Russian hackers tried to tamper with voting systems in 21 states during the 2016 US presidential election, and the American intelligence community expects Moscow will try again in November. But states from Virginia to Rhode Island aren’t focused on new cybersecurity software. Instead, they’re looking to one of the oldest technologies in existence: paper. It’s a striking change from 2016, when five states used electronic voting systems that didn’t leave any paper record of votes, and nine used some paperless machines. Now, states are rushing to take advantage of $380 million that Congress approved last month to help protect voting systems. Most states are prioritizing some kind of paper record. “In this year of our lord 2018, we’re talking about paper ballots, but that actually might be one of the smartest systems,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) told reporters in March.
Occasionally, a particular year transcends its function as a temporal marker to become shorthand for all the tumult that occurred within its parameters. 1968, a leap year, brought the Tet Offensive, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the student protests at Columbia University, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the bedlam of the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Black Power salutes at the Olympics, the emergence of George Wallace as an avatar of white-resentment politics, and the triumph of Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy. That’s a great deal of history, even adjusting for the extra day in February. We have not, in the past half century, had a year freighted with such emotional and historical heft, in part because we have not seen the convergence of so many defining issues—war, civil rights, populism, political realignment—in so short a timespan. Yet the singularity of 1968 does not diminish its pertinence to our present turmoil. This week, two events in particular are worth considering in tandem: one a cataclysm, the other a tragically predictive attempt to understand how such cataclysms occur.
It’s hard to think of three words subject to more intense election-year scrutiny than the ones California candidates can include beneath their names on the ballot. Every two years, campaigns do battle with the California secretary of state – and one another – over whether or not the professional descriptions they pick are within the bounds of state law. This year has been no different, with more than a half-dozen congressional and statewide candidates forced to amend their “ballot designation,” as its known, before the certified list of candidates for the June primary was released March 29. It turns out, it’s a pretty unique election-year tradition.
The Maine Senate voted Monday night to attempt to insert itself into the current debate over ranked choice voting (RCV). A superior court judge is considering a request from RCV supporters for an injunction to force the secretary of State to use ranked choice in the June 12 primary elections. The judge held a hearing on the request Friday, and promised to rule promptly. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 21-13 Monday to authorize the Senate president to take legal action if needed. Thibodeau spoke on the Senate floor and later said in a written statement, “If we don’t get this matter settled, we are headed for chaos in our election system, and that is a huge disservice to the people of Maine.”
Yesterday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver adopted the final version of four new administrative rules, which take effect in time for the Primary Election in June 2018. The new rules enhance numerous aspects of the state’s absentee voting process, outline procedures for candidates to transfer funds from one state campaign finance account to another, establish the order in which certain races will appear on the ballot, and bring uniformity to procedures for provisional voting statewide. “These rules bring clarity to a number of existing election procedures and make it easier for New Mexico’s voters – including blind and visually impaired voters – to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “I will continue looking for ways to streamline New Mexico’s election processes and increase access to the ballot box.”
North Carolina: Federal appeals court backs skipping judicial primaries in North Carolina | Greensboro Bews & Record
Federal appellate judges affirmed on Monday their earlier decision blocking a lower court’s order that would have reinstated primary elections this year for statewide judicial offices. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a Jan. 31 order by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles that effectively required 2018 primaries for statewide judgeships that had been waived by a new state law. The Republican-led General Assembly passed the law in 2017 to cancel judicial primaries during the 2018 election cycle while it considers plans to overhaul the state judiciary, including appellate, superior and district courts.
A South Carolina state representative introduced two bills Tuesday that would place redistricting power in the hands of voters instead of politicians, a proposal that has had little movement in the past. “We need to change this system of politicians picking voters and get back to voters picking the politicians,” said bill sponsor Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, an Orangeburg Democrat who announced the bills on the second floor Statehouse lobby surrounded by supporters. The proposed Citizens Redistricting Commission would create a 14-member commission, two members representing each congressional district. Eligible voters who qualify for the job apply and go through a jury selection process before securing a spot on the commission. One of the qualifications for the job is not holding a position in office.
Washington: State’s sweeping voting rights reforms should be a model for the entire country. | Slate
The last two decades have been pretty bleak for voting rights advocates. President George W. Bush revived the myth of voter fraud to give cover to Republican lawmakers’ efforts to restrict the franchise. The Supreme Court upheld voter ID laws and disemboweled the Voting Rights Act. Democrats’ down-ballot collapse in 2010 paved the way for state-level suppression across the country. The results have been entirely predictable: voter roll purges. Cuts to early voting in minority communities. Ever-more draconian ID and registration requirements. Insidious racial gerrymandering. Voting rights supporters have been on the defensive for most of this battle, and Democrats have not always spent their political capital championing suffrage for all. That’s changing. This year, Democrats in four states have passed landmark legislation to make voting easier and fairer for everyone, and they’ve pursued an ambitious platform designed to restore and expand the franchise in the face of GOP attacks.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s victory in last week’s election was never in doubt, but the vote produced a surprise runner-up — an unusually large number of invalid ballots, suggesting a possible protest vote against el-Sissi or the election itself. Official figures released Monday by the election commission gave el-Sissi 97 percent of the vote, securing him a second, four-year term in office following an election in which he ran virtually unopposed. His sole challenger, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known politician who made no effort to challenge him, received 656,534 votes, or 2.92 percent. Moussa’s tally was outdone by the 1.76 million invalid ballots, which would have amounted to 7.27 percent of votes cast, a considerably higher percentage than in the last two presidential elections: 4.07 percent in 2014 and 3.1 percent in the 2012 runoff.
The municipal government here has decided to scrap its electronic voting system, the only one of its kind in Japan, it has been learned. With the cost burden on the Rokunohe Municipal Government heavy and the spread of the system slow, the Tokyo-based electronic voting system promotion cooperative association composed of voting machine makers and sellers was unable to update the town’s machines, leading to the decision to abandon the system. The town had planned to use electronic voting during the municipal assembly elections set for next spring, but now has decided to return to paper ballots. Electronic voting was introduced in Japan in 2002 through special legislation, but was still limited only to local elections. It was hoped that the machines would improve speed and accuracy in vote counting. However, in reality, it has made little traction, and with Rokunohe’s decision, there is now not a single municipality in Japan making use of the system.
Malaysia’s parliament on Monday passed a law prohibiting fake news that critics fear will be abused to silence dissent ahead of a general election. Despite warnings such a law would lead Malaysia closer to dictatorship, the bill was approved 123 to 64 after a heated debate. The bill originally proposed a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) for offenders, but the approved legislation sets the maximum prison sentence at six years.
The Philippines on Monday began a manual recount of votes in a vice presidential election after the son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos contested the outcome, while the incumbent assured supporters her win was not in doubt. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, a former senator popularly known as Bongbong, is furious about having lost to Leni Robredo by about 260,000 votes in a May 2016 election he says was marred by massive cheating. Many political commentators believe Marcos has ambitions to become president one day, and wanted to use the vice presidency as a stepping stone. Opinion polls had shown him the clear leader ahead of the vote, which is separate from that for the presidency.