National: DHS and top election officials finally meet to begin hashing out ‘critical infrastructure’ designation | Washington Examiner

Top election officials from around the country met this weekend to create the formal organization to hash out what powers and lines of communications the Department of Homeland Security should have after the department designated voting systems in the states and territories as “critical infrastructure” earlier this year. By voting to adopt a charter for a “Government Coordinating Council,” the secretaries of state now have a group that has an official channel and a single “voice” to communicate with DHS. The move marks the first major step in the coming together between the nonpartisan National Association of Secretaries of State, or NASS, and DHS, amidst a contentious and sometimes mistrusting year.

National: Senator Klochubar wants Kaspersky out of U.S. voting systems | FCW

A U.S. senator has linked two of the hottest tech policy stories around – efforts by U.S. agencies to blacklist cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky Lab and concerns about the vulnerability of voting systems used by cities and states. Sen. Amy Klochubar (D-Minn.) who sits on a committee with authority over federal elections, is concerned that Kaspersky could be in a position to provide Russian intelligence agencies access to state and local election data, by virtue of connections to computers involved in managing election activities. “Given recent revelations regarding how Russia used Kaspersky software to breach our systems, it is important to prioritize state critical infrastructure systems in conjunction with efforts currently underway at the federal level,” Klochubar wrote in an Oct. 12 letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.

National: Google, Facebook putting an early mark on political advertising bills | Politico

Google and Facebook are looking to make an early imprint on legislation being drafted in the House and Senate that would force them and other online networks to disclose information about the buyers of political ads. Lobbyists from the Silicon Valley behemoths have met with the staffs of Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Derek Kilmer, all of whom are drawing up bills that would impose new regulations on the industry, according to Democratic aides and company representatives. The Senate bill is expected to be formally introduced next week. It is not clear when the House legislation, which has not been previously reported, will be introduced. Facebook has talked with those working on the bill, a company source confirmed, characterizing Facebook as willing to continue discussing it as the process moves along. A spokesperson for Google declined to comment.

National: An intern Cambridge Analytica left sensitive voter targeting tools online for nearly a year | Business Insider | Business Insider

An intern at the data mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica left online for nearly a year what appears to be programming instructions for the voter targeting tools the company used around the time of the election, raising questions about who could have accessed the tools and to what end. Social media analyst and data scientist Jonathan Albright discovered the election data processing scripts — or programming instructions — on what he said was the intern’s personal GitHub account. GitHub, a “Facebook for programmers,” is an internet hosting service mostly used for code. The account was scrubbed less than an hour after Albright published his findings on Medium, but the scripts had already been archi

Alabama: Election officials remain confused over which felons should be able to vote |

A number of election officials across Alabama remain confused about the impacts of a sweeping new felon disenfranchisement law, according to interviews this week with registrars representing 12 counties. The new law, which took effect in August, clarified which felons are allowed to vote and what steps they need to take to restore that right. But four registrars told this week that they were not entirely clear about the intricacies of the law and how it applies to their duties. And multiple nonprofits and advocates told last month that they were working with people who were being wrongly barred from regaining the right to vote because the law is not being properly and consistently followed.

Maine: Matt Dunlap says he’s heard nothing from Trump voter fraud commission for a month | Portland Press Herald

The Maine Democrat serving on President Trump’s voter fraud commission has reiterated his criticism of its direction and said communications to him from its staff have essentially ceased since the body last met Sept. 12. “I have heard nothing from staff or anyone else on the commission really since we adjourned our meeting in New Hampshire almost a month ago,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap told MSNBC’s Ari Melber in a live broadcast Thursday. Dunlap also said he had no idea when the body – which Trump created to investigate his evidence-free assertions that he lost the popular vote because of widespread voter fraud – would next meet. “I don’t know,” he said. “I have heard nothing.” Dunlap, who has been criticized by fellow Democrats for participating in the voter fraud commission, emerged as one of the panel’s most vocal critics during its meeting last month at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He said Commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach’s suggestion that thousands of people had acted illegally when they registered to vote in New Hampshire using out-of-state licenses was a “reckless statement to make” and factually untrue.

