Congress is back in Washington, D.C., this week to tackle a to-do list so packed it unfurls all the way down to the Anacostia River. Lawmakers aren’t only expected to focus on taxes, the budget, the debt ceiling and other such priorities. They also could begin paying attention to the potential threats against elections next year or in 2020.
President Donald Trump’s refusal to publicly release his tax returns is fueling initiatives in Massachusetts and other states that would require presidential candidates to disclose their personal finances before they could appear on the ballot. Massachusetts lawmakers are set to hold a hearing Wednesday at the Statehouse on a bill that would impose those conditions. The chief sponsor, state Sen. Mike Barrett, said that until the election of Trump, most Americans just assumed candidates for president would adhere to “modern practices of disclosure and transparency” — even those that are unwritten. “One of them is the disclosure by candidates of personal financial information related to possible conflicts of interest,” the Lexington Democrat said. “The 2016 election shattered our confidence in the broad acceptance by presidential candidates of certain rules of public conduct.”
California: San Francisco could become first local government to use open-source voting system | San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco has taken a tentative step toward deciding on whether it will become the first local government in the country to run its voting machines on open-source software. The notion of shifting away from using proprietary technology sold by private companies to computer code made freely available for anyone to use and modify has been talked about for years. But it’s been getting more attention since the city allocated $300,000 to study the issue. Last week, Elections Director John Arntz opened discussions with Slalom, a consulting group selected by the city to prepare a detailed report on what San Francisco would face if it decides go to an open-source voting system. The report is expected to be finished by January at a cost of around $175,000.
Georgia for the first time in nearly a decade will pilot the use of paper ballots this November in a local municipal election, the first step toward what officials said could be a statewide switch to a new voting system. Voters in Conyers will use the ballots along with new electronic record, voting and tabulating machines for a Nov. 7 election for mayor and two City Council seats. If all goes as planned, it’s the first time voters — excluding absentee voters — will have cast ballots on a system with a paper component since 2008. Back then, officials attached paper spools for a local election on some of the state’s existing electronic voting machines but decided the process was too cumbersome to proceed.
A federal performance audit said New Hampshire failed to get prior approval to use $1 million in federal election grant money as part of a $3.7 million renovation to the state archives building. This was one of four conditions found in the 76-page audit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission published in the past week and posted in the Federal Register. State election officials said they have been trying for more than seven years to get retroactive approval of that archives building spending state lawmakers first approved in 2003. New Hampshire is one of the last states in the country to undergo this audit, which is mandatory under the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
North Carolina: While Cooper and lawmakers struggle in court, local elections can proceed | News & Observer
Elections boards in 16 counties received relief late Friday from the state Supreme Court that allows them to prepare for local elections without all their members. The boards in Pitt, Carteret, Chowan, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Jones, Lincoln, Perquimans, Transylvania, Vance and other counties affected had been stymied from preparing for county and municipal elections this year because of a power struggle between Republican lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper that ended up in state court.
After years of legal wrangling, Texas and its court challengers — groups representing voters of color — were finally set to hash out new congressional and state House maps after judges ruled the current maps discriminated against minority voters. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s intervention last week added a new wrinkle to one of the most complicated redistricting cases moving through the courts. With the clock ticking toward the 2018 elections, it’s now unclear whether Texas voters will be electing their representatives using new maps. Here’s where things stand. Following the 2010 census, which showed massive growth in the state’s population, Texas lawmakers in 2011 redrew political maps to account for population changes. But those maps were promptly challenged by Texas voters, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP and other minority rights groups that alleged the maps violated the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Wisconsin: Elections Commission to make e-poll book technology available to cities, towns | WiscNews
The state Elections Commission says it’s giving municipalities the tools to implement electronic, instead of paper, poll books in time for the 2018 election cycle. Commissioners in June approved building an electronic poll book system and offering the software, at no cost, to Wisconsin’s municipal clerks, who partner with the commission to administer elections. The commission says it intends to pilot the system in at least three jurisdictions in the 2018 spring elections and make it available to all for the 2018 August primary election.
A total of 143 election coalitions across Estonia have applied for registration ahead of the local government council elections this fall. “The number of election coalitions may not be final, as if, for example, an election coalition does not include a single candidate’s name, the coalition will not be registered,” explained State Electoral Office director Priit Vinkel.
A top leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party said her website had been hit by thousands of cyber attacks — many from Russian IP addresses — before Sunday’s televised election debate. German intelligence and government officials have often voiced concerns that Moscow could seek to interfere in the Sept. 24 national election, in which Merkel is widely expected to win a fourth term. Russia has repeatedly denied trying to influence foreign elections. Julia Kloeckner, vice chairman of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said on Monday that her political website had seen some 3,000 attacks on Sunday before the debate between Merkel and Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz.
Iraq: Kurdistan electoral commission vows to fix online register for referendum following complaints | Kurdistan24
People of the Kurdistan Region currently living abroad or traveling on Sep. 25, the day of the referendum on independence, have expressed complaints regarding the list of the requirements needed to register online to vote. The people of the Kurdistan Region are heading toward a historic day, to decide whether to remain a part of Iraq or secede from the rest of the country as a newly-born independent state. Last week, the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission (IHERC) in the Kurdistan Region launched the website(www.khec17.net) for Diaspora Kurdistanis to register to vote in the referendum. Registration will be open for seven days, starting from September 1 until September 7. The list of the requirements, however, has concerned many Diaspora Kurdistanis as they are asked to register their ration card number, Iraqi national ID card, Citizenship card, and passport as well as sending in proof for some of the documents.
Kenya’s Supreme Court ruling to scrap last month’s presidential election was shaped by a new chief justice who proved a staunch defender of judicial independence on a continent where judges are often seen as being under the thumb of executive powers. David Maraga’s declaration that the Aug. 8 election was void and demand for a new poll with 60 days shocked many in the East African nation and abroad. But his announcement, after a 4-2 vote by a court panel to annul the vote, didn’t surprise those who know the chief justice. “We knew this case was coming and he was the man to hear it,” Professor Tom Ojienda, who worked with Maraga and sits on the Judicial Service Commission that appointed him chief justice, told Reuters. “He is a stickler for the rules.”
In a U-turn that might enter diplomatic annals as among the most bizarre, the United Nations’ special envoy on Syria Staffan di Mistura is forecasting an end of the war and the holding of elections there next year. In a BBC radio interview yesterday, di Mistura more than implied that the international community must now accept the prolongation of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and the holding of elections by what is left of his administration. Di Mistura’s new position is in sharp contrast with the analysis he offered last year when he explicitly ruled out “any possibility of holding elections under the present regime.”
The election body, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), has cleared the air on identity documents for voting following recent reports implying that those with metal identity cards would not be allowed to register during the forthcoming biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise ahead of the 2018 make-or-break polls. Zec said that voter registration requirements were enshrined in Section 4 of Statutory Instrument 85 of 2017 (Voter Registration Regulations), which states that “for any Zimbabwean to register as a voter, they can use a national identity document which takes the form of a metal ID, plastic ID or a waiting pass with the holder’s photograph”.