National: This Is How Gerrymandering Works | The New York Review of Books

I first got interested in gerrymandering on that long-ago night in 2012 when President Obama was re-elected. By 10 PM, it was clear that Obama had won. The next morning, I took a closer look at the returns. I grew up, and currently live, in Harris County, Texas, which includes much of the Houston metropolitan area. After Los Angeles County, California, and Cook County, Illinois, ours is the third-most populous county in the nation. Its population, close to 4.6 million, is greater than the populations of twenty-seven states. So I was stunned to see that Obama was ahead of Romney by two. Not 2 percent. Not 0.2 percent. Not 2,000. Two votes: 579,070 to 579,068. I looked for the fine print. But with nearly 99.2 percent of precincts reporting, these were the numbers. (That last 0.8 percent turned out more heavily for Obama. He won by 971 votes, out of 1,188,585 cast.) That made Harris County, by far, the most closely divided large population center in the country. Under a truly representative system, a county this large and this evenly divided would hold the key to the House of Representatives, and thus open one of the doors to national power. You would expect every race to be hotly contested, wildly expensive, and closely watched. They almost never are. 

National: Trump received FBI warning that Russians would try to infiltrate campaign: report | The Hill

The FBI reportedly warned then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the months before the election that Russia and other foreign adversaries would probably try to infiltrate his presidential campaign. Multiple government officials told NBC News that senior FBI officials briefed both Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about the threats, which it said are commonly offered to major party nominees for the White House. The briefings, the officials told NBC, are used to alert candidates and their teams about such threats. They are generally given around the point at which candidates begin receiving classified information, and campaigns are told to alert any suspicious activity to authorities.

National: Senate intel committee investigating Jill Stein campaign for possible collusion with the Russians | The Washington Post

The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking at the presidential campaign of the Green Party’s Jill Stein for potential “collusion with the Russians,” a sign that the panel’s probe is far from over, even as allegations swirl that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is racing to a close. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told reporters Monday that the Senate Intelligence Committee has “two other campaigns that we’re just starting on,” in addition to the panel’s ongoing probe of alleged ties between the Trump administration and Kremlin officials. One of those he identified as Stein’s; Burr has indicated previously that the committee is also looking into reports that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for research that went into a dossier detailing allegations of Donald Trump’s 2013 exploits in Moscow.

California: How an election could be decided with poker chips or a coin toss | Orange County Register

A coin flip could decide your next elected official. Some Democrats are wringing their hands over the logjam of their candidates — 25 so far — challenging Orange County’s four Republican Congress members. One worry is draining Democratic money in the primary that will be crucial in the general election against Republicans. Another is the possibility that too many Democratic candidates could lead to vote-splitting among Democrats, allowing two Republicans to advance out of the top-two primary to the general election. But a reader presented another intriguing — if unlikely — scenario last week: What if the GOP incumbent finishes first and two Democrats tie for second? The state’s open primary system calls for the top two vote-getters to advance to the general election, regardless of party … unless there’s a tie for second. Then the top three vote-getters appear on the November ballot.

Editorials: Georgia’s Election System Can’t Be Trusted | Richard DeMillo/Bloomberg

It occurred to me earlier this month, as security guards muscled me away from the doors behind which North Fulton County election officials were downloading vote totals, that the reason I don’t trust Georgia’s election system is that the people who run it act like they have something to hide. Georgia’s aging, vulnerable, unverifiable, mismanaged, electronic voting machines are famously insecure. They’ve been hacked dozens of times, most recently at last summer’s DEFCON 25 Hacker convention in Las Vegas, where a group with little experience in voting technology gained complete control over how Georgia’s voting machines register and store votes. Even the tech center that manages state machines has been breached. It was discovered in March 2017 that sensitive voter data, passwords and software had been exposed to possibly millions of unauthorized users. Despite agreement among U.S. intelligence services that Russian hacking represents a severe threat, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has shown little interest in election security, dismissing threats as “fake news.” Yet those aren’t the main reasons I mistrust the system.

Indiana: Senate Republicans file redistricting reform bill | Nuvo

Two state Senate Republicans are introducing legislation to create a commission of lawmakers and the public to draw legislative district boundaries following the 2020 census. John Ruckelshaus, of Indianapolis, and Mike Bohacek, of Michiana Shores, said Monday that they are responding to strong demand from their constituents to create a redistricting process that is open and fair. Democrats in the Indiana House and Senate have made redistricting reform a top priority in the 2018 legislative session, which begins Jan. 3. Legislation that would have created a nonpartisan commission to draw district lines died in a House committee in March when Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, refused to call for a vote on the measure.

