National: Senator presses White House to improve election cyber protections | FCW

On the day that a special election in Alabama captured national attention, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter urging National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to take additional steps to secure the nation’s election infrastructure and provide support to state and local governments ahead of next year’s mid-term elections. Specifically, Wyden asked McMaster to designate a senior White House election security czar to brief Congress of executive branch election security efforts, direct the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security to grade states on their election infrastructure and designate political campaigns as critical infrastructure. Wyden, who has been one of Congress’ most vocal advocates of increased election security, also is asking that the U.S. Secret Service expand its presidential candidate security detail to include cybersecurity. In the Dec. 12 letter, Wyden noted that 14 states still use direct-recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines that don’t allow for paper-based election audits and rely on outdated operating systems with known vulnerabilities.

National: GOP bill would scrap voter registration requirements for colleges | The Hill

House Republicans are pushing a higher education bill that scraps requirements for colleges and universities to alert students to register to vote. As part of legislation rewriting the laws governing colleges and universities, Republicans left out provisions added in 1998 and 2008 to ensure that schools make a good-faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to students enrolled at their institutions. The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved the bill late Tuesday in a 23-17 party-line vote that largely went under the radar. It would nix language requiring that schools request voter registration forms from their state at least 120 days before the voter registration deadline, and send students an “electronic communication” exclusively about voter registration.

Alabama: Court gives last-minute order that could impede recount procedure | The Guardian

Controversy swirled over the mechanics of the Alabama Senate election after the state supreme court intervened at the eleventh hour to give election officials a green light not to preserve electronic ballot records that could form the basis of a recount. A court in Montgomery, the state capital, issued an injunction on Monday afternoon ordering election officials around the state to preserve digital images of the ballots cast by Alabama voters in the hard-fought contest between controversial Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. … Priscilla Duncan, the lead plaintiff in the case, noted with some amazement that the secretary of state’s protest was lodged with the supreme court at 4.38pm and the justices came back with their ruling at 5.18pm. “It’s just unbelievable that they examined the pleadings and got eight judges to concur in half an hour on a Monday afternoon,” she said.

Chile: Billionaire, former journalist face off for Chile presidency | Reuters

Chileans vote in an uncertain runoff presidential election on Sunday that will determine if the world’s top copper producer stays on its center-left course or joins a tide of Latin American nations turning to the right in recent years. Billionaire former President Sebastian Pinera, 68, a conservative who was considered the front-runner but earned fewer votes than expected in last month’s first round, faces center-left journalist and senator Alejandro Guillier, 64. Both candidates would keep in place Chile’s longstanding free-market economic model, but Pinera has promised lower taxes to turbocharge growth while Guillier wants the government to press on with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet’s overhaul of education, taxes and labor.

California: Hackers demand ransom for California voter database | The Hill

Hackers have deleted a database of potential California voters with more than 19 million entries, demanding around $3,500 to restore it. Researchers at the security firm MacKeeper’s Kromtech research group first noticed the issue, but have not been able to identify the database’s owner to notify them. “We decided to go public to let everyone who was affected know,” said Bob Diachenko, head of communications for Kromtech. Kromtech primarily searches for misconfigured databases on cloud storage accounts that accidentally reveal private information to the public. In early December, they found a misconfigured database on an Amazon cloud account containing what appeared to be information on 19 million Californian citizens, including contact and mailing information as well as voting precinct information. But while the company was investigating the misconfigured files, they noticed the files were suddenly removed and replaced with a ransom note demanding 0.2 bitcoin, or about $3,500. 

Florida: Why did Broward destroy 2016 ballots? Sanders ally seeks US probe. |

A South Florida law professor, running to unseat Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is calling for a federal investigation into the destruction of all ballots cast in the August 2016 Democratic primary in Broward County. The challenger, Tim Canova, has made repeated public records requests and filed a lawsuit seeking access to paper ballots cast in his unsuccessful race last year against the former Democratic National Committee chair in Florida’s 23rd congressional district. A statistical analysis of the primary conducted last year suggested the election results were “potentially implausible.” Over the past year, the Broward supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, has taken no action on Mr. Canova’s requests to examine the ballots, and she has urged a judge to throw Canova’s lawsuit out. Despite the pending records requests and the ongoing litigation, Dr. Snipes ordered the ballots and other election documents destroyed, according to papers filed in circuit court here.

