National: Sanctions mark rare window into cyberwar | USA Today

Sanctions and the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the USA in response to alleged hacking intended to influence the U.S. presidential election are rare physical responses to growing cyberwars between nations. President Obama’s announcement of sanctions Thursday and Russia’s subsequent decision not to expel U.S. diplomats Friday may signal a larger engagement over events in cyberspace, one experts have long said was coming but that may seem like a strange new world to the public. Previous responses to cyberthreats were directed toward nation-states with no full nuclear deterrent capability, said Ian Gray, a cyberintelligence analyst with the Flashpoint company. Those include Iran and North Korea, cases that never escalated to full-blown sanctions. “The possible implications of two fully nuclear-armed powers escalates the potential for future conflict, making the implications unique,” Gray said.

National: Early Voting Didn’t Boost Overall Election Turnout, Studies Show | Wall Street Journal

Most early voting programs didn’t increase the number of people who cast ballots in 2016, they just changed the way people participated, according to examinations of this year’s election results. President-elect Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 victory also put aside long-held notions that pre-Election Day indicators from early-voting data could serve as useful predictors of who would win the election. Election figures in Ohio bear out the lack of relationship between the availability of early voting and overall turnout. Before the 2008 election, Ohio lawmakers for the first time introduced early and no-excuse absentee voting in the state. When President Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain that year, 1.72 million Ohioans voted before Election Day. But postelection figures showed that overall turnout increased from 2004 by just 51,000 votes. Fewer Ohioans voted in 2012, and fewer still in 2016, even as early voting numbers rose to 1.86 million in 2012 and 1.88 million in 2016.

Florida: Effort to restore voting rights to Florida felons moves forward | Sun Sentinel

The new year could mark a major milestone toward hundreds of thousands of Floridians regaining the right to vote. The Florida Supreme Court in March will hear arguments on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow felons — except murderers and sex offenders — to have their voting rights restored after they complete prison and probation. Just over 6 million felons in the United States are unable to vote, according to The Sentencing Project, a prison reform group. About 1.7 million of them live in Florida, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the state’s voting population.

Missouri: Incoming Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft working on voter photo ID | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Although he has not formally taken office, Missouri’s next secretary of state is working to implement a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Republican Jay Ashcroft told the Post-Dispatch Friday that he was in talks with the Legislature to ensure there is enough funding for the voter photo ID law. And, he is crafting guidelines for how it will work if someone shows up at the polls without an ID card. “It’s a big thing to take care of,” said Ashcroft, who will replace Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat. On Nov. 8, 63 percent of Missouri voters favored a change in the state constitution to require voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. For those without a valid form of photo identification, the state will be required to provide an ID for free.

North Dakota: Jaeger asking for new voting machines, electronic poll books | Prairie Public Broadcasting

North Dakota’s Secretary of State says it’s time to replace the state’s voting machines. Al Jaeger has asked the 2017 Legislature Jaeger has asked for a $9 million appropriation for that. He says the current machines were first used in 2004. “Even at that time, though the equipment came in fancy new boxes, the technology was already aged,” Jaeger said. “We’re now at a point where the voting system is not being supported any more.” Jaeger said counties have had to cannibalize some of their devices for parts, to keep some machines running. “We haven’t had any malfunctions,” Jaeger said. “But we know in another election, it would be very difficult to be able to run it.”

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission Puts New Voter Registration System First | Memphis Daily News

Before Shelby County voters get new voting machines, the elections administrator wants a new voter registration system to begin a badly needed upgrade of election technology. “Mostly, we really need a system that I don’t fear is going to crash and burn,” administrator Linda Phillips said. She and the five election commissioners are working on a request for proposals and intend to have the new voter registration system installed and working by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The election commission’s budget for the current fiscal year has $1 million available for such a system. “I really do not know,” she said of the exact cost of a new system. “The model in registration systems is moving more toward software than service. So a relatively low upfront price, but you pay an annual maintenance license fee. … I would expect it to be less than $2 million without question.

Virginia: Court-imposed election map paved way for new Virginia congressmen | The Washington Post

When two new members of the Virginia congressional delegation are sworn in Tuesday, they can partially thank a panel of federal judges for their seats in Congress. The judges fiddled with the boundaries of the districts enough to allow a Democrat to win in Richmond and a new Republican to oust an incumbent in the Virginia Beach area. That means hello, Rep.-elects Donald McEachin (D) and Scott Taylor (R). Goodbye, seven-term congressman J. Randy Forbes (R). Their unexpected paths to victory — or early retirement — reveal the extent to which the nuances of an elections map can help determine winners and losers. The Virginia map changes started with a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawyer Marc E. Elias in 2013.

Wisconsin: Presidential recount cost far less than $3.9 million estimate | FOX6

Wisconsin’s presidential recount, which produced very few changes to the Election Night tally, will end up costing far less than the original $3.9 million estimate. With 69 of the 72 counties reporting, the actual cost is a little more than $1.8 million – about half the original estimate, according to data provided to FOX6 News by the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Kenosha, Brown and Pierce counties have not yet reported, but Elections Administrator Mike Haas said he expects their final numbers this week. Combined, clerks in the three counties had expected the recount to cost them around $500,000.CLICK HERE to view the election recount estimates, actual cost

Wisconsin: Both sides optimistic about success in redistricting case | The Cap Times

Wisconsin’s 2011 state Assembly maps were ruled unconstitutional last November and the state is looking for a Supreme Court review of the case. Both sides are optimistic that district lines will fall in pleasant places for them. Two separate guests on the Sunday morning political talk show “Capital City Sunday,” expressed their confidence that the results would go their way. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel believes the Supreme Court will most likely take up the case and rule in the state’s favor, while Wisconsin Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca sees the initial “unconstitutional” ruling as a source of hope for state Democrats. After a panel of three federal judges ruled that the maps made it more difficult for Democrats to “translate their votes into seats,” both parties in the case were required to submit a plan about how to rectify the gerrymandered district lines.

Wyoming: Bill would give election officials more time to accept mail-in ballots | Casper Star Tribune

State lawmakers will consider a bill in Cheyenne that would give county clerks additional time after the primary and general elections to count mail-in absentee ballots. With a number of close races in 2016, absentee ballots can make a difference in the outcome, said Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a Cheyenne Republican who is sponsoring House Bill 68. State law currently allows county clerks to accept mail-in ballots until 7 p.m. on the day of the election. But Zwontizer said that there are people who don’t mail in their ballots until a day before the election. If there are any delays at the post office, county clerks don’t receive the mail until after the election, and the ballots cannot be counted, he said.

Europe: Europe Worries About Russian Cyber Attacks During 2017 Elections | VoA News

Some European leaders are worried that Russia will try to influence their elections this year. The concerns come as possible Russian interference in the United States presidential election last year continues to be debated. There will be national elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands in 2017. Experts say Russia is already trying to help some candidates win. Russia denies that it is doing so. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office this year. She has led efforts in Europe to punish Russia for taking actions that democratic nations oppose. Experts say she is the European leader that Russia would most like to see voted out of office. In December, Merkel said Germany must be ready to stop attempts by other countries to interfere with its elections. “We have to inform people and express our political convictions clearly. We also should not allow ourselves to be irritated. We just have to know that there’s such a thing and learn to live with it.”

The Gambia: Opposition Warns Longtime Ruler Against ‘Rebel’ Moves | Associated Press

Gambia’s political opposition said Monday that longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh could be considered a rebel leader if he takes up arms and doesn’t step down later this month, a firm warning issued after the president recently vowed that any presence of foreign troops in the tiny West African nation would be tantamount to an act of war. Two days earlier, Jammeh railed against the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS that has urged him to step down. Jammeh claims that numerous voting irregularities invalidate the Dec. 1 ballot won by opposition coalition’s Adama Barrow, and Jammeh’s party is challenging the results in court. Meanwhile, Barrow says he is planning a Jan. 19 inauguration, which puts him on a collision course with Jammeh, who seized power in a bloodless 1994 military coup.

South Korea: Opposition party pushes to lower voting age to 18 | Korea Herald

“We shall lower the voting age to 18 before the next presidential election. Among OECD member states, Korea is the only nation stipulating voting rights at 19,” floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho said in a party meeting. The liberal party, the largest in South Korea’s unicameral parliament controlling 128 of the 300 seats, will push to revise the election law to lower the age limit and grant voting rights to compatriots living overseas, he said. Currently, 33 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development grant suffrage to those 18 years and older, with Austria at the age of 16.