National: Security researchers and industry reps clash over voting machine security testing | Cyberscoop

Cybersecurity experts and voting machine makers are fighting over laws that would allow researchers to test for vulnerabilities and report them without fear of legal retribution. Section 1201 of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made it illegal to bypass security measures that prevent access to copyrighted material, such as software. Over the years, however, the U.S. Copyright Office has created exemptions to Section 1201 to grant “good-faith” hackers the ability to research consumer device security, such as cell phones, tablets, smart appliances, connected cars and medical devices. Now, as the Copyright Office mulls expanding those exemptions to allow access to a broader array of technology — and voting machines in particular — security researchers and vendors are voicing their disagreements about the value of such an expansion. The office held a hearing fielding comments from stakeholders on Tuesday.

National: The Questions Zuckerberg Should Have Answered About Russia | WIRED

Over the last two days, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for more than 10 hours by two different Congressional committees. There was granular focus on privacy definitions and data collection, and quick footwork by Zuckerberg—backed by a phalanx of lawyers, consultants, and coaches—to craft a narrative that users “control” their data. (They don’t.) But the gaping hole at the center of both hearings was the virtual absence of questions on the tactics and purpose of Russian information operations conducted against Americans on Facebook during the 2016 elections. Here are the five of the biggest questions about Russia that Zuckerberg wasn’t asked or didn’t answer—and why it’s important for Facebook to provide clear information on these issues.

National: NRA got more money from Russia-linked sources than earlier reported | Politico

The National Rifle Association reported this week that it received more money from people with Russian ties than it has previously acknowledged, but announced that it was officially done cooperating with a congressional inquiry exploring whether illicit Kremlin-linked funding passed through the NRA and into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said on Wednesday. Wyden released a letter from the NRA, dated Tuesday, in which the gun rights group reported receiving $2,512.85 in contributions and membership dues “from people associated with Russian addresses” or known Russian nationals living in the United States from 2015 to the present. In the past, a congressional aide to Wyden said, the group had confirmed receiving only one financial contribution, in the form of a lifetime membership purchased by Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker.

Editorials: Florida Gov. Rick Scott continues to suppress the vote by seeking to deny ex-felons’ right to cast a ballot | Perry E. Thurston/Miami Herald

Well, that didn’t take long. Instead of correcting a wrong of their own making, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi decided to double-down to support a clemency process that a federal judge recently determined was both “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional.” In February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ordered the state to develop a new method of deciding when and how convicted felons can regain their voting rights by April 26. Scott and the other Republicans in the Florida Cabinet wasted little time snubbing the ruling and opting to file an appeal, a process that wastes taxpayers’ money and deprives 1.5 million Floridians of their basic civil right to vote. The decision shouldn’t surprise anyone, given state leaders’ track record of making it even more difficult for felons to regain voting and other civil rights. Seven years ago, the governor and the newly elected Cabinet dismantled what had been the makings of a legitimate clemency process and replaced it with an administrative beg-a-thon.

Georgia: Missing hyphens will make it hard for some people to vote in U.S. election | Reuters

Fabiola Diaz, 18, sits in the food court of her Georgia high school and meticulously fills out a voter registration form. Driver’s licence in one hand, she carefully writes her licence number in the box provided, her first name, last name, address, her eyes switching from licence to the paper form and back again to ensure every last detail, down to hyphens and suffixes, is absolutely correct. Diaz, and the voting rights activists holding a voter registration drive at South Cobb High School in northern Atlanta, know why it is so important not to make an error. A law passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature last year requires that all of the letters and numbers of the applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s licence number and last four digits of their Social Security number exactly match the same letters and numbers in the motor vehicle department or Social Security databases.

Louisiana: House passes bill to restore voting rights back to convicted felons | KALB

Convicted felons who are back in their communities are one step closer toward having their voting rights restored under a bill that passed a House committee on Wednesday. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 7-2 in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, that would allow a felon under community supervision to vote if the individual had not been incarcerated within the past five years. Currently, ex-convicts cannot vote while on probation or parole.

Maine: Maine’s Fitful Experiment With a New Way of Voting | The Atlantic

In two months, Maine voters will go to the polls to select their nominees to succeed the state’s pugnacious two-term Republican governor, Paul LePage. Whether all of the candidates accept the results of those party primaries, however, remains a surprisingly open question. The June 12 balloting will be the first statewide elections in the nation to use ranked-choice voting, a system Maine voters approved in a 2016 referendum designed to ensure that winners secure a majority—and not merely a plurality—of the vote. But a series of legal challenges and disputes in the state legislature over its implementation have clouded the upcoming primaries in uncertainty, and debate over the format has cleaved along partisan lines. Even as they campaign for support under ranked-choice voting, Republicans are calling for the state’s highest court to toss the new system at the last minute and order the June primaries to be held under traditional rules.

