Azerbaijan: Aliyev eyes fourth term in presidential election | Reuters

President Ilham Aliyev is expected to secure a fourth consecutive term in Azerbaijan’s election on Wednesday that opponents say has already been skewed in his favor.  The former Soviet republic’s huge energy reserves and its strategic location along the Caspian Sea mean it is viewed by Europe as an important alternative to Russia for energy supplies. Opposition parties say they are boycotting the presidential vote because of Aliyev’s sustained crackdown on dissent during his rule and a likely rigging of electoral results. “We are not going to participate in this show,” Jamil Hasanly, head of the National Council of Democratic Forces, the Azeri opposition coalition, told Reuters.

Kenya: IEBC mulls online voting for Kenyans in Diaspora | Capital News

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is considering introducing an online voting system for Kenyans living in the Diaspora. Through his Twitter account, Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati stated that the system will enable the electoral body cut costs incurred during elections. He however emphasized the need for such a system to be secure and verifiable to avoid being compromised and manipulated. “IEBC is considering online voting for Diaspora to cut costs – but must be secure and verifiable.” Chebukati further said the Commission will engage various stakeholders including Parliament, before rolling out the system.

Malaysia: General elections to be held on May 9 | Al Jazeera

Malaysia is set to hold a general election on May 9, the Elections Commission said, in what could be the toughest test of the ruling coalition’s 61-year grip on power. Embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak is under pressure to deliver an emphatic win for the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, as he struggles to appease Malaysians unhappy with rising costs and a multi-billion dollar scandal at a state fund he founded. The 64-year-old is expected to retain power due to the BN’s firm grip on Malaysia’s weakened institutions, and what critics claim are efforts by the government to rig the election through gerrymandering and other forms of cheating.

South Korea: Election panel attacks DR Congo voting system | AFP

South Korea’s election panel has refused to back touchscreen voting provided by a Korean firm for vital elections in DR Congo, saying the system is badly suited for the country’s needs. A long-delayed presidential poll is due to take place in the volatile country in December, and mounting tensions have prompted fears of bloodshed. A key factor in the crisis is the perceived credibility of the vote, and a South Korean company, Miru Systems Co. Ltd., is under scrutiny for a contract to provide touchscreen voting machines. In a statement, South Korea’s National Election Commission (NEC) said it was offering “no support or guarantee” for the system being provided for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

National: Election security means much more than just new voting machines | The Conversation

In late March, Congress passed a significant spending bill that included US$380 million in state grants to improve election infrastructure. As the U.S. ramps up for the 2018 midterm elections, that may seem like a huge amount of money, but it’s really only a start at securing the country’s voting systems. A 2015 report by the Brennan Center law and policy institute at New York University estimates overhauling the nation’s voting system could cost more than $1 billion – though the price could be partially offset by more efficient contracting. Most voting equipment hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s. At times, election officials must buy voting machine hardware on eBay, because the companies that made them are no longer in business. Even when working properly, those machines are not secure: At the 2017 DEF CON hacker conference, attackers took control of several voting machines in a matter of minutes. Securing electoral systems across the U.S. is a big problem with high stakes. This federal money being provided to states now may not be the last of its kind, but it’s what’s available right away, and it must be used as efficiently as possible.

National: Paper trails and random audits could secure all elections – don’t save them just for recounts in close races | The Conversation

As states begin to receive millions of federal dollars to secure the 2018 primary and general elections, officials around the country will have to decide how to spend it to best protect the integrity of the democratic process. If voters don’t trust the results, it doesn’t matter whether an election was actually fair or not. Right now, the most visible election integrity effort in the U.S. involves conducting recounts in especially close races. A similar approach could be applied much more broadly. Based on my research into game theory as a way to secure elections, I suggest that the proper first line of defense is auditing results. While an audit can only happen after Election Day, it’s crucial to prepare in advance.

