Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Tuesday rejected a new district map drawn by GOP lawmakers, bringing the state closer to handing its redistricting process over to a court. The GOP map was drawn after the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s current congressional map in a gerrymandering case. Wolf’s press office confirmed that the governor told Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court that he won’t approve the new congressional lines on the grounds that it’s a “partisan gerrymander that does not comply with the court’s order” or state constitution. “Partisan gerrymandering weakens citizen power, promotes gridlock and stifles meaningful reform,” Wolf said in a statement. “As non-partisan analysts have already said, their map maintains a similar partisan advantage by employing many of the same unconstitutional tactics present in their 2011 map.”
With the first primaries of the 2018 elections less than a month away, you might expect federal officials to be wrapping up efforts to safeguard the vote against expected Russian interference. You’d be wrong. Federal efforts to help states button down elections systems have crawled, hamstrung in part by wariness of federal meddling. Just 14 states and three local election agencies have so far asked for detailed vulnerability assessments offered by the Department of Homeland Security — and only five of the two-week examinations are complete. Illinois, for instance —one of two states where voter registration databases were breached in 2016 — requested an assessment in January and is still waiting. Primary voters go to the polls there March 20; state officials can’t say whether the assessment will happen beforehand. DHS says the assessments should be finished by mid-April.
National: As foreign hackers plot next attack, Washington struggles to shore up voting systems | Tribune News Service
Even as it is consumed by political fallout from Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Washington is still struggling to respond to what many officials see as an imminent national security threat: a network of voting systems alarmingly vulnerable to foreign attack. As hackers abroad plot increasingly brazen and sophisticated assaults, the United States’ creaky polling stations and outdated voter registration technology are not up to the task of fighting them off, according to elections officials and independent experts. Senior national security officials have repeatedly said that the U.S. should prepare for more foreign efforts to interfere with elections. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s top intelligence adviser warned a Senate committee that Russia is moving to build on its earlier efforts to interfere with U.S. elections, which included a sustained campaign of propaganda and the unleashing of cyberoperatives.
Three of the nation’s top intelligence officials said Tuesday that the U.S. has seen Russian activity aimed at meddling in the upcoming midterm elections. “We have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Senate intelligence committee. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, agreed. They didn’t describe the activity, other than to say it was related to information warfare. They told Congress that they would provide more details in a classified session later in the day. The intelligence officials said the information will be shared with state and local governments and state election officials.
FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday said President Trump hasn’t directed him to stop Russian efforts to interfere in this year’s midterm elections. “We’re taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt Russian efforts,” Wray said when Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asked if he’d been directed by Trump to do so. “As directed by the president?” Reed interjected. “Not as specifically directed by the president,” Wray responded.
As the Census Bureau finalizes the questions for the 2020 census, key voices in the Trump administration are pressing for surveyors to ask one critical question: Are you a United States citizen? Advocates of the so-called citizenship question say it is merely clerical, an effort to ascertain how many noncitizens reside in the United States. But the question would have broad ramifications, not only for the politics of redistricting that will emerge from the census but for an issue that goes beyond partisanship: public health. The fear is that immigrants — even ones in the country legally — will not participate in any government-sponsored questionnaire that could expose them, their family members or friends to deportation. But low response rates from any demographic group would undermine the validity of the next decade of health statistics and programs, health experts warn. Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of health conditions across the United States population. In turn, officials use the data to target interventions and distribute federal funding.
Editorials: Russians hacked the 2016 election. Looks like Republicans will let them do it again | Robin Kelly/Miami Herald
For more than a year, Americans, Congress and the world have discussed Russia’s attempts to influence our elections. However, some of their most dangerous and well-documented attacks against state-level voting systems have been a mere footnote. That needs to change, and change fast. Let’s start with the facts and when we learned them. In the summer of 2016, the FBI disclosed that Arizona’s and Illinois’ online voter registration databases had been successfully breached. Come September 2016, we learned that at least 20 states had been attacked. We now know that 21 states were attacked and/or breached: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
A bipartisan bill that would restore voting rights to Iowa felons who have completed their criminal sentences moved forward Monday in the Iowa House. Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton. They both agreed to move the bill to the full House Judiciary Committee. “I agree there should be a process as far as for allowing folks who have served their time, who have paid their restitution, for nonviolent felons to be reintegrated back into society, to give them a second chance, to reenfranchise them as far as their voice at the voting booth,” Heartsill says.
