National: Russian hackers who compromised DNC are targeting the Senate, company says | The Washington Post

The Russian hackers who stole emails from the Democratic National Committee as part of a campaign to interfere in the 2016 election have been trying to steal information from the U.S. Senate, according to a report published Friday by a computer security firm. Beginning in June, the hackers set up websites meant to look like an email system available only to people using the Senate’s internal computer network, said the report by Trend Micro. The sites were designed to trick people into divulging their personal credentials, such as usernames and passwords. The Associated Press was first to write about the report. These “spear phishing” techniques are frequently used by the Russian group, which the company dubs Pawn Storm, to read or copy emails or other private documents.

National: Russia-linked hackers targeting US Senate | The Hill

Russian hackers from the group known as “Fancy Bear” are targeting the U.S. Senate with a new espionage campaign, according to cybersecurity firm Trend Micro. The Tokyo-based cybersecurity group tells The Hill that it has discovered a chain of suspicious-looking websites set up to look like the U.S. Senate’s internal email system, and learned that the sites were being operated as part of an email-harvesting operation. The websites were reportedly set up by Fancy Bear, a group linked to Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU. The group has been implicated in the hack of the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The Associated Press first reported Trend Micro’s findings.

Editorials: A few words on the difficulty of voting while black | Leonaard Pitts Jr./Miami Herald

A few words on the difficulty of voting while black. As we mark what would have been his 89th birthday, it seems fitting to recall that Martin Luther King spoke to that difficulty in a 1957 speech whose words ring relevant 61 years later. “All types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters,” lamented King. As he saw it, neither political party was blameless. He castigated Democrats for capitulating to the rabid racists of their Southern wing — the so-called “Dixiecrats” — and blasted Republicans for caving in to “rightwing reactionary Northerners.” “Both political parties,” he said, “have betrayed the cause of justice.”

Editorials: The constitutional case against partisan gerrymandering | Chicago Tribune

North Carolina is a purple state, narrowly electing a Democratic governor in 2016 while giving a slim presidential victory to Republican Donald Trump. But its congressional delegation is not split so evenly. Republicans hold 10 seats and Democratsonly three. Asked why, one GOP state legislator involved in designing district boundaries had a pithy explanation: “Because I don’t believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” North Carolina’s lawmakers made no bones about their intention to divvy up voters so that the GOP would retain a large majority of the state’s congressional delegation no matter which way the political winds blow. And they succeeded. But last week, a federal appeals court ruled the redistricting plan unconstitutional because of its discriminatory purpose and effect. It was the first time a federal court had ever struck down a map because of partisan gerrymandering. Parties in power have practiced this method to entrench themselves for as long as anyone can remember. But modern technology has made it possible for legislators to carry out their mission with nearly infallible results.

Editorials: President Trump is playing politics with the 2020 Census. It could backfire. | Judith Giesberg/The Washington Post

The 2020 Census is set to take place at a time of political turmoil, when Americans are experiencing a crisis in confidence in federal institutions. Unfortunately, the census is likely to exacerbate that crisis, because the Trump administration has enlisted it in the work of maintaining Republican political control. Signs of the administration’s strategy emerged in May, when John Thompson, director of the Census Bureau and a 27-year veteran of the agency, resigned over a congressional budget forecast he said was inadequate. The proposed cuts would undermine efforts to expand access — getting the word out to undercounted communities or experimenting with online responses. Those warning bells rang louder in December when news broke that President Trump would appoint as deputy director Thomas Brunell, a political scientist who has defended Republican gerrymandering tactics in court. Then, two weeks ago, ProPublica reported that administration officials have asked to include a new question about citizenship status — an addition clearly aimed at scaring immigrants away from participating and being counted. This should concern every American.

Voting Blogs: Squashing the Praying Mantis: Why Maryland 3rd Should be Redrawn | State of Elections

The Washington Post called it the “second-most gerrymandered” district. Its shape is comical and unwieldly. It has been compared to a praying mantis. This is Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Yet, when the topic of gerrymandering in Maryland arises, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District receives an outsized amount of attention and focus. The focus on the 6th makes some sense; it is the focus of a federal court case. Certainly, from a lawsuit perspective, focusing on a district where the incumbent lost his seat because of gerrymandering makes more sense than a district where the incumbent kept his seat. However, the 3rd is still more gerrymandered, because it is a weirder shape and the margin of victory for Democrats in the 3rd is higher than it is in the 6th. It is good that both the current governor, Larry Hogan, and the former governor, Martin O’Malley, agree that the gerrymandering in Maryland is bad. However, they should speak out about the 3rd specifically, because, as stated before, the 3rd is more gerrymandered, and because it makes more political sense to focus on the 3rd. The two should draw attention specifically to the 3rd.

