Editorials: Redistricting ‘reform’ brought to you by Ohio GOP leaders scared of a ballot issue | Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Ohio General Assembly’s Republican leadership is trundling out a time-tested Statehouse response to demands for congressional redistricting reform: Deflect, divert, stall – and, if that fails, confect a purported “reform” of its own, which would be anything but. This time, though, the GOP’s legislative leaders may be running scared. A voter-initiated plan, Fair Districts = Fair Ballots, likely will gather enough voter signatures to reach November 2018’s statewide ballot. Maybe sooner, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a recently argued Wisconsin case, could put the kibosh on grotesquely partisan congressional districts such as those our GOP-run legislature has inflicted on Ohio.

Pennsylvania: Secretary of State Pedro Cortes resigns abruptly | Philadelphia Inquirer

Pedro Cortes, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, abruptly resigned from office Wednesday, three weeks after his agency came under criticism for a glitch that may have allowed thousands of ineligible immigrants statewide to vote. Cortes’ departure was announced in a 349-word “personnel update” emailed from Gov. Wolf’s office that offered no reason and focused almost entirely on his replacement, interim Secretary of State Robert Torres. Just 14 of the words were about Cortes, who also served as secretary of state from 2003 to 2010 under Gov. Ed Rendell. J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf, said he could not offer an explanation for Cortes’ departure.

South Dakota: ACLU supporting South Dakota redistricting amendment | Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting a proposed constitutional amendment that would take control of redistricting from South Dakota legislators and give it to an independent commission. The civil liberties organization reported an Oct. 1 expenditure of $1,145.60 for web pages supporting signature-gathering efforts for the amendment. ACLU of South Dakota spokeswoman Jen Petersen says the spending comes as part of a 50-state voting rights campaign from the ACLU’s grassroots platform.

Texas: Travis County Ditches STAR-Vote’s Innovative Voting System | The Austin Chronicle

Election security, especially when it comes to electronic voting, is not just a matter of trust. Following last year’s elections, and reports that Russian intelligence agencies probed and tested U.S. election systems, it’s now also a matter of national security. Yet last week, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told county commissioners that she was canceling an initiative to give local voters a revolutionarily and trustworthy system because no firm would step up to design and implement the software and infrastructure it would require. That system is called STAR-Vote: an open-source electronic voting machine with the kind of verifiable and independently auditable paper trail that transparency groups have for years demanded. Prior to 2001, Travis County shipped every single paper ballot from every polling station in the county to a central location, then put them through an optical scanner – a process that Rice University professor and STAR-Vote team leader Dan Wallach called “a logistical nightmare.” In 2001, the county became one of the first in Texas to adopt the Hart InterCivic eSlate system, picking it over the biggest competitor, the Diebold TSx. That’s proven a wise choice in hindsight; the TSx later faced accusations of being disturbingly easy to hack.

Washington: New push coming for automatic voter registration | The Columbian

Activists in Clark County and across the state are preparing for a new push to enact automatic voter registration in Washington either in the upcoming legislative session or through a ballot initiative next year. If adopted, the state would automatically register voters who prove their eligibility when they interface with government offices, such as getting an enhanced driver’s license. Proponents say it not only increases voter turnout and engagement but also streamlines the process. “The idea, from our perspective, is to make voting as easy as possible,” said Alice Perry Linker, a volunteer with an informal group of that’s supporting the effort. “It’s a right that all citizens have and we want to make it easy for them.”

Austria: Populists expect to be kingmakers as politics takes turn to right | The Guardian

Austrian politics is set to tip to the right less than a year after averting a far-right presidency by the populist Freedom party , with the party on course to emerge as coalition kingmaker in Sunday’s national elections. Though currently fighting for second place behind 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right Austrian People’s party (ÖVP), the Freedom party has managed to dictate the agenda of a campaign centred largely around immigration and fears of radical Islam, and will receive a last-stretch boost from a “dirty campaigning” row between the traditional centre parties. Neither Kurz nor incumbent chancellor Christian Kern of the centre-left SPÖ have ruled out entering a coalition with the Freedom party, whose current leader Heinz-Christian Strache could become the first European politician with a neo-Nazi background to sit in government since the second world war.

