Editorials: A Sacramento consultant, the Florida court, and control of Congress | Dan Morain/The Sacramento Bee

Charlie Crist, the ex-Republican, ex-governor and current Democrat from Florida, was working the crowd at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club last week and running for Congress. He didn’t know it, but Sacramento campaign consultant Steve Smith helped open his path to a comeback. I happened to be in the room as the well-tanned politician schmoozed. Political junkie that I am, I introduced myself. Good politician that he is, he treated me like a confidant and dished a little about one of his old rivals, Marco Rubio. Crist was elected Florida governor as a Republican in 2006, lost the U.S. Senate race to Rubio as an independent in 2010, endorsed Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, and as a Democrat failed to unseat his successor, the climate change-denying Gov. Rick Scott, last year. Although the election is a year away, Crist is said to be the front-runner in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which encompasses St. Petersburg, where he has a waterfront condo. The reason has everything to do with a topic that Californians have come to know well: redistricting intended to make congressional lines less partisan.

Arkansas: New voting machines arrive in Boone County | Harrison Daily

The first shipment of new election equipment for Boone County was delivered in the pouring rain Tuesday afternoon and secured in the new election central location, the former Vision Video building. The Secretary of State’s Office earlier this year chose Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Nebraska, as the vendor to replace the state’s voting machines. Boone County was chosen as one of four counties in a pilot program to begin using the new machines by the March 2016 primary election. ES&S’s bid of $29,928,868 was the highest of three companies interested, but Boone County Clerk Crystal Graddy said in June that it was the only company who had the necessary machines in stock in a warehouse and could deliver them quickly, in time for the 2016 primary election.

California: Voter turnout rises in San Mateo County’s ‘all-mail’ ballot election | The Almanac

Voter turnout was 15 percent higher for the Nov. 3 election in San Mateo County than it was in November 2013, the last off-year election that can be considered as a fair comparison, county election officials say. Of the 357,191 registered voters mailed ballots this time, 105,325 returned them, mostly by mail, according to the final semi-official tally released by the county Elections Office on Nov. 12. That’s a turnout of 29.5 percent compared to 25.4 percent in 2013, according to Elections Office records. The principal difference this time, according to Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County’s assistant chief elections officer: the 2015 election was held by mail. Accommodations were made for in-person voting, but the county mailed ballots to all registered voters in a package that included return envelopes with prepaid postage, Mr. Irizarry said.

Florida: Sarasota County agrees to borrow $1.65 million for new voting equipment | Your Observer

Sarasota County commissioners, at their Nov. 17 meeting, unanimously approved the purchase of a new voting system without a sealed bid process, after becoming dissatisfied with one of the two certified vendors in Florida. The county will pay $1.65 million for the system, to be purchased from Election Systems & Software (ES&S). That purchase will be paid for initially by a loan from the Pooled Commercial Paper Loan Program of the Florida Local Government Finance Commission Program, and repaid over seven years from the general fund. Because there were only two vendors available, one of which had been deemed operationally unacceptable, the county elected not to use a sealed-bid procurement process.

Florida: New voting machines arrive in Jackson County | Floridian

Two months after Secretary of State Ken Detzner visited Marianna to talk about elections equipment headed to 12 small counties, new voting machines arrived at the offices of Jackson County Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Stephens. “We are very excited to have our new equipment delivered so we can prepare and look forward to a successful election year in 2016,” Stephens said. At the Oct. 13 county commission meeting, the board opted to buy the updated equipment, part of a deal negotiated between the small-county consortium, the state and equipment vendor Elections Systems & Software. For the $1.5 million transaction, the roughly $131,000 cost to Jackson County will be reimbursed by grant dollars passed on from the state. Trading in older models helped facilitate a discount on the new machines.

