Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) hinted that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election will be light on legislative proposals for Congress and focus more on recommendations to state and local governments about how best to protect the integrity of their election systems. “The determination of how states run their elections: states. It’s their responsibility, and we don’t want to do anything to change that,” Burr said during a Dec. 6 Council on Foreign Relations event on hacked elections and online influence operations. While Burr did not give a timeline on when — or if — the final report will be released to the public, he said he expects the committee will make the section on election security available to states before the 2018 election primary season kicks off in earnest. However, he downplayed expectations that the end product would contain recommendations for Congress. “These are not necessarily initiatives that involve federal legislation,” Burr said.
National: Trump’s fraud commission plans to create a massive voter database. Former national security officials say it could be hacked. | The Washington Post
More than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging a federal court to halt the collection of voter information for a planned government database. Former national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr., one of the co-signatories of the brief, warned that a White House plan to create a centralized database containing sensitive information on millions of American voters will become an attractive target for nation states and criminal hackers. This summer, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a sweeping request to state officials to submit voter data to “analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.” The commission, which is chaired by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), was established after President Trump claimed that he would have won the popular vote if not for as many as 5 million illegally cast ballots. State officials haven’t found any indication that there was widespread voter fraud.
Lawyers representing Alabama citizens may file a lawsuit within days to preserve electronic images of every paper ballot cast in next week’s high-profile special U.S. Senate election between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. As of late Tuesday, the lawyers were still in talks with Alabama election officials, urging them not only to preserve all election records—a requirement under federal law—but to ensure the electronic scanners that will read and count the ink-marked paper ballots are properly programmed to capture the digital ballot images. “There are Alabama voters who have come forth seeking to enforce the federal requirement that all election materials be preserved for 22 months after the election,” said Chris Sautter, attorney for the Alabama voters. “It’s our understanding, having talked to state officials, that they preserve only the digital ballot images of the write-in ballots.”
At a Dec. 7 House hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to answer questions about whether the bureau retained data on a Georgia election server before it was wiped clean by state election officials, then declined to answer whether the FBI was investigating the matter. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) raised the specter of an investigation into a server containing voting data from a recent special election to fill the seat vacated by Tom Price, who resigned from the House of Representatives to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services before resigning from that post. … Joe Kiniry, CEO of Free and Fair, a company that tests election systems for cybersecurity vulnerabilities, praised Johnson’s line of questioning. He said the combination of Georgia’s reliance on paperless voting, outsourcing of election operations to a third-party and “really bad security processes” by KSU created a perfect storm that inevitably led to lawsuits but also opportunity. “I believe that the positive outcome of all of this will be that, eventually, Georgia will replace its election system with machines that have paper ballot records, Kiniry said.
The federal trial over Pennsylvania’s congressional district map wrapped up in a Philadelphia courtroom on Thursday with a string of stirring closing arguments before a three-judge panel. During four days of deliberations, a group of more than 20 Pennsylvania voters challenged the way Republican lawmakers drew the state’s congressional districts in 2011, asserting a gerrymandering scheme that violates the U.S. Constitution. If the voters are successful, they could trigger a new congressional map impacting the 2018 midterm elections when all 18 of Pennsylvania’s seats in the U.S. House of Representative could be contested.
State officials and the minority rights groups suing Texas over its strict voter identification restrictions are headed back to court. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on Tuesday over the state’s recent revisions to its 2011 voter identification law and whether those changes cure legal issues with the original law. The recent changes — which softened previous voter ID requirements considered among the toughest in the nation — were passed in response to court rulings that the 2011 law discriminated against Hispanic and black voters. Since Texas lawmakers passed the 2011 voter ID law, the state and the measure’s foes have faced off several times in court. This time around, they’ll largely focus on Senate Bill 5, a bill the Legislature passed earlier this year after courts found fault with the previous law.