Maryland: Supreme Court agrees to hear Maryland redistricting case | Baltimore Sun

The Supreme Court said Friday that it will hear a challenge to Maryland’s congressional districts brought by seven Republican voters who say the state’s 2011 redistricting violated their First Amendment rights. In a case that has been watched closely by state political leaders and that has already been to the Supreme Court once before, the seven voters will now have an opportunity to bring their novel argument before the justices: that the redistricting amounted to a retaliation against them because of how they voted. The court heard a separate redistricting case in October filed by Wisconsin Democrats over that state’s legislative districts that some believed could have bearing on the Maryland litigation. Taking the second case suggests that redistricting will feature even more prominently during the court’s current term.

North Carolina: Judge denies legislators’ early hearing request in racial gerrymandering case | Winston-Salem Journal

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles has refused a request to hold a crucial hearing in North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering case two weeks sooner than scheduled. Ruling on behalf of the 3-judge panel overseeing the lawsuit, Eagles said the Republican legislators were seeking to “impose their own expedited schedule on the court, the special master and other parties at virtually the last moment.” “The court anticipates that the January 5 hearing will begin with a short presentation by the special master as to his recommendations,” Eagle said in the order. “Thereafter, each side will have one hour to present oral argument in support of their position.”

Verified Voting Public Commentary: Verified Voting Testimony before the Pennsylvania State Senate Senate State Government Committee: Voting System Technology and Security

Download as PDF The security of election infrastructure has taken on increased significance in the aftermath of the 2016 election cycle. During the 2016 election cycle, a nation-state conducted systematic, coordinated attacks on America’s election infrastructure, with the apparent aim of disrupting the election and undermining faith in America’s democratic institutions. Intelligence reports that have…

Liberia: Ruling party petitions for poll delay | AFP

Liberia’s ruling Unity Party has asked the Supreme Court to further delay the presidential runoff, which its candidate Vice President Joseph Boakai will contest on December 26. The party filed a request late Thursday in which it called for the country’s legislature to be given responsibility for determining the election date. The move came just hours after Boakai was dealt a setback, when a major opposition party announced it would back his rival, former football star George Weah. “We request that the recent ruling of the Supreme Court be reviewed and should include that the NEC chairman and the Executive Director be disqualified from participating in or having anything to do with the run-off elections,” the legal filing said.

United Kingdom: Russian cyber-activists ‘tried to discredit Scottish independence vote’ | The Guardian

An expert in Russian cyber-operations has accused Russian activists of running a disinformation campaign to discredit the Scottish independence referendum result, by wrongly alleging it was rigged. Pro-Russian propagandists used Twitter, fake videos on YouTube and Facebook accounts to make and then spread false allegations that votes were interfered with to ensure victory for pro-UK campaigners, according to Ben Nimmo, an analyst for the US thinktank the Atlantic Council, which is part of the Atlantic Treaty Organisation linked to Nato. Nimmo said the ongoing inquiries into allegations the Kremlin tried to subvert last year’s EU referendum and US election should be widened to cover this operation, and to test whether the Russians sought to influence Scottish voters before the referendum on 18 September 2014.

Ohio: Husted wants $118 million to replace old Ohio voting equipment | Columbus Dispatch

Secretary of State Jon Husted has asked Gov. John Kasich and legislative leaders to provide $118 million in the upcoming capital budget to replace aging voting equipment in time for the 2020 election. “Given the state law requirements for voting systems in Ohio, I believe that the state should pay 100 percent of the capital acquisition and setup costs of the lowest cost, safe and accurate system from the least expensive vendor,” Husted wrote to the leaders Thursday. Most voting equipment in Ohio was purchased in 2005 and 2006, largely with $115 million in one-time federal money through the Help America Vote Act. Husted and county elections officials have argued those systems are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, as parts become more scarce and breakdowns more frequent.

Alabama: It looks like Alabama violated federal law with its “inactive” voter scheme. | Slate

“As long as I’m secretary of state of Alabama,” John Merrill proclaimed in 2016, “you’re going to have to show some initiative to become a registered voter in this state.” Merrill, a Republican, is still secretary of state. But Tuesday’s special election proved his declaration was incomplete. In Alabama, showing initiative isn’t always sufficient to become a registered voter. Under Merrill’s regime, a multitude of voters—most of them in majority-black counties—struggled to cast their ballots in the race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Unprepared poll workers spread misinformation. Bewildered citizens were forced to fill out confusing, redundant paperwork. Qualified voters were told they could not vote. And the state may well have run afoul of federal law.