Michigan: Signatures Submitted for Michigan Redistricting Initiative | Associated Press

A group opposed to political gerrymandering submitted more than 425,000 signatures Monday for a ballot drive that would empower an independent commission to draw Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts, which backers said would make the once-a-decade process less partisan. The Legislature now creates the maps, which are subject to a gubernatorial veto and a possible legal challenge. Katie Fahey, president and treasurer of the Voters Not Politicians ballot committee, said the current system “could not get more partisan. We have people locking themselves behind closed doors to draw these lines for their own favor instead of listening to the people of Michigan and trying to create actual fair elections that hold them accountable to us as citizens.” If at least 315,654 signatures are deemed valid, the constitutional amendment would be added to the November 2018 statewide ballot barring a lawsuit. It faces opposition from Republicans, who oversaw redistricting in 2011 and 2001 and who control the Legislature and governorship.

North Carolina: Gerrymander defendants want their own outside expert | Greensboro News & Record

Republican legislative defendants in North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering case hope to call their own California elections expert and a member of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to testify on their behalf. Raleigh lawyer Phillip Strach has asked a panel of federal judges to approve Glendale, Calif., political scientist Douglas Johnson and Guilford commissioner Hank Henning as witnesses in a hearing scheduled next month on the latest round of voting-district maps. Strach wants testimony from Johnson, Republican commissioner Henning and Republican commissioner Michael Boose of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners to cast doubt on recent recommendations from the lawsuit’s “special master,” California law professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University.

Texas: GOP Sues to Keep U.S. Rep. Farenthold Off 2018 Ballot | Governing

The Republican Party of Texas sued the secretary of state Friday to keep U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold off the 2018 ballot after the congressman accused of sexual harassment said he will not seek reelection. Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, announced his intent to retire two days after the state’s Tuesday deadline to withdraw from the general election primary, creating a legal and potential headache for GOP leaders. “By disallowing Mr. Farenthold’s withdrawal from the primary election, the state is forcing the Republican Party of Texas to be associated with Mr. Farenthold via his appearance on the primary ballot. Neither Rep. Farenthold nor the Republican Party of Texas desires this outcome,” Chris Gober, an attorney for the Texas GOP, said in a federal lawsuit requesting the state be barred from enforcing its withdrawal deadline against the congressman. Gober characterized the cutoff as “unconstitutionally overbroad.”

Virginia: Recount Set to Begin for Virginia’s Tightest House Race | Associated Press

A recount is set begin for a Virginia House of Delegates race that could alter the power dynamic in Richmond. Election officials in Newport News on Tuesday will rescan ballots cast in the 94th District. It’s one of four recounts that were scheduled following extremely close House races this year. November’s elections had shrunk the Republicans’ 66-34 majority in the House to a 51-49 edge. The recounts will determine if the GOP maintains control.

Honduras: President Declared Winner, but O.A.S. Calls for New Election | The New York Times

The Honduran electoral commission on Sunday declared President Juan Orlando Hernández the victor in a bitterly contested race, but the Organization of American States called for a new election, arguing that the vote was so riddled with irregularities that it was impossible to be sure of a winner. The electoral commission, which is controlled by allies of Mr. Hernández, said he had won by about 50,000 votes over the opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla. The announcement, and the response from Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the O.A.S., seemed likely to escalate the political crisis that has gripped Honduras since the Nov. 26 vote.

Russia: Central Election Commission allocates $300M for next presidential elections | Moscow Times

Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has been allocated 17.7 billion rubles ($302mn) to cover the costs of running the presidential election scheduled for March 2018, the commission said in a statement this week. There is little doubt that President Vladimir Putin will be elected for his fourth non-consecutive 6-year presidential term in 2018 and the Kremlin is expected to work hard to ensure a clean and legitimate victory while setting a solid voting system in place.

Spain: Catalonia’s Post-Crisis Election Looks Messy | Bloomberg

When Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy forced an election in the rebel region of Catalonia, the aim was to halt the political chaos after a declaration of independence by separatists that reverberated across Europe. Instead, more upheaval looks set to emerge. It’s going to be tough to discern any real winner from the vote on Thursday following a campaign riddled with mutual suspicion and infighting. The final polls before a blackout period began on Dec. 16 showed the three parties pushing to break away from Spain may win the slimmest of majorities in the 135-seat parliament in Barcelona. The likelihood of securing more than 50 percent of the vote is more remote, though, as is an agreement on who might actually form a government.

United Kingdom: Voter ID plans could disenfranchise millions | The Conversation

Amid mounting concerns about electoral fraud, the Electoral Commission recommended in 2014 that people in Great Britain should have to prove their identity when voting. The 2017 Conservative party manifesto pledged to “legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting”. To test the waters for this, the Cabinet Office recently revealed that a pilot study would be conducted in the May 2018 local elections. ID will be required at polling stations in five areas of England: Bromley, Gosport, Slough, Watford and Woking. This gradual drive towards compulsory voter identification in Great Britain (it’s already compulsory in Northern Ireland) has encountered some strong opposition from campaign groups. The Labour party has also argued that its traditional voter demographic will be the most affected by the reforms.