House Speaker Shawn Jasper wants to give Hampton Falls and other towns that postponed their elections due to a snowstorm a way out of facing potential lawsuits from voters who may have been disenfranchised. Jasper is proposing letting towns ratify the results of their elections by holding another vote. A bill he’s sponsoring would give towns that moved Election Day the option of letting townspeople vote to ratify, or confirm, the results on May 23. Jasper believes it was illegal for towns to move their elections and he’s warned towns could face lawsuits. But he says ratifying the results would prevent further chaos.
For many years, the voting integrity community has grappled with the question of how to accommodate voters with disabilities without making elections less secure. There might finally be a solution on the horizon. One-sixth of the American electorate — over 35 million eligible voters — is disabled. For many of them, simple tasks that many of us take for granted — say, putting pen to paper — is, at best, terribly inconvenient, and, at worst, impossible. This is why the disabled prefer direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs), which advertise handicap-friendly features like touchscreens and audio-enabled ballots. But these machines often do not leave a paper trail, and are therefore considered less reliable by the voting-integrity community. This debate has created a rift among the advocates, forcing each side to think long and hard about how exactly to define a “fair election.” For many advocates, auditability — the degree to which an election outcome can be verified (audited) independent of the original vote-tabulating system — is the most important standard. According to this point of view, the only way to assure voters that elections have not been compromised (by incidental code hiccups or intentional tampering) is to create total system transparency — which means physical ballots and the paper trails they make possible. This is considered the ultimate safeguard against election tampering.
FBI Director James Comey has warned that Russia will try once again to influence U.S. elections, possibly as early as next year. To prepare, the federal government has declared elections to be a part of the nation’s critical infrastructure that demands special attention. But the federal government’s focus has state and local election officials, who are very protective of how they do things now, extremely nervous. They’re mainly concerned that the federal government will tell them how to run their elections — even down to where polling sites should be located — in the name of security.
Partisan gerrymandering — the practice of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair edge — is one of the few political issues that voters of all stripes find common cause in condemning. Voters should choose their elected officials, the thinking goes, rather than elected officials choosing their voters. The Supreme Court agrees, at least in theory: In 1986 it ruled that partisan gerrymandering, if extreme enough, is unconstitutional. Yet in that same ruling, the court declined to strike down two Indiana maps under consideration, even though both “used every trick in the book,” according to a paper in the University of Chicago Law Review. And in the decades since then, the court has failed to throw out a single map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. “If you’re never going to declare a partisan gerrymander, what is it that’s unconstitutional?” said Wendy K. Tam Cho, a political scientist and statistician at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Delaware: Senate OKs bill creating commission to draw new legislative districts | Delaware State News | Delaware State News
The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill ordering independent redistricting of the state’s legislative districts. The proposal received 12 votes in support and seven against, with one member not voting and one absent.The measure now goes to the House. Senate Bill 27 would create an independent nine-member commission to redraw legislative district lines every 10 years. The process is currently overseen by the General Assembly, which critics say can lead to gerrymandering. The commission would give at least three political parties representation and allow members of the public to serve. Applicants would initially be selected by a panel of judges, with the secretary of state then randomly choosing nine names.
Florida: Voting access bill watered down after request from Duval elections chief Hogan | St. Augustine Record
Absentee ballots would be accepted at early voting sites under a proposal that has received unanimous support in two House committees and is scheduled for a floor vote in that chamber Wednesday. But the measure was watered down in the Senate Tuesday after a last-minute maneuver linked to Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, who won election by defeating the legislator sponsoring the House bill. Sen. Aaron Bean said that at Hogan’s request he filed an amendment to Senate Bill 726 that allows supervisors of elections to opt out of the practice of accepting vote-by-mail ballots at early voting sites. “They’ve asked that they have the flexibility to choose not to participate,” Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told the Ethics and Elections Committee.
A breach of the Kennesaw State University (KSU) Center for Election Systems was not malicious, according to the Georgia university. Last month’s hack raised alarms because the center handles much of the infrastructure for federal and state elections in Georgia. The center designs the ballots, houses the voter rolls and tests all voting machines used by the state. According to the press statement from university on Friday, the FBI determined the hacker was actually a security researcher whose identity has not been released. There is “no indication of any illegal activity and no personal information was misused following unauthorized access of a dedicated server for the Center for Election Systems,” the school added.
Montana elections offices are still eagerly waiting to hear whether U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris will decide to let third-party and independent candidates on the special election ballot. The special election on May 25 is to replace former Rep. Ryan Zinke who was nominated to President Donald Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of the Interior in February. State law requires third-party and independent candidates to collect a certain number of signatures to place their names on the ballot, but those candidates are arguing they didn’t have enough time to collect signatures. Potential candidates Thomas and Danielle Breck and Steve Kelly are suing the Secretary of States Office over those ballot laws.
County election officials are securing polling places, hiring election judges and bracing for higher costs for this spring’s special election now that any hope that votes will only be cast by mail has been quashed. A bill to give counties the option of making Montana’s May 25 special election a mail-ballot only contest has been all but buried at the Montana Legislature despite support from many county governments. Those counties said the bill would save them money, but some Republican leaders opposed the measure because they said it would give Democrats an edge in the race to fill Montana’s one U.S. House seat. A final effort to move the bill forward failed last Friday, and now that the bill appears dead, county officials are plugging ahead and dealing with the challenges of organizing an election in a hurry.
Nevada: Voters will have more options for casting their ballots by June 2018 primary | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Local voters should be able to cast a valid ballot at any polling location inside Clark County, not just their local precincts, by the primary election in June 2018. The County Commission voted Tuesday to spend about $1.57 million to expand the same electronic poll book technology it uses for early voting to all polling places on Election Day. The money will be used to purchases software and hardware from San Diego-based Votec Corporation, the company providing the county’s current early voting election software. The county currently has 200 licenses to use the software, but it will soon have 1,300. “All we’re doing is expanding what we already have in place so we can use it on Election Day,” County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria said.
