Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sent a letter Wednesday to three election equipment vendors to ask whether they have shared information about their machines with Russian entities. The senators wrote to Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems Inc. and Hart InterCivic Inc. to ask if the companies had shared the source code, software or other sensitive details about their machines with Russians. “Foreign access to critical source code information and sensitive data continues to be an often overlooked vulnerability. Further, if such vulnerabilities are not quickly examined and mitigated, future elections will also remain vulnerable to attack,” the senators wrote.
In state politics, the most enviable marker of power is the so-called “triplex.” To achieve a triplex, a political party must sweep the state’s three most influential offices. The first two are the governor and attorney general positions, the former due to extensive executive powers and the latter due to their power to sue the federal government. But it is the third and most frequently overlooked member of the triplex who may have the most influence over democracy: the secretary of state. The duties of the secretary of state encompass serving as the state’s chief election official, along with such administrative duties as permitting and business authentication. Because of their role in the electoral process, secretaries of state have critical influence over who can vote and how easy it is to do so.
Editorials: Trump finally says he’ll protect elections. We’ll believe it when we see it. | The Washington Post
For a man who has regularly cast doubt on the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump made comments at a Tuesday news conference that were surprisingly on point. “We won’t allow that to happen,” Mr. Trump said about the prospect of further foreign interference, promising to “counteract whatever they do.” He said the government was conducting “a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.” This is closer to what the commander in chief should be saying in the wake of a hostile foreign influence campaign. Yet it falls short of wholehearted acceptance of the intelligence community’s continuing alarm about Russian capabilities and intentions. And the president’s words are meaningless unless backed by actions, which, by many accounts, are still lacking.
If the time is short, leave the seat empty. The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would end special elections for legislative vacancies that take place 13 months before the next statewide general election. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, got altered before passing the Senate last week. The proposal at first would have allowed the governor to appoint legislators to vacancies if there were less than two years remaining in the term. But Glover said that idea — which would expand the chief executive’s powers in a state government weighted toward the Legislature — faced a struggle.
As Republican and Democratic state legislators hustle to pass a law moving Georgia toward paper ballot voting technology, election integrity advocates said they’re concerned a bill that already cleared the state Senate could lead to a new vulnerability in Georgia’s next voting system, if it becomes law. One way a new system might work is through a touchscreen computer similar to those currently used in Georgia. It would print a paper ballot with a visual representation of a voter’s choices so they themselves can check for accuracy. In some systems, counting the votes means scanning an entire image of the ballot that may include a timestamp and precinct information. In other systems, barcodes or QR codes on a ballot would correspond with the voter’s choices, which can make counting easier and faster for election officials, said Peter Lichtenheld, vice president of operations with Hart Intercivic, one of several election technology companies that hired lobbyists at the statehouse this year.
A federal judge will allow the ACLU to show video of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaking about his advice to President Donald Trump as part of a trial that will determine whether thousands can vote in Kansas this November. The video of a 2017 deposition will serve as a piece of evidence in the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge of a Kansas law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, before they can register to vote. Kobach’s team objected Wednesday to the showing of the video on the grounds that they had not had a chance to review it. They asked that a transcript of the deposition be read instead. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson agreed to delay the viewing of the 45-minute video until Thursday to give Kobach’s team a chance to review it, but she rejected the request to prevent it from being played at the trial.
Some lawmakers said Monday that putting Kansas at the center of a database intended to root out voter fraud might eventually put it in the middle of a lawsuit if things go wrong. More than two dozen states compare voter rolls using the Crosscheck database of some 90 million-plus records that Kansas hosts. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has touted Crosscheck as a way to identify voters registered in more than one state and crackdown on double-voting. He’s secured nine convictions for that crime.
A coalition of voting rights groups is urging Massachusetts to adopt automatic voter registration. The Massachusetts proposal, which is pending in a legislative committee, would let the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth automatically register citizens to vote. A person could choose to opt out. What could that look like? Ask Jeanne Atkins. Atkins was the Oregon secretary of state from March 2015 through January 2017 – a period that coincided with the signing of Oregon’s motor voter law and the first election in which it was implemented.
New Hampshire: Secretary of State tells towns: No, you can’t delay elections even if it snows a lot | Concord Monitor
Just in case any town moderators were looking at the weather forecast and beginning to worry, Secretary of State Bill Gardner has some advice for them: Don’t even think about canceling elections. “New Hampshire law does not contain a provision that authorizes any public official to postpone an election,” Gardner wrote in a March 6 memo, which provides guidance on a variety of issues as New Hampshire heads into town meeting season. The notice comes in the wake of last year’s confusion when a huge nor’easter caused moderators in 73 communities to postpone ballot voting on March 14, 2017, the traditional Election Day on the second Tuesday in March.
With primaries two months away, North Carolina’s election system remains in legal limbo, and a court order issued Monday scrambled the situation even more. Twenty-five of the state’s 100 counties, including Wake and Cumberland counties, have no functioning elections board to settle questions of polling locations and early voting hours. Each of those counties has only two members on its elections board. They were allowed to function by a state Supreme Court order last summer while wrangling over the makeup of the state elections board played out in court. That wrangling dates to a December 2016 law that merged the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into an eight-member panel evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. County boards, under that law, were expanded from three to four members, again evenly divided by party.
Albania’s Democratic Party, the main opposition group, has rejected allegations by U.S. publication Mother Jones that the party received secret funds from Russian sources during last year’s parliamentary election. Mother Jones alleged in an article published Tuesday that Russian-linked companies used a U.S. lobbyist to secretly meddle in Albania’s 2017 election. According to the article Nick Muzin, a former campaign aide for U.S. President Donald Trump, was paid by “a sketchy Scottish firm called Biniatta Trade, which was formed by two Belize-based shell companies … for work in the United States to help the Democratic Party of Albania.” “It appears that Russian-related entities secretly meddled in the United States in order to meddle in an election in Albania,” the Mother Jones story said.
Former Colombian rebels are returning to mountain strongholds where they once fought to the death, this time to campaign in the first elections held under a peace accord that ended a 50-year insurgency. They were greeted with hugs and red roses as they made their way up the slopes of the Cauca Valley in southwest Colombia. One of them is Pablo Catatumbo, who fought for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia starting in 1973. Now, he is 65 and looked after by a detail of 40 men — some ex-rebels and some former adversaries. Under the peace accord reached in late 2016 that led to the FARC’s disarming, the former rebels are guaranteed at least 10 of the 268 congressional seats up for grabs in the March 11 election. But they can gain even more, so former rebel leaders are out trying to win votes.
The tiny country of Latvia can teach the United States a few things about how to counter Russian meddling in politics. One important lesson from Russian efforts to exacerbate ethnic conflict, spread disinformation and possibly compromise Latvian officials is that Russian methods keep changing, according to advice from Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs. “When it comes to the use of information as a weapon or propaganda, Russia does not have an approach that one size fits all,” Rinkēvičs told USA TODAY on Wednesday. “There are different ways of conducting political meddling and also during political elections.” Rinkēvičs was in Washington for meetings to prepare for an April 3 summit with President Trump and the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
“We have all the necessary and good laws in Pakistan, but we fail to implement them!” This is a common lamentation in Pakistan. Whatever the subject is — politicians, civil society, lawyers, journalists and governmental officials make this claim. But is this true? In one area that has attracted much public controversy, this was not the case: The election laws lacked many provisions needed for credible, transparent and inclusive elections. The controversies in the 2013 elections were not simply ‘losers crying sour grapes’. Genuine shortcomings in the election laws, which undermined Pakistani elections for many years were repeatedly pointed out by civil society, observers and eventually also confirmed in the inquiry commission setup to investigate the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) accusations of systemic rigging in 2013 general elections. The Commission found no systematic rigging but pointed to many systemic problems.
Riot police put down skirmishes Wednesday in Sierra Leone’s capital as political tensions mounted after authorities visited the office of the leading opposition candidate. At least one person was treated for stab wounds following the melee that erupted after an SLPP opposition spokesman said police had come to search the party’s offices without a warrant. Their candidate, Julius Maada Bio, the man who was defeated in the 2012 election, later went on live television to criticize the move. “Counting has started and I have phones and laptops which I am using to tally the results of the counting,” he said. “I have established a tallying center in my office which is not against the law of this country. This is a legitimate affair.”