National: Lawmakers eye cyber help for states | The Hill

Efforts are growing in Congress to give states more federal help on cybersecurity, amid heightened fears about the vulnerability of state data systems. A flurry of bills introduced this month would compel the federal government to share resources and assistance with state and local governments to fix cyber vulnerabilities and prepare for hacks. At least one of the bills deals specifically with securing voting systems in the wake of Russia’s cyberattacks on political organizations during the 2016 campaign. That bill, introduced by Democratic Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.) and Jim Langevin (R.I.), would offer grants to encourage states to use newer and more secure voting systems. It would also give grants to states for boosting access to the polls. “In 43 of the 50 states, we’re dealing with outdated voting equipment more than a decade old,” Connolly told The Hill. “We had Russian hacking, and we want to make sure people can feel secure about voting.”

National: FEC earning congressional attention — for the wrong reasons | Center for Public Integrity

The Federal Election Commission — an agency of clashing commissioners, seething staffers and key vacancies — may soon face congressmen who wonder: Why’s the agency a basket case? Such a trip under Congress’ microscope could come in the form of a Committee on House Administration oversight hearing, something the FEC hasn’t endured since 2011, when super PACs were still novel and the now-seminal Citizens United v. FEC decision wasn’t yet two years old. A planned oversight hearing in 2014 never materialized. “It’s time,” Committee on House Administration member Barry Loudermilk, a Republican congressman from Georgia, told the Center for Public Integrity. “We should take the opportunity and have a re-evaluation.” An oversight hearing is “both urgent and necessary” and should be conducted “sooner rather than later,” said Jamie Fleet, a spokesman for Rep. Robert Brady, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Florida: Group seeking voting rights for ex-felons files lawsuit against Gov. Scott | Orlando Sentinel

A national voting rights group filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott in federal court on Monday. The Fair Elections Legal Network, based in Washington, D.C., claims the method Florida uses to grant clemency to former felons is unconstitutional and wants voting rights restored to seven plaintiffs immediately. Scott’s office, meanwhile, defended the state’s clemency process. The complaint comes one week after a group led by Desmond Meade of Orlando appeared before the state Supreme Court in an attempt to move forward with a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to non-violent former felons.

Florida: Elected secretary of state gets backing | News Service of Florida

House panel approved a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that could shift power in Florida’s executive branch. Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, wants to convert the office of secretary of state into an elected Cabinet position, eliminating the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official. The move would undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that strengthened the office of the governor, which shares power in many areas with three statewide elected officials who make up the Florida Cabinet.

Georgia: Democratic leader demands details on voter data breach | Atlanta Journal Constitution

The chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia on Monday demanded that Secretary of State Brian Kemp accept help from the Department of Homeland Security after an alleged breach of confidential data that could affect millions of Georgia voter records. DuBose Porter also criticized Kemp for disclosing few details about the nature and origin of the attack, and he raised concerns that it could affect the April 18 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price. “The security of — and confidence in — our voting system is the bedrock of American democracy,” Porter wrote. “It is your obligation to provide all Georgians with assurance that our voting system is sound and secure.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry into the suspected cyberattack this month at the request of state officials after university staff told them records kept by the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University may have been compromised.

Idaho: Bill to clamp down on special House elections advances | The Spokesman-Review

Legislation to change Idaho’s procedure for special elections when an Idaho member of Congress leaves office mid-term cleared a Senate panel on Monday, and headed to the full Senate. No such election has ever been held in Idaho history, but Idaho’s process for a special election for Congress drew attention in December when 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador was interviewed by then-president-elect Trump for a possible position as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The law says the governor would declare an election date by proclamation, and anyone who wanted to would run, regardless of party. That opened the hypothetical possibility of a whole array of candidates from various parties running together for an open House seat from Idaho.

Louisiana: Judge Doesn’t Like It, but Upholds Voting Ban on Some Felons | Associated Press

More than 70,000 Louisiana residents on probation or parole for felony crimes will remain unable to vote, under a decision issued Monday by a reluctant Baton Rouge judge who said he disagreed with the prohibition in law but had to uphold it. State District Judge Tim Kelley called it unfair to keep thousands of people from voting if they’re working, paying taxes and following the law. But he said Louisiana’s constitution and a four-decades-old state law required him to continue denying the voting rights. “I don’t like this ruling. I don’t like it. It’s not fair,” Kelley said.