National: Zuckerberg’s testimony will reveal Trump’s dissembling on Russia | The Washington Post

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is preparing to face a bipartisan inquisition into the social media platform’s handling of user data, and its role in facilitating (unwittingly, it seems) Russia’s interference with our election. He plans to take the humble, apologetic route in a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In his prepared remarks, Zuckerberg says that “it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake.” He states flat out: ” It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

National: The Moscow Midterms | FiveThirtyEight

The first Americans to line up to vote on Nov. 6, 2018, will be the East Coast’s earliest risers. As early as 5 a.m. EST, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and clutching travel thermoses of coffee, they will start the procession of perhaps 90 million Americans to vote that day. The last to cast ballots will be Hawaiians, who will do so until 11 p.m. East Coast time. When all is said and done, the federal election will unfold something like an 18-hour-long ballet of democracy: 50 states, dozens of different kinds of voting machines and an expectation that everything should be counted up in time for TV networks to broadcast the results before Americans head to bed. Election Day 2018 is expected to unfold no differently than it has in years past. Except it might.

National: How Every Campaign Will Have a Troll Farm of Its Own | The Daily Beast

Mark Zuckerberg heads to the nation’s capital this week for some lashings from America’s legislators. On Tuesday, he’ll appear in front of joint sessions of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees. Then on Wednesday, the Facebook CEO will visit the House Energy and Commerce Committee for another round of bruising. Since the presidential election of 2016, congressmen have pummeled social media giants for Russia’s infiltration and exploitation of their systems. But America’s politicians may want to tread lightly as they seek answers from Zuckerberg. Political actors, more than anyone, seek the power and reach of social media to win the hearts and minds of voters. In the future, Russia and other authoritarians will continue their manipulation, but it will be ordinary candidates and their campaigns, lobbyists, and corporate backers that seek to exploit the manipulative advantages available on social media. A combative tech CEO just might flip the script and call out the politicians for their role in this mess.

Arizona: Election database targeted in 2016 by criminals, not Russia: source | Reuters

A hack on an Arizona election database during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign was carried out by suspected criminal actors and not the Russian government, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters on Sunday. The official was responding to a report on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” citing an internal government document that Russian hackers successfully infiltrated computer systems associated with at least four U.S. states, including Arizona, leading up to the 2016 election. Hackers working for the Kremlin breached systems in Illinois, a county database in Arizona, a Tennessee state website and an information technology vendor in Florida, according to the previously undisclosed Oct. 28, 2016, assessment from the Department of Homeland Security, according to the program. 

Georgia: Georgia GOP candidates debate switch to paper voting system | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All four Republican candidates for Georgia secretary of state said Monday they want to replace the state’s electronic voting machines with a system that creates a paper record for verification. But none of them ruled out using computers to print ballots, a voting method opposed by several election integrity groups that say it’s unsafe. Those groups prefer hand-marked paper ballots. The Republican candidates debated Monday at Lassiter High School in Marietta. They’re competing in the May 22 Republican primary election, with the winner advancing to the Nov. 6 general election against Democratic and Libertarian candidates.

Illinois: Push For Changing State’s Early Voting | Alton Daily News

There’s a growing push to change how Illinois handles early voting. The first day of early voting for the March 20th primary was Feb. 8. That’s 40 days before the election. Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago spokesman Jim Allen told a crowd at an Illinois Campaign for Political Reform event on Thursday that Illinois’ early voting law is unworkable because it requires local election offices to be ready a month and ten days before the actual election day.  “Forty days is a Biblical number. It doesn’t work for elections,” Allen said. “It’s time in the desert, it’s time on the mount, it’s not early voting time. We were doing great with 15 to 20 days for many, many years.”

