Senate Republicans are advancing a controversial plan that would strip incoming Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of the power to enforce the state’s campaign finance laws. The Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would instead shift campaign finance oversight to a bipartisan committee. The six members would be picked from a list submitted by each of the two major political parties. The legislation is among a slew of lame-duck power play proposals by legislative Republicans, who will retain their majorities next year in the House and Senate as Democrats take over top statewide offices, including the secretary of state post that has been occupied by a Republican the past 24 years.
National: Emails of top National Republican Congressional Committee officials stolen in major 2018 hack | Politico
The House GOP campaign arm suffered a major hack during the 2018 midterm campaigns, exposing thousands of sensitive emails to an outside intruder, according to three senior party officials. The email accounts of four senior aides at the National Republican Congressional Committee were surveilled for several months, the party officials said. The intrusion was detected in April by an NRCC vendor, who alerted the committee and its cybersecurity contractor. An internal investigation was initiated, and the FBI was alerted to the attack, said the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the incident. However, senior House Republicans — including Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana — were not informed of the hack until Politico contacted the NRCC on Monday with questions about the episode. Rank-and-file House Republicans were not told, either.
Though sporadic hacker intrusions and phishing campaigns targeted political entities in the lead-up to November’s midterm elections, things seemed pretty quiet overall on the election-meddling front in the US. Certainly no leaks or theatrics rose to the level of Russia’s actions during the 2016 presidential election. But a belatedly revealed breach of the National Republican Congressional Committee shows just how bad the attack on the 2018 election really was. As Politico first reported Tuesday, attackers compromised the email accounts of four top NRCC aides, surveilling their correspondences—totaling thousands of messages—for months. The NRCC discovered the intrusion in April, and has been investigating it since. The Committee kept the incident quiet, though, and didn’t even inform Republican House leaders. NRCC officials told Politico that the stolen data hasn’t surfaced, and that no breach-related extortion attempts have targeted the NRCC so far.
They are questions that are central to democracy: who gets to vote, how accessible is voting and ensuring all ballots are counted fairly. Voting rights and ballot access kept popping up as campaign issues this year. Now they’re post-campaign issues — unavoidable and more urgent than ever. Voter access is and has been central in Georgia, where Tuesday’s run-off for secretary of state will close the books on the 2018 midterms. The race has implications for 2020 and beyond, following a closely contested gubernatorial race where lawsuits still linger. In New Hampshire on Wednesday, the longest-serving secretary of state in the nation could lose his job. Bill Gardner, the Democrat who famously sets the first-in-the-nation primary date every four years, has come under attack because he participated in the now-disbanded voter-fraud commission created by President Donald Trump.
Editorials: Improve Elections, Fully Confirm Election Assistance Commission Before 2020 | Matthew Weil/Bipartisan Policy Center
It’s hard to make progress when you have both hands tied behind your back a third of the time. Voters want more secure and better functioning elections, and Congress can act right now to accomplish that. In the swirl of election security concerns, ballot design problems, and vote counting confusion, the Senate should take up the two pending nominees to the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) before adjourning this month. The EAC is the federal government’s main arm for disseminating election administration information to state and local election officials. The Commission sets the guidelines for voting systems and certifies the machines that voters use to cast ballots. Commission staff collect and disseminate vital data about election administration, share best practices, facilitate outreach to language minority voters and those with disabilities, and much more.
Florida voters spoke clearly four weeks ago: They restored the right to vote to most convicted felons who complete their sentences. When it becomes Florida law in five weeks, an estimated 1.2 million felons will be eligible to rejoin the voter rolls. But at a statewide elections conference Tuesday, it was obvious that confusion and uncertainty still hovers over implementation of Amendment 4. The state announced that it has stopped transmitting documents counties use to remove convicted felons from the rolls. One official said the issue requires more research on how to carry out the will of the people. “The state is putting a pause button on our felon identification files,” Division of Elections director Maria Matthews told election supervisors from most of the state’s 67 counties at a mid-winter meeting. “We need this time to research it, to be sure we are providing the appropriate guidance.”
Florida: Palm Beach County is the lone county to reject sensors that detect hackers | Tampa Bay Times
To help deter hackers from infiltrating voting systems, the federal government offered all of Florida’s 67 counties a tool to detect and monitor electronic intruders. While the technology does not stop hackers, it alerts officials about possible threats and allows them to respond faster when data may be at risk. Only one county—Palm Beach—rejected the technology in the months prior to Election Day. That could change now that Palm Beach County plans to update its system next year. “We didn’t think it was a good time to put some function on a legacy system,” said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. “We’ll take a look next year when we buy new equipment.”