Congo: No DR Congo presidential poll before 2019 | AFP

The election to pick DR Congo’s next president will not happen before early 2019, the electoral commission said Wednesday, a delay that raises fresh security worries in the vast African nation. Polls were due this year under a transitional deal aimed at avoiding fresh political bloodshed after President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his second mandate ended in December. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said Wednesday it would need another 504 days to prepare for the vote after the completion of an electoral census, which is far from accomplished in the restive Kasai region. The delay could be reduced “if we accept to use voting machines and if we change the electoral law,” a commission spokesman told AFP.

Italy: Government wins confidence votes on contested electoral law | Reuters

The Italian government on Wednesday won two confidence votes on a fiercely contested electoral law that is likely to penalize the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in next year’s national election. The proposed voting system is backed by three of the country’s four largest parties, with the centre-left government looking to rush it onto the statute books ahead of elections, which are due by May 2018. Five-Star supporters protested in front of parliament as the Chamber of Deputies approved two confidence motions by a wide margin. A third such vote is scheduled for Thursday ahead of a final ballot in the lower house on the disputed bill. Unlike the current rules, the new system would allow the formation of multi-party coalitions before the ballot, a factor likely to hurt 5-Star, which is topping most opinion polls and refuses to join alliances.

Kyrgyzstan: Diplomat says Kyrgyzstan set for ‘freest and fairest election in central Asian history’ | The Guardian

There’s something very odd about Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming presidential election. The vote is less than a week away, and nobody knows who is going to win. In a region known for ageing autocrats and rigged elections, Kyrgyzstan is a strange anomaly. The mountainous former Soviet republic of 6 million inhabitants has experienced two revolutions in the past 12 years and is now a chaotic but functioning democracy. A dozen contenders will take part in Sunday’s presidential vote, and the two leading contenders both say they expect to win. One is a former prime minister and the choice of the outgoing president, and the other is a charismatic businessman who promises more economic opportunities for the impoverished country. The capital, Bishkek, is plastered with billboards promoting various candidates, and the leading candidates draw thousands of people to their rallies.

Liberia: Provisional election results expected Thursday | The Washington Post

Liberia’s provisional election results are expected Thursday, the election commission said Wednesday, as the West African nation waits to see who will succeed the Nobel Peace Prize winner who led the country’s recovery from Ebola and civil war. A runoff election was widely expected with 20 candidates vying to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president. The National Election Commission said local vote counting had ended after a largely smooth election. It apologized for delays in some areas and said it had quarantined materials from one precinct and will investigate reports of alleged compromised voting.

Spain: Spain asks Catalonia: Did you declare independence or not? | The Washington Post

Spain’s prime minister on Wednesday asked the head of the secession-minded Catalonia region the question that no one can seem to answer: Did he declare independence or not? The query reflected more than just confusion. Clarity on Catalonia’s position is critical for Spain to map out its next move — including possible harsh measures against Catalonia if it proclaims itself a sovereign nation. The uncertainty comes after the region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, told the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday that Catalonia had the right to be an independent country, citing a disputed referendum last week that showed strong support for secession from Spain. But instead of an outright declaration, Puigdemont said the “effect” of independence would be delayed for several weeks to facilitate further dialogue with Madrid. He then signed a document that some perceived as formalizing a break from Spain, baffling observers in Barcelona and Madrid alike.

Georgia: Eric Holder and Democrats begin redistricting wars in Georgia | McClatchy

As a conservative state legislator in Georgia, Rep. Brian Strickland of McDonough is no tea partier. But he isn’t exactly a moderate either. During his five years representing District 111 in Henry County, Strickland voted for an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” measure, a bill allowing people to carry weapons on college campuses and federal funding for unregulated “crisis pregnancy centers” that oppose abortions. That conservative voting record wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in many of Georgia’s blood-red legislative districts. But Strickland’s agenda grew increasingly out of step with his rapidly changing constituency as more blacks, Hispanics and other minorities moved into his district as well as Henry County, a fast-growing, majority-minority exurb of Atlanta.