Georgia: Lawsuit accuses Georgia of massive data breach | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Two Georgia women have filed a class action lawsuit alleging a massive data breach by Secretary of State Brian Kemp involving the Social Security numbers and other private information of more than six million voters statewide. The suit, filed Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court, alleges Kemp’s office released the information including personal identifying information to the media, political parties and other paying subscribers who legally buy voter information from the state. In response, Kemp’s office blamed a “clerical error” and said Wednesday afternoon that they did not consider it to be a breach of its system. It said 12 organizations, including statewide political parties, news media organizations and Georgia GunOwner Magazine, received the file.

Indiana: A new study committee set to make a fair Redistricting | WLFI

A new study committee will change the way districts are drawn in Indiana by 2021, aiming to make the lines more fair by the next redistricting. Patsy Hoyer with the League of Women Voters says current districts in Indiana are drawn in an imbalanced way. “If you look at the map of how the districts are laid out it makes you wonder, a few of them, well how did that get defined?” said Hoyer. With redistricting necessary based on the 2010 Census results, Hoyer hopes lawmakers take action to stop gerrymandering.

Maine: Ranked-choice voting question certified for November 2016 ballot | Bangor Daily News

Maine’s secretary of state has authenticated signatures on a citizen initiative to implement ranked-choice voting in Maine, which means voters will decide whether to implement the system at the polls in November 2016. More than 70,000 signatures in support of the initiative from registered Maine voters, which have been collected over the past year, were submitted in October. Under the proposal from Ranked Choice Voting Maine, the state would become the first in the nation to fully use a ranked-choice ballot system for its elections.

North Carolina: Population shifts highlight redistricting problem | News & Observer

This is no longer Mayberry. The truth is, we haven’t been for some time. But the recession has accelerated the process of reshaping North Carolina. The metropolitan areas are struggling to keep up with the fast-paced growth as they attract people from around the state and the country. Meanwhile, the countryside is emptying out, a sad panorama of empty store fronts and padlocked plant gates. Since the 2010 census, about half of North Carolina’s 100 counties have lost population, said Allan Parnell, a demographer with the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities. He spoke at a forum last week at N.C. State University that was focused on the political process of drawing lawmakers’ district boundaries. The county that has lost the most population was Rockingham County, home of Senate leader Phil Berger.

Verified Voting Public Commentary: Statement to the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee Re: SB 1052

Verified Voting is writing today to express our opposition to Senate Bill 1052, a bill which would permit the return of ballots by electronic transmission over insecure Internet means for military voters in Pennsylvania, and to urge you to vote NO on SB 1052. Ballots sent by email are vulnerable to undetectable manipulation or tampering while in transit over the Internet. Ballots sent by fax are also vulnerable to attackers. Today most facsimiles are sent via Internet over facsimile mail programs which have the same threat profile as emailed ballots. By permitting the electronic return of voted ballots, SB 1052 will significantly damage the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections and put the ballots of military voters at grave risk.

Department of Defense and National Institute of Standards and Technology oppose online voting.

At the start of the 21st century the promise of secure Internet voting seemed attainable; Congress directed the Department of Defense (DOD) in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to develop an online voting system for military and overseas voters. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), an agency administered by the DOD, developed a system for deployment in 2004. After a security review the DOD cancelled the project because it could not ensure the legitimacy of votes cast over the Internet. In 2005 Congress directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to study the online return of voted ballots for the purpose of setting security standards so DoD and FVAP could develop a secure online voting system for military voters. NIST published numerous reports on its research, and documented several security issues that cannot be mitigated or solved with the cyber security safeguards and voting system protocols currently available. NIST concluded that until these challenges are overcome, secure Internet voting is not yet feasible.

For these reasons the Department of Defense has warned that it cannot ensure the legitimacy of ballots sent over the Internet and has stated “[the Department of Defense] does not advocate for the electronic transmission of any voted ballot, whether it be by fax, email or via the Internet.” In addition, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, in a report to Congress in 2013, stated clearly that the postal mail return of a voted ballot, coupled with the electronic transmission of a blank ballot is the “most responsible”[4. Federal Voting Assistance Program, May 2013, “2010 Electronic Voting Support Wizard (EVSW) Technology Pilot Program Report to Congress http://www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Reports/evsw_report.pdf] method of absentee voting for UOCAVA voters. The overwhelming evidence that secure Internet voting is not within our grasp led Congress to repeal, in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the earlier directive that DoD pursue online voting for military and overseas voters.

