Georgia: State Set To Vote Using “Vulnerable” Machines Despite Federal Cash Boost | WABE

Georgia is in line for more than $10 million in federal funds to help with election security as part of a spending bill recently passed by Congress, but voters statewide are still set to cast ballots during the 2018 midterms on ageing equipment labeled vulnerable. The direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines used in Georgia since 2002 have no paper trail allowing voters to check their choices are recorded accurately. Thirteen states still use DRE machines, and Georgia is one of five states were they’re used exclusively.

Illinois: Russian ‘hack’ of 2016 voter rolls leaves Galesburg, Illinois, reeling | WFLD

Galesburg, Ill., appears to be a typical small town, nestled in the farmlands of the Midwest. But the unassuming slice of the American heartland, which was the site of an Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debate in 1858, was invaded by the Russians during the 2016 presidential election through a cyberattack on the state’s voter registration rolls. “The greatest concern that I have is that a foreign entity gets in and doesn’t change a vote, but they just create instability that enough of the American people can’t trust the vote,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Fox News.

Maryland: Bill that allows automatic voter registration becomes law without Gov. Hogan’s signature – The Washington Post

A bill that allows Maryland residents to automatically register to vote when they interact with state agencies has become law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature. Maryland joins the District and 11 other states, including Oregon and California, that allow people to register while renewing a driver’s license, signing up for health coverage with the state Health Benefit Exchange or receiving help from a social service agency. “It’s a great step forward and will have tremendous impact for generations to come,” said state Sen. William Smith (D-Montgomery), the bill sponsor. “This will allow thousands of more Marylanders to participate in the democratic process.”

Rhode Island: 2020 census test has critics counting concerns, not people | Associated Press

The success of the 2020 census, which will be the first to include an online survey, could hinge on a single “dress rehearsal” underway right now in Rhode Island — and so far, many locals aren’t impressed. Providence County, the state’s most populous, is the only place where the Census Bureau is running a full test, after plans to test two other sites this year were canceled because of a lack of funding from Congress. A planned question about citizenship that has states suing the federal government isn’t on the test. Several elected officials and leaders of advocacy and community groups this week held an “emergency press conference” to raise concerns, which include a shortage of publicity around the test and its limited language outreach in an immigrant-heavy county, with large communities from countries including the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Portugal and Cape Verde.

Tennessee: Hamilton County election administrator: paper ballots, audits help ensure integrity at the polls

As the start of early voting nears and news of Russian interference continues to make headlines, Hamilton County’s administrator of elections said local citizens can feel secure in the practices that protect the integrity of the ballot box. “Hamilton County takes the safeguarding of both our physical and cyber infrastructure very seriously,” Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said via email. “The rigorous system of checks and balances in both the registration and voting process should instill confidence in voters that Hamilton County’s elections will not be compromised.” In an effort to avoid interference, some state officials recently said they’d move away from the use of touch-screen voting machines. Some experts also recently said that audits can confirm there’s no meddling.

Texas: Mapmakers built the GOP’s political house on high ground | The Texas Tribune

Texas’ gerrymanders are the political equivalent of putting houses on stilts to keep them safe from flooding. Democratic hopes for a “blue wave” that would lift some of their candidates into statewide office and reduce their disadvantages in the congressional delegation and the statehouse aren’t completely out of line. Presidents’ political parties often have trouble in midterm elections. It’s just that Republicans in Texas drew maps in 2011 — since modified by the federal courts but still being litigated — that protect the party’s officeholders from most changes in public sentiment.

Cambodia: Former opposition leader calls for election boycott | Reuters

Cambodia’s former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, called on Sunday for Cambodians to boycott a general election set for July 29 if his dissolved party isn’t allowed to take part. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court last November at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, which alleged it was plotting to take power with the help of the United States. The CNRP and the United States have denied the allegations, which followed the arrest of current party leader Kem Sokha on treason charges over the alleged plot. He has denied the charges and called them a ploy to help Hun Sen win re-election.

Hungary: Re-election of Hungary’s anti-immigrant leader is major challenge for EU | The Guardian

It’s a safe bet that few in Brussels are celebrating Viktor Orbán’s resounding win. Elected for a fourth term, Hungary’s anti-immigrant nationalist leader poses a profound challenge for the European Union. Since returning as prime minister in 2010, Orbán and his Fidesz party have chipped away at Hungary’s democratic checks and balances, curbed judicial independence and clamped down on the independent media. Hungary’s democratic backsliding has been accompanied by a drumbeat of xenophobic rhetoric, directed against refugees, Brussels and George Soros. The EU, used to grappling with Brexit, is now confronting a country at the heart of the continent making an exit from the club’s liberal values, but continuing to pick up the cheques.

Malaysia: New boundaries, voter apathy and the slow erosion of democracy in Malaysia | TODAYonline

The recent redrawing of Malaysia’s electoral boundaries, which came into effect on March 29, has caused quite a stir as election fever grips the country. The motion was passed despite strong protests from opposition MPs, as well as civil society groups, who accused the Election Commission of colluding with the government to tip the balance in favour of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Many have condemned it as an exercise in malapportionment and gerrymandering which will widen existing ethnic divides, adding to a growing anxiety among urban Malaysians that Malaysia is arcing towards authoritarianism despite the budding support for the oppositions at both regional and national levels. For some others, however, the move was not at all surprising, given the long history of accusations of electoral manipulation being employed during elections in Malaysia.

South Korea: Lowering age to vote becomes hot political issue | The Korea Times

When you are an 18-year-old citizen in Korea, you can marry, obtain a driver’s license and become a public servant once passing the required state exam. You are also obliged to pay taxes on any income, and serve in the military if you are a man. But there’s one thing you cannot do ― vote. In Korea, 19 is the age when suffrage is given to vote for president, lawmakers, mayors, governors and other elected officials. For decades, there have been calls to lower the age to 18 to meet the age for other social rights and duties. The issue has re-emerged recently after President Moon Jae-in said he plans to include lowing the age of suffrage to 18 in his suggestions for constitutional revision. It has immediately drawn pros and cons, from both the civic and political sectors.

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for April 2-8 2018

Verified Voting Technology Fellow Alex Halderman teamed up with the New York Times to demonstrate the vulnerability of direct recording electronic voting machines in a powerful video. McClatchy reflected on the decade-long process that left the nation with over a dozen states continuing to use these voting machines that have been repeatedly demonstrated to be vulnerable to hacking and software error.

17 States, 7 Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have filed a a lawsuit against the Census Bureau and Commerce Department to seeking to remove a new citizenship question from the 2020 census questionnaire. The lawsuit argues that adding the citizenship demand to the 2020 census questionnaire was arbitrary and will “fatally undermine the accuracy of the population count.”

Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s three Cabinet members are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that they must overhaul Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with a remedy by April 26. According to the Tampa Bay Times “the state’s appeal all but ensures that a new restoration system won’t be in place by the November election, when Scott, Putnam and Patronis are all expected to be on the ballot. An estimated 1.5 million Floridians have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions.”

The Portland Press-Herald reports that “[a] last-minute attempt by Maine lawmakers to resolve some of the issues surrounding ranked-choice voting failed Thursday, leaving it up to the courts to decide the fate of the first-in-the-nation system. A 17-17 vote on a joint order in the Maine Senate scuttled attempts by Democrats to resolve concerns that Republicans had raised about the ballot-box law adopted in a statewide referendum with 52 percent of the vote in 2016.”

For the eighth year running Nebraska’s unicameral legislature defeated a proposal to require phot identification at the polls. Stripped of the id requirement, the bill that passed included provisions for the use of electronic pollbooks.

A Federal judge has granted summary judgment to a group of voters who argued that the voter registration measures of Texas’ online driver’s license registration system are unconstitutional under “motor voter” provisions of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Texas Civil Rights Project filed suit in 2016 on behalf of four Texans who said they were denied the opportunity to cast a ballot because their voter registration had not been updated.

Statescoop posted a revealing article profiling the venture capitalist who is paying for West Virginia to offer a small group of voters the ability to cast their ballots over the internet, using software that runs on blockchain. University of South Carolina computer scientist warns that this project is yet another “instance of faith-based voting,” which transfers authority from government elections officials to software firms with proprietary code. Buell continued “[a] vote without a paper trail also makes it difficult to challenge potentially corrupted ballots, or for voters accused of corruption to defend themselves. And a successful hack could potentially influence thousands of ballots in an instant.”

South Korea’s government has officially distanced itself from a firm providing electronic voting machines to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where tensions are running high ahead of a presidential poll in December. A South Korea firm called Miru Systems Co Ltd is providing the machines for the December 23 poll, which also combines legislative and local elections.

Mexican news site Nacion321 has reported last month that between September 2017 and the beginning of March, 58 political figures, including mayors, deputies, and candidates, were killed. Now Bishop Salvador Rangel, who has a record of reaching out to drug kingpins in hopes of curbing violence, has negotiated a deal with gangs of Mexican drug traffickers, who have agreed to end their murder spree targeting political candidates ahead of the July 1 elections.

National: 14 states’ voting machines are highly vulnerable. How’d that happen? | McClatchy

Texas counties have doled out millions of dollars in recent months to replace thousands of old touch-screen voting machines that lack a paper record – a weakness security experts warn could allow Russians or other hackers to rig U.S. elections without detection. The problem is, many of the new machines have the same vulnerability. So do similar machines in more than a dozen states across the country. Vicki Shelly, the election administrator in San Jacinto County, Tex., north of Houston, said she received no alert from Washington or state officials before the county spent $383,000 on its new paperless touch-screen voting system made by Hart InterCivic. “Whoever’s doing all the research, it seems like we should have been in on it a little sooner,” said Shelly, one of hundreds of election officials that make up the first line of defense against attempts to tamper with U.S. election results. “Honestly, it’s very disturbing.”

National: States, cities sue U.S. to block 2020 census citizenship question | Reuters

A group of U.S. states and cities sued the Trump administration to stop it from asking people filling out 2020 census forms whether they are citizens. The lawsuit by 17 states, Washington D.C. and six cities challenged what they called last week’s “unconstitutional and arbitrary” decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, to add the citizenship question. It was also a fresh challenge to what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at a press conference announcing the lawsuit, called the administration’s “anti-immigrant animus.” All of the states bringing the case have Democratic attorneys general. They were joined by New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Providence, Rhode Island, which all have Democratic mayors, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Another state, California, filed a similar lawsuit last week.

Florida: Gov. Scott appeals judge’s ruling on voting rights for felons | Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s three Cabinet members are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that they must overhaul Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with a remedy by April 26. “People elected by Floridians should determine Florida’s clemency rules for convicted criminals, not federal judges,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement. “This process has been in place for decades and is outlined in both the U.S. and Florida constitutions.” The state also asked to delay meeting the April 26 deadline, which drew a sharp rebuke from the judge, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Last month, he ordered Scott and the Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — to figure out a more fair way to restore voting rights for most felons who have completed their sentences.

Maine: Legislative fix on ranked-choice voting falters in Senate, leaving fate up to the courts | Portland Press Herald

A last-minute attempt by Maine lawmakers to resolve some of the issues surrounding ranked-choice voting failed Thursday, leaving it up to the courts to decide the fate of the first-in-the-nation system. A 17-17 vote on a joint order in the Maine Senate scuttled attempts by Democrats to resolve concerns that Republicans had raised about the ballot-box law adopted in a statewide referendum with 52 percent of the vote in 2016. The joint order would have triggered a new bill to clarify that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is authorized to expend the funds necessary to conduct a ranked-choice primary. The bill also would have authorized Maine State Police, at Dunlap’s direction, to retrieve ballots as needed and return them to Augusta for a centralized tabulation by Dunlap – an additional step to determine winners in a ranked-choice vote.

Nebraska: For eighth year, voter ID amendment defeated in Legislature | Omaha World-Herald

Another year, another frustration for backers of requiring voter identification in Nebraska. State lawmakers on Thursday fell short of cutting off debate and advancing a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. The vote marks the eighth year in a row that voter ID legislation has been blocked. State Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who introduced Legislative Resolution 1CA, said he is exploring the possibility of going directly to voters via an initiative petition drive. “This is not the end of the discussion,” he said. “There will come a day when the issue is taken out of the hands of legislators.” A second Murante proposal, which some dubbed “voter ID lite,” cleared first-round consideration later on Thursday after all of the voter identification provisions were stripped out.

Texas: Federal judge: Texas is violating national voter registration law | The Texas Tribune

Handing the state another voting rights loss, a federal judge has sided with a civil rights group that claimed Texas violated federal law by failing to register residents to vote when they updated their drivers’ license information online. In a court order made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio ruled that Texas was in violation of the federal National Voter Registration Act. A portion of that law requires states to give residents the opportunity to register to vote at the same time that they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.

West Virginia: Meet the guy paying for West Virginia to run an election on blockchain | StateScoop

Bradley Tusk is best known as the former political operative who invented lobbying for the sharing economy. He’s the guy who claims credit for turning hordes of Uber customers into city-hall picketers whenever the ride-hailing company objected to new taxi regulations in New York, Washington, or a half-dozen other cities. When states tried to crack down on fantasy sports websites that offer daily cash prizes, one of the biggest, Fanduel, hired Tusk to mobilize its user base to hit back at attorneys general. When a local government suggests that the the people who pick up home-improvement jobs through Handy should be classified as employees entitled to benefits, the app calls in Tusk to argue that those workers are independent contractors. … But Tusk’s financial backing and the Warner family’s enthusiasm shouldn’t be taken as proof that elections can be conducted securely over the internet, says Duncan Buell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina who focuses on voting systems and election integrity. “I am strongly opposed to electronic voting, and I think the whole notion of internet voting is completely nuts,” Buell says. “There are a number of issues that come up. The first is authentication. How do you verify who’s at the other end?”

Congo: South Korea Embroiled In DR Congo Voting Machine Controversy | AFP

South Korea’s government has officially distanced itself from a firm providing electronic voting machines to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where tensions are running high ahead of a presidential poll in December. In an email sent to AFP on Tuesday, the South Korean embassy in Kinshasa spelt out what it called the government’s “official position,” expressing concern the contract could become embroiled in DRC’s political crisis. Use of the machines “could give the Congolese government a pretext for undesirable results related to the elections, notably a further delay in holding the elections,” said the statement, in French. The vote due in the vast and troubled central African country on December 23 has been twice postponed since 2016, and some analysts fear an explosion of violence if the poll is delayed again.

Mexico: Drug traffickers agree to stop murdering political candidates ahead of election, bishop says | Bloomberg

Gangs of Mexican drug traffickers have agreed to end their murder spree targeting political candidates ahead of the July 1 elections, a Mexican bishop who claims to have brokered the deal said. Bishop Salvador Rangel, who has a record of reaching out to drug kingpins in hopes of curbing violence, told reporters he held several meetings with traffickers from different criminal groups in Guerrero state after as many as nine candidates were killed there, several in the town of Chilapa. His actions aren’t isolated, coming after the leading presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, floated the idea of an amnesty for some criminals in the form of shortened prison terms.

National: How Partisan Gerrymandering Became Supreme Court Issue | Bloomberg

Gerrymandering, the process of drawing district lines to fortify one political party at the expense of another, is as old as the U.S. republic. In the late 1780s, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, who opposed ratifying the new Constitution, got allies in his state’s legislature to draw a congressional district map unfavorable to James Madison, the father of the founding document. (Madison won anyway.) Good-government groups grouse that gerrymandering lets politicians choose their constituents, rather than the other way around. But as the courts get more involved, others fret about judges interfering in politics.

National: Felony Voting Laws Are Confusing; Activists Would Ditch Them Altogether | Stateline

Her sentencing made headlines across the country this week: A woman, recently released from prison in Texas and still on felony probation, is set to head back to prison for another five years after she unknowingly broke the law by voting in the 2016 election. Texas law prohibits people such as Crystal Mason from voting until they are no longer under supervision by corrections officers. Mason told the court she had no idea she was prohibited from voting. At her polling station, officials let her cast a provisional ballot. The confusion over felons’ voting rights is not limited to Mason’s situation or to Texas. Across the country, state felon voting laws vary widely. Some states bar people from voting only while they are in prison, while others deny voting rights to people who are still under the supervision of a probation or parole officer. And some prohibit convicted felons from voting for the rest of their lives, unless they receive a pardon from the governor. 

National: Groups partner to improve local elections | The Hill

The education arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is teaming up with a voting rights group to increase voter turnout and fix polling problems that keep people from voting. The Leadership Conference Education Fund announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with Access Democracy for three years to provide institutional support in the group’s efforts to fix local election issues such as long lines and broken voting machines. 

California: Confusion over independent voters prompts redesign of voter registration card | The San Diego Union-Tribune

The card millions of Californians use to register to vote is receiving its first makeover in more than a decade, inspired in part by confusion over how to become an “independent” unaffiliated voter — a problem highlighted by a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2016. “It’s an issue that’s been lingering for years,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “But that was the first time it was really in the spotlight.” The Times found a substantial number of Californians who registered with the American Independent Party wrongly believed they weren’t part of any political party — an error that later kept some from casting ballots in the state’s 2016 presidential primary. “A combination of issues prompted us to see if there was a better way,” Padilla said.

Florida: Federal judge claps back hard after Florida challenges ruling on felons’ voting rights | Orlando Weekly

In a searing clapback of the kind usually reserved for especially trifling people, Walker struck down a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration against overhauling Florida’s controversial voting rights restoration process for former felons. “Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, defendants continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards,” Walker wrote. “They ask this Court to stay its prior orders.” “No.”

Nevada: Elections chief: 63,000 voter names made inactive | Associated Press

More than 63,000 people whose names were moved last month from active to inactive status on Nevada voter registration rolls can still vote, a top state elections official said Thursday. Most probably moved without updating their voter registration address, said Wayne Thorley, deputy elections official to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. Cegavske announced late Wednesday that the state tallied 1.4 million active registered voters statewide during regular voter list maintenance in March, down nearly 4.3 percent from February. About 4.8 percent of Democratic party voter names were moved to inactive status during the month, and 2.6 percent of Republican party names, a statement from Cegavske said.

New York: Funding for early voting excluded from state budget | The Legislative Gazette

Despite months of lobbying by voting reform activists, local and county officials and good government groups, lawmakers in Albany failed to include funding for early voting in the final version of the 2018-2019 budget. The completed spending plan, which was finalized early Saturday morning ahead of the start of a new fiscal year, does not include Gov. Cuomo’s proposed early voting plan. The proposal, which was outlined in the 2018 State of the State address in January, would have implemented up to 12 days of early voting ahead of election day. New York is currently one of 13 states that does not have early voting beyond absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania: To Meet State Voting Standards, Westmorland County Moves to Auditable Machines | GovTech

Westmoreland County voters will be able to test voting machines this summer that would enable election officials to meet a state directive that requires new devices to have a verifiable paper trail. While officials cautioned they have no concrete plan to replace more than 850 touchscreen voting computers the county purchased 13 years ago, they said preliminary work is underway in preparation for a potential purchase of new machines. “Our machines are old, but they work well. But like everything else, they have a life cycle,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas. “We are doing our homework now to find a replacement.”

Virginia: A national non-profit has created confusion among Virginia voters by sending mailers that imply they are not registered to vote | The Washington Post

A Democratic-leaning group working to get more unmarried women, people of color and millennials to the polls in November has sewn confusion in Virginia through mailers to voters that imply they’re not registered, election officials said Thursday. The Washington-based Voter Participation Center, a nonprofit that operates in 23 states, mailed 140,000 voter registration forms in Virginia with a message telling recipients they “do not appear to be currently registered to vote.” The same group sent the same kind of confusing mailers in Virginia in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election.