Montana: Mail-in Voting Bill Sent To ‘Kill Committee’ | MTPR

A bill designed to save county governments half a million dollars or more is facing a time crunch in the state legislature. It would allow them to conduct mail-in only balloting. If it’s going to have any impact on how voters select the state’s next U.S. congressman, it must pass out of what one lawmaker is calling a kill committee. Senate Bill 305 is getting its first hearing in the House at the end of next week. But the bill’s sponsor is unhappy that that’s going to happen in the judiciary committee. “I think the bill was put into judiciary in order to kill it,” says Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls.

Nevada: Voter registration bill headed to governor’s desk | Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Nevada Senate on Monday approved a citizen initiative to automatically register people to vote when they conduct certain transactions at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The 12-9 vote was along party lines, with independent Sen. Patricia Farley of Las Vegas joining Democrats to approve the measure. Democratic supporters said it would increase voter rolls in Nevada and engage more people in the election process. Republican opponents countered that the registration system works fine and that the initiative could lead to voter fraud.

New Hampshire: Pending storm stirs legal question over Tuesday elections | Associated Press

There was no calm before the storm, just lots of confusion. Local elections for most New Hampshire towns were scheduled for Tuesday, the day a nor’easter is expected. Many towns decided to postpone them, even though the secretary of state’s office said they couldn’t. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, following a conference call with towns and the attorney general, strongly recommended Monday that the elections be held. “We think that’s a very important part of the process,” he said. “But given those differing opinions I don’t think we’re in a position to mandate that towns stay open.”

New Jersey: New bill would require New Jersey voting machines to leave paper trail | News 12

Four Democrats in the New Jersey Assembly have introduced a bill that would require voting machines to leave a paper trail of each vote cast. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker says previous equipment failures and programming errors have resulted in costly disputes that cast doubt on election results. Zwicker says paper records would assure voters that their ballots are counted properly “We want to give people confidence that when they vote, their vote counts and that it went toward the person they were intending to vote for,” Zwicker says.

Texas: Voter ID changes clear Senate committee | Austin American Statesman

A unanimous Senate committee on Monday approved legislation to loosen several requirements while creating harsher penalties in the state’s voter ID law. Senate Bill 5 would codify most of the court-ordered changes to the 2011 law after a federal appeals court ruled last year that it discriminated against minority and poor Texans, infringing on the voting rights of about 600,000 registered voters who lacked a government-issued photo ID.

Texas: Texas lost a ruling over its congressional map. So what’s next? | The Texas Tribune

A three-judge federal panel’s recent ruling on Texas’ electoral maps could shake up state politics and carry national implications. The ruling may initially sound simple enough. Texas intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters in drawing its 2011 congressional map, the majority found in a 2-1 ruling Friday night. More specifically: Three of the state’s 36 districts violate either the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. But little is straightforward about redistricting, the once-a-decade process of rejiggering political boundaries to address the changing population. Friday’s ruling was no exception, simultaneously answering questions and raising new ones. “It’s a gigantic ruling, but it leaves a lot of uncertainty,” said Michael Li, a redistricting expert with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. “It makes your head hurt.”

Virginia: Whoops! Sorry about that frigid camp-out, but ballot placement is a lottery | The Washington Post

Braving bitter cold, campaign staffers for state Sen. Bryce E. Reeves camped out all weekend in front of the state Board of Elections, determined to get his name listed first on the ballot for the June 13 GOP primary for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Sunday night, they got some company on the sidewalk. Staffers for gubernatorial hopeful Corey A. Stewart lined up behind them, confident for the next 12 bone-chilling hours that they, too, had snagged the top ballot position in their race. Under state code, name placement on primary ballots is determined by the order in which the requisite paperwork is filed. In the competition to get candidates top billing, playing out on the coldest weekend of the year, it seemed the race would go to the hardiest. But the frigid vigils were for naught.

Wisconsin: 17-year-olds voted illegally in Wisconsin primary | Associated Press

Dozens of 17-year-olds voted illegally across Wisconsin during last spring’s intense presidential primary, apparently wrongly believing they could cast ballots if they turned 18 ahead of the November general election, according to a new state report. Wisconsin Elections Commission staff examined voter fraud referrals municipal clerks said they made to prosecutors following the 2016 spring primary and general elections. The commission is set to approve the findings during a meeting Tuesday and forward a report to the Legislature.

