Senators are trying to pass legislation aimed at securing U.S. election systems from cyberattacks by inserting the measure into annual defense policy legislation. Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have introduced a new version of the Secure Elections Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the upper chamber is poised to take up next week. The lawmakers, backed by a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, originally introduced the legislation last December amid rising fears over threats to voter registration databases and other digital systems as a result of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source. The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia’s largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.
National: Documents Show Political Lobbying in Census Question About Citizenship | The New York Times
Documents released in a lawsuit attempting to block the inclusion of a question about citizenship in the 2020 census show lobbying by anti-immigration hard-liners for the question’s inclusion, and resistance on the part of some census officials to asking it. The Kansas secretary of state, Kris W. Kobach, who has taken a strong position against illegal immigration and was appointed by President Trump to a now-defunct panel on voter fraud, had advocated to include the question directly with the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, according to the documents. In a July 2017 email to an aide to Mr. Ross, Mr. Kobach said that he had reached out to the secretary a few months earlier “on the direction of Steve Bannon,” then the White House chief strategist.
Verified Voting has gone visual! In addition to recently collaborating with the Wall Street Journal and NPR on maps depicting voting technology across the states, Verified Voting created its own infographic: “Safeguarding Our Elections: The Solutions to Vulnerabilities in Election Security.” The infographic is the first in a series of visuals Verified Voting is creating.…
A federal judge on Friday blocked the state of Indiana from enforcing a 2017 law allowing election officials to remove voters from the rolls if they were flagged by a controversial tracking system. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Common Cause Indiana and other groups that the legislation violates the National Voter Registration Act and threatens to disenfranchise eligible voters. “The court agrees with Common Cause that the greater public interest is in allowing eligible voters to exercise their right to vote without being disenfranchised without notice,” Pratt wrote in her 28-page ruling.
Louisiana: Appeal challenging Louisiana Constitution felon voting rights law taken to state’s high court | The Advocate
A recent appeals court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of a 1976 Louisiana law barring felons on probation or parole from voting was appealed Friday to the state Supreme Court. The filing came eight days after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a measure that allows people who have been out of prison for five years, but remain on probation or parole, to register to vote. Some 2,000 felons in Louisiana will have their voting rights restored in March as a result of the governor’s signing House Bill 265 into law, which passed during this year’s regular legislative session.
Worried that an issue that has majority support in both legislative chambers could be left on the cutting room floor when formal sessions end, a coalition of 42 organizations has asked House Speaker Robert DeLeo to move an automatic voter registration bill to the floor. Common Cause Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, ACLU Massachusetts, MassPIRG and others pressed DeLeo in a letter to advance a bill that would automatically register eligible voters when they interact with a state agency such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth, unless they choose to opt out.
The Michigan Supreme Court is about to have a political hot mess dumped on its lap. The court will decide whether voters will vote on an overhaul of how Michigan draws legislative and congressional districts. The group Voters Not Politicians has submitted some 425,000 petition signatures to get the question about amending the state constitution before voters in November. Currently, in Michigan, redistricting is done by the state Legislature. It’s been controlled by Republicans for the last twenty years. The Voters Not Politicians campaign wants the job to go to an independent commission.
A long-running court dispute over a controversial election reform law just got longer with the presiding judge deciding Friday to disqualify himself due to a close, personal relationship with one of the state’s lawyers. The ruling throws yet another controversy at this court battle pitting the League of Women Voters and the New Hampshire Democratic Party against Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who is defending a law meant to require voters show proof at the polls or after the election that they actually live or are domiciled in New Hampshire. Critics maintain the law known as SB 3 is meant to discourage college students, low-income and minority citizens from taking advantage of New Hampshire’s easy requirements to cast a ballot in the state.
Editorials: North Carolina voter photo ID bill is vague and leaves lots of questions | Gerry Cohen /News & Observer
There are important questions to be resolved before the legislature votes to put voter photo identification in the state Constitution via referendum. The ballot question says, “Every person offering to vote in person shall present photo identification before voting in the manner prescribed by law.” This language appears to not allow exceptions for those without ID or those who have lost them, as the 2013 law did. Will it be a “hard ID” like that struck down in federal court, or a “soft ID” like the 2013 House version that allowed student ID, public assistance ID or employer ID? Will there be a tedious provisional ballot process?
John Erickson breezed into downtown Bismarck’s government building, flashed his ID and picked up a primary ballot. A few minutes later, the early voting ballot complete, Erickson traded pleasantries with friends and familiar poll workers and headed back to tend the cows and crops on his farm north of the state’s capital city. Erickson, 86, the proud non-owner of a neither a television nor computer, relishes the fact that he has never had to register to vote in his native state. “I like life simple,” he said. In an era when hacking has raised concerns about the security of America’s elections and President Donald Trump rages about voter fraud, North Dakota stands out as the only state that doesn’t require voter registration. Residents and most state and local election officials say the low-tech system in use for Tuesday’s primary, as it has been for generations, works just fine.
Ohio: U.S. Supreme Court upholds Ohio’s process for updating voter registration rolls: Read the decision here | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld Ohio’s method for removing ineligible voters from its rolls, saying it does not violate any part of the National Voter Registration Act. Failure to cast a ballot for two years triggers Ohio’s removal process. Notices are sent to voters whose registration is flagged. Registration is canceled if there’s no response to the notices, no votes are cast during the next four years and the voter’s address isn’t updated. “Ohio removes the registrants at issue on a permissible ground: change of residence,” said the 5-4 decision authored by Justice Samuel Alito. “The failure to return a notice and the failure to vote simply serve as evidence that a registrant has moved, not as the ground itself for removal.”
