Archives

Maryland: Everyone in Maryland says they want redistricting reform. Here’s why it won’t happen. | The Washington Post

Maryland’s elected leaders seem unlikely to negotiate a deal this year to end partisan gerrymandering, despite overwhelming public support for redistricting reform, pressure from citizen groups to reach a compromise, and a federal lawsuit that could force the state to overhaul its voting maps for upcoming elections. More than two weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed plans to pursue a regional redistricting compact and insisted that Maryland should act alone, the state’s top Republican and Democratic officials remain sharply divided on the issue and have made no efforts to merge their proposals. “Pulling these parties together could be the trickiest piece,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, which is urging the two sides to meet this summer and hammer out an agreement before next year’s legislative session.

Full Article: Everyone in Md. says they want redistricting reform. Here’s why it won’t happen. - The Washington Post.

Montana: Most Montanans had voted before Gianforte incident with reporter | Bozeman Daily Chronicle

The majority of Gallatin County voters did not agree with the rest of the state’s decision Thursday to elect Republican candidate Greg Gianforte to the lone congressional seat, according to election results on the secretary of state’s website. Final results show the county was in favor of Cut Bank Democratic candidate Rob Quist, who earned a 14-point win in the Republican candidate’s backyard. Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks had 4 percent of the vote in Gallatin County. In total, Gallatin had 76,633 registered voters, according to the secretary of state’s website. Charlotte Mills, clerk and recorder for Gallatin County, said 35,491 absentee ballots were cast and a little more than 6,000 voters went to the polls.

Full Article: Most Montanans had voted before Gianforte incident with reporter | Politics | bozemandailychronicle.com.

North Carolina: Battle over voting rights intensifies | The Washington Post

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature has worked steadily and forcefully during the past seven years to tilt the state’s election system in its favor, using voting restrictions, favorable district maps and a slew of new policies that lawmakers say are aimed at reducing voter fraud. But at every turn, Democrats and voting rights advocates have stymied their plans, dragging them to court and condemning the GOP actions as discriminatory against the state’s minorities. Instead of giving up — even after two major defeats this month in the U.S. Supreme Court — North Carolina’s Republican leaders are working to push the battle over the ballot box into a new phase.

Full Article: North Carolina’s battle over voting rights intensifies - The Washington Post.

North Carolina: Judges weigh law cutting governor’s elections oversight role | Associated Press

If judges sign off on Republican legislation that curtails the new governor’s control over state and local elections, future balloting could be wracked with confusion, unethical politicians could go unpunished and campaign finance tricks could continue unabated, Democratic lawyers contend. A three-judge panel of state trial judges on Thursday starts hearing arguments about whether it’s constitutional for GOP legislators to end the century-old control governors had of overseeing elections now that a rival, new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, is in office.

Full Article: Judges weigh law cutting governor's elections oversight role - ABC News.

Texas: House, Senate OK compromise on bill to soften voter ID law | The Texas Tribune

The Texas House and Senate have approved a deal to relax the state’s voter identification requirements, meaning the closely watched legislation now only awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval. The Republican is expected to sign Senate Bill 5, capping a flurry of late activity that pushed the legislation to the finish line after some state leaders feared its demise — and legal consequences from inaction. The House approved the compromise bill Sunday in a 92-56 vote — one day after the Senate backed the deal along party lines.Sen. Joan Huffman’s bill, which would soften voter ID requirements once considered strictest in the nation, responds to court findings that the current law discriminated against black and Latino voters. 

Full Article: Texas House, Senate OK compromise on bill to soften voter ID law | The Texas Tribune.

Texas: Will Abolishing Straight-Ticket Voting Encourage Voter Engagement Or Stifle Turnout? | KUT

A bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott last week that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in Texas. But opponents say the legislation could be headed to court. Texas is one of 10 states that provide the option of voting for one party straight down the ballot. Proponents say it makes voting easier and reduces wait times at the polls. Critics say it makes voters less engaged with down-ballot local races. According to a study from Austin Community College’s Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, straight-ticket voting made up nearly two-thirds of votes cast in the 2016 election. … Erin Lunceford, a Republican who also ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in Harris County, called herself a “poster child for why straight-ticket voting is bad for Texas.” “It results in the election of less qualified, experienced judges,” she told a hearing on House Bill 25.

Full Article: Will Abolishing Straight-Ticket Voting Encourage Voter Engagement Or Stifle Turnout? | KUT.

Australia: Fake news, hacking threat to democracy now on ‘unseen scale’, report says | ABC

The internet and social media pose an unprecedented threat to Australia’s democratic systems and an urgent response is needed to safeguard against attacks, according to a new report. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report drew on case studies from the US and found technology had enabled malicious foreign forces to potentially influence elections on a “scale and scope previously unseen”. “Two critical elements of the democratic process are under assault,” said the report’s author, Zoe Hawkins. “The security of our election infrastructure — think hacked voting machines — and the integrity of our public debates — think fake news.

Full Article: Fake news, hacking threat to democracy now on 'unseen scale', report says - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Cambodia: Election Monitor: Sample-Based Observation Most Effective | The Cambodia Daily

Transparency International has pledged a rapid assessment of potential irregularities in Sunday’s commune elections by sending 1,100 observers across Cambodia—including, if needed, by boat and helicopter. At a news conference in Phnom Penh on Monday, Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said USAID had donated nearly $200,000 to fund the Election Day operations, in which a sample of 410 polling stations out of 22,148 would be observed. The plan was to produce a report more quickly than other organizations carrying out comprehensive assessments, Mr. Kol said.

Full Article: Election Monitor: Sample-Based Observation Most Effective - The Cambodia Daily.

Somalia: Supreme Court nullifies parliamentary seats, calls for re-election | Garowe

Somalia’s Supreme Court has nullified several seats of the Lower House chamber considered to be rigged during the parliamentary electoral process in the regional states last year, Garowe Online reports. A total of 8 seats were ordered for re-contest for failing to adhere to the rules of the electoral process, ruling in favor of the appellants who filed for complains against the voting results.

Full Article: Somalia: Supreme Court nullifies parliamentary seats, calls for re-e lection.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for May 22-28 2017

DEFCON, the world’s longest running and largest underground hacking conference, has announced that the subject of this summer’s meeting will be voting machines. Hackers will attempt to compromise voting machines from a variety of perspectives: remote attacks, hardware and software vulnerabilities and potentials available to insiders with physical access to the equipment.

The Atlantic posted an extensive article on risk-limiting audits, which offer a simple low-tech way of verifying the accuracy of software-generated vote counts. In a risk-limiting audit a random sample of ballots is chosen and then hand-counted. That sample, plus a little applied math, can tell us whether the machines picked the right winner. Since risk-limiting audits verify elections while minimizing the number of audited ballots, they are both inexpensive and speedy. They largely eliminate the need for emergency recruitment of recount workers and can be conducted before the election must be certified by law.

Barbara Simons penned an oped in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune calling for the elimination of all internet voting and paperless voting machines. Simons notes that “[d]espite a decade of warnings from computer security experts, 33 states allow internet voting for some or all voters, and a quarter of our country still votes on computerized, paperless voting machines that cannot be recounted and for which there have been demonstrated hacks.”

The Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers had violated the Constitution by relying too heavily on race in drawing them. The court rejected arguments from state lawmakers that their purpose in drawing the maps was not racial discrimination but partisan advantage. Richard Hasen notes that two footnotes in Justice Kagan’s opinion provide a useful tool for voting rights advocates and may limit legislators’ attempts to hide behind claims of partisan motivation to protect themselves from racial gerrymandering claims.

A lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court, argues that Georgia’s voting infrastructure is too old, unreliable and vulnerable to be used without a forensic review of its operating systems. The suit notes that most recently Fulton experienced a technical problem April 18 that delayed reporting of election results because of what officials called a “rare error” involving a voting memory card that didn’t properly upload its tallies.

Ina unanimous decision Maine’s high court ruled that the state’s ranked-choice voting system is unconstitutional, throwing the voter-approved law into jeopardy ahead of the 2018 election when it was supposed to be implemented. After the court decision the state legislature approved the introduction of two competing bills that address ranked-choice voting – one would repeal the first-in-the-nation voting law and the other would put a ballot question to voters on whether to change the state’s constitution to make it legal statewide.

Under legislation approved Tuesday by the Michigan State Senate, fees for long-shot election recounts would double. The move was prompted by the partially successful effort of Green Party nominee Jill Stein for a manual recount of last November’s election. Responding to court rulings that current voter id requirements discriminate against black and Latino voters, the Texas House approved legislation to overhaul the law.

Wisconsin’s attorney general on Monday asked the US Supreme Court to block a ruling that would force lawmakers to draw new legislative maps by November 1, contending legislators should not have to draw new lines unless the Supreme Court agrees with the three-judge panel that the existing maps are unconstitutional.

The Maltese government claims that it has come under attack from a Russian-backed campaign to undermine it, amid worsening relations with the Kremlin. Since Malta assumed the presidency of Europe’s Council of Ministers in January, the government’s IT systems have seen a rise in phishing, DDoS and malware attacks.

Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned, paving the way for Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba to form the next government as per their agreement last year. Results of the first local elections in 20 years held on May 14 have still not been announced. The second vote is scheduled for June 14, but analysts question whether a new government will be able to pass the constitutional amendments in time or have enough time to prepare for second round elections.

Ireland: No diaspora vote in 2018 presidential election, says Coveney | The IRish Times

Ireland’s diaspora has no chance of voting in next year’s presidential election, Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney has confirmed. Work is however starting on improving the voter registration process, he said. Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged during his St Patrick’s week visit to the US that a referendum would be held on whether or not to allow non-resident citizens, including those in Northern Ireland, to vote in presidential elections.

Full Article: No diaspora vote in 2018 presidential election, says Coveney.

National: Top hacker conference to target voting machines | Politico

Hackers will target American voting machines—as a public service, to prove how vulnerable they are. When over 25,000 of them descend on Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas at the end of July for DEFCON, the world’s largest hacking conference, organizers are planning to have waiting what they call “a village” of different opportunities to test how easily voting machines can be manipulated. Some will let people go after the network software remotely, some will be broken apart to let people dig into the hardware, and some will be set up to see how a prepared hacker could fiddle with individual machines on site in a polling place through a combination of physical and virtual attacks.

Full Article: Top hacker conference to target voting machines - POLITICO.

National: How Applied Mathematics Could Help Democracy | The Atlantic

American voting relies heavily on technology. Voting machines and ballot counters have sped up the formerly tedious process of counting votes. Yet long-standing research shows that these technologies are susceptible to errors and manipulation that could elect the wrong person. In the 2016 presidential election, those concerns made their way into public consciousness, worrying both sides of the political fence. The uncertainty led to a set of last-minute, expensive state recounts—most of which were incomplete or blocked by courts. But we could ensure that all elections are fair and accurate with one simple low-tech fix: risk-limiting audits. Risk-limiting audits are specific to elections, but they are very similar to the audits that are routinely required of corporate America. Under them, a random sample of ballots is chosen and then hand-counted. That sample, plus a little applied math, can tell us whether the machines picked the right winner.

Full Article: How Applied Mathematics Could Help Democracy - The Atlantic.

Editorials: Internet voting and paperless machines have got to go | Barbara Simons/Minneapolis Star Tribune

“They’ll be back in 2020, they may be back in 2018, and one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sowed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process.” — Former FBI Director James Comey, testifying about the Russian government before a House Intelligence Committee hearing, March 20, 2017

We are facing a major national security threat. As former Director Comey stated, we know that Russia attacked our 2016 election, and there is every reason to expect further attacks on our elections from nations, criminals and others until we repair our badly broken voting systems. Despite a decade of warnings from computer security experts, 33 states allow internet voting for some or all voters, and a quarter of our country still votes on computerized, paperless voting machines that cannot be recounted and for which there have been demonstrated hacks. If we know how to hack these voting systems, so do the Russians and Chinese and North Koreans and Iranians and ….

Full Article: Internet voting and paperless machines have got to go - StarTribune.com.

