Georgia: Plan to Scrap Vulnerable Voting Machines Moves to the House | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia lawmakers are preparing to ditch the state’s old and vulnerable electronic voting machines, but they haven’t fully committed to paper ballots that can’t be hacked. A bill to to replace all of Georgia’s 27,000 voting machines in time for the 2020 presidential election cleared the state Senate last week and is now pending in the House. Organizations seeking secure elections say they’re worried that Georgia could end up with an untrustworthy and expensive election system. The legislation has raised some concerns, including the lack of a requirement that manual recounts be conducted with paper ballots and the possibility that bar codes could be printed on the ballots. “Electronics make life easier, but they also can be manipulated,” said Sara Henderson, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government accountability group. “We’re trying to get changes into the bill that will make paper the official ballot of record. “If we don’t have that language in there, we’ll have the same situation as we have now,” she said.

Kansas: Kobach, ACLU clash over Kansas voter law at federal trial | The Wichita Eagle

Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the ACLU fought at a trial Tuesday over a law that could affect whether thousands of Kansans will be able to vote this fall. The outcome will affect people like Charles Stricker, a manager at the Ambassador Hotel in Wichita who was the first witness. Stricker thought he had registered to vote in 2014 when he signed up at a DMV, but it turns out he wasn’t. He hadn’t provided proof of citizenship as required by a 2013 Kansas law. The ACLU has sued in federal court to permanently block the law, saying it is unconstitutional and has denied thousands of Kansans the ability to vote.

Utah: Legislature enacts widespread election law changes, including Election-Day registration | The Salt Lake Tribune

The Legislature approved sweeping changes to Utah’s elections and voter registration laws that supporters say will ensure that people like Gerardo Navarro’s vote counts in November. Navarro was at state offices in Draper recently, renewing his driver license, but didn’t notice a box that asked him if he’d like to update his voter registration. Navarro’s not alone. One in three eligible voters didn’t check the box to update his or her registration in 2016, according to county clerks who spoke in favor of registering voters automatically when they interact with the Driver License Division. “A lot of people think that because they got their driver license they were registered,” said Weber County Clerk Auditor Ricky Hatch. “A lot of voters would come in, like in 2016, and say I’m registered,” try to vote, and find out they weren’t. Not only will they be more likely to be registered under HB218, which passed on Wednesday, those who were eligible and tried to vote on Election Day but weren’t registered will be able to do so in the next election.

El Salvador: Election Officials Say Vote Counting ‘Error’ Fixed | teleSUR

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of El Salvador recognized Wednesday there was an informatics “error” in the software in charge of counting the votes of last Sunday’s legislative and municipal elections as one observer mission expressed concerns over the “complexity” of the voting system. “Given the irregularities related to the so-called informatics error, confirmed by the electoral authorities, investigations will begin in order to decide on the corresponding criminal or administrative responsibilities,” the General Prosecutor’s office (FGR) declared in a press release. The FGR said it would make sure the software results matched those of the tally sheets to guarantee transparency and legality in the electoral process. They also demanded that the TSE carefully look over the computerized vote counting. Francisco Campo, Smartmatic’s commercial director, said that a “human error” had caused the software to list the candidates in a disorganized way. As a result, the software had to process again 13,000 tally sheets, slightly changing the preliminary outcome.

Sierra Leone: Parties spar as vote count continues | AFP

Sierra Leone’s two main parties traded verbal blows on Friday (Mar 9), with the opposition accusing the government of planning to announce an unconfirmed victory for its candidate in presidential elections. The West African country held presidential, parliamentary and local council elections on Wednesday, which passed off largely peacefully until an opposition leader’s residence was raided. The National Election Commission (NEC) has asked for patience as it counts the ballots, saying it will prioritise accuracy over speed. It said on Friday it had yet to reach the 25 per cent mark required to release provisional results.

