Azerbaijan: President Secures Fourth Term In Vote Criticized As Uncompetitive | RFERL

Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president, Ilham Aliyev, has secured a landslide victory in a snap presidential election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties. The Central Election Commission (CEC) said in a statement that Aliyev received 86 percent of the vote with 94 percent of votes counted. Turnout was 74.5 percent, the statement added. The results of the April 11 election give Aliyev, who ran for the ruling New Azerbaijan party, a fourth consecutive term in office, in a vote that Human Rights Watch (HRW) said did not provide “a viable choice” for the voters. “I am grateful to my people for voting for our achievements and success,” Aliyev said on state television, soon after the election commission announced the partial results. “People voted for stability, security, and development.”

Congo: Violence is roiling the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some say it’s a strategy to keep the president in power | Los Angeles Times

In a fog of tear gas, a priest in the Congolese capital drags a woman to safety after she was shot. In the churchyard. By the police. About a thousand miles away in the Ituri region, on the other side of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people fleeing a massacre climb out of boats and wade ashore, their homes burned to the ground, their dead unburied. And 700 miles from there, in the Kasai region, the United Nations discovers 80 mass graves, then blames government soldiers for most of the deaths. It is easy to see these recent scenes as unrelated incidents in the panoramic chaos of a vast and troubled nation spinning out of control. But there is another theory: The events are part of a plan.

Malaysia: May 9 Election Day Declared a Holiday After Outcry | Associated Press

The Malaysian prime minister on Wednesday declared voting day on May 9 a public holiday after a decision to hold elections on a workday triggered complaints that it would deter mainly opposition supporters. The surprise move is seen as a bid to ease public anger a day after the Election Commission announced that voting will be held on a Wednesday, departing from the norm of having it on a weekend. The weekday vote triggered a flurry of complains that it would deter thousands of Malaysians from returning to their hometown to vote. Some companies responded by giving their employees days off and offering to pay for their travel back home to vote. The hashtag “PulangMengundi” (Go home to vote) trended on Twitter, with many Malaysians offering financial assistance and car pool to those travelling back to vote.

Mexico: At least 30 candidates killed in Mexican election campaigns | San Francisco Chronicle

The hit men arrived by motorcycle at noon, stepped into the Toreo Restaurant and, without uttering a word, opened fire on Antonia Jaimes Moctezuma. Then they sped away, their mission completed. Jaimes was the restaurant owner and a candidate for a state congressional seat. Her killing Feb. 21 in the city of Chilapa, in Mexico’s violence-plagued Guerrero state, is among more than two dozen assassinations of candidates running for office in July. “The situation of insecurity is very grave here,” said her husband, Moises Acevedo. “But not only in Chilapa. They’re killing candidates all over the country.” Authorities have confirmed that at least 30 candidates have been killed, said Alfonso Navarrete, Mexico’s interior secretary. Some reports indicate the toll since last year may be almost twice as high.

Nigeria: No electronic voting in 2019 – INEC chair | BusinessDay

The National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu has confirmed that the commission will not deploy the use of electronic gadgets to conduct voting during the 2019 general elections. Yakubu, who is also the President of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) said this while briefing reporters at the end of the three-day International Conference on “ Opportunities and Challenges in the use of technology in Elections”, which ended in Abuja on Wednesday. The conference organized by the INEC, the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Countries (ECF/SADC) drew participants from over 30 countries from West and southern African sub-regions, who brainstormed on the deployment of technology for elections.

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.

National: Air gapping voting machines isn’t enough, says election security expert Alex Halderman | Cyberscoop

The safeguards that election officials say protect voting machines from being hacked are not as effective as advertised, a leading election security expert says. U.S. elections, including national ones, are run by state and local offices. While that decentralization could serve an argument that elections are difficult to hack, University of Michigan Professor J. Alex Halderman says that it’s more like a double-edged sword. Speaking to an audience of students and faculty at the University of Maryland’s engineering school on Monday, Halderman said that the U.S. is unique in how elections are localized. States and counties choose the technology used to run federal elections. “Each state state running its own independent election system in many cases does provide a kind of defense. And that defense is that there is no single point nationally that you can try to attack or hack into in order to change the national results,” Halderman said. But since national elections often hinge on swing states like, Virginia, Ohio or Pennsylvania, attackers can look for vulnerabilities where they would count. “An adversary could probe the election systems in all the close states, look for the ones that have the biggest weaknesses and strike there, and thereby flip a few of those swing states,” Halderman said.

National: Democrats make direct appeal to Speaker Ryan on election hacking | CNN

The top Democrats on six of the House’s key committees are appealing directly to Speaker Paul Ryan to help them obtain documents from the Trump administration related to election hacking during the 2016 contest. In a letter sent to the speaker Tuesday morning, the highest-ranking Democrats on the House Oversight, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and House Administration committees implored Ryan to intervene in their ongoing efforts to get the Department of Homeland Security to turn over documents related to the targeting of state election-related systems by Russian hackers. The Democrats asked the department in October to provide copies of the notifications it sent to the 21 states it identified as the target of Russian government-linked attempts to hack voting-related systems and other related documents.

