Editorials: Taking a strong stance to protect election integrity | Brad Schneider and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen/The Hill

By now, there is no disputing that Russia launched a targeted campaign on orders of Vladimir Putin to interfere in our most recent national elections. Our intelligence community agrees that Russia hacked political campaign committees and leaked stolen documents, used a sophisticated social media network of bots to spread misinformation and influence voters, and targeted dozens of state election systems for sensitive voter data, including in Illinois and Florida. This meddling is nothing short of a grievous attack aimed at the very foundation of our democratic system. As with any other attack by a hostile foreign government, Russia’s actions demand a serious response to hold our attackers accountable. The United States must take strong, corrective measures to protect the integrity of our elections and also deter any future attempts to interfere in our electoral process. This is a bipartisan concern, and indeed, a concern for all Americans. That is why we partnered together to introduce the House companion to a bill by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act – H.R. 4884.

Ohio: Lawmakers, coalition reach deal on new Ohio congressional redistricting plan | The Columbus Dispatch

Republicans, Democrats and a coalition of redistricting-reform advocates reached a deal to put a proposal on the May ballot aimed at curtailing partisan gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional map. After weekend negotiations that capped off about two weeks of heavy talks, the Senate on Monday night voted 31-0 for the compromise plan. The House is likely to approve it Tuesday, one day ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline to qualify the issue for the May statewide ballot.

National: Committee Votes to Release Democratic Rebuttal to G.O.P. Russia Memo | The New York Times

The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday to make public a classified Democratic memorandum rebutting Republican claims that the F.B.I. and the Justice Department had abused their powers to wiretap a former Trump campaign official, setting up a possible clash with President Trump. The vote gives Mr. Trump five days to review the Democratic memo and determine whether he will try to block its release. A decision to stop it could lead to an ugly standoff between the president, his top law enforcement and intelligence advisers and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump vocally supported the release of the Republicans’ memo last week, declassifying its contents on Friday over the objections of Democrats and his own F.B.I., which issued a rare public statement to warn that it had “grave concerns” about the memo’s accuracy. On Saturday, he claimed, incorrectly, that the memo “totally vindicates” him in the continuing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Editorials: Fighting hackers with vetted outsiders the best way to secure midterm elections | Mark Kuhr/The Hill

In the midterm elections set to take place later this year, all 435 seats in the house, 33 seats in the Senate and a number of local and state elections will be contested. Regardless of how the elections shake out, the most important factor in the election is the security of the process. If the past few years fraught with election hacking around the globe serve as an any indicator, we should be skeptical of what might happen. The voting process of the United States, and no doubt countries around the world, is inadequately equipped to defend against professional cyberattack attempts. Ethical hackers hacked a WINVote machine during the DEFCON conference last year in Las Vegas, and it took only a few minutes to hack into and tamper with votes and voter information. So, how do we go about protecting ourselves against these attacks and ensuring secure elections for the future? We should utilize hackers that have been vetted for trust and skill to test these critical assets in a controlled and managed environment.

Illinois: Chicago area could see nearly 2-week delay of early voting | Associated Press

Millions of voters in the Chicago area could see a nearly two-week delay in the start of early voting over ongoing candidate ballot challenges, election officials said Monday. Early voting was slated to start across Illinois on Thursday. However, due to objections to several candidates’ paperwork that haven’t been resolved, ballots won’t be ready on time, said Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen. He estimated early voting will be available Feb. 21, possibly earlier. “Programming and testing of the equipment in the city’s more than 1,000 ballot variations in four languages is still under way,” Allen said in a statement.

Kansas: Bills Clarify That, Yes, Kansans Who Have Trouble Signing Their Names Can Vote By Mail | KCUR

Last November, nearly two dozen mail-in ballots cast by disabled voters got tossed away in Sedgwick County. Some state officials say local election authorities misread a technicality in state law, and the votes could have been counted. Now Kansas lawmakers are pushing through bills aimed at wiping out any confusion — and making sure that people who have trouble filling out their own ballots can still vote by mail. One bill aiming to clarify the law has passed the Senate. Another measure drew no opposition in a hearing in the House on Monday.

Maine: Ranked-choice voters submit signatures for ‘people’s veto’ ballot initiative | Portland Press Herald

Supporters of ranked-choice voting submitted more than 80,000 signatures Friday to send the issue back to the Maine ballot in June after lawmakers voted to delay and potentially repeal the law. In November 2016, voters approved a ballot initiative that would make Maine the first state in the nation to implement ranked-choice voting. But lawmakers passed a law delaying the effective date until December 2021 and then repealing the ranked-choice voting process altogether if a constitutional amendment hasn’t been passed by then to address legal concerns.

North Carolina: GOP responds to voters’ claims of bias in legislative redistricting saga | Greensboro News & Record

Attorneys for North Carolina’s legislative defendants urged Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of a lower-court order that recently imposed new state House and Senate districts in the Greensboro area and several other parts of the state. They said a three-judge panel based in Greensboro mistakenly bought into arguments by civil rights activists that the lawyers for three, current Republican leaders and one former GOP legislator called illogical and unconstitutional. “In sum, plaintiffs did not properly challenge the 2017 law … and their federal law objections rest on the Orwellian claim that the legislature engaged in racial gerrymandering by not considering race,” lead lawyer Paul Clement and several others said in the petition filed Monday.