Maryland: With session over, attention turns to election security | Frederick News Post

With the close of the legislative session on Monday, all eyes are turning to the 2018 elections — and election security. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 1331, which requires the state administrator of elections to report security breaches and significant attempted violations within a week of their discovery to the State Board of Elections, governor, legislative leaders and attorney general. Delegate Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s County) sponsored the legislation after it came to light that Russian hackers tried to penetrate Maryland’s online voter registration system in August 2016. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that voter registration databases or election agency public websites in 21 states were probed by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. At a hearing on Washington’s bill last week, Nikki Charlson, Maryland’s deputy elections administrator, said the state’s registration system was “probed,” but not “breached.”

Editorials: If you can’t beat your opponent, disqualify him: Residency questioned in some North Carolina legislative races | Colin Campbell/News & Observer

A hot new trend is sweeping North Carolina campaigns this year: Trying to get your opponents disqualified and kicked off the ballot before Election Day. I’m surprised this tactic hasn’t been used heavily before. Why go to the trouble to raise money and campaign on issues when you could just knock out the other candidate on a technicality and run unopposed? These sort of complaints filed with elections boards aren’t new, but there have been at least a dozen or so this year (the state elections board doesn’t have an exact figure) — far more than past cycles. The majority are residency challenges — complaints that a candidate doesn’t actually live in the district where he or she is running for office. Normally, the state constitution requires candidates to live in their district for at least a year before Election Day. But a redistricting lawsuit has prompted last-minute changes in legislative district lines, so the courts dropped that requirement for this year.

Ohio: ACLU will not support, or oppose, change in Ohio’s congressional redistricting rules | Cleveland Plain Dealer

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking a pass on the effort to reform how Ohio’s congressional districts are drawn, announcing Monday it will neither endorse nor oppose Issue 1 on the May 8 ballot. Why? The proposed reform falls short of doing enough to rid Ohio of gerrymandering, according to the group’s announcement on the eve of the start of early voting. “Issue 1 simply does not go far enough to reform the redistricting process in Ohio,” Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the ACLU of Ohio, said in its news release. “While there are some benefits to Issue 1, it still allows for partisan gerrymandering. We need a better process – with better rules – to ensure Ohio voters are appropriately represented in congressional elections.” The proposal has wide bipartisan support.

Hungary: OSCE monitors deliver damning verdict on election | The Guardian

International observers have delivered a damning verdict on the parliamentary election in Hungary, complaining of “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing”. The vote on Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory for Viktor Orbán, who will now serve a third consecutive term as prime minister. Orbán and his Fidesz party campaigned almost exclusively on a programme of keeping migrants out of the country. “Rhetoric was quite hostile and xenophobic and that’s a fact which we find regrettable in an electoral context,” said Douglas Wake, the head of the monitoring mission for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), at a briefing in Budapest on Monday. The observers found that the hostile campaign “limited space for substantive debate and diminished voters’ ability to make an informed choice”. They also noted that public television “clearly favoured the ruling coalition”.

Ireland: Legal challenge over Northern Ireland voting rights in referendum | RTE

The result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment could be undermined if a legal challenge about voting rights for Irish citizens in Northern Ireland is not decided beforehand, the High Court has heard. Lawyers for a Belfast student who wants to bring a legal challenge to the exclusion of people in Northern Ireland from voting in the May referendum say the case must be heard beforehand or risk invalidating the result. Roisin Morelli is seeking permission from the High Court to bring the challenge. She says citizens of Northern Ireland have a constitutional right to vote in such referendums.

Netherlands: Wilders wants Dutch with dual-nationality to lose voting rights | NL Times

Dutch citizens with dual nationality must lose their voting rights and must not be eligible for political positions in the Netherlands, according to PVV leader Geert Wilders. This is in the interests of “the Netherlands’ survival”, he said in an interview with the Telegraaf. “The Netherlands is our country. It must be run by Dutch, who are elected by Dutch. By Dutch wo do not even have the appearance of double loyalty”, he said to the newspaper. 

