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Louisiana: Decision upheld to scrap Louisiana voting machine contract | Associated Press

The Louisiana secretary of state’s office will have to redo its work to replace the state’s decade-old voting machines, after Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration refused Wednesday to reinstate a voided multimillion-dollar contract award. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne reviewed the decision to scrap the deal with Dominion Voting Systems, and Dardenne said he found that cancelling the contract award was “in the best interest of the state.” “As important as it is for the state to procure high-quality, efficient and reliable voting machine technology, it is equally important that the public have confidence that the voting machines their tax dollars pay for are procured fairly, transparently and in accordance with law,” Dardenne wrote in a letter outlining his decision. If Dominion wants to continue to try to hang onto the lucrative contract award to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines, it will have to go to court. Otherwise, the company will have to bid again in a new process that starts from scratch.

Full Article: Decision upheld to scrap Louisiana voting machine contract | News & Observer.

National: Partisan Election Officials Are ‘Inherently Unfair’ But Probably Here To Stay | NPR

When Ohio State elections law professor Daniel Tokaji tells colleagues from other parts of the world about how the United States picks election officials, he says they’re stunned. “And not in the good way,” says Tokaji. That’s because in a large portion of the U.S., elections are supervised by an official who is openly aligned with a political party. It’s a system of election administration that’s routinely come under scrutiny over the past two decades, and did again in this year’s midterms especially in Georgia, Florida and Kansas. “Just about everyone recognizes that it’s inherently unfair for the umpire in our elections to be also a player on one of the two teams, Democrat or Republican,” Tokaji says.

Full Article: Partisan Election Officials Are 'Inherently Unfair' But Probably Here To Stay : NPR.

National: EAC nominees testify before Senate panel on plans for election agency | The Hill

A pair of President Trump’s nominees for a federal election agency testified before a Senate panel Wednesday on their plans to help state and local officials administer elections. Donald Palmer and Benjamin Hovland testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on their plans for the Election Assistance Committee (EAC), an agency that helps local officials administer their elections. Lawmakers are moving to add the pair to the election agency, with plans for a committee vote on their nominations next week. It would give the group its first quorum since March. Without the quorum, the EAC has been unable to take major policy moves. There are only two commissioners currently serving at the agency, which was formed as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Full Article: Trump nominees testify before Senate panel on plans for election agency | TheHill.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania to Dump Paperless Voting Machines, Agrees to Election Audits | IVN

Dr. Jill Stein won a major legal victory in Pennsylvania as state officials agreed to a settlement in her post-2016 election lawsuit. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration guaranteed voting machines with verifiable paper trails, and agreed to an automatic, robust audit in 2022. … Dr. Stein filed the lawsuit in 2016 as she sought recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — the three states that decided the election for President Donald Trump. The recounts raised concerns of several ballots that were missing or uncounted, but didn’t change the election results. 

Full Article: Pennsylvania to Dump Paperless Voting Machines, Agrees to Election Audits - IVN.us.

National: EAC finally nearing ability to take major action | Politico

Congress will move closer to giving the Election Assistance Commission a full quorum of members today, when the Senate Rules Committee holds a confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s two EAC nominees, Donald Palmer and Benjamin Hovland. The tiny federal agency, which plays a key role in mediating conversations between state election officials and federal agencies like DHS, currently only has two members, and it needs three to vote on major policy decisions. It has lacked a quorum since March 23, when Matt Masterson, its former chairman, left following the expiration of his term and joined DHS. That lack of a quorum has threatened progress on a major EAC priority, the 2.0 update to its Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which many states adopt as their voting system regulations. In a statement to MC, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt touted the EAC’s role in securing elections and highlighted the commission’s lack of a quorum. “I look forward to hearing more from the nominees about how they would strengthen that partnership, in terms of information-sharing, technical assistance, and best practices, so the American people can be assured that election outcomes accurately reflect what happened on Election Day,” he said.

