National: Federal Election Commission Faces Serious Security Failings, with Few Plans to Remedy | Infosecurity

Just weeks after the US Department of Energy was shown to have disregarded proper cybersecurity measures, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is facing what an independent auditor calls “significant deficiencies” when it comes to its cybersecurity posture. The FEC in fact remained at “high risk for future network intrusions”. However, the electoral watchdog said that it has little interest in implementing even minimum IT security controls. The audit firm, Leon Snead & Co., said in the audit that the FEC’s IT security program does not meet government-wide best practice minimum requirements in many areas. That includes carrying out due diligence information as part of an organization-wide risk management program, using the risk management tools and techniques to implement and maintain modern safeguards and countermeasures, and ensuring the necessary resilience to support ongoing federal responsibilities, critical infrastructure applications and continuity of government in the event of an attack.

National: Power to the people? Remembering the year in recalls. | The Week

After recalls suddenly grabbed hold of the nation’s attention in 2012, anyone could have been excused for thinking they might have gone back to being little used, frequently ignored weapons this year. But 2013 proved such expectations wrong. Despite a sharp drop in their total number, recall elections once again managed to place themselves on centerstage in American politics. Unlike in Wisconsin in 2012, the most prominent recalls of 2013 did not appear to be stark Democrat versus Republican fights. Instead, it was a hot button political issue — the fight over gun control — that allowed recalls to push their way into the spotlight. Colorado, for instance, saw some of its most expensive state legislative elections in history: Two Democratic state senators — including the State Senate president — were kicked out and a third resigned, over the state’s new gun control laws.

Editorials: Secretaries of State: A Key Front in the Battle to Protect Voting Rights | Steve Rosenthal/Huffington Post

Across the country we are witnessing a wholesale attack by the right wing on workers, unions, women’s health, the environment, LGBT issues, civil rights, immigration and nearly every other right, protection and civil liberty that Americans hold near and dear. In recent years, Republicans have invested in and won key state legislative victories, which has resulted in lopsided redistricting that will make the work for progressives even more difficult at the state and federal level for years to come. At the cornerstone of the GOP strategy is an assault on voting rights in state after state, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in this country in decades. The right wing understands that their views are out of step with the rapidly increasing progressive majority in America — women, people of color, union members, LGBT and young voters. And the only way they can win is by attempting to prevent this new progressive majority from voting. If we are to turn things around, finding new ways to defend fair and equal access to the ballot must be a top priority for progressives.

Editorials: ‘If I Need ID to Buy Cough Syrup, Why Shouldn’t I Need ID to Vote?’ | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic

I spent hundreds of hours talking about the law on the radio this year but one question, one exchange, especially sticks out. It was this summer, a few weeks after the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Courtextinguished the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. The station’s host had with him a local lawmaker who supported voter identification efforts underway in her state. “If I need to show identification at a pharmacy to get cold medicine” she asked me on the air, “why shouldn’t I have to show identification to vote?” It’s a question loaded with import as we begin what promises to be yet another year of voter suppression in America. For it’s a question that Republican officials and other supporters of voting restrictions have been asking all over the country over the past few years, in countless iterations, as they relentlessly push ahead with measures that purport to ensure “fairness” and “accuracy” in voting but that are designed instead to disenfranchise the poor and the elderly, the ill and the young, and, most of all, people of color. They ask that question in Florida and in Texas and in North Carolina and in Virginia, in virtually every state that was, until last June, encumbered by Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. And they ask that question in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio. They ask that question wherever partisan efforts are underway to further cleave the electorate into haves and have-nots. It’s a question as simple as it is flawed, one that polls well even though it is based upon a series of self-perpetuating myths.

National: Key fights ahead for right to vote | MSNBC

Voting rights advocates are girding for a series of crucial battles that will play out over the next twelve months in Congress, in the courts, and in state legislatures. Victories could go a long way to reversing the setbacks of the last year. Defeats could help cement a new era in which voting is more difficult, especially for racial minorities, students, and the poor. Despite some scattered efforts by states to improve voting access, the right to vote took a big step backwards last year. Republican legislatures in states across the country continued to advance restrictive voting laws, while a major Supreme Court rulingShelby County v. Holder, badly weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Wendy Weiser, who runs the Democracy program at the Brenan Center for Justice, called Shelby “the single biggest blow to voting rights in decades.”

