National: 1.7 million people in 33 states and D.C. cast a ballot without voting in the presidential race | The Washington Post

In every election, there are people who go to the polls to cast a ballot but who don’t vote in every race. Usually, those “undervotes,” as they’re called, happen down-ballot, resulting in fewer votes for, say, county commissioner than, say, president of the United States. But in every election there are also people who skip the presidential ballot for whatever reason. It happens. With 2016 pitting two historically unpopular candidates against one another, we were curious about the extent to which undervoting occurred in the marquee contest this year. We found some evidence that it was occurring a few weeks ago, but set out to tally the undervote more deliberately, pulling in data from every state to figure out how many people skipped the top of the ticket. We were able to compile data from 33 states and D.C. In those states in 2012, there were 754,000 undervotes at the top of the ticket — about 0.9 percent of all ballots cast. In 2016? At least 1.75 million people skipped the presidential contest, 2 percent of the total. In other words, in these states, one out of every 50 people declined to vote in the presidential contest. That undervote varies by state. In only three states was the undervote percentage down. In states where it was up, it was up by an average of 2.5 times as much as in 2012.

National: Loath to Meddle in Election, Obama Delayed Blaming Russia for D.N.C. Hack | The New York Times

The Obama administration spent months deliberating whether to blame Russia for a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee, with action delayed in part because President Obama did not want to be blamed for politicizing intelligence, the White House said on Wednesday. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said that “it would’ve been inappropriate for White House figures — including the president of the United States — to be rushing the intelligence community to expedite their analysis of the situation.” In particular, he described White House concerns that any statement by Mr. Obama would be viewed as using intelligence to meddle in the election on behalf of the president’s preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton. An F.B.I. agent initially tried in September 2015 to alert officials from the Democratic National Committee that it was the target of a cyberattack by a group of hackers with links to Russian intelligence. But the administration waited until October 2016, more than a year later and after months of damaging leaks, to confirm that intelligence agencies believed the hacks were the product of a Russian intelligence operation.

National: Vladimir Putin ‘personally involved’ in US hack, report claims | The Guardian

US intelligence officials believe that Vladimir Putin was personally involved in hacking during the American election campaign as part of a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, NBC News has claimed. The Russian president personally instructed how material hacked from US Democrats was leaked and otherwise used, the US television network said, quoting two senior officials with access to this information. The officials said they have a “high level of confidence” in this new assessment, NBC reported. Last weekend the Washington Post reported a CIA evaluation that Russia had hacked the emails of US persons and institutions as a way to sway the election in favor of Republican Donald Trump, who defeated Clinton on 8 November.

National: Lindsey Graham Says Moscow Hacked His Presidential Campaign Email Account | International Business Times

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he too was a victim of Russian hackers claiming they compromised his presidential campaign email account in June this year. The Republican lawmaker called for a tougher stance against Moscow. During the 2016 election race, the email account of former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Podesta was hacked and the emails were published on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The website also leaked thousands of emails allegedly acquired from Russian hackers who compromised several Democratic National Committee (DNC) accounts. In an interview Wednesday with CNN, Graham said: “I do believe the Russians hacked into the DNC. I do believe they hacked into Podesta’s email account. They hacked into my campaign account. I do believe that all the information released publicly hurt Clinton and didn’t hurt Trump. I don’t think the outcome of the election is in doubt. What we should do is not turn on each other but work as one people to push back on Russia.”

National: McMullin: GOP knew about, ignored Russian meddling in election | The Hill

Former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin on Wednesday charged that congressional Republicans were aware of Russian efforts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election but didn’t do anything about it. “Look, the truth is it’s been very obvious for leaders in Washington on the Republican side that the Russians have been undermining our democracy, or did undermine our democracy,” McMullin said at an event hosted by Politio. “I know because I know for a fact that they know this. It was a topic of discussion during the election and they chose not to stand up.” A secret CIA assessment first reported by The Washington Post concluded Russia intervened in the presidential election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. Trump and his aides have since blasted the report, with the president-elect calling it “ridiculous” that Russia would work to help him. McMullin said Republicans are now “sticking their heads in the sand on this issue as they did during the campaign.” “I will tell you, this is not a new issue,” he said.

