National: States move to protect voting systems from Russia with little help from Congress | USA Today

With the first congressional primary less than three weeks away, state election officials are ramping up efforts to protect their voting systems from cyber attacks as the nation’s intelligence officials warn that Russia will once again try to meddle in U.S. elections. Some states are moving to protect election data by encrypting their systems to thwart hackers, while others are asking the Department of Homeland Security to check their systems for vulnerabilities. Their actions come in the wake of revelations by homeland security officials last year that Russian hackers tried to break into the election systems of 21 states in 2016. Although no actual votes were changed, hackers did breach Illinois’ voter registration database.

National: State elections officials fret over cybersecurity threats | The Washington Post

State elections officials said Saturday that they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. At a conference of state secretaries of state in Washington, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states. Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year. And state officials say reticence on the part of Homeland Security to share sensitive information about the incidents could hamper efforts to prepare for the midterms.

National: Election Officials Convene in D.C. Amid Continued Friction Over Voting Security, Russian Propaganda Concerns | Washington Free Beacon

Top election officials from around the country will be meeting in Washington, D.C., this weekend amid a flurry of news reports and political debates over the last two weeks about election security. Because administering elections is a function of the states and not the federal government, state and federal officials have appeared in tension as hearings on Capitol Hill continue to suggest the federal government wants a greater role in providing security and oversight. With the intense public scrutiny on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections, many of the secretaries of state say they have found themselves in a constant battle of dispelling myths about voting security and rebutting media reports, while walking a delicate balance accepting federal help on issues such as cybersecurity while also preserving the autonomy given to states by the Constitution.

National: National security adviser sees proof of Russian hacking as ‘incontrovertible,’ prompting rebuke from Trump | The Washington Post

U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster acknowledged Saturday that evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is “incontrovertible” but said Moscow’s campaign to divide the West through subterfuge was failing. “It’s just not working,” he said. The comments, a day after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians on charges of interference in the election that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House, follow months of efforts by the president to cast doubt on assertions of Moscow’s interference .

National: Amidst Election Security Worries, Suddenly Paper Ballots Are Making a Comeback | The Intercept

The nations Secretaries of state gathered for a multi-day National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend, with cybersecurity on the mind. Panels and lectures centered around the integrity of America’s election process, with the federal probe into alleged Russian government attempts to penetrate voting systems a frequent topic of…

National: US wants to add citizenship query to census, but group of states and DC protest | Associated Press

It’s been nearly 70 years since census-takers last asked all residents in the nation whether they were U.S. citizens. Now the Trump administration’s Justice Department wants to reinstate the citizenship question for the 2020 census and says doing so would improve voting-rights enforcement. But California, other Democratic-majority states and immigrant advocates see a more sinister purpose: to reduce census participation by intimidating undocumented immigrants and their families, and thereby lowering population counts that are the basis for determining the number of a state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Editorials: The campaign finance loophole that could make the next Russian attack perfectly legal. | Richard Hasen/Slate

The Mueller indictment of 13 Russian nationals for interfering with the 2016 U.S.
presidential election offers a remarkably detailed account of a complex plot to sow discord and influence the presidential contest in favor of Donald Trump. The indictment critically points to something else, though: It provides a roadmap for the Russians to do it all again, without violating any current campaign finance laws the next time. Paragraph 50 of the complaint demonstrates the kinds of social media ads Russian government agents paid for during the last election season. Here are two relevant examples: “Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved how evil she is,” and “Vote Republican, Vote Trump, and Support the Second Amendment!”

Editorials: The First Step to Hack-Proofing Our Elections | Michael Waldman/Politico

Top security and intelligence officials warned on Tuesday that Russia would try to interfere in the 2018 elections again, just as it did in 2016. “We need to inform the American public that this is real, that this is not going to be happening,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee. They didn’t specify how we were going to stop it, but we know there is one place we know we can start: upgrading the ramshackle, out-of-date voting equipment that is more vulnerable to hacking than newer machines.

Arizona: Republican bill could allow Legislature to draw map of voters | Arizona Republic

Republican state lawmakers are pushing a November ballot proposition that would ask voters to overhaul the panel that draws Arizona’s political boundaries — a move that could affect which party holds power at the state Capitol. The proposition would also give state legislators the authority to potentially sketch their own district boundaries, as well as those of Arizona’s members of Congress. Supporters said the proposal is intended to make the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission — a bipartisan panel that was created to take that power away from the Legislature — larger and, thereby, more bipartisan. But Democrats and voter-advocacy groups say it’s a veiled attempt to dismantle the commission and let state lawmakers pick their voters through gerrymandering.

Connecticut: State may limit access to state’s voter database | Associated Press

Marketing companies and other private entities would no longer be able to buy Connecticut’s state voter list for about $300 and use the data for solicitations and other purposes under new legislation being considered by state lawmakers this session. Instead, only political party committees, candidates, political action committees, journalists, academic researchers and governmental agencies could tap the cache of information, which includes full names, addresses, phone numbers, political affiliations and birth dates. The proposed change is being offered by Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who also wants to prevent a voter’s full birthdate from being released.

Maine: Ranked-choice voting backers file suit to ensure system is used in June | Bangor Daily News

Supporters of ranked-choice voting in Maine — joined by eight Democratic candidates — filed a lawsuit Friday to ensure that the voting method is in place in time for the June primaries. The lawsuit comes more than two weeks before the deadline for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, to certify signatures designed to place on the June 12 ballot a referendum question that could decide the long-term fate of ranked-choice voting. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting announced Friday afternoon that it has filed a suit in Kennebec County Superior Court. One candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, six gubernatorial candidates and a Maine Senate candidate signed onto the lawsuit.

