National: NASS calls on Congress to modernize state election systems | Homeland Preparedness News

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) recently joined the Congressional Task Force on Election Security in calling on Congress to direct $396 million in existing funds to modernize aging election systems across the country. Congress authorized nearly $3.9 billion to help states replace and modernize election systems under the Helping America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. Today, nearly $396 million in HAVA funding remains unused. Citing reports that Russian actors had targeted 21 states voting systems, compromising voting machines and voter registration databases, the Congressional Task Force on Election Security previously called on Congress to apply the HAVA balance to election security.

National: Senators ready to introduce bipartisan bill funding election cybersecurity efforts | InsideCyberSecurity

A bipartisan group of senators is set to introduce a bill this week that would increase assistance to states for cybersecurity during U.S. elections, in response to attempted interference by foreign state actors during the 2016 election. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) will offer a companion bill in the House, though this will not see action before the end of the year. “You can’t get more bipartisan than that,” Klobuchar said, noting the broad ideological diversity of the sponsors. “When you look at the fact that 21 states were hacked into, attempts were made to steal information, voters’ information, we can’t wait, and so that’s why we are working very hard to get it done at the end of the year,” Klobuchar told Inside Cybersecurity.

National: Are We About to Lose Our Unbiased Census? | History News Network

The foundational principle of American government is popular sovereignty, as in “We, the People.” Through a system of “successive filtrations,” James Madison said at the Federal Convention, a “great fabric” of government could be raised—but it needed to “rest on the solid foundation of the people themselves,” who would elect representatives to serve in Congress. It was a grand idea, but only an “actual Enumeration” could determine how many representatives each state was entitled to. Without a fair, accurate, and periodic census, Madison’s “great fabric” would lose its underpinnings. Other ruling bodies had counted heads before, but none had made a point to count all of the people (rather, say, than males eligible for military service) to determine political representation. It took a census to empower the people.

Alabama: Military, provisional ballots tallied in Alabama’s US Senate race; not enough to swing the outcome | WHNT

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has announced the total number of military and provisional ballots that will be counted, and there aren’t nearly enough to make up the difference between Doug Jones (D) and Roy Moore (R) in the U.S. Senate Special Election. Roy Moore previously said he would hold off on conceding because there were still votes to be counted. Military ballots, cast under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), have now been added to county totals. A news release from the  Alabama Secretary of State’s Office says the office received 366 ballots from UOCAVA voters. The release also says state officials have verified 2,888 provisional ballots out of a total of 4,967. They add that no additional ballots are eligible to be received.

Georgia: Norwood concedes defeat, won’t challenge Atlanta mayoral election results in court | Marietta Daily Journal

One day before the deadline to challenge in court the results of the Dec. 5 Atlanta mayoral nonpartisan general runoff election, Mary Norwood has conceded defeat against Keisha Lance Bottoms. In an email sent to her supporters and the media Dec. 20, Norwood said she decided not to challenge the results in Fulton County Superior Court Dec. 21. She had until that day to do so because the Dec. 16 certification of the recount in the election yielded a small change in the results, where Norwood lost by about 820 votes or 49.6 percent.

Michigan: Redistricting initiative likely headed for ballot | The Hill

Supporters of a proposed measure that would change the way Michigan draws its political boundaries on Monday turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures to qualify the initiative for next year’s ballot. The initiative would take the power to draw political boundaries out of the hands of Michigan’s state legislature. Instead, an independent commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents would draw legislative and congressional district lines every ten years. Staffers and volunteers — including one dressed as Santa — for the group Voters Not Politicians said they were turning in 188 boxes containing more than 425,000 signatures to the state Bureau of Elections. 

North Carolina: Plaintiffs’ lawyers object to expert in redistricting case | Greensboro News & Record

Lawyers for 31 voters suing Republican legislative leaders over racially biased election districts are questioning the other side’s plan for a California political scientist and demographer to testify at a hearing next month. They argue that redistricting consultant Douglas Johnson of Glendale, Calif., should not be allowed to take the stand on Jan. 5 because he has not met a basic, federal requirement that such expert witnesses must file a report in advance covering “all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.” “Because legislative defendants have not produced a report for Dr. Johnson, he should not be permitted to offer expert testimony on Jan. 5,” voter lawyers Allison Riggs of Durham and Edwin Speas of Raleigh contend. “Should the court allow him to testify, plaintiffs request that he be ordered to produce a report and be available for deposition prior to Jan. 5.”

Ohio: Snakes, Ducks and Toilet Bowls: How Does Ohio Shape Congressional Districts? | WOSU

Ian Yarber, a former Oberlin school board member, considers himself a knowledgeable voter. He lives at the northeast end of Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches south and west nearly to the Indiana border. But when it comes to how it or any of Ohio’s 16 districts were drawn, he hasn’t a clue. “I don’t really know as to the rhyme or reason for the setting up the district,” Yarber says. “I’d be interested to know.” Every 10 years, after each U.S. Census, the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are re-distributed based on population. Then, the states get to work drawing a new map of their Congressional districts. In Ohio, those boundaries are set by the state legislature. Over the past five decades, Ohio’s Congressional districts have become increasingly “safe” for incumbents – because they’re strategically drawn for maximum political gain.

