. Screening drivers’ licenses, the Division of Elections produced a list of about 182,000 possible non-citizens who were registered to vote. Unfortunately, the list proved worthless because the data was outdated or flat-out wrong. County officials were left exasperated and angry.

Iowa: State auditor: Use of federal funds for voter fraud investigations might not be appropriate | Iowa City Press Citizen

The nearly $150,000 that Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office has spent on a long-running voter fraud investigation may not be an appropriate use of federal money, the state auditor suggested in a letter released today. In the letter, a deputy to State Auditor Mary Mosiman recommends that Schultz’s office develop a plan to repay the costs associated with the investigation if a federal election commission decides criminal investigations are not an allowed use for funds provided under the Helping America Vote Act. The issue centers on an agreement between the Secretary of State’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations, in place since July, 2012, under which a DCI agent is assigned full time to investigate cases of voter fraud. To date, that effort has yielded charges in 16 cases and five guilty pleas at a cost of about $150,000.

Montana: Groups ask Montana court to strike referendums from ballot | The Missoulian

ome unions and other groups have asked the Montana Supreme Court to strike from the 2014 ballot two legislative referendums dealing with elections. They argue that Attorney General Tim Fox should have rejected both referendums because of legal problems with them. Fox’s staff and the bills’ sponsor, Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, disagreed and said the measures approved by the 2013 Legislature should remain on the 2014 ballot. Legislative Referendum 126 would end voter registration on Election Day and move the registration deadline back to 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, which is on Tuesday. The other measure, LR-127, would change Montana’s primary election to what’s known as the “top two” primary system.  Challenging LR-126 are the MEA-MFT, Montana AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Montana Women Vote and Western Native Voice. “LR-126 is clear voter suppression, and it cuts across the board of affected groups – Native Americans, university students, people who have changed addresses and veterans,” said Eric Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the union that is the lead plaintiff in both challenges.

New York: City Council Members Consider Internet Voting and Free Airport WiFi | TechPresident

Even as the Presidential Commission on Election Administration is still considering improvements to the U.S. election system, politicians on the local level are also looking at ways to address voting problems that came up in recent elections. The New York City Council Technology and Government Operations Committees on Wednesday held a hearing to consider the “Promise and Perils of Internet Voting” in municipal elections. Committee Chair Bronx City Council member Fernando Cabrera said he was drawn to the potential of Internet voting to address long lines, low voter turnout and save costs, citing successful precedents in other countries such as Estonia. Voter turnout in New York City’s recent mayoral general election hit a record low of 24 percent. Election officials and advocates cited security and cultural barriers to the widespread adoption of Internet voting, but pointed to other technological improvements that could help improve the voting process. New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan said he and other commissioners had not had enough time to come to a consensus on the issue. But he said he felt the cultural challenges would be one significant obstacle. “It would be a wholesale change really in the way business is done, right down to the way campaigns are run,” he said, noting the practice of poll watchers at polling places. “From a cultural perspective we’ve gotten very used to voting in a particular way … Voting is a private thing but yet a very public thing,” he said, noting the traditional gathering at polling places. “The resistance may be in the breaking down of the actual rituals more so than the technology itself.”

Texas: Perry taps Houston lawyer as Texas secretary of state | Houston Chronicle

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday appointed Houston lawyer Nandita Berry to be secretary of state, succeeding John Steen Jr. of San Antonio, who announced his resignation this month. Berry’s appointment, effective Jan. 7, will make her the first Indian-American to hold the position of chief elections officer for Texas, Perry said. “Nandita Berry personifies what is possible through hard work and dedication in the state of Texas,” Perry said in a statement announcing the appointment. She was 21 when she arrived from India “with nothing but $200 to her name” and has become “one of the most accomplished attorneys in the state.” “I am truly humbled to follow in the footsteps of Stephen F. Austin, Texas’ first secretary of state,” Berry said in a statement. “Like him, I came to Texas in search of a better life and the limitless opportunities to be found across our great state.”

Wisconsin: Bill would loosen campaign donation restrictions | Wisconsin Radio Network

A bipartisan agreement (AB-225) at the state Capitol would update Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws and modernize the elections process. The bill, in part, would double existing campaign contribution limits in the state so that individuals can donate more money to candidates. Bill sponsors say steering more cash directly to the candidates would reduce special interest influence; however, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Mike McCabe says this theory has already been tested and “it just doesn’t hold water.” “When we had the recall elections and there were no campaign contribution limits whatsoever, and a single individual gave as much as $510,000 to a candidate, the outside interest groups still outspent the candidates by close to $15 million.”

Wyoming: Voter registration flap creates new Liz Cheney controversy | Los Angeles Times

One of the marquee races of the coming political year is the GOP primary fight between Liz Cheney and Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, which is rapidly becoming less a political contest than a kind of sagebrush soap opera, “As the Cowboy State Turns.” To recap, there has been the flap over Cheney’s improper acquisition of an in-state fishing license; the sisterly feud sparked by her condemnation of same-sex marriage; and a dust-up between the state’s voluble ex-GOP senator, Alan Simpson — who is backing Enzi — and the candidate’s mother, Lynne Cheney, who either did, or did not, tell him to “shut [his] mouth.” The latest controversy involves Liz Cheney’s husband, Phil Perry, and the matter of his voter registration.

Thailand: Election Commission pushes poll delay to avoid unrest | Bangkok Post

The Election Commission on Thursday warned that proceeding with the upcoming general election may fuel further unrest, and urged the government and protesters to reach a compromise. The five election commissioners also warned that holding an election during this time of intense political strife could lead to many people rejecting the poll result. The EC made the statement as anti-government protesters, led by former Democrat Party MP Suthep Thaugsuban, marched in Bangkok to campaign for a boycott of the Feb 2 election. Mr Suthep has also called for a mass gathering on Sunday, one day before the EC opens the registration for party list candidates. The protest leader has vowed to ensure the polls do not take place.

United Kingdom: Prisoners fail to overturn ban on voting in Scottish independence referendum |

Three Scottish prison inmates are likely to appeal against a judge’s decision to throw out a legal challenge to Alex Salmond’s ban on inmates voting in September independence referendum. Their challenge to the blanket ban, on human rights and European law grounds, was rejected by Lord Glennie sitting in the court of session, Scotland’s civil court, in Edinburgh, on Thursday, in the first of what is expected to be a series of appeals and hearings. Tony Kelly, the lawyer for the three men – Leslie Moohan and Andrew Gillon, both serving life sentences, and Gary Gibson, serving a seven-year term – said they were disappointed at losing.