Texas: Weaknesses in Texas’ voting systems put under microscope | KXAN

Are Texas voting systems susceptible to a hack? Who polices wrongdoing at the polls? Should lawmakers make any changes to help Texas elections run more smoothly? State senators met Thursday to address concerns of fraud, irregularities and weaknesses in the system. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked a Senate select panel to address a handful of issues pertaining to election security. Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who chairs the committee, said there are few rights more precious than the right to vote. He said he expected the bipartisan group to take a “thorough look” at making possible changes to “ensure Texas is still leading on voting security.” 

Utah: Navajos make deal with San Juan County to end voting-rights lawsuit | The Salt Lake Tribune

A federal lawsuit saying San Juan County does not provide equal voting opportunities to Navajos has been settled less than a month before it was to go to trial. The two sides filed a joint motion Tuesday that listed the settlement’s terms — which include language assistance for Navajos at the polls — and asked U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish to dismiss the suit. The bench trial was to begin March 16. The measures will be in place for the 2018 elections. The ACLU of Utah says that according to the 2016 U.S. Census, 4,314 of the 10,275 adult citizen residents of San Juan County speak a language other than English or Spanish — primarily Navajo — with 766 of these residents, or 18 percent, also speaking English less than “very well.”

Cambodia: Ruling Party Set to Sweep Senate Election | Reuters

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Hun Sen is poised to sweep a Senate election at the weekend, helping to consolidate the prime minister’s rule of more than 30 years amid a crackdown on the opposition. Sunday’s election for 58 members of the 62-strong Senate will see 123 members of parliament and 11,572 commune councilors vote at 33 polling stations across Cambodia. Two Senate members each are appointed by the king and the National Assembly. But rights groups and opposition politicians say the Senate vote is a farce that shows Hun Sen, who faces a national election in July, is not committed to multi-party democracy. Almost half of the commune councilors have been stripped of their right to vote in Sunday’s election after their opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by a court last November at the request of Hun Sen’s government.

Canada: P.E.I. Opposition calls for calls for electronic voting, despite security concerns | The Guardian

Opposition Leader James Aylward is calling on government to adopt electronic voting in P.E.I. for the next provincial election, in spite of concerns raised by a panel of independent auditors about the potential for serious security breaches. Aylward issued the call earlier this week via press release, saying electronic voting could be a way to revolutionize democratic accessibility and increase voter engagement. “It’s the way of the future,” he told The Guardian Thursday. … P.E.I.’s 2016 plebiscite on electoral reform was the first province-wide electronic vote ever held in Canada. Because this introduced possible new risks, an independent audit of the results was required by the province’s Plebiscites Act.

El Salvador: EU Mission: El Salvador Election Campaign Unfolding Peacefully | Latin American Herald Tribune

Campaigning for the March 4 legislative and municipal elections in El Salvador is taking place peacefully and all signs indicate the balloting and its aftermath also will unfold smoothly, the head of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission to that country told EFE on Thursday. Spain’s Carlos Iturgaiz, a member of the European Parliament, said his delegation had not registered any confrontations and that the anomalies that had been detected were negligible or very small. “The campaign is being carried out amid a great deal of tranquility … the EU’s mission has been here for a month and so far no confrontations have been observed,” he added.

Turkey: Opposition sounds alarm over proposed voting law changes | Reuters

Turkey’s opposition said on Thursday new electoral regulations proposed by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies could open the door to fraud and jeopardise the fairness of 2019 elections. Under a draft law submitted to parliament on Wednesday, security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bill also grants the YSK High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, formalising a decision made during a referendum last year that caused a widespread outcry among government critics and concern from election monitors.

National: Election officials face voting machine challenges ahead of 2018 midterms | CBS

Eight months out from the 2018 midterms, and over a year since the Russians allegedly tried to interfere in the 2016 elections, many state and and local election officials are still concerned about guarding their voting systems against breaches. One of the most basic safeguards is a paper record of each vote — a paper trail. But not every state incorporates paper in its polling place practices. In fact, five states only use electronic voting machines, known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, that don’t have a paper trail, according to the Verified Voting Foundation. …  The lack of a paper trail makes auditing an election basically impossible.