Colorado: Battle lines being drawn over how Colorado sets political boundaries | Colorado Springs Gazette

The battle is heating up over how Colorado draws its legislative and congressional boundaries. After failing to knock out a pair of proposed redistricting and reapportionment ballot measures in court, a rough coalition of mostly liberal and good-government groups filed competing ballot measures in late December and is vowing to take the choice before voters this fall – potentially a case of, if you can’t beat ’em in court, join ’em on the ballot. Backers of the original measures, meanwhile, say they welcome the tacit acknowledgment that the current system needs fixing and are offering to work out a plan with their rivals that “ends gerrymandering, protects communities of interest and promotes truly competitive elections.”

Editorials: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights | Tampa Bay Times

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote for anyone convicted of a felony, and Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet are making it nearly impossible to persuade them to restore that right. Now the potential to modernize an archaic practice appears better than ever, and Florida cannot waste this opportunity. Over the next month, it will become clearer whether the most viable path to reform is through a yearslong voter petition drive for a constitutional amendment, the Constitution Revision Commission or the Florida Legislature. The most time-sensitive proposal is a ballot initiative that would ask voters to amend the Florida Constitution so voting rights would be automatically restored for nearly all felons who complete the terms of their sentences, including prison and probation. 

Georgia: How redrawing districts has kept Georgia incumbents in power | Atlanta Magazine

After Joyce Chandler and Brian Strickland, two white Republican state representatives in metro Atlanta, barely won re-election against Democrats in 2014, their colleagues in the General Assembly didn’t take it as a sign to step up minority outreach. Instead, they pulled out their maps. When the state Legislature convened the following January, as part of a “midcycle” redrawing of more than 15 House seats, lawmakers decided to swap out heavily black and Latino areas in Chandler and Strickland’s suburban districts with nearby precincts that leaned Republican. Two years later, Strickland again eked out a victory. The creative mapmaking appeared to be yet another political power play, one practiced just as deftly by Democrats during their more than 150 years of control over the General Assembly. But according to a federal lawsuit filed last October, the 2015 effort was an “assault on voting rights” that amounted to racial gerrymandering—an unconstitutional act.

Louisiana: Redistricting Louisiana’s electoral districts is no cure-all | The Advocate

This week, an interest group and LSU will hold a conference dedicated to making Louisianans think that the sky isn’t blue. LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs will host Fair Districts Louisiana to discuss changing the way the state draws up its electoral districts. The group criticizes the current process as excessively partisan. As things now stand, members of the Louisiana Legislature draw electoral districts for themselves, Congress, the courts, and the Public Service Commission. Some other interest groups across the country also think there’s a better way to redistrict than relying on state legislatures with the input of governors. This procedure, used by most states for decades, has produced lines favoring the party in power and/or incumbents in office just after the census every 10 years triggers a new look at how districts are shaped.

Ohio: Supreme Court Weighs Purge of Ohio Voting Rolls | The New York Times

In a spirited argument on Wednesday, the Supreme Court appeared deeply divided over whether Ohio may kick people off the voting rolls if they skip a few elections and fail to respond to a notice from state officials. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Ohio’s approach effectively disenfranchised minority and homeless voters in the state’s major cities and was part of a broader effort to suppress voting. “All of these impediments result in large numbers of people not voting in certain parts of the state,” she said. But Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer expressed concern about maintaining the integrity of the state’s list of eligible voters.

Editorials: North Carolina’s ‘partisan gerrymander’ could prompt supreme court action | Andrew Gumbel/The Guardian

The last time North Carolina Republicans redrew the state’s 13 congressional districts, they made absolutely no secret of their ambition to rig the system and lock in a 10-3 balance in their favour – regardless of whether they or the Democrats won a majority of the votes in future elections. “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” bragged the chair of the redistricting committee in the state general assembly, David Lewis. “So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” Drastic improvements in mapping technologies and voter information databases meant specialist mapmakers had unprecedented power to manipulate political outcomes, even in a swing state like North Carolina where one would ordinarily expect to see US House and state legislative seats split more or less evenly between the two parties. The instruction from Lewis and his colleagues, according to court documents, was “to create as many districts as possible in which GOP candidates would be able to successfully compete for office”.

