The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for February 12-18 2018

Thirteen Russians have been criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump, the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced on Friday. … The charges state that from as far back as 2014, the defendants conspired together to defraud the US by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of government” through interference with the American political and electoral processes.”

“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. … Congress has so far balked at providing resources to upgrade voting systems, despite the urging of some of the nation’s most influential national security voices. Many states are too broke to take up the slack.”

In a Washington Post oped, Michael Chertoff and Grover Norquist warn that “[t]ime is running out. Lawmakers need to act immediately if we are to protect the 2018 and 2020 elections.” They call attention to legislation introduced by Mark Meadow (R-) that would authorize cost-sharing with states for the replacement of insecure electronic systems and lay the groundwork for states to regularly implement risk-limiting audits.

Without Federal assistance, many cash-strapped state and local budgets are being stretched to upgrade equipment. California Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing millions of dollars for an upgrade of old voting machines, long sought by counties. Capita Pubic Radio notes that the state’s “last major replacement of voting machines in the state occurred after the 2000 election, so many counties run servers on outdated operating systems no longer supported by Microsoft and use zip drives to transfer files.”

Ohio lawmakers are debating how much money to give counties to replace aging voting machines, but those funds aren’t expected to be part of the state capital budget. The Columbus Dispatch reports “that Secretary of State Husted’s $118 million figure is based on every county purchasing a paper-based system.” County elections boards estimated the cost of $210 million, that would allow counties the option of purchasing more expensive direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems.

William & Mary Law School’s State of Elections, wrote about the ongoing uncertainty about straight-ticket voting in Michigan. In January 2016, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that eliminated Michigan’s straight-ticket voting option.The Eastern District of Michigan granted and the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction blocking the law, on the basis of evidence that the elimination of straight-ticket voting disproportionately affected minority voters. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson petitioned for but was not granted a stay, which would have allowed the law to be in effect for the 2016 election.

A month after North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper’s victory in a Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to nullify a GOP-backed restructuring of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, legislative and legal battles continue and candidate filing began last week still without any seated elections and ethics board members.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf rejected a new district map drawn by GOP lawmakers, bringing the state closer to handing its redistricting process over to a court. The map was drawn after the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s current congressional map and gave Republican legislators until February 9th to send Mr Wolf a fairer map. However, the Economist observed that “the initial order said nothing about fixing the map’s skew toward Republican candidates, which has afforded their party a reliable 13-to-5 advantage in a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans.” The state Supreme Court will likely handle redrawing new congressional lines and it would have until Feb. 19 to draw the new map.

An AFP article reported that US Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told a Security Council informal meeting that the Democratic Republic of Congo Election Commission’s plan to use electronic voting for the first time this year posed “an enormous risk. These elections must be held by paper ballot so there is no question by the Congolese people about the result,” said Haley. “The US has no appetite to support an electronic voting system.

“Fourteen international and Egyptian rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, condemned Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections, accusing the Sisi government of having “trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections” in his bid for a second term.”