Kenya: In Kenya, Election Manipulation Is a Matter of Life and Death | The Nation

Elections are expensive, hotly contested affairs, and political consultants who appear to offer a candidate any edge are in high demand across the world. At the heart of the recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica are the unethical lengths to which such organizations will go to secure that edge, particularly in African countries like Kenya and Nigeria where there are fewer safeguards against such manipulation, and where the effects aren’t limited to the election of an unsavory candidate but include matters of life and death. Until recently, the impact of manipulations in electoral process by Western political consultants in Africa has been largely ignored, but in the past three years the consequences have become clear. The tactics that now have the United States and the United Kingdom in a panic resemble the election tinkering elsewhere. 

Malaysia: Parliament approves redrawn electoral maps despite protests | Associated Press

Malaysia’s Parliament on Wednesday approved redrawn electoral boundaries despite protests that the ruling coalition was cheating to ensure victory in the upcoming general election. Embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak introduced the new electoral maps, which were approved with 129 lawmakers voting for them and 80 against. Scores of activists earlier protested outside Parliament, denouncing the new maps as gerrymandering that would widen inequality among constituencies and was based along racial lines to favor Najib’s ruling coalition. Activists say the changes mean that ruling party candidates will need fewer votes than opposition lawmakers to win elections. Activists and opposition leaders marched from a nearby park but were blocked from entering Parliament by riot police.

Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone’s Blockchain Election That Wasn’t | Pacific Standard

Recently, a number of technology blogs breathlessly brought news that Sierra Leone “became the first country in the world to use blockchain during an election” on March 7th. “The tech, created by Leonardo Gammar of Agora, anonymously stored votes in an immutable ledger, thereby offering instant access to the election results,” according to TechCrunch. Blockchain ledgers, the theory goes, are more difficult to tamper with than traditional methods for storing vote data. PCMag called the election a “milestone,” showing that “blockchain networks and immutable ledgers can serve as a foundation for new trusted systems, redefining how we interact with an evolving digital world.” To be fair, these items, based on Agora’s own press release, generally noted several paragraphs below their headlines about a “blockchain-based election” that Agora was not verifying the official nationwide count—it had simply been registered as an observer in one district.

Editorials: We need to protect against vote tampering | Dan Wallach/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Election winners are always happy to take the win, but the losers — and often the voters — require evidence, and that evidence needs strong backing. Modern voting systems must engender confidence that the final tally represents the true preferences of voters, without manipulation or tampering. After apparent Russian interference in the 2016 national elections, politicians nationwide are investigating our security posture. It seems that no Russian probes into Texas election systems went anywhere, but we might not be so lucky next time. Texas’s current voting systems were not designed to defend against the cyberattack skills that the Russians and other sophisticated adversaries can bring to bear. It’s time for our state to plan an orderly retirement of its old and insecure voting equipment and adopt better practices. Texas has a unique chance to be a national leader here, and there are three Texans poised to lead the charge. Director of Elections Keith Ingram heads the Secretary of State’s investigation into election security. Under the Texas Cybersecurity Act, he must issue a report — due December 1, 2018 — that contains legislative recommendations aimed at bolstering our election systems.

National: After GOP is criticized over election security, key official goes to Homeland Security | The Hill

The official recently replaced atop the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is joining the Department of Homeland Security to protect elections from cyber threats, The Hill has learned. Matthew Masterson was replaced as chairman of the EAC in February as a result of a decision made by Republican leadership. The move opened up House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to criticism. Masterson has now signed on to work as a senior cybersecurity adviser at Homeland Security’s main cyber wing and to assist the department’s election security mission. A Homeland Security official confirmed that Masterson will work at the National Protection and Programs Directorate, which spearheads efforts to protect critical infrastructure from cyber and physical threats.

