National: The U.S. Election System Remains Deeply Vulnerable, But States Would Rather Celebrate Fake Success | The Intercept

When the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states that Russian actors had targeted their elections systems in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the impacted states rolled out a series of defiant statements. … But in most cases, according to the DHS, Russian actors scanned the public-facing websites of state agencies, apparently looking for vulnerabilities. The DHS said that in almost all of the cases, there was no evidence the operatives attempted to exploit any vulnerabilities. It was not, in other words, a thwarted bank robbery. Instead, Russian operatives surveyed the bank from the sidewalk, and then headed home. While the states are busy celebrating their successes, they are doing far too little to ensure that operatives don’t get in next time they show up and actually try to infiltrate, say cybersecurity experts.

National: US senator seeks cyber info from voting machine makers | The Washington Post

A U.S. senator wants to know how well the country’s top six voting machine manufactures protect themselves against cyberattacks, a move that comes just weeks after federal authorities notified 21 states that they had been targeted by Russian government hackers during the 2016 presidential election. In a letter Tuesday to the CEOs of top election technology firms, Sen. Ron Wyden writes that public faith in American election infrastructure is “more important than ever before.” “Ensuring that Americans can trust that election systems and infrastructure are secure is necessary to protecting confidence in our electoral process and democratic government,” writes Widen, an Oregon Democrat.

National: Kobach plan for Trump included federal voting laws changes | McClatchy

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach urged President Donald Trump to pursue changes to federal voting law to promote proof-of-citizenship requirements, according to documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge. Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor and the vice chair of Trump’s voting commission, was photographed carrying a strategic plan for the Department of Homeland Security into a meeting with Trump in November. The American Civil Liberties Union sought the documents as part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register. Kobach was ordered to turn over the documents to the ACLU earlier this year, but the documents had been sealed until Judge Julie Robinson opened them Thursday.

Editorials: Will this US supreme court case uphold American democracy? | Russ Feingold/The Guardian

On Tuesday, the US supreme court hears oral arguments in Gill v Whitford. This will open the door for a potentially precedent-setting ruling on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering – the process of redrawing electoral districts in order to favor one party over another. The past several years have seen a new level of hyper-partisan gerrymandering that defies voters and has subverted our democracy. Thus far, however, the court has refused to rule on the constitutionality of this political ploy, deferring instead to the political process. The result is a system that demands immediate course correction. While there is progress to be made at the state level, in today’s political climate, the supreme court is best poised to demand the needed course correction before this illegitimate political ploy further distorts our elections.

Florida: Will Florida Banish the Ghost of Jim Crow? | The Atlantic

Next year, Florida voters may finally right a wrong first perpetrated 150 years ago by racist state legislators who were desperate to deny equality to African Americans. Voters may enfranchise almost 1.6 million fellow Floridians; or they may retain an approach that long-dead white supremacists conceived to disenfranchise blacks, an approach that is still spectacularly successful at diluting their political power. This particular historical evil began after the Civil War, when white-supremacist legislatures were resisting efforts to treat blacks as fellow humans with equal rights and dignity. Though attempts to block the 14th Amendment failed, and though the Reconstruction Act of 1867 forced Florida to add an article to its state constitution granting suffrage to all men, creative racists kept many blacks from the ballot box with educational requirements and a lifetime voting ban for convicted felons, knowing blacks had been and would be abused by the criminal-justice system.

Georgia: Lawsuit claims Georgia House districts drawn to remove minority voters | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Voters opposed to a 2015 redistricting plan have filed a second federal lawsuit claiming Georgia illegally “gerrymandered” two state House districts by moving minority voters out of areas represented by vulnerable white Republican lawmakers. The suit, filed Tuesday by 11 residents who live in and around those districts in metro Atlanta, said that the boundary lines of the seats held by state Reps. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, and Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, were redrawn two years ago to increase the percentage of white voters in those districts to protect both incumbents. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who administers elections, is named as the sole defendant. A spokesman for Kemp said his office had not yet seen the suit. A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, declined comment.

Verified Voting in the News: Stars not aligned for new Travis County, Texas voting system | electionlineWeekly

The best laid plans of mice, men and elections officials often go awry and that’s exactly what happened to 12 years of studying and planning for Travis County, Texas Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Long before anyone ever thought to mention Russians and elections in the same breath, Travis County began looking for a way to improve the security of the county’s voting system and provide a verifiable paper trail. DeBeauvoir was upset that activists were attacking elections administrators for the design of voting systems and the purchase of DRE voting systems that did not have a paper trail.

National: Supreme Court takes up Wisconsin as test in partisan gerrymandering claims | The Washington Post

Opponents of political gerrymandering had reason for optimism at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the likely swing vote, appearing more in sync with liberal colleagues who seemed convinced that a legislative map can be so infected with political bias that it violates the Constitution. But it’s what Kennedy didn’t say that could determine whether the court, for the first time, strikes down a legislative map because of extreme partisan gerrymandering. While he has previously expressed concerns about the political mapmaking practice, he has yet to endorse a way of determining when gerrymandering is excessive, and Kennedy give no sign at oral arguments Tuesday that he had found one. In a case from Wisconsin that could reshape the way American elections are conducted, the Supreme Court heard from challengers that it was the “only institution in the United States” that could prevent a coming wave of extreme partisan gerrymandering that would distort the basic structure of democracy.

Italy: Hacking attacks: a pre-election setback for Italy’s 5-Star Movement | Reuters

Hacking attacks on the web platform used by Italy’s 5-Star Movement to select representatives and shape policy threaten to dent confidence in its methods before a parliamentary election it is well placed to win. Internet-based direct democracy, in which members vote online, is a hallmark of the anti-establishment group that first entered parliament in 2013 and leads many opinion polls before the election, due to be held by May. Gianroberto Casaleggio, the late internet guru who co-founded 5-Star in 2009, believed the web would eventually supplant representative democracy, the system under which all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them. But in August anonymous hackers broke into 5-Star’s web platform, called “Rousseau” after the 18th century Swiss-born philosopher, and obtained secret data on its members and donors.

Spain: The Increasingly Tense Standoff Over Catalonia’s Independence Referendum | The New Yorker

Voting rights have been under siege in the U.S. in recent years, with charges of attempted electoral interference, legislation that seeks to make access to the polls more difficult, and gerrymandering, in a case that reached the Supreme Court this week. But no citizens here or in any democracy expect that they may be attacked by the police if they try to vote. Yet that is what happened on Sunday in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where thousands of members of the Guardia Civil paramilitary force, and riot police, were deployed by the central government in Madrid to prevent the Catalans from holding an “illegal” referendum on independence from Spain. Masked and helmeted police used pepper spray and knocked people to the ground, kicking and beating some, and dragging others by their hair. Social-media sites quickly filled with images of bloodied and battered voters. Whatever the avowed legality of the action, it was not only a shocking display of official violence employed against mostly peaceful and unarmed civilians but an extraordinary expression of cognitive dissonance: since when did European governments prevent their citizens from voting?

National: Kobach plan for Trump included federal voting laws changes | Associated Press

A Kansas official who later became vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud drafted a proposal for Trump to change federal voter registration laws to promote proof-of-citizenship requirements by states, an unsealed federal court document showed Thursday. The proposal was part of a “strategic plan” for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security prepared by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and carried by him into a meeting in November with Trump, then the president-elect. It was among three proposals designed to “stop aliens from voting.” U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ordered a highly-edited version of the document unsealed Thursday in a voting-rights lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. Robinson also ordered the unsealing of a second document, prepared by Kobach and circulated within the Kansas secretary of state’s office, showing the text of proposed changes to federal law.

National: The ‘unique’ nature of the US voting system could help Russia tip the scales of future elections, experts say | Business Insider

The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters on Wednesday he was disappointed that it had taken nearly a year for the Department of Homeland Security to notify 21 states that their voter registration systems had been targeted by hackers during the election. “There needs to be a more aggressive, whole-of-government approach in terms of protecting our electoral system,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. “Remember, to make a change in a national election doesn’t require penetration into 50 states … arguably, you could pick two or three states, and two or three jurisdictions, and alter an election.”

National: Facebook Cut Russia Out of April Report on Election Influence | Wall Street Journal

Facebook cut references to Russia from a public report in April about manipulation of its platform around the presidential election because of concerns among the company’s lawyers and members of its policy team, according to people familiar with the matter. The drafting of the report sparked internal debate over how much information to disclose about Russian mischief on Facebook and its efforts to affect U.S. public opinion during the 2016 presidential contest, according to these people. Some at Facebook pushed to not include a mention of Russia in the report because the company’s understanding of Russian activity was too speculative, according to one of the people.

National: Think Automatic Voter Registration Just Benefits Democrats? Not Necessarily. | Governing

Over the past two years, nine states and the District of Columbia have quietly implemented a significant overhaul of the voter registration process, aiming to reduce bureaucracy and increase the number of people signed up to vote. Automatic voter registration, or AVR for short, essentially turns the current opt-in system of voter registration to an opt-out system. “When eligible citizens interact with certain government offices, they are added to the voter rolls unless they say no,” according to an article by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which is working to advance the idea. Two years ago, no state had AVR. Today, 1 in 4 Americans live in a state that has approved automatic voter registration. “AVR is coming,” says Natalie Tennant, a former Democratic secretary of state from West Virginia who is now the Brennan Center’s manager of state advocacy on voting rights and elections.

National: Trump Fraud Commissioner Is Continuing Voter Purge Crusade Side Job | TPM

A member of the President Trump’s voter fraud commission is continuing his separate crusade of bullying localities into purging their voter rolls, even as a witness at a commission meeting last month questioned the formula the commissioner has used to bring his claims. For years before J. Christian Adams was named to Trump’s voter fraud commission, he led a private group that sent letters and in some cases brought lawsuits against counties alleging that they had bloated voter rolls in violation of the National Voter Registration Act. To make those claims, he has compared the Census Bureau’s estimate of the number of a county’s citizens of voting age to the number of registered voters on its rolls. … However, as Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, testified at the voter fraud commission’s second meeting in New Hampshire last month, the comparison is not as simple as it looks.

National: Who’s Really in Charge of the Voting Fraud Commission? | ProPublica

On Friday, in response to a judge’s order, the Department of Justice released data showing the authors, recipients, timing, and subject lines of a group of emails sent to and from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. They show that in the weeks before the commission issued a controversial letter requesting sweeping voter data from the states, co-chair Kris Kobach and the commission’s staff sought the input of Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams on “present and future” state data collection, and attached a draft of the letter for their review — at a moment when neither had yet been named to the commission. The commission’s letter requesting that data has been by far its most significant action since its formation in May — and was widely considered a fiasco. It sparked bipartisan criticism and multiple lawsuits. Yesterday, a federal court blocked the state of Texas from handing over its data due to privacy concerns.  

National: Russian propaganda may have been shared hundreds of millions of times, new research says | The Washington Post

Facebook has said ads bought by Russian operatives reached 10 million of its users. But does that include everyone reached by the information operation? Couldn’t the Russians also have created simple — and free — Facebook posts and hoped they went viral? And if so, how many times were these messages seen by Facebook’s massive user base? The answers to those questions, which social media analyst Jonathan Albright studied for a research document he posted online Thursday, are: No. Yes. And hundreds of millions — perhaps many billions — of times. “The primary push to influence wasn’t necessarily through paid advertising,” said Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. “The best way to to understand this from a strategic perspective is organic reach.”

National: How Civil Rights Groups Are Fighting Trump’s Fraud Commission in Every State | Newsweek

Civil rights advocates have launched a direct attack on President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission in the form of a grassroots campaign aimed at increasing voter participation in all 50 states. Taking a step beyond simply responding to Trump-backed efforts to find voter fraud, the American Civil Liberties Union over the weekend kicked off a “Let People Vote” campaign in Lawrence, Kansas, the home state of Kris Kobach, who leads the controversial commission. The location wasn’t accidental.

National: Russian election meddling in 2018 may be difficult for Congress to stop | USA Today

With congressional elections just a year away, lawmakers are scrambling to stop Russia from hacking state election systems and using social media to create chaos and uncertainty among voters. But Congress may be stymied by its reluctance to regulate private tech companies and by states’ traditional aversion to any federal control over their elections, analysts say. The burden on the three congressional committees conducting investigations into Russian meddling has become much greater than simply trying to prevent Kremlin-linked groups from stealing campaign emails, as they allegedly did last year in cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Colorado: Denver Elections Director & CIO Share Advice to Secure Elections | EfficientGov

Amber McReynolds, director of elections in Denver and Scott Cardenas, chief information officer for the city and county of Denver, attributed the centralization of the city’s IT services as one of the most important factors securing Denver elections. Over the past nine years, centralization and collaboration have increased expertise in elections from one person to five, according to “We can have year-round conversations on the expectations and needs, so by the time that election night rolls around we can have a fairly smooth process,” Cardenas, who oversees more than 50 local agencies, said during an October 4th cybersecurity roundtable hosted and moderated by U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Florida: Leaders consider proposed Florida Constitution amendment to let more felons vote | Naples Daily News

Members of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission have taken initial steps toward loosening restrictions on felon voting rights. Under a proposed amendment, offenders who have served their sentences, including prison time, parole and probation, would have their voting rights automatically restored. The revision would apply only to felons who have committed nonviolent and nonsexual crimes. Proposed amendments must be approved by 22 commissioners to be placed on the 2018 ballot. Measures then must receive 60 percent of the vote to pass.

North Carolina: Lawmakers plan to cancel 2018 judicial primaries | WRAL

State House and Senate leaders have agreed on a provision that cancels the 2018 primary elections for all judicial races and district attorneys. The provision was tacked onto the conference report for Senate Bill 656, titled the “Electoral Freedom Act.” Most of the bill deals with easing ballot access requirements for third parties as well as for unaffiliated candidates. It also lowers the threshold for a primary candidate to win his or her party’s nomination from 40 percent of the primary vote to 30 percent. “There are many folks in here who would seek to do away with the second [runoff] primary altogether,” sponsor Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, told the House Rules Committee Wednesday evening. “This would be a step at least in the direction of those who feel that way.”

Virginia: State Officials Working to Maintain Voting Integrity Following Russian Hack Attempt | WVTF

As voters begin casting absentee ballots in Election 2017, new details are emerging about the role Russia played in Virginia’s election last year. About a year ago, leaders at the Department of Elections noticed something odd — the equivalent of a burglar checking the locks on the doors to its website. “There were IP addresses traced back to Russia that scanned our public-facing websites.” That’s Edgardo Cortes at the Virginia Department of Elections.

Brazil: Congress sets up fund to cover lack of campaign finance | Reuters

Brazil’s scandal-plagued political class voted on Wednesday to set up a 1.7 billion reais ($542 million) fund with taxpayer money to finance election campaigns, making up for a dearth of private funding ahead of next year’s general election. A ban on corporate donations coupled with the drying up of under-the-table contributions and kickbacks in the wake of the country’s biggest corruption scandal have left lawmakers struggling to raise campaign funding. The lower house of Congress approved a bill that had passed the Senate and will take funds from pork barrel appropriations and government payments to buy TV and radio time for parties.

Canada: Ontario e-registration voting tool targeted towards students | The Journal

Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa believes voting in the province has taken a major step towards modernizing with the introduction of an e-registration system. The Ontario Election’s website has implemented an online registration process that incorporates five identity verification steps that will take the user less than 10 minutes to complete. It also features a video tutorial for registering to vote in the general election next spring, as well as registration for individuals  age 16 and 17 interested in being voters in the future. “In just a few easy steps, Ontarians can verify or add their information to the voters list,” Essensa told The Journal via email.  

Spain: Catalonia moves to declare independence from Spain on Monday | Reuters

Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain after holding a banned referendum, pushing the European Union nation toward a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said he favored mediation to find a way out of the crisis but that Spain’s central government had rejected this. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government responded by calling on Catalonia to “return to the path of law” first before any negotiations. Mireia Boya, a Catalan lawmaker from the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, said a declaration of independence would follow a parliamentary session on Monday to evaluate the results of the Oct. 1 vote to break away.