Pennsylvania: Justices Won’t Block Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Decision | The New York Times

The United States Supreme Court on Monday refused to stop Pennsylvania’s highest court from requiring lawmakers there to redraw the state’s congressional map, which the state court had found to be marred by partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court’s order was expected, as the Pennsylvania court had based its decision solely on the state constitution. On matters of state law, the judgments of state supreme courts are typically final. The order, which gave no reasons, came from Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who acted without referring the case to the full court. The Supreme Court has been busy lately addressing cases on partisan gerrymandering, in which the party in power draws voting districts to give its candidates lopsided advantages. It is considering two such cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, and has intervened in a third one, from North Carolina. But all of those cases were decided by federal courts.

Washington: Seattle says Facebook is violating city campaign finance law | Reuters

Seattle’s election authority said on Monday that Facebook Inc is in violation of a city law that requires disclosure of who buys election ads, the first attempt of its kind to regulate U.S. political ads on the internet. Facebook must disclose details about spending in last year’s Seattle city elections or face penalties, Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, said in a statement. The penalties could be up to $5,000 per advertising buy, Barnett said, adding that he would discuss next steps this week with Seattle’s city attorney. It was not immediately clear how Facebook would respond if penalized. Facebook said in a statement it had sent the commission some data.

China: Bought-and-paid-for elections in villages erode China’s grass-roots democracy | Global Times

Late into the night at a small rural Chinese village of just 29 households, the lights of each household were still turned on. The village, which ordinarily would have been asleep, was as bustling as on the eve of the Lunar New Year. It was the night before the village’s general election. The homes had left their lights on as a signal to invite each candidate to come inside and “buy” their vote. This scene was described by one of the residents of Sanxian village in North China’s Shanxi Province. The resident told the Global Times that buying votes frequently happens at many Shanxi village elections, “and some villagers don’t turn off their lights until accepting money from every candidate.” A similar scenario happened in Nailin village of Shanxi on January 6, which drew nationwide attention. China Youth Daily reported that each candidate running for village head had paid each villager 1,000 yuan ($159) each. Screen shots of text messages and photos of villagers counting their money were posted online.

Ecuador: Current, former presidents at odds in Ecuador referendum | Associated Press

With a fresh victory in hand, Ecuadoreans will be looking for President Lenin Moreno to move beyond the political duel with his domineering predecessor and focus his attention on the nation’s stagnant economy. Ecuadoreans voted by a landslide in a nationwide referendum Sunday to limit presidents to just one re-election, barring three-time former President Rafael Correa from returning to power. The measure was approved by an almost 2-to-1 margin, sending the strongest signal yet that the Andean nation is ready to shift gears away from Correa, the leftist strongman who has dominated the nation’s politics over the last decade. But how far Moreno will diverge from Correa’s agenda remains to be seen.

Editorials: Ecuador bucks the authoritarian trend | The Washington Post

Rafael Correa, like Vladi­mir Putin, Hugo Chávez and other authoritarian rulers, found himself stymied by term limits. So in 2015, the Ecuadoran president persuaded his legislature to lift a ceiling of two presidential terms by promising not to run in 2017. His idea was to install a follower for four years and then return to power, as Mr. Putin once did. Then, on Sunday, came a much-deserved comeuppance: Ecuadoran voters, prompted by Mr. Correa’s own successor, voted overwhelmingly to restore a two-term presidential limit, thus blocking the planned second act. It was a victory for democracy not just in Ecuador but also in a region where numerous rulers have sought to entrench themselves in power.

Germany: Merkel ready for ‘painful compromises’ with coalition deal in sight | Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was ready to make painful compromises to clinch a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD), whose leader said Tuesday was “decision day” for negotiators after months of political uncertainty. Both blocs agreed late on Monday they needed more time to reach a deal on renewing their “grand coalition” and decided to resume talks at the headquarters of Merkel’s party on Tuesday. “Each of us will have to make painful compromises and I am ready for that,” Merkel told reporters. “When we see the movements on the stock markets over the last hours, we live in turbulent times and what is expected of us as popular parties … is that we form a government for the good of the people, one that brings stability,” she said.

Russia: 2018 election is no problem for Putin – but what about 2024? | The Guardian

Less than six weeks before a presidential vote, Russia should be right in the thick of a heated election campaign. But with Vladimir Putin’s victory on 18 March all but in the bag, the thoughts of the Russian elite are occupied with a much bigger electoral problem: what happens at the next vote, in 2024? With nothing much at stake this time around, the Kremlin’s most pressing problem for the 2018 vote is ensuring enough people show up on polling day to make the turnout percentage respectable – which the opposition are trying to bring down through calls for a boycott. The problems on the 2024 horizon are far more serious.

United Kingdom: Elections chief presses case for voters to provide ID at polling stations | Press Association

Proof of identity should be required from voters before they can vote at a polling station, just as people provide ID to collect a parcel, Electoral Commission Chair Sir John Holmes has said. His comments came ahead of trials of such a new rule at five councils at forthcoming local elections in England on May 3: Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking. Concerns about disfranchisement of people who did not have passports and driving licences could be addressed through the introduction of a free elector’s card with photo, as already used in Northern Ireland, throughout the rest of the UK, Sir John told the annual conference of the Association of Electoral Administrators in Blackpool.