In October 2017, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent letters to five of the top voting machine companies in America asking how their organizations were structured and what steps they have taken to ensure their machines are protected from cyber threats. “As our election systems have come under unprecedented scrutiny, public faith in the security of our electoral process at every level is more important than ever before,” Wyden said. “Ensuring that Americans can trust that election systems and infrastructure are secure is necessary to protecting confidence in our electoral process and democratic government.” The questions touched on a wide range of topics related to cybersecurity, such as whether the companies had experienced a recent data breach, whether they employ a chief information security officer and how frequently their products have been audited by third-party evaluators.
Two House Democrats are pressing their colleagues to allot $400 million for states to upgrade outdated voting equipment and secure their election systems. Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Robert Brady (Pa.) made the appeal in a letter to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee released on Monday. “We know that Russia launched an unprecedented assault on our elections in 2016, targeting 21 states’ voting systems, and we believe this money is necessary to protect our elections from future attack,” wrote the lawmakers. “When a sovereign nation attempts to meddle in our elections, it is an attack on our country,” they wrote. “We cannot leave states to defend against the sophisticated cyber tactics of state actors like Russia on their own.”
A commission that President Donald Trump tasked with investigating his own unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud won’t meet again this year, according to court records, fueling more questions about the panel’s future and its viability. In an order Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said a Justice Department attorney told the court Friday that the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity “will not meet in December.” Federal rules require such committee meetings to be announced 15 days in advance, except for emergencies, so no meeting seems feasible this month, Asked about the lawyer’s reported statement Monday, the White House declined to comment on the record. However, an administration official acknowledged that a meeting of the commission before the end of the year was “unlikely.”
On its face, the notice sent to 248 county election officials asked only that they do what Congress has ordered: Prune their rolls of voters who have died, moved or lost their eligibility — or face a federal lawsuit. The notice, delivered in September by a conservative advocacy group, is at the heart of an increasingly bitter argument over the seemingly mundane task of keeping accurate lists of voters — an issue that will be a marquee argument before the Supreme Court in January. At a time when gaming the rules of elections has become standard political strategy, the task raises a high-stakes question: Is scrubbing ineligible voters from the rolls worth the effort if it means mistakenly bumping legitimate voters as well? The political ramifications are as close as a history book. Florida’s Legislature ordered the voter rolls scrubbed of dead registrants and ineligible felons before the 2000 presidential election. The resulting purge, based on a broad name-matching exercise, misidentified thousands of legitimate voters as criminals, and prevented at least 1,100 of them — some say thousands more — from casting ballots.
Colorado became the first state in the nation after this month’s election to complete a “risk-limiting” audit, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Such an audit, ordered by the Colorado Legislature in 2009, is a procedure designed to provide statistical evidence that the election outcome is correct, and has a higher-than-normal probability of correcting a wrong outcome. Risk-limiting audits require human beings to examine and verify more ballots in close races, and fewer ballots in races with wide margins. “Colorado is a national leader in exploring innovative solutions for accessible, secure and auditable elections,” said Matt Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who witnessed the audit. “Colorado’s risk-limiting audit provided great insights into how to conduct more efficient and effective post-election audits. (The commission) is eager to share some of the lessons learned with election officials across America.”
Pennsylvania: York County officials say overvotes didn’t affect election results, but numbers tell different story | York Dispatch
York County officials announced their determination that a technical oversight with voting machines didn’t affect the outcome of Nov. 7 election results, but the numbers in one race indicate a possible impact. York County’s Board of Elections voted unanimously to approve the preliminary certification of the election results during its meeting Monday, Nov. 20. County election staff discovered the oversight the afternoon before Election Day that allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in races where more than one candidate was elected. On Nov. 13, about 20 volunteers — all county employees — spent about five hours counting all the instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate — referred to as an “overvote.”
