National: Database of 191 million U.S. voters exposed on Internet: researcher | Reuters

An independent computer security researcher uncovered a database of information on 191 million voters that is exposed on the open Internet due to an incorrectly configured database, he said on Monday. The database includes names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliations, phone numbers and emails of voters in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, researcher Chris Vickery said in a phone interview. Vickery, a tech support specialist from Austin, Texas, said he found the information while looking for information exposed on the Web in a bid to raise awareness of data leaks. Vickery said he could not tell whether others had accessed the voter database, which took about a day to download.

Editorials: Ann Ravel gets points for trying to force the Federal Election Commission into action | The Sacramento Bee

For a political reformer, Ann Ravel had what might have been the job of a lifetime: chair of the Federal Election Commission. But as Ravel ends her year as chairwoman, the commission is much as it was upon her arrival: paralyzed by partisanship. It’s not for her lack of effort. Ravel tried logic, argument, persuasion, and, exasperated, she tried to embarrass fellow commissioners. Her most important accomplishment is that she told the story of the broken commission to anyone who would listen, not just the insiders who pay attention to such matters. On “The Daily Show,” she agreed with with the comedic interviewer’s assessment that the commission is about as functional as men’s nipples. Over the top, perhaps, but no other commission chair has appeared on such a show. It turns out that at least three of six of commissioners were beyond embarrassment.

Florida: Supervisors want new Florida Senate districts by mid-March | Tampa Bay Business Journal

As a Leon County circuit judge ponders plans for redrawing Senate districts, the state’s elections supervisors said in a court document Wednesday that they would like the map to be finalized by March 15. The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections said local officials need time before candidate qualifying in June and primary elections in August to take steps such as remapping counties to establish new district lines, creating new precincts and establishing polling places.

Georgia: Culture of expediency also to blame in voter data breach | Atlanta Journal Constitution

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office, which acknowledged last month it inadvertently released personal information on every registered voter in the state, has blamed a single employee for the breach. But records show the problem was deeper than the Secretary of State’s office has acknowledged, revealing a business culture that ignored written policies for the sake of expediency, according to a review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who declined to answer the AJC’s questions, blamed the release of Social Security numbers, birth dates and drivers’ license numbers on Gary Cooley, a low-level computer programmer. Kemp quickly fired Cooley, saying he failed to follow data-handling procedures and covered up his mistake for weeks.

Kentucky: New Governor Takes Back the Vote | The New York Times

Matt Bevin, Kentucky’s new governor, has only been in office a couple of weeks, but he’s already managed to re-disenfranchise tens of thousands of his state’s residents with the stroke of a pen. He did it by reversing an executive order issued late last month by his predecessor, Steven Beshear, that made as many as 140,000 Kentuckians with a nonviolent felony conviction immediately eligible to register to vote. Kentucky is one of three states, including Florida and Iowa, to impose a lifetime voting ban on people convicted of felonies. (Individuals may still petition for a restoration of their rights, which the governor decides on a case-by-case basis — an arduous, “quasi-monarchical” process.) Mr. Bevin, a Tea Party Republican, said he supports restoring voting rights to those with criminal records, but that it is an issue that should be “addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people,” not the governor’s office.

Kentucky: It’s too soon to tell if Kentucky GOP’s presidential caucus will be worth it | Lexington Herald-Leader

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to participate in the Republican Party of Kentucky’s presidential preference caucus March 5, and he’s hoping he never has to do it again. “I’m not a fan of caucuses and I hope this is the last one we have,” McConnell told the Herald-Leader. With nominating contests set to begin in earnest when Iowans go to their caucuses Feb. 3, anxiety and optimism abound in Kentucky as party leaders move forward with the unusual contests. The move away from a traditional primary was proposed and passed by party officials as a way to help U.S. Sen. Rand Paul get around a state law that prohibits candidates from appearing on the same ballot twice, but the idea also was sold as a way to grow the party and increase the state’s relevance in selecting a presidential nominee. Now, with eight candidates committed to participate in the contests, Republicans are uncertain but hopeful that the caucuses will achieve those goals. ‘It’s not going to be New Hampshire’

Louisiana: ‘Drastic change’ coming as Louisiana shifting to iPad voting, and it won’t be cheap | The Advocate

When Louisiana voters go to the polls to elect a governor in 2019 — if all goes to plan — they will cast their ballots on iPads. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he’ll ask the incoming administration of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards and the Legislature for money to roll out this new way of voting. The idea was first broached in 2014 by a presidential commission. A few counties, such as Denver and Los Angeles, already are experimenting with it, but Louisiana could become the first state to adopt the new technology. “It is a drastic change. We’re going to take it slow, but this is the best way to go,” Schedler said. His plan is to replace voting machines with tablet computers over the next three years, starting with the big parishes around Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans. This will give time to work out the kinks and train staff, as well as voters, on how it all works.

