Efforts to boost public confidence in U.S. elections are proceeding on two parallel tracks right now. One is moving slowly, but steadily. The other is hardly moving at all. Most of the attention has gone to a commission set up by President Trump to look into allegations of voter fraud and other electoral problems. The panel — called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — has been mired in controversy ever since it was formed earlier this year. Its work now appears stalled amid internal divisions and outside legal challenges. But as that panel limps along, several other efforts to address threats to U.S voting are making progress. This month, the federal government and state and local election officials met in Atlanta to start the process of sharing more information about potential threats and pooling security resources.
National: Panel backs bipartisan congressional action for securing election data systems | InsideCyberSecurity.com
Congressional staff on Thursday heard from a panel — including a former high-ranking Justice Department official and a state county clerk responsible for election-data rolls — that called for swift, bipartisan action on legislation offering new requirements and funding for states to upgrade and secure the nation’s election system from foreign and other malicious hacks. The move could have implications for industry by setting security requirements on the technologies and products sold to state election officials, and underscores a growing sentiment for a physical backup to operations that take place in cyberspace. Susan Greenhalgh, an election specialist with the non-profit group Verified Voting, said the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security are meeting with the Election Assistance Commission to promote use of the NIST cybersecurity framework by state officials. The EAC was established by Congress in 2002 to assist states with guidance and funding to upgrade voting systems. Greenhalgh spoke as part of the panel on election security held on the Senate side of the Capitol on Thursday.
Donald Trump’s advisory commission on election integrity has integrity questions of its own – with some of its own members raising concerns about its secretive operations. Democrats in the Senate are requesting a government investigation of the commission for ignoring formal requests from Congress. This week, two members sent letters to commission staff complaining about a lack of information about the panel’s agenda and demanding answers about its activities. In a letter sent on 17 October, Maine’s secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, said he was not being made aware of information pertaining to the commission and requested copies of all correspondence between its members since Trump signed the executive order creating it in May. “I am in a position where I feel compelled to inquire after the work of the commission upon which I am sworn to serve, and am yet completely uninformed as to its activities,” Dunlap wrote in his letter to Andrew Kossack, the commission’s executive director.
The names of Alabama voters who crossed party lines to vote in last month’s Republican Senate runoff will be given to prosecutors, the state’s election chief said Friday. Secretary of State John Merrill said his office has identified 674 people who voted in the Democratic primary and later voted in the GOP runoff in violation of the state’s new crossover voting ban. Merrill said he plans to send the names to the attorney general and district attorneys after local election officials check the list for errors. The move signals a hardline approach to the new state law — used for the first time in the U.S. Senate runoff — that adds fraudulent crossover voting to the list of other felony voting crimes, such as voting twice. Merrill said it was the “right thing” to report violations but noted that it is prosecutors’ decision on whether to pursue charges.
North County cities have spent more than $1 million switching from traditional at-large elections to a system that elects City Council members by voting districts, according to a tally by U-T Watchdog. The change has been spurred by a Malibu attorney threatening to sue cities over voting rights, but many officials see the effort as opportunism rather than any sincere desire to offer better representation to minority communities. “It’s just a money-making scheme,” said Oceanside consultant Mary Azevedo, who’s helped run numerous local political campaigns. “It’s not for the betterment of any city or group of individuals.” The attorney, Kevin Shenkman, said his motives are pure and “it’s about time” that minorities get the voice they deserve in local government.
On most days from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mary Grimes can be found pacing along a crowded street in Orlando, Fla., with clipboards in both hands. “Can I have five minutes of your time?” the 58-year-old says to a parade of passers-by. Those who are in a rush, she quickly wishes well; the others, Grimes directs to a blue and yellow form, reciting her spiel and soliciting a signature from each. For several months, she has made her living this way. She transforms public parking lots, city parks and sidewalks into a home office from which she urges registered voters to endorse proposed constitutional amendments.
A federal judge signed a consent order Tuesday concluding a voting rights challenge in Georgia that has drawn national attention because of a proposed earlier registration deadline before a hotly contested congressional election runoff. In the end, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp agreed not to impose voting registration deadlines earlier than those set by federal law 30 days before an election, according to an order signed by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten Sr. of the Northern District of Georgia. Civil rights advocates filed the lawsuit in April after the secretary of state tried to impose a voter registration deadline for the special election for the Sixth District runoff. That would have cut off registration two months earlier than the 30 days the federal law allows. But Batten issued a preliminary injunction opening up registration. Batten’s order also said the secretary will also have to pay “reasonable attorney fees and costs” for the plaintiffs, which include: the Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta Inc., Third Sector Development Inc. (parent of the New Georgia Project) and ProGeorgia State Table Inc.
Voter rights advocates are pushing Illinois election officials to withdraw from a longtime multistate voter registration database over questions of accuracy, security and voter suppression. The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is aimed at cleaning voter records and preventing voter fraud. States voluntarily provide their voter lists, and the program searches for duplicates. While a…
What could Louisiana do with $6 million? How far do you think the state could stretch that money in additional infrastructure projects or health care? Those are the questions Secretary of State Tom Schedler is asking after the Oct. 14 elections garnered a scant 13.6 percent voter turnout statewide, and he’s asking lawmakers to allow some incomplete terms to be filled via appointment rather than special election to save voters money. In an interview with The News-Star, Schedler said he’s worked since taking office in 2010 to decrease the number of statewide elections, when possible, to reduce costs.
