With the midterm elections of 2018 fewer than 12 months away, Congress is showing heightened concern over the potential for disastrous cyber attacks on the nation’s electronic voting systems. “Like anything else in the digital age, electronic voting is vulnerable to hacking,” said Will Hurd, R-Texas, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Information Technology. “Our voting machines are no exception.” Hurd, in opening remarks at a Nov. 29 joint hearing with the House Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs on the cybersecurity of voting machines, said subcommittee members wanted to explore what impact the Department of Homeland Security designation last January of U.S. election systems as “critical infrastructure” has had on states. “It is essential that states take appropriate steps to secure their voting infrastructure,” he said.
Voting Blogs: Alaska Joins Growing Number of States with Automatic Voter Registration | State of Elections
Alaska’s automatic voter registration law went into effect March 1, 2017, making Alaska one of ten states, the fourth state to do so in this year, to enact such legislation. The new bill was introduced through Ballot Measure 1 (15PFVR), which passed in the November 8, 2016 referendum with more than 63% of support from Alaskan voters. The bill also received bipartisan support from Republican leaders Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux as well as Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and former Sen. Mark Begich. Unlike most automatic voter registration states, Alaska does not use DMV records but registers eligible individuals to vote when they sign up for the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). The Permanent Fund was created in 1976 to protect the proceeds of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline by putting at least 25% of the oil money into a dedicated fund. Money from the fund is distributed to eligible Alaskan residents in the form of dividends.
Colorado: Former GOP chairman accused of voter fraud blames diabetic episode in Weld District Court | Greeley Tribune
In the first day of testimony in Weld District Court on Tuesday, a former Colorado Republican Party chairman accused of committing voter fraud blamed a diabetic blackout for his filling out his ex-wife’s ballot during the 2016 election. Steve Curtis, 57, who from 1997-99 served as chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, is charged with one count of voter fraud and one count of forgery after prosecutors say he filled out and mailed in the ballot of his ex-wife, Kelly Curtis, from his Firestone home in fall 2016. After a day of jury selection Monday, attorneys delivered their opening arguments in his trial at about 11 a.m. Tuesday, during which Curtis’ attorney, Christopher Gregory, told the jury Curtis has lived with Type 1 diabetes for about 30 years and he was prone to serious diabetic episodes. “He has a notoriously bad history of monitoring and controlling his blood sugar,” Gregory said.
Bill 45-34, a piece of major election reform intended to eliminate primaries on Guam, has again failed to pass the Legislature. Discussion in session revolved around the technical ramifications of the measure. Early in session, Sen. Joe San Agustin, the bill’s author, stated that a Nov. 29 letter from the Guam Election Commission acknowledged that the understanding of a majority vote was 50 percent of votes plus one. However, San Agustin said the code of law the election commission cited made reference to all other votes except candidate elections. Elections only require a majority in terms of the most votes, San Agustin said.
Idahoans can now register to vote online for the first time. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Tuesday that the move will offer convenience to voters and cut down administrative work for county election officials. “Today, Idahoans can not only find out things like where to vote, whether they are registered to vote, or whether the county has received their absentee ballot, but also register to vote online,” Denney said. Online registration requires voters, who would have to have a state-issued ID, to fill out an electronic application that is then sent to state elections officials for validation. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide digital copies of voter signatures from state-issued driver’s licenses to become part of the voter registration database.
Iowans should be on the lookout this week for new voter identification cards, the Secretary of State’s office announced Monday. The office tasked with overseeing Iowa’s elections said roughly 123,000 cards will be mailed out as part of its efforts to implement a new voter identification law passed earlier this year by the Iowa Legislature. That law will require Iowans to show a valid form of ID at the ballot box beginning with the 2019 elections. “It should be easy to vote, but hard to cheat, and that’s what this new law ensures,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement.
Louisiana: Secretary of State asking how much will it cost to change the way Louisiana votes | The Advocate
Louisiana is looking for new voting machines and a new way to vote. The Secretary of State’s office is seeking proposals to replace voting machines across the state and for software that will create a paper ballot on those machines that the voter can review before casting the vote. “It takes away the perception that the machine switched the votes,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Tuesday. It’s highly unlikely that vote switching could happen. But recent incidents, such as news that someone hacked into voter registration lists or that Russia may have interfered with elections, have led many to worry about possible computerized tampering at the ballot box. The system Schedler seeks would create a paper trail that would allow officials to go back and physically count the ballots cast.