Full Article: EAC finally nearing ability to take major action - POLITICO.

National: Microsoft uncovers more Russian hacking attempts | Winslow Record

Microsoft said Tuesday it has uncovered new Russian hacking attempts targeting U.S. political groups ahead of the midterm elections. The company said that a hacking group tied to the Russian government created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two American conservative organizations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Three other fake domains were designed to look as if they belonged to the U.S. Senate. Microsoft didn’t offer any further description of the fake sites. The revelation came just weeks after a similar Microsoft discovery led Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is running for re-election, to reveal that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network.

Full Article: Microsoft uncovers more Russian hacking attempts | Winslow Record.

Arizona: Maricopa County saved nearly 7,000 ballots through curing policy | Arizona Mirror

Nearly 7,000 voters would have had their early ballots rejected over problems with their signatures if Maricopa County hadn’t initiated a new policy of attempting to “cure” those ballots after Election Day. According to data provided to the Arizona Mirror by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, 7,240 early ballots had signatures on their envelopes that required further review after Election Day. The majority of those ballots were dropped off at polling places on Election Day. County election officials began contacting voters who dropped off early ballots on Election Day and whose signatures needed further review on Nov. 8, two days after the election. The outreach effort allowed the county to verify the signatures on 6,933 of the ballots, which was nearly 96 percent of the ballots that election officials reviewed for potentially mismatched signatures.

Full Article: Maricopa County saved nearly 7,000 ballots through curing policy • Arizona Mirror.

Georgia: U.S. voting rights trampled in Georgia governor’s race: lawsuit | Reuters

Advocates for Democrat Stacey Abrams filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging far-reaching U.S. voting rights violations during the Georgia governor’s contest she lost this month to a Republican who ran the election as secretary of state. Abrams, who sought to become the nation’s first female African-American governor, pledged to fight for electoral changes after a protracted vote count saw Brian Kemp win the race by little more than 1 percent of nearly 4 million votes cast. Kemp resigned as secretary of state after the Nov. 6 election. The lawsuit filed by Fair Fight Action, a voting advocacy group headed by Abrams’ campaign manager, said state election officials “grossly mismanaged an election that deprived Georgia citizens, and particularly citizens of color, of their fundamental right to vote.”

Full Article: U.S. voting rights trampled in Georgia governor's race: lawsuit | Reuters.

Maine: Poliquin seeks new election if outcome is not overturned | Associated Press

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is asking a federal judge to order a new election if he declines to invalidate Maine’s new voting system and declare Poliquin the winner. Judge Lance Walker declined to stop the ballot-counting process in which Democrat Jared Golden was declared the winner in the nation’s first ranked-balloting in a congressional election. But Poliquin’s lawsuit is still alive. Poliquin wants the Trump-appointed judge to declare the system unconstitutional. Poliquin’s request for the judge to either declare him the winner or order a second election was made late Tuesday, a day after Poliquin formally requested a recount that’s expected to take a month. The updated filing provides a new remedy for the judge, who expressed concern about the fairness of changing the election outcome after voters cast their ballots a certain way relying on the new voting system, said Dmitry Bam, a specialist in constitutional law at the University of Maine Law School. But Poliquin still faces an uphill battle because the judge appears to be unmoved by the constitutional arguments and because time is running out. “Any judge would be very hesitant to undo an election,” he said.

Full Article: Congressman seeks new election if outcome is not overturned.

North Carolina: Senate gives preliminary approval to voter ID rules | WRAL

The Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to legislation setting the rules for the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Sens. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, Ben Clark, D-Hoke, and Don Davis, D-Pitt, joined the Republican majority in the 32-11 vote. A final vote is scheduled for Thursday morning before the measure heads to the House. Other Democrats repeatedly called for slowing down the process, noting dozens of changes have already been made to the draft legislation that was first rolled out a week ago and suggesting people will be wrongly blocked from voting if IDs are required starting next year. “A rollout period of five months is just too short,” said Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, noting some municipal primaries will be held in the spring. “Sometimes we don’t do a real good job as a state implementing big systems.”

