Maryland may be getting a dry run in how to respond to an election cyberattack. State officials say a computer glitch prevented the Board of Elections from updating voter registration data for as many as 80,000 voters. As a result, droves of people will have to cast provisional ballots if they want to vote in Maryland’s primary today. No, it wasn’t the work of hackers. But the technical error simulated what a hack on a state’s voter registration database might look like — and how election administrators might handle it. “Almost everything that a malicious actor might try to do can also happen by accident,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, which promotes voting rights. The discovery of the flaw offers a valuable lesson for election officials as they work to improve the security of their election systems ahead of the November midterms, which U.S. intelligence chiefs warn are already being targeted by Russian hackers. And the response shows that election administrators are ready to move quickly if something goes awry.
Nearly six months after President Trump, citing growing litigation, dissolved his sketchy voter fraud commission, a federal judge in Washington said Wednesday that certain commission documents should be turned over to one of its commissioners, who sued last year over the panel’s lack of transparency. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had previously ordered in late December that the commissioner, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D), receive the documents, including internal communications, that he was requesting. About two weeks after her order, the commission folded, but the legal fight over his case has continued. The judge said Wednesday that the commission must turn over the documents that were covered in her Dec. 22 order by July 18. The judge said that she had not “considered line-by-line the documents requested by Plaintiff.” But she pointed to the documents referenced in an index of commission-related communications, which was provided in a separate lawsuit, as an example of what she was expecting to be turned over.
National: Inside Facebook and Twitter’s secret meetings with Trump aides and conservative leaders who say tech is biased | The Washington Post
Twitter and Facebook are scrambling to assuage conservative leaders who have sounded alarms — and sought to rile voters — with accusations that the country’s tech giants are censoring right-leaning posts, tweets and news. From secret dinners with conservative media elite to private meetings with the Republican National Committee, the new outreach reflects tech giants’ delicate task: satisfying a party in power while defending online platforms against attacks that threaten to undermine the public’s trust in the Web. The complaints have come from the upper echelons of the GOP, including top aides to President Trump, arguably the world’s most prominent Twitter user. The chief executives of Facebook and Twitter, meanwhile, have both admitted in recent months that Silicon Valley’s ranks are dominated by liberals, which has only fed accusations of bias from the right.
The Democratic National Committee’s two-year debate over its presidential primary rules came closer to resolution Wednesday, as its key rulemaking body voted to curtail the power of unpledged delegates — so-called “superdelegates” — at the next convention. At the end of a three-hour conference call, which was opened to the public, the Rules and Bylaws Committee adopted a compromise that grew out of lengthy negotiations between supporters of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In the past, superdelegates were able to vote on the first ballot at the convention, for any nominee. The new rule would prohibit superdelegates from voting until a second ballot, or in the event a candidate arrived at the convention with enough pledged delegates — earned in primaries and caucuses — to secure the nomination.
Editorials: Trump will replace Kennedy with a Scalia clone. Only one thing might stop him. | Richard Hasen/Slate
Buckle up, folks. If you did not like what the Supreme Court has done in the last few weeks on voting rights, public-sector unions, and Trump’s travel ban, things are going to get a whole lot worse now that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring and with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts about to become the new swing justice. There’s precious little Democrats can do, at least in the short term, either to stop the nomination of another clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, or to stop the political benefit President Donald Trump is likely to get from such an appointment. Fixing the Supreme Court will be a long-term project. In short order, I expect President Trump to take the safe route and nominate a stellar Scalia clone. My personal expectation is that Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is a likely pick. Trump has reportedly already said he intends to select the next justice from a previously circulated list of Federalist Society–approved judges. Following the playbook used for Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, the new nominee will be a very smart (likely white male) judge with impeccable credentials who can get up in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and commit to absolutely nothing in terms of his future rulings.
California: Some Kings County votes counted twice in state assembly primary, recount lifts Salas | KBAK
Some votes cast in Kings County during California’s June 6 primary were counted twice by mistake, Kings County officials say. An ensuing recount resulted in a slight shakeup in the state assembly race for District 32, where incumbent Rudy Salas moved ahead of his conservative challenger, Justin Mendes, after first appearing to have lost. Both men would have appeared on the ballot in November anyway. Neither candidate seemed shaken by the correction. Each say they continue to trust the process.
Colorado: Ballot printing company for Montrose County in hot water elsewhere | Grand Junction Sentinel
The company that inaccurately printed 25,000 ballots for Montrose County’s primary election has been suspended from conducting business in California for unpaid taxes and is also delinquent in filing required paperwork with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Integrated Voting Solutions, based in California, owes that state almost $5,000 in unpaid taxes and was suspended from legally transacting business in the state in June 2017. According to records from California’s Franchise Tax Board, which collects state personal income and corporate income taxes, IVS cannot defend itself in court or maintain the right to use its name for business purposes in California until it pays the taxes and is no longer suspended. The company also faces a $2,000 penalty per tax year for failing to file its tax returns, according to the tax board. IVS remains on the California secretary of state’s list of approved ballot vendors issued in January, despite the suspension. It initially registered with the state in 2004.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sued the state of Connecticut on Thursday, over how it counts its prisoners when crafting legislative districts. The NAACP lawsuit argues that urban districts are weakened while rural districts with fewer minorities benefit unfairly, in a practice critics call “partisan gerrymandering”. The civil rights organization hopes the case can become a template for suits it may file in other states where inmates are included in the population counts of areas where they are imprisoned, rather than their home districts. Including incarcerated people in population counts for the Connecticut general assembly districts where prisons are located is unfair to those living in the districts where the inmates originally came from, said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and chief executive.
Sixteen- and 17-year-olds in D.C. may become the youngest Americans eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election. A bill backed by a majority of the members of the D.C. Council would lower the city’s voting age to 16. Takoma Park, Greenbelt and Hyattsville in Maryland have lowered the voting age to 16 and proponents in D.C. say the teenagers have become energized voting blocks in those communities (though they can only vote in municipal elections there). The D.C. measure would amend the city’s 1955 Election Code to allow 16- and 17-year-olds voting rights — and it makes no exception for presidential voting. It would also require every school in the city to provide its 16-year-old students a voter registration application.
North Carolina: Supreme Court Won’t Hear North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Case | The New York Times
The Supreme Court passed up an opportunity on Monday to take another look at whether the Constitution bars extreme partisan gerrymandering, returning a case from North Carolina to a trial court there for a further examination of whether the challengers had suffered the sort of direct injury that would give them standing to sue. The move followed two decisions last week that sidestepped the main issues in partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. The new case was an appeal from a decision in January by a three-judge panel of a Federal District Court in North Carolina. The ruling found that Republican legislators there had violated the Constitution by drawing the districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates.
Senators gave tentative approval Thursday to add a constitutional amendment to the ballot in November requiring photo identification for voting. The votes in both the House and the Senate were strictly along party lines, with Republican super-majorities backing the amendment and Democrats opposing it. Republican supporters said the requirement, should voters approve it, would ensure electoral integrity and restore public confidence. “Voting is a very privilege for us, and many have died to give us that privilege, and it needs to be protected,” said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth. “This is the first step in doing that.” But Democrats blasted the proposal – and its Republican supporters – as fear-mongering in the pursuit of voter suppression, pointing out that an audit of the 2016 presidential election by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement found only one case of voter impersonation that would have been prevented by voter ID.
The goal of Unisyn’s voting machine systems is to keep human beings out of the process as much as possible, “You’re taking that human element out of the process,” said Todd Mullen of RBM Consulting, which is marketing and servicing electronic voting systems for Unisyn Voting Solutions, based in Vista, Calif. “The more you handle a ballot, the more opportunity you have to mishandle it.” Mullen presented Unisyn’s systems Thursday for the Mercer County commissioners and the county’s elections staff in the second of three scheduled demonstrations of voting machine systems. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania are under a mandate by Gov. Tom Wolf to adopt a voting system by January 2020 that provides paper documentation of individual votes, while protecting voters’ identities. Election Systems & Software, based in Omaha, Neb., demonstrated its devices June 14. ES&S company’s products include the iVotronic, which Mercer County residents have been using to cast their votes since 2006. The current system lacks the required paper trail. Dominion Voting Systems of Denver will stop in Mercer County July 12 to present its wares.
Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county are accusing election officials of trying to suppress black votes in early voting preceding the August elections. Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong on Wednesday criticized the decision by the county Election Commission to make Agricenter International the only open polling location on the first five days of the early voting process, which starts July 13. Strong said the location in suburban east Memphis is too far away for people who live in urban black neighborhoods who rely on public transportation to get to voting locations. He argued the location, plus three new suburban sites being opened later as early voting spots, will make it easier for Republicans to vote compared with Democrats.
Texas: Texas won its redistricting fight at the Supreme Court. Now it hopes to use that win to wrap up its voter ID suit. | The Texas Tribune
Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas lawmakers did not intentionally discriminate when they signed off on congressional and state House maps in 2013, the state is looking to use that victory to wrap up another case in which it’s accused of intentionally violating the voting rights of people of color. In a motion filed Wednesday, the Texas attorney general’s office asked U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi to reconsider her findings that the state’s voter ID law was enacted to purposefully discriminate against voters of color. An appellate court has already upheld the law, but — in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling — the state is now trying to convince the judge to reverse her findings of discrimination in the voter ID case in order to eliminate the possibility of a return to federal oversight of its election laws.
A federal court on Tuesday ruled that Virginia’s legislative districts were gerrymandered along racial lines and ordered the state to come up with a redistricting plan by the end of October. In a 2-1 ruling, the judges for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that state lawmakers must redraw lines for state House districts by Oct. 30. “Overwhelming evidence in this case shows that, contrary to this constitutional mandate, the state has sorted voters into districts based on the color of their skin,” Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in the majority opinion.
The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are said to have been first used in 1982 for the North Paravur Assembly by-election in Kerala, and for a limited number of polling stations. This equipment was approved for wider use by the Election Commission of India in technical collaboration with Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India in 1989. But EVMs made their universal debut in the 1999 parliamentary elections after extensive consultations with stakeholders and have since become an integral, even indispensable, part of India’s electoral system. Political parties across the spectrum have questioned the credibility and efficacy of EVMs. The general outcry reached its crescendo lately with a section of the political class demanding their replacement with the earlier system of paper ballots. While there are a large number of countries, including most of the developed ones which still use paper ballots for voting, India was one of the few countries which introduced EVMs to get over the multiple problems associated with the previous system of voting.
The numbers tell a fascinating story. The Kyrgyz Republic has a population of 5 million, and has had 30 Prime Ministers, 5 Presidents, 2 bloody revolutions, and 1 civil war in the southern Osh region since 1991. The government is understandably keen to better engage citizens – perhaps something of an understatement. Technology is seen as the answer for a nation that wants to be a hub on the Digital Silk Road, and it’s using tech to cut corruption, include different viewpoints and increase participation in elections.
A total of 133 politicians have been murdered in the run-up to Mexico’s elections on Sunday (Jul 1), the consulting firm Etellekt said, as the violence gripping the country exploded into politics on a record scale. The murders – mostly of local-level politicians, the most frequent targets for Mexico’s powerful drug cartels – were recorded between September, when candidate registration opened, and the close of campaigning on Wednesday, when an interim mayor was killed in the western state of Michoacan. The victims included 48 candidates running for office – 28 who were killed during the primary campaigns and 20 during the general election campaign, Etellekt, which carried out a study of election-related violence, told AFP Thursday.
Pakistan’s former prime minister and a member of his cabinet have been controversially barred from contesting next month’s general election. It is the latest in a series of blows to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party that have fuelled accusations the country’s military is trying to deny the party a second term. On Thursday, the supreme court found the former privatisation minister Daniyal Aziz guilty of contempt, disqualifying him from parliament for five years.
The run-up to the July election is anything but smooth. Pakistan’s democratic process has been marred by crater-like pockmarks. Old wounds of rigging — discreet and indiscreet — continue to haunt those in the race. And keeping with past traditions, the chatter of electoral fraud has already made it to the lips of all those who matter. Last month, Khursheed Shah, a senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader, rejected rival Imran Khan’s 100-days plan — an outline of what Imran’s party hopes to achieve if elected to power. He further labelled it an attempt of pre-poll rigging. “A 100-days plan is declared after winning an election,” Shah told the media, “Have they already won to be making this announcement?”
National: States using election security grants for new voting machines that won’t be ready for 2018 | McClatchy
In three Southern states with some of the nation’s most vulnerable election systems, federal grants designed to help thwart cyberattacks may not provide much protection in time for the mid-term elections as Congress intended. The $380 million in grant funding was supposed to help all states bolster their elections security infrastructure ahead of the 2018 elections after the intelligence community had warned that state voting systems could again be targeted by foreign hackers as they were in 2016. States have until 2023 to spend the grant money, said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, which distributes the grants. But the long procurement process for voting machines makes it hard for states to buy new machines with their grants and get them into service by the 2018 mid-terms, even though “Congress looked at getting this money out quickly to have an effect on the 2018 election,” Hicks said. … With just over four months remaining until the mid-term elections, at least 40 states and the District of Columbia have requested more than $266 million of the $380 million pot, according to the EAC.
National: We Shouldn’t Be Surprised About Election Hacking in 2018. But Are We Prepared? | InsideSources
On the agenda this summer at one of the largest annual conventions for hackers: a session for kids in attendance on how to break into America’s voting machines. If a preteen computer whiz can crack a voting machine from a hotel in Las Vegas, what might someone more experienced — and less scrupulous — be able to do if they set their sights on the November general election? As we all know, American elections have been targeted before. In 2016, Russia attacked election-related systems in at least 21 states. And reports indicate Moscow has tried to breach other election systems around the world. But while past attacks are certainly reasons for concern, cybersecurity risks exist in every field — they’re part of the world we live in. And the United States has knowledge and resources to mount a defense.
National: Top Tech Companies Met With Intelligence Officials to Discuss Midterms | The New York Times
Eight of the tech industry’s most influential companies, in anticipation of a repeat of the Russian meddling that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign, met with United States intelligence officials last month to discuss preparations for this year’s midterm elections. The meeting, which took place May 23 at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., was also attended by representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oath, Snap and Twitter, according to three attendees of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because of its sensitive nature. The company officials met with Christopher Krebs, an under secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, as well as a representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s newly formed “foreign influence” task force.
On Monday, five years to the day that the Supreme Court decided Shelby County v. Holder, a case in which the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act with assurances that other parts of the act would still protect minority voters, the court proved those assurances false in Abbott v. Perez. In Abbott, the Roberts court on a 5–4 vote eschewed the judicial minimalism it has used to avoid other contentious issues—such as partisan gerrymandering and the clash between anti-discrimination laws and religious liberties—to contort rules limiting its own jurisdiction so that it could give states like Texas freer rein for repression of minority voting rights. The signals from Justice Neil Gorsuch, who signed onto a Clarence Thomas concurrence, show that things will only get worse going forward, especially if Justice Anthony Kennedy retires in the near future. In the time before the Supreme Court’s 2013 opinion in Shelby County, states like Texas with a history of racial discrimination in voting had to get federal approval—or “pre-clearance”—before making changes in their voting rules. To get pre-clearance, the state had to show that changes would not make minority voters worse off.