Texas: U.S. Supreme Court will hear Texas redistricting case | Houston Chronicle

Texas’ disputed U.S. and state House maps will come under an election-year review by the U.S. Supreme Court in a nationally-followed case that alleges racial discrimination by the state Legislature. The justices agreed Friday to review a lower-court ruling that took issue with a pair of U.S. House districts and several state House districts. The Republican-drawn maps – hotly disputed by Democrats – have muddled through the courts for three election cycles amid challenges that several of the districts were drawn in a way that diluted voting power for Latino and African American voters.

Canada: Could Canada fall prey to an election cyberattack? | Macleans

As the potential for cyberattacks to undermine the democratic process becomes alarmingly clear, Canadians can take some comfort in the fact that national elections in this country are still conducted the old-fashioned way. Canada is not immune to cybermischief aimed at suppressing the number of people who vote or manipulating how they vote. But once ballots are cast, not even the most sophisticated cyberattack could tamper with the results. That’s because Canada still relies on paper ballots, hand-marked by voters and hand-counted by officials in some 25,000 different polling stations across the country, under the watchful eye of scrutineers from each of the major political parties.

Czech Republic: President leads voting, but will face runoff election | Associated Press

Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of a presidential election Saturday and will face a runoff in two weeks against the former head of the country’s Academy of Sciences. Zeman and Jiri Drahos advanced to a second round of voting because none of the nine candidates seeking the Czech Republic’s largely ceremonial presidency received a majority of votes in the first round held Friday and Saturday. However, with almost all ballots counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Zeman had 38.6 percent of the vote, a commanding lead over Drahos’ 26.6 percent. A former diplomat, Pavel Fischer, was a distant third with 10.2 percent. Songwriter Michal Horacek finished fourth with 9.2 percent, ahead of physician Marek Hilser, who had 8.8 percent. The three pledged their support to Drahos in the runoff.

Czech Republic: In Czech Election, a Choice Between Leaning East or West | The New York Times

A people feeling left out, condescended to and ignored. A fear that outsiders fleeing war and poverty in Muslim nations threaten the homeland. And a deep distrust of institutions, especially governments that seem disconnected from daily concerns. From Poland to Pennsylvania Avenue, populist leaders have risen to power in recent years by tapping into these deeply emotional issues. In two weeks, one of the most outspoken of those leaders, President Milos Zeman, 73, of the Czech Republic, will face a test that could provide a barometer for the enduring strength of that message in this country and perhaps across the region. The second and final round of the presidential election will help decide whether the Czech nation continues to be drawn east toward Russia and China or moves back more fully into the embrace of the European Union.

Egypt: Egypt looks ahead to presidential election but little doubt about outcome | Middle East Online

Cairo- Notaries in hundreds of offices in Egypt have started registering pow­ers of attorney filed by citizens for potential presidential candidates as Egypt prepares for the start of the 2018 presidential election campaign. The vote will be March 26-28. In the event of an election run-off, the second round of the voting would be April 24. Many analysts predict that incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has not formally announced his re-election bid, will easily win more than 50% of the vote, particu­larly given a dearth of challengers. Approximately 58 million Egyp­tians are eligible to vote in the presi­dential election, the second since the downfall of the Muslim Brother­hood regime in 2013.  The announcement of the elec­tion timetable was welcomed by political observers, who expressed hope that the vote would energise Egypt’s moribund political partici­pation.

Editorials: Honduras’s president suspiciously reversed a loss. Then the U.S. congratulated him. | The Washington Post

As in much of the rest of the world, democracy is on the defensive in Latin America, in part because it has few principled defenders. A simple comparison of two ongoing political crises, in Venezuela and Honduras, illustrates the problem. After Venezuela’s populist anti-American government rigged state gubernatorial elections in October, the United States led a campaign of condemnation and stepped up sanctions. But when Honduras’s rightist pro-American president suspiciously reversed what looked like an upset loss in a presidential election a month later, the Trump administration congratulated him.

Sweden: Prime Minister raises alarm on election meddling | EUObserver

Sweden aims to create a new public body to protect its upcoming election from Russian and other propaganda. “It is now less than eight months left to the finest day in Sweden’s democratic life, our election day … [and] only Swedish voters will determine the outcome,” Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven said at a security conference in Stockholm on Sunday (14 January). “To the one or those who are considering trying to influence … our country: stay away!”, he said. Loefven said the main threat came from Russia, but he added that “we can not rule out that there may be others” who would try to influence the Swedish vote on 9 September.