The Department of Homeland Security is upping its game to help state and local officials with strengthening the security of their election systems through the creation of a new task force, according to a senior department official. Last week the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate established an election task force that includes members from the different departments components, including the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, to work with state and local governments to help them protect their election systems, Christopher Krebs, the acting undersecretary of the NPPD, on Tuesday told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection. Prior to the creation of the task force, the Office of Infrastructure Protection within NPPD was in charge of working with state and local governments to provide any help they needed with their election systems. Krebs said that elevating this role to a task force is comes down to “matching my words with our execution,” adding that the entity is being resourced “appropriately.”
The Senate intelligence committee has said it has confidence in an US agency finding earlier this year that Russia intervened in the US presidential election in an effort to skew the vote in Donald Trump’s favour. The committee chairman, Republican senator Richard Burr, said it remained an “open question” whether there was collusion by the Trump campaign with Moscow. But he added that Russian intelligence could threaten the next round of congressional elections next year. “We’ve got to make our facts, as it related to Russia’s involvement in our election, before the primaries getting started in 2018,” Burr said. “You can’t walk away from this and believe that Russia’s not currently active.” Burr said that the committee was making substantial progress in various areas of investigation.
One of the Senate’s main cybersecurity proponents wants assurances that voting systems in the U.S. are ready for their next major threat and he’s going straight to the hardware makers to get it. In a letter, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden — an outspoken member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — called on six of the main voting machine manufacturers in the U.S. to provide details about their cybersecurity efforts to date. The request comes on the heels of emerging details around Russia’s successful attempts to hack election systems in many states. Wyden’s line of inquiry is grounded in the pursuit of details, like if a company has been breached previously without reporting the incident and how often it has conducted penetration testing in cooperation with an external security firm. … Wyden’s appeal to voting machine manufacturers is the latest piece in the ongoing conversation around election system and voting machine security following revelations from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Because states handle elections in a variety of ways, implementing different styles of machine and overseeing their own voter rolls, just how airtight these systems are is difficult to assess.
National: Supreme Court shows divisions in Wisconsin redistricting case that could reshape U.S. politics | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
U.S. Supreme Court justices showed deep divisions Tuesday over a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin that could have far-reaching national implications. Liberal justices expressed openness to the idea that courts should intervene when lawmakers draw election maps that greatly favor their party. Conservatives were skeptical that judges could come up with a way to determine whether and when legislators had gone too far. In the middle of it all — as expected — was Justice Anthony Kennedy. Both sides see him as the one who will likely cast the deciding vote and they pitched their arguments to him.
A lawyer for Wisconsin Democrats, who have been shut out of power in the state since Republicans drew new election maps nearly a decade ago, pleaded with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to restrict partisan gerrymandering, the practice of one party using redistricting to give itself a political advantage. “The politicians are never going to fix gerrymandering,” Paul M. Smith, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, told the justices. “You are the only institution in the United States that can solve this problem.” Wisconsin Democrats say the 2011 Republican legislative map violated the First Amendment by punishing them for their political beliefs and violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause because it intended to dilute Democratic votes but not Republican ones.
Alabama: Too poor to vote: How Alabama’s ‘new poll tax’ bars thousands of people from voting | AL.com
Randi Lynn Williams assumes she will never be able to afford to vote again. The 38-year-old Dothan resident lost her right to vote in 2008, when she was convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card. She was on probation for over two years, then served a few months behind bars ending in early 2011, at which point she would have been eligible to vote in most states. In Maine and Vermont, she would have never lost that right in the first place. But in Alabama and eight other states from Nevada to Tennessee, anyone who has lost the franchise cannot regain it until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. In Alabama, that requirement has fostered an underclass of thousands of people who are unable to vote because they do not have enough money.
If Los Angeles County voters spark a revolution when they cast their ballots for President in 2020, it may not stem from the choices they select but rather the way they did it. The digital age is coming to the ballot box here with a new, publically owned system that the County Clerk plans to begin rolling out next summer. The first major makeover to the region’s voting system since 1968 was a long time coming. “We said ‘why don’t we look at this from a holistic standpoint and from the eyes of a voter?’” County Clerk Dean Logan told the Santa Monica City Council during a presentation of the new system. The County partnered with designers at Palo Alto based IDEO to give southern California elections the Silicon Valley treatment. The design firm was behind the first Apple mouse, the first wearable breast pump (still in beta) and revamped public school cafeterias in San Francisco. The result: new voting booths that integrate smartphones, touchscreens, QR codes and old-fashioned paper. Eight years after the over hall began in 2010, many of the changes to hit L.A. County’s five million voters are procedural, not digital.