Canada: Minorities and municipalities challenge Quebec’s new electoral map | Montreal Gazette

Even if Quebec’s chief electoral officer considers the issue closed, some minority and municipal leaders in Montreal are mobilizing to fight the province’s new electoral map. As the groundswell of opposition grows, some are talking about raising funds for a possible legal challenge to the new map, which west end politicians consider a stab in the back due to previous assurances it wouldn’t change. And the Greek community in Laval is in the same foul mood, saying the new map is splitting their community between two ridings. In fact, the new map has the community’s largest orthodox church, Holy Cross, in one riding while the parishioners are in another.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): EU, Georgia Shun ‘So-Called Elections’ In Breakaway Abkhazia | RFERL

The European Union says it will not recognize what it described as “so-called ‘elections'” conducted on March 12 by Russia-backed separatists who control Georgia’s Abkhazia region. Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on March 13 that the EU “supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as recognized by international law.” She added that “the European Union does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework in which these elections have taken place.”

Ireland: Diaspora voting proposals raise ethical and political issues | The Irish Times

On the face of it, Enda Kenny’s commitment to extending the vote to the Irish diaspora in presidential elections sounds worthwhile and deserved. Such a generous gesture to Irish citizens living abroad also seems relatively straightforward, giving effect to one of the recommendations made by the Constitutional Convention. The franchise for the diaspora could start as early as 2025 if the optimism of the Taoiseach, Minister of State for the Diaspora Joe McHugh and other Ministers is to be believed. But such a fundamental change is fraught with logistical challenges, carries a big price tag and will raise a host of niggling ethical issues, as well as political headaches for parties other than Sinn Féin.

Pakistan: Electronic voting machines for elections to be tested | Tech Juice

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has signed an agreement to procure electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometric verification machines (BVMs) for a trial run in by-elections. ECP Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Muhammad said that once these EVMs and BVMs machines are delivered by vendors in 10 weeks, they will be used in multiple pilot projects in upcoming by-elections to see their results. Director General (Admin) retired Brig Abbas Ali and Chief Executive Officer of M/s Smartmatic International Holding signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organizations to procure 150 EVMs.

Editorials: South Koreans Can’t Agree What Democracy Is | Steven Denney/Foreign Policy

On March 10, South Korea’s Constitutional Court rendered its most important decision since its founding in 1988. The court’s eight judges unanimously voted to remove President Park Geun-hye from office, citing abuse of power and permitting a private citizen, her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, to meddle in state affairs. The former president was impeached by the legislature on Dec. 9, following revelations that Park had consulted Choi on state matters and used her presidential influence to secure millions of dollars in donations from the country’s largest conglomerates, including Samsung, for two nonprofit organizations run by Choi. Following the court’s decision, the acting president and Park-appointed prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said in a public broadcast: “It’s time to end conflict and confrontation.” But that will be far easier said than done. Park’s scandal did much more than end her career. It has ruptured some of the most powerful institutions in Korean society and put the country in an unprecedented constitutional, social, and political crisis.

Spain: Court condemns former Catalan chief for vote on independence | Associated Press

Former Catalonia regional government chief Artur Mas is facing a two-year ban from holding public office for going ahead with a vote on the region’s independence from Spain despite a ruling against it, a court in Barcelona ruled Monday. The judge also required him to pay a fine of 36,500 euros ($38,900) and disqualified from politics for 21 and 18 months respectively two of his aides, former regional vice president Joana Ortega and education councilor Irene Rigau. The three former officials will appeal the ban to the Supreme Court and are prepared to take the case to European courts, said Mas in remarks following the verdict adding that he doesn’t trust justice in the country.

United Kingdom: Sinn Fein wants vote on Northern Ireland leaving UK ‘as soon as possible’ | Today

Northern Ireland’s largest Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein on Monday said it wanted a referendum on splitting from the United Kingdom “as soon as possible”, hours after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded a new independence vote. Sinn Fein has been regularly calling for a vote for Northern Ireland to leave the UK and unite with the Republic of Ireland since Britain voted to leave the European Union last June while most voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain.