National: Trump-Approved Budget Short on Election Security, Counties Say | Stateline

During the 2016 presidential election, Russian hackers targeted election systems in Pennsylvania and 20 other states, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Those officials fear that, during the 2018 midterms, hackers may target state voter registration databases, county websites and official social media accounts to spread misinformation and sow doubt in the U.S. election system. In February, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, directed all counties that are planning to update aging election equipment to buy machines that create a paper trail. However, the directive from Wolf, aimed at machines used by 83 percent of the state’s voters, did not come with funding attached, placing the financial burden on federal or local budgets.

National: Why adding a citizenship question to the census launched a political firestorm | The Washington Post

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to protect the voting rights of mostly black voters in mostly Southern states. It mandated, among other things, that jurisdictions covered by the law have new voting laws reviewed by the government to assure that they weren’t discriminatory. That provision was tossed by the Supreme Court in 2013. A Texas voter ID law that had been rejected by the Department of Justice prior to the court’s decision was reintroduced immediately afterward — and was quickly found to be discriminatory. During his confirmation hearing last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked about the Voting Rights Act. “It is intrusive. The Supreme Court on more than one occasion has described it legally as an intrusive act, because you’re only focused on a certain number of states,” the then-Alabama senator said in January 2017.

National: Frustrated Supreme Court Looks For A Solution To Partisan Gerrymandering | NPR

The Supreme Court justices seemed to grasp the problem of gerrymandering in oral arguments on Wednesday and that it will only get worse, as computer-assisted redistricting gets even more refined. But they appeared frustrated over what to do about it — without becoming the constant police officer on the beat. This case, involving a Democratic-drawn congressional district in Maryland, is essentially Act II of the gerrymandering play at the Supreme Court.

Editorials: Stop Russia from stealing our votes | Houston Chronicle

The Russians are coming, and that’s no joke. The invasion is happening in cyberspace. We’re not talking about trolls posting fake news stories on social media sites. Russian hackers are trying to figure out how to steal our elections. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been conducting a serious, bipartisan investigation into Russia’s ongoing attacks on our nation’s voting systems. What federal authorities have discovered is deeply disturbing. Now this committee has drafted a series of recommendations for securing our country’s election infrastructure, and it’s crucial that authorities on all levels of government act together to implement those ideas and ensure the sanctity of our votes.

Maine: How Maine’s elections czar plans to make ranked-choice voting work | Bangor Daily News

Rules for how Maine will count votes this June in Maine’s first ranked-choice voting election are on a fast-track to approval by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. Dunlap released proposed rules on Wednesday and announced that the window for the public to comment on them will end on April 6 so his office will have time to prepare for the June 12 primary election. This marks the first time in U.S. history that a state has used ranked-choice voting in statewide legislative and gubernatorial primary elections. The rules cover ballot layout, how they will be counted and security procedures for delivering paper ballots or voting machine memory devices from towns and cities to Augusta. … Dunlap said in March that long-term, the cost of implementing the system could exceed $1 million a year but probably won’t cost that much for the June primary.

Maryland: Legislature passes automatic voter registration | The Hill

Maryland’s Democratic-controlled legislature on Wednesday approved a measure to automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they interact with certain state agencies. The bill now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) desk. Hogan has not said whether he supports the measure, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the measure passed by wide enough margins that the legislature could override any potential veto. If the measure becomes law, Maryland would become the 11th state to adopt automatic voter registration. Any Marylander who interacts with the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration, health-care exchange or social services offices would be signed up to vote unless they decline.

Ohio: GOP Joins Democrats In Endorsing Congressional Redistricting Reform | WOSU

The Ohio Republican Party voted on Tuesday night to join its Democratic counterpart in endorsing a major overhaul of how Ohio’s congressional districts are drawn. Issue 1, which was written by a bipartisan committee and approved by citizen groups, would create multiple rounds of map-making to prevent partisan gerrymandering. The proposal also sets limits for how many times a county can be split, keeping communities together. Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof acknowledged to the Ohio GOP central committee that the way the state divides its Congressional districts has been good to Republicans for decades. That’s because Republicans have controlled the state Legislature when it’s redrawn the map every 10 years. But Obhof cautioned things are bound to change.

Pennsylvania: Legislature has long history of inaction on redistricting reform bills | WHYY

Now that legal challenges to Pennsylvania’s new court-drawn congressional map have been rejected, state lawmakers have turned their attention to the typical process by which the state reapportions congressional districts every decade. But some stakeholders are skeptical about whether any current proposals will ever make it to a vote. There are four bills circulating in the Statehouse right now. All call for an independent redistricting commission, but differ on details such as the role the legislature would play in the process, the number of commissioners, their qualifications, how they’d be selected and how to gauge potential partisan influences.

West Virginia: Secretary of State tests secure mobile voting app for military personnel | The Hill

West Virginia is testing a new secure mobile voting application to help active-duty military members vote in the upcoming May primary election. Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) announced the pilot program on Wednesday afternoon. It will initially be limited to military voters and their spouses and children who are registered to vote in Harrison and Monongalia counties. However, the state plans to expand the program to all 55 counties in the upcoming November general election if the pilot proves successful. 

Egypt: For as Little as $3 a Vote, Egyptians Trudge to Election Stations | The New York Times

The woman in a long black shawl bustled up to a stall on a back street in the crowded Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo. “Where’s my subsidy box?” she demanded. “My brothers and sisters in Cairo have already received theirs. When do I get mine?” The woman, Soad Abdel Hamid, a housewife, was referring to boxes of subsidized food — cooking oil, rice and sugar, mostly — promised to voters in many poor areas in return for casting their vote in Egypt’s presidential election. With no real opponent to provide drama in his re-election bid, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is relying on the sheer enthusiasm of his supporters to generate a credible turnout. And where fervor isn’t enough, he has other means of enticing — or pushing — voters to the polls.

Hungary: ‘Ghettos and no-go zones’: Hungary’s far right fuels migrant fears ahead of vote | The Guardian

Nobody in Miskolc can say with certainty that they have ever seen a migrant or a refugee in the city. A few residents think they might have seen one or two people back in 2015 but cannot be sure. Others say their friends have seen migrants in the streets but admit they have not seen any themselves. And yet, in this city of 160,000 inhabitants in north-east Hungary, a fierce election campaign is under way in which there is one overriding issue being discussed ahead of the vote on 8 April. It is not the recent series of corruption scandals involving government officials and vast sums of money. Nor is it the depressing state of local healthcare or low wages. It is migration. The tone for the election in Miskolc – as across the country – has been set by Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who is seeking to win a third consecutive term on a far-right platform of sealing Hungary’s borders to migrants.

Kenya: In Kenya, Election Manipulation Is a Matter of Life and Death | The Nation

Elections are expensive, hotly contested affairs, and political consultants who appear to offer a candidate any edge are in high demand across the world. At the heart of the recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica are the unethical lengths to which such organizations will go to secure that edge, particularly in African countries like Kenya and Nigeria where there are fewer safeguards against such manipulation, and where the effects aren’t limited to the election of an unsavory candidate but include matters of life and death. Until recently, the impact of manipulations in electoral process by Western political consultants in Africa has been largely ignored, but in the past three years the consequences have become clear. The tactics that now have the United States and the United Kingdom in a panic resemble the election tinkering elsewhere. 

Malaysia: Parliament approves redrawn electoral maps despite protests | Associated Press

Malaysia’s Parliament on Wednesday approved redrawn electoral boundaries despite protests that the ruling coalition was cheating to ensure victory in the upcoming general election. Embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak introduced the new electoral maps, which were approved with 129 lawmakers voting for them and 80 against. Scores of activists earlier protested outside Parliament, denouncing the new maps as gerrymandering that would widen inequality among constituencies and was based along racial lines to favor Najib’s ruling coalition. Activists say the changes mean that ruling party candidates will need fewer votes than opposition lawmakers to win elections. Activists and opposition leaders marched from a nearby park but were blocked from entering Parliament by riot police.

Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone’s Blockchain Election That Wasn’t | Pacific Standard

Recently, a number of technology blogs breathlessly brought news that Sierra Leone “became the first country in the world to use blockchain during an election” on March 7th. “The tech, created by Leonardo Gammar of Agora, anonymously stored votes in an immutable ledger, thereby offering instant access to the election results,” according to TechCrunch. Blockchain ledgers, the theory goes, are more difficult to tamper with than traditional methods for storing vote data. PCMag called the election a “milestone,” showing that “blockchain networks and immutable ledgers can serve as a foundation for new trusted systems, redefining how we interact with an evolving digital world.” To be fair, these items, based on Agora’s own press release, generally noted several paragraphs below their headlines about a “blockchain-based election” that Agora was not verifying the official nationwide count—it had simply been registered as an observer in one district.