National: Homeland Security Chief Warns Adversaries Against Election Meddling | The New York Times

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, recently warned dozens of foreign diplomats — including the Russian ambassador — that the United States would retaliate if adversaries abroad meddled in its coming elections. “To those who would try to attack our democracy, to affect our elections, to affect the elections of other countries, to undermine national sovereignty, I have a word of warning: Don’t,” Ms. Nielsen told an estimated 80 foreign envoys and other officials during a speech last week, according to a person in attendance. Two other people with knowledge of the event confirmed the comments. All three spoke on the condition of anonymity because the remarks were given at a closed-door meeting.

National: Former Cambridge Analytica workers say firm sent foreigners to advise U.S. campaigns | The Washington Post

Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to ­Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers for the data firm, even as an attorney warned executives to abide by U.S. laws limiting foreign involvement in elections. The assignments came amid efforts to present the newly created company as “an American brand” that would appeal to U.S. political clients even though its parent, SCL Group, was based in London, according to former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie. Wylie, who emerged this month as a whistleblower, provided The Washington Post with documents that describe a program across several U.S. states to win campaigns for Republicans using psychological profiling to reach voters with individually tailored messages. The documents include previously unreported details about the program, which was called “Project Ripon” for the Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born in 1854.

National: Census to add controversial question on citizenship status | Politico

The 2020 U.S. Census will include a controversial question about citizenship status, the Commerce Department announced Monday night, a move that sparked outrage from Congressional Democrats, civil rights groups and liberal state attorneys general. A spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will be suing the administration immediately. Before the announcement, Becerra and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla wrote in an op-ed that including a citizenship question would be “illegal.” “The Trump administration is threatening to derail the integrity of the census by seeking to add a question relating to citizenship to the 2020 census questionnaire,” the pair wrote in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Innocuous at first blush, its effect would be truly insidious. It would discourage noncitizens and their citizen family members from responding to the census, resulting in a less accurate population count.”

National: Kobach encouraged Trump to add citizenship question to Census | The Kansas City Star

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach encouraged President Donald Trump to add a question about citizenship status to the U.S. Census during the early weeks of Trump’s presidency. More than a year later, Trump’s administration has moved to enact that exact policy for the 2020 census. “I won’t go into exact detail, but I raised the issue with the president shortly after he was inaugurated,” Kobach said Tuesday. “I wanted to make sure the president was well aware.” Kobach, a Republican candidate for Kansas governor who is running on a platform focused on immigration, also published a column in January on Breitbart calling for Trump to reinstate the question to the Census.

National: NRA Says It Receives Foreign Funds, But None Goes To Election Work | NPR

The National Rifle Association acknowledged that it accepts foreign donations but says it does not use them for election work — even as federal investigators look into the role the NRA might have played in Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. Pressure on the organization has also been increased by a McClatchy report that suggested that the FBI had been investigating whether a top Russian banker with Kremlin ties illegally funneled money to the NRA to aid Donald Trump’s campaign for president. The Federal Election Commission has also opened a preliminary investigation into this question.

Editorials: The government is finally investing in election security | Wilfred Codrington III & Lawrence Norden/Slate

The 2,232-page budget bill President Trump signed Friday included a provision that election security and technology experts have been pushing for years: money to update the nation’s outdated voting infrastructure. It came on the heels of similar calls from the current and former chiefs of homeland security and a bipartisan group of lawmakers. According to a recent analysis, the $380 million from lawmakers is not enough to fully replace the most vulnerable parts of our electoral machinery (we probably need at least another $380 million directed to jurisdictions with the most vulnerable equipment to do that), but it will allow states to make real progress toward long-overdue upgrades and cybersecurity improvements.

Colorado: Federal judge blocks part of Colorado’s Amendment 71; secretary of state plans appeal | Denver7

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a key part of Colorado’s voter-approved Amendment 71, which made it more difficult for people seeking to get a measure on the statewide ballot for a vote. U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge William J. Martinez wrote in the order that parts of the “raise the bar” amendment, which was approved by 55 percent of Colorado voters in 2016, was unconstitutional. The portion deemed to be unconstitutional required people hoping to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to get signatures from at least 2 percent of the total number of registered voters in each of the state’s 35 Senate districts.

