National: 14 states’ voting machines are highly vulnerable. How’d that happen? | McClatchy

Texas counties have doled out millions of dollars in recent months to replace thousands of old touch-screen voting machines that lack a paper record – a weakness security experts warn could allow Russians or other hackers to rig U.S. elections without detection. The problem is, many of the new machines have the same vulnerability. So do similar machines in more than a dozen states across the country. Vicki Shelly, the election administrator in San Jacinto County, Tex., north of Houston, said she received no alert from Washington or state officials before the county spent $383,000 on its new paperless touch-screen voting system made by Hart InterCivic. “Whoever’s doing all the research, it seems like we should have been in on it a little sooner,” said Shelly, one of hundreds of election officials that make up the first line of defense against attempts to tamper with U.S. election results. “Honestly, it’s very disturbing.”

National: States, cities sue U.S. to block 2020 census citizenship question | Reuters

A group of U.S. states and cities sued the Trump administration to stop it from asking people filling out 2020 census forms whether they are citizens. The lawsuit by 17 states, Washington D.C. and six cities challenged what they called last week’s “unconstitutional and arbitrary” decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, to add the citizenship question. It was also a fresh challenge to what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at a press conference announcing the lawsuit, called the administration’s “anti-immigrant animus.” All of the states bringing the case have Democratic attorneys general. They were joined by New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Providence, Rhode Island, which all have Democratic mayors, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Another state, California, filed a similar lawsuit last week.

Florida: Gov. Scott appeals judge’s ruling on voting rights for felons | Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s three Cabinet members are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that they must overhaul Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with a remedy by April 26. “People elected by Floridians should determine Florida’s clemency rules for convicted criminals, not federal judges,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement. “This process has been in place for decades and is outlined in both the U.S. and Florida constitutions.” The state also asked to delay meeting the April 26 deadline, which drew a sharp rebuke from the judge, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Last month, he ordered Scott and the Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — to figure out a more fair way to restore voting rights for most felons who have completed their sentences.

Maine: Legislative fix on ranked-choice voting falters in Senate, leaving fate up to the courts | Portland Press Herald

A last-minute attempt by Maine lawmakers to resolve some of the issues surrounding ranked-choice voting failed Thursday, leaving it up to the courts to decide the fate of the first-in-the-nation system. A 17-17 vote on a joint order in the Maine Senate scuttled attempts by Democrats to resolve concerns that Republicans had raised about the ballot-box law adopted in a statewide referendum with 52 percent of the vote in 2016. The joint order would have triggered a new bill to clarify that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is authorized to expend the funds necessary to conduct a ranked-choice primary. The bill also would have authorized Maine State Police, at Dunlap’s direction, to retrieve ballots as needed and return them to Augusta for a centralized tabulation by Dunlap – an additional step to determine winners in a ranked-choice vote.

Nebraska: For eighth year, voter ID amendment defeated in Legislature | Omaha World-Herald

Another year, another frustration for backers of requiring voter identification in Nebraska. State lawmakers on Thursday fell short of cutting off debate and advancing a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. The vote marks the eighth year in a row that voter ID legislation has been blocked. State Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who introduced Legislative Resolution 1CA, said he is exploring the possibility of going directly to voters via an initiative petition drive. “This is not the end of the discussion,” he said. “There will come a day when the issue is taken out of the hands of legislators.” A second Murante proposal, which some dubbed “voter ID lite,” cleared first-round consideration later on Thursday after all of the voter identification provisions were stripped out.

Texas: Federal judge: Texas is violating national voter registration law | The Texas Tribune

Handing the state another voting rights loss, a federal judge has sided with a civil rights group that claimed Texas violated federal law by failing to register residents to vote when they updated their drivers’ license information online. In a court order made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio ruled that Texas was in violation of the federal National Voter Registration Act. A portion of that law requires states to give residents the opportunity to register to vote at the same time that they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.

West Virginia: Meet the guy paying for West Virginia to run an election on blockchain | StateScoop

Bradley Tusk is best known as the former political operative who invented lobbying for the sharing economy. He’s the guy who claims credit for turning hordes of Uber customers into city-hall picketers whenever the ride-hailing company objected to new taxi regulations in New York, Washington, or a half-dozen other cities. When states tried to crack down on fantasy sports websites that offer daily cash prizes, one of the biggest, Fanduel, hired Tusk to mobilize its user base to hit back at attorneys general. When a local government suggests that the the people who pick up home-improvement jobs through Handy should be classified as employees entitled to benefits, the app calls in Tusk to argue that those workers are independent contractors. … But Tusk’s financial backing and the Warner family’s enthusiasm shouldn’t be taken as proof that elections can be conducted securely over the internet, says Duncan Buell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina who focuses on voting systems and election integrity. “I am strongly opposed to electronic voting, and I think the whole notion of internet voting is completely nuts,” Buell says. “There are a number of issues that come up. The first is authentication. How do you verify who’s at the other end?”