Georgia: Norwood may challenge Atlanta mayor’s race results in court after recount yields loss | Marietta Daily Journal

The Dec. 14 recount in the Dec. 5 nonpartisan Atlanta mayoral general runoff election produced the same result as the certified totals did, with Keisha Lance Bottoms nipping Mary Norwood by 832 votes. But Norwood is considering challenging the election results in court after the Dec. 14 recount conducted by DeKalb and Fulton counties did not include officials hand-counting the absentee and provisional ballots. The two counties certified the results Dec. 11, and with it, Bottoms’ margin of victory increased from 759 votes to 832. However, the percentages stayed the same, with Bottoms getting 50.4 percent and Norwood 49.6 percent, meaning Norwood was still within a percentage point and eligible for a recount, which she had already requested.

Nebraska: Voting rights activist says Nebraskans should ‘fight like crazy’ against voter ID laws | Omaha World Herald

Nebraska is a rare conservative-leaning state without a voter ID law, a voting rights activist said in Omaha on Thursday, and he suggested that Nebraskans work to keep it that way. Jason Kander of Let America Vote and a former Missouri secretary of state spoke at an event for the nonprofit Nebraskans for Civic Reform, which is run by State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln. Kander told the gathering at Love’s Jazz and Art Center that his goal is to make sure there are political consequences for politicians who pass voter ID and similar laws.

New Jersey: Proposed Legislation Could Extend Voting Rights to Convicted Criminals | Observer

State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) on Thursday said he plans to introduce legislation next year that would allow convicted felons, those on probation, people on parole and incarcerated individuals to vote in elections, a bill that would dramatically alter current New Jersey law that prohibits those with criminal convictions from voting. “I will be calling on Governor-elect Phil Murphy and my colleagues to join me,” Rice said. “I ask for their support of our bill to sever the anti-democratic link between the right to vote and the criminal justice system.” A recent report from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice found that New Jersey currently prohibits 94,000 individuals from voting due to criminal history or incarceration. The report found that a disproportionate amount of those disenfranchized by the voting law are African American. In New Jersey, about 15 percent of the total population is black but about 50 percent of those currently incarcerated in the state are black.

New York: State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting | Gotham Gazette

Ahead of the September 12 primary, mayoral candidate Sal Albanese seemingly had the Reform Party ballot line locked up. It meant that Albanese would be on the general election ballot even if he lost the Democratic primary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. At the last minute, however, Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl attempted to snatch the Reform nomination from Albanese through an “opportunity to ballot,” which had effectively opened up the Reform line to write-in candidates. Albanese would prevail with 53 percent of the vote, but the spectacle raised major concerns for elections officials. Had all of the candidates failed to reach the 40 percent mark, it would’ve automatically triggered a laborious and costly citywide runoff election between the top two vote-getters. New York City “dodged a bullet” in avoiding a runoff election, said Douglas Kellner, Democratic co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, at a Wednesday oversight hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations. Kellner, who was there to give his assessment of the recent municipal elections and other matters, briefed the committee members on steps the Council could take to improve election management.

North Carolina: Voters: ‘Time is of the essence’ in adopting redistricting recommendations | Greensboro News & Record

The North Carolina General Assembly is not entitled to another shot at fixing any remaining racial flaws in its most recent redistricting efforts, voting rights lawyers contend in newly filed court papers. Attorneys for 31 voters who successfully sued the legislature for racial gerrymandering are urging a three-judge, federal panel to resolve the lingering flaws on its own by adopting a “special master” consultant’s recent recommendations. “While courts generally are obligated to give the legislature the first chance to remedy violations in a redistricting plan, they are not required to give the legislature limitless chances to do so,” lawyers Allison Riggs and Edwin Speas assert in their joint petition.

Ohio: Elections chief wants new voting machines by 2020 | Associated Press

Ohio’s elections chief wants counties to modernize their voting machines before the 2020 presidential election, and he’s urging the governor and state lawmakers to foot much of the bill. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich, his budget director and state legislative leaders on Thursday seeking $118 million in state capital funds for the project. “While I am confident that the storage, maintenance and operating procedures used by the boards of elections will ensure that these systems remain secure and accurate through the 2018 election cycle, Ohio’s leaders must act soon to ensure an orderly transition to newer equipment well before the 2020 presidential general election,” he wrote. Ohio is a bellwether political state with about 7.9 million registered voters. Donald Trump, a Republican, won the state’s 2016 presidential contest against Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, by 447,000 votes, more than 8 percentage points.