Massachusetts: Minority Residents, Massachusetts City Head to Federal Court | VoA News

In May, 13 Asian and Hispanic residents of Lowell, Massachusetts, filed a voting rights lawsuit against the city government, alleging the at-large electoral system, in which the winner takes all, dilutes the minority vote and discriminates against the candidates from community of color running for office. The plaintiffs asked the federal court to rule that the city’s electoral system “violates Section 2 the Voting Rights Act” and for “the adoption of at least one district-based seat.” Since 1999, only four Asian and Hispanic candidates have been elected to the Lowell City Council, which is currently all white. The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday before the U.S. District Court in Boston. Lowell’s City Council filed a motion to dismiss in its first response to the residents’ lawsuit on Sept. 15.

North Carolina: Voting defamation suit seeks to widen net, accuses GOP attorneys of conspiracy | WRAL

The attorneys who brought a defamation lawsuit over voter protests filed in the wake of last November’s election want to add former Gov. Pat McCrory’s legal defense fund and the attorneys who helped file those protests to their suit. They also want to turn the case into a class-action suit on behalf of more than 100 people who they say were unfairly maligned when Republicans falsely accused them of casting fraudulent votes. Attorneys for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice argue there was a coordinated effort by attorneys from a well-connected Republican law firm in Virginia to throw the results of North Carolina’s close gubernatorial race into doubt. Those attorneys, the lawsuit argues, helped North Carolina voters challenge Democratic votes “to delay certification of the election and suggest that voter fraud affected the election results.”

Editorials: North Carolina should care about Wisconsin redistricting case | Andrew Chin and Steph Tai/News & Observer

Redistricting shapes the power of political parties. When states redraw their electoral maps every 10 years, they alter the relative power of parties by changing the partisan makeup of each district. And when states engage in gerrymandering by creating districts with the intent of reducing the electoral weight of certain categories of voters, we should be even more concerned. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a particularly important redistricting case on October 3. In this case, Gill v. Whitford, the Court addressed the legality of gerrymandering for partisan purposes. To answer these questions, the Court must resolve how lower courts can and should approach the use of scientific and statistical expertise regarding partisan gerrymandering.

Editorials: Ohio’s illegal voter purges shouldn’t be getting Justice Department’s blessing | Vanita Gupta/Cleveland Plain Dealer

Throughout our history, the country has marched toward a more perfect union by expanding access to the ballot. That progress has helped enshrine our core values of justice, fairness and inclusivity, and slowly strengthened America’s foundation. The first eight months of the Trump administration have shaken that foundation. President Donald Trump’s bogus assertion that millions of people voted illegally has been widely debunked. The sham commission he created to validate this absurd claim has already suppressed voting. Its attempt to create a national database through its unprecedented request for personal voter information, such as partial Social Security numbers and party affiliation, led thousands of voters to cancel their registrations. 

Editorials: Make commitment for secure voting system in South Carolina | Post and Courier

Faced with increasingly convincing evidence that electronic voting systems can be hacked to alter election results, a majority of states are wisely moving to adopt voting methods that enhance security, in part by producing a paper ballot record that can be used to audit results. South Carolina should do the same. In fact, that’s the goal of the state Election Commission, if the Legislature will come up with $40 million to purchase the 13,000 new machines needed to serve every precinct in the state. The commission has attempted to get the Legislature’s attention for five years about the need to build up a fund to replace the existing machines. So far, legislators have demurred, awaiting the completion of new state standards for voting machine security. Those standards are expected to be completed in time for legislative review next year. Timely action will be needed if there is to be any chance to replace the 13-year-old touch-screen machines before the next general election in 2020.

Virginia: Next governor will have big role in redrawing legislative districts | Virginian Pilot

Call it the sleeper issue in this year’s governor’s race. Most voters probably don’t know that when they cast ballots Nov. 7 for the state’s top executive, they’ll likely be choosing how they want Virginia to draw boundary lines for congressional and state legislative districts. The two top candidates, Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, because of their party affiliations and histories, offer markedly different views and personal experience that guide how they want to divvy up legislative turf. For certain, the next governor will be a key player in 2021 in approving new maps for 140 General Assembly districts and 11 congressional districts based on the previous year’s federal census. He also may be required to work with legislators as soon as next year to change the boundaries of 11 House of Delegates districts, including three in Hampton Roads, depending on the outcome of a federal lawsuit. New maps must be approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor.