Lawyers for Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and the Democrat who defeated him will square off in federal court Wednesday in a case with ramifications far beyond Maine’s rural, sprawling 2nd District no matter the outcome. For U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden and supporters of ranked-choice voting, the election ended two weeks ago after the Democrat emerged from an instant runoff leading Poliquin by 3,509 votes. Yet Poliquin and his team are aiming for more than just a reversal of the election results as they push to make Maine the national, legal test case for ranked-choice voting in any federal election. “Whether a state can go beyond a plurality that is currently provided for in (the Constitution) is an open question the Supreme Court has never decided,” Lee Goodman, Poliquin’s attorney and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said last month.
Three Michigan cities are testing a new process designed to provide strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is correct. The “risk-limiting audit” is a relatively new election security measure being tested across Michigan this week. It’s designed to detect irregularities that could influence reported election outcomes, including cyber-attacks and unintentional machine or human errors. The goal of the pilot will be to determine how risk-limiting audits could be rolled out statewide. Kalamazoo, Lansing and Rochester Hills will also pilot the procedure during the first week of December. “Our goal as election administrators is to foster confidence in the electoral process, the results of that process, and ultimately our democratic institutions,” said Kalamazoo City Clerk Scott Borling. “Michigan voters put their faith in us to conduct free and fair elections. The Risk-Limiting Audit provides another tool and opportunity to demonstrate their trust is well placed.”
Michigan legislators cannot write rules for an independent restricting commission without violating the constitutional amendment approved by voters last month, organizers of the ballot initiative argued Tuesday. A Republican proposal advanced by the Senate Government Operations Committee is unconstitutional and a “direct attack on the will of the voters,” said Nancy Wang, president of the Voters Not Politicians committee. The more than 2.5 million voters who approved the anti-gerrymandering measure “took the extraordinary step of amending our state constitution specifically to take politicians out of the redistricting process — period,” Wang told lawmakers.
The incoming House majority leader said Democrats might refuse to seat a North Carolina Republican next year unless and until “substantial” questions about the integrity of his election are resolved. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the current minority whip, made the comments to reporters Tuesday as North Carolina election officials investigate whether an operative working on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris illegally collected incomplete ballots from voters. Hoyer’s comments, and the increasing criticism from other national Democrats, represent a new threat to Harris’s candidacy — suggesting that even if his apparent narrow victory is ultimately certified by the state, Harris could be subject to a months-long process in the House to determine whether he is ultimately sworn in.
North Carolina: The bizarre allegations of ballot tampering in one of 2018’s closest House elections | Vox
North Carolina election officials have declined to certify the winner of the state’s Ninth Congressional District election, after allegations were made suggesting absentee ballots may have been tampered with. Elections officials and Democrats have been careful not to allege any specific wrongdoing so far. But the allegations suggest some kind of scheme, undertaken by people supporting the GOP campaign, to influence the results of an election ultimately decided by less than 1,000 votes. According to the votes as currently counted, Republican Mark Harris beat Democrat Dan McCready by a little more than 900 votes to become the next Congress member from the Ninth. But earlier this week, the state board of elections unanimously agreed it would not certify the election results, making vague references to “unfortunate activities” that raised doubts about their veracity.
North Carolina: GOP Trying Again To Cement Control Of Local Elections Boards During Election Years | TPM
Even after a court called such a scheme unconstitutional, the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature will try again to design county election boards to guarantee that Republicans have the chair in election years. The provision is included in election legislation released Monday evening that walked back some of the power-grabbing moves the legislature attempted in 2016, after Democrat Roy Cooper (pictured above) won the governorship. The legislature, however, is holding on to a provision that set up a rotation system for county boards that would guarantee that Republicans controlled the county boards in years with statewide elections. The new legislation would, in odd-numbered years, make the chair a board member who is from “the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates,” which are the Democrats in North Carolina. In even years, when statewide elections are held, the chair would be a board member who is from “political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates,” i.e. the GOP, under the legislation.
Editorials: Good Time To Point Out Voter ID Would Not Stop Republican Election Fraud | Elie Mystal/Above the Law
I believe that people who push voter identification requirements are cynical racists who believe in voter suppression as the best way to ensure Republican control and prop up the policies of white supremacy. But… maybe they’re just stupid. I argue with a lot of people who claim that voter ID laws are just a “common sense” solution the “dangerous” problem of voter fraud. That position is demonstrably ignorant, but centrists tell me that people who believe it need not be self-consciously malignant. Happily, the honest attempt at actual voter fraud by North Carolina Republicans will give us all a chance to test our hypotheses. If I’m right, the racists will ignore this attempt at fraud. If the centrists are right, these pro-voter ID people will actually learn something.