Congo: South Korea Embroiled In DR Congo Voting Machine Controversy | AFP

South Korea’s government has officially distanced itself from a firm providing electronic voting machines to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where tensions are running high ahead of a presidential poll in December. In an email sent to AFP on Tuesday, the South Korean embassy in Kinshasa spelt out what it called the government’s “official position,” expressing concern the contract could become embroiled in DRC’s political crisis. Use of the machines “could give the Congolese government a pretext for undesirable results related to the elections, notably a further delay in holding the elections,” said the statement, in French. The vote due in the vast and troubled central African country on December 23 has been twice postponed since 2016, and some analysts fear an explosion of violence if the poll is delayed again.

Mexico: Drug traffickers agree to stop murdering political candidates ahead of election, bishop says | Bloomberg

Gangs of Mexican drug traffickers have agreed to end their murder spree targeting political candidates ahead of the July 1 elections, a Mexican bishop who claims to have brokered the deal said. Bishop Salvador Rangel, who has a record of reaching out to drug kingpins in hopes of curbing violence, told reporters he held several meetings with traffickers from different criminal groups in Guerrero state after as many as nine candidates were killed there, several in the town of Chilapa. His actions aren’t isolated, coming after the leading presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, floated the idea of an amnesty for some criminals in the form of shortened prison terms.

National: How Partisan Gerrymandering Became Supreme Court Issue | Bloomberg

Gerrymandering, the process of drawing district lines to fortify one political party at the expense of another, is as old as the U.S. republic. In the late 1780s, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, who opposed ratifying the new Constitution, got allies in his state’s legislature to draw a congressional district map unfavorable to James Madison, the father of the founding document. (Madison won anyway.) Good-government groups grouse that gerrymandering lets politicians choose their constituents, rather than the other way around. But as the courts get more involved, others fret about judges interfering in politics.

National: Felony Voting Laws Are Confusing; Activists Would Ditch Them Altogether | Stateline

Her sentencing made headlines across the country this week: A woman, recently released from prison in Texas and still on felony probation, is set to head back to prison for another five years after she unknowingly broke the law by voting in the 2016 election. Texas law prohibits people such as Crystal Mason from voting until they are no longer under supervision by corrections officers. Mason told the court she had no idea she was prohibited from voting. At her polling station, officials let her cast a provisional ballot. The confusion over felons’ voting rights is not limited to Mason’s situation or to Texas. Across the country, state felon voting laws vary widely. Some states bar people from voting only while they are in prison, while others deny voting rights to people who are still under the supervision of a probation or parole officer. And some prohibit convicted felons from voting for the rest of their lives, unless they receive a pardon from the governor. 

National: Groups partner to improve local elections | The Hill

The education arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is teaming up with a voting rights group to increase voter turnout and fix polling problems that keep people from voting. The Leadership Conference Education Fund announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with Access Democracy for three years to provide institutional support in the group’s efforts to fix local election issues such as long lines and broken voting machines. 

California: Confusion over independent voters prompts redesign of voter registration card | The San Diego Union-Tribune

The card millions of Californians use to register to vote is receiving its first makeover in more than a decade, inspired in part by confusion over how to become an “independent” unaffiliated voter — a problem highlighted by a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2016. “It’s an issue that’s been lingering for years,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “But that was the first time it was really in the spotlight.” The Times found a substantial number of Californians who registered with the American Independent Party wrongly believed they weren’t part of any political party — an error that later kept some from casting ballots in the state’s 2016 presidential primary. “A combination of issues prompted us to see if there was a better way,” Padilla said.

Florida: Federal judge claps back hard after Florida challenges ruling on felons’ voting rights | Orlando Weekly

In a searing clapback of the kind usually reserved for especially trifling people, Walker struck down a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration against overhauling Florida’s controversial voting rights restoration process for former felons. “Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, defendants continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards,” Walker wrote. “They ask this Court to stay its prior orders.” “No.”

Nevada: Elections chief: 63,000 voter names made inactive | Associated Press

More than 63,000 people whose names were moved last month from active to inactive status on Nevada voter registration rolls can still vote, a top state elections official said Thursday. Most probably moved without updating their voter registration address, said Wayne Thorley, deputy elections official to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. Cegavske announced late Wednesday that the state tallied 1.4 million active registered voters statewide during regular voter list maintenance in March, down nearly 4.3 percent from February. About 4.8 percent of Democratic party voter names were moved to inactive status during the month, and 2.6 percent of Republican party names, a statement from Cegavske said.