Editorials: Ohio’s voter purges were upheld by the Supreme Court. That doesn’t make them defensible. | Daniel Nichanian/NBC
Only 41 percent of registered voters went to the polls in Ohio’s 2014 general elections; the following year, just 43 percent voted. In the face of these abysmal rates, state officials should be focused on engaging the electorate and improving participation. But Ohio instead treats a failure to vote over such a two-year period as sufficient reason to trigger the process of removing someone from the voter rolls entirely. And on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that doing so was perfectly legal. Registered voters in the state who have not cast a ballot over two years are — and will continue to be — sent a notice by the local election board to confirm their registration. If they do not respond to the notice, and if they do not engage the electoral process over the following four years, they are purged from the voter registration lists.
Pennsylvania: Replacing York County’s outdated voting machines: Looming deadline, big bill | York Dispatch
As the November election approaches, York County’s voting machines reportedly are outdated, vulnerable to hacking and lacking a commonly used safety feature that might reveal meddling or mistakes. In fact, most Pennsylvania counties are in the same boat, according to Department of State, which is giving them until 2020 to upgrade their machines. The switch won’t be cheap, and no one is sure who’s going end up footing the bill, estimated to be about $125 million statewide. York County’s machines are 12 years old and replaced lever-operated voting booths that had been in use for more than half a century. … The risks associated with York County’s machines range in severity — from simple programming errors like the county saw last year, to hacking that can change vote counts, according to Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting and former deputy secretary for Elections and Voting under the Wolf administration.
The state Auditor General is launching a review of Pennsylvania’s voting and registration process, following up on concerns Russians attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the review will focus on the security of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors–or SURE–system, which tracks registration data on the state and county level. He noted, there’s no evidence foreign hackers successfully breached Pennsylvania’s voting and registration systems. However, he said, “there is zero question that Russians tried to hack it and to interfere in the 2016 election process in Pennsylvania, and at least 20 other states” according to the US Department of Homeland Security.
The effort to expand early voting in Rhode Island appears headed for an impasse for the fifth year in a row. Advocates for Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s proposal, which has stalled in House and Senate committees, say they remain hopeful lawmakers will revisit the measure, but legislative leaders demurred when asked whether it would be considered again. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio told The Associated Press no decision has been made. “We’re looking at early voting. We had the hearings,” he said. “Some people like it. Some people don’t.” Residents can already apply for “emergency mail ballots” at their city or town halls within 20 days of an election. Those ballots proved increasingly popular in 2016.
Wyoming lawmakers are exploring the possibility of allowing counties to administer mail-in ballot systems, but one of the legislators in the committee that could move it forward said it’s unlikely it will go anywhere. For the last several years, county clerks from around Wyoming have been discussing the possibility of elections by mail. Several factors led to the notion, such as aging voting equipment that will be expensive to replace, difficulty finding suitable polling places and a shortage of election judges, said Debra Lee, Laramie County clerk. The expense of it all, she said, is becoming hard for clerks. And with Wyoming in an ongoing fiscal crunch, there’s little money available on the state or local levels to address the problems.
Local authorities in Brussels have begun a major push to urge more non-Belgian residents to vote in upcoming municipal elections in October. More than a third of Brussels’ inhabitants are foreigners with voting rights in their local elections. But despite many of them working within the EU institutions at the heart of the Continent’s democracy, Belgium has close to the lowest voter participation rate among EU citizens in Europe. While voting is compulsory for Belgian nationals and over 90 percent go to the polls in local commune elections, the equivalent figure for non-Belgians is under 14 percent overall, and much lower in some communes.
In a blow to electronic-voting critics, Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended the use of all paper ballots in this year’s elections. The ruling means that only electronic ballot boxes will be used, and there will be no voter-verified paper trail that officials can use to check the accuracy of results. In an 8-2 majority, justices on Wednesday sided with government arguments that the paper trails posed a risk to ballot secrecy, Brazil’s Folha De S.Paulo newspaper reported on Thursday. In so doing, the justices suspended a requirement that 5 percent of Brazil’s ballot boxes this year use paper. That requirement, by Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court, already represented a major weakening of an election reform bill passed in 2015.
ELN rebels said Monday they will cease military activities around Sunday’s presidential election. “We have decided to decree a new suspension of our military operations from the start of Friday 15 to the end of Tuesday 19,” the ELN announced in a communique on Monday. The armed group had also ceased activities in May during the first round of presidential elections.
A fire raged through Baghdad’s largest ballot storage site on Sunday, just days after the Iraqi parliament ordered a recount of May’s election results amid accusations of fraud. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the fire “a plot to harm the nation and its democracy.” “We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens,” Abadi said in a statement. The fire was confined to one of four warehouses in Baghdad’s al-Russafa district, where 60 percent of the capital’s 2 million eligible voters had cast their ballots. The Interior Ministry said no ballot boxes were destroyed in the fire, which engulfed a warehouse containing vote-counting machines and other election equipment.
Fernando Purón had just finished an election debate with his rival congressional candidates in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras, when a well-wisher asked to join him for a selfie. But as he posed for the photograph outside the auditorium in the border city of Piedras Negras, a bearded gunman stepped up behind the pair and shot Purón in the head. The cold-blooded murder on Friday – captured by a CCTV camera – has cast a harsh light both the stunning levels of violence in Mexico, and the risk taken by those who run for elected office in the country. Purón was the 112th political candidate murdered in Mexico since September 2017, according to Etellekt, a risk analysis consultancy.