National: The futility of the Federal Election Commission | Dallas Morning News

six-month study by the watchdog Center for Public Integrity has reached sobering, even depressing, conclusions about an agency that should be one of the bulwarks of our democracy. Among the findings:

*The FEC has “reached a paralyzing all-time low in its ability to reach consensus.” The six-member commission operates with three Republicans and three Democrats. And often over the past several years, there have only been four or five commissions. Because four votes are required to take any action, and we live in highly-polarized times, there’s…wait for the shock…gridlock.

Editorials: Yup, Voter ID Laws Have Nothing to Do With Fraud | The Daily Beast

One of the most shocking political developments of last year was the speed with which Southern, Republican-controlled states embraced voter identification laws after the Supreme Court overturned section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. To critics, including myself, this was an easy call: GOP lawmakers were taking advantage of a newly permissive policy environment to suppress minority voters, and African Americans in particular. If this sounds like an outrageous accusation, then it’s worth reading a recent paper from Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. O’Brien, which brings statistical analysis to bear on the question of voter identification laws. What they found was surprisingly straightforward: Between 2006 and 2011, if a state elected a Republican governor, increased its share of Republican legislators, or became more competitive while under a Republican, it was more likely to pass voter ID and other restrictions on the franchise. Likewise, states with “unencumbered Republican majorities” and large black populations were especially likely to pass restrictive measures.

Arkansas: New voter ID requirement takes effect | Associated Press

Three special elections in January will test Arkansas’ new voter ID law that took effect Wednesday. On Jan. 14, voters in Craighead County will elect a state senator to replace Sen. Paul Bookout, who resigned in August after he was cited by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Poll workers will be trained about the law before the election, Craighead County Election Commissioner Scott McDaniel told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Anytime a change happens, you can anticipate problems, but you just make it as smooth as you can with good, intensive training and a backup plan,” he said. “The provisional ballot process has been in place for a while. And we will err on the side of caution and making sure our goal of making every legitimate vote count.”

Colorado: No charges against activist who voted in recall to point out flaws in Colorado law | The Gazette

The Attorney General’s Office will not charge Jon Caldara for voting in the September recall election of Sen. John Morse, despite what investigators deemed extremely suspect behavior. Caldara, a longtime Boulder resident and a Republican, used a new same-day registration law to register to vote in El Paso County and cast a ballot in the recall election. Caldara told the media that he was voting to prove a point: that the Democrats’ new election law was flawed and allowed voters to move from district to district and vote in close elections with little recourse. “It’s not a big surprise. I wasn’t worried about it,” Caldara said of the decision. “This law was created to legalize voter mischief. It was created so that voters could be moved around into districts where their vote was most needed at the very last moment of the campaign. All I did was to make public what happens privately.”

Florida: Revamped voting roll scrub soon to begin | Tampa Tribune

The state will soon begin forwarding the names of suspected non-citizens on the voter rolls to local elections officials, formally kicking off the second version of Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial scrubbing program, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Tuesday. “We’ll start shortly after the first of the year, on a case-by-case basis, reviewing files and then forwarding them down to the supervisors,” Detzner said after an event closing out the state’s recognition of the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida. The state has been working to finalize a procedure for using a federal list to vet registered voters since 2012, when it first struck a deal with the Department of Homeland Security over the use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, database. Now, the final steps of putting that process in place are close. Detzner’s office has sent a proposed template for a “memorandum of agreement” to the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, the organization that represents county election chiefs. The organization is expected to respond to the state over the next week or two.

Kansas: State to add voters to rolls by comparing birth certificates | Kansas City Star

More than 19,000 of the Kansans who signed up to vote to last year saw their registrations set aside because they didn’t prove their U.S. citizenship to the state. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has a plan to make more of those voters eligible. His solution might cause even more legal problems. Kobach wants to match the list of suspended registrations with records kept at the state health department to determine who has Kansas birth certificates, one of the documents accepted for proving citizenship. The state’s vital statistics office will compare lists of would-be voters to its records. Kobach’s office would be notified when matches are confirmed. The procedure will be followed in the future as Kansans register to vote. “This, in my view, is good government,” Kobach said. But critics were quick to point out that Kobach’s idea could pose constitutional problems because it treats voters born in Kansas differently from voters born elsewhere.