National: Hacking the Election: Security Flaws Need Fixing, Researchers Say | AFP

Hackers could have easily infiltrated US voting machines in 2016 and are likely to try again in light of vulnerabilities in electronic polling systems, a group of researchers said Tuesday. A report with detailed findings from a July hacker conference which demonstrated how voting machines could be manipulated concluded that numerous vulnerabilities exist, posing a national security threat. The researchers analyzed the results of the “voting village” hacking contest at the DefCon gathering of hackers in Las Vegas this year, which showed how ballot machines could be compromised within minutes. “These machines were pretty easy to hack,” said Jeff Moss, the DefCon founder who presented the report at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “The problem is not going away. It’s only going to accelerate.”

National: U.S. voting machines are susceptible to hacking by foreign actors | CBS

Hacking and national security experts say that U.S. voting machines are vulnerable and could allow Russia to access to them, according to a new report out of DEFCON, one of the world’s longest-running hacker conferences. The report concludes that it is incredibly easy to hack U.S. voting machines, and the system is not nearly as safe as it’s portrayed by election officials because many voting machines contain foreign-manufactured internal parts that may be susceptible to tampering. Hackers also do not need advanced knowledge of voting machines to hack them — it would take only a few minutes or hours for someone with the technical knowledge to infiltrate the machines. At the Voting Village conference in July, DEFCON set up a hacking village to draw attention to cyber vulnerabilities in U.S. election infrastructure. It invited participants to hack 25 pieces of election equipment including voting machines and electronic poll books, and produced a report afterwards.

National: U.S. governors, hackers, academics team up to secure elections | Reuters

Hackers are joining forces with U.S. governors and academics in a new group aimed at preventing the manipulation of voter machines and computer systems to sway the outcome of future U.S. elections, a source familiar with the project said on Monday. The anti-hacking coalition’s members include organizers of last summer’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the National Governors Association and the Center for Internet Security, said the source, who asked not to be identified ahead of a formal announcement due to be made on Tuesday. The Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank and several universities are also part of the project, the source said.

National: Hack-Vulnerable Voting Machines a ‘National Security Threat,’ Experts Warn | Newsweek

It happened in Las Vegas, but the weaknesses in U.S. voting equipment uncovered during a summer hackathon are too important to stay there, experts say. They’re a matter of national security. A new report breaks down the lessons learned at the DEF CON 25 hacking conference, which amounted to a concentrated attack—orchestrated in the name of public safety—on the programming and machinery used in U.S. elections. “The results were sobering,” according to a copy of the report provided by the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank. “By the end of the conference, every piece of equipment in the Voting Village was effectively breached in some manner. Participants with little prior knowledge and only limited tools and resources were quite capable of undermining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability​ ​of​ ​these​ ​systems.” … Researchers found the susceptibilities exposed by the hackers controverted manufacturers’ long-standing claims that their products were designed to thwart tampering. “If a voting machine can be hacked by a relative novice in a matter of minutes at DEFCON, imagine what a savvy and well-resourced adversary could do with months or years,” the researchers wrote.  

National: Democratic Member Isn’t Sure If Trump Fraud Panel Will Ever Meet Again | HuffPost

A member of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud probe expressed deep frustration Tuesday over the way the commission has been run so far and doubted that the panel would ever meet again. Even though the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was formally created five months ago and has conducted two public meetings, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D) told HuffPost that he still has no idea what it’s working on or when it will meet next. He said he plans to raise concerns with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the commission’s vice chair, about how it has operated so far ― if he ever has another chance. “I think we have to talk about that if we get another opportunity. I don’t know that we’re ever going to meet again, to tell you the truth. We certainly haven’t talked about it,” Dunlap said. “I think it is a possibility. We haven’t heard about any future meetings. We talked about a meeting in November ― that was back in July. We haven’t had anything further about it. … It wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t meet again.”

National: Time is running out for state officials to be approved for cybersecurity intel ahead of elections | Cyberscoop

With just about a month left before the polls open in New Jersey and Virginia for gubernatorial elections, the Department of Homeland Security is racing to vet state officials who have applied for the ability to receive classified briefings and other information related to potential cyber-intrusions into election systems, people familiar with the matter tell CyberScoop. In August, the DHS began reaching out to chief election officials in every state to begin the process of obtaining clearances. While the nominees for these clearances are usually the secretary of state or similar high-ranking office-holders, some supporting staff have also sought clearances. The processing for each of these applications varies by person and as a result, there’s no average wait time. Over the last several months, however, DHS has been able to issue “interim” clearances when necessary within 30 days of an application, officials told CyberScoop. Final clearance approvals are taking much longer, the officials said.