Editorials: Manual recount needed to ensure valid election results in Virginia | Marian Schneider/The Virginian-Pilot
If Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race appeared heated, the post-election drama around the state’s House of Delegates race is reaching its boiling point. Virginia’s State Board of Elections certified the results on Nov. 27, despite its inability to confidently verify votes due to anomalies with the ballots. After the board certified the results, candidates in four races filed petitions for recounts in Virginia circuit courts. The outcome in these tight races will determine control of the House of Delegates. Despite the recount petitions, unless the recount is conducted manually, an unacceptable level of risk of error in the count can cast a pall over the outcome. The margin of victory is so close that only a manual recount can truly ascertain the voter’s intent.
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is useless unless a statistically significant number of VVPATS are manually counted after the election to ascertain that they functioned properly, say two American computer scientists who believe that the only safe election technology is the ‘paper ballot’. In other words, the Election Commission’s provision of testing VVPATs at just ONE polling booth in each constituency is not good enough to inspire confidence.National Herald on Sunday asked two pioneers engaged in advocacy for election integrity in the United States, Barbara Simons and Mark Halvorson to comment on the controversy over Electronic Voting Machines in India. While Simons, a computer scientist who worked for IBM, was one of the founders of the non-profit Verified Voting (verifiedvoting.org), Halvorson continues to be on its board of advisors. He was also the founder and former director of Citizens for Election Integrity, Minnesota (US) and helped organize the first national Audit Summit in the United States in 2007.
Liberia’s Supreme Court told the electoral commission to proceed with organizing the final round of presidential elections that was initially scheduled Nov. 7 but put on hold to probe allegations of fraud during the first round. The runoff should go ahead, Justice Philip Banks said in the ruling Thursday in the capital, Monrovia. The ruling ends weeks of uncertainty over the electoral process in a country that emerged from a protracted civil war in 2003. The runoff will be contested by former soccer star George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party. Weah got 38 percent of votes in the first round on Oct. 10, while Boakai came second with 29 percent of ballots cast. The Supreme Court on Nov. 1 halted preparations for the second round to hear complaints lodged by presidential candidate Charles Brumskine, who came third as leader of the Liberty Party. Brumskine was joined by the Unity Party in his call for a rerun of the election, saying it was marred by fraud and irregularities. Brumskine also questioned the professionalism of Liberia’s electoral commission, demanding its commissioners be fired.
National: States raise security concerns about Crosscheck voter database during call with Kobach’s office | Lawrence Journal World
Officials from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office conducted a conference call Thursday with election officials from several other states to discuss concerns about the Crosscheck program, a multistate database of voter registration information that Kansas manages and that some critics have said is not secure. Bryan Caskey, director of elections in the secretary of state’s office, confirmed Thursday that the conference call took place, but he said the issue of security concerns only came up “at a very high level.” “I would describe it as more of a kickoff conference call that we do at the start of every election year,” Caskey said. The Crosscheck database was originally launched in the early 2000s when Ron Thornburgh served as secretary of state.
National: Apparent White House pick to lead census sparks concern about partisanship | The Washington Post
This week the Population Association of America and the Association of Population Research Centers, whose members include over 3,000 scientists and over 40 federally-funded organizations, sounded an alarm bell about one of their most sacred cows: the United States Census Bureau. Reports had surfaced saying the White House planned to install as the bureau’s deputy director Thomas Brunell, a political science professor with scant managerial experience who is best known for his testimony as an expert witness on behalf of Republican redistricting plans and a book that argues against competitive electoral districts. News of the appointment, which sources close to the bureau say is imminent, sparked handwringing among statisticians, former bureau directors, and civil rights leaders.
Editorials: With democracy under attack, it’s time to protect American elections | A. Scott Bolden/The Hill
From freedom of the press to separation of powers, the years-long erosion of America’s democratic institutions has many voicing their concerns. As the country gears up for elections in 2018 and 2020, it’s time to restore faith in a bedrock principle of American politics that is under serious threat: reliable election results and the peaceful transference of power. Controversies surrounding the 2016 election gave people across the political spectrum reason to distrust the integrity of America’s democratic process. President Trump undermined our elections during his final days as a candidate, when he claimed that if he lost to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, it could be the result of a widespread conspiracy. Mounting evidence of Russian interference, disinformation campaigns, and collusion with the Trump campaign has given many who oppose the president reason to doubt the election results as well.