Mississippi: Lawmaker pushing online voter registration | The Clarion-Ledger

A state senator wants to allow online voter registration and believes there will be bipartisan support for the legislation. Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said he is crafting a bill for the 2014 Legislature, which begins Tuesday, to allow online voter registration. Blount said he doesn’t believe there will be widespread opposition because mail-in voter registration is allowed now. Also, he said the new law requiring people to show a photo ID to vote should allay any concerns over online registration. But Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s spokeswoman Pamela Weaver said Hosemann has serious concerns regarding the security of online voter registration.

Pennsylvania: Straight-party option would be eliminated under Evankovich bill | TribLIVE

By choosing just one lever or button, Pennsylvanians have had the ability to select either the Democrats’ or Republicans’ entire slate of candidates for more than 70 years. But that would change if a proposal in Harrisburg by state Rep. Eli Evankovich — and 15 Republican cosponsors — becomes law. The House State Government Committee had a hearing Dec. 11 on Evankovich’s legislation to eliminate the straight-party ballot option in Pennsylvania, which would mean voters would have to identify their preferred candidate in each individual race rather than being able to press one button to choose all Democrats or all Republicans automatically. Pennsylvania is one of only 14 states that provides a straight-party option, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

South Carolina: Clemson program could bring online voting to South Carolina | The State

As the calendar rolls into 2014, the political season moves into hyper mode as state voters prepare to go to the polls to elect a governor and two U.S. senators and make other decisions in a mid-term election. Memories of long lines at the polls and questions about the state’s electronic voting machines are likely to recur. A Clemson University professor says he has some technological solutions to those problems. Juan Gilbert, chair of human-centered computing at Clemson, envisions a time when voters will be able to cast their ballots online without leaving home, and when each vote can be verified without relying solely on electronic data. …  The state spent more than $34 million for about 11,400 iVotrinic voting machines in 2004 and 2005, according to a report released last year by the state Legislative Audit Council. That’s about $3,000 per machine, compared to about $500 for an iPad.

West Virginia: Thousands of voters asked to confirm registration | Logan Banner

Thousands of voters in West Virginia will soon receive a postcard in the mail asking them if their address has changed and if they want to remain a registered voter. There are about 1.2 million registered voters in West Virginia, and county clerks will be mailing more than 335,000 notifications to voters who may have changed their address or who have been idle for two federal election cycles. “The Secretary of State’s Office takes our election process and our voter registration process very seriously, and we are committed to protecting the integrity of those processes and keeping our voter rolls clean,” Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said. “We, along with the county clerks, are undertaking this state mandated process to ensure that our voter rolls are accurate. Most of the people receiving notifications will just have to fill out the notification and send it back.”

Bangladesh: Premier rules out election cancelation | Arab News

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ruled out Thursday any last-minute cancelation of weekend elections that have been boycotted by the opposition, accusing her rivals of holding the country hostage. In a final address to the nation ahead of Sunday’s violence-plagued polls, Hasina accused opposition leader Khaleda Zia of shunning dialogue and rejecting an offer to share power in an interim administration. “We have tried our best to bring the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) into the elections,” Hasina, who is the leader of the ruling Awami League, said in a 40-minute televised address. “Zia spurned my offer for dialogue and instead chose the path of confrontation. “The Jan. 5 polls will be held in accordance with the constitution,” she added.

Thailand: Thai Election Commission Seeks Talks to End Political Crisis | Bloomberg

Thailand’s Election Commission plans to meet members of the nation’s biggest political parties today to discuss ways to ease tension before a Feb. 2 vote that’s being threatened by growing anti-government protests. Groups opposed to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra plan to surround government ministries and occupy 20 major intersections in Bangkok on Jan. 13 until she agrees to step down and allow an unelected council to reform the country’s electoral system, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former opposition lawmaker who is leading the movement, said yesterday. Yingluck’s administration has endured more than two months of street demonstrations that Suthep says are aimed at erasing her family’s corrupting political influence. Allies of Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, have won the past five elections, including two since his ouster in a 2006 coup. The baht fell for an 11th day today, the longest losing streak on record, and the benchmark stock index slumped to a 15-month low.