Full Article: Senate gives preliminary approval to voter ID rules :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Elections Investigator Seized Bladen County Absentee Ballot Forms | WFAE

The chief investigator for the North Carolina Board of Elections took absentee by mail ballot request forms and their return envelopes from Bladen County immediately after the Nov. 6 election, according to the chair of the county’s board of elections. Bobby Ludlum, chair of the Bladen County Board of Elections, told WFAE Wednesday that the board’s chief investigator, Joan Fleming, came to Elizabethtown to get the records during the week of the election. “She was here the day after, or around that time,” said Ludlum, a Republican who chairs the county’s board. “I’ve heard rumors and allegations (about what they are looking for) but they haven’t said anything.” Bladen County is in the 9th Congressional District.

Full Article: NC Elections Investigator Seized Bladen County Absentee Ballot Forms | WFAE.

Pennsylvania: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Absentee Ballots in Pennsylvania Senate Race | Governing

A Bucks County judge on Monday dismissed a legal challenge filed in a contested state Senate race that claimed Pennsylvania’s deadline for excluding absentee ballots is unconstitutional. State Rep. Tina Davis filed the lawsuit Nov. 19  after losing the race in the state’s Sixth District to incumbent state Sen. Richard “Tommy” Tomlinson by just 74 votes. However, at least 216 absentee ballots went uncounted because they were received after the deadline but before Election Day, according to the filing. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Davis did not provide an explanation for his ruling Monday, which came hours after a hearing on the issue in Doylestown. Under his order, the absentee ballots in the race will remained sealed, despite attempts by Davis’ campaign to view a list of the voters who had submitted them.

Full Article: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Absentee Ballots in Pennsylvania Senate Race.

Rhode Island: Secretary of state proposes early voting | Associated Press

The demand for mail ballots in the recent election shows the need to allow for early voting, Rhode Island’s secretary of state said Wednesday. Democrat Nellie Gorbea said about 17,000 traditional mail ballots were returned for the Nov. 6 general election, up from about 11,500 in 2014. She said nearly 11,000 “emergency mail ballots” were returned within 20 days of the election, up from nearly 5,000 in 2014. Gorbea, who was elected to a second four-year term, said she’ll once again push for a bill to allow early voting at city and town halls within 20 days of an election. The legislative session begins in January. Gorbea said it would make voting more convenient, secure and eliminate mistakes that disqualify some mail ballots. Voters would cast ballots in person just as they would if it were Election Day.

Full Article: Secretary of state proposes early voting in Rhode Island.

Texas: A Woman Who Voted With A Green Card Was Sentenced To 8 Years In Prison — And A Court Upheld It | Bustle

On Wednesday, an appeals court upheld a voter fraud conviction against a Texas woman who voted with a green card. Rosa Maria Ortega was originally convicted in 2017, despite the fact that she claimed she had no idea her green card didn’t provide her voting rights. Now, Ortega, a mother of four, has been sentenced to a jail time of eight years, as well as likely deportation. According to NBC News, Ortega voted five times from 2004-2014, and served as a poll worker; she even voted for the attorney general who is now prosecuting her, a man named Ken Paxton. Ortega’s attorney told The Washington Post in 2017, “She’s got this [green] card that says ‘resident’ on it, so she doesn’t mark that she’s not a citizen. She had no ulterior motive beyond what she thought, mistakenly, was her civic duty.” In a statement in 2017, when Ortega was first convicted, Paxton said, “This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest.” He added, “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy.”

Full Article: A Woman Who Voted With A Green Card Was Sentenced To 8 Years In Prison — And A Court Upheld It.