New Mexico: City hopes state Supreme Court settles legal questions of ranked-choice voting | Santa Fe New Mexican
Could a ranked-choice election violate the state constitution? City councilors don’t want to risk it. A majority of councilors, while agreeing Monday to support preparations for ranked-choice voting in the March municipal election, said they want city attorneys to pursue a ruling from the state Supreme Court on the voting format. Councilors said a high court decision would resolve lingering questions about ranked-choice voting, including its constitutionality, and avert a potential legal challenge to election results. “Probably the worst thing that could happen is we hold an election and someone comes back after the fact and says, ‘Oh, well, that election is invalid,’ ” said Councilor Peter Ives, one of five candidates for mayor. “Ultimately, it boils down to be a question of the integrity of the election.”
On the second day of trial in a federal case over partisan gerrymandering and the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s congressional district map, seven voters named as plaintiffs in the case testified that they believe their vote doesn’t count. They’re calling for a new map in time for the 2018 midterm election, when all 18 of Pennsylvania’s congressional seats are up for grabs. Louis Agre, 63, a leader in Philadelphia’s Democratic party, complained that elections aren’t competitive enough in the 2nd congressional district.
In Texas’ bid to keep its voter identification law intact, it was its legal foes — lawyers representing voting and civil rights groups and individual voters of color — who faced a tougher line of questioning Tuesday before a federal appellate court. In light of recent revisions to the state’s voter ID law, two judges on the three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals raised questions about claims that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against voters of color when they passed rules on which photo IDs can be presented at the polls. That intentional discrimination claim, which a lower court affirmed this year, is key to the case over the state voter ID restrictions. “If there is nothing that says we are trying to advantage white voters … isn’t that proof that there wasn’t discriminatory intent?” Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan appointee, said of the plaintiffs’ lack of a smoking gun to prove purposeful discrimination by lawmakers, despite thousands of pages of memos and transcripts of debates over the voter ID requirements. “You have nothing,” she later added. “Not one stray word reflecting a racially bias motive appears.”
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has told a House of Representatives committee that it is looking into a way for its officers to utilise technology to look up the status of citizens at the next federal election in lieu of the dated paper-based method currently employed. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters heard on Wednesday from AEC representatives, who explained that the government agency is “progressing a series of technical amendments” with the Department of Finance as part of its attempt to modernise the AEC.
Germany: Merkel’s center-right party may be trying to form a government with the center-left. That could be a problem. | The Washington Post
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to form a government, but her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) does not have enough seats. She started negotiations with the leaders of three smaller parties, which broke down on Nov. 19. Currently there is a lot of discussion about a possible resumption of a “grand coalition” — between Merkel’s center-right party and the center-left — among the CDU, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The SPD was initially resistant to the idea, but is now coming around. Here’s what that means for German politics.
Honduras appeared set for a recount of its election Tuesday after incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez welcomed a demand by the opposition to re-open ballot boxes, a week into a crisis triggered by rigging claims. The small Central American nation of 10 million people has been plunged into uncertainty punctuated with clashes since the November 26 election pitting Hernandez against leftwing former TV presenter Salvador Nasralla, with both sides claiming victory. Hernandez ordered a state of emergency last Friday to curb protests and pillaging, but at least one death was reported in clashes after thousands staged defiant demonstrations. His authority looked fragile as hundreds of police officers refused to enforce a nighttime curfew late Monday. Officers returned to work Tuesday on condition that the government would not force them to repress protesters.
Russia: Yes, the Kremlin is worried — about Russia’s own presidential elections | The Washington Post
|It’s a foregone conclusion that Vladimir Putin will win Russia’s March 2018 presidential elections, so why is the Kremlin fretting about turnout? And how is Russia’s big business supposed to help get people to vote? Here’s what’s going on. Russia’s Central Election Commission is expected to formally kick off the campaign season sometime in mid-December, and Putin will likely declare his candidacy shortly afterwards. But Russia under Vladimir Putin is not a democracy. The Constitutional Court has deemed the country’s best-known opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, ineligible to register for the upcoming March 2018 election, citing two controversial financial-crimes convictions. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that both decisions were arbitrary and unreasonable.
United Kingdom: British elections at risk from perfect storm of threats, says watchdog | The Guardian
The head of the elections watchdog has demanded urgent reform of the UK’s electoral laws and warned that the country faces a “perfect storm” of threats that could put the integrity of the system at risk. Sir John Holmes, the chair of the Electoral Commission, also confirmed to the Guardian that the body has launched an inquiry into possible Russian interference in the EU referendum and is waiting for evidence from Facebook, Google and Twitter. The regulator said that in order to police the electoral system properly, and hold politicians and campaigns to account, wholesale changes were necessary.