National: What We Know And Don’t Know About Election Hacking | FiveThirtyEight

When talk of Russian interference in U.S. elections comes up, much of the focus has been on state-sponsored trolls on Facebook and Twitter — special counsel Robert Mueller recently indicted a number of these actors, and Congress has taken Silicon Valley to task for allowing such accounts to flourish. But there’s another side of Russian meddling in American democracy: attacks on our election systems themselves. We know that Russian hackers in 2016 worked to compromise state voting systems and the companies that provide voting software and machines to states. That could blossom into more concrete attacks this year. As I wrote earlier this week, the worst-case scenario is that on Election Day 2018, votes are altered or fabricated and Americans are disenfranchised.

Editorials: It’s not just America: Zuckerberg has to answer for Facebook’s actions around the world | Karen Attiah/The Washington Post

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is in the hot seat in Washington. The social media platform now admits that the data of up to 87 million profiles may have been improperly used by the data firm Cambridge Analytica. U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers — and rightfully so. But while Facebook is facing the most heat in the United States, it is is multinational corporation, and some would argue, a sort of nation-state unto itself. In many countries around the world, Facebook is the Internet. And with little ability to influence how the social media site operates, such nations are vulnerable to any policy action — or inaction — the company decides to take.

Arizona: State hires cybersecurity firm to manage risk across state government | StateScoop

Arizona announced Monday that it will use a single cybersecurity firm to monitor and manage the risks to computer systems in all 133 state agencies. The company, RiskSense, is based in neighboring New Mexico and was chosen over other potential vendors in part because of its software that rates a network’s vulnerability to cyberattacks with a proprietary scoring metric modeled on personal-credit ratings. “I can have productive business conversations with people who know little about IT and security,” Mike Lettman, Arizona’s chief information security officer, said in a press release.

Colorado: Election changes bring primary voting to unaffiliated voters | The Rocky Mountain Collegian

In 2016, Colorado voters passed a ballot measure granting unaffiliated voters the opportunity to participate in the primaries.  In this year’s state election, these changes will come into effect both on a local and statewide front. Unaffiliated voters have been excluded from the primaries in past elections, Larimer County clerk and recorder Angela Myers said. With recent changes to the Colorado election process, however, independent voters will receive both the Democrat and Republican ballots. The purpose of this change is to give the opportunity for unaffiliated voters to have a say in the outcome of the parties, as they have not been allowed that right in the past, said Kristin Stephens, Fort Collins city councilmember and chair of the election subcommittee.

District of Columbia: Vote At 16? D.C. Bill Would Lower Voting Age For Both Local And Federal Elections | WAMU

A bill set to be introduced in the D.C. Council on Tuesday would lower the voting age for both local and federal elections from 18 to 16. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who is introducing the bill, says that given all the other responsibilities 16-year-olds already have, they should also have the right to vote on who represents them. “At the age of 16, our society already gives young people greater legal responsibility. They can drive a car. They can work. Some are raising a family or helping their family make ends meet. They pay taxes,” he said in a statement. “And yet, they can’t exercise their voice where it matters most — at the ballot box.”

Florida: Warning of Russians, Florida Democrats push state to fortify election systems | Tampa Bay Times

Democrats here are pressing Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to seek federal funding to fortify election equipment and systems databases. “While most state systems were not breached, the U.S. Intelligence Community has repeatedly warned that Russia will try to disrupt midterm elections in November 2018,” reads a letter sent from Florida House members. “In fact, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm election as a potential target for Russian midterm operations.”

New Hampshire: Dozens Testify on New Hampshire Voter Bill | Valley News

Dartmouth College students and Hanover’s town clerk joined scores of New Hampshire voters and advocates on Tuesday to testify on HB 1264, a bill that has sparked controversy over claims that it would tie motor registration fees and other obligations associated with residency to participation in elections. A simple proposed tweak to the state’s definition of a legal resident has fueled a debate over the merits of voting by students who grew up out-of-state but now attend college in New Hampshire. Advocates say the measure would simplify statutory terms and protect the integrity of elections, whereas opponents call it a “poll tax” that would suppress the vote through unnecessary fees.

Utah: ‘We’ve been disenfranchised’: Republicans in San Juan County say redrawn voter districts unfairly favor Navajos | The Salt Lake Tribune

In this rural redrock town where buttes form the boundaries and windmills stand like a picket fence on the horizon, the largely Republican – and primarily white – residents are angry and resentful and frustrated. For more than three decades, they’ve been the dominant political party in this remote desert corner of Utah. For the first time, they’re likely to be overthrown. “I feel like we’ve been disenfranchised,” said Robert Turk, 57. It was the shared sentiment Thursday at the first GOP convention in San Juan County since a federal judge redrew the boundaries to give Navajos, who tend to affiliate as Democrats, a significant majority of voters in two of three commission districts and three of five school board seats. The decision was meant to reverse the historic political domination by whites over American Indians.