National: States struggle to upgrade aging voting equipment | GCN

State and federal officials are worried that obsolete voting equipment may be putting state election infrastructure at risk. At an Oct. 24 meeting of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security Forum, Election Assistance Commission Commissioner Thomas Hicks, called aging voting equipment “one of the biggest vulnerabilities I see right now.”  Some states are using 15-year-old machines that are at the end of their lifecycles and don’t have resources to buy new equipment, Hicks said. Concerns about aging equipment are heightened because of reports from the Department of Homeland Security that Russian hackers targeted voting systems in 21 states.

National: How Redistricting Became a Technological Arms Race | The Atlantic

These ain’t your grandfather’s gerrymanders. Gone is the era of elaborate cartographical sketches and oil paintings of salamanders, and of salted old-timer politicians drawing up their “contributions to modern art” armed with markers and heads full of electoral smarts. Today, political mapmaking is a multimillion dollar enterprise, with dozens of high-profile paid consultants, armies of…

National: First Charges Filed in Russia Probe Led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller | Wall Street Journal

At least one person was charged Friday in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter. That person could be taken into custody as soon as Monday, these people said. The number and identity of the defendants, and the charges, couldn’t be determined. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Peter Carr, declined to comment. The news of the charges, marking the first in Mr. Mueller’s investigation, was first reported by CNN on Friday.

Alabama: Democrats want to ditch new crossover voting law |

Some Democratic lawmakers want to repeal Alabama’s new crossover voting law, saying it created rather than solved a problem and its threat of felony-level penalties will discourage voter participation. “The right to vote is just so precious,” Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma said. “And we ought not to be doing things to limit it. And we certainly ought not to be doing things to end up trying to put people in jail.” The law was in force for the first time for the Sept. 26 Republican runoff between Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange in the special election for the U.S. Senate. The law prohibits voters who participate in one party’s primary from crossing over and voting in the other party’s runoff. So, voters in the Aug. 15 Democratic primary could not vote in the Republican runoff.

Florida: Voting-rights effort finds a new venue in constitution commission | The Florida Times Union

The committee traveling the state on a mission to improve Florida’s constitution is hearing one message over and over. “Every place we’ve gone around the state, every single time we’ve had public comment, a full third have mentioned restoration of rights,” said Chris Smith, one of 37 members of the state Constitutional Revision Commission. Voting rights are revoked in Florida when a person is a convicted of a felony. It’s one of just three states with such a rule, the others being Iowa and Virginia. Florida has disenfranchised 1.5 million people because of felony convictions, according to the nonprofit Sentencing Project, which says that figure includes 21 percent — more than one in five — of the state’s African-Americans. Florida’s disenfranchisement rate is the highest among the 50 states, according to the organization, which said Florida is connected to more than a quarter of the people nationwide who have lost their right to vote.

Georgia: Days after activists sued, Georgia’s election server was wiped clean | Ars Technica

A server and its backups, believed to be key to a pending federal lawsuit filed against Georgia election officials, was thoroughly deleted according to e-mails recently released under a public records request. Georgia previously came under heavy scrutiny after a researcher discovered significant problems with his home state’s voting system. A lawsuit soon followed in state court, asking the court to annul the results of the June 20 special election for Congress and to prevent Georgia’s existing computer-based voting system from being used again. The case, Curling v. Kemp, was filed in Fulton County Superior Court on July 3. As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the data was initially destroyed on July 7 by the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, the entity tasked with running the Peach State’s elections. The new e-mails, which were sent by the Coalition for Good Governance to Ars, show that Chris Dehner, one of the Information Security staffers, e-mailed his boss, Stephen Gay, to say that the two backup servers had been “degaussed three times.” No one from Kennesaw State University, including Dehner or Gay, immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment as to who ordered the servers to be wiped and why it was done.

Georgia: Election server wiped days after lawsuit | The Hill

Days after activists filed a lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s election systems, the university housing the servers at the center of the case wiped them of all data. The servers had been in the possession of the Center for Elections Systems (CES) at Kennesaw State University, which had been contracted to maintain Georgia’s election systems. The state ended its relationship with Kennesaw State in July. According to emails retrieved by one of the plaintiffs in that case through an open records request and provided to The Hill, information technology (IT) staff first confirmed deleting files from the system on July 7 — four days after the suit was filed.  In March, the CES was notified by researcher Logan Lamb that a vulnerability in web security allowed attackers to read internal files not meant for public consumption. Those files included voter records which contained the date of birth and Social Security number of 5.7 million Georgians. They also included memos containing credentials to the state’s ExpressPoll brand electronic poll book.

Guam: Primary election bill sent back to committee | The Guam Daily

Bill 45-34, an act to remove the primary election from the Guam Code Annotated was sent back to committee during session yesterday. Speaker Benjamin Cruz ordered that the bill, also known as the “Election Reform Act of 2017,” be sent back after several issues were raised about the provisions of the bill. “With these issues, we may need to completely restudy the whole bill,” he said. Prior to the decision, lawmakers deliberated on a bill provision concerning the election of the public auditor following Sen. Joe San Agustin’s motion to amend the bill to remove the provision that refers to a runoff election.

Kansas: Residents get 2nd chance to dissolve small town | Associated Press

A tiny town in central Kansas is getting a second chance to vote itself out of existence after people in another community mistakenly cast ballots on the issue last year. Residents in Frederick will get another chance Nov. 7 to decide the town’s future. Robert Root, acting mayor by law, told the Hutchinson News that the eight people left in town have committed to voting for disincorporation. During the November 2016 election, 20 people cast ballots, but Frederick had only nine registered voters and only six of those voters went to the polls. The problem was that at the Eureka township voting precinct, election workers accidentally gave ineligible township residents ballots with Frederick’s incorporation question.