National: Carter Page says he won’t testify before Senate Intelligence panel in Russia probe | Politico

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, informed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he will not be cooperating with any requests to appear before the panel for its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and would plead the Fifth, according to a source familiar with the matter. A former naval-officer-turned-energy consultant, Page came under fire last year after reports emerged that he had met with high-level associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2016. While Page denied those meetings occurred, the Trump campaign distanced itself from the adviser not long after, with former officials saying that Page and Trump had never met.

National: How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics | The New York Times

YouTube videos of police beatings on American streets. A widely circulated internet hoax about Muslim men in Michigan collecting welfare for multiple wives. A local news story about two veterans brutally mugged on a freezing winter night. All of these were recorded, posted or written by Americans. Yet all ended up becoming grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that has carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin, and which is now believed to be at the center of a far-reaching Russian program to influence the 2016 presidential election. A New York Times examination of hundreds of those posts shows that one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.

Editorials: Does the anti-gerrymandering campaign threaten minority voting rights? | Michael Li and Laura Royden/Vox

When Pennsylvania Democrats went to the Supreme Court in 2004 to ask that Pennsylvania’s GOP-drawn congressional map be struck down as an unfair partisan gerrymander, they drew opposition from an unexpected source: fellow Democrats. Alabama Democrats told the court in a brief they were concerned that ending partisan gerrymandering would “undermine … the ability of African Americans in Alabama to continue the effective exercise of their newly won ability to participate in the political process.” In 2001, they pointed out, “African-American representatives pulled, hauled, and traded with their white colleagues” to achieve greater representation. In short, political gerrymandering — in which it was taken for granted that Democrats sought an advantage — helped maximize the voice of African Americans.

Florida: Head of State Elections Supervisors “Very Pleased” With Rollout of new Online Voter Registration System | The Capitolist

A week after Florida rolled out its new online voter registration system, the president of the state association representing election supervisors says she is “very pleased” with with the way the new system has been received and how it has performed. “To my knowledge, we’ve not had any issues. I have tried to keep in touch with the other counties and listen to anything that might be coming through, but I don’t know of anything,” said Taylor County Elections Supervisor Dana Southerland, who also serves as the president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. Florida is the 36th state to offer an online registration system. The system was activated on Oct. 1.

North Carolina: District attorney, nonprofit spar over handling of alleged voter-fraud cases | Charlotte Observer

A group targeting voter fraud in North Carolina has called on the Trump administration to withdraw its nomination of Andrew Murray to be the next U.S. Attorney for what they say is his refusal to prosecute two cases of illegal voting. Murray, the Mecklenburg district attorney, says the allegations are unfounded and that the Voter Integrity Project of Raleigh has mischaracterized his actions as well as the cases they cite. “This office prosecutes crimes of every level every day,” Murray’s office said in a statement Monday. “But prosecuting people when sufficient evidence does not exist simply for the sake of media attention to the Voter Integrity Project’s cause … is simply wrong and unjust. This office does not – and will not – operate that way.”

Pennsylvania: Gerrymandering, ‘political laser surgery,’ stokes fresh ire, legal fights | Philadelphia Inquirer

The proposal — letting a nonpartisan citizens commission, rather than politicians, draw lines for electoral districts — isn’t novel. It was presented by Carol Kuniholm, the executive director of Fair Districts PA, last week in Center City at a forum that focused on gerrymandering — a practice in which a party in power contorts legislative and congressional boundaries to its electoral advantage. Complaints about gerrymandering, a name derived from a 19th century Massachusetts governor and U.S. vice president who was a notorious practitioner, date to nearly the founding of the republic, notes David Thornburgh, head of the nonpartisan political watchdog group the Committee of Seventy. What is different these days is that the practices and the efforts to change them have reached perhaps unprecedented levels, said Thornburgh, who participated in that forum at the Pyramid Club, 52 floors above the streets of Center City, which included business and civic leaders. And this has been a particularly brisk period.