National: Democrats want to boost FBI budget to fight Russia’s election interference | The Hill

Congressional Democratic leadership wants to boost the FBI’s budget in next month’s government funding bill to help fight Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as well as top Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations committees, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urging them to support the increase. “These attacks and Putin’s ongoing efforts to again interfere in our upcoming elections demand a robust and urgent response, and Congress must respond immediately to attacks on our democracy by a foreign adversary,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in the letter.

National: States Rush to Defend 2018 Election From Russia After Late Start | Bloomberg

Weeks before the first U.S. primaries, 40 state election officials filed into a guarded Maryland office for a classified briefing about the threats they’re sure to face between now and the November vote. But they didn’t need much of a reminder about the menace from abroad. As they arrived, Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign in a conspiracy of bogus social-media postings. These state officials are the front-line defense against another assault on the elections this year — but many say they’re not getting much help from Washington, particularly with President Donald Trump downplaying or dismissing the threat of Russian meddling. With control of both chambers of Congress at stake, state officials admit they’re rushing to bolster security and overcome confusion about how to work with the federal government.

Editorials: So far, the effort to protect our elections simply has not been adequate | Donna Brazile/The Hill

In less than one month, voter will return to the ballot box in state primaries. As they enter polls in gymnasiums and firehouses, in community centers and churches all over this great land, voters may have a sinking feeling that it doesn’t matter how they vote because the Russians are the ones who are choosing our candidates. Unless we force our government quickly to protect us, I fear that feeling will be correct. One year ago 17 different United States intelligence agencies — people who usually don’t agree on much of anything — agreed that Russia had meddled with our 2016 presidential election. Their joint report spelled out how Putin personally ordered cyber break-ins and manipulations, and even hacked into our voting machines.

North Carolina: Another redistricting lawsuit filed in North Carolina — this one over Wake election districts | News & Observer

Organizations that have challenged North Carolina redistricting plans are going back to state court over the General Assembly’s redrawing last year of election districts — this time with a new lawsuit challenging four state House districts in Wake County. The challengers are arguing that lawmakers violated the state constitution when they redrew Wake County election districts mid-decade when federal judges had not ordered them to do so to correct other districts ruled to be racial gerrymanders.

Pennsylvania: New congressional district map could be challenged by Common Cause, NAACP on civil rights grounds | Philadelphia Inquirer

Common Cause helped bring down Pennsylvania’s old congressional district map. Now, in a twist, the good-government group might undo the new map that replaced it. Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said his organization and the state NAACP are considering filing suit in federal court to challenge the new map imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week. He said it may violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned obstacles to voting by minorities. Under Pennsylvania’s former 2011 map, drawn by Republicans, nonwhites make up a majority of residents in two Philadelphia-based congressional districts. In the new map, people of color appear to be the majority in only one district, he said. “In general, I think the new map is a really big win for democracy in Pennsylvania,” Sims said. “However, we want to make sure that it is not disenfranchising voters, particularly in Philadelphia.”

Pennsylvania: Republican challenge to Pennsylvania map likely to fail | Politico

President Donald Trump wants Pennsylvania Republicans to fight the implementation of a court-drawn congressional map that threatens a half-dozen GOP-held seats this November, but most operatives and experts see little hope in a legal challenge to the new districts. Republicans in Harrisburg and Washington say they’re moving ahead with legal action to stop the new map. But, behind the scenes, Republican consultants are already urging their clients to get ready for these new districts in 2018. “I’m advising my clients to prepare for the worst-case scenario: that these are the maps this year,” said Mark Harris, a Republican consultant based in Pennsylvania.

Texas: In lawsuit, activists say Texas’ winner-take-all approach to the Electoral College is discriminatory | The Texas Tribune

Saying Texas’ current practice is discriminatory, a group of Hispanic activists and lawyers has sued the state in hopes of blocking it from awarding all of its Electoral College votes to one candidate during presidential elections. The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday calls on Texas to treat voters “in an equal manner” by abolishing that “winner-take-all” approach, which all but two states use. The suit, filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and a coalition of Texas lawyers, says that approach violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It’s just one of many pending voting rights lawsuits arguing that Texas, which regularly votes Republican, has illegally discriminated against voters of color. 

Utah: Settlement announced to create equal opportunities for Navajo voters | KUTV

A lawsuit was settled Wednesday regarding plaintiffs’ claims that San Juan County did not provide effective language assistance to Navajo-speaking voters and that Navajo voters had unequal voting opportunities in the county. The lawsuit originated in early 2016 over San Juan County’s decision to switch to a vote-by-mail system and offer in-person voting in only one place located in the majority-white section of the county.