Arkansas: Legislator introduces Voter ID bill for 91st General Assembly | KTHV

Before the 91st General Assembly begins on Monday, January 9, Arkansas legislators in both the House and Senate continue to introduce bills. This time, State Representative Mark Lowery has introduced a bill requiring a voter provide verification of their identity when they go to vote. … In 2014, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled that Act 595, introduced in the 89th General Assembly, was unconstitutional. The Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with Judge Fox’s decision, striking down the act.

Editorials: Amid national election concerns, Connecticut goes the wrong way | Luther CT Viewpoints

About half the states, including Connecticut, have both paper ballots and post-election audits. Because our audits were transparent and publicly verifiable, Connecticut Citizen Election Audit observers have been able to reveal multiple flaws in the process and in the official reporting of audit results. Earlier this year, however, the General Assembly unanimously cut Connecticut’s the audits from 10 percent of districts to 5 percent. Now there is more bad news: our already inadequate audits have been partially replaced by electronic “audits” which are not transparent and not publicly verifiable. Instead, we now have “black box voting” augmented by “black box auditing.” This should satisfy only those with blind trust in computers and blind trust in insiders with access to the “audit” computers. Last week, without public notice, seven Connecticut municipalities conducted electronic “audits” under the guidance of the UConn Center for Voting Technology and the Secretary of the State’s Office, using the Audit Station developed by the Voter Center. There is a science of election audits. Machine-assisted audits can offer efficiency and ease of use, but any audit process needs to be transparent and provide for independent public verification of the results. Machine-assisted manual audits in California and Colorado demonstrate how this can be achieved. Public verification begins with publicly rescanning the ballots and providing the public with a computer readable list of how each ballot was counted. Then selecting a small random sample of the ballots and comparing the actual voter verified ballots to the record of how the machine counted them.

Florida: Electors case goes to appellate court | Tallahassee Democrat

Three voters contesting the outcome of the 2016 Florida Presidential Election are determined to stop the state’s 29 electors from casting their ballots for Donald Trump. They have filed a motion with the First District Court of Appeal asking for the scheduled vote to be delayed until a full hand-ballot recount can be made, their attorney said today. “We are going to ask them to delay the vote, let us do the count and if we don’t find anything they can still vote as normal without any extra effort,” said Clint Curtis, a former NASA employee and computer programmer turned lawyer from Orlando. Curtis said he’s received money from Protect Our Elections, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy group that has launched a national letter-writing campaign to all 538 electors to not cast their votes for the president-elect. The website said it has raised over $50,000 to cover his fees.

Florida: Election supervisors to renew push to keep voters’ personal data secret | Tampa Bay Times

Fresh off a smooth election cycle, Florida’s 67 county election supervisors will pursue changes to the election laws in the 2017 legislative session. They pitched their ideas for the first time at a meeting Tuesday of the revamped Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chaired by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. The supervisors’ point man on legislative issues is David Stafford, the Escambia County supervisor of elections. He told senators that the state should follow the lead of 19 other states and join ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, an information-sharing consortium that helps states track down people who are registered to vote in more than one state. (Being registered to vote in more than one state is not a crime, but voting in more than one state would be).

Nebraska: Plan sought to update Nebraska’s election equipment; prospect of statewide all-mail voting raised | Omaha World Herald

The Legislature needs a plan in place to update aging election equipment, though many decisions will hinge on whether leaders pursue statewide all-mail voting, lawmakers were told Monday. Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse told the Legislature’s Special Election Technology Committee that two of his county’s nine vote-counting machines weren’t operating properly on Nov. 8, contributing to some numbers not being available until 5:30 the next morning. But he cautioned against replacing the machines until decisions are made about whether the state should switch to voting only by mail, an option he said he believes has support among the Douglas County Board. “Some of (the board members) have brought it up to me,” he said.