Kansas: Senate bill would remove Kris Kobach’s authority to appoint elections commissioners | Topeka Capital Journal
A dispute over Shawnee County’s election budget spurred lawmakers to weigh a bill Tuesday stripping Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s authority to appoint elections commissioners in Kansas’ four largest counties. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, brought the bill, which would give county commissions the authority to appoint their own election officers to administer local and statewide races. Kobach currently appoints elections commissioners in Shawnee, Sedgwick, Johnson and Wyandotte counties, which collectively spend between $5 and $7 million during an even-numbered year to administer elections, according to Kansas Elections Director Bryan Caskey.
Primaries for North Carolina state appellate court seats won’t happen this year if a federal appeals court decision stands. A panel of judges Friday reversed a lower court decision that would have required the primaries, giving a victory to Republican state lawmakers. The GOP-controlled General Assembly voted last October to cancel the 2018 primaries for both trial court and appellate court seats. GOP lawmakers argued it made sense to hold only one general election for each seat this year because the House and Senate were debating changes to election districts for the trial court seats. They said they didn’t want to create confusion if new districts were approved after candidate filing was completed under previous boundaries.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says it’s time for Rhode Island to allow early in-person voting. The Democrat is proposing to allow people to vote during normal business hours for a 20-day period before primary and general elections, and on the weekend prior to each election. It’s one of a handful of election-related bills submitted at Gorbea’s request. She is also proposing moving the state primary to August instead of September. Most states allow qualified voters to cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. In Rhode Island, some people vote early and in-person now by going to their town halls and applying for an emergency mail ballot, which is a paperwork intensive process, Gorbea said.
Bulgaria: Electoral authority to ask MPs to defer introduction of electronic voting | The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) tabled a report to the country’s National Assembly recommending that MPs postpone the introduction of electronic voting, which currently is slated to be used for the first time in the European Parliament elections in May 2019. Although CEC did not make its report public, several media reports said that CEC made its recommendation based on several simulations of electronic voting.
DR Congo’s long-delayed election due on December 23 to choose a successor to long-serving ruler Joseph Kabila will not take place without electronic voting machines, the poll chief said Tuesday. “Without voting machines, there will be no elections on December 23, 2018,” election commission head Corneille Nangaa told AFP, speaking on phone from New York. The threat came a day after the United States, France, Britain and four other UN Security Council members called on Kabila to publicly declare that he will not run for election this year.
Opinion writers stand accused of undue negativity, so make way for a few heart-lifting positives. Well-thumbed physical election registers. Paper ballots. Stubby pencils. Interminable counts surveyed by gimlet-eyed tallymen and women. That’s our fabulously antiquated voting system and it stands up well. Last week, by contrast, Americans learned that the electronic voting systems of 21 states were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016 and some had been “actually successfully penetrated”, in the words of the US head of cybersecurity. The targeting may have been exploratory probes for system vulnerabilities to be exploited later, say experts, pointing to the crumbling US digital voting apparatus. In other words, the 2016 hackers could look like plankton compared with the shark attacks expected around the forthcoming mid-term elections, with their potential to rebalance power in America.
Malaysia’s Opposition and an election watchdog submitted objections today to the redrawing of some constituency boundaries, which they said would favour Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a general election due by August. The Election Commission is reviewing electoral boundaries for more than half of Malaysia’s 222 parliamentary seats. Opponents of the redrafting say it is unconstitutional and could skew voting in favour of Najib’s ruling coalition, the Barisan Nasional (BN). The government denies the accusation.