Last year, Defcon’s Voting Village made headlines for uncovering massive security issues in America’s electronic voting machines. Unsurprisingly, voting-machine makers are working to prevent a repeat performance at this year’s show. According to Voting Village organizers, they’re having a tough time getting their hands on machines for white-hat hackers to test at the next Defcon event in Las Vegas (held in August). That’s because voting-machine makers are scrambling to get the machines off eBay and keep them out of the hands of the “good guy” hackers. Village co-organizer Harri Hursti told attendees at the Shmoocon hacking conference this month they were having a hard time preparing for this year’s show, in part because voting machine manufacturers sent threatening letters to eBay resellers. The intimidating missives told auctioneers that selling the machines is illegal — which is false.
Despite the attention that’s been paid to apparent Russian interference with the 2016 presidential vote, U.S. elections are still vulnerable to foreign interference, warns a new report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. The report comes as Twitter on Wednesday more than doubled the number of users it says interacted with Kremlin-tied accounts during last year’s election, from about 678,000 to approximately 1.4 million. “There is every reason to believe that the experience of 2016 will be repeated in elections to come,” the Campaign Legal Center warns. “The desire for foreign actors to influence or disrupt U.S. elections is not going away. The question now is what we are going to do to stop them.”
National: Zombie Campaigns: The campaign is over. The candidate might be dead. But the spending never stops. | Tampa Bay Times
It’s been more than a decade since South Florida Rep. Mark Foley was forced out of Congress for sending sexual text messages to teenage boys. But Foley tapped his congressional campaign fund to dine on the Palm Beach social circuit four times in early 2017, ending with a $450 luncheon at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches. Then there’s baseball-star-turned-senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky. He paid his daughter $94,800 from campaign money in the four years after he left office, only stopping when he’d bled his fund dry. And over the past 17 months, political advisor Dylan Beesley paid his firm more than $100,000 from the campaign account of Hawaii Congressman Mark Takai for “consulting services.” It’s hard to imagine what Beesley advised. Takai was dead that whole time.
The vote is the most powerful tool in a democracy. To harness its full power however, voting must be accessible, protected and broadly exercised. In his award-winning history of voting in America, Professor Alexander Keyssar explains that American democracy is contested. He traces the history of the vote from the revolutionary period to contemporary times and shows that our nation, conceived in democratic ideals, has expanded the franchise only gradually and with the concerted efforts of those demanding access to the vote, and through it, to meaningful inclusion within the nation’s political life.
Editorials: Justice Alito prepares an attack on state sovereignty over voting rights | Mark Stern/Slate
The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc may be preparing an attack on state sovereignty in order to maintain a Republican gerrymander through the 2018 midterms. Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the state’s current congressional map, ruling that it favored the GOP in violation of the state constitution and ordering a new, nonpartisan map. Republican legislative leaders asked Justice Samuel Alito, who reviews emergency appeals out of Pennsylvania, to block the decision. Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision involved only state law, Alito should’ve denied the request outright. Instead, he has ordered voting rights advocates to respond, raising the real possibility that a majority of the justices will vote to halt the ruling. If they do, the intervention will mark an extraordinary expansion of the court’s power to prevent states from protecting their residents’ voting rights.
As advocates prepare efforts register hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans to vote in the U.S. mainland, the chief elections officer in Connecticut is putting the weight of her office behind drives to sign up as many eligible newcomers as possible. Residents of the Caribbean island are U.S. citizens, but they are barred from voting for president unless they are registered in the U.S. mainland. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, said Wednesday that her office will work with local governments and community groups to identify and register those eligible to vote. She said registration is important for civic engagement and to give the newcomers a say in public affairs, including the federal government’s relief work on the island.
With three letters, NPA, on his voter registration card, Steve Hough has only one way to have a say during Florida’s primary elections: Claim he’s a Republican or Democrat. “I’ve always been an independent,” said Hough, a Panama City resident. “I can always go down to the Supervisor of Elections Office and check a box 29 days prior (to a primary), then after voting change it back. I don’t see the reason why we have to do this.” More than 3 million Floridians did not participate in the primary elections of 2016 because they are part of the growing number of “no-party affiliation voters,” those who choose not to be associated with either of the two major parties. Where many states have opened up primary elections to voters like Hough, Florida’s remains closed. An effort to change that passed a critical test last week and faces another Thursday.
Good-government groups want lawmakers to act fast to allow people to register to vote on Election Day this fall, pointing to a recent court ruling that deemed unconstitutional the state’s 20-day deadline to register before an election. Several bills before the Legislature would allow same-day registration. The effort got a major boost last week when Secretary of State Bill Galvin also filed a bill to allow it. Galvin, the state’s top election official, called on lawmakers to approve the proposal before a deadline Feb. 7 to move bills out of committee. Ironically, Galvin’s office is simultaneously embroiled in a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts over the 20-day voter registration cutoff.