Rhode Island: Dispute arises over potential loophole in mail balloting | Providence Journal

Two-time gubernatorial candidate Ken Block alleges there is a “gigantic” loophole in Rhode Island’s voter-ID law for people who vote by mail ballot. The allegation is the latest in a series since Block was hired by a nonprofit — co-founded by President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon — to use his computer skills to data-mine for potential electoral abuses, including straight-out voter fraud. He recently made a formal request for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. On Monday, he alleged a new issue: the potential for people voting by mail ballot to escape Rhode Island’s voter ID requirements. “The use of mail ballots in Rhode Island’s elections has exploded, with the 2016 general election seeing a doubling of mail ballot usage compared to recent previous elections. The use of mail ballots was marketed as ‘early voting’ by some officials,″ he noted.

Tennessee: Ranked Choice Voting Faces Repeal Effort in Shelby County | Memphis Daily News

Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips uses the planets to walk people through how ranked choice voting works. Even Pluto is included in the nine-way race, although it is no longer considered a planet. She took the example to the Memphis City Council last week, the only elected body affected by the city charter provision that would have voters rank their choices in a single-member district council race by preference. It does away with later runoff elections in races where no candidate gets a simple majority of the votes cast.

Italy: Government calls confidence vote on contested electoral law | Reuters

The Italian government called on Tuesday for confidence votes in the lower house of parliament to try to force through an electoral law that is likely to penalize the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. The new voting law, which would be used in a national election due by next May, is backed by the ruling Democratic Party (PD), former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) and the anti-migrant Northern League. Unlike the current rules, the new system, known as the Rosatellum, would allow the formation of broad coalitions before the ballot, a factor likely to hurt the maverick 5-Star, which refuses to join alliances. The party, which tops many opinion polls, says the Rosatellum could cost it up to 50 seats in parliament. It has called for protests on Wednesday, when the lower house is due to hold two confidence motions. A third vote is set for Thursday.

Liberia: Liberians hope for peace in vote still haunted by civil war | Reuters

Thousands lined up at polling booths in Liberia’s capital on Tuesday for their first democratic transfer of power in 73 years in a vote haunted by a savage civil war that ended in 2003. Many Liberians on Tuesday praised 78-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for keeping peace since the dark days of the 14-year conflict when gangs of drugged child soldiers wearing ammunition belts marauded through the streets. Yet, while preparations have been peaceful, a former rebel leader Prince Johnson is one of the 20 candidates and an ex-wife of warlord Charles Taylor, now in a British jail, is the running mate of one of the favorites, former soccer player George Weah. Unlike neighboring Sierra Leone which had a U.N.-backed court for civil war crimes committed in both countries, Liberia has prioritized reconciliation over justice and some of those involved in the war that killed a quarter of a million people are still prominent public figures.

Liberia: Voting, Counting Going on Simultaneously in Liberia Elections | Front Page Africa

Polls are closed at some centers across Liberia while other centers are still overcrowded with many registered voters who are yet to cast their votes standing in queues. Poll agents at the Unification Town Hall at the Fair Ground in Grand Bassa County have expressed fear that voting may continue until midnight or tomorrow morning due to hundreds of voters who are still in the polling center wanting to cast their votes. The Electoral supervisors at the Fair Ground in Bassa say the situation is due to disarrangement of voters ID in the voters roll which has made it difficult for poll workers to identify the precincts people with valid voters IDs are to vote. 

Russia: A Bernie Sanders campaign veteran advises a surging opposition movement in Russia | The Washington Post

Vitali Shkliarov, a 41-year-old political operative born in Belarus, speaks the gospel of Bernie Sanders in the style of a Silicon Valley executive. Technology, he says, is a key to access, and his dream is a “political Uber” designed to pick up potential candidates and get them around the barriers keeping them from office. The idea got a test drive in Moscow’s recent municipal elections, but the veteran of the Sanders and Barack Obama campaigns sees it as part of a worldwide movement. “Obama made politics in America — but also worldwide — cool and sexy,” Shkliarov said in energetic, accented English during a recent interview at a Moscow cocktail bar. “Next, and I was part of it, was Sanders making politics like a Woodstock festival. It was about education, not partisanship.” The next step, he said, is to ensure that anyone can become a candidate. “This is the new era of politics, not just in Russia, but in America, too,” he said.