Michigan: Docs: Top GOP officials lobbied for straight-ticket ban | Detroit News

Top ranking Michigan Republican Party officials lobbied lawmakers to ban straight-ticket voting in late 2015 despite concerns from a key GOP lawmaker that the change could increase Election Day wait times, according to new court filings from attorneys seeking to overturn the statute. Evidence and depositions the state is attempting to exclude from trial in a federal lawsuit over the ban offer a rare glimpse into the legislative process and show the extent to which party officials interact with the state’s GOP-led Legislature.

Editorials: In the geometry of gerrymandering, the prettiest voting maps may not be the fairest | Aaron Montgomery/Cleveland Plain Dealer

After months of meetings and many rounds of discussion, Ohio legislators have finally reached an elusive compromise on the thorny subject of congressional gerrymandering. Pending approval from Ohio voters on the May ballot, Ohio’s congressional redistricting process will undergo a significant revision designed, among other things, to keep districts compact, limit splits of counties and cities, and to meaningfully involve the minority political party in the redistricting process. When I make the four-mile trip each morning from my house to my office at Baldwin Wallace University, I cross from Ohio’s 16th congressional district into the 9th district. This journey serves as a daily reminder that the redistricting process constitutes a formidable geometry problem.

Pennsylvania: State Moves Back Towards Paper Ballots | CBS

Pennsylvania is taking steps to increase security on all voting systems used in the commonwealth. From here moving forward, all voting systems bought for Pennsylvania must have a voter-verifiable paper record of votes cast. Marian Schneider of Verified Voting, an organization which promotes accuracy and transparency in voting, says this is an important step. “The reason that having a paper record of voter intent is because paper cannot be altered by software,” she said.

Tennessee: US rep: Tennessee should use $29M on backup paper ballots | The Daily Progress

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper on Friday urged Tennessee’s Republican-led legislature to use $29 million-plus in federal money to require backup paper ballots for elections, citing concerns from national security experts that paperless systems could be vulnerable to hacking from Russia and others. Though Cooper isn’t sure how much adding a paper trail would cost, the Nashville congressman said the leftover federal Help America Vote Act money could help secure the ballots, possibly in time for the local primaries in May. Tennessee largely uses paperless machines. “We have an opportunity to improve our election system so that it cannot be hacked, so the voters have complete faith in the integrity in the system, so that democracy works well here in Tennessee,” Cooper told reporters Friday.

Bhutan: Bhutan kicks off a busy election year | Kuensel

With the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) rolling out the third National Council (NC) election schedule on February 15, Bhutan has entered a busy election year. The NC elections, which will be held on April 20, will be followed by the third National Assembly elections towards the end of the year. The house of review will complete its term in the second week of May 2018 and a new house is expected to be in place the day after the expiry of the term. The Assembly will dissolve in August. Assuming that the prime minister does not dissolve the Assembly prematurely, elections could be held in October 2018. The ECB had officially shifted its focus to the parliamentary elections by marking voters’ day on September 15 last year.

Colombia: FARC to Resume Presidential Election Campaign? | teleSUR

Colombia’s Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons (FARC) is considering resuming its presidential elections campaign which was suspended on February 9 due to security concerns. Following a meeting with authorities on Saturday, the former guerrilla group turned political entity announced it’s analyzing the feasibility of returning to the campaign trail after the government of Juan Manuel Santos offered ‘guarantees.’ Late Friday, leaders of the FARC met with Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera to communicate the main concerns they have as a political organization. FARC leader and presidential candidate Rodrigo ‘Timochenko’ Londoño told media he had outlined his party’s concerns about right-wing groups promoting intolerance and threatening violence in a bid to jeopardize the peace process.

Djibouti: African Union deploys election observers to Djibouti | PM News

The African Union (AU) has deployed its election observers to Djibouti, for the legislative elections scheduled to take place on Friday in the Horn of African nation. The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Mahamat, has deployed the AU Election Observation Mission (AUEOM)
led by Anicet-Georges Dologuele, former Prime Minister of the Central African Republic (CAR), according to a statement from the pan-African bloc on Monday.

Italy: Now Bots Are Trying to Help Populists Win Italy’s Election | Bloomberg

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 24, the home-made device David Puente built to catch fake Twitter accounts in the act started rumbling. In just over a minute, more than 150 users sent out the same tweet extolling Italian anti-euro populist Matteo Salvini, a contender in next month’s presidential election. It was obvious to Puente, a computer programmer, that they were bots, or automated accounts that masquerade as real people and are used increasingly as a tool to sway political opinion. “Monitoring the accounts of all the candidates is a civic duty for me,” said Puente, 35, who often stays up until 3 a.m. tracking social-media activity from his home in northern Italy while his family sleeps.

Venezuela: Leading Venezuelan Party to Boycott Election | Financial Tribune

A top Venezuelan opposition party announced on Friday it would boycott April’s presidential vote, showing divides within the opposition coalition. Popular Will, the third largest opposition party, said it would “not nominate or endorse any candidate” in the April 22 presidential election that it says amounts to a “fraud,” DW reported. “Those who register in these conditions are doing the dictatorship a favor,” said the party led by Leopoldo Lopez. He is under house arrest on allegations of inciting violence in 2014 protests. Venezuela’s opposition is huddled around the Democratic Unity Round Table (MUD), an alliance of some 20 parties opposed to Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.