The Pennsylvania supreme court on Monday struck down the boundaries of the state’s 18 congressional districts, granting a major victory to plaintiffs who contended that they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Republicans who controlled the legislature and governor’s office following the 2010 census broke decades of geographical precedent when redrawing the map, producing contorted shapes including one that critics said resembled “Goofy kicking Donald Duck”. They shifted whole counties and cities into different districts in an effort to protect a Republican advantage in the congressional delegation. They succeeded, securing 13 of 18 seats in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five to four.
Editorials: Vote auditing can ensure integrity of Virginia’s elections | Audrey Malagon/Virginian-Pilot
It’s time for better quality control in our election processes. Virginia’s 94th District in the House of Delegates drew names after disputes over a single ballot’s validity. In the 28th District, many voters were told to vote in the wrong district. A single district can determine party control of the House, affecting health care, taxes and education. Yet how can we be sure the ballots we cast are even read and counted correctly? Mathematics makes checking the integrity of our elections simple and inexpensive, and Virginia should do this more often. My grandmother worked in a syringe factory in my hometown. Her supervisor used to pull a few syringes off the line and inspect them. He didn’t check every syringe, but if the ones he randomly checked looked OK, he was confident that the products going out were the right quality. This idea of random checking isn’t just for factories; we rely on it to make sure smoke detectors will save us in a fire and restaurants won’t make us sick.
National: Key House Democrat: U.S. ‘dramatically unprepared’ for potential 2018 election hacking | Philadelphia Inquirer
One of the leading voices in Democrats’ efforts to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election is coming to the University of Pennsylvania Monday with a warning. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Californian who serves as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, says the threat of foreign interference is being dangerously downplayed by President Trump, and fears that many states are not ready to combat potential hacking during the 2018 elections. Much of Pennsylvania, he said, could be vulnerable because of a lack of a paper trail for its voting machines, leaving no physical record of votes cast. The state was among 21 that Russian hackers targeted during the 2016 campaign.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team, filling what has long been a gap in expertise and potentially signaling a recent focus on computer crimes. Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to Mueller’s team in early November from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section, said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office. He joined 16 other lawyers who are highly respected by their peers but who have come under fire from Republicans wary of some of their political contributions to Democrats.
President Donald Trump hasn’t backed away from his unsubstantiated claim that millions of illegally cast ballots cost him the popular vote in 2016, but his efforts to investigate it appear to have stalled. He transferred the work of the commission investigating his claim to the Department of Homeland Security. This week, the department’s top official made it clear that, when it comes to elections, her focus is on safeguarding state and local voting systems from cyberattacks and other manipulation.
A federal judge didn’t buy the Justice Department’s argument that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach couldn’t speak to what was being done with the data collected by the now-defunct voter fraud commission he led. The judge ordered that Kobach or another commission member file a declaration giving a full explanation. The declaration will state “what information was collected or created by the Commission and/or its members on behalf of the Commission, where that information was and is being stored, by whom the information has been accessed, and what plans were made by the Commission to maintain or dispose of the information,” U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said Thursday.
A bill to eliminate special elections when there are vacancies in the U.S. Senate is in position for a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives next week. It comes in the wake of last year’s bruising battle to fill the seat Jeff Sessions left to become attorney general, won by Democrat Doug Jones. House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said his bill to eliminate Senate special elections “has nothing to do with the personalities in last year’s election. It has everything to do with the cost to the General Fund.” Clouse said $11 million has been allocated to cover the cost of the three rounds of the special election to fill Sessions’ seat.
Two proposals that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences were approved Thursday by a Florida Constitution Revision Commission panel. In a 6-2 vote, the commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee approved a measure (Proposal 7), sponsored by former Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their prison time and completed any probation or parole requirements. Felons convicted of murder or sexual offenses would be excluded. In another 6-2 vote, the panel endorsed a measure (Proposal 21), sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, that would also automatically restore felons’ voting rights after sentences are completed.
Indiana lawmakers have the perfect opportunity before them to reform the redistricting process, to make for more open and fair elections. A recent federal court ruling should serve as a nudge to take that opportunity. Redistricting reform is long overdue in the Hoosier state, given that the current system — which gives the legislature responsibility for drawing its own legislative and congressional districts — has resulted in maps that make it easy for incumbents to get re-elected and nearly impossible for challengers to be competitive. Both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of this system over the years, with the voters, whose role in political process has been reduced, coming up the big losers. Small wonder that the nonpartisan nonprofit FairVote calls redistricting a “blood sport” that allows incumbent politicians to “choose their voters before the voters choose them.”
A fight over the Michigan Republican-led Legislature’s attempted ban on straight-ticket voting can head to trial this spring, a federal judge ruled Friday, rejecting Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s request for dismissal. In a 42-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain denied Johnson’s request to toss a lawsuit alleging a 2015 law to eliminate straight-ticket voting would diminish the voice of African American voters.