It is not reasonable to expect the Pennsylvania Department of State should be able to develop a secure online ballot return system when the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have determined secure online voting is not presently achievable.

Voting Blogs: Puerto Rico Might Expand the Franchise to Include Illegal Immigrants |

In January of this year, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, made an announcement that would be political suicide for any politician in the mainland United States. Garcia Padilla, standing beside President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, announced a proposal to broaden the voting franchise to include every resident of Puerto Rico, regardless of legal status. It is an established fact that illegal immigrants cannot vote in U.S. elections. This is also the current law in Puerto Rico. However, Garcia Padilla expressed his opinion that since every person who chooses Puerto Rico as his or her home is affected by the decisions that the government makes, all residents should have the right to participate in deciding who governs. So far, neither the Governor nor the members of his political party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), has drafted a bill on this issue. However, the Governor’s proposal sparked discussions about the constitutionality of giving illegal immigrants the right to vote, particularly given Puerto Rico’s relationship with U.S.

Virginia: Expert proposes altering congressional maps of Scott’s, Forbes’ districts | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District would be confined to Hampton Roads, and the cities of Richmond and Petersburg would move into the 4th District, represented by Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes, under proposals an expert has recommended to a three-judge panel that is redrawing Virginia’s congressional map. The recommendations by Bernard Grofman of the University of California-Irvine match key aspects of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposal in that they seek to give African-Americans a reasonable chance of electing two members of Congress of their choice, in the 3rd and the 4th districts.

Egypt: Women in parliament polls: Hopes and hurdles | Ahram Online

With a high turnout of women voters in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the fact remains that the number of women candidates is relatively low in a field already stacked with political hurdles against female hopefuls. “I wish there was a woman candidate in my constituency, but all the candidates were men,” said Noha, a 35-year-old woman who cast her ballot in Giza during the first stage of the elections, which took off on 17 October and its run-offs on 27 and 28 of the same month. Wafaa Ashrey, the first female candidate yet to submit her papers in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan, was unable to secure a seat in the first stage, said that “there was a great decline in women running in my constituency due to their fear of failure and the experience as a whole.”

Haiti: Two presidential candidates injured in protest, a third threatened with arrest | Miami Herald

Two presidential candidates are accusing Haitian police of firing on them during a Wednesday protest against alleged fraud in Haiti’s recent presidential election while a third says he and his supporters were threatened with arrest. Sen. Steven Benoit and former Sen. Moise Jean-Charles say they were injured when police fired tear gas and shots to disperse protesters during what was the largest protest since the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced the preliminary results of the Oct. 25 presidential elections. “The police shot at us point blank,” Benoit said. “There were lots of people and when we got in front of the CEP, they targeted us. It was not an accident.”

Editorials: Venezuela’s threatened December election | Financial Times

Few countries can match Venezuela’s “revolutionary” government when it comes to perceived venality, corruption, abuse of power and sheer incompetence. But perhaps for not much longer. After 15 years in power, the sorry saga of “chavismo” may be entering its last act. On December 6, Venezuelans will vote in elections to determine the make-up of the country’s unicameral National Assembly. Polls consistently show the opposition with more than 60 per cent support, twice the government’s level. Even after allowing for electoral sleights of hand — such as gerrymandering, use of state resources to coerce state workers to the vote, and the arbitrary imprisonment or disqualification of opposition candidates — such numbers are big enough to deliver the opposition a parliamentary majority. It may even win a supermajority. That is enough, in theory, to change the constitution, devolve powers to the assembly and jump-start a transition.