New York: Primary Voter Purge Still Under Investigation Amid Calls For Reform | Observer

The Empire State is a Democratic Party stronghold and was a vital turning point in the primaries. Yet by the end of April, the New York Democratic primary had the second lowest voter turnout (19.7 percent) of all Democratic primaries, behind Louisiana. Though Hillary Clinton had a comfortable lead in pledged delegates, Sen. Bernie Sanders was experiencing a surge, winning the previous seven out of eight states. A potential win in New York could have proved to be a catalyst for Sanders’ comeback, but the foundation of the New York Democratic Party was not set up in his favor. The primary was constricted by rules that promoted voter suppression, coupled with issues that have yet to be explained or adequately addressed. Some 126,000 voters were inexplicably purged from voter rolls in Brooklyn during the Democratic primary. The New York Attorney General’s Office would not comment on the purge as it is still under investigation. Two election officials, Diane Haslett-Rudiano and Betty-Ann Canizio Aquil, were suspended in the wake of the controversy. But the purge was just one of many issues that arose during the primary, most of which occurred in the New York City area, where Clinton’s victory in the state primary was solidified.

North Dakota: More than 16,000 voter affidavits filed in North Dakota election | Bismarck Tribune

More than 16,000 voter affidavits were filed in this year’s general election, according to a survey of North Dakota county auditors. Less than two months before the Nov. 8 election, a federal judge ordered North Dakota to provide the affidavit as an option to voters. The elimination of that option by a 2013 state law is part of a lawsuit brought against North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger by seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Affidavits allow voters to cast a ballot even if they cannot provide a valid form of identification. The voter swears to being a qualified elector in a particular precinct, and falsely swearing to an affidavit is a Class A misdemeanor. Donnell Preskey Hushka, government and public relations specialist with the North Dakota Association of Counties, surveyed county auditors and found 16,395 affidavits were filed across the state this year.

Bulgaria: High court orders partial referendum recount | The Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court ordered on December 14 a recount of ballots cast in the nationwide referendum on November 6 in 44 electoral precincts. The recount order comes after the initiative committee that gathered the signatures necessary to call the plebiscite lodged a complaint against the Central Electoral Committee, arguing that the electoral body had breached election rules, which could have altered the outcome of the referendum.

The Gambia: Ruling party petitions for fresh election | Associated Press

Gambia’s ruling party pressed for a fresh presidential election on Tuesday as West African regional mediators intervened to try to resolve a mounting political crisis in the tiny country that voted its leader of 22 years out of power less than two weeks ago. A petition signed by the secretary-general of President Yahya Jammeh’s party on Tuesday demanded a new vote with a revalidated voter registry. The document, which was also signed by a notary public and seen by The Associated Press, says the election was not conducted fairly or in good faith and therefore should be invalidated. Jammeh initially acknowledged defeat, even calling the December 1 election fair and conceding to President-elect Adama Barrow in a telephone call broadcast on state television. But he announced last week that he was rejecting the election results.

Macedonia: Post-Election Tension Nears Danger Level in Macedonia | Balkan Insight

Far from resolving the long-standing political crisis in Macedonia, Sunday’s tight election outcome hints at an even tenser situation that could easily spill over into violent incidents, observers warn. “We have a tie position in both political blocs, numerous combinations for assembling a new government and a serious threat of ethnic conflict among Macedonians,” political analyst Daut Dauti told Deutsche Welle. Tension on the ground between the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the main opposition Social Democratic Union, SDSM, led by Zoran Zaev is already dangerous, experts say. On Tuesday night, in the northern town of Kumanovo, special police units entered the home of local police chief Stojance Velickovic, reportedly in search of alleged evidence of election rigging. Velickovic, who was appointed by the now outgoing interim Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski, who comes from the ranks of the opposition, said the whole event was a set-up organized by the VMRO DPMNE party.