Wisconsin: Voter Roll Purge Causes Primary Kinks for Some | Associated Press

A purge of voters from Wisconsin voting rolls caused problems at the polls for some during this week’s primary. Some voters’ information was removed, even though they hadn’t moved and it was current. But voters who were not on the poll list could re-register on the spot and still vote. State elections officials say there is no evidence that anyone was prevented from voting. But the Wisconsin State Journal reports the issue could resurface in future elections that draw bigger turnout. Tuesday’s election, which included a Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, drew about 12 percent turnout. In a statement, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said it is investigating “isolated” reports that some voters had to re-register at the polls before they could vote.

Congo: DRC pushes ahead with electronic voting despite criticism | Daily Nation

Authorities in DR Congo unveiled an electronic voting machine that will be used in key elections this year, despite accusations that the technology could skew the outcome. The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) showed off the machine to reporters, saying it was essential for conducting presidential, legislative and local elections due on December 23. “It’s not a cheating machine (but) a machine to simplify… (and) reduce costs,” said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, Ceni’s rapporteur. … Tension, marked by protests that have met with a bloody crackdown, is mounting.

Italy: Violence and harassment rise in echo of 1970s unrest | The Guardian

Political violence ais increasing in Italy in the final weeks before the country votes in national elections, with skirmishes between fascists and leftwing activists, and racially motivated attacks on migrants reported. The incidents, including an attack on one of the leaders of the far-right group Forza Nuova in Palermo on Wednesday morning, are reminiscent of a far more violent era in Italy – the so-called Years of Lead that began in the late 1960s when the country suffered a wave of domestic terrorism by forces on the extreme left and right.

Russia: Putin nemesis Navalny, barred from election, tries political siege | Reuters

Two young anti-Putin activists trudged through a snow-logged Moscow housing estate on a recent Saturday, putting up fliers promoting a boycott of a presidential election next month. “It’s not an election, it’s a trick,” read one, depicting a goggle-eyed caricature of Vladimir Putin, who polls show should be comfortably re-elected on March 18. A man donning a fur hat ripped one of the fliers down within a minute. A woman, told by the activists “our elections have been stolen”, quietly shut her door in their faces. Unglamorous and at times disheartening for those involved, this is the sharp end of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s campaign to boycott an election he says amounts to the rigged reappointment of Putin, whom he likens to an autocratic Tsar.

Sweden: Sweden is taking on Russian meddling ahead of fall elections. The White House might take note. | The Washington Post

Hundreds of local election workers have been trained to spot and resist foreign influence. The country’s biggest media outlets have teamed up to combat false news. Political parties scour their email systems to close hacker-friendly holes. The goal: to Russia-proof Sweden’s political system so that what happened in the United States in 2016 can never happen in this Nordic country of 10 million people. Although the general election isn’t until Sept. 9, officials say their preemptive actions may already have dissuaded the Kremlin from interfering.

Venezuela: Maduro Calls for Early Congress Vote as Well | Associated Press

President Nicolas Maduro is doubling-down on plans to concentrate power by calling Wednesday for early congressional elections to coincide with a presidential vote in April that opponents hours earlier said they would boycott unless steps are taken to ease fears it’s rigged. Pushing ahead a vote for the democratically elected National Assembly could spell a shake-up in the last branch of government still out of Maduro’s control. The opposition’s move edging to an outright boycott means Maduro is unlikely to face any major challenge in the April 22 race despite widespread anger over his handling of an economy marred by soaring inflation and shortages of food and life-saving medicine.

Legislation: State election officials across country returning to paper ballots | The Boston Globe

Hoping to counter waves of Russian Twitter bots, fake social media accounts, and hacking attacks aimed at undermining American democracy, state election officials around the country are seizing on an old-school strategy: paper ballots. In Virginia, election officials have gone back to a paper ballot system, as a way to prevent any foreign interference. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe this month ordered county officials to ensure new election equipment produces a paper record. Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation to replace a touch-screen voting system with paper.

National: Homeland Security chief touts effort on election cybersecurity | The Hill

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday touted the department’s effort to engage with state and local officials on guarding U.S. voting infrastructure from cyber threats, stressing that public trust in vote counts “relies on secure election infrastructure.” Nielsen issued the statement highlighting the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent meetings with state and local election officials, which included classified briefings from U.S. intelligence officials on cyber threats to U.S. voting infrastructure. “The American public’s confidence that their vote counts — and is counted correctly — relies on secure election infrastructure,” Nielsen said Tuesday.

National: State officials get classified briefings on election security | FCW

State election officials in the nation’s capital for a conference received classified briefings on the cybersecurity of election systems from officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community and law enforcement, according to official readouts of the meetings. A DHS account of the briefings for members of the National Association for Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors stated they “focused on increasing awareness of foreign adversary intent and capabilities against the states’ election infrastructure, as well as a discussion of threat mitigation efforts.” Not only did DHS talk with secretaries from all 50 states, the agency briefed the newly formed, private-sector, industry-centered Sector Coordinating Council for the Election Infrastructure Subsector. 

National: Bernie Sanders says his team saw Russian election meddling in 2016 | Des Moines Register

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment detailing the Russian social media campaign to aid Donald Trump, undermine Hillary Clinton and sow distrust in American politics describes behavior that aides to Bernie Sanders witnessed firsthand in the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, the senator said Tuesday. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Sanders described how an aide handling his social media accounts noticed an uptick in “horrific and ugly things” directed at Clinton beginning around September 2016 — long after the Democratic nomination had been decided, and while Sanders himself was traveling the country campaigning on her behalf. “In many respects, what Mueller’s report tells us is not new to us,” Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, said. “We knew that they were trying to sow division within the American people. In my case, it was to tell Bernie supporters that Hillary Clinton is a criminal, that Hillary Clinton is crazy, that Hillary Clinton is sick — terrible, terrible ugly stuff — and to have Bernie Sanders supporters either vote for Trump or Jill Stein or not vote at all.”

Arizona: Justice Department, Arizona Settle Spat Over Rushed Absentee Voting | Courthouse News

The federal government said Tuesday it has reached a deal with Arizona after the state failed to give absentee voters enough time to consider final ballots in a special primary election slated for the end of February. The agreement comes after the Justice Department sued Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan last week, claiming absentee voters were not given 45 days to consider the finalized ballot for a special election to fill a vacancy in the state’s 8th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, stepped down from the seat in December after he was accused of offering a female staffer $5 million to be a surrogate for his children. Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a special primary election for Feb. 27, with the general election set for April 24.

Georgia: State looks to drop electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots | Fox News

A unique effort is underway in Georgia to safeguard elections by taking voting machines back to the future. “The most secure elections in the world are conducted with a piece of paper and a pencil,” said Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner. “It allows you to continue into the future to verify the result.” Turner has proposed a bill that would retire Georgia’s electronic touch-screen voting machines and switch to paper ballots that voters would fill out and then be counted by optical scan machines. The technology has been in use for decades to score standardized tests for grade-school students.

Massachusetts: Conscious of cyber threats, Galvin’s office focuses on election integrity | Lowell Sun

Amid talk of ongoing meddling in American elections by Russia or other adversaries, the head of Secretary of State William Galvin’s elections division met over the long weekend with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials to discuss the security of state elections systems. Last week, the director of national intelligence told federal lawmakers that the intelligence community has already seen signs that Russia, among others, may be attempting to involve itself in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and other future contests. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee last week. He added, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

New Hampshire: Judge considering request to dismiss voter rights lawsuit | Associated Press

New Hampshire officials on Tuesday urged a judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires additional documentation from voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election, suggesting it wasn’t harming anyone. The state Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters filed lawsuits against the state last year, claiming the SB3 law was confusing, unnecessary and intimidating. A judge in September allowed the law to take effect but blocked penalties of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for fraud and said further hearings were necessary. The lawsuits have since been consolidated.

Pennsylvania: Republicans to sue as soon as Wednesday to block redistricted map | The Morning Call

Republicans will file suit to block the new map of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts as soon as Wednesday, officials said. Matt Gorman, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday state and federal officials “will sue in federal court as soon as tomorrow to prevent the new partisan map from taking effect.” Top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said Monday a separation of powers case will form the essence of the GOP’s argument, according to The Associated Press. Republicans again will argue the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and governors, not courts, the power to draw congressional boundaries, AP reported.