National: Election officials face voting machine challenges ahead of 2018 midterms | CBS

Eight months out from the 2018 midterms, and over a year since the Russians allegedly tried to interfere in the 2016 elections, many state and and local election officials are still concerned about guarding their voting systems against breaches. One of the most basic safeguards is a paper record of each vote — a paper trail. But not every state incorporates paper in its polling place practices. In fact, five states only use electronic voting machines, known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, that don’t have a paper trail, according to the Verified Voting Foundation. …  The lack of a paper trail makes auditing an election basically impossible.

National: Democrats want to boost FBI budget to fight Russia’s election interference | The Hill

Congressional Democratic leadership wants to boost the FBI’s budget in next month’s government funding bill to help fight Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as well as top Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations committees, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urging them to support the increase. “These attacks and Putin’s ongoing efforts to again interfere in our upcoming elections demand a robust and urgent response, and Congress must respond immediately to attacks on our democracy by a foreign adversary,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in the letter.

National: States Rush to Defend 2018 Election From Russia After Late Start | Bloomberg

Weeks before the first U.S. primaries, 40 state election officials filed into a guarded Maryland office for a classified briefing about the threats they’re sure to face between now and the November vote. But they didn’t need much of a reminder about the menace from abroad. As they arrived, Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign in a conspiracy of bogus social-media postings. These state officials are the front-line defense against another assault on the elections this year — but many say they’re not getting much help from Washington, particularly with President Donald Trump downplaying or dismissing the threat of Russian meddling. With control of both chambers of Congress at stake, state officials admit they’re rushing to bolster security and overcome confusion about how to work with the federal government.

Editorials: So far, the effort to protect our elections simply has not been adequate | Donna Brazile/The Hill

In less than one month, voter will return to the ballot box in state primaries. As they enter polls in gymnasiums and firehouses, in community centers and churches all over this great land, voters may have a sinking feeling that it doesn’t matter how they vote because the Russians are the ones who are choosing our candidates. Unless we force our government quickly to protect us, I fear that feeling will be correct. One year ago 17 different United States intelligence agencies — people who usually don’t agree on much of anything — agreed that Russia had meddled with our 2016 presidential election. Their joint report spelled out how Putin personally ordered cyber break-ins and manipulations, and even hacked into our voting machines.

North Carolina: Another redistricting lawsuit filed in North Carolina — this one over Wake election districts | News & Observer

Organizations that have challenged North Carolina redistricting plans are going back to state court over the General Assembly’s redrawing last year of election districts — this time with a new lawsuit challenging four state House districts in Wake County. The challengers are arguing that lawmakers violated the state constitution when they redrew Wake County election districts mid-decade when federal judges had not ordered them to do so to correct other districts ruled to be racial gerrymanders.

Pennsylvania: New congressional district map could be challenged by Common Cause, NAACP on civil rights grounds | Philadelphia Inquirer

Common Cause helped bring down Pennsylvania’s old congressional district map. Now, in a twist, the good-government group might undo the new map that replaced it. Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said his organization and the state NAACP are considering filing suit in federal court to challenge the new map imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week. He said it may violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned obstacles to voting by minorities. Under Pennsylvania’s former 2011 map, drawn by Republicans, nonwhites make up a majority of residents in two Philadelphia-based congressional districts. In the new map, people of color appear to be the majority in only one district, he said. “In general, I think the new map is a really big win for democracy in Pennsylvania,” Sims said. “However, we want to make sure that it is not disenfranchising voters, particularly in Philadelphia.”

Pennsylvania: Republican challenge to Pennsylvania map likely to fail | Politico

President Donald Trump wants Pennsylvania Republicans to fight the implementation of a court-drawn congressional map that threatens a half-dozen GOP-held seats this November, but most operatives and experts see little hope in a legal challenge to the new districts. Republicans in Harrisburg and Washington say they’re moving ahead with legal action to stop the new map. But, behind the scenes, Republican consultants are already urging their clients to get ready for these new districts in 2018. “I’m advising my clients to prepare for the worst-case scenario: that these are the maps this year,” said Mark Harris, a Republican consultant based in Pennsylvania.