Pakistan: Expats may get a chance to vote | Khaleej Times

The Overseas Pakistani Foundation (OPF) has asked for a five-seat representation in each of the houses in Pakistan’s parliament before the upcoming general elections so that eight million Pakistanis all over the world, including in the UAE, can exercise their right to vote. Barrister Amjad Malik, chairman of board of governors (BoG) of Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), who is currently visiting the UAE, while talking to the media and members of the community, said that the proposal had been made to the prime minister of Pakistan three months ago.

National: Federal funds to bolster election security may not be enough | Associated Press

Last summer, with an important Illinois election season months away, Shelby County officials in central Illinois feared that their outdated voting equipment wouldn’t be approved for use by the State Board of Elections. Most of it dates to 2004, and it’s becoming harder to find replacement parts. Often, it’s difficult to read the machinery’s paper record, which is needed to verify votes. It passed inspection, but County Clerk Jessica Fox said the county, which is running a budget deficit, faces an upgrade of as much as $300,000. “Sooner or later we must have new equipment, regardless of the costs,” Fox said. Shelby County isn’t alone. Machine malfunction during the March 20 primary election was among the top reported issues to a hotline set up by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, a national nonpartisan voter-protection group.

National: “Don’t Mess With Our Elections”: Vigilante Hackers Strike Russia, Iran | Motherboard

On Friday, a group of hackers targeted computer infrastructure in Russia and Iran, impacting internet service providers, data centres, and in turn some websites. In addition to disabling the equipment, the hackers left a note on affected machines, according to screenshots and photographs shared on social media: “Don’t mess with our elections,” along with an image of an American flag. Now, the hackers behind the attack have said why they did it. “We were tired of attacks from government-backed hackers on the United States and other countries,” someone in control of an email address left in the note told Motherboard Saturday.

National: When Russian hackers targeted the U.S. election infrastructure | 60 Minutes/CBS News

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded there is no doubt the Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, leaking stolen e-mails and inflaming tensions on social media. While Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller investigate Russian interference, including whether the campaign of Donald Trump colluded with Russia, we have been looking into another vector of the attack on American democracy: a sweeping cyber assault on state voting systems that U.S. intelligence tied to the Russian government. Tonight, you’ll find out what happened from the frontline soldiers of a cyberwar that was fought largely out of public view, on digital battlegrounds in states throughout the country. The threat Russia posed to our democratic process was deemed so great, the Obama Administration took the unprecedented step of using the cyber hotline – the cybersecurity equivalent of the nuclear hotline – to warn the Kremlin to stop its assault on state election systems. Russian operatives had launched a widespread cyberattack against state voting systems around the country.

National: The Challenge of Machines in the 21st Century | Fair Observer

Information technology and the internet are changing the way democracy works. Recent revelations of the use of personal data to manipulate elections tell us that we live in a very different place we thought we did just weeks ago. Marketing companies, like the now infamous Cambridge Analytica, may deploy data profiling to influence human targets on social media. This involves the enveloping of the subjects within an artificial world; Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower at the center of this scandal, referred to these worlds as “cultures.” In each of these artificial cultures, political candidates would appear to each target from a different aspect, but always as a perfect candidate tailored to the psychographic profile of that particular voter. This approach, Cambridge Analytica claims, would increment the candidate’s electoral margins. There is currently no information if the use of personal data had a deciding effect on the US presidential elections. However, the process is revealing of the power online companies hold today to, in principle, manipulate its customers.

National: Facebook to Require Verified Identities for Future Political Ads | The New York Times

For months, Facebook’s critics — ranging from Silicon Valley executives to Washington politicians — have been urging the company to do a better job of identifying who is buying political ads and creating pages about hot-button topics on its social media sites. On Friday, just days before its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to testify before Congress, Facebook said it had started forcing people who want to buy political or “issue” ads to reveal their identities and verify where they are. Mr. Zuckerberg announced the move in a post on Facebook. He said this verification was meant to prevent foreign interference in elections, like the ads and posts from so-called Russian trolls before and after the 2016 presidential election.