Virginia: A court rules against Shelly Simonds one-vote victory for Virginia House of Delegates | The Washington Post

A three- judge panel declined to certify the recount of a key House race today, saying that a questionable ballot should be counted in favor of the Republican and tying a race that Democrats had thought they had won by a single vote. “The court declares there is no winner in this election,” said Newport News Circuit Court Judge Bryant L. Sugg, after the judges deliberated for more than two hours. He said the ballot in question contained a mark for Democrat Shelly Simonds as well as a mark for Republican Del. David Yancey but that the voter had made another mark to strike out Simonds’ name.

Virginia: Elections board to pick random winner in tied House race: ‘They put two names in, somebody shakes it up, and they pull it’ | Richmond Post-Dispatch

An apparent one-vote Democratic victory in a Newport News-area House of Delegates race turned into a tie Wednesday, creating an unprecedented scenario in which control of the House will be decided by state officials essentially drawing a name out of a hat. Under state law, the State Board of Elections now has to break the tie in the 94th House District through “determination by lot,” the wildest turn yet after a roller-coaster week in Virginia politics. Republican Del. David E. Yancey entered Tuesday’s recount with a 10-vote lead over Democrat Shelly Simonds. At the end of the recount, Simonds appeared to have a one-vote lead over Yancey, which would have created a 50-50 split in the House after Democrats flipped 15 other GOP-held seats in a wave election last month.

Finland: Ministry working group says ‘not yet’ to online voting in Finland | Yle Uutiset

Finland should not consider setting up an online voting system for its elections just yet, according to a Justice Ministry working group. The risks in doing so at this point are much higher than benefits that e-voting might bring, they said. Some risks the group identified in an online e-voting system include: widespread manipulation of election results, disruption of elections through denial of service attacks and the potential for the loss of voter anonymity through hacks or other methods. The working group said that while current technology is not yet advanced enough, further development of e-voting technologies could bring new opportunities down the road. The basic tech to set up an online voting system for elections is possible today. For example, Finland’s nearby Baltic neighbour Estonia has utilised e-voting for longer than a decade now. According to the country’s website, some 30 percent of the Estonian electorate voted through online services in their last elections.

Honduras: In Honduras, Calls Rise for New Presidential Elections | The New Yorker

Between November 26th, the day that Honduras held its Presidential election, and December 17th, when the country’s electoral tribunal finally declared a winner, a reported twenty-two protesters were killed; the sister of the incumbent President died in a helicopter crash; and the opposition candidate, who for weeks had declared himself the President-elect, after an apparent upset, had a child. (He tweeted photos from the hospital.) For all the twists in the story, the outcome was nevertheless predictable: the incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernández, an American ally representing the Partido Nacional, which has been in power since 2009, officially won by fifty thousand votes.

Italy: President Paves Way for National Elections in Early 2018 | Bloomberg

Italian President Sergio Mattarella signaled he would soon pave the way for national elections early next year, telling political leaders that the parliamentary term was drawing to an end. “Our voice will be the stronger if we create the image of a country which is united, stable, determined, capable of respecting commitments,” the head of state said at a year-end ceremony with government ministers, party leaders and senior officials at the presidential palace in Rome. He referred to “the electoral process which is about to begin.” Mattarella is likely to sign a decree to dissolve parliament between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29, according to a state official who could not be named discussing confidential matters. A general election would take place most likely on March 4 or March 11, the official added, with the date to be decided by the government of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Liberia: Runoff Election At Stake – Supreme Court Reserves Ruling in Up Bill of Information |

On Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Bill of Information seeking a stay order on the pending December 26, 2017 runoff. During the hearing, the Court asked several questions to both contending lawyers. But specifically, it asked the legal team of the National Elections Commission (NEC) if it was attentively following the Supreme Court’s mandates handed down on December 7, 2017, in the case filed against NEC by Liberty Party. The Elections body legal team answered saying that the court’s mandates are being gradually followed.

Spain: Catalonia votes in election pivotal for independence campaign | Reuters

Catalans flocked to the polls on Thursday for an election that could strip pro-independence parties of absolute control of the region’s parliament, though prospects of it ending the country’s worst political crisis in decades appear slim. Final surveys published last Friday showed separatists and unionists running neck-and-neck, though the same data suggests the pro-independence camp may still be able to form a minority government. That would keep national politics mired in turmoil and raise concerns in European capitals and financial markets. However, the secessionist campaign has lost some momentum since it unilaterally declared independence in October to trigger Thursday’s vote, and one of its leaders took a conciliatory tone towards Madrid in comments published this week.

Spain: How Spain is waging Internet war on Catalan separatists | The Parallax

The cops smiled a lot at first. The six plainclothes officers from Spain’s civil guard arrived in the morning at the Barcelona offices of Fundació PuntCat, the Internet registry that manages the .cat extension, popular in Spain’s Catalonia region. Employees were politely told to unlock their computers and step away. A search warrant would arrive soon. The mood darkened when a squad of riot police turned up, and executives learned that the police that morning had gone to the home of Josep “Pep” Masoliver, the group’s chief technology officer, and arrested him on charges that included perversion of justice. This was September 20, fewer than two weeks before voters in Catalonia were scheduled to decide whether the region should declare independence from Spain. Responding to the country’s worst political crisis in a generation, the Spanish government declared Catalonia’s referendum on self-determination illegal. Many elsewhere in Spain considered the vote treason.