Texas: In lawsuit, activists say Texas’ winner-take-all approach to the Electoral College is discriminatory | The Texas Tribune

Saying Texas’ current practice is discriminatory, a group of Hispanic activists and lawyers has sued the state in hopes of blocking it from awarding all of its Electoral College votes to one candidate during presidential elections. The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday calls on Texas to treat voters “in an equal manner” by abolishing that “winner-take-all” approach, which all but two states use. The suit, filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and a coalition of Texas lawyers, says that approach violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It’s just one of many pending voting rights lawsuits arguing that Texas, which regularly votes Republican, has illegally discriminated against voters of color. 

Utah: Settlement announced to create equal opportunities for Navajo voters | KUTV

A lawsuit was settled Wednesday regarding plaintiffs’ claims that San Juan County did not provide effective language assistance to Navajo-speaking voters and that Navajo voters had unequal voting opportunities in the county. The lawsuit originated in early 2016 over San Juan County’s decision to switch to a vote-by-mail system and offer in-person voting in only one place located in the majority-white section of the county.

Wisconsin: Voter Roll Purge Causes Primary Kinks for Some | Associated Press

A purge of voters from Wisconsin voting rolls caused problems at the polls for some during this week’s primary. Some voters’ information was removed, even though they hadn’t moved and it was current. But voters who were not on the poll list could re-register on the spot and still vote. State elections officials say there is no evidence that anyone was prevented from voting. But the Wisconsin State Journal reports the issue could resurface in future elections that draw bigger turnout. Tuesday’s election, which included a Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, drew about 12 percent turnout. In a statement, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said it is investigating “isolated” reports that some voters had to re-register at the polls before they could vote.

Congo: DRC pushes ahead with electronic voting despite criticism | Daily Nation

Authorities in DR Congo unveiled an electronic voting machine that will be used in key elections this year, despite accusations that the technology could skew the outcome. The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) showed off the machine to reporters, saying it was essential for conducting presidential, legislative and local elections due on December 23. “It’s not a cheating machine (but) a machine to simplify… (and) reduce costs,” said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, Ceni’s rapporteur. … Tension, marked by protests that have met with a bloody crackdown, is mounting.

Italy: Violence and harassment rise in echo of 1970s unrest | The Guardian

Political violence ais increasing in Italy in the final weeks before the country votes in national elections, with skirmishes between fascists and leftwing activists, and racially motivated attacks on migrants reported. The incidents, including an attack on one of the leaders of the far-right group Forza Nuova in Palermo on Wednesday morning, are reminiscent of a far more violent era in Italy – the so-called Years of Lead that began in the late 1960s when the country suffered a wave of domestic terrorism by forces on the extreme left and right.

Russia: Putin nemesis Navalny, barred from election, tries political siege | Reuters

Two young anti-Putin activists trudged through a snow-logged Moscow housing estate on a recent Saturday, putting up fliers promoting a boycott of a presidential election next month. “It’s not an election, it’s a trick,” read one, depicting a goggle-eyed caricature of Vladimir Putin, who polls show should be comfortably re-elected on March 18. A man donning a fur hat ripped one of the fliers down within a minute. A woman, told by the activists “our elections have been stolen”, quietly shut her door in their faces. Unglamorous and at times disheartening for those involved, this is the sharp end of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s campaign to boycott an election he says amounts to the rigged reappointment of Putin, whom he likens to an autocratic Tsar.

Sweden: Sweden is taking on Russian meddling ahead of fall elections. The White House might take note. | The Washington Post

Hundreds of local election workers have been trained to spot and resist foreign influence. The country’s biggest media outlets have teamed up to combat false news. Political parties scour their email systems to close hacker-friendly holes. The goal: to Russia-proof Sweden’s political system so that what happened in the United States in 2016 can never happen in this Nordic country of 10 million people. Although the general election isn’t until Sept. 9, officials say their preemptive actions may already have dissuaded the Kremlin from interfering.

Venezuela: Maduro Calls for Early Congress Vote as Well | Associated Press

President Nicolas Maduro is doubling-down on plans to concentrate power by calling Wednesday for early congressional elections to coincide with a presidential vote in April that opponents hours earlier said they would boycott unless steps are taken to ease fears it’s rigged. Pushing ahead a vote for the democratically elected National Assembly could spell a shake-up in the last branch of government still out of Maduro’s control. The opposition’s move edging to an outright boycott means Maduro is unlikely to face any major challenge in the April 22 race despite widespread anger over his handling of an economy marred by soaring inflation and shortages of food and life-saving medicine.