Florida: Judge orders governor to create new process to restore voting rights of convicted felons | The Hill

A federal judge has ordered Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to create a new system to restore voting rights for convicted felons, the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave Scott and three of his elected Cabinet members until April 26 to create the new system. The order was part of an injunction issued by Walker in favor of the Fair Elections Legal Network, which successfully sued Florida over the state’s system for restoring voting rights to convicted felons. Currently, the state can strip convicted felons of their voting rights unless the decision is overturned by the governor and Cabinet. Those felons cannot register to vote unless they are given back their voting rights.

Illinois: DuPage County Board blasts election commission for stunning voting machine snafu | Naperville Sun

DuPage County officials did not mince words this week in criticizing their election commission for voting machine problems that resulted in DuPage being the last Illinois county to post results after polls closed in the March 20 primary. “There’s no excuse,” DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said. “It’s stunning, to me, in the level of incompetence.” Critique during Tuesday morning’s County Board meeting followed an advisory referendum where 56 percent of voters said yes last week to a proposition for the county clerk’s office to take over election commission duties. The scrutiny also has brought to light other problem areas with DuPage elections.

Mississippi: Lawsuit: Mississippi Constitution still disenfranchising thousands | Jackson Clarion Ledger

Mississippi’s Constitution, born in 1890 from the cauldron of white supremacy, continues to bar thousands of Mississippians from voting, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges. “The scheme, created in the wake of Reconstruction, was harsh, punitive and unforgiving,” the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges. “Born out of racial animus and still disproportionately impacting black Mississippians, the scheme impermissibly denies the right to vote to tens of thousands of citizens across the state.” Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, put the number of disenfranchised Mississippians at more than 180,000 — 8 percent of the adult population. Gov. Phil Bryant opposes any change to the law.

Wisconsin: Judge today reaffirms ruling that Walker must call special elections for two seats that have been vacant over a year | Wisconsin Gazette

A circuit judge today reaffirmed a prior ruling that ordered Scott Walker to call for special elections in two legislative districts that have remained unrepresented for over a year. The seats became vacant when Walker tapped Republican Sen. Frank Lasee and Rep. Keith Ripp to serve in his administration. The initial ruling came from Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds, who was appointed by Walker. Reynolds ruled last week on a case brought by voters in the two districts, who argued that Walker’s failure to act had left them disenfranchised. Their judges asked Reynolds to force Walker to call the elections, and she did, ordering him to do so by Thursday.

Congo: Unresolved Issues Overshadow Congo’s Vital December Poll | VoA News

Jean-Pierre Kalamba waved his hand over a map of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African nation that has delayed elections for two years since the president, Joseph Kabila, refused to resign after his term ended in 2016. Kalamba, an election official, said the government is struggling to raise the $1.8 billion the electoral commission says it needs to run the next poll, set for December 23. The commission’s budget goes through the legislature, controlled by Kabila’s party — the same people the opposition accuses of delaying the elections. He added, mistrust between politicians is at fever pitch, nearly every step the commission takes is scrutinized and criticized.

Egypt: Egypt tries to boost voter turnout with incentives, threats | Associated Press

One manager threatened employees to get them to vote — and then checked for telltale ink-stained fingers as they clocked in the next day. A regional governor pledged improved water and sanitation service to towns with a high turnout. Some people were promised more food and even cash if they went to the polls. With President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi running virtually unopposed in this week’s election, Egypt’s leadership has made clear it considers a high turnout crucial to ensuring that the balloting has credibility. For months ahead of the balloting that began Monday and runs through Wednesday, pro-government media have pushed the message that voting was a patriotic duty to foil foreign plots against Egypt.