As Florida’s population grows and more residents shun traditional party affiliations, voters are befuddled, if not angry, about the state’s closed-primary system, including the use of write-in candidates, three local elections supervisors testified Wednesday. “When it comes to the primary election, our voters are confused,” Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes told the state Constitution Revision Commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee. Many new voters move to Florida from other states with more open voting systems as opposed to Florida’s closed primaries, which are restricted to voters who are registered with parties. Florida is one of nine states using a closed-primary system. “We have people coming from all over the country, and they bring with them the experiences that they have had and what they know,” Snipes said. “It’s difficult for them to understand.”
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission got off to a cautious start Monday, advancing only two of more than 1,400 constitutional changes that had been filed by the public. The commission, which meets every 20 years and has the power to put constitutional amendments on the 2018 general-election ballot, voted to give further consideration to a measure to close the so-called “write-in candidate loophole” in state election law and to an amendment that would remove obsolete language related to a failed high-speed rail plan. Commissioner Sherry Plymale of Palm City asked the commission to give preliminary support to an amendment (700396) from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg that seeks to end the practice of closing party primaries when a write-in candidate is on the general election ballot.
Georgia: Holder-Led Group Challenges Georgia Redistricting, Claiming Racial Bias | The New York Times
A Democratic group led by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. has accused the State of Georgia of flouting the Voting Rights Act, claiming that Georgia Republicans reshaped two state legislative districts to minimize the electoral influence of African-American voters. Mr. Holder’s group, the National Redistricting Foundation, is expected to file suit in Federal District Court in Atlanta on Tuesday. The complaint charges that race was the “predominant factor” in adjusting two districts — the 105th and 111th — in the Atlanta area where white lawmakers had faced spirited challenges from black Democrats. Both districts were drawn in 2015, through an unusually timed redistricting law that the lawsuit claims violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Illinois: Sen. Michael E. Hastings works to make sure Illinois meets challenges of the 21st century | Chicago Tribune
State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is proud to announce the state of Illinois will be observing National Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October. “National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a good opportunity for Illinois residents to educate themselves on new laws and scams to protect their personal information,” Hastings said. “There are a number of resources available and new laws that will help us meet the technological challenges of the 21st century.” … The 2016 presidential elections were plagued with nationwide security breaches to 21 states’ online voting systems, including Illinois’ voter registration database. Last week, Hastings announced. Homeland Security confirmed Russian hackers were behind the breach.
Indiana officials are denying that the forced consolidation of small voting precincts in Lake County is voter suppression, as a federal lawsuit alleges. In a response filed Tuesday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, Jr. denied allegations a state law that would consolidate voting precincts with less than 600 active voters disenfranchised Lake County residents, particularly in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. The attorney general’s 72-page response refuted the suggestion the legislation was unlawful and that it is voter suppression, according to court documents. “Plaintiffs have failed to show SB 220 places a disproportionate burden on minorities or other voters in Lake County,” Hill wrote, in the response.
Pennsylvania: Judge: Redistricting lawsuit running out of time to alter 2018 elections | York Dispatch
A gerrymandering lawsuit filed against Pennsylvania legislative leaders went to court Wednesday, Oct. 4, but it could be several months before the courts hear opening arguments in the case, according to the judge who presided over the hearing. Lawyers representing the legislative leaders and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania squared off in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg over the leaders’ attempt to halt the League’s lawsuit. The lawsuit claims Republicans engaged in extreme partisan gerrymandering when drawing the current congressional maps in 2011. Lawyers for the League are seeking a ruling from the court that strikes down the congressional maps and orders new maps to be drawn before the 2018 election.
Gerrymandering is a non-issue in Iowa. Since 1981, a nonpartisan state agency has drawn Iowa’s congressional district lines, following strict rules to create compact districts without regard to politics. The legislature still has the final say, but each time the agency’s work has been approved by the legislature without revision. Perhaps Ohio could learn something from Iowa.
In this sixth part of a cleveland.com series – Out of Line: Impact 2017 and Beyond – we examine what could be learned from the Hawkeye State in search of a way to rid Ohio of the politically motivated gerrymandering currently focused on politicians and their political parties rather than the citizens.