Voting Blogs: Automatic Voter Registration Placed on the Nevada Ballot Following the Governor’s Veto | State of Elections
On March 21, 2017, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed the state’s effort to establish an automatic voter registration system through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. If enacted, the the DMV’s voter registration would convert to a compulsory system rather than its current volunteer-based model. After a partisan split, the Governor sided with state Republicans and blocked the bill. The Governor’s veto is not final, as the initiative will now move to a statewide vote in the 2018 election.
North Carolina: Judge reinstates primaries for Supreme Court and appeals court races| News & Observer
North Carolina election officials must reinstate primary elections for judicial candidates seeking statewide office this year, including the one open seat on the state Supreme Court. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued an order on Wednesday that, in part, grants a request by Democratic Party officials who sued state lawmakers for canceling primary elections for…
In 2012, Pennsylvania voters backed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a 5.4 percent margin — and Republicans won 13 of the state’s 18 congressional races. This did not happen because Obama won large numbers of ticket-splitting conservative voters, but rather, because Keystone State Republicans had drafted one of the most spectacularly biased congressional maps in a nation in full of them. A little over a week ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that said map “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state constitution. Now, a leader of the state’s Republican Party is refusing to comply with a court order related to that ruling — on the grounds that his interpretation of Pennsylvania’s constitution overrides that of the state Supreme Court.
The Senate State Affairs Committee passes a bill that allows tribal identification cards to be used for voter registration. Senator Troy Heinart (D-Mission) is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill 76. Heinart says the goal of the bill is to get more South Dakotans to the polls. He says the bill has an amendment mandating collaboration between the Secretary of State’s office, the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, counties, and tribes to increase access to the ballot. Heinart says Senate Bill 76 also deals with differences in tribal identification cards.
China: What Agnes Chow’s election ban means for Joshua Wong and youth politics in Hong Kong | South China Morning Post
Beneath her dewy, fresh-faced look and somewhat bashful smile, Agnes Chow Ting, 21, is a battle-hardened political savant as far as young Hongkongers go. The pro-democracy activist was active in a campaign six years ago to force the government to retract a plan to introduce compulsory national education in schools. In 2014, she was at the front lines of the Occupy protests seeking greater democracy. Recently, she renounced her UK citizenship and put her studies at Baptist University on hold – all in the name of becoming the city’s youngest-ever lawmaker. Chow was gunning to win the Hong Kong Island seat in the upcoming Legislative Council by-election, where four seats need to be filled. But last Saturday, she faced her biggest setback yet.
Opposition parties and figures in Egypt called on Tuesday for a boycott of the March presidential election in which incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi looks set to romp to victory. Branding the poll a “charade”, the coalition of eight parties and 150 public figures announced a campaign under the slogan “Stay at home” ahead of voting on March 26-28. “No to participation in this charade,” said Hamdeen Sabbahi, a presidential candidate in 2012 and 2014. At a news conference by the coalition, founded in December and describing itself as a democratic civic movement, Sabbahi asked: “How can we speak of an election when there is no guarantee of a free vote?”
Kenya: Political crisis grows, as opposition holds mock inauguration and government shuts down TV and radio stations | Los Angeles Times
Kenyan authorities shut down independent television and radio stations Tuesday as opposition leader Raila Odinga was “sworn in” as rival president in a mock inauguration that came after disputed elections last year. Shortly before 3 p.m., Odinga, clad in white, raised a green Bible in his right hand and swore an oath to assume the office of “People’s President,” promising to defend the constitution and to protect the sovereignty and dignity of the people of Kenya. “Today is a historic day in the history of Kenya. For the first time in our history people have gathered here in [the] hundreds of thousands to say enough is enough on election rigging,” Odinga said. “This step is one step away from doing away with electoral autocracy and establishing proper democracy in our country.”
In an election featuring many age-old familiar faces, an increasingly engaged but alienated younger generation of Malaysian voters is committing to #UndiRosak, a social media sparked campaign that advocates spoiling ballots rather than voting for the candidates on offer. The youth vote is a key swing constituency, and both sides of Malaysia’s political divide are vying to win its hearts and minds ahead of what is expected to be a tight electoral race later this year. With many young voters plan to spoil rather than cast their ballots, the no-vote campaign could swing the result in unexpected ways.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday he needed a little more time in office to prepare the country for a general election, just days after his deputy said a vote planned for this year could be delayed. Prayuth, installed as prime minister in August 2014 after leading a coup that ousted a civilian government, has delayed the date of a general election several times. Most recently, he said an election would take place in November. But last week Thailand’s parliamentary body voted to postpone enforcement of a new election law by 90 days, dragging out the time frame. At the time, the deputy prime minister said parliament’s decision could delay the election until 2019.
Venezuela’s government and opposition pushed on Tuesday with talks aimed at soothing their country’s political crisis, but President Nicolas Maduro’s bid for virtually unopposed re-election in early polls weighed heavily on the negotiations. The government’s chief negotiator, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez, said “electoral guarantees” for the vote would be on the table — as was the issue of US economic sanctions that have worsened Caracas’ precarious finances. “We are working on all the issues and we have narrowed positions on all the issues,” he said as he arrived at the Dominican Republic’s foreign ministry, the venue for the talks overseen by several Latin American foreign ministers. The latest round of negotiations opened on December 1.