Mexico: Mexico fights ‘fake news’ battle ahead of vote | AFP

With allegations of Russian interference and a flood of “fake news,” the race for Mexico’s presidential election is shaping up to look a lot like the last one in its giant northern neighbour, the United States. The campaign for the July 1 polls officially opens Friday, but already the internet is swarming with dubious “news” stories: there are allegations of meddling by Moscow, and attention is fixated on scandal-rocked data miner Cambridge Analytica’s local activities. Trying to get ahead of the curve, the National Electoral Institute (INE) recently signed deals with Facebook and Twitter, and is due to sign another with Google, seeking to fight the fake with the true.

United Kingdom: British election spending laws explained – and why they need updating | The conversation

Back in November 2017, the Electoral Commission reopened investigations into allegations that Vote Leave, the official exit campaign in the 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union, had breached spending rules. Into 2018 this was a story that had rather bubbled under the surface. However, a slow drip of revelations regarding the work of Cambridge Analytica, unearthed by The Guardian, The Observer and Channel 4 News have brought the issue to the front and centre. It is worth reminding ourselves how the case got here, and what it means for the electoral integrity of the UK. During referendums in the UK, there are strict spending rules which designate the amount of money official, or “designated”, campaigns are allowed to spend. In 2016, Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe had a limit of £7m.

National: Inability to audit U.S. elections a ‘national security concern’: Homeland chief | Reuters

Not having a verifiable way to audit election results in some states represents a “national security concern,” the Trump administration’s homeland security chief said on Wednesday, looking ahead to U.S. midterm elections in November.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was prioritizing election cyber security above all other critical infrastructure it protects, such as the financial, energy and communications systems, the agency’s chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, told the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing to examine the Trump administration’s efforts to improve election security came following U.S. intelligence officials’ repeated warnings that Russia will attempt to meddle in the 2018 contests after doing so during the 2016 presidential campaign.

National: Supreme Court takes up 2nd major partisan redistricting case | Associated Press

The Supreme Court has already heard a major case about political line-drawing that has the potential to reshape American politics. Now, before even deciding that one, the court is taking up another similar case. The arguments justices will hear Wednesday in the second case, a Republican challenge to a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Maryland, could offer fresh clues to what they are thinking about partisan gerrymandering, an increasingly hot topic before courts. Decisions in the Maryland case and the earlier one from Wisconsin are expected by late June.

National: Tumblr says Russia used it for fake news during 2016 election | The Guardian

The blogging platform Tumblr has unmasked 84 accounts that it says were used by a shadowy Russian internet group to spread disinformation during the 2016 US election campaign. Tumblr said it uncovered the scheme in late 2017, helping an investigation that led to the indictment in February of 13 individuals linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA). The announcement adds Tumblr to the list of internet platforms targeted in a social media campaign that US officials said sought to disrupt the 2016 election and help boost Donald Trump’s bid to defeat Hillary Clinton. A Tumblr statement said it discovered the accounts “were being used as part of a disinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 US election”. The company said it notified law enforcement, terminated the accounts, and deleted the posts while working “behind the scenes” with the US Justice Department.

Editorials: America’s Warped Elections | The New York Times

Many Democratic voters and activists are giddy about their party’s chances of retaking the House in 2018. Savoring surprise victories in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Virginia, they have visions of a blue wave election. If political history were the only guide, they would be right. Polls in recent days have shown Democrats with around a 9-point average lead on the generic congressional ballot, which asks Americans which party they’ll vote for in the coming election. Under ordinary conditions, a lead that size would be more than enough to net the 24 seats Democrats need to regain a majority. But a big reality check is in order. Even the strongest blue wave may crash up against a powerful structural force in American politics: extreme gerrymandering. Pending court cases, including one scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday (in which our organization filed an amicus brief), may change the terrain going forward. But no matter how the high court rules, its decision will almost certainly come too late to affect the 2018 vote.