House Republicans are rushing a bill through the legislature that would aim to salvage last year’s attempt to take away control of elections boards from the political party of the governor. A law passed in a 2016 post-election special session and signed by former Gov. Pat McCrory would have consolidated the state elections and ethics boards and evenly divided membership of the new board between Republicans and Democrats. But a three-judge panel struck down that law last month as an unconstitutional encroachment on executive authority. The 2016 law would have altered a longstanding practice giving a governor the power to appoint three members from his party to preside over elections as well as two members from the other party. Instead, the governor would have appointed four members and legislative leaders would have appointed the other four. In December, incoming Gov. Roy Cooper sued over those provisions, which were aimed at shifting some of the governor’s authority to the state legislature.
Pennsylvania: Vazquez sworn in for 197th District seat as investigation, lawsuit loom | Philadelphia Inquirer
Emilio Vazquez, the Democratic leader of Philadelphia’s 43rd Ward, was sworn in Wednesday as the newest state representative for the 197th District after a special election that is being investigated by city and state prosecutors for alleged voter fraud. … Vazquez’s main two opponents, Republican nominee Lucinda Little and Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala, each vowed two days after the election to sue in federal court to overturn the results, alleging that voters were intimidated or misled by illegal electioneering in polling places. The Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Green Party last week again vowed to sue in a joint effort.
Texas: Judge allows suit challenging how Texas elects judges to its highest courts | San Antonio Express-News
A federal judge has denied the state of Texas’ attempt to quash a lawsuit that challenges the way the state elects judges to the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals. Seven Hispanic voters (six from Nueces County and one from El Paso) and a civic organization, La Unión Del Pueblo Entero Inc., allege in the suit that Latino candidates almost always lose statewide elections for judges to the two highest courts in Texas. In an opinion issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Ramos ruled that all the plaintiffs have standing to bring the suit under the Voting Rights Act.
A proposal to limit election recounts that’s up for a hearing Wednesday would have prevented Jill Stein’s Wisconsin recount and increased public trust in the election system, one Republican lawmaker said. “We need to make sure people aren’t using elections as a political tool,” the bill’s author, Sen. Devin LeMahieu, said at a Senate Committee on Elections and Utilities hearing. The bill from LeMahieu and GOP Rep. Ron Tusler would only allow candidates in statewide elections who trail the leading candidate by 1 percent or less of the total number of votes to petition for a recount. Had the bill been in place in November, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who lost to Republican Donald Trump by a margin of less than 1 percent in Wisconsin, would have been able to petition for a recount. But not Stein. She came in fourth but raised more than $3.5 million to fund Wisconsin’s recount. The state’s election commission later refunded Stein $1.5 million after costs were less than estimated.
Bulgaria: Caretaker Justice Minister fires official over unconstitutional draft bill limiting voting rights abroad | The Sofia Globe
A controversial draft bill that would have curtailed the voting rights of Bulgarians abroad has been withdrawn and the official responsible for posting it online has been fired. This was announced by the Justice Ministry on April 5, a day after reports about the draft bill, which proposed allowing Bulgarians to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections only if they had been resident in the country three months prior to the vote. Critics immediately pointed out that this would hardly survive a challenge in the Constitutional Court. In its Wednesday statement, the ministry said that caretaker Justice Minister Maria Pavlova had identified “imperfections” in the text of the draft amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act.
Ecuadorean President-elect Lenin Moreno’s Alianza Pais party announced plans on Wednesday to support a vote recount to prove Sunday’s second-round presidential election was legal and transparent. For days, right-wing presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso and his CREO-SUMA coalition have claimed the elections were “fraudulent” and “rigged” in favor of Moreno, despite the fact that Organization of American States election observers found “no discrepancies between the observed records and the official data” from the CNE. Since the election Argentina, Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Colombia, and Venezuela have all congratulated Moreno on his election win. But Lasso has refused to relent, even inciting violent protests in several cities across Ecuador, demanding a vote recount the rest of the region doesn’t believe is necessary.
The Gambia will hold its first election on Thursday since the downfall of longtime leader Yahya Jammeh. Expectations are high that new lawmakers will overhaul the national assembly once derided as a mere rubberstamp by many in the country. Gambians have long complained that under Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years, laws were often made by executive decree and buttressed by legislation much later on, if at all. Campaigning ended on Tuesday for the 238 registered candidates representing nine different political parties who are vying for the 53 seats up for election.
The Swiss authorities are preparing to expand e-voting to more cantons, which would give more citizens the chance to cast their votes electronically. The government on Wednesday said the system should be expanded from its test phase. Until now, 14 cantons have at various times allowed Swiss living abroad to vote electronically. Three cantons (Neuchatel, Geneva and Basel City) have operated e-voting systems for Swiss-based citizens. Up to two-thirds of citizens who have been eligible to vote electronically have grabbed the opportunity, proving that strong demand exists, the government said.
In central Ankara, it can be hard to think amidst the noise. Campaign buses are parked daily on opposite corners of Kizilay square, each one blasting propaganda as shoppers snake through crowds of flag wavers and flyer distributors. Foot traffic is heavy and campaigners from across the political spectrum work side by side to sway voters for the upcoming referendum. In less than two weeks, Turks will decide on whether to consolidate power under the presidency, currently held by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Currently, national polls show the “Yes” and “No” votes are nearly tied and as the referendum approaches, the two contrasting visions for the nation’s future often play out in the streets.