Ohio: He Didn’t Vote in a Few Elections. In the Next One, Ohio Said He Couldn’t. | The New York Times
Larry Harmon, a software engineer who lives near Akron, Ohio, says he is “a firm believer in the right to vote.” But sometimes he stays home on Election Day, on purpose. In 2012, for instance, he was unimpressed by the candidates. He did not vote, he said, because “there isn’t a box on the ballot that says ‘none of the above.’” Three years later, Mr. Harmon did want to vote, against a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. But his name was not on the list at his usual polling place. It turned out that Mr. Harmon’s occasional decisions not to vote had led election officials to strike his name from the voting rolls. On Nov. 8, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the officials had gone too far in making the franchise a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.
Pennsylvania: Effort to address Allegheny County voting machine vulnerabilities faces hurdles | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A grassroots effort to examine — and likely replace — Allegheny County’s voting machines has itself been struggling for lack of a vote. Its latest challenge came Friday morning in the courtroom of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James. At issue is a 16-page proposal to establish a “voting process review commission,” which would study the county’s electronic voting machines and recommend replacements. Under the measure, supported by the League of Women Voters and VoteAllegheny, voters would have to approve a referendum to pay for any new equipment. Activists fear that electronic touch-screen machines like those used in Allegheny County are susceptible to hacking — and that because those machines do not produce a hard copy of votes cast, there may be no way to get a reliable tally of votes.
A lawsuit filed by members of the Navajo Nation who say mail-in voting in southern Utah disenfranchises tribal voters is headed for trial. U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish set a March 16 trial date Thursday in the case filed by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. Mail-in ballots are harder for Navajo voters to receive because many don’t have mailboxes and can be difficult to use for people who speak Navajo, said John Mejia with the ACLU.
One person’s shadow will loom large over Argentina’s legislative elections on Sunday. It isn’t Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s, the former two-term president running for a senatorial seat that could either propel her into a third presidential bid or potentially end her life-long political career. It isn’t that of Education Minister Esteban Bullrich, Fernandez’s main opponent. Instead, the name that will be at the forefront of voters minds will be Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old tattoo artist and indigenous rights activist from Veinticinco de Mayo, whose body was found on Thursday, nearly 80 days after his disappearance in a case that has captivated the attention and political discussions of the entire country.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s reform agenda received a critical boost on Sunday after his Cambiemos alliance gained ground in congressional mid-term elections. Preliminary results showed Cambiemos is set to win Argentina’s five largest electoral districts, including the key battleground of Buenos Aires province where his ally Esteban Bullrich defeated ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a fierce critic. With 99 percent of votes counted, Bullrich was on 41 percent with 37 percent for Fernandez, according to the National Electoral Directorate. At a national level, Cambiemos won in 12 out of 24 provinces and gained between 41 percent and 42 percent of the total vote, Cabinet Chief Marcos Pena said. “We are the generation that is changing history,” Macri told a crowd of supporters in Buenos Aires. “This is only just beginning.”
n anti-establishment party founded by a billionaire oligarch overpowered the Czech Republic’s longstanding mainstream parties on Saturday, making the blunt-talking, enigmatic tycoon almost certain to become prime minister in a coalition government. Ano, the party formed by Andrej Babis, 63, had nearly 30 percent of the vote with 99 percent of ballots counted. The Social Democrats, who have been at the center of Czech politics for a quarter-century and had finished first in the previous election, came in a distant sixth with just 7 percent. The Communists were fifth. And the Christian Democrats, another party that traces its roots to the country’s founding, got less than 6 percent, perilously close to the cutoff to qualify for seats in Parliament. Ano was not the only anti-establishment party to do well. The extreme right-wing Freedom & Direct Democracy, with 10.7 percent, doubled its proportion from the previous election. That was just a fraction of a percentage point behind the youth-oriented Czech Pirate Party, an anti-establishment movement from the opposite end of the political spectrum.
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has secured a strong mandate for his hard line against North Korea and room to push for revision of the country’s pacifist constitution after his party crushed untested opposition parties in Sunday’s general election. Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito were on course to win 311 seats, keeping its two-thirds “supermajority” in the 465-member lower house, an exit poll by TBS television showed. Some other broadcasters had the ruling bloc slightly below the two-thirds mark. A supermajority would allow Abe to propose changes to the constitution, which currently restricts its military to a defensive role. Most voters, however, oppose reform. After a day that saw millions of voters brave driving rain and powerful winds brought on by Typhoon Lan, Abe’s election gamble appeared to have paid off, after he called the vote more than a year earlier than scheduled.
Slovenian President Borut Pahor will face a second-round election on Nov. 12 after he fell short of a majority in Sunday’s first round, as he tries to win a second five-year mandate. With 99 percent of the vote counted, according to the State Election Commission, Pahor had 47.1 percent of the vote. In next month’s runoff, he will face Marjan Sarec, the mayor of the city of Kamnik, who took 25 percent. Turnout reached 43.5 percent. The result contradicted exit polls by TV Slovenia that showed Pahor winning in the first round. “In the second round anything is possible, although Pahor is a big favorite,” Peter Jancic, the editor of political website Spletni Casopis told Reuters.