Editorials: The Supreme Court may just have given voting rights activists a powerful new tool | Richard Hasen/The Washington Post

Sometimes the most important stuff in Supreme Court opinions is hidden in the footnotes. In Monday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down two North Carolina congressional districts as unconstitutionally influenced by race, the majority buried a doozy, a potentially powerful new tool to attack voting rights violations in the South and elsewhere. At issue in the case was whether two congressional districts drawn by the North Carolina General Assembly were unconstitutional “racial gerrymanders.” A racial gerrymander exists when race — not other criteria, such as adherence to city and county boundaries, or efforts to protect a particular political party — is the “predominant factor” in how a legislature draws lines and the legislature presents no compelling reason for paying so much attention to race.

Full Article: The Supreme Court may just have given voting rights activists a powerful new tool - The Washington Post.

Georgia: Group sues to use paper ballots in Georgia 6th Run-Off | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia’s voting infrastructure is too old, unreliable and vulnerable to be used without a forensic review of its operating systems, according to a lawsuit seeking to require voters’ use of paper ballots for next month’s 6th Congressional District runoff election. The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, names Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp — the state’s top election official — as a defendant, along with the election directors for all three counties that have communities in the 6th District: Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton. It comes at a crucial time. Early in-person voting for the June 20 runoff begins Tuesday, with all eyes on Georgia ahead of the hotly contested race between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. … The Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Foundation filed the suit in conjunction with two Georgia voters, Donna Curling and Donna Price. Both Price and Curling are members of the foundation, which focuses on fair elections and government transparency, as well as a group called Georgians for Verified Voting.

Full Article: Georgia 6th: Group sues to use paper ballots.

Maine: Supreme Judicial Court rules ranked-choice voting unconstitutional | Bangor Daily News

Maine’s high court said Tuesday that the state’s first-in-the-nation ranked-choice voting system is unconstitutional, throwing the voter-approved law into jeopardy ahead of the key 2018 campaign when it was supposed to be implemented. In a unanimous, 44-page opinion issued Tuesday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s seven justices agreed with Attorney General Janet Mills, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and Republican legislators that the system violates a provision of the Maine Constitution that allows elections to be won by pluralities — and not necessarily majorities — of votes.

Full Article: Maine Supreme Judicial Court rules ranked-choice voting unconstitutional — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

Michigan: Senate OKs election recount fee hike | Associated Press

Michigan’s fee to recount election votes would double if a losing candidate is down by more than 5 percentage points under legislation approved Tuesday by the state Senate in response to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recount bid last fall. The bill would increase the fee from $125 per precinct to $250. It would stay at $125 if the margin is 5 points or less and remain at $25 if it is under half of a point. Stein sought the recount despite winning 1 percent of the vote, questioning the accuracy of the vote and suggesting, without evidence, that votes were susceptible to hacking.

Full Article: Senate OKs election recount fee hike | News, Sports, Jobs - Daily Press.

North Carolina: Justices Reject 2 Gerrymandered North Carolina Districts, Citing Racial Bias | The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers had violated the Constitution by relying too heavily on race in drawing them. The court rejected arguments from state lawmakers that their purpose in drawing the maps was not racial discrimination but partisan advantage. The decision was the court’s latest attempt to solve a constitutional puzzle: how to disentangle the roles of race and partisanship when black voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats. The difference matters because the Supreme Court has said that only racial gerrymandering is constitutionally suspect.

Full Article: Justices Reject 2 Gerrymandered North Carolina Districts, Citing Racial Bias - The New York Times.

Texas: House backs voter ID overhaul, with changes | The Texas Tribune

The Texas House on Tuesday tentatively approved legislation to overhaul the state’s embattled voter identification law, moving it one step closer to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Senate Bill 5 would in several ways relax what some had called the nation’s most stringent ID requirements for voters — a response to court findings that the current law discriminated against black and Latino voters. The 95-54 vote followed a six-hour debate that saw fierce pushback from Democrats, who argued the legislation wouldn’t go far enough to expand ballot access and contains provisions that might discourage some Texans from going to the polls. Democrats proposed a host of changes through amendments, a few of which surprisingly wriggled through.

Full Article: Texas House backs voter ID overhaul, with changes | The Texas Tribune.