Virginia: Federal judge rejects Democrats’ request to block certification of races but leaves door open for new election | The Washington Post
A federal judge refused Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order to stop Virginia’s board of elections from certifying the results in two House of Delegates races in which more than 300 voters were apparently assigned to the wrong races. It is unclear how many of those voters cast ballots on Nov. 7. The ruling was a setback for Democrats, whose hopes for taking control of the chamber could rest on one of the two seats. “The job of the board is to certify the count,” Judge T.S. Ellis III of U.S. District Court in Alexandria said in a hearing conducted by telephone. “Let the state process run its course.” But the judge let the lawsuit stand, meaning Democrats could return to the court after the results are certified by the state board of elections to challenge the outcome and request a new election. “We don’t have a clear picture, exactly, of the scope of the problem,” Ellis said.
Germany: Echoes of the Weimar Republic as German politicians lose knack of coalition-building | The Guardian
Danyal Bayaz has experienced many things during his first few weeks as a new MP, but boredom is not one of them. Two months after entering Germany’s parliament as a Green party candidate, Bayaz, 34, from Heidelberg, has watched rightwing politicians give each other standing ovations for Eurosceptic diatribes, leftwingers heckle the far right as racists and a former climate activist with dyed hair form unlikely alliances with Christian Democrats in tailored suits. Last week Bayaz saw the dramatic collapse of coalition talks that would have seen his Green colleagues catapulted into government and now faces the possibility that his seat may come up for grabs again in fresh elections next spring. “Right now I am not even sure if it’s worth me getting a loyalty card here,” he quips as he orders a cappuccino in the Bundestag’s canteen. For years, German politics were both mocked and admired for being too uneventful to the point of tedium. Only recently the lack of drama inside the reconstructed Reichstag’s circular plenary chamber led to calls for a more confrontational, Westminster-style approach. But as old geopolitical certainties have crumbled over the past 18 months, Berlin’s consensual, unexcitable style of policymaking has won new admirers.
Kenya’s supreme court has upheld the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in last month’s controversial re-run of presidential elections, clearing the way for the 55-year-old leader to be sworn in for a second and final term next week. After hearing two days of arguments, a six-judge bench said two petitions demanding the cancellation of the polls were “without merit”. The ruling is unlikely to end the worst political crisis in a decade in east Africa’s richest and most developed economy, which has seen more than 60 people killed in political violence in three months. Opposition leaders immediately rejected the decision, while government supporters celebrated outside the court in central Nairobi.
A panel led by former Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney campaign officials has released a slate of recommendations for future election operations to guard themselves against cyberattacks. The final report from Harvard’s Defending Digital Democracy project comes roughly a year after the 2016 November presidential election, ahead of which the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were successfully targeted by cyberattacks. The U.S. intelligence community has tied the hacks to a broader campaign by Russia to interfere in the election. Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades, former campaign managers to Clinton and Romney, respectively, positioned the project as an effort to help future campaign operations be more secure against cyber threats, regardless of their party affiliation.
National: Judges question privacy watchdog’s right to sue Trump election commission | The Washington Post
Federal judges questioned Tuesday whether privacy advocates have the right to sue President Trump’s election-integrity commission to try to block its planned collection of millions of voter records. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit seemed skeptical of the specific harm to a privacy watchdog group trying to protect voter data the commission is seeking from 50 states and the District, including individual birth dates, political affiliations and partial Social Security numbers. Judge Stephen F. Williams asserted that the commission’s powers appeared limited to requesting — not demanding — the information from states and said its “potency seems very low.” Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg suggested the commission would have access only to publicly available voter data. “Isn’t this information already public?” he asked the attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans. Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.” The choice would mark the administration’s first major effort to shape the 2020 census, the nationwide count that determines which states lose and gain electoral votes and seats in the House of Representatives.
Editorials: With court cases looming, the fight over voting rights will only intensify | Carl P. Leubsdorf/Dallas Morning News
In the coming weeks, high federal courts will hear important cases challenging two ways Republicans have sought since Barack Obama’s election as president to restrict voting of Democratic-leaning groups. They come at a time when efforts initially focused on restrictive voter-identification laws in Texas and other GOP-controlled states have broadened to include purging voter rolls of people who hadn’t lately voted and limiting early voting in areas with large minority populations. In early December, a federal appeals court will hear the latest version of the long-pending Texas voter ID law. In January, the Supreme Court, which is already considering a Wisconsin case challenging political redistricting, will hear an Ohio case that could produce a crucial legal judgment on the ability of state officials to purge voter rolls.