Colorado: Former GOP chairman found guilty of voter fraud and forgery for signing ex-wife’s ballot | The Denver Post
Steve Curtis, a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, faces up to three years in prison after being convicted Thursday of voter fraud and forgery for signing his ex-wife’s ballot during the 2016 election, prosecutors say. The 58-year-old, who also was a KLZ radio host, was charged in February after authorities say DNA evidence and handwriting analysis linked him to the ballot of his ex, Kelly Curtis. The Weld County District Attorney’s Office says court testimony during Curtis’ trial revealed that Kelly Curtis had moved to Charleston, S.C., in December 2015. When she called the county’s clerk and recorder to get her mail-in ballot, she was told she had already voted.
City Council member, and possible mayor elect, Keisha Lance Bottoms seemed to have won the most votes in Atlanta’s mayoral runoff Tuesday, although official results have not been certified. Bottoms beat Mary Norwood by almost 800 votes, and her campaign has already declared victory. Certified results may not be available until the end of the week, but Norwood said she is committed to requesting a recount if the margin turns out to be 1 percent or less. “We’re going to know that every single vote that has been cast is exactly reported out the way that it should be and will be,” Norwood told supporters Tuesday night.
A lawsuit challenging the way Chicago’s elections board audits election results has been shredded by a federal judge. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Illinois, was brought by several election monitors. It claimed the methods used by the Chicago Board of Elections (BOE) to audit the 2016 state primary elections violated their right to vote as well as their right to association and to petition the government. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The plaintiffs took particular issue with the so-called “5 percent test” used in the audit. The 5 percent test refers to the sample size of voting machines included in the post-election audit analysis. The Board of Elections argued the audit had no effect on election outcomes, so it could not have violated voting rights or rights to association or to petition the government. U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey agreed.
Illinois’ most populous county has a plan to keep hackers out, after the state’s voter registration list was breached during last year’s presidential race. There’s one big sticking point: the money. The director of elections for Illinois’ Cook County and a group including Ambassador Douglas Lute will present a strategy to bolster U.S. election systems’ defenses against foreign intruders on Thursday. That roadmap comes with a request for the federal government to fund their plan, underlining a hurdle for many municipalities as they head into the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections. While last year’s general election made clear the voting system was vulnerable to hackers, and the federal government has instructed the nation’s 9,000 election officials to make their voting rolls safer, many municipalities lack funding to make these changes.
The next time voters in Jefferson County go to the polls, they’ll use a pen to cast their ballot, the first indication of Louisville’s new voting system. The Jefferson County Clerk’s office spent more than $3 million this year on 700 new machines. “This is about voter integrity,” said James Young, co-director of the Jefferson County Election Center. “It’s about ensuring the best technology is available for the voters.” The County Clerk’s office plans to roll out the new machines at every polling location in Louisville, completely eliminating its old fleet. “Our neighboring state, Virginia, just de-certified equipment we had in this county for nearly 20 years,” Young said. Writing in pen instead of pencil is new, along with the machines those ballots will be counted on, but Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw is was quick to point out that there will still be paper ballots. “There will always be a paper trail,” she said.
The process of filling the seat left open by the retirement of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, could take some time to sort out and cost a good bit of money. By law, the governor is required to call a special election to select someone to fill out the remainder of the congressman’s term, which ends on Jan. 3, 2019. The governor can schedule that election whenever he wishes, though it often comes on the date of the next regularly scheduled election — which, at present, is May 7, 2018, when there will be balloting for local boards and millages.
When Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse tells election officials from other states how votes are counted in Nebraska’s largest county, the responses vary. “Oh, that’s painful,” is one response. “How long did you work?” is another. “We like to say, ‘Well, 26 hours, but we loved every minute of it,’” Kruse told members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing Thursday. In Douglas County, all of the ballots are brought to a central location and tallied. Kruse compared that with Birmingham, Alabama, where votes on election night are tallied at the precincts and results are reported in about four hours.
Santa Fe city government late Wednesday released a draft ordinance to establish processes for ranked-choice voting, something a district court judge last week ordered the city to put in place for the municipal election on March 6. While about a dozen cities across the country hold elections using the ranked-choice voting (RCV) method, Santa Fe would be the first jurisdiction in New Mexico to do so. The City Council is expected to adopt a final version of the ordinance after a public hearing at a special meeting on Dec. 20. While the draft ordinance answers some of questions about how the election will be conducted, provided the city’s appeal of Judge David Thomson’s ruling is denied by the state Supreme Court, there’s still much to be worked out.
Pennsylvania: York County details lack of internal controls in post-election report to state | York Dispatch
York County’s voting machine programming error was the result of a failure to establish and execute proper internal controls, according to a post-election report submitted to the state. A technical oversight by the county’s elections department allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate during the Nov. 7 general election in certain races where more than one candidate was elected. The Pennsylvania Department of State directed the county to review and explain the issue to them, which county solicitor Glenn Smith did in a report submitted Nov. 27.
Editorials: In Pennsylvania gerrymander case, experts can’t defend the indefensible | Nicholas Stephanopoulos/Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania is no stranger to partisan gerrymandering disputes. In a blockbuster 2004 case, the Supreme Court declined to strike down the congressional map then in effect. The court didn’t quite hold that the map was lawful; rather, it couldn’t think of a workable standard for evaluating the map’s validity. Another gerrymandering suit is now making its way through the Pennsylvania courts, with a decision expected by the end of the year. But unlike its predecessor, this suit is based on a manageable test as well as a mountain of damning evidence. Perhaps for this reason, it has thoroughly flummoxed the state’s lawyers and experts.
Malta: Vote 16 white paper out by March 2018, to open up elections for another 5,000 votes | The Malta Independent
The government will be presenting the white paper on Vote 16 by March of next year paving the way for a potential 5,000 new voters to have their say in upcoming elections. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced this while attending a student debate at the Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary in Naxxar. The topic was Vote 16 and students were allowed to ask questions to the Prime Minister who was accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary for Reform Julia Farrugia Portelli and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth Clifton Grima. The Prime Minister said that the vote for 16-year-olds is no longer an issue of whether it will happen or not, but how will it be implemented. “We have a mandate to do pass Vote 16 and we intend to keep our promise.”
Election officials in Nepal on Friday began counting votes for national and provincial assemblies, the first time the Himalayan nation went to the polls to elect new federal units with the hope of bringing government closer to rural and remote areas. An initial report from the Election Commission showed communist parties won two seats in the 165-member National Assembly and are leading in many more places. Ballot boxes were still being transported from remote villages to district headquarters for counting. In the capital, Kathmandu, officials tallied the votes inside City Hall that was guarded by armed soldiers while hundreds of supporters of candidates waited in the streets outside.
A small number of prisoners – probably around 100 – will be given the right to vote after a British compromise offer to marginally extend the franchise was accepted on Thursday by the Council of Europe. The deal, crafted by the justice secretary, David Lidington, brings to an end an embittered 12-year standoff between Strasbourg and London over the enforcement of judgments by the European court of human rights. The compromise should remove one of the main sources of resentment felt by Conservative rightwingers over the Strasbourg court’s role. Prisoners on temporary release and at home under curfew will gain the right to vote. The dispute erupted in 2005 when the ECHR ruled on a challenge over prisoner voting rights brought by John Hirst, who was serving life for manslaughter. The court declared that the blanket ban on prisoners participating in elections violated human rights and was illegal. Despite similar judgments in subsequent cases, the UK refused to enforce the ruling.