Michigan: State resisting challenge to ban on straight-party voting | Associated Press

The results of the 2016 election are being replayed in federal court as the state of Michigan defends a Republican-backed law that would abolish straight-party voting, an easy ballot option that’s especially popular in urban areas that go Democratic. The law was suspended last year by a judge who said an end to straight-party ballots could cause long lines and place a disproportionate burden on black voters. Now, after months of analysis by experts, that same judge must decide whether the lawsuit should go to trial or be dismissed in favor of the state. Straight-party voting is the act of making a single mark on a ballot to pick candidates of one party, from president to county commissioner. It’s been in practice for more than 100 years in Michigan and is widely held in urban areas; Detroit’s rate was 80 percent in 2016.

Texas: Some Texans will have a different way to vote — but only in the Nov. 7 election | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texans living in nursing homes will have a new way to vote in this November’s election. But then that method will go away. Texas lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill that requires, when five or more absentee ballots are requested by residents at facilities such as nursing homes, election judges for both parties to deliver the ballots — and oversee the voting on them — during the early voting period. “We post a notice of the day we are going to come,” said Stephen Vickers, Tarrant County’s elections administrator. “Then we have to send out a team of judges and ballots. They do the process there so they don’t have to mail it.” The goal of this law, House Bill 658, was to make sure no one influences these Texans’ votes. But election officials complained that this is a massive unfunded mandate.

Utah: Utah County makes changes to avoid vote-by-mail glitches faced in primary | Daily Herald

It’s no secret that Utah County faced some issues during its first foray into an all vote-by-mail election during the August primary, but the county is taking steps to make sure the general election goes more smoothly. The issues started when 60,000 ballots were sent to unaffiliated voters in the county, mistakenly containing the option to vote in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District Race. Then final results were drawn out, with the fourth and final batch of election results being released more than a week after the primary election on Aug. 15.

Iceland: Centre-right parties lose majority | The Guardian

Iceland’s ruling centre-right parties have lost their majority after a tight election that could usher in only the second left-of-centre government in the country’s history as an independent nation. With all votes counted after the Nordic island’s second snap poll in a year, the conservative Independence party of the scandal-plagued outgoing prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, was on course to remain parliament’s largest. But it lost five of of its 21 seats in the 63-member Althing, potentially paving the way for its main opponent, the Left-Green Movement headed by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, to form a left-leaning coalition with three or more other parties. The make-up of the new government, however, remains uncertain since both left- and rightwing blocs have said they deserve a chance to try to form a coalition and Iceland’s president has yet to designate a party to begin talks.

Liberia: Ruling party backs challenge to presidential result | Reuters

Liberia’s ruling party, whose candidate finished runner-up in the first round of this month’s presidential election, said on Sunday it would back a legal challenge to the result, accusing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of interfering in the vote. The extraordinary charge by Unity Party against Johnson Sirleaf, one of its own members, throws into question a second round run-off scheduled for Nov. 7 between its candidate Vice President Joseph Boakai and front-runner George Weah. Unity Party said in a statement that the Oct. 10 poll, meant to usher in Liberia’s first democratic transition of power since 1944, was “characterised by massive systematic irregularities and fraud”. The statement, read to reporters by Unity Party Chairman Wilmont Paye, said Johnson Sirleaf had acted inappropriately by meeting privately with elections magistrates before the vote.

Kenya: Violence Flares and Tensions Rise After Presidential Vote | The New York Times

Tensions were on the rise in western Kenya and parts of Nairobi amid confusion and discrepancies surrounding the country’s repeated presidential election this past week, with deadly violence breaking out in some areas. Shops were burned Friday night in Kawangware, a neighborhood in central Nairobi, and a civil society group reported that six people had been injured, including three with machete wounds. The neighborhood is a stronghold of the opposition leader Raila Odinga, who withdrew from the presidential race two weeks before the second vote. In western Kenya, where Mr. Odinga enjoys strong support, demonstrators clashed with the police. Six people were killed, 13 injured and 86 arrested in election-related unrest nationally, the police said late Friday.

Macedonia: Opposition rejects results of municipal vote | Reuters

Macedonia’s main opposition leader cried foul over local election results after gains for the ruling party in a second round of polls on Sunday, and demanded a snap parliamentary vote. The ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) won in 40 municipalities out of a total 85 in the first round two weeks ago, including in the capital Skopje. Nineteen areas which were undecided on Oct. 16 voted again on Sunday, and the SDSM declared victory in 10. Final results were expected after midnight. Following the second round, the opposition VMRO-DPMNE’s leader Nikola Gruevski dismissed the results. “Because of the election violence, raping of democracy … threats, pressure, massive bribes, the VMRO-DPMNE does not recognize these elections and will never consider them fair and democratic,” Gruevski told reporters.

United Kingdom: Government reportedly planning to allow some prisoners to vote | The Guardian

The UK government is reportedly to scrap its blanket ban on prisoners being allowed to vote, 12 years after the European court of human rights ruled that it was unlawful. Britain has ignored a series of judgments by European courts since 2005, maintaining that it is a matter for parliament to decide. But the government is planning to end its long-running defiance by allowing prisoners serving a sentence of less than a year who are let out on day release to be allowed to go home to vote, according to the Sunday Times. The newspaper said the decision had been made by David Lidington, the justice secretary, who circulated plans to ministers last week. The paper said it would affect hundreds of prisoners and quoted a senior government source as saying: “This will only apply to a small number of people who remain on the electoral roll and are let out on day release. These are not murderers and rapists but prisoners who are serving less than a year who remain on the electoral roll. No one will be allowed to register to vote if they are still behind bars.”