In the suburbs of Salt Lake City, there is a planned community called Suncrest that has turned out to be a good place to study voter turnout. Suncrest feels like one community, full of modern, single-family houses. But it straddles two different counties — Salt Lake and Utah. And in 2016, the two used different voting systems. Salt Lake County switched to mail-based voting, which meant that all registered voters would receive a ballot at their home a few weeks before Election Day. They could then mail it back or drop it off at a county office. In Utah County, by contrast, residents still voted the old-fashioned way. They had to visit their local polling place, Ridgeline Elementary School, on Election Day.
Indiana is one of 13 states without a paper ballot backup for all its voting machines, and an infusion of federal funds aimed at correcting that and other problems with state voting systems likely won’t fully correct the situation. State and county officials have yet to decide how to spend Indiana’s share of $380 million made available to states this year after the federal government detailed the way Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election. The interference included attempts to target the election systems of at least 21 states. The $7.6 million Indiana is eligible for is not enough to purchase new equipment and, by one independent estimate, would cover at most one-third of the cost of replacing the paperless balloting machines.
Kansas: ‘It takes five minutes or less.’ Court ruling means new Kansas voters sign up easily | The Kansas City Star
Four days after a federal judge threw out a Kansas voting restriction, 72 newly naturalized Americans became registered voters in the same courthouse where the landmark voting rights trial took place. “That’s the reason why I became a citizen: to be able to vote,” said Patricia Mascote, who owns a convenience store in Overland Park and has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years after emigrating from Mexico. If Mascote’s naturalization ceremony had taken place just a week earlier, Mascote could have been required to submit her naturalization documents to complete the registration process. Instead, all she and the other newly registered voters had to do was write down their names and addresses and attest to their new status as citizens.
Kansas: Kobach asks for new hearing in local effort to summon grand jury to investigate his office / Lawrence Journal World
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking a state appellate court for a new hearing to determine whether the Douglas County District Court should be required to summon a citizen-initiated grand jury to investigate allegations that his office has mishandled voter registration applications. Kobach filed the petition Friday, which was the deadline to ask for a rehearing in the case. Steven X. Davis, a Lawrence resident who is running as a Democrat for a seat in the Kansas House, had filed petitions in August 2017 calling for a grand jury to investigate general allegations that Kobach’s office had mismanaged the state’s voter registration system and had been “grossly neglectful with respect to their election duties.” Kansas is one of only six states that allows citizen-initiated grand juries.
Maryland: Voter registration snafu affects 80,000, four times as many as initially announced | Baltimore Sun
As many as 80,000 voters will have to cast provisional ballots in Tuesday’s primary election because of a computer glitch — four times as many as state officials initially announced. On the eve of the election, Democratic legislative leaders called for the immediate resignation of Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine Nizer, who oversees the agency that failed to forward voter information to the Maryland Board of Elections. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan ordered an audit of what went wrong. The MVA discovered the problem was more widespread after it first announced late Saturday that nearly 19,000 were affected, according to a document obtained by The Baltimore Sun. The computer glitch affected some voters across the state who tried to change their registration address or party affiliation through the MVA since April 2017.
The U.S. Supreme Court told a panel of judges to reconsider a ruling that would force North Carolina to redraw its congressional voting map to give Republicans less of a partisan advantage. The justices ordered a new look based on their week-old ruling in a similar case from Wisconsin. That decision said Democratic voters hadn’t shown they have legal standing to challenge the state’s Republican-drawn assembly map. North Carolina Democrats are trying to invalidate a map that gave Republicans 10 of the 13 U.S. House seats in the 2016 election with 53 percent of the overall congressional vote. Democrats say fairer lines would produce something closer to representational parity. A three-judge panel said that North Carolina lawmakers were “motivated by invidious partisan intent” and that the map “perfectly achieved the General Assembly’s partisan objectives.”