Virginia: Briefs filed in Virginia Supreme Court in redistricting challenge | Augusta Free Press

Briefs were filed today in the Supreme Court of Virginia supporting the appeal in Vesilind v. Virginia State Board of Elections, a case backed by OneVirginia2021, a bipartisan organization seeking to end the practice of gerrymandering legislative districts in the Commonwealth. The case, which challenges the General Assembly’s 2011 drawing of 11 House and Senate legislative districts, states the current boundaries violate the Virginia constitution’s requirement that districts be composed of territory that is “compact.”  

Botswana: Electoral Bill introduces electronic voting machine paper trail | Mmegi Online

“The Bill introduces (a) VVPAT printer to ensure that votes are supplemented by a permanent paper record of each electronic vote for purposes of auditing electronic ballots,” says the Bill presented by the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Eric Molale. It further states that the introduction of VVPAT necessitated redrafting of the Amendment in order to synchronise the procedures for the EVM with the verification process provided by the VVPAT printer ballot slips. It will distinguish the EVM voting procedure from voting by ballot paper, while it retains other provisions such as registration of voters, preparation of rolls, deletion of supplementary rolls, assistance of voters by election officers and increase in penalties.

Honduras: In post-election limbo, Hondurans foresee next challenge: rebuilding trust | CSMonitor

When protests first exploded here in the days following Honduras’ hotly contested presidential vote, residents like Luis Carlos Hernández were swept up in the action. The young lawyer’s home is just a block away from the national vote-counting center, at the heart of the at times violent demonstrations. Amid volleys of rocks and tear gas outside his front door, Mr. Hernández ushered his 11-year-old brother and four-year-old nephew into the bathroom, covering their faces with vinegar-soaked rags to protect them from the chemicals seeping in from the street. “People want to take out these corrupt politicians, they want another system,” Hernández says of the protests that boiled over across the country, demanding more transparency about how votes have been tallied.

Kenya: President’s election campaign used firm hired by Trump: privacy group | Reuters

In the run-up to Kenya’s August presidential election, the ruling party used divisive social media campaigns created by a U.S. company whose previous clients include President Donald Trump, a Britain-based privacy advocacy group said on Thursday. Two websites – one detailing the accomplishments of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the other attacking opposition leader Raila Odinga – share an IP address with Texas-based Harris Media LLC, according to Privacy International’s report.

Liberia: New Run-Off Date By NEC Upsets Legislators | The Daily Observer

The December 26 date for the runoff of the 2017 presidential elections might be altered by the Legislature as the lawmakers have vowed to punish authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) for “usurping legislative function when the commission unilaterally set the runoff date without the their approval.” On Tuesday, December 12, NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya and the Board of Commissioners announced December 26 as the date for the runoff election after the stay order was lifted by the Supreme Court. The Legislature, as the first branch of government, has the authority to make laws, make representation and exercise oversight. The Legislature also signs resolutions to make laws and the joint resolution of the Legislature is to propose constitutional amendments. This resolution and other resolutions require a two-thirds affirmative vote in each house, and are not submitted to the President.

Nigeria: UK to Assist Nigeria on Improving Electoral Process | This Day

The British government has disclosed that it is interested in the credibility of the electoral process that will produce political leader in Nigeria in 2019, noting that it will contribute its quota in training the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC) to effectively discharge their duties to enhance the process. British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, disclosed this in a live interview with Jay101.9FM station in Jos. He said aside from deploying its citizens as election observers during the elections, the UK intends to see to the improvement in the use of electronic Card Reader Machines above what it was in the past elections, and also encourage the National Assembly to back the use of same with appropriate legislation.

Russia: Election date set for March 18 | AFP

Russia’s presidential election will take place on March 18, the upper house of parliament said Friday, in polls that are all but certain to return Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin for a new six-year term. The election campaign will kick off on Monday, agencies quoted senators as saying. “According to our calculations there are already at least 23 people who have expressed a desire to stand,” said Ella Pamfilova, head of the Central Election Committee, according to Interfax. Independent candidates are officially required to collect 300,000 signatures of support before they are allowed on the ballot paper.