Voting Blogs: Clear and Present Danger to U.S. Vote | Brennan Center for Justice

The head of the National Security Agency and U.S. cyber command has told Congress that the White House hasn’t instructed him to block a Russian attack against U.S. election systems this fall. “If we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue,” Adm. Michael Rogers said, adding to warnings from the secretary of state and chiefs of U.S. intelligence agencies that voting systems are vulnerable to attacks by foreign actors. Russian meddling in the 2016 election is now almost universally acknowledged. And while there’s no evidence that Moscow’s cyberactivity changed vote totals, we know Russian agents targeted voting systems in at least 21 states — and that whatever methods the Russians honed this past cycle they will likely use against us in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

National: U.S. Hasn’t Shared Enough About Cyber Risks, Official Says | Bloomberg

The U.S. government has failed to share enough information about cyber threats, including risks to election systems, with federal agencies and states, according to a top Trump administration intelligence official. Intelligence agencies are “kicking butt offensively,” but the U.S. needs to be better prepared to defend against future attacks as adversaries constantly learn about “our gaps and weaknesses,’’ William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said Thursday at a conference in Washington.

National: Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump | The Hill

A bipartisan group of senators is pressing President Trump to issue a national strategy for deterring malicious activity in cyberspace “as soon as possible,” accusing successive administrations of not giving enough urgency to the issue. “The lack of decisive and clearly articulated consequences to cyberattacks against our country has served as an open invitation to foreign adversaries and malicious cyber actors to continue attacking the United States,” the senators wrote in the letter, obtained by The Hill. “The United States has failed to formulate, implement, and declare a comprehensive cyber doctrine with an appropriate sense of urgency,” they wrote. “We urge you to end this state of inaction immediately.”

National: Democrats want millions for FBI and states to protect elections | USA Today

Democrats — and some Republicans — are pushing to boost funding for FBI counterterrorism teams and grants to states to protect against Russian meddling in elections. Lawmakers want more than $700 million for election security added to a sweeping $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that Congress must pass by March 23 to keep the government open. The House could take up the spending bill as early as next week. “We cannot leave states to their own devices in defending against the sophisticated cyber tactics of foreign governments,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and 14 other House Democrats wrote in a letter this week to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee. “An attack on the electoral infrastructure in one state is an attack on all of democracy in America.”

California: Trump administration is no help on Russian election meddling, California officials say | The Sacramento Bee

As the 2018 elections approach, California officials are taking steps to combat foreign interference, with or without the help of the federal government. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has been critical in recent months of the federal government’s lackluster response to Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections, and Padilla renewed his criticism this week after a new report said the U.S. State Department has failed to spend money to combat foreign interference in our elections. The department has spent none of the $120 million allocated since late 2016 for combating foreign attempts to interfere in U.S. elections and sow distrust through social media, The New York Times reported Sunday. Padilla said the delay is another example of the passive approach President Donald Trump has taken in fighting suspected Russian efforts to attack state election systems.

Florida: Scott, Cabinet delay dozens of voting rights cases after legal setback | Tampa Bay Times

Barbara Gaines’ son got a pardon from Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, and she got Scott’s autograph, too. The Orlando woman and her son were among the lucky ones Thursday. Dozens of other people who lost the right to vote from long-ago felony convictions remain in limbo because a federal judge has struck down Florida’s civil rights restoration process as unconstitutional. After waiting for years for their petitions to be considered, they traveled to Tallahassee to seek mercy from Scott and the three Cabinet members, who meet quarterly as the board of clemency. But with the restoration process discredited by the courts, the cases weren’t considered. “Several cases that were scheduled to be heard today have been continued because a federal judge has objected to our system for restoring civil rights,” Scott said as the meeting began. “Although we strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, we will respect his order not to consider applications for restoration of civil rights while we appeal his decision.”

Kansas: Federal judge to Kobach: ‘That’s not how trials are conducted’ | The Kansas City Star

A federal judge rebuked Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach Thursday after his team tried to introduce data that has not been shared with plaintiffs’ attorneys into a trial. Kobach, a Republican candidate for governor, is handling his own defense with the help of two staff attorneys in the lawsuit against a Kansas law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to register. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has repeatedly warned Kobach’s team about trying to introduce evidence that has not been shared with the plaintiffs during the first three days of the high stakes trial, which will determine whether thousands can vote in Kansas this November.

Michigan: As hacking fears mount, Michigan election security gets middling marks | Bridge Magazine

Genesee County Clerk John Gleason powered up his work computer last summer and began sifting through his emails. To his shock, he said he found a “nasty, vulgar-laden” email in his sent folder, supposedly authored by him. “At first, I thought it was someone in the office playing a joke on me,” said Gleason, who has presided over every election in the mid-Michigan county of 410,000 residents since he was elected clerk in 2013. County workers tracked the source of the email to a Russian phishing link intended to hook users with the promise of dating or weight loss, Gleason said. A few months ago, a similar incident happened to his computer, which Gleason uses to help direct elections in Michigan’s fifth-largest county. … Computer scientists and elections experts consider the optical scan systems the best because they start with a paper ballot, which make it possible for election officials to double-check results if questions arise. But that doesn’t mean the machines can’t be hacked. Since Americans began using electronic voting machines 15 years ago, computer scientists have repeatedly warned that nearly every type of system is susceptible to manipulation.

Michigan: Online voter registration plan on the move in Michigan Legislature | Detroit News

Michigan residents with a valid identification card could register to vote online under advancing legislation backed by Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who argued the proposal would improve existing processes without jeopardizing security. The Senate Elections Committee unanimously approved the five-bill package Thursday morning after grilling Johnson on anti-hacking protocols, sending it to the floor for consideration. A House panel debated similar legislation later Thursday but did not immediately vote on the measure. The online system “would safeguard and add great efficiency to one of the most significant, fundamental rights of Democracy: one citizen, one vote,” Johnson told lawmakers. “This legislation would give me one more tool in my toolbox to improve technology, service and to keep our elections secure.”

Nevada: State forms faulted for foiling ex-felon voters | Reno Gazette-Journal

Nevadans with a past criminal conviction may be deprived of their right to vote by confusing and likely illegal language on voter registration forms, according to a January letter from voting rights attorneys to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. Letter co-authors at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit focused on election law, said the wording on Nevada’s voter sign-up sheets could lead residents with a past conviction to think they’re not eligible to vote. In fact, first-time non-violent felony offenders in Nevada are automatically allowed to register at the end of their sentence. Only those convicted of two felonies, or one or more violent felonies, are barred from voting in the state.

Tennessee: Ex-governor’s Senate campaign fears it was hacked | Associated Press

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s campaign for U.S. Senate told the FBI on Thursday that it fears it has been hacked, amid growing concern that candidates in the 2018 election could be targets of cyberattacks. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, campaign lawyer Robert E. Cooper Jr. wrote that Bredesen’s aides became suspicious when someone pretending to be the campaign’s media buyer asked for money to be wired to an international account. The letter says the person used an email address nearly identical to the actual media buyer’s and knew about an upcoming TV campaign and its proposed dates. Cooper says the campaign hired a cyber-security firm that found the impostor emails were registered through an Arizona-based registrar.

Colombia: FARC withdraws from Colombia’s presidential race | AFP

Colombia’s FARC said Thursday it is pulling out of the country’s presidential race after its candidate, 59-year-old ex-guerrilla leader Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono, suffered a heart attack. Ivan Marquez, a senate candidate and senior member of the political party formed by the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels, told reporters that party members decided not to field a candidate after Londono underwent open heart surgery on Wednesday. Since the peace deal struck with the government of outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos in late 2016, the FARC gave up its half-century armed struggle and became a political party keeping the same acronym. Colombia’s presidential election is scheduled for May 27, with a possible runoff vote set for mid-June.

