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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bill seeking to limit access to voter registration records was held Wednesday by a House committee after concerns were raised about what information political parties and candidates would be able to see. The sponsor of HB348, Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, agreed to continue working on the bill with members of the House Government Operations Committee. “This is a pretty significant policy change, a pretty dramatic one,” said Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, the committee chairman, adding that he wanted to “see what we can do to fine tune it.”
More than three months after the last vote was cast, Vermont’s election season appears to be finally over. Republican Robert Frenier’s state House seat is safe after a second recount effort, this time in the Vermont House, came to a sudden halt Wednesday morning. The recount of a race between five-term incumbent progressive Susan Hatch Davis and Frenier was stopped on a technicality moments after it began. About two dozen lawmakers met to begin the recount Wednesday morning at the Vermont Statehouse. Recount leaders then announced that a bag containing ballots from Chelsea, Vermont, had a different identification number than was expected, which under House rules amounts to a “tampering” violation and ends the process.
The Virginia Senate recently voted 21-19 to pass a bill to tighten photo requirements for registered voters. The bill, SB 1253, was introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and now will head to the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The bill grants localities the option to include photographs of registered voters in their electronic poll books. The localities can get access to voter photographs through the DMV or photo identification cards. The department of election will receive and have access to registered voters photographs and by required upon request to provide them to general registrars.
A senior European Parliament politician on Wednesday called on the Albanian opposition Democratic Party not to block a judicial reform – the main step toward launching Albania’s membership negotiations with the European Union. Albania’s Democrats, who have been protesting for a week for free and fair elections in June, plan to boycott parliament next week. That may stop the justice system reform, which aims to create institutions for the vetting of some 800 judges and prosecutors. The reform seeks to root out bribery and ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics. Brussels says its implementation is key to Albania’s effort to become an EU member.
Benny Tai Yiu-ting of Occupy Central fame is set to relaunch a mock nomination and election of the chief executive. The so-called civil referendum uses a mobile app and a website to encourage people to nominate and vote for “candidates”. Critics including the privacy commissioner have expressed alarm. Tai’s previous ThunderGo mobile app debacle was accused by even some pan-democratic candidates in the last Legislative Council election of distorting the voting outcomes by favouring extremist candidates over more mainstream ones. Hong Kong’s unofficial chief executive election opinion poll PopVote back online next week
The Russian government summoned energy companies last week to give it advance notice about developments that could influence public opinion in the period up to May next year, when President Vladimir Putin’s term ends. The meeting suggests that Russia’s government has enlisted firms to help plan its public relations strategy ahead of the presidential election, due to take place in March 2018 with a second round if needed the following month. Most Kremlin-watchers expect Putin to seek another term, and polls suggest virtually no danger that he could lose: despite three years of difficult economic times, his approval rating hovers around 85 percent. But as in past Russian elections where the overall outcome was in little doubt, the authorities are expected to carefully manage the campaign, seeking a strong mandate with high turnout. Putin’s last presidential election in 2012 was accompanied by opposition protests, and turnout at parliamentary elections last year hit a record low of 48 percent.
United Kingdom: Politician accuses Russia of ‘corrupt involvement’ in UK elections amid hacking fears | International Business Times
A UK politician has claimed there is “clear evidence” unspecified Russian forces have directly interfered in British elections, going as far to argue that decisions at the upper echelon of the country’s security services have been “compromised” by Kremlin infiltration. “There is now clear evidence of Russian direct, corrupt involvement in elections in France, in Germany, in the United States of America, and I would argue also in this country,” said Chris Bryant MP, a Labour politician, in the House of Commons on 21 February. In his strongly-worded speech to a half-empty room, he continued: “Many believe that some of the highest level decisions affecting security in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in France and in the United States of America are now compromised by Russian infiltration.”