Voting Blogs: Ballot Ordering: A Recurrent Controversy in Virginia? | State of Elections

In at least the two most recent “big” elections in Virginia, the 2016 Presidential race, and the 2017 race for Governor, there has been some controversy over the method used to decide which order candidates appear on the ballot. In March 2017, the Corey Stewart campaign issued a press release accusing Ed Gillespie’s campaign of “manipulating the Virginia Board of Elections in a last-ditch, rule-breaking effort to have Ed’s name placed at the top of the [primary] ballot.” Virginia law provides that ballot order for primaries is determined by the time that a candidate files for the office, on a first come first served basis. If candidates file simultaneously, ballot order is determined by lottery. The Stewart campaign went so far as to camp out in front of the Board of Elections offices the night before in order to be first, but alleged that Gillespie’s campaign was pressuring the Board to consider their filings simultaneous.

Austria: Conservative Sebastian Kurz on track to become Austria’s next leader | The Guardian

The centre of political gravity in Austria shifted to the right after the conservative Austrian People’s party (ÖVP) came out top in national elections, making its 31-year-old leader, Sebastian Kurz, the youngest head of a government in the EU. Projections on Sunday night put the ÖVP ahead with 31.7% of the vote. The incumbent chancellor Christian Kern’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) were relegated to second place with 27% of the vote, while the far-right FPÖ took 25.9%, failing to match its best-ever result. For the first time in Austria’s history, the two rightwing parties both managed to increase their seats tally without taking votes off each other. The result represents a triumph for Kurz, who has turned around his party’s fortunes and said he was “overwhelmed” with the result, vowing to introduce to the country a “new political culture” of togetherness under his leadership.

Kenya: EU Urges Kenyan Political Talks to Break Vote-Rerun Impasse | Bloomberg

The European Union urged Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party and the main opposition alliance to be prepared to compromise hard-line positions to allow for a credible rerun of presidential elections. “Dialogue and cooperation are urgently needed for compromises so there can be a peaceful electoral process with integrity and transparency and Kenyans can chose their president,” the EU’s elections observer mission said on Monday in an emailed statement. Uncertainty about the Oct. 26 election is unnerving investors and clouding the outlook for an economy that’s already slowing. Kenya is a regional hub for companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and could become an oil exporter with Tullow Oil Plc among firms that are likely to start exploiting an estimated 1 billion barrels of crude resources.

Kyrgyzstan: Jeenbekov Wins Kyrgyz Presidential Vote as Rival Urges Stability | Bloomberg

Former Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov won Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election, according to preliminary official data, as his defeated rival called for unity in the central Asian republic that’s been roiled by political violence in the past. Jeenbekov, who’s backed by outgoing President Almazbek Atambayev’s Social Democratic party, received 54.3 percent of the about 1.7 million votes cast, making a run-off unnecessary, the central election commission reported Monday. Businessman Omurbek Babanov, who heads the opposition Respublika party, was second with 33.4 percent. Turnout was 56 percent of 3 million eligible voters.

Macedonia: Early results say voters back left-wing coalition | Associated Press

Early returns from municipal elections being watched as a test of Macedonia’s new left-wing administration indicated Sunday night that voters are backing the government. Results from 30 percent out of the country’s 3,480 polling stations showed the Social Democrat-led led coalition of Prime minister Zoran Zaev leading in 44 of Macedonia’s 81 municipalities, including the capital of Skopje. Candidates from the conservative VMRO-DPMNE led in 13. In the last local elections in 2013, the conservatives won 56 of 81 municipalities, while the Social Democrats won four. “This is a strong punishment for VMRO-DPMNE,” political analyst Gjorgi Spasov said on local TV channel 24. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev addressed supporters in front of the government building early Monday, claiming victory and congratulating people for contributing to a “free and fair” vote.

Venezuela: Socialists win regional vote, opposition sees fraud | Reuters

Venezuela’s opposition refused on Monday to recognize a surprise win for the ruling socialists in a weekend regional election, potentially rekindling protests and fresh foreign sanctions on the oil-rich country’s moribund economy. Venezuela’s pro-government electoral board said President Nicolas Maduro’s candidates took 17 governorships, versus six for the opposition, in Sunday’s poll with turnout of more than 61 percent. The socialists’ strong showing was unexpected after devastating food shortages and salary-destroying inflation fueled anger at Maduro. Polls had suggested the opposition would easily win a majority, with one survey giving them 44.7 percent of voter intentions against 21.1 percent for the government. Dismayed opposition leaders decried irregularities, called for street action on Monday and demanded a full audit, but did not immediately offer any evidence of fraud.