New York: Funding for early voting excluded from state budget | The Legislative Gazette

Despite months of lobbying by voting reform activists, local and county officials and good government groups, lawmakers in Albany failed to include funding for early voting in the final version of the 2018-2019 budget. The completed spending plan, which was finalized early Saturday morning ahead of the start of a new fiscal year, does not include Gov. Cuomo’s proposed early voting plan. The proposal, which was outlined in the 2018 State of the State address in January, would have implemented up to 12 days of early voting ahead of election day. New York is currently one of 13 states that does not have early voting beyond absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania: To Meet State Voting Standards, Westmorland County Moves to Auditable Machines | GovTech

Westmoreland County voters will be able to test voting machines this summer that would enable election officials to meet a state directive that requires new devices to have a verifiable paper trail. While officials cautioned they have no concrete plan to replace more than 850 touchscreen voting computers the county purchased 13 years ago, they said preliminary work is underway in preparation for a potential purchase of new machines. “Our machines are old, but they work well. But like everything else, they have a life cycle,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas. “We are doing our homework now to find a replacement.”

Virginia: A national non-profit has created confusion among Virginia voters by sending mailers that imply they are not registered to vote | The Washington Post

A Democratic-leaning group working to get more unmarried women, people of color and millennials to the polls in November has sewn confusion in Virginia through mailers to voters that imply they’re not registered, election officials said Thursday. The Washington-based Voter Participation Center, a nonprofit that operates in 23 states, mailed 140,000 voter registration forms in Virginia with a message telling recipients they “do not appear to be currently registered to vote.” The same group sent the same kind of confusing mailers in Virginia in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

Australia: Boundary changes set to trigger Labor factional jostling | The Guardian

New boundaries set to be released by the Australian Electoral Commission on Friday are expected to deliver two new seats to the Labor party at the next federal election – and trigger a fresh round of factional jostling in Melbourne. The AEC is expected on Friday morning to publish redistributions creating a new inner-city seat in Canberra and a new electorate in the western or north-western suburbs of Melbourne. Given that Canberra and Melbourne’s west are considered Labor strongholds, major-party operatives think both seats will be a plus in the Labor column at the time of the next federal election – although the Greens will also have their eye on the new Canberra seat.  But the picture could be more mixed for Labor depending on the flow-on consequences of the Victorian redistribution – with boundary changes potentially altering the balance in surrounding electorates, including McEwen, Casey and Gorton – and in the city’s east.

Editorials: Viktor Orban’s Perversion of Democracy in Hungary | The New York Times

On Sunday, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party will likely cruise to another victory in Hungary’s general election, giving Mr. Orban, the reigning champion of “illiberal democracy” — a term he proudly embraces — a fourth term to pursue his assault on democratic institutions, immigrants, the European Union and anything smacking of social change. The campaign has been surprisingly tough, but then Fidesz designed the voting system and controls much of the media. A victory will no doubt hearten the ranks of the nativist populists who, despite their avowed aversion to international organizations, take pride in being in the vanguard of an international reactionary movement. It is telling that after his ouster from the White House, Stephen Bannon went on a tour of European soul mates, during which he hailed Mr. Orban as his hero and “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”

Malaysia: Prime Minister Najib dissolves parliament paving way for tough election | Reuters

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the dissolution of parliament on Friday, paving the way for a tough election where the embattled leader will face off against his old mentor and the country’s most seasoned campaigner Mahathir Mohamad. Najib, 64, burdened by a multi-billion dollar scandal linked to a state fund, is under pressure to deliver an emphatic win for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition as he struggles to appease Malaysians unhappy with rising costs and blunt the challenge from the charismatic 92-year-old Mahathir.

Mexico: Violence against Mexican politicians up, cartel leaders promise to stop | Business Insider

Mexico saw record violence in 2017, when its 25,339 homicide cases were the most in a year since the government began releasing data in 1997. The homicide rate also rose to 20.51 per 100,000 people in 2017 from 16.8 per 100,000 in 2016 — higher than the 19.37 per 100,000 in 2011, the drug war’s peak. Newly released data underscores the growing insecurity in the country, but for politicians, particularly those at the local level, the final months in 2017 and first months of this year were especially deadly. Those politicians are preparing for general elections in July, when more than 3,400 positions — including the presidency, hundreds of federal legislature seats, and eight state governorships — will be up for grabs. There are varying estimates of the toll this violence has taken.

Sierra Leone: Election violence makes a comeback in Sierra Leone | Sierra Leone Telegraph

Police in Sierra Leone have been engaging in fierce street battles with youths this afternoon in the Eastern District of Kenema, after serious violence broke out between supporters of the APC party and the SLPP. There are reports of serious injuries, though so far, the number of deaths remain uncertain. This wave of political violence comes less than twenty-four hours after the result of the presidential runoff election between the APC and SLPP was last night announced and the winner – the Retired Brigadier and opposition SLPP candidate – Julius Maada Bio, was declared the winner with a three-percentage point lead. Until last night’s orgy of violence by the supporters of both political parties – APC and SLPP, which took place in the central business district of the capital Freetown, Sierra Leone’s 2018 elections had been hailed by international observers as relatively peaceful.