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National: How Politics Could Put the Reliability of Future Elections at Risk | MIT Technology Review

Thanks to a lack of political will in Washington to fix election security problems, we’ll likely have the same fears that hackers will target our voting machines and voter databases on election day in 2020 that we had last fall. Advocates for election security and reliability say a bill that Republican leaders recently advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives would make it unlikely that a crucial nationwide upgrade of voting technology can be completed in time for the 2020 election. The House Administration Committee voted earlier this month to approve a bill that would eliminate the Elections Assistance Commission. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Gregg Harper of Mississippi, said the agency has “outlived its usefulness,” and that terminating it would save taxpayers $14 million. (Congress provided $9.6 million to the EAC in fiscal year 2016, according to the Congressional Research Service.) The bill’s opponents say that in fact the EAC has never been more necessary. They say eliminating the agency will create uncertainty and confusion among vendors and state election officials and delay the replacement of aging machines. Read More

National: Secretaries of State balk at election system move by DHS | FCW

A group of state officials voted to oppose a federal critical infrastructure designation covering their election systems. They’re looking to get that designation removed. The National Association of Secretaries of State voted on Feb. 18 to oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s late January designation of state election systems as federally protected “critical infrastructure.” The designation puts election systems on similar footing as systems in the energy and financial services sectors. NASS also voted over the weekend to create a task force to work with federal agencies and stakeholders on election system cybersecurity issues. While some states, like Arizona, took DHS up on its offer to provide cybersecurity scans of some of their systems in the wake of attempted hacks into state voter registration systems, others are very wary of letting federal agencies into state-managed facilities for fear of, or the impression of, federal influence or management. Read More

National: Meet the Math Professor Who’s Fighting Gerrymandering With Geometry | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Tufts University professor has a proposal to combat gerrymandering: give more geometry experts a day in court. Moon Duchin is an associate professor of math and director of the Science, Technology and Society program at Tufts. She realized last year that some of her research about metric geometry could be applied to gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating the shape of electoral districts to benefit a specific party, which is widely seen as a major contributor to government dysfunction. At first, she says, her plans were straightforward and research-oriented — “to put together a team to do some modeling and then maybe consult with state redistricting commissions.” But then she got more creative. “I became convinced that it’s probably more effective to try to help train a big new generation of expert witnesses who know the math side pretty well,” she says. “It’s clear that this is the right moment to do this kind of work. We want to harness all that energy.” In part, she says, that’s because court cases over voting districts have risen since a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Read More

Alaska: Ballot selfies bill moves in the Alaska House | KFSK

Legislators are considering a bill this winter to clarify that someone voting in Alaska can post an online photo with their ballot. That’s currently not allowed under state law. Sitka democratic representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins sponsored House bill 7. His legislative intern Alicia Norton testified on the bill’ behalf in front of the House Community and Regional Affairs committee this month. “HB 7 is a ballot selfie bill which would allow a person to take a photo with their marked ballot and post it online,” Norton explained. “It’s currently illegal in Alaska but it’s not a heavily enforced law. And it’s just changing some language.” Kreiss Tomkins’ sponsor statement for the bill says ballot selfies have become a common way to express support for a candidate, a cause, or the act of voting itself. Read More

Arkansas: Proposed ballot amendment on voter ID advances | Arkansas News

A House committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. In a voice vote that was not unanimous, the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Joint Resolution 1016 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs. The resolution goes to the House. The proposal, if referred to the November 2018 ballot and approved by voters, would amend the Arkansas Constitution to include among the qualifications to vote a requirement that a person show photo ID before casing a ballot in person and include photo ID when mailing an absentee ballot. Read More

Montana: Republicans divided over letting counties use all-mail ballots in special election | Bozeman Daily Chronicle

At an early morning caucus Wednesday, GOP leaders warned that a bill to give counties the option of a mail-ballot election to fill Montana’s congressional seat could cost Republicans the election, even though proponents say it would save taxpayers money. Despite that warning, the Senate’s State Administration Committee approved the bill on a bipartisan 6-2 vote, later in the day. Montana’s anticipating a special congressional election late this spring to fill the U.S. House seat now occupied by Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican. President Donald Trump has nominated Zinke to be his secretary of the interior, and his confirmation vote is pending before the U.S. Senate. Read More

Nevada: Automatic Voter Registration proposal clears first hurdle | Las Vegas Sun News

The Nevada Assembly voted 27-15 Wednesday to approve a program that would automatically register people to vote when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or identification card at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Currently, residents can register to vote at the DMV but they have to “opt in” making a conscious choice to be registered. If Initiative Petition 1, or IP1 becomes law, anyone applying for a license or ID will be automatically registered and will have to choose not to be registered. Current and former members of the military testified during committee hearings that the petition would make it easier for military personnel on active duty — who move many times during their careers — to register to vote. Read More

North Carolina: Law firm disputes dismissal from voter ID case | Greensboro News and Record

A prominent law firm is disputing the authority of Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to withdraw a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold North Carolina’s hotly debated voter ID law. An attorney with the Ogletree Deakins law firm contends that the Republican-led General Assembly hired it more than three years ago to defend the controversial measure on behalf of state government. That means the two Democratic officials overstepped their authority this week when they sought to fire the firm and to independently scuttle the appeal of last year’s lower-court ruling that rejected parts of the law as unconstitutional, Raleigh-based lawyer Thomas A. Farr said in a letter. Read More

Texas: State Attorney General, Trump administration seek to delay voter ID hearing | PBS

The U.S. Justice Department joined Texas’ attorney general Wednesday in asking a federal court to delay a hearing on the state’s voter ID law, the latest signal that the federal government might drop its opposition to the law now that Donald Trump is president. In the joint filing, the Justice Department and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked to delay next Tuesday’s hearing until summer because the Texas Legislature is considering changes to the existing law, which a federal court has found to be discriminatory. Barack Obama’s Justice Department had joined the lawsuit contesting it. Read More

Texas: Senate unveils new voter ID legislation to fix flaws | Houston Chronicle

A new attempt to enact voter identification rules to comply with court decisions that ruled a current law discriminates against minority voters were unveiled Thursday by Republican legislative leaders. Senate Bill 5 filed by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would allow Texans  a way to vote if they they cannot  “reasonably” obtain one of seven forms of ID currently required at the polls. Ineligible voters who used the option to cast ballots would face stiff penalties under the measure, expected to stir new controversy from Hispanic and minority advocates as GOP leaders try to fix the exiting law. Read More