New Hampshire: Statehouse Hearing To Redefine Residency For Voting Draws Crowd Of Opponents | NHPR

A proposal to change New Hampshire’s residency laws as a way to tighten voting eligibility drew hours of testimony, most of it in opposition, before the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee on Thursday. The original venue for the hearing wasn’t nearly large enough to hold everyone who wanted to testify. People packed into the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs committee room like sardines, with more overflowing down the hall. At one point, a security officer was called in to keep the crowd under control. Initially, Sen. Regina Birdsell, the election law committee chair, tried to go forward with the hearing without relocating because it didn’t seem like an alternative space was available. But it wasn’t long before her colleague, Democratic Senator Jeff Woodburn, objected.

Pennsylvania: GOP guts bill proposing independent redistricting commission | WHYY

The Pennsylvania legislature would get more control over how state legislative boundary lines are drawn under an amended bill that passed out of the House Government Committee along party lines Wednesday. The original bill removed lawmakers from the process in favor of an independent citizens’ commission. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, says lawmakers are the most accountable of anyone who might be tasked with legislative reapportionment. “The best way to make sure we have citizens actually being the ones redrawing, citizens who are held accountable to their fellow citizens who elect them to office, and are not just going to go away after the work is done, and be held accountable in the future for their decisions, is to totally gut and replace this bill,” said Metcalfe, committee chairman.

Voting Blogs: Are Rhode Island’s Mail-In Ballots a “Gigantic, Illegal Loophole?” | State of Elections

Ken Block, a two-time former gubernatorial candidate, made headlines in early October 2017 over a provocative tweet regarding voter identification (“voter-ID”) and mail-in ballots. Mr. Block claimed that mail-in ballots violated Rhode Island’s voter-ID law and are effectively a “gigantic, illegal loophole” to performing widespread voter fraud. Block implored the Rhode Island legislature to attend to this matter immediately. In response, Mr. Stephen Erickson, a Rhode Island State Board of Elections member, considered such a measure as “another effort to limit people’s ability to vote.” Mr. Erickson asserted that the Board “regularly rejects mail[-in] ballots where there is a substantial difference between the two signatures or if the witnesses does not provide enough information so that they can be identified and questioned.”

Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan’s Election Is a Farce | Foreign Policy

In the past few weeks, first in Russia and then in Egypt, leaders have used so-called elections to provide a patina of legitimacy for their grip on power. Russian President Vladimir Putin secured yet another term with nearly 77 percent of the vote; Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did even better, nailing down 97 percent of the vote in Egypt. Neither of them deserved congratulations from Western leaders. In both cases, the outcome of the election was known well before voters went to the polls, as any serious opponents were prevented from running and the cards were solidly stacked in favor of the incumbents. These were not real elections in any sense of the term.

Congo: Opposition takes swing at election organisers | AFP

Congolese opposition groups rounded Wednesday on the country’s electoral commission and its insistence that a long-awaited presidential vote in the vast African nation must be conducted using electronic voting machines. “Democratic Republic of Congo’s political opposition expresses its profound concern over the casual attitude of the national electoral commission (CENI) in managing the election process,” representatives of five parties said in a rare joint statement from Kinshasa. DR Congo’s long-delayed elections are slated for December 23 but there are fears of mounting unrest and organisers have already encountered a slew of logistical problems — including “millions” of duplicate names on voting registers — organising the vote in the vast, mineral-rich nation.

Mexico: National Electoral Institute signs deal with Google | Riviera Maya News

 For the upcoming elections, Mexico’s National Electoral Institute has signed a deal with Google to help Mexican voters. The new deal with the Internet search giant will see them provide extensive information about electoral candidates while also providing citizens with voting-related services. Google will provide online information such as the location of ballot boxes through Google Maps, candidate information, live streaming of presidential debates via YouTube and even instructions on how to vote.

Norway: Opposition hits out at ’19th century’ double vote idea | The Local

A suggestion by that owners of holiday cabins could be given two votes – one for each constituency in which they own property – has been decried by the opposition as “from the 19th century”. The Progress Party (FrP), a right-wing partner in the coalition government, last week suggested that an extra vote could be given to citizens who pay real estate tax on properties in separate parts of the country. Helge André Njåstad, financial spokesperson with the Progress Party, said last week the measure would give property tax contributors fair influence in the areas in which they contribute to municipal coffers. The party actually wants to reduce real estate tax overall, Njåstad also said.

Sierra Leone: Court challenge filed against Sierra Leone election results | Associated Press

A member of the losing political party has filed a legal challenge to Sierra Leone’s presidential election, claiming irregularities and asking for a fresh vote. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden’s petition asks the Supreme Court to nullify the results of the election in which Julius Maada Bio last week was declared the winner. Bio, his Sierra Leone Peoples Party and the national election commission were being served copies of the petition on Wednesday.