A task force created by Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is recommending that future redistricting be done by an independent commission. That would be a significant change from the current model, which tasks Oregon lawmakers with drawing up a plan. Redistricting is the process of drawing new legislative and congressional districts to match shifts in population. It takes place every 10 years, following the U.S. Census. Oregon’s next redistricting will occur in 2021. The current method of allowing lawmakers to draw the maps is “susceptible to political manipulation,” Richardson wrote in a newsletter announcing the task force report. “There is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing legislators to draw their own districts and pick their own voters.”
Texas: Judge Blocks Texas Secretary Of State From Giving Voter Information To Trump Commission | KUT
A Texas district judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos from handing voter information to President Donald Trump’s voter fraud investigation commission. The order, which came out Tuesday, adds Texas to a growing list of states not complying with the president’s investigation into the 2016 elections, which Trump says suffered from large-scale voter fraud. Judge Tim Sulak of the Austin-based 353rd Texas Civil District Court issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed July 20 by the League of Women Voters of Texas, its former president Ruthann Geer and the Texas NAACP against Pablos and Keith Ingram, the Texas Elections Division director in the the secretary of state’s office. The lawsuit seeks to stop the state from handing over voter data from the state’s computerized voter registration files to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The suit argues that doing so would reveal voters’ personal information, “which may be used to solicit, harass, or otherwise infringe upon the privacy of Texas voters.” The secretary of state’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment for this article.
Virginia: Warner Cautions Russian ‘Active Measures’ May Impact Virginia Elections Next Month | Falls Church News-Press
Virginia’s U.S. Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s role interfering in U.S. elections, confirmed at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday that the Russians’ efforts remain active and could impact the Virginia gubernatorial and other state races on the ballot next month. Warner, and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, criticized the Department of Homeland Security for delaying until just last week the release of its findings that the Russians attempted to penetrate the electoral processes in 21 U.S. states, including Virginia. Warner praised the Virginia Department of Elections for acting proactively to decertify voting machines that failed to have “paper trails” in jurisdictions throughout the state, including in the City of Falls Church. The decertification order came just in time to allow for the substitution of new voting machines with such “paper trails” in advance of the beginning of absentee balloting last month.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats asked Facebook to disclose the identities of those behind sites which they say are spreading libel in an attempt to clean up a smear campaign scandal ahead of an election on Oct. 15. Kern has pledged to get to the bottom of his party’s links to Facebook pages which…
Liberia: Election next week is a true test of democracy in Africa’s oldest republic | The Washington Post
In landmark elections slated for Oct. 10, Liberians will vote in the country’s third postwar presidential and legislative races. Incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Africa’s first female president — is ineligible to run because of constitutionally mandated term limits. So January 2018 will mark the first time in recent memory that a democratically elected Liberian president will hand power to a similarly elected head of state. A nation of 4.5 million people, Liberia is a sliver of a country in West Africa “founded” in 1847 by black migrants from the United States, the Caribbean and the Congo River basin. Clashes between these settlers and the 16 ethnic groups already occupying the territory spiraled Liberia into more than a century of political upheavals.
The images shocked Spain and reverberated around Europe. Officers with Spain’s national security forces, in full riot gear, smashing their way into polling stations, dragging women out by the hair, and firing rubber bullets indiscriminately into crowds as they turned out to vote. It was all part of a coordinated crackdown on Catalonia’s disputed independence referendum — banned by Spain’s highest court, but held in defiance of Madrid by Catalonia’s passionate separatists who felt their long-held dream of an independent state was close at hand. Despite the attempt to thwart the vote, more than 2 million Catalans made their voice heard. Now CNN has learned more details of the extraordinary covert operation that was mounted to ensure the referendum took place. A network of thousands of officials and volunteers squirreled away ballot boxes, conferred by encrypted messages and met in secret in an effort to get as many people to the polls as possible.
The Gambia: Electoral Commission mulls switch from marbles to ballot papers in future elections | Journal du Cameroun
Gambia’s election chief, Alieu Momar Njai has said the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is considering swapping marbles in favour of ballot papers for voters in future national elections.Since elections began in The Gambia under British colonial rule in the early 20th century, glass marbles instead of ballot papers are used in successive voting exercises, including the latest poll cycle which began last December. Speaking to the online Fatu Network on Wednesday, Mr Njai said the introduction of ballot papers which are the standard voting materials for much of the rest of the world, could be as early as the local government elections scheduled for 12 April 2018.