Minnesota: Aging voting machines may take bite out of budgets | Rochester Post-Bulletin

With most of Wabasha County’s voting machines about to turn eight years old, Wabasha County Auditor/Treasurer Denise Anderson isn’t taking any chances. Anderson is urging cities and townships to start squirreling away money for when it’s time to replace the machines. “I’ve asked them to start putting money away now, because I feel there is not going to be any (state or federal) money when we need it,” she said. Wabasha County is far from alone when it comes to aging voting machines. A recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice found that 43 states will be using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old in 2016 — including Minnesota.

Missouri: Lawmakers renew push for photo ID for voters | Associated Press

Republican Missouri legislative leaders, backed by veto-proof majorities, will try again in 2016 to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, despite numerous failed attempts over the past decade. Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican running for secretary of state, pre-filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for photo identification and a bill that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID. GOP House members pre-filed similar measures. A change to the state’s constitution would be necessary before implementing a photo ID law because the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar measure in 2006 as unconstitutional.

Texas: Democrats Force U.S. House Candidate to Change Name on Ballot | The Texas Tribune

South Texas voters will no longer be able to choose a Ruben Hinojosa to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. A 33-year-old law student who wanted to go by Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa on the Democratic primary ballot in March will instead go by a different name: Ruben Ramirez. That’s because state Democratic party officials are forcing him to change it. Party officials say their decision this week to lop off “Hinojosa” — the surname of the candidate’s mother — from the ballot listing could prevent confusion for voters in Congressional District 15. And they say Ramirez failed to prove he goes by the name Hinojosa. But Ramirez, a McAllen native, accuses the party of launching a “culturally insensitive” effort to hinder his campaign, noting that Democrats have commonly allowed candidates to go by nicknames such as “Chuy.” “I think it’s a lapse in judgment,” the U.S. Army combat veteran and University of Houston law student said late Wednesday. “They’re letting their political friendships pressure them, and they’re caving in to their friends.”

Virginia: Trump blasts Virginia GOP for requiring ‘statement of affiliation’ in March 1 primary | The News Virginian

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump blasted the Republican Party of Virginia in a series of tweets Sunday over its requirement that voters in the March 1 primary sign a “statement of affiliation.” The fusillade – in which Trump claims the Republican National Committee controls the state party – reflects his distrust of GOP leaders. It also underscores a danger for the party that its front-runner could bolt and mount an independent run if he thinks party leaders are treating him unfairly. The State Board of Elections — at the behest of the GOP’s State Central Committee — certified Dec. 16 that voters in the 2016 Republican presidential primary will have to fill out a form that says: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.”

Canada: Manitoba electoral reform could lead to younger voting age | CTV

The Manitoba government’s plan to revamp the electoral system could lead to a younger voting age. Premier Greg Selinger says he is keeping an open mind and awaiting consultations, but believes there are upsides to letting people under 18 cast ballots. “I think there’s even an argument to look at a lower voting age, or participation earlier. A lot of students I meet — young people — are very interested in the political process and bring a lot of good ideas,” Selinger said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

Central African Republic: As Central Africans prepare to vote, major challenges still loom | Reuters

As General Bala Keita, the military head of Central African Republic’s U.N. peacekeeping mission, fended off militia attacks on a polling station in a besieged Muslim enclave in the capital Bangui earlier this month, he was surprisingly optimistic. It certainly wasn’t an auspicious start to a constitutional referendum meant to pave the way for pivotal general elections. But amid the machinegun fire and incoming rocket-propelled grenades, the battle-tested Senegalese officer saw hope. “What’s extraordinary is that people are here. And we’re trying to provide security,” he shouted down a crackling phone line during the Dec. 13 referendum. “The population is saying ‘We need to vote.'”

Croatia: Parliament Elects Democratic Union’s Reiner as Speaker | Bloomberg

Croatia’s parliament elected a speaker on Monday, unblocking a seven-week legislative stalemate and paving the way for lawmakers to approve a new government following inconclusive elections. Lawmakers elected Zeljko Reiner, a member of the Croatian Democratic Union, as head of parliament after his party agreed to form a ruling coalition with the Bridge party that came in third in the Nov. 8 general ballot. The two have proposed Tihomir Oreskovic, a non-partisan pharmaceutical executive who grew up in Canada, as premier. His appointment ended a deadlock in which the proposed coalition partners and the ruling Social Democrats wrangled over who would lead the government and lead a recovery from a six-year recession.

Haiti: Prime Minister awaits elections report | Miami Herald

The latest date that Haiti could hold its postponed presidential runoff to meet a constitutionally mandated hand-over of power deadline by outgoing President Michel Martelly is Jan. 17, Prime Minister Evans Paul said. But meeting that deadline will depend heavily on whether a five-member electoral evaluation commission is able to find a solution to break the political impasse, Paul acknowledged during a visit to South Florida over the weekend to attend the funeral of longtime friend and respected Haitian journalist Pharès Duverné. Duverné, who received political exile in South Florida in 2001 after fleeing Haiti amid attacks against journalists, died in an Orlando hospital on Dec. 13 of kidney failure.