Kansas: Kobach’s office reviewing security of Crosscheck database and possible cost of upgrades | Lawrence Journal World
The chief election officer in Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office said Tuesday that a multistate voter registration database that Kansas manages is being thoroughly reviewed for security concerns, but it is unknown whether Kansas will have to foot the bill to upgrade the system. “I legitimately do not know the answer to that yet,” Bryan Caskey said during a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re still evaluating all options, and one of the options is cost.” The Kansas secretary of state’s office manages a database known as the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which contains voter registration information for millions of voters in more than 25 states. In some cases, those records include the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number.
Ranked-choice voting supporters are embarking on a referendum do-over, seeking enough signatures for a vote to nullify a legislative delay and implement the system for the June primary elections. If their efforts are successful, the state would move forward with a dual-election system — ranked-choice voting for primaries and federal races but not for gubernatorial elections or legislative races — to avoid a conflict with the Maine Constitution. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting said it’s already halfway to a goal of collecting 61,123 signatures from registered voters by Feb. 5 for a “People’s Veto” referendum. If enough votes are certified, then the legislative delay would be stayed.
Rhode Island: Providence County will be only site in nation for 2018 census test | Providence Journal
The U.S. Census Bureau will hire as many as 1,800 census takers and supervisors for a test-run in Rhode Island next year, in preparation for the next big U.S. Census in 2020. Providence County, R.I., will be the one-and-only testing ground in the nation — in 2018 — for the next big U.S. Census in 2020 that will determine, among other things, whether Rhode Island gets to keep its two seats in the House of Representatives. How Rhode Island got chosen as the sole location for this 2018 “end-to-end” census test is not fully clear.
More than 2,900 double votes were cast during municipal elections in York County due to a voting machine programming error. County officials said at first that the issue did not appear to affect the outcome of any races. But if vote tallies provided by the county are correct, the West York Borough Council contest might have been impacted. West York Councilwoman Shelley Metzler finished fifth of six candidates vying for four seats. But she might have placed fourth – and secured another term – if she had received enough of the 32 “over votes” cast in the council race, a closer review by WITF/Keystone Crossroads found.
Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around, according to a voter education group. This seems to be the rally cry of the League of Women’s Voters of South Carolina, whose local members held an information meeting last Thursday at the Hartsville Memorial Library. The meeting went over the age-old problem of gerrymandering, where elected officials attempt to keep voting districts favorable to one side of party affiliation or the other. “Representative of both major political parties seek partisan advantage from gerrymandering,” said information from the meeting. “This is not a problem associated with one or another political party. Incumbent protection has also shaped South Carolina’s districts.”
Virginia: State again delays certification of elections, as Democrats file third lawsuit in disputed House race | The Washington Post
Democrats hoping to win control of Virginia’s House of Delegates filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block the state Board of Elections from certifying a tight race that has been clouded by ballot mix-ups. The Virginia House Democratic Caucus filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria – the third complaint Democrats or their allies have filed over that key legislative race since the Nov. 7 election. All the lawsuits claim that voters had been disenfranchised for various reasons; the first two were dismissed. Late Tuesday, the elections board decided to postpone a Wednesday meeting to certify results in the 28th District and in the adjacent 88th District, said Edgardo Cortés, the state commissioner of elections.
Wyoming voting officials have started looking into replacing aging election equipment across the state. A panel of state officials has been convened to determine whether new machines are needed and how much replacement would cost, as well as where to seek funding. “The State of Wyoming is responsible for providing citizens with an election process that can be trusted. Wyoming is leading the charge with this Task Force to ensure that no county is left with voting equipment at risk of deteriorating,” State Election Director Kai Schon said in a statement.
A group of Czech security researchers earlier this year discovered a way to steal identities from electronic ID cards used in a number of countries, known in the cryptography industry as a ROCA vulnerability. So far, the vulnerability has caused problems in Estonia — the country with perhaps the most comprehensive e-identification and e-government system in the world — and in Spain. Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a tireless promoter of his country’s e-democracy, has said that other countries and institutions have the same problem, too; they’re just not talking openly about it. He’s very likely right. The discovery poses an important question: Could we perhaps be overeager to adopt technological solutions to problems that don’t necessarily require them?
Last details are being set up in Cuba ahead of the election on Nov. 26 for the People’s Power Assembly seats, after the electoral commission organized a trial run of the election or voter. Among the activities are reviewing voter lists, checking updated electoral manuals, testing lines of communication, and reviewing responsibilities for electoral board members. Cubans will choose representatives from over 27,000 candidates that will compete for 605 assembly seats.
Germany moved a step closer to a snap election after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to form a government with smaller parties fell apart and the Social Democrats refused to step into the breach. Europe’s biggest economy and pre-eminent political power was plunged into deep political uncertainty late Sunday night after the collapse of exploratory talks involving Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, plus the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens. That left the Social Democrats (SPD) as the only viable junior partners who could give Merkel a parliamentary majority. But SPD leaders voted unanimously Monday not to reprise the “grand coalition” of the last four years with Merkel’s conservatives, having recorded the worst result in their history in September’s general election. An extended period of political limbo in Germany means a range of decisions on the national and EU level will be on hold — most notably on French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals to overhaul the eurozone.
Liberia’s electoral commission said on Monday that claims of fraud brought by a presidential candidate in last month’s election did not have sufficient evidence, delivering a preliminary conclusion of an investigation. Former footballer George Weah was initially set to face Vice-President Joseph Boakai to determine who will replace Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But third-place finisher Charles Brumskine and his Liberty Party contested the outcome of the first round, claiming gross irregularities, and the Supreme Court this month suspended the run-off until the electoral commission can investigate Brumskine’s claim.
Wit days to go before elections in Nepal the battle for votes is being fought over the air waves as radio stations, many backed by political parties, beam campaign messages to the farthest corners of the Himalayan nation. Social media may now dominate political campaigns in the West, but in Nepal, where fewer than one in five people has access to the internet, radio is king. Community radio exploded in the early 1990s as Nepal’s monarchy began to loosen its grip on power, liberalising the media and allowing popular elections for a new government. It grew with the mobile revolution as cheap handsets with built-in FM receivers became widely owned, allowing news to reach areas of the landlocked mountainous country where newspapers can take days to arrive.
The National Assembly yesterday said that efforts had reached an advanced stage in the process of enacting a new Electoral Act that would make provision for electronic voting ahead of the 2019 general elections. The parliament also said that it had stepped up activities geared towards redefining the regulatory framework to make elections more transparent and credible in the country. Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari, disclosed this at an interface with me dia executives at the National Assembly, Abuja. The media roundtable was hosted by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) as part of a strategic plan to engage political actors, political office holders, media and other stakeholders on preparations for the forthcoming general elections.
Musa Bihi Abdi of the ruling Kulmiye party was declared the winner of Somaliland’s presidential election on Tuesday, by the election commission of the breakaway region. Situated at the northern tip of east Africa on the Gulf of Aden – one of the busiest trade routes in the world – Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has been relatively peaceful since. The region of 4 million people has not been internationally recognized but it has recently drawn in sizeable investments from the Gulf. In the election, Abdi won just over 55 percent of the vote, while opposition leader Abdirahman Iro took nearly 41 percent, election commission chairman Iman Warsame said. Turnout was 80 percent.
Vote Leave is under investigation by the Electoral Commission over whether it breached the £7m EU referendum spending limit, with allegations being made that it channelled funds for a social Brexit media campaign via £625,000 in donations to a student. The watchdog said that the new information meant it had “reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed” and said it would examine if the Boris Johnson and Michael Gove-fronted campaign had filed its returns correctly. Its unexpected intervention came as the commission was facing a legal challenge from remain grassroots campaigners, unhappy that it had dropped a previous investigation into the spending of Vote Leave and satellite Brexit campaigns that are accused of not being properly independent of it.