The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for March 19-25 2018

Congress has included $380 million to address elections and cybersecurity in a massive omnibus funding bill passed this week. The funds had been originally authorized in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 but had not been appropriated until now. The bill priorities the replacement of aging voting machines, with equipment that provides a paper trail and the conducting of post-election audits.

Earlier in the week the Senate Intelligence Committee released preliminary recommendations on election security, the first of several documents the committee will release on Russia’s meddling in the country’s elections. As pointed out in a Washington Post oped “[t]he committee concluded, therefore, that “states should rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems,” recommending machines with “a voter-verified paper trail and no WiFi capability.” States replaced many voting machines after the 2000 election controversy, a generation of systems that is showing its age. States should also begin conducting routine post-election audits designed to detect fraud.”

Verified Voting joined other voting advocates in criticizing amendments made to Georgia Senate Bill 403, which would replace the state’s direct recording electronic voting machines. As re-written, the bill would allows the state to by new DREs, albeit with paper trail printers. “It’s really important that Georgia gets this right,” said Marian Schneider, the president of the Verified Voting Foundation, a Philadelphia-based organization whose mission is to safeguard elections. ”The voting system that Georgia chooses has to have a voter-marked paper ballot that’s retained by the system and is available for recount and audit.”

The New York Times commented on the significance of the Kris Kobach’s trial in Kansas. The ACLU has challenged a 2013 state law that requires prospective voters to prove their citizenship before they can register. For two weeks Kobach and others have struggled to support their assertions that thousands of fradulant votes have been cast in Kansas elections. As the Times notes Kobach “has won plenty of converts, even though he has failed to identify more than a tiny handful of possible cases of fraud. In his eight years as secretary of state, he has secured a total of nine convictions, only one of which was for illegal voting by a noncitizen; most were for double-voting by older Republican men.”

Following a directive from the Michigan Secretary of State, the state will hand-count ballots for all precincts selected in the post-election audit, during this year’s May election and November general election. But the reforms don’t fully reassure Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. He noted that under Michigan procedure, post-election audits occur after the results are already certified, rendering the practice moot when it comes to disputing a race outcome. “It severely limits the utility of an audit if you do it months after an election and creates more opportunity for pieces of paper to be lost or tampered with,” he said.

According to a release issued by the organization Equally American, the fact that U.S. citizens living U.S. territory being denied the right to vote for president of the United States is not just morally wrong, it is a violation of international law.  A case brought by former Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosselló before the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights argues that by denying U.S. citizens in the territories voting representation in the federal government, the United States is violating its international law obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and other international agreements.

A judge ruled that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker must call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature. Walker had declined to call those elections after two GOP lawmakers stepped down to join his administration in December, choosing instead to leave the seats vacant until the next general election.

According to reports this week Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), have worked in more than 200 elections across the world, including Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic, India and Argentina. The right-leaning digital marketing firm targets voters with propaganda to influence their voting decisions.

The Washington Post reported on their investigation into election administration the Russiuan Presidential election. According to the Post, “[o]n the basis of data about poll workers that we collected and analyzed, a number of reasons exist to be doubtful that Russia’s election commissions were balanced and unbiased. We spent several months monitoring the composition of precinct commissions before the 2018 election. We used official data disclosed by the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation.