Australia: Boundary changes set to trigger Labor factional jostling | The Guardian

New boundaries set to be released by the Australian Electoral Commission on Friday are expected to deliver two new seats to the Labor party at the next federal election – and trigger a fresh round of factional jostling in Melbourne. The AEC is expected on Friday morning to publish redistributions creating a new inner-city seat in Canberra and a new electorate in the western or north-western suburbs of Melbourne. Given that Canberra and Melbourne’s west are considered Labor strongholds, major-party operatives think both seats will be a plus in the Labor column at the time of the next federal election – although the Greens will also have their eye on the new Canberra seat.  But the picture could be more mixed for Labor depending on the flow-on consequences of the Victorian redistribution – with boundary changes potentially altering the balance in surrounding electorates, including McEwen, Casey and Gorton – and in the city’s east.

Editorials: Viktor Orban’s Perversion of Democracy in Hungary | The New York Times

On Sunday, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party will likely cruise to another victory in Hungary’s general election, giving Mr. Orban, the reigning champion of “illiberal democracy” — a term he proudly embraces — a fourth term to pursue his assault on democratic institutions, immigrants, the European Union and anything smacking of social change. The campaign has been surprisingly tough, but then Fidesz designed the voting system and controls much of the media. A victory will no doubt hearten the ranks of the nativist populists who, despite their avowed aversion to international organizations, take pride in being in the vanguard of an international reactionary movement. It is telling that after his ouster from the White House, Stephen Bannon went on a tour of European soul mates, during which he hailed Mr. Orban as his hero and “the most significant guy on the scene right now.”

Malaysia: Prime Minister Najib dissolves parliament paving way for tough election | Reuters

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the dissolution of parliament on Friday, paving the way for a tough election where the embattled leader will face off against his old mentor and the country’s most seasoned campaigner Mahathir Mohamad. Najib, 64, burdened by a multi-billion dollar scandal linked to a state fund, is under pressure to deliver an emphatic win for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition as he struggles to appease Malaysians unhappy with rising costs and blunt the challenge from the charismatic 92-year-old Mahathir.

Mexico: Violence against Mexican politicians up, cartel leaders promise to stop | Business Insider

Mexico saw record violence in 2017, when its 25,339 homicide cases were the most in a year since the government began releasing data in 1997. The homicide rate also rose to 20.51 per 100,000 people in 2017 from 16.8 per 100,000 in 2016 — higher than the 19.37 per 100,000 in 2011, the drug war’s peak. Newly released data underscores the growing insecurity in the country, but for politicians, particularly those at the local level, the final months in 2017 and first months of this year were especially deadly. Those politicians are preparing for general elections in July, when more than 3,400 positions — including the presidency, hundreds of federal legislature seats, and eight state governorships — will be up for grabs. There are varying estimates of the toll this violence has taken.

Sierra Leone: Election violence makes a comeback in Sierra Leone | Sierra Leone Telegraph

Police in Sierra Leone have been engaging in fierce street battles with youths this afternoon in the Eastern District of Kenema, after serious violence broke out between supporters of the APC party and the SLPP. There are reports of serious injuries, though so far, the number of deaths remain uncertain. This wave of political violence comes less than twenty-four hours after the result of the presidential runoff election between the APC and SLPP was last night announced and the winner – the Retired Brigadier and opposition SLPP candidate – Julius Maada Bio, was declared the winner with a three-percentage point lead. Until last night’s orgy of violence by the supporters of both political parties – APC and SLPP, which took place in the central business district of the capital Freetown, Sierra Leone’s 2018 elections had been hailed by international observers as relatively peaceful. 

National: Voting machine vendor firewall config, passwords posted on public support forum | CSO

A sysadmin at a leading voting machine vendor posted a firewall configuration file, including passwords, into a public Cisco support forum in 2011, opening the company up to possible attack. The config files expose a wealth of information useful to an attacker, including domain name, hostname, and ASA version number. While there is no evidence that the voting machine vendor was compromised, this accidental leakage of information is “juicy intelligence,” Dan Tentler, founder and CEO of Phobos Group, an attack simulation security company, tells CSO. “If you have a crack team of cat burglar types and they’re all going to break into a building, this firewall configuration file is the equivalent of finding the floor plan of the building they are planning to break into,” Tentler says.

National: Lawyer Alex van der Zwaan jailed for 30 days in Mueller’s first conviction | The Guardian

A Dutch attorney was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in prison for lying to federal agents, in the first formal conviction obtained by Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian election interference and alleged collusion between aides to Donald Trump and Moscow. A federal judge in Washington sentenced Alex van der Zwaan, a 33-year-old lawyer who previously worked with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine. Van der Zwaan had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with another former Trump adviser, Rick Gates, and a person the FBI has assessed as being tied to Russian military intelligence.

Arkansas: State Supreme Court declines to intervene in voter ID case | Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied Secretary of State Mark Martin’s request that the high court force Circuit Judge Alice Gray to make a ruling on whether to block the state’s voter ID law “well in advance” of April 6.  Gray has said she will rule before April 6, when the secretary of state must deliver ballots to military voters out of jurisdiction and overseas citizens voting by absentee ballot.  

California: State funding proposal for open source voting gains support | The San Francisco Examiner

Supervisor Malia Cohen has announced she now supports a state-level effort to provide matching funds to develop an open source voting system in San Francisco after hearing from thousands of residents backing the effort. Cohen’s support comes after the San Francisco Examiner reported Sunday that she was not willing to commit to sending a letter to Sacramento representatives backing the funding plan to help cities like San Francisco develop an open source voting system. Cohen said she changed her mind and sent a letter in support Tuesday after hearing from “thousands of our citywide constituents over the last 24 hours” supporting open source voting.

Maine: Judge orders state to use ranked-choice voting for June primaries, but that’s not the end | Portland Press Herald

A judge ordered Maine’s secretary of state Wednesday to move forward with implementing ranked-choice voting for the June primaries despite concerns about conflicting language in state law. Later in the day, the same judge also heard arguments in a separate Maine Senate challenge that could end with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court making the final decision about whether Maine will be the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting statewide this June. In a 14-page opinion released Wednesday morning, Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy ordered Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to continue preparing to use ranked-choice voting for gubernatorial, congressional and legislative primaries on June 12. Murphy agreed with the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting – the group that led the successful November 2016 ballot campaign – that uncertainty over the election process could cause “irreparable harm” at this stage.

Missouri: Local lawmakers looking to ban electronic voting | The Missourian

The Missouri Senate is considering a bill that will forbid the use of electronic voting machines and require the exclusive use of traditional paper ballots. The bill has already passed the House with a 108-31 vote. State Rep. Paul Curtman presented the bill to Missouri Senate last week. As stated in House Bill No. 2208, no electronic voting systems will be approved unless meeting specific guidelines and “The official ballot shall be a paper ballot that is hand-marked by the voter or, in the case of disabled voters who need assistance, by a paper-ballot marking device designed to assist the disabled.”

North Dakota: Federal judge expands tribal ID options for North Dakota | Associated Press

A federal judge has agreed to expand the proof of identity Native Americans can use for North Dakota elections, a decision reversing his temporary order that allowed voters without a state-approved ID to cast ballots by signing a legal document. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland’s ruling issued Tuesday adds other tribal documents to the state’s list of valid forms of ID. It also eliminates a requirement that those documents include residential street addresses, which sometimes aren’t assigned on American Indian reservations. “No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote,” Hovland wrote in his 17-page ruling.

Pennsylvania: Concerned voters ask Bucks County commissioners to abandon electronic voting machines, invest in paper ballots | Courier Times

Dozens of members and supporters of the group SAVE-Bucks Votes filled the Bucks County Commissioners meeting Wednesday, imploring officials to dump the county’s electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots. The non-partisan group has been lobbying the commissioners, who also serve as the county’s board of elections, to replace the approximately 900 direct record electronic machines (DRE) with a voter-marked, paper-based optical scan (PBOS) system. Bucks bought the current machines in 2006, after much debate. Addressing the issue is urgent, Paul Springle, of Wrightstown, told the board. During Senate testimony last month, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said not having a way to audit election results is “absolutely a national security concern.” Because electronic machines like the ones used in Bucks produce no paper trail and cannot be properly audited in the event of a challenge or other concerns, they are considered by some to be at risk.

Wisconsin: Voters by a wide margin keep Wisconsin’s 170-year-old state treasurer’s office | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It turns out Wisconsinites want to have a state treasurer, after all. By a strong margin, 61% to 39%, voters Tuesday beat back a constitutional amendment and kept Wisconsin’s 170-year-old treasurer’s office. “I’m flabbergasted that the results are as high as they are,” said former GOP Treasurer Jack Voight, who led a coalition to keep the office. “I thought it would be a much closer vote than this.” With little spending on either side of the referendum and no known polling, it wasn’t clear until Tuesday which side would prevail in the contest that culminated a years-long effort to abolish the office. Some voters may have been surprised just to find the question on their ballots. “No governor, no politician or political party should be above our state constitution,” Voight said.

Hungary: Orban re-election campaign may be undercut by tactical voting | Reuters

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leads the polls by a mile, his opposition is a bickering patchwork of smaller parties that won’t coordinate and he dominates the public agenda through his firm grip on the media. Yet there is still a chance – a slim chance – that he could lose his majority on Sunday. That’s because a growing number of voters – guided by widely publicized independent and party-sponsored surveys available online – may be set to discard ideology and party allegiances to vote for the candidates who are most likely to win. “Voters might actually do what these parties fail to do, which is vote for the candidate who has the best chance,” Csaba Toth, strategic director of local thinktank Republikon Institue.

Italy: Five Star Movement rejects Berlusconi on eve of formal talks | The Guardian

The leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement has ruled out joining a coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, a day before formal government consultations begin. Until now, Five Star had said it was ready to talk to all parties after the 4 March national election ended in a hung parliament. In an interview recorded by the La7 TV channel and not yet broadcast, Luigi Di Maio said Five Star was open to talks with the centre-left Democratic party (PD) – though not to its former secretary Matteo Renzi – and the far-right League, but not with Forza Italia, two Five Star sources said.

Sierra Leone: Ruling party demands result audit in opposition stronghold |

Sierra Leone’s ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) is demanding a vote audit from the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) stronghold before the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announces results of the March 31 presidential runoff. An elections monitoring group, Sierra Leone Decides reported the development citing a letter signed by APC National General Secretary, Osman Foday Yansaneh, and addressed to the NEC Commissioner in the Southern Province. The said province is an SLPP stronghold according to political watchers. Its candidate, Julius Maada Bio was born in the Bonthe District located in the Southern Province.

Sierra Leone: Opposition Leader Is Sworn In as President | The New York Times

A former military commander and coup leader who later went to graduate school in the United States and Britain was declared the winner of Sierra Leone’s presidential runoff on Wednesday after a campaign season marred by reports of violence and irregularities. The winner, Julius Maada Bio, was immediately sworn in as the country’s president on Wednesday night. The country’s chief justice, Abdulai Charm, said the inauguration needed to be held quickly to avoid a power vacuum and was in compliance with the country’s Constitution. Candidates from 16 parties ran for president, but in the first round of voting last month, no one won the 55 percent required to avoid a second round.

National: Meet the high-tech solution to Russian election hacking: paper ballots | Vox

Russian hackers tried to tamper with voting systems in 21 states during the 2016 US presidential election, and the American intelligence community expects Moscow will try again in November. But states from Virginia to Rhode Island aren’t focused on new cybersecurity software. Instead, they’re looking to one of the oldest technologies in existence: paper. It’s a striking change from 2016, when five states used electronic voting systems that didn’t leave any paper record of votes, and nine used some paperless machines. Now, states are rushing to take advantage of $380 million that Congress approved last month to help protect voting systems. Most states are prioritizing some kind of paper record. “In this year of our lord 2018, we’re talking about paper ballots, but that actually might be one of the smartest systems,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) told reporters in March.

Editorials: Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., Fifty Years After His Death | The New Yorker

Occasionally, a particular year transcends its function as a temporal marker to become shorthand for all the tumult that occurred within its parameters. 1968, a leap year, brought the Tet Offensive, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the student protests at Columbia University, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the bedlam of the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Black Power salutes at the Olympics, the emergence of George Wallace as an avatar of white-resentment politics, and the triumph of Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy. That’s a great deal of history, even adjusting for the extra day in February. We have not, in the past half century, had a year freighted with such emotional and historical heft, in part because we have not seen the convergence of so many defining issues—war, civil rights, populism, political realignment—in so short a timespan. Yet the singularity of 1968 does not diminish its pertinence to our present turmoil. This week, two events in particular are worth considering in tandem: one a cataclysm, the other a tragically predictive attempt to understand how such cataclysms occur.

California: Ballot label rules for candidates unique to California | The Sacramento Bee

It’s hard to think of three words subject to more intense election-year scrutiny than the ones California candidates can include beneath their names on the ballot. Every two years, campaigns do battle with the California secretary of state – and one another – over whether or not the professional descriptions they pick are within the bounds of state law. This year has been no different, with more than a half-dozen congressional and statewide candidates forced to amend their “ballot designation,” as its known, before the certified list of candidates for the June primary was released March 29. It turns out, it’s a pretty unique election-year tradition.

Maine: Senate steps into ranked choice voting controversy | News Center Maine

The Maine Senate voted Monday night to attempt to insert itself into the current debate over ranked choice voting (RCV). A superior court judge is considering a request from RCV supporters for an injunction to force the secretary of State to use ranked choice in the June 12 primary elections. The judge held a hearing on the request Friday, and promised to rule promptly. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 21-13 Monday to authorize the Senate president to take legal action if needed. Thibodeau spoke on the Senate floor and later said in a written statement, “If we don’t get this matter settled, we are headed for chaos in our election system, and that is a huge disservice to the people of Maine.”

New Mexico: Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver Adopts Four Administrative Rules | KRWG

Yesterday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver adopted the final version of four new administrative rules, which take effect in time for the Primary Election in June 2018. The new rules enhance numerous aspects of the state’s absentee voting process, outline procedures for candidates to transfer funds from one state campaign finance account to another, establish the order in which certain races will appear on the ballot, and bring uniformity to procedures for provisional voting statewide. “These rules bring clarity to a number of existing election procedures and make it easier for New Mexico’s voters – including blind and visually impaired voters – to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “I will continue looking for ways to streamline New Mexico’s election processes and increase access to the ballot box.”

North Carolina: Federal appeals court backs skipping judicial primaries in North Carolina | Greensboro Bews & Record

Federal appellate judges affirmed on Monday their earlier decision blocking a lower court’s order that would have reinstated primary elections this year for statewide judicial offices. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a Jan. 31 order by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles that effectively required 2018 primaries for statewide judgeships that had been waived by a new state law. The Republican-led General Assembly passed the law in 2017 to cancel judicial primaries during the 2018 election cycle while it considers plans to overhaul the state judiciary, including appellate, superior and district courts.

South Carolina: Representative Introduces Redistricting Bills | Associated Press

A South Carolina state representative introduced two bills Tuesday that would place redistricting power in the hands of voters instead of politicians, a proposal that has had little movement in the past. “We need to change this system of politicians picking voters and get back to voters picking the politicians,” said bill sponsor Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, an Orangeburg Democrat who announced the bills on the second floor Statehouse lobby surrounded by supporters. The proposed Citizens Redistricting Commission would create a 14-member commission, two members representing each congressional district. Eligible voters who qualify for the job apply and go through a jury selection process before securing a spot on the commission. One of the qualifications for the job is not holding a position in office.

Washington: State’s sweeping voting rights reforms should be a model for the entire country. | Slate

The last two decades have been pretty bleak for voting rights advocates. President George W. Bush revived the myth of voter fraud to give cover to Republican lawmakers’ efforts to restrict the franchise. The Supreme Court upheld voter ID laws and disemboweled the Voting Rights Act. Democrats’ down-ballot collapse in 2010 paved the way for state-level suppression across the country. The results have been entirely predictable: voter roll purges. Cuts to early voting in minority communities. Ever-more draconian ID and registration requirements. Insidious racial gerrymandering. Voting rights supporters have been on the defensive for most of this battle, and Democrats have not always spent their political capital championing suffrage for all. That’s changing. This year, Democrats in four states have passed landmark legislation to make voting easier and fairer for everyone, and they’ve pursued an ambitious platform designed to restore and expand the franchise in the face of GOP attacks.

Egypt: Election produces surprise runner-up: Invalid votes | Associated Press

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s victory in last week’s election was never in doubt, but the vote produced a surprise runner-up — an unusually large number of invalid ballots, suggesting a possible protest vote against el-Sissi or the election itself. Official figures released Monday by the election commission gave el-Sissi 97 percent of the vote, securing him a second, four-year term in office following an election in which he ran virtually unopposed. His sole challenger, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known politician who made no effort to challenge him, received 656,534 votes, or 2.92 percent. Moussa’s tally was outdone by the 1.76 million invalid ballots, which would have amounted to 7.27 percent of votes cast, a considerably higher percentage than in the last two presidential elections: 4.07 percent in 2014 and 3.1 percent in the 2012 runoff.

Japan: Last municipality in Japan scraps electronic voting system | The Mainichi

The municipal government here has decided to scrap its electronic voting system, the only one of its kind in Japan, it has been learned. With the cost burden on the Rokunohe Municipal Government heavy and the spread of the system slow, the Tokyo-based electronic voting system promotion cooperative association composed of voting machine makers and sellers was unable to update the town’s machines, leading to the decision to abandon the system. The town had planned to use electronic voting during the municipal assembly elections set for next spring, but now has decided to return to paper ballots. Electronic voting was introduced in Japan in 2002 through special legislation, but was still limited only to local elections. It was hoped that the machines would improve speed and accuracy in vote counting. However, in reality, it has made little traction, and with Rokunohe’s decision, there is now not a single municipality in Japan making use of the system.

Malaysia: Parliament Approves Law Banning Fake News Ahead of Elections | Associated Press

Malaysia’s parliament on Monday passed a law prohibiting fake news that critics fear will be abused to silence dissent ahead of a general election. Despite warnings such a law would lead Malaysia closer to dictatorship, the bill was approved 123 to 64 after a heated debate. The bill originally proposed a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) for offenders, but the approved legislation sets the maximum prison sentence at six years.

Philippines: Vote recount starts in Marcos son’s contest for vice presidency | Reuters

The Philippines on Monday began a manual recount of votes in a vice presidential election after the son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos contested the outcome, while the incumbent assured supporters her win was not in doubt. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, a former senator popularly known as Bongbong, is furious about having lost to Leni Robredo by about 260,000 votes in a May 2016 election he says was marred by massive cheating. Many political commentators believe Marcos has ambitions to become president one day, and wanted to use the vice presidency as a stepping stone. Opinion polls had shown him the clear leader ahead of the vote, which is separate from that for the presidency.