In a win for a group of Democratic voters, a three-judge panel ruled Monday that the former chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee must turn over emails and other documents about the 2011 redistricting of Ohio’s legislative maps. In May, a coalition of Democratic voters and groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, sued Governor John Kasich and other Republican lawmakers in Cincinnati federal court. They urged the court to enjoin a redistricting statute that the GOP used to redraw maps, arguing it gave an unfair advantage to Republicans at the expense of Democratic voters. The Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, an advocacy group for black trade unionists, and its co-plaintiffs claim the Republican State Leadership Committee sought to control the redistricting process to “solidify conservative policymaking at the state level, and to maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.”
It’s getting down to crunch time for Pennsylvania’s counties to decide which new voting machines to buy, and how, as Gov. Tom Wolf presses them to switch to voting machines that leave a paper trail as a safeguard against hacking. Wolf’s administration told county officials this week the Democratic governor wants the state to cover at least half the cost. The news came as counties assemble fiscal-year budgets and try out machines that are expected to be included in a state purchasing contract being finalized in the coming weeks. Securing state aid will mean persuading the Republican-controlled Legislature to commit tens of millions of dollars toward what counties estimate will eventually be a $125 million tab.
Patrick McDaniel said elections in the United States have historically been fair and secure, but there are challenges. McDaniel is the Weiss Professor of Information and Communications Technology at Penn State and one of the organizers of the Symposium on Election Security, held Monday at the Penn Stater Conference Center. At a time when the integrity of elections is in the headlines, the conference drew experts and national leaders in election security. McDaniel said the more that can be done by the 2020 election, the better. That includes having voter-verified paper ballots used in all states.
Utah: U.S. Supreme Court orders state of Utah to respond to GOP lawsuit challenging election law | The Salt Lake Tribune
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the state of Utah to respond to an appeal by the Utah Republican Party that seeks to overturn a law allowing candidates to qualify for the ballot by collecting signatures and/or by using the caucus-convention system. The party says the court’s request shows it is taking serious interest in the case and in the argument that the state should not be able to tell the private organization how to select its nominees. The state last month filed a waiver saying it did not plan to respond to the GOP’s petition asking the high court to hear the case unless requested to do so by justices. On Tuesday, the court did just that.
Australia: Coalition pushes for voter identification laws and launches attack on GetUp | The Guardian
Coalition MPs and senators have called for voter identification laws but Labor has warned such a push would amount to “a pathway to voter suppression”. The recommendation is contained in joint standing committee on electoral matters report on the 2016 election, which also calls for a higher bar to register a minor party and consideration of higher penalties for non-voting and tax deductibility of political donations. The Liberal chair, James McGrath, also used his foreword to the report to launch a stinging attack on GetUp, accusing it of providing “misleading information”. He said this was a “potential contempt of the parliament”, a claim rejected on Wednesday by the Speaker of the House. The Coalition-controlled committee recommended voters be made to verify their identity or their address at polling places by producing documents such as a driver’s licence, Medicare card or utilities bill.
It was the number of unidentified bodies bearing signs of torture arriving at the morgue that made Cherie*, a nurse at Kinshasa’s General Hospital, get involved in politics. As part of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress Party (UDPS), the main opposition party in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she handed out leaflets and took part in protests. In December 2009, the 20-year-old was arrested after attending a memorial service for activists who had been killed. For two weeks she was kept in the detention centre of the Rapid Intervention Police (Police d’intervention rapide, PIR).
Most political candidates take advantage of the electioneering period to pay out lots of money and gifts to the electorate in a bid to sway their decisions in their favour or against their opponents. Many African countries have tried to stem this habit but only a few have managed to successfully pass a law to criminalise the process. One of these countries is Malawi, which passed the Political Parties Act that came to effect on December 1, 2018. The law bans politicians from using cash payments and other incentives to get support ahead of elections in 2019.
United Kingdom: Government faces legal challenge over voter ID checks at local elections | The Independent
Government plans to introduce voter ID checks are to be challenged in court on the basis they deter people from voting. Neil Coughlan, 64, has launched a legal case – backed by a £10,000 online fundraising campaign – to prevent the scheme being piloted at next year’s local elections. He said he wants “to stand up against a government that is taking our democracy down a very dangerous path.”Mr Coughlan, who does not have any form of photo ID, has received support from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), who claim the government’s plans are “undemocratic” and a waste of taxpayer’s money.