Wisconsin: Democrats fear GOP redistricting end-around | Associated Press

Wisconsin Democrats scored a huge win when Tony Evers captured the governor’s office last month. But an even bigger fight is looming as Republican lawmakers prepare to redraw legislative boundaries, stirring fears among Democrats that their rivals could take unprecedented steps to remove Evers from the process. State law requires legislators to redraw the boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes. It’s a high-stakes task since the party in control can craft maps that consolidate their power and lock in their majority for years. The last time lawmakers drew new boundaries was in 2011, when Republicans controlled the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office. A federal judicial panel invalidated the Assembly districts as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that in June and sent the case back to the lower court to establish whether there was harm to particular voters. A new trial is set for April.

Full Article: Wisconsin Democrats fear GOP redistricting end-around.

Afghanistan: Election to be held on time | AFP

Afghanistan s election organisers vowed Tuesday to hold April s presidential poll on time, after fears it could be delayed as they struggle to compile results of the recent legislative vote amid thousands of complaints. The remarks come as the United States, in a bid to end the 17-year war, spearheads international efforts to engage the Taliban in peace talks that some had feared could be derailed by the April 20 presidential election, which is expected to fiercely contested. On Monday, spokesmen for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) told reporters they were looking at pushing the ballot back to July 13. IEC chief Abdul Badi Sayyad said “economic, security and weather situations are forcing us to make some changes to the timeline”. But on Tuesday, officials decided not to delay, releasing a statement on the IEC Facebook page saying the vote would be held April 20 “on the demand of the people and parties”.

Full Article: Afghanistan election to be held on time - World - Dunya News.

Georgia: ‘Large-Scale Reforms’ of Georgia Elections Sought in Federal Lawsuit | The New York Times

Allies of Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday calling for sweeping changes to the state’s election procedures, and accusing Brian Kemp, the Republican victor, of systematically disenfranchising poor and minority voters when he was secretary of state. The litigation is a postscript to a bitter and close-fought election that many Democrats felt Mr. Kemp had rigged for his own benefit, while many Republicans considered Ms. Abrams — who did not acknowledge Mr. Kemp’s victory until 10 days after the election — a sore loser. Lauren Groh-Wargo, Ms. Abrams’s campaign manager, said the lawsuit would “describe, and then prove in court, how the constitutional rights of Georgians were trampled in the 2018 general election.”

Full Article: ‘Large-Scale Reforms’ of Georgia Elections Sought in Federal Lawsuit - The New York Times.

National: Senate Rules Committee to consider EAC nominations | FCW

Since February, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has operated with only two members, Chair Thomas Hicks and Christy McCormick. The lack of a quorum has prevented the four-member body from voting on a number of election and security-related initiatives. That dynamic is set to change as the Senate Rules Committee scheduled a hearing this week to consider the nominations of two additional commissioners, Donald Palmer and Benjamin Hovland, to fill the remaining slots. During a Nov. 26 board meeting, Hicks noted that “should they be confirmed, hopefully by early January or February, this will be the first time since 2010 we’ll have a full contingent of four commissioners at EAC.”

Full Article: FCW Insider Nov. 27 -- FCW.

National: Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say | The Guardian

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told. Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House. In a statement, Manafort denied meeting Assange. He said: “I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to WikiLeaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or WikiLeaks on any matter.” It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Full Article: Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say | US news | The Guardian.

Alaska: Appeals court ruling mixed on Alaska campaign finance laws | KTOO

A divided federal appeals court panel ruled Tuesday that Alaska’s cap on total contributions that candidates can receive from nonresidents is unconstitutional. However, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld other campaign contribution limits that it said were tailored to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption. The case brought by three individuals and an Alaska Republican Party district challenged elements of state campaign finance law. An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, in a statement, expressed disappointment that the court struck down limits on nonresident contributions but said she was pleased with the rest of the ruling. Her agency said it was reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps.

Full Article: Appeals court ruling mixed on Alaska campaign finance laws.