National: Politicians follow in Facebook’s footsteps on mass data collection | Politico

The last three weeks have revealed how reliant political campaigns have become on people’s data. Almost 90 million Facebook users from Los Angeles to London may have had their online information illegally collected by Cambridge Analytica as part of its work for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking giant’s chief executive, will testify to U.S. lawmakers this week over claims that the tech giant played fast and loose in its protection of people’s online privacy. Both companies deny any wrongdoing. It’s legitimate to point the finger at the world’s largest social network and a data analytics firm with somewhat shady political connections. But there’s one sizeable piece of the puzzle that’s missing from the world’s newfound fixation on digital privacy: voters themselves.

Editorials: There’s no good reason to stop felons from voting | George Will/The Washington Post

The bumpy path of Desmond Meade’s life meandered to its current interesting point. He is a graduate of Florida International University law school but cannot vote in his home state because his path went through prison: He committed nonviolent felonies concerning drugs and other matters during the 10 years he was essentially homeless. And Florida is one of 11 states that effectively disqualify felons permanently. Meade is one of 1.6 million disenfranchised Florida felons — more than the total number of people who voted in 22 separate states in 2016. He is one of the more than 20 percent of African American Floridians disenfranchised. The state has a low threshold for felonious acts: Someone who gets into a bar fight, or steals property worth $300 — approximately two pairs of Air Jordans — or even drives without a license for a third time can be disenfranchised for life. There is a cumbersome, protracted process whereby an individual, after waiting five to seven years (it depends on the felony) can begin a trek that can consume 10 years and culminates with politicians and their appointees deciding who can recover their vote.

Voting Blogs: Two new cybersecurity tools for elections officials | electionlineWeekly

While states and localities are awaiting their share of the $380 million allotted by Congress to upgrade elections cybersecurity, there are two, totally free ways that they can start beefing up their security now. The Center for Internet Security (CIS), a nonprofit that harnesses the power of the global IT community to safeguard private and public organizations against cyber threats recently released A Handbook for Elections Infrastructure Security and also launched the Elections Infrastructure Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC).

Alaska: After Anchorage success, state considers whether Alaska is ready for elections by mail | Juneau Empire

By the numbers alone, Anchorage’s first election held by mail has been a smashing success. Election Day was Tuesday, and almost 80,000 votes have already been received by elections officials, setting a record for the most ever cast in an Anchorage muncipal election. State elections officials have already been asking the obvious question: If it worked for Anchorage, could it work for the rest of the state? “I think it very well might,” said Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and a member of the state’s elections policy task force. “If half of our population is voting by mail and it’s a good experience, why wouldn’t the rest of the state want to do that?”

Arizona: Republicans fight to protect dark-money donors from voters | Salon

American cities have become increasingly liberal, while the Republican Party controls most state governments. In an effort to keep blue cities from passing local ordinances reflecting their values, Republicans legislators in state capitals have embraced pre-emption laws, preventing city governments from enacting all kinds of things: Protecting their residents from discrimination, for instance, or increasing the minimum wage. Now Republicans in the Arizona state legislature are using that power to protect the flow of dark money — cash spent on campaigns from secret donors — into state and local elections. It turns out some powerful national interests are involved in making sure that local communities don’t know who is spending money to influence their elections.

Arkansas: Lacking ruling from judge on state’s voter-ID law, first ballots for spring primary go out | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The first ballots of Arkansas’ spring primary began their route to military and out-of-the-country voters Friday, as the secretary of state’s office said it was moving forward with its normal electoral tasks absent a judge’s order not to. A lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeks to block the enforcement of Arkansas’ new voter-identification law during the primaries, set to be one of the first elections in which voters will be required to show photo IDs or swear to their identities. Last week, attorneys for Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office wrote a letter to the circuit judge, Alice Gray, reminding her that “the Preferential Primary Election begins on April 6, 2018, with the mandatory delivery of live ballots to military voters out of jurisdiction and overseas citizens voting by absentee ballot.”