Georgia: Legislature Considers New Voter Equipment, but Experts Say Law Needs Fix | Atlanta Progressive News

The State House is currently considering SB 403, to replace the current E-voting machines, which are direct recording, with ballot marking devices, allowing for a paper audit trail in Georgia elections by Jan. 01, 2024. On Feb. 28, 2018, the bill passed the State Senate nearly unanimously, in a vote of fifty to one. However, elections integrity organizations including VoterGA, Common Cause Georgia, Verified Voting, the National Election Defense Coalition, Georgians for Verified Voting, and the Georgia Sunshine Project have expressed their opposition to the House version of SB 403 in part because voter protections were ignored.  

Georgia: State legislature’s final hours focus on paper ballots | Associated Press

Thursday will mark the last day of Georgia’s 40-day legislative session, and several bills, including proposals that would replace the state’s 16-year-old electronic voting system and give victims of childhood sexual assault more time to sue their abusers, await action by either the House or Senate. The final days of the session are generally chaotic as lawmakers push to vote on as many bills as possible and use legislative maneuvers to hitch stalled proposals to other bills. Here’s a look at some of the latest action from the General Assembly and what is expected in its final days: A proposal that has passed the Senate but awaits a vote in the House would move Georgia from its 16-year-old electronic touchscreen voting system with no paper backup, to either a touchscreen system that prints a paper ballot or paper ballots marked by pencil.

Maine: State races to implement election overhaul before June vote | Associated Press

Maine election officials are racing to implement a new voting system in time for the June primary, marking the first use of ranked-choice voting in statewide primary elections. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap plans to submit proposed rules governing the voting method by month’s end. “It is exciting to finally have a clear mandate of what we’re doing. But it’s also very daunting because we’ve never done this before,” Dunlap said. “You get only one crack at it. There are no do-overs in elections.” The system lets voters rank candidates from first to last. A candidate who wins an outright majority of first-place votes is declared the winner.

Maryland: Republicans take electoral map fight to U.S. high court | Reuters

When Maryland Democrats drew new U.S. House of Representatives district maps in 2011, long-time Republican voter Bill Eyler found himself removed from a conservative rural district and inserted into a liberal one encompassing Washington suburbs. Eyler, a retired business owner in the small town of Thurmont roughly 55 miles north of the U.S. capital, said he thinks he and others like him were being targeted by the Democrats because of their party affiliation. He was inserted into a Democratic-leaning congressional district in an electoral map that diminished the statewide clout of Republican voters. “There’s nothing we can do or say or vote that will make any difference,” Eyler said in an interview.

New Mexico: Straight party voting may return to New Mexico | Albuquerque Journal

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver hopes to bring back straight party voting – possibly as soon as November – which would allow voters to check a single box to vote for a major party’s entire slate of candidates. However, critics of straight party voting say the practice gives an unfair advantage to major party candidates – especially Democrats – over those who are independent or affiliated with minor parties. And state Republican Party officials have indicated that they might pursue a court challenge if straight party voting is enacted. A Secretary of State’s Office spokesman said Toulouse Oliver intends to hold public hearings before implementing straight party voting, and it’s unclear whether that will happen in time for the Nov. 6 general election. But he insisted that state law gives the secretary of state the authority to unilaterally reimpose the voting option.

Pennsylvania: National GOP group drops lawsuit threat over Pennsylvania’s special election | Tribune

The National Republican Congressional Committee will not file a lawsuit over “irregularities” the group said occurred in last week’s 18th Congressional District special election, a spokesman said Friday. Republican Rick Saccone on Wednesday conceded defeat in his race against Democrat Conor Lamb. Unofficial tallies show Lamb, 33, of Mt. Lebanon won by 755 votes. The NRCC, which poured more than $3 million into the race, said the day after the election that it was considering legal action over alleged glitches in electronic voting machines, reports from people who said they couldn’t find the right polling places and a Saccone attorney who had to get a signed authorization from the Republican Party before an Allegheny County elections official would let the attorney watch the vote-counting process.