Egypt: Ahead of a farcical election, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi goes after the press | The Economist

Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, could not ask for a better mouthpiece than Khairy Ramadan, a talk-show host. When activists started a Twitter campaign to mock the president, Mr Ramadan proposed banning the social network. And like Mr Sisi he calls the revolution of 2011, when the previous strongman, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown, a foreign plot. But during his show on February 18th, Mr Ramadan talked of a police colonel who earns 4,600 pounds ($261) per month. To supplement his income, the colonel’s wife sought work as a cleaner. Mr Ramadan, who confessed to having a “soft spot” for the notoriously brutal cops, wondered why they were paid so little. He can now ask them directly. Apparently seen as disrespectful, on March 3rd he was arrested.

Ireland: Government approves abortion referendum bill | The Guardian

The Irish government has agreed the wording of a national referendum on abortion to be held by the end of May which could radically transform the lives of thousands of women and signal a further loosening of the grip of the Catholic church. The cabinet, meeting on International Women’s Day, approved a bill on Thursday allowing the long-anticipated referendum to go ahead. Voters will be asked if they want to repeal article 40.3.3 – known as the eighth amendment – which since 1983 has given unborn foetuses and pregnant women an equal right to life, effectively enshrining a ban on abortion in the country’s constitution. If Ireland votes in favour of repeal, the government has said it will introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Italy: Putin is the real winner of the Italian elections | The Hill

Within Italy, the big winners in the March 4 elections were the two populist parties, who between them pulled in roughly 50 percent of the vote. The 5 Star Movement, which emphasizes the “drain the swamp” part of the populist message, was the leading party, with 32 percent of the vote for both chambers of the Italian parliament. The League, more akin to the anti-immigrant policies Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, pulled about 17 percent, easily topping the center-right Let’s Go Italy (Forza Italia) of Silvio Berlusconi, disappointed in his hopes of returning to the forefront of Italian politics. Outside Italy, though, the undisputed winner was Vladimir Putin. Steve Bannon, who was in Italy for the election, may spin Italian events, not without reason, as confirmation of a populist wave that hit the U.S. as well in 2016. But the strong and public Russian connections of Italy’s populist parties could have very concrete impacts on Italian policy going forward.

Philippines: Comelec preparing for village polls amid fresh allegations of voting system breach | ABS-CBN

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it would continue preparations for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May despite fresh allegations that the electronic voting system was “compromised” in 2016. In a press conference, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body would push through with printing 18 million ballots for the village elections toward the end of the month or before the Holy Week.  This despite new allegations of fraud that Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III bared on Tuesday, saying the 2016 elections may have been compromised. 

Sierra Leone: Nation Awaits Outcome of Landmark Poll | allAfrica

Voting count continued Thursday in Sierra Leone with the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) presidential candidates taking an early lead. The results from the Wednesday landmark vote, as widely predicted, indicated a tight race between APC’s Dr Samura Kamara and Brig (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio of SLPP. The provisional results were released by the Independent Radio Network (IRN), while the National Electoral Commission (NEC) was yet to give any official tally. A total of 16 candidates are vying for the presidency.

National: Senators ask voting machine vendors if they shared code with Russian entities | The Hill

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sent a letter Wednesday to three election equipment vendors to ask whether they have shared information about their machines with Russian entities. The senators wrote to Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems Inc. and Hart InterCivic Inc. to ask if the companies had shared the source code, software or other sensitive details about their machines with Russians. “Foreign access to critical source code information and sensitive data continues to be an often overlooked vulnerability. Further, if such vulnerabilities are not quickly examined and mitigated, future elections will also remain vulnerable to attack,” the senators wrote.

National: Democracy’s Gatekeepers: 2018’s Secretary of State Elections | Harvard Political Review

In state politics, the most enviable marker of power is the so-called “triplex.” To achieve a triplex, a political party must sweep the state’s three most influential offices. The first two are the governor and attorney general positions, the former due to extensive executive powers and the latter due to their power to sue the federal government. But it is the third and most frequently overlooked member of the triplex who may have the most influence over democracy: the secretary of state. The duties of the secretary of state encompass serving as the state’s chief election official, along with such administrative duties as permitting and business authentication. Because of their role in the electoral process, secretaries of state have critical influence over who can vote and how easy it is to do so.

Editorials: Trump finally says he’ll protect elections. We’ll believe it when we see it. | The Washington Post

For a man who has regularly cast doubt on the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump made comments at a Tuesday news conference that were surprisingly on point. “We won’t allow that to happen,” Mr. Trump said about the prospect of further foreign interference, promising to “counteract whatever they do.” He said the government was conducting “a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.” This is closer to what the commander in chief should be saying in the wake of a hostile foreign influence campaign. Yet it falls short of wholehearted acceptance of the intelligence community’s continuing alarm about Russian capabilities and intentions. And the president’s words are meaningless unless backed by actions, which, by many accounts, are still lacking.

Alabama: Some special elections would end under proposed amendment | Montgomery Advertiser

If the time is short, leave the seat empty. The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would end special elections for legislative vacancies that take place 13 months before the next statewide general election. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, got altered before passing the Senate last week. The proposal at first would have allowed the governor to appoint legislators to vacancies if there were less than two years remaining in the term. But Glover said that idea — which would expand the chief executive’s powers in a state government weighted toward the Legislature — faced a struggle.

Georgia: Barcodes Stir Anxiety As Georgia Eyes New Voting System | WABE

As Republican and Democratic state legislators hustle to pass a law moving Georgia toward paper ballot voting technology, election integrity advocates said they’re concerned a bill that already cleared the state Senate could lead to a new vulnerability in Georgia’s next voting system, if it becomes law. One way a new system might work is through a touchscreen computer similar to those currently used in Georgia. It would print a paper ballot with a visual representation of a voter’s choices so they themselves can check for accuracy. In some systems, counting the votes means scanning an entire image of the ballot that may include a timestamp and precinct information. In other systems, barcodes or QR codes on a ballot would correspond with the voter’s choices, which can make counting easier and faster for election officials, said Peter Lichtenheld, vice president of operations with Hart Intercivic, one of several election technology companies that hired lobbyists at the statehouse this year.

Kansas: Kobach testimony could give insight on talks with Trump | The Kansas City Star

A federal judge will allow the ACLU to show video of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach speaking about his advice to President Donald Trump as part of a trial that will determine whether thousands can vote in Kansas this November. The video of a 2017 deposition will serve as a piece of evidence in the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge of a Kansas law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, before they can register to vote. Kobach’s team objected Wednesday to the showing of the video on the grounds that they had not had a chance to review it. They asked that a transcript of the deposition be read instead. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson agreed to delay the viewing of the 45-minute video until Thursday to give Kobach’s team a chance to review it, but she rejected the request to prevent it from being played at the trial.

Kansas: Lawmakers: Could Kansas Be Liable If Voter Fraud Database Leaks? | KCUR

Some lawmakers said Monday that putting Kansas at the center of a database intended to root out voter fraud might eventually put it in the middle of a lawsuit if things go wrong. More than two dozen states compare voter rolls using the Crosscheck database of some 90 million-plus records that Kansas hosts. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has touted Crosscheck as a way to identify voters registered in more than one state and crackdown on double-voting. He’s secured nine convictions for that crime.

Massachusetts: Oregon blazes a path for Massachusetts on automatic voter registration | masslive

A coalition of voting rights groups is urging Massachusetts to adopt automatic voter registration. The Massachusetts proposal, which is pending in a legislative committee, would let the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth automatically register citizens to vote. A person could choose to opt out. What could that look like? Ask Jeanne Atkins. Atkins was the Oregon secretary of state from March 2015 through January 2017 – a period that